Google Analytics vs. Looker Studio: Three Use Cases for Each

Key Points

  • Google Analytics and Looker Studio might seem very similar but they have some distinct use cases. In this article, you’ll find a rundown of their strengths and three use cases for each platform. 
  • Google Analytics is great for tracking data – you get tons of data about web behavior. Use Google Analytics to search for specific data through its search function. It’s also great for accessing real-time data, and tracking goals and attribution. You can see all of this useful information without needing to make a dashboard first. It’s all baked into the platform.
  • Looker Studio is great for presenting data — you can build reports and dashboards to visualize and share your data. Use it to tell stories with charts, images and flowcharts. Sharing reports with team members, stakeholders, and clients is easy. And being able to connect to a wide range of data sources gives Looker Studio more flexibility than Analytics.
  • When thinking about Analytics or Looker Studio, it’s not all or nothing. You can combine them for a powerful suite of analytics tools.

At first glance, Google Data Studio appears to step on Google Analytics’ turf. After all, almost any website data collected in Google Analytics is also available in Data Studio. However, both products have specific strengths that make them compelling in different use cases. 

Before we dive into specific instances where you’d use one or the other, let’s start from a high level. Google Analytics’ primary function is as an analytics and tracking platform, used to add tracking codes to sites, track events, setup goals, and run fast analysis. Data Studio has access to much of the same data as Google Analytics but can display site traffic alongside other data points from marketing channels across your digital presence like social, search, and more. It’s most useful for presenting data you’d want to reference repeatedly. It also helps you share data with others you report to or who may be less technical and don’t have time to spend in Google Analytics. 

Three Use Cases for Google Analytics

Use Case #1: Searching for Specific Data

Google Analytics helps you explore web behavior and track down specific data points. For example, need to find the different acquisition channels for a specific landing page, or trying to understand behavior in different user segments? Google Analytics will get you there in an instant. Likewise, if you only need to find the data once, not refer to it frequently, Google Analytics is the better choice. Finally, the Google Analytics search function helps find data quickly while Data Studio requires you to build the report before you begin any digging or analysis. 

Use the Google Analytics search function to find relevant data faster.

Use Case #2: Real Time Data

One key functionality available in Google Analytics that you won’t find in Data Studio is real-time reporting. Real-time data displays how many people are currently on your site along with details like geo, device use, specific pages, and acquisition channels. This data is valuable to track immediate marketing tactics, for instance, to see if a social post or promotion is having an immediate effect. It’s also a handy tool for testing, allowing you to verify goal completions or ensure tracking is working on specific pages.

Use Case #3: Goals and Attribution

Google Analytics comes with a whole swath of tools specific to segmenting data as it enters your analytics platform. Most notable are goals, or an action someone takes on your site you’ve told Google to specifically track, say visiting a specific page. There’s also a whole category of goals related to e-commerce such as spending a certain amount. By creating these goals you’re given access to new data like goal funnels and paths, letting you see where people came from or dropped off along the way. Another new data point is multi-channel attribution, a way of tracking multiple touchpoints along the marketing journey. Data Studio, on the other hand, can only analyze the data after it’s collected and is limited in the amount of goal-related data it can currently display. 

Setting up goals allows you to track users specific actions like page visit, time on screen, or event.

Three Use Cases for Data Studio

Use Case #1: Telling a Story

Data Studio’s most compelling use case is the ability to present data in a visually appealing way, bringing it to life with colors, charts, and images that display the most important data for your audience. Beyond just a nice visualization, Data Studio helps you tell a story. By creating multiple pages or even a top to bottom flow, you can guide viewers through to actionable data points. Google Analytics has its own dashboard capabilities but is limited in its visual customization and flexibility.


Data Studio allows for much more creative data displays like this one which shows a user flow path.

Use Case #2: Sharing With an Audience

Data Studio, while helpful for your own data analysis, matters most when creating a report for someone else. This could include a manager or executive who needs high level data or an advertising partner who needs a campaign report. Whereas Google Studio requires an account to view data, Data Studio has a number of sharable options. Like any other Google products, say Docs, Slides, or Sheets, you can share a link and limit access to certain email domains or people, and assign them roles like viewer, commenter, or editor. Other Data Studio sharing options include automated emailing of a PDF report or embedded views via an iframe. 

Data Studio’s sharing capabilities gives you greater control over who can view the dashboard.

Use Case #3: Connecting Data Beyond Google Analytics

Aside from the presentation and storytelling, Data Studio becomes more useful when you need to add metrics outside of just website traffic. Like Google Analytics, you can connect other Google Suite data like Search Console or Google Ads. Data Studio goes beyond that letting you bring in CRM data, social accounts, ad platforms, and other digital marketing tools and reporting. Data Studio becomes much more than a Google Analytics presentation tool and transforms into a center for all your data. Once it’s connected, data can be combined, blended, and manipulated to display trends and data points previously unavailable in siloed tools. 

In short, both platforms serve a different purpose and complement each other. Google Analytics excels at tracking and analyzing performance while Data Studio is best to beautifully display all your online data in a central location and share those visualizations with others. You can expect to see continued product releases for both products that play on their strengths – more depth in Google Analytics, and more breadth in Data Studio.

Interested in exploring more on what Data Studio has to offer? Check out our best data studio templates of 2020 guide.

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