Google Maps Chart Type in Google Data Studio

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Ahmad Kanani


Google has recently released a new update for Google Data Studio: Google Maps, which significantly increases the functionality of the map visualization. If you have already used the previous geo-map chart, you know that it has some limitations, such as not being able to find all the regions and the zoom being static and only at the country level.

The addition of the Google Maps chart means that we can plot our data over the familiar interface that we all use in our daily life for finding places or navigation, and thanks to the new update, benefit from all of its functionalities inside Google Data Studio.

In this review, I will take you through the features of this new chart type and show you how you can use them.

1. Style Features

First, let's see how the new Google Map chart looks:

Here if we filter our report to just show California, it automatically zooms in on the map. We can also zoom out or in if required, or pan around.

The map can also plot addresses and zip codes, as long as your data set has addresses in a format that Google Map can understand.

Now let's create a map from scratch. We can add Google Maps from Add a chart menu. 

The first thing we notice is that unlike the previous map in Google Data Studio, the Google Maps chart uses bubbles overlaid on the map to plot the data. Future updates will also make it possible to apply shades to different areas, cities, countries, or regions, and show the data with varying shades of color.

Interaction with the map is only available in the View mode, meaning that we can’t zoom over it or pan around while in Edit mode. 

We can change the style of our map from the STYLE tab and choose different options such as Standard, Silver, and Dark or view the map in Satellite mode. 

It’s also possible to change further details such as the level of granularity for Roads, Landmarks, and Labels.

Another fantastic feature in the STYLE tab is the Edit JSON option by which we can edit the JSON settings of the Google map styling and create a completely new style for the map.

It works by creating a design in Google Maps Platform Styling Wizard and copying the JSON code in the Edit JSON menu. Of course, the JSON can also be edited directly.

This is a great feature that lets you style your map based on your logo, brand colors, or the report theme. Although we can’t change Roads, Landmarks, and Labels through the sidebar after using the Edit JSON option, changing the number of bubbles in the Bubble Layer section and increasing or reducing their size is still possible. Additionally, we can choose a different color for bubbles to be shown on the map.

We can also change the Map Controls and allow users to pan, zoom, view streets, show full screen, change map type between Map and Satellite mode, and display the scale control. 

2. Data Features

Now let's take a look at the available properties in the Data Tab. Similar to other charts, we need to choose a data source, which in this case, should have some geographic fields for plotting the map.

The first thing we can configure here is the Bubble location. Our data can be plotted based on the zip code, address, city, country, region, state, or even the continent.

The next option is the Tooltip. This option allows us to define the value of the tooltip users see when they hover over the bubbles on the map. The values in the Tooltip dimension must have a one-to-one relationship with the values in the Bubble location dimension.

We can’t set Tooltip dimensions that contain multiple values for the selected location. So, for example, here I have chosen Country as the Bubble location dimension, and Country ISO Code for the Tooltip.

The Tooltip value is optional, and if we remove it, the map will show the value of Bubble location dimension on hover.

To make using the map more manageable, or have it zoom in to a specific area by default, we can add filters to show only the regions we need. Here I have filtered the map to only include values for the US.

The next feature is called Bubble color. We have this option both in Dimension and Metric sections, but their behaviors are different. We can set different colors for each region if we add a Region dimension to Bubble color instead of seeing all the bubbles with the same color. The colors can be changed from the Colors section of the STYLE tab.

The dimension we choose here does not necessarily have to be the same as the Bubble location dimension. We can choose other dimensions such as the Continent and make customizations if necessary.

Now let’s add a metric as the Bubble color. For example, Revenue, so see which states have made more revenue. The colors can be changed from the STYLE tab, and we are allowed to assign four colors for the maximum, middle, minimum, and dataless values.

Similarly, the Revenue metric can be applied to the Bubble size. This is a better and easier-to-understand approach to comparing values. We can even make it better by using both metrics simultaneously. Here I have added Users for the Bubble color and Revenue as the Bubble size metric. 

Replacing the Bubble color value with other metrics such as the Avg. Order Value allows us to see which states made less revenue, but had more avg. order value.

In the Default date range section, we can see the Auto and Custom options, but it is not yet possible to compare the data with another data range. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to achieve a date range comparison on a map visualization without making it overcomplicated.

We can make our Google Map chart interactive by clicking Apply filter in the Interactions section so clicking on a bubble on the map would cross-filter the rest of the numbers and charts on the page.

Just as a final tip, keep in mind letting users know about the dimensions or metrics applied to the size and color of bubbles because currently, the Google Maps chart has no legend and the users won't know if a larger size for a bubble, for example, represents a higher revenue amount or more users. 

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