Most people we’re talking to are onboard with the idea of getting their GA4 up and running. We’ve all had plenty of notice and know Google Analytics Universal will no longer be processing new data after July 2023.
Instead of ‘how do I set up GA4?’ The most common question we’re hearing now is ‘how do I view my data in GA4?’
Although the GA4 interface has had a facelift, most of the data you know and love from your Universal GA is still there. You should still be able to access everything via the main dashboard. Like many, we’re finding it much easier to view and present the data in a Data Studio Looker report.
As I’m an SEO by trade, I’m going to talk you through some basics of setting up a Looker Studio report to view some GA4 data that’s especially helpful when reporting on organic search performance. This is a very basic intro so if you’re brand new to Looker Studio, it should be right up your street. If you’re secretly a data analytics whizz, this is not the article you’re looking for!
What is Looker?
According to Google, Looker is a “business intelligence software and big data analytics platform that helps you explore, analyze and share real-time business analytics easily.”
Basically, it’s a shiny tool that lets you create reports so you can see, gain insight and share all the results from your digital marketing.
In October 2022 Google officially changed the name from Data Studio to Looker so if you’ve heard of Data Studio, you’ve heard of Looker. You can learn all about the platform here.
Like most of Google’s products, the basic version is free and there’s a paid version for those wanting a little bit more umph via Looker Studio Pro.
How Do I Get Started Creating A GA4 Looker Report?
Start by going to https://datastudio.google.com/
In order to plug your GA4 data into Looker Studio, you must make sure the Google account you’re using to build the report has access to the GA4 account it’s going to be pulling data from.
Once you’re in, you should see a page like this:
If you’re new to Looker, a quick click through of the Tutorial Report is a good place to start.
Then you want to click ‘Blank Report’.
Step 1: Connect Google Analytics
Looker Studio lets you connect lots of different data sources, right now there are 24 connected from Google (like Google Ads, BigQuery, Search Console). There are also hundreds of partner connectors like HubSpot, SEMrus, Ahrefs etc. So if you want to pull in your ranking data or some basic site health stats and you’re using a tool that connects to Looker Studio, it’s all here.
As we’re looking at GA today, we’re going to select the Google Analytics option:
Select the account you want to create the report for and select the property and add:
Step 2: What Are You Looking At?
What you see now is your basic report.
On the right hand side, you’ll see ‘Data’ – this is the source of your data. In this case we’re looking at GA4 for our website.
Beneath it you’ll see a list of Dimensions in green and beneath these, you’ll see a list of metrics which are in Blue. These are all the types of data you can view in Looker Studio and if your GA4 has been set up well, you should have a nice long list here.
To the left of the Data column, you’ll see ‘Chart’ with ‘Setup’ and ‘Style’ beneath them. If you’ve ever spent any time working in Google Sheets (or even Excel) Pivot Tables, this should start to look a little familiar. If pivot tables aren’t your thing, don’t worry, this is a basic intro article so it’s not going to get too complicated.
Step 3: Name and Presentation
Anyone who has worked in Marketing for more than 30 seconds will know the curse of being labelled the ‘Colouring in department’ – let’s not let those silly people down and start by getting the presentation sorted.
First things first, we’re going to give our report a name. Click in the top left corner where is currently says ‘Untitled Report’ and give it a sensible name (the same way you would when using Google Sheets or Docs)
For the sake of making alignment easier when we’re creating our first report, let’s add some grid lines: Select View from the drop down menu >> snap to >> Grid
Or you can have a scroll through the preset Themes and Layouts in the top menu if you want a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ report.
Step 4: Pulling Data >> Date Range
OK, this is what you’re here for, let’s actually pull some data from GA4 and make it look presentable and readable in our Looker Report.
One of the most important features in GA is the date range so we need this in our Looker report: Click Add a control from the drop down menu and select Date range control:
Click to ‘stick’ it to your report page. It doesn’t matter where, you can easily drag it about any time you like.
If you’re going to be making a few different pages in your report, you can right click the date and select Make report-level. This means the date selector will appear on each report page.
Step 5: Pulling Data >> Sessions
Now we need some actual data to view in our date range so let’s start with Sessions.
Under the list of Dimensions and Metrics under Data on the right hand side, you want to select Sessions.
Sessions are a metric, so you can scroll down until you find Sessions in blue. Or you can use the search box at the top and type Sessions.
Click and drag the Session option onto your report – voila! You now have a scorecard on your report telling you how many Sessions you had in the data from your selector.
Step 6: Making The Data Insightful
So we’ve got a number and we can change that number with the date range but right now, it’s not especially insightful.
Click on your Scorecard and click the arrow next to ‘Chart’ so you can see the different data presentation options.
There are loads of options you can have a play with but for now, let’s go with a simple Time series chart
And you’ve now got your Session numbers over the time selected from your date range selector. It’s becoming more insightful, if the chart below didn’t show all Sessions over the Black Friday period, we might be starting to worry about a drop in traffic.
