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Google offers a variety of free and user-friendly tools for data collection, transformation, and analysis. Google Data Studio is a great complement to Google Sheets since its wide range of features will help you create professional reports for your clients, colleagues, or managers.

This tutorial for beginners will explain what Google’s Data Studio is and the main benefits of using it; you’ll then learn how to navigate and add to the dashboard, how to import your own data to create a report, and finally, how to share your report with others.

What is Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio is an online service for data visualization and reporting. Although it can be applied to a great variety of business domains, it has gained more traction among marketers and data analysts. Below, we answer some of the most common questions related to this somewhat recent service:

  • Is Google Data Studio free to use? Like most of Google’s online tools, Data Studio is completely free, meaning that you won’t have to worry about upgrading to unlock advanced features.
  • Is Google Data Studio easy? Like the majority of tools provided by Google, it is user-friendly and can easily be used as an alternative to more complex forms of interactive reporting, such as Tableau and Power BI.
  • What are the benefits of using Google Data Studio? In addition to being completely free and intuitive, it allows you to import data from a wide range of sources, including Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Sheets, YouTube Analytics, and BigQuery.
  • What can Google Data Studio do? As a data visualization and reporting tool, it allows you to transform data into charts, tables, or diagrams. More importantly, it is great for synchronous collaboration and real-time monitoring.

As mentioned, Google Data Studio is a free service, so you will ‌unlock its full potential from the very beginning, from sharing reports to accessing any of the Google Data Studio templates. Let’s see how you can use Google Data Studio in a few simple steps.

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How to use Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio is a cloud-based tool, so you only need to sign in using your Google account. If you don’t already have one, remember that you can easily create one for free. Let’s see how to start using Google Data Studio.

  1. 1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. 2. Go to https://datastudio.google.com

Before creating your first Google Data Studio dashboard, let’s describe the key features shown below.

Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Data Studio elements
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Data Studio elements
  • The left-side menu allows you to create a report, data source, or explorer.
  • The toolbar menu allows direct access to all reports, data sources, or created charts without having to edit the report itself.
  • The top Search Data Studio bar lets you perform a quick search on reports by name.
  • The Template Gallery offers templates from 8 different categories, including Google Sheets or Google Ads data sources.
  • The report area is below the Template Gallery section, showcasing all your reports according to name, owner, or last opened.

How to create a report using Google Data Studio templates?

In this tutorial for beginners, we recommend trying out the main features of Google Data Studio by using their pre-built templates. As mentioned before, these templates are based on 8 different data source categories. Here, you’ll learn how to use a Google Sheet data source template.

  1. 1. Go to “Templates”, on the left-side menu.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Templates
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Templates
  1. 2. Click on the drop-down “Category” menu to select your preferred data source. Here, I will select “Google Sheets”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Template categories
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Template categories
  1. 3. Google Data Studio offers two different templates based on Google Sheets. Simply double-click to access your preferred template. Here, we’ll select the “World Population Data” report, which already contains pre-existing data by Google.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Google Sheets templates
  1. 4. Click on “USE TEMPLATE” in the top-right corner to add to your Google Studio Data dashboard and start working.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Use template
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Use template
  1. 5. Click on “Copy Report” if you wish to add your “New Data Source” to the report. This simply means that you have the possibility to use the template as it is or merge your new data into it. Since I do not have any data in Google Sheets yet, I can ‌copy this report template.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Copy Report
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Copy Report

You always have the option of editing it later on, following the guided tour available within the template.

Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Guided tour
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Guided tour

Now that we’ve seen how easy it is to create a report using one of the Google Data Studio templates, let’s explore the basics of creating a report by connecting to one of your data sources.

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How to create a report connecting to a data source?

Before creating a report based on charts and other visual elements, you need to connect to a data source to display data. This is how you can connect to a data source.

  1. 1. Click on “Create” to the left-side menu and select “Report”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Create Report
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Create Report
  1. 2. It will prompt you to enter basic information regarding your geographic location and company name. Here, I’ll select “United States” from the drop-down list and introduce “Layer” as the company name. Once you finish, click “Continue”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Complete account setup
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Complete account setup
  1. 3. Finish your account setup.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Complete account setup 2
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Complete account setup
  1. 4. You can connect to up to 22 different data sources supported by Data Studio. Here, I’ll select “Google Sheets”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Connect to data
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Connect to data
  1. 5. To access your Google Sheets data, you will need to click on “Authorize”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Authorize
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Authorize
  1. 6. Your data should appear. Use the various Data Studio tools to edit your data to create a user-friendly, interactive report.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners interactive report
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - interactive report

How to share a report in Google Data Studio?

If you know how to share a Google Doc or Sheet, then you will find that sharing a report in Google Data Studio is very similar. Let’s try sharing the “World Population Data” template.

  1. 1. Open the template and click on “Share” to the far-right. As you can see below, you have 5 different sharing options: “Invite people”, “Schedule email delivery”, “Get report link”, “Embed report”, or “Download report”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Invite people
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Invite people

If you choose to “Invite people”, Google Data Studio allows you to control viewing and editing rights on various levels.

  1. 2. In the “Add people” tab, you can decide whether the recipient users “Can edit” or “Can view”, in addition to notifying them via email, so they immediately know a report has been shared with them.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Add people
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Add people
  1. 3. For more advanced access rights, click on “Manage access”, next to the “Add people” tab. Then, click on the drop-down menu “Off - only specific people can access” to see the full range of access types.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Manage access
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Manage access
  1. 4. For more security or privacy, you can tick on both boxes below to “Prevent editors from changing access and adding new people” and “Disable downloading, printing, and copying for viewers”.
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners Tick access box
Google Data Studio Tutorial for Beginners - Tick access box

Google Data Studio allows you to adjust the security and protection levels for your data, which makes it an all-around collaborative tool for online data analysis and visualization.

How to manage Google Sheets data with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

As you can see, Google’s Data Studio is a fantastic tool that you can use for free in order to level up your reporting by connecting to all types of data sources and creating in-depth, interactive insights that you can easily share with others.

In this tutorial for beginners, we have given you a basic overview of Google Data Studio by explaining what it is, its main benefits, and how to use it. For a more advanced overview of this tool, take a look at the Google Data Studio guide.

Looking for more spreadsheet-related resources for beginners? Check out some of our other articles:

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Mar 18 2022, Updated May 30 2022