Marketing agencies do their best to optimize their processes and make their work as efficient as possible. One of the ways to achieve this is by using the mighty and powerful Google Data Studio for reporting. This article will give you the most common downsides of Google Data Studio (or Looker Studio, as it is now called) - what people complain about and whether it’s an actual concern or not. Most importantly, we’ll show you what to look at instead.
5 Limitations of Google Data Studio [That Nobody Talks About]
Table of Contents
Why Use Google Data Studio?
Google Data Studio (or Looker Studio) is a business intelligence tool provided by Google Cloud. It is also a visualization tool that turns plain numbers into charts or visual elements.
So let’s be clear - we’re not saying Google Data Studio is bad and you should stop using it ASAP. We believe that it may be a great addition due to a couple of reasons:
1. If the main tools and platforms your team and your clients use are in the Google ecosystem - GDS is FREE.
Each marketing agency deals with the same 10 pain points, according to Projectcor. Managing cash flow is the first one. More specifically, it's about figuring out how to reduce costs without sacrificing quality.
It costs nothing to set up a Google Data Studio account, connect to the 20 connectors the product offers, pull data, and produce a marketing report.
This suggests that Google Data Studio may serve as a tool that encourages financial planning and reduces the need for reporting tools that cost some amount of money.
2. Google Data Studio has more than 600 connectors.
That’s quite a lot of platforms and in theory, it’s a great advantage for this tool. There really are 600 different data sources that you can use with your Google Data Studio account.
This point is a bit tricky and has its downsides, so make sure you keep reading the blog!
3. Provides report templates for busy marketing agencies.
Saving time is another pain point of marketing agencies identified by our clients. Google Data Studio gallery has around 40 marketing templates that can be used immediately once you create your account.
It’s unclear how much GDS users can save time, as our users can save 40 hours per month, as we found through research. Nevertheless, having access to Google Data Studio templates is a big help to agencies looking to save every minute they can.
4. Help center for those with no tech knowledge.
GDS lacks proper onboarding and support offered by many other reporting tools in the market. However, you are not entirely on your own to figure out how to use and benefit from all of Google Data Studio's features.
You can always find the help center online and have free access to it.
The Limitations of Google Data Studio
It all sounds and looks great when you look at GDS from the surface level. However, once you start using it, you may find that some features are: odd, challenging, and costing significant time and money.
1. The Pricing
Ok, so in the beginning, we said that Google Data Studio is free. Yet, the limitation here is that it is free as long as you connect to the 20 platforms provided by Google. So, think about Google products such as Google Sheets, Google Ad Manager 360, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Ads (Adwords), Bigquery, Google Docs, etc.
Why is it a limitation? Because marketing agencies almost always use an extended list of tools to develop, execute and measure their strategies and campaigns.
The most popular and commonly used tools are SEMRush, Supermetrics, Ahrefs, Klaviyo, HubSpot, etc. Marketing agencies use different tools to optimize clients’ websites, check competitor profiles, manage ecommerce stores, social media accounts, and more.
As Google Data Studio and free connectors can’t provide all these necessary functionalities, agencies, data analysts and in-house marketers need to pay for these extra connectors.
In our Google Data Studio pricing article, we have estimated that you may end up paying around $600 per month by using the GDS tool and purchasing a few basic extras that an average agency might need.
2. Lack Of Proper Customer Support
You got all the articles, help center and even tutorials on how to use Google Data Studio. But is it enough?
Apparently, it is not. Here is a review left by Brian V. on G2.
Why is it a limitation? Because marketing agencies don’t have the time to go through all the material to 1) find out how to use the tool; 2) find out how to solve the commonly occurring bugs.
Marketing agencies require prompt, efficient, and smooth resolutions to technical issues, particularly when it comes to data and client reporting. By having this, they can ensure that they receive accurate analytics data. But more importantly, agencies must regularly and reliably report to their clients.
As you can imagine, having bugs and trying to figure out how to use the tool can take time, and not giving the client regular check-ups, you risk losing the client's trust and your credibility as a company.
A study done by Truelist says that over 80% of customers would pay more to get a better user experience which could be achieved by providing customer support. If you are one of them, consider using another reporting tool with proper customer support, such as Whatagraph, and prevent disappointing your client.
3. The Connectors
If there is a need, GDS provides the ability to connect to 600+ different marketing tools and pull data from them to create an engaging and detailed report. Sounds great, right?
However, there are a few limitations here:
- Data blending is only available with 5 data sources for the creation of a new one;
- Pulling data even from these 5 data sources may cause your report to break;
- All of the 5 data sources should share a joining key.
Here is what one customer had to say about these limitations:
SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click), affiliate marketing, etc. These are the most well-liked forms of digital marketing that advertising agencies introduce to their clients.
However, different tools are needed to carry out and operate these activities. And as we all know, running them is insufficient. Arguably, the more important task is accessing data to assess, measure, and compare various channels.
Google Data Studio's limitations prevent it from being done effectively. As you can imagine, having a Data Studio report crash frequently when only 5 data sources are connected is not ideal.