Step 7: Adding Secondary Metrics
By adding a secondary metric, we can start to display and report on data that isn’t as straightforward in GA. For example, if we want to add revenue to the same chart, just select Revenue from the list of Metrics under Data and drag it across to the empty box beneath Metrics in the Chart column:
You’ll probably want to add a secondary axis now you’re displaying two different metrics so click Style and change the axis from Left to Right:
Now you have a time series chart with your sessions and revenue for your specified timeframe.
Step 8: Adding An Organic Filter
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m an SEO so I prefer my data with an organic filter.
Personally, I’d leave one chart showing all (unfiltered) data and then create a comparison chart with just organic.
Select Add a filter from the Setup option under Chart
Give it a sensible name and Include >> Session medium >> Equal to (=) >> organic >> click Save.
And now you have your original report and your second report with the organic filter:
The next time you create a new report, your saved filter will appear (or you can create a new one)
Step 9: Have a Play
By now you should have a good enough grasp to have a play and create some more reports.
Add the date range control the same way the first one was added, make sure you have a Metric to track (just drag across from the list) and a Dimension to report on.
Don’t forget, GA isn’t perfect. Sometimes data is excluded via Cookies, sometimes it’s just not configured as accurately as you’d like.
If you create a report and there’s a report inconsistency skewing the data – filter it out.
In this example, the report is showing my Sessions for my Current Collections (site categories) and most the data is returning as (not set) to the point it’s making it hard to see the rest of it.
I can add a new filter
And this time ask it to exclude anything containing (not set) from the Current Collection metric.
Now I can see the Collections in a much more insightful way and I can click on the pencil next to the filters any time I want to edit them:
Adding Blended Data to an SEO Looker Report
If you’ve had time to have a play, you’ll hopefully have started to see it’s not so scary. But there’s so much more you can do beyond just dragging GA Metrics over.
You can add lots of different Connectors and you can even add your own data sources.
If you work on a Shopify website you’ll be familiar with its stripped down URL structure – products sit in product folders off the top level and Categories sit in Collections.
If you want to report on all the products in a specific Collection (or category) there are plenty of ways to do this. One of the more simplistic ways is to assign all your products to their own Collection, either by hand or via Breadcrumbs. If you’re using Excel to create your reports, you can then VLOOKUP against them.
You can do something similar in Looker Studio.
For example, I have a list of all my landing pages and each one is assigned a page type (product page, Collection page, blog page etc), a Collection (top level category) and a cat type (like a sub cat):
Step 1: Create your blended data source
Under the Resource drop down menu, select Manage added data sources
You’ll see your GA data already listed (and the amount of reports it’s currently displaying).
Click Add a data source and Connect Google Sheets then find your Google Sheets file in the list that you want to look up from and add it:
Now you should see your Google Sheets source under your Data list on the right hand side:
Step 2: Get your data sources talking
Now we need to tell Looker to display the data from one source whilst taking metrics from the other – under the Resource menu, click Manage blends >> add a blend
You should see your new Google Sheets data with the available fields in your sheet.
Click Join another table to tell Looker we want a report to reference both data sets:
And select your GA data source
Like a Vlookup, the two data sources need an identical identifier – in this case, I’ve assigned page types and collections to landing page data.
In GA, these landing pages are the same as the Page Path.
In this example, I’m asking Looker to pull in my page type data, collection and cat types per landing page. I’m telling it this landing page data will match the Page path (under Dimensions), and I’m then asking it to show me sessions and metrics.
Don’t forget to add your organic traffic filter in the filter section.
(this might sound faffy, but it will make sense in a minute)
Step 3: Configure the join
We’ve told Looker what data we want displayed, now we need to glue these sources together.
To do this, click configure join:
In my Sheet – I’m matching data from the left hand column. In my Sheet it’s called Landing Page and in GA, it’s called Page path.
When I save this configuration, the data will update from GA4 and always read from my Sheet.
I now effectively have a Pivot table showing the volume of (organic) sessions my product pages received, my Collection page, my blog posts etc.
Step 4: The possibilities are endless
You can create any sources you want to in Google Sheets to blend into your Looker Report:
- Content created by writer A, writer B, writer C and track conversions instead of sessions
- New products / pages / content added and track revenue
- SEO changes made to page X vs page Y which hasn’t been changed
- Content shared via social or link building content
So long as your data source (i.e. your Google Sheet) has one column that matches the same naming convention as your GA data, it starts to get pretty interesting.
Tricks, tips and hints
- Looker isn’t perfect, sometimes it glitches, sometimes it needs second to catch up with what you’ve just asked. If something isn’t displaying quite right, ctrl + shift + E is a hard refresh and usually flushes through anything that’s got stuck.
- You can drag and drop and use arrow keys to move charts and elements around (starting with the grid view helps keep things neat). Looker does that alignment thingy Slides does, where you get the red lines and highlights when everything is aligned.
- Click in Page in the drop down and manage pages or click the Page 2 of 5 between the arrows in the sub menu to label the individual pages of your report