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Data Visualization, PPC reporting

How To Choose The Most Effective Data Visualization

By Team Swydo
7 December 2017

When it comes to communicating results to clients, effective data visualization is key. Let’s explore the options and the most compelling methods to do this.

Why Data Visualization?

Whatever we see in the world, our brain interprets as a story. If it finds an interesting one it pays attention and remembers it. If not, it ignores or forgets it. Remember those annoying clickbait titles? They reason they work so well is because they lure you in with the promise of an interesting story.

Of all the marketing advertisements you have seen on TV or on the internet, which ones do you remember? Which ones left their mark? We are willing to bet it’s not the ads that simply listed out the benefits of their product! Odds are it was an ad that encased its message in an interesting human story, because that’s what we tend to remember. It’s a surefire way to ensure retention in the human memory.

Now this presents a dilemma for the online marketer. Marketing reports must, out of necessity, contain lots of data. And nothing hits the mind’s snooze button faster than row upon row of data filled with numbers and ratios. How do you engage your client’s attention and convey what the data reveals in an easy, accessible way?

It’s possible by applying the principles of good storytelling to report creation. And one of the golden rules of good storytelling is “Show. Don’t just tell.” A great way to apply this principle is to use data visualization in your reports. By communicating the information through visual graphical tools, you drastically increase the chances of quick comprehension and eliminate any scope for confusion or misinterpretation.

Quickly and easily understood reports are invaluable to your client’s organization. They need to be able to quickly analyze the results of your reports and focus their efforts on creating effective strategies based on those results. If they have to spend time deciphering what the report really says, it’s a huge waste of their time. Reports containing poorly communicated data are a drain on not just your client’s time but also their money and resources.

Which brings us to the heart of this article – how to use data visualisation to tell an easily comprehensible story for your client. The answer seems deceptively simple. Choose the right visualization method to go along with corresponding data. The difficulty lies in making that perfect choice. The rest of the article will help you learn how to make that decision.

Choosing Effective Data Visualization

Your goal is to choose the visual method that’s most conducive to the type of data you want to share. For different types of data, some specific visual graphics work better than others. Begin by asking yourself the following questions and then making the most suitable choice.

Do I Want To Compare Values?

One of these will work best to visually compare values:

  • Circular Area
  • Column
  • Bar
  • Scatter Plot
  • Line
  • Bullet

For example, month-to-month sales might be shown in a bar chart. Through this visual, you can see which months had the most sales. You could then compare this with various marketing campaigns that may have led up to a particularly strong month to determine which marketing campaigns were most effective — if all else is equal.

Do I Want To Show What Something Includes?

When displaying the composition of something the following work best:

  • Stacked Column
  • Stacked Bar
  • Waterfall
  • Area
  • Pie

For example, you might want a visual on how many of your website visitors arrived from Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Linkedin vs. Instagram. Through a pie chart, you can easily explain how much traffic arrived from these channels in relation to the others. You might use this data to focus more effort on platforms from where you’re getting the most traffic. Or you might invest more in a weaker channel that has potential.

Do I Need To See How Data Is Distributed?

For this you would use:

  • Bar
  • Scatter Plot
  • Line
  • Column

You may notice that we have some overlap between charts and the questions. Sometimes you must ask multiple questions to find an effective data visualization method. This helps you better understand what’s normal and what’s an outlier.

You might use a scatter plot to visualize your various marketing efforts in relation to the money spent in each and the returns from each:

  • Adwords Campaigns
  • Social
  • Remarketing Ads
  • SEO

Through this, you would represent which is generating the greatest return on investment.

Am I Analyzing Trends?

To look at how something performed over a given amount of time, you’d use:

  • Dual-Axis Line
  • Line
  • Column

With a dual-axis, you might compare monthly website visits this year vs. last year. Through this method, you can better determine whether there is an overall upward or downward trend and opportunities for improvement.

Do I Need To Understand The Value Among Several Variables?

For this, you should use:

  • Scatter Plot
  • Bubble
  • Line

Is there a connection between the age of a consumer, the number of touches before buying something and the product category they’re buying from? You have 3 variables that would be very hard to visualize. Without the right chart, this could be very confusing. But effective data visualization on a bubble chart allows you to clearly see the connections among these variables all at once.

Pitfalls To Avoid While Using Visual Charts

Choosing effective data visualization includes how you lay that data out within your chart. Let’s take a look at how to clearly convey your message through data visualization and the common mistakes that often keep that from happening.


It’s easy to mistakenly lay out the data in such a way that it becomes visually misleading.

For example, let’s say your client has a website that had 1,000 visitors last month. And this month the website had 1,100 visitors. If you make this 10% increase seem much larger by lining the left vertical in a bar graph with intervals of 10 rather than intervals of 100, (which would be more representative of the increase) the data would come out presenting a misleading picture.

Color Usage

Colors should mean something when used in an effective data visualization method. Making things multicolored or haphazardly using colors confuses the viewer who is looking for a “method to your madness”.

If you use colors, use them strategically and have a legend for what each color means.

Additionally, as a general rule, avoid making color essential to reading the chart. You can use combinations of words, shapes, and colors to convey the message instead. For example, blue star means “x”, but red oval means “y”. If someone is color-blind, they can still relate to the star or oval.

Chart Abuse

Trying to cram too much data into a visual can be confusing as well. A pie chart that has 10-20 slices is nearly impossible to parse out. Pies that are 5-9 sections can be easily understood. If you need 10 or more segments, choose a different visual. Or consider if you can reduce or combine segments.

Dirty Data

Analyze your data. Identify outliers that may skew the results. Make sure you’re actually measuring what you think you are. You can use the most effective data visualization tool possible but if the data is bad from the start, you’ll always reach the wrong conclusions. And so will your clients.


Organize information in a coherent and relevant way. You probably wouldn’t label your columns in this order – Aug, Jan, Jun in a chart showing a month to month sales. But you might list them in this order if you were showing a descending visual of the best month down to the worst month. Think it out and create your visual accordingly.

Data Visualization Drives the Decision Making Process

As a digital marketing agency, if you are not exploring the full potential of your reports you are short-changing yourself.  Your effective use of data visualization or lack thereof drives the decisions of your clients. They rely on you to show the precise picture of your marketing campaign’s progress. And they rely on what your reports say to plan and execute future strategies. So do not leave room for confusion or misinterpretation in your reports.

Effective data visualization in your reports will make them clear cut and easy to understand.

Only by having this transparent picture of the state of things can organizations take actionable steps. Through this, they meet their marketing goals.

Swydo offers a host of graphs and charts to enhance your client reports. Check out all the visual enhancements that can turn your reports into delightful reading for your clients.

Swydo Visualizations