Solving Sharing Issues with Google Data Studio

January 18, 2019
sharing data sources blog image

Imagine: your boss needs a key report for a board meeting. You share it, they open it, and it's...blank.

Google Data Studio gives us the ability to make beautiful, comprehensive reports (for free!). The most recent releases have included powerful features like data blending, community connectors, and an improved calculated fields interface.

Every new feature and update makes it easier to build the report you need, however, sharing these reports with others can be a little confusing. If you've ever built a report in Data Studio and shared it with a coworker only for some (or all) of the visualizations to throw an error, you are not alone!

In this post, we explain how Data Studio handles data versus reports and how to successfully share both of these components.

If you're only interested in exporting a non-interactive, PDF version of a report, you can skip to the section "Exporting Static Reports."

Note: While you can add many different types of data to Data Studio reports, this post will focus on the Google Analytics (GA) data connector, pulling in GA data.

Data Studio Structure

Data Studio reports consist of two main components:

  • A report template consists of charts, graphs, tables, text boxes, shapes - any component, both visualization and aesthetic, that is used to build a report.
  • A data source is exactly what it sounds like - the source of data that populates a report. A data source can include calculated fields and segments if those features are configured in a given data source.

Because of this structure, depending on how you're populating the report or sharing it, the user you are sharing it with may need access to both the report template and the data source.

Sharing a Report Template

Access to the report template simply means sharing your report template via either a link or by email.

Why Would I Need to Share a Report Template?

There are many reasons you may need to share a report template, including the following:

  • You need to collaborate on a report with other users.
  • You need to deliver the data to whoever requested the report (especially if you want them to have access to the dynamic aspects of the report like date selectors, data filters, etc.).
  • You built a template and you want to give others access to it for their own reporting.

How to Share a Report Template

To do this, open your report in Data Studio and click on the share icon

(Note: you can only see the share icon when you're in "View" mode, not when you're in "Edit" mode):

"data studio how to share image

You can then either give direct access to specific email addresses or generate a link that will allow different groups of people to access the report. Access-level is controlled similarly to Google Docs with “View” and “Edit” options.

Copying a Report Template

Sometimes you may need to make a copy of a report that has been shared with you. To make a copy of a report template, click on the Copy button:

data studio copy report template image

If the "Original Data Source," fields show up as "(Unknown)," this just means you don't have access to the original data source that populated the report. You can overwrite the original data sources with another data source you have access to.

If you need to re-add the original data source, that original data source can be shared with you (this sharing does not require being given direct access to the data source).

Sharing a Data Source

Access to a data source could mean two things:

  • The user has access to the data source directly. For example, user permissions in GA for that GA account, property, or view.
  • The data source is shared with the user. For example, if you make any edits to a data source like adding a calculated field, you need to share the edited data source with the user, regardless of whether or not they have direct access to the Original Data Source.

Why Would I Need to Share a Data Source?

If you're giving a user direct access to a report via email or sharing with a link, they will have access to your edited data source in the confines of that report.

However, if the user needs to make a copy of your original report template and re-add your edited data source to the template, or if they need to create a new report with your edited data source, you will need to share the edited data source.

The main indication that a user needs to be given access to your data source is this error in any filter or visualization:

screen shot of data source access error

In the case above, the "Are they logged in?" filter was being populated by a calculated field that looks for the existence of a login status and returns a boolean.

To gain access to this calculated field, I need to share the edited data source with the user. They then need to replace their current data source populating this report with the edited, shared data source (how to do this is explained in the section below, "How to add a new data source to visualizations").

How to Share a Data Source

To share a data source, enter the Data Source section of the main Data Studio menu:

How to Share a Data Source gif

You can then share individual data sources with other users by clicking on the stoplight drop-down menu and selecting "Share." Again, you can then either give direct access to specific email addresses or generate a link that will allow different groups of people to access the report. Access-level is controlled similarly to Google Docs with “View” and “Edit” options.

share individual data sources gif

If someone has shared an edited data source with you, it will appear in the shared Data Source menu in Data Studio:

shared data source menu in data studio

Rename Edited Data Sources

If you're sharing your data source with another user, it's useful to rename the data source first. Be explicit about the report the data source belongs to or about the edits that have been made to the original source.

rename data source before sharing

How to Add a Shared Data Source to Visualizations

Data sources are linked at the visualization level. This is useful because it means you can include visualizations pulling from many different data sources on one single report page. However, when you need to replace all of your data sources on a given page, it may be a bit of a burden. There are two options:

Option one: Click into each visualization (or select multiple visualizations at a time) and replace the current source with the shared, edited source: 

select multiple report components and replace data source

Option two: If you're replacing all current data sources with the shared, edited source, make a copy of the report. This will allow you to replace all data source references with the edited, shared data source: 

replace current data source with shared data source

Data Blending Data Sources

The important thing to consider when it comes to blended sources of data is accessibility to each of the blended-data sources.

If you have access - either direct access to the source through permissions or shared access to a data source - Data Studio will automatically recombine the blended dimensions and metrics where it's relevant to do so in your report:

data blending data sources screenshot

As you can see above, though I've created a new, blended Data Source (which combines the data sources "Google Merch Store - Master View - Analytics Implementation Edit" and "1 Master View"), a combined data source doesn't appear when I make a copy of the report. Instead, you can still see references to the original data sources that built the blended data source.

When blending data, Data Studio does not create a new data source with that blended data. Instead, it continues to reference the original data sources.

You can see further evidence of this by looking at your own list of data sources. Though I have created this blended data source, only references to the original data source are seen in the menu:

List of Data Sources screenshot

Exporting Static Reports

All of the details above are relevant when you want to give others access to your dynamic, interactive reports. But simply exporting a PDF version of a report is an option, as well!

screenshot exporting static reports

This option will download a static version of the report based on the timeframe and filters selected at the time of the PDF export.

Time selectors and filter report components will still show up in the PDF version of the report, just as they do on your screen at the time of export, however, they cannot be interacted with:

screenshot of static report PDF

That's it for the basics of sharing in Data Studio!

Here's a link to some of our report templates recipes to help you get started in Data Studio. In order to add your own data sources and edit them, you'll first need to make a copy of them. Happy reporting!