Agency guides

How to Know That You’ve Outgrown Looker Studio as a Marketing Agency

Manual reporting, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slides are behind you. You’ve grown as a marketing agency. Looker Studio (former Google Data Studio) is your reporting tool of choice. It works fine with Google data sources, and you can always purchase third-party connectors for any scattered data. 

But over the years of use, you’ve also learned its shortcomings. 

Whatagraph marketing reporting tool
Nikola Gemes

Jul 09 2024 10 min read

How to Know That You’ve Outgrown Looker Studio

Table of Contents

  • 5 signs that you’ve outgrown Looker Studio
  • 1. Dashboards take several minutes to load… or crash
  • 2. You run into data limits
  • 3. You need more advanced visualizations
  • 4. You don’t have time to debug issues yourself
  • 5. You start to question cost vs. value
  • Impact of Looker Studio limitations on marketing agency operations
  • What can you do to mitigate Looker Studio limits?

No software is perfect, as there are always features that could be improved. But if a tool is preventing you from scaling your process or keeps your team spending extra hours every week preparing reports, maybe it’s time for a change.

We’ve rounded up five main scenarios that indicate you may have outgrown Looker Studio as a reporting tool in your agency.

5 signs that you’ve outgrown Looker Studio

The “Looker Studio + data integration tool” combo is a popular reporting solution for many marketing agencies. However, this setup falls short in many critical aspects, from a lagging interface to providing only surface-level analysis. In this guide, we explore the dark side of Looker Studio, which prevents marketing agencies from streamlining their data management and reporting.

1. Dashboards take several minutes to load… or crash

Looker Studio dashboards can load slowly for various reasons, which we will list here. However, any of these reasons may ultimately cause bad UX and frustration on the client side.

Users on G2 and other review sites regularly cite data caching issues, where data gets refreshed every 15 minutes. If there’s a problem with a data connection for a specific chart or table, there’s no way to purge the cache manually, but you have to wait for it to re-fetch the data itself.

Large data volumes

Dashboards with large datasets can slow down loading times because Looker Studio must process and render significant amounts of data. The high number of rows and columns in your data sources can also impact performance.

The number of visualizations

Looker Studio dashboard with many charts, tables, and other visual elements can take longer to render. Interactive components like filters, controls, and dynamic elements can also slow the report's rendering. Another common cache-related issue is that Looker Studio dashboards get slower the longer you work with them or simply crash.

Connector performance

The connection speed to your data sources affects how quickly data can be retrieved. The performance of underlying databases or APIs can influence how fast queries are executed, and data is fetched. In other words, the dashboard loading speed depends on the processing speed of third-party connectors that you use to integrate data sources outside the Google platform.

Complex calculations

Multiple joins between data sources can increase the loading time for dashboards. Looker Studio is known to slow down even if you use just two data sources to create a blend.

In Whatagraph, on the other hand, you can have a dashboard with 10 sources and 100 widgets running simultaneously and never skip a beat. Another thing that slows down Looker Studio's performance is using many calculated fields, complex formulas, or custom queries.

2. You run into data limits

In addition to slow performance, partly caused by the amount of data your dashboards must process, Looker Studio also has several data limitations that may pass unnoticed until you need to connect and report on client data from a large number of sources.

Data volume and complexity limits

Looker Studio may struggle with large datasets, preventing you from performing comprehensive analyses. For example, you can only have up to 5 sources in a data blend. You can’t save and reuse custom metrics in two different widgets unless you re-create them from scratch.

Many other data actions are limited to the widget level, and there is no way to scale them. Limitations like these can prevent agencies from fully exploiting big data for insights. On the other hand, limits on the complexity of queries restrict the ability to perform detailed data analyses, such as advanced segmentation or predictive modeling.

Connector limits

Looker Studio natively integrates with many data sources from the Google Marketing Platform. However, it may not support all data sources that your clients use. To avoid incomplete data views, you need to purchase third-party connectors for those platforms. The tool’s inability to integrate scattered data sources seamlessly can cause fragmented insights, reducing the effectiveness of your multi-channel marketing strategies.

Performance issues with large data sets

As already illustrated, as the data volume increases, performance may degrade, leading to slow dashboard loading times. Working with large or complex data sets can cause the system to crash, disrupting the workflow and delaying reporting.

Customization and advanced feature limits: Looker Studio may not offer advanced customization options that help you meet specific client requirements. This can further limit your ability to tailor reports and dashboards to the client's needs. A lack of support for advanced analytics features can limit your team's ability to provide deep insights.

Marketing agencies that use Whatagraph as their performance monitoring and reporting platform never experience data limitations like those described above. Users can blend as many data sources as needed, and there’s no need to purchase additional connectors, as Whatagraph has direct integrations with 50+ popular marketing platforms.

3. You need more advanced visualizations

Looker Studio visualizations are limited in multiple ways compared to those of dedicated marketing reporting solutions. These limitations can affect the quality of data analysis, client satisfaction, and the overall efficiency of marketing operations. Here are some specific ways in which limited visualizations can impact marketing agencies:

Limited data representation

The limited choice of visualization types can make it difficult to represent complex data relationships and trends effectively. This can lead to oversimplified insights and potentially overlook important patterns.

Less impressive reports

Outdated, Google Sheets-style visualizations also produce less visually appealing reports. This impacts the agency’s ability to impress clients and effectively demonstrate the value of its services. Clients may have specific requirements or branding guidelines that Looker Studio reports may not deliver.

