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Navigating Google Looker Studio: A Personal Journey Beyond Google's Certification Course

June 13, 2024

Recently, I wrapped up Google's Looker Studio certification course. For the big, shiny certificate you get, it’s rather underwhelming. I expected a challenge but found myself navigating through something unexpectedly straightforward.

Introduces key featuresNot updated since 2018
Free and accessibleLack of challenge
Easy to navigateMissing instructional materials
Makes it easy to use the Looker Studio UIInsufficient hands-on practice
Encourages real-time engagementNo advanced content

Despite this, the course turned out to be a gateway to a host of features and concepts I hadn't encountered before, including diving into the Explorer without saving anything – it lets you play around with data without cluttering your saved files.

What Is Google Looker Studio?

Google Looker Studio, formerly known as Data Studio, is the Swiss Army knife for making sense of how people interact with your website in real-time. It's all about turning those numbers and charts into a custom dashboard that's actually useful.

Think of Looker Studio as your personal control panel, where you can see the heartbeat of your projects – which ads pull in the most clients, where your website visitors are clicking, or even how many folks are reaching out for quotes. And the best part? You get to decide what's important and keep only the metrics that matter to you.

Google Looker Studio can integrate real-time data from 23 native apps, including Google Analytics, Google Ads & YouTube, and 900+ partner integrations. The reports are fully customizable, with filters to segment audience activity. For example, when you’re running ads across Google, Facebook and Instagram, advanced charts and filters let you see which of these is performing the best.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Google’s Introduction to Looker Studio Course?

The course definitely had its strengths, introducing me to the wide array of data that Looker Studio can draw from, not just limited to Google's own backyard but spanning across various web technologies. And then there was this revelation about controlling viewer interactions with the reports we send out, crucial for us when we're handing these insights over directly to our clients.

But here's the real deal – the course on its own, with its basic knowledge, barely scratched the surface. It also dates back to 2018, a previous era of Google apps. There's a big warning up top that this coursework uses the now-deprecated old version of Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Academy: Introduction to Data Studio landing page with a big orange banner saying, 'These courses are about Universal Analytics. Starting July 1, 2023, standard UA properties will stop processing data (July 1, 2024 for UA 360 properties). Learn about Google Analytics 4, our next-generation measurement solution, with these free courses on Skillshop.'

Cause for alarm, right? Thankfully I could navigate Looker Studio just by figuring out which button was which in the new version, comparing to the instructions.

However, this is Google's only certification course for the Looker Studio tool. I was left with many what-ifs, unanswered questions, and a missing video in the coursework.

It's when I took matters into my own hands, exploring Looker Studio in real-time, that the course material truly started to resonate. There's something about facing those real-time glitches, unraveling the mysteries of data sources and chart configurations, that this collection of “textbook” learning or video tutorials can't match.

The Practical Path to Proficiency

So, how did I bridge this gap between coursework and proficiency? Here’s what worked for me:

  • Hands-On Exploration: Every time something piqued my curiosity or if I hit a snag, I jumped into Looker Studio to experiment. This approach made everything stick – way more than just passively clicking through Google’s “interactive” lessons could ever achieve.
  • Community Insights: For every question the course left unanswered or for deeper dives into complex topics, you can turn to online analytics pros. Better yet, communities like r/GoogleDataStudio on Reddit. If you want answers from experienced Looker Studio users, Reddit is the place. These folks are ready with advice, hacks, and answers.
  • Embracing Real-Time Challenges: Encountering roadblocks and figuring out solutions in the moment genuinely deepened my understanding. It was like the difference between reading about swimming and actually diving into the pool.
  • Google BigQuery: At some point, you’re guaranteed to run into limitations with your data sources. Google Analytics only keeps the last 16 months of data, and Google Search Console keeps 18. This is where BigQuery comes in. BigQuery is Google’s advanced tool for processing and saving large amounts of data, so you can look back on historical analytics without worry of losing it.

The certification course did a solid job of laying the ground rules and showing the ropes – from the nuances of the Explorer and understanding Looker Studio’s diverse data sourcing capabilities to tailoring interactive report controls. Yet, the real learning began the moment I stepped beyond the structured lessons.

Looking Ahead with a Community Mindset

This journey underscored a crucial lesson for me: the path to mastering Looker Studio, or any tool for that matter, is continuous and often collaborative. Engaging with the platform directly, leaning on communities and outside knowledge for insights, and always staying curious have been key to advancing my skills.

I'd love to hear about your voyage through Looker Studio – the hurdles, the triumphs, and everything in between. How have you leveraged community knowledge to supplement your learning? What tips and tricks have you discovered along the way? Let's keep this conversation going and grow together, one insight, one dashboard at a time.

Navigating Looker Studio is a journey best taken with curiosity as your compass and the community as your crew. Here's to the countless discoveries that lie ahead and to transforming raw data into real stories about your costs, revenues and ROI.

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