Utilizing GDS restricts your ability to aggregate, evaluate and compare your campaigns and distribution methods. Consequently, you are unable to improve and develop campaigns and strategies that are more successful.
4. No Real-Time Dashboard Updates
Keeping an eye on current trends allows marketing agencies to prevent and reduce costs, any errors from happening, etc. Essentially, having live connection to interactive real-time data provides quick insights into the progress and performance of marketing experiments and activities.
Usually, for that, marketing agencies use real-time dashboard updates. However, Data Studio doesn’t have an automated dashboard with live data and reports can load pretty slowly.
Why is it a limitation? Because 1) GDS gathers and keeps data as cached data; 2) GDS treats each connector differently; 3) you need to refresh and update data manually.
This is definitely not ideal because depending on the source you're using, you might need to update the data yourself or even perform some sort of data transformation. There are cases where you’d need to get an ETL (extract, transform, and load) tool.
By doing so, you will waste a lot of time.
Let’s take an example.
Assume you need to update the data you downloaded from Google Sheets. You would require a specifically created module for this. A simple fix is using Google Sheets' App Scripts to extract data from your source based on your schedule.
Even so, the capabilities of Google Sheets for data transformation are limited, so you must perform transformations before writing to Google Sheets.
Additionally, in this case, you’d require to get an ETL tool.
5. No Options For Complex Data Visualizations
Marketing agencies have unique expectations for a reporting tool. They usually rely on visual elements such as tables, charts, and graphs to tell their client’s how their investments are paying off and how your strategies are performing.
With GDS, you have access and functionality to add:
- 20 conditional formatting rules to a chart;
- 50 charts or boxes on a single page;
- 12 widgets per dashboard in a report.
Why is it a limitation? Because marketing agencies create longer monthly, quarterly, and yearly data performance reports. By having only 12 widgets on a single page, you run out of the opportunity to present more data.
These bullet-pointed limitations reduce your flexibility and ability to develop a report in the efficient way you want to. As you are the one telling the story to your client of how certain activities impacted their business, you may not be able to do it properly.
Choosing which widgets and charts to keep and which to delete may become necessary as you work through the report development process.
This not only wastes your time and is ineffective, but it also places restrictions on what information you can include in the report.
Subhash A. expressed his opinion on G2:
Whatagraph - a Better Google Data Studio Alternative
The solution to these limitations is the Google Data Studio alternative - Whatagraph.
We may have 40 connectors (but you can request additional if needed, we’ll add them), and you’d need to purchase a plan (+ 7-day free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee). However, Whatagraph solves all the problems that happen with Google Data Studio.
We offer you 3 transparent and clear pricing packages with an opportunity to get a custom pricing model for larger agencies.
Our plans start at $199 per month.
All 3 of them provide unlimited access to integrations, reports, historical data, media widgets, report automation, etc.
We offer customer support with instant replying and bug fixing.
You can reach out to us via live chat or email.
You will also get a dedicated account manager to help you at any reporting stage.
We offer 40+ integrations.
Contrastingly to Google Data Studio, you won’t have to worry about extra fees and not being able to have all the needed data in one place.
Simply purchase one of the packages, connect as many channels as you require and start creating marketing reports your clients will love.
If you don’t find the channel you use, you can reach out to one of our Whatagraph team members, and we will discuss your options.
We offer real-time dashboards.
The real-time dashboard makes it simple to stay current and, if necessary, automate updating your clients on the most crucial KPIs and metrics.
Our real-time updates display data as soon as it is entered or gathered. There is essentially no delay between the time the data was created and the time it is displayed in your dashboard.
Real-time data access does not require constant monitoring; rather, it simply means that you and your client always have access to the vital data they need to run your company effectively.
We offer unlimited complex visualizations
In Whatagraph, there are no restrictions on how many tables, graphs, or charts you want to include in your report.
You can play around with different data visualization elements to tell your story your way. And, of course, by the story, we mean your campaign’s and strategy’s performance and progress.
No matter the report or dashboard length, data sets you want to report on and the widgets you want to include - there are zero limits. You can create and share reports as you please. And it’s intuitive enough that even beginners can use it without struggle.
One of the top reporting tools on the market is Google Data Studio. It's challenging to rival them in every regard. However, we firmly believe we have what it takes to be the best in providing the best reporting tool to, in particular, marketing agencies.
We got all the necessary features allowing marketing agencies to save time and money and develop reports that would amaze their clients with data accuracy, professionalism and beauty.
Start your 7-day free trial to test it out for yourself. You'll quickly realize the advantages and benefits Whatagraph could provide for you and your clients.
Published on Sep 14 2022
WRITTEN BYDominyka Vaičiūnaitė
Dominyka is a copywriter at Whatagraph with a background in product marketing and customer success. Her degree in Mass Communications/Media Studies helps her to use simple words to explain complex ideas. In addition to adding value to our landing pages, you can find her name behind numerous product releases, in-app notifications, and guides in our help center.
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