Operational efficiency

Marketing agencies might need to apply manual workarounds, such as exporting data to other tools for more advanced visualization. Frequent switching between Looker Studio and other BI tools to compensate for visualization limitations leads to increased workload, operational complexity, and costs.

While Looker Studio users need to create every visualization widget from scratch, Whatagraph has pre-made visualization blocks that you can drag and drop into your dashboard out of the box. Edit them, save them, and reuse them as your custom visualization for every new report you create.

When it comes to making group changes, Whatagraph allows you to link even hundreds of reports to a master template and edit them simultaneously, while in Looker Studio, you must change every report individually.

4. You don’t have time to debug issues yourself

Looker Studio doesn’t provide customer support, so users are expected to onboard themselves and discover how to use all the features, connectors, and design elements.

On paper, there is an email address that you can use to reach out not to support but to developers and ask them to help you with your issues. However, based on our own experience and judging from users at G2 reviews, it's not the most responsive support channel.

Another option is to try and find the fix online or browse through the Looker Studio Support Community forum, but even there, there are many more questions than answers.

This lack of live or at least responsive customer support in Looker Studio can significantly impact marketing agencies that rely on it for reporting. Here are the specific ways this shortcoming affects agencies:

Longer downtimes

If you experience a technical issue, the lack of live support can lead to prolonged downtime, disrupting and delaying the reporting process. As a result, client relationships and satisfaction can suffer. Trying to find a solution via email support or community forums can take days in a row, which causes missed deadlines and frustration among team members.

Strained internal resources

To solve problems fast, an agency may need to allocate internal resources such as IT or analytics staff to troubleshoot issues. This diverts valuable time and resources away from other important tasks and reduces overall productivity. Alternatively, agencies may need to invest more in training non-technical staff to handle technical issues independently, which also demands time and financial resources and adds to the operational costs.

Communication breakdowns

An agency’s inability to address client concerns and questions about reports can damage its credibility. Clients may become disillusioned with the service, which could lead to churn and negative reviews.

Whatagraph, on the other hand, offers live chat support round the clock on workdays to promptly resolve any user question about the platform and remove blockers to smooth and seamless data collecting and reporting.

5. You start to question cost vs. value

Finally, you’ve started to evaluate the financial investment in Looker Studio against the tangible and intangible benefits it provides:

Cost considerations

As you know, Looker Studio is free to use, but only if you use data from Google platforms. Depending on the tier and connectors you need, the subscription fee can be a major expense for the agency. Agencies, however, need to balance the budget allocation between Looker Studio and other essential tools and services.

Learning curve and usability

A steep learning curve can delay the effective use of Looker Studio, reducing its immediate value. Costs associated with training new team members and ongoing support can add to the total cost of ownership.

User role limitations

Limited user roles and permissions can complicate collaboration, reducing team efficiency and the ability to manage projects effectively. Agencies may need to use additional collaboration tools to compensate for these limitations, increasing costs.

Impact of Looker Studio limitations on marketing agency operations

Slow performance, data limitations, inadequate visualizations, and the lack of proper customer support in Looker Studio can negatively impact marketing agencies. Here are some specific ways these shortcomings can affect operations and the overall effectiveness of your marketing agency.

  • Manual workarounds: Your team may need manual processes or additional tools to overcome Looker Studio data limitations, reducing overall efficiency.
  • Incomplete reporting: The inability to integrate all necessary data sources without unreliable third-party connectors can lead to incomplete reports and possible client dissatisfaction.
  • Growth challenges: As your agency grows and takes on more clients, Looker Studio's limitations can become more evident, blocking you from scaling efficiently.
  • Service expansion: Limitations in advanced analytics and customization can even prevent you from expanding service offerings to meet evolving client needs.

“I highly recommend agencies to adapt every single day by continuously learning about new marketing technologies and strategies - clients value agencies that evolve with the landscape.”

Dylan Hey - CEO @ Hey Digital

  • Reduced competitive edge: Your agency may fall behind competitors who use more advanced reporting platforms that offer more scalability and better data performance. Performance issues can undermine innovation by limiting your agency’s ability to experiment and apply new data-driven strategies quickly.
  • Missed opportunities: The inability to perform advanced data manipulation or real-time analysis can end in missed campaign optimization and improvement opportunities.
  • Client dissatisfaction: Your clients rely on timely insights to make informed decisions. Slow dashboards can cause delays, leading to client frustration. Persistent performance issues can create a perception of inefficiency, where deficiencies of your reporting tool are translated to your agency’s work and potentially damage your reputation.

What can you do to mitigate Looker Studio limits?

Optimize data queries and use data extracts where possible

This may work if you have a dedicated data person on the team. Or can afford to hire an outside data specialist to optimize your datasets regularly.

Simplify dashboards

This is an often-cited remedy. However, a growing marketing agency needs more, not less, data-driven insights, so limiting the number of visualizations and calculations or using simpler data representations is probably not an option.

Consider alternatives

At the point when you realize you’ve outgrown Looker Studio as a reporting solution in your agency, the best course of action is to look for a replacement — a fast marketing agency reporting platform that allows you to connect and organize data without limitations, has stunning visualizations and responsive live support, and can scale with your agency.

Published on Jul 08 2024

Whatagraph marketing reporting tool


Nikola Gemes

Nikola is a content marketer at Whatagraph with extensive writing experience in SaaS and tech niches. With a background in content management apps and composable architectures, it's his job to educate readers about the latest developments in the world of marketing data, data warehousing, headless architectures, and federated content platforms.