Data Visualization Types: Everything a Marketer Needs to Know
Nailing it in the marketing and advertising department involves sorting through batches of data to glean insights.
Without data, it's impossible to know how your campaigns are performing, where your website visitors are coming from, why customers are (or aren't) converting, etc.
In short, data are the key to helping you make smart marketing and advertising decisions that lead to positive ROI.
If you're old school, you may rely on some sort of system of sorting through raw numbers to glean insights.
Take my word for it, there is a way to 10x boost your efficiency while boosting your quality of data interpretation, but you need to leave the old system of raw number analysis behind.
If you and your agency are current with the latest data trends, then you already rely on smart data visualization tools. These tools help you turn raw numbers into visualizations that everyone understands.
However, even if you have adopted all the latest tools, it doesn't mean there is no learning curve. When it comes to presenting data, there are several data visualization types you can choose from.
In fact, you can even present the same data in various ways to highlight different insights.
The following guide will act as a reference to help you select the right type of data visualization for your insights based on what you're trying to accomplish.
Data Visualization Types
To get started, here is a quick overview of the most common data visualization types an agency might use.
- Area graphs - Area graphs track changes over time for one or more groups. For example, you could use this to determine how your conversions and impressions trended compared with each other. Bar graphs
- Bar graphs help with comparing data among a handful of categories. They can either run horizontally or vertically and show big changes over time. For example, you could use a bar graph to show how your social campaign performed over time.Column Chart
- A column chart shows comparison among different items. It can also compare items over time. You could use this type of visualization to show customers by signup date.Dual Axis Chart
- Dual access charts show data across two y-axes and a shared x-axis. This means you're showing 3 data sets. You can use this to visualize the correlation between 3 data sets.Line graphs
- Line graphs track changes over time. They also show changes over the same period of time for more than one group. For example, you could use a line graph to show how many leads you got from a specific campaign month-over-month.
- Map - Maps can show location of different data points. A map could show you were your website visitors live.
- Matrix chart - A matrix chart provides an overview of the distribution and proportions in data categories and to draw comparisons. It's a good way to show patterns across time or data sets.
- Funnel - Funnels help visualize a series of actions from start to finish. For example, you may use a funnel to track a social campaign starting with how many sessions led to how many actions that lead to how many conversions.
- Pie chart - A pie chart illustrates numerical proportions. For example, perhaps you want to know which social source brought the most traffic to your website.
- Scatter plot chart - A scatter plot shows the relationship between two different variables. It can also reveal the distribution trends. This type of chart is best used when there are different data points and you want to understand the distribution of your data.
- Stacked bar chart - A stacked bar chart will help you compare several different items and highlight the composition of each item being compared. For example, you could use this to show part-to-whole relationships.
There are several other types of ways to visualize data, but the visualizations above are the most common in the marketing and advertising industry.
It's easy to list the different visualization types, but it's more helpful to think of visualizations in terms of what business questions they answer.
In the next section, let's cover some of the most common questions a marketing or advertising expert may ask and what data visualization may best answer the question.
This is especially helpful considering you can use different visualizations to present the same type of data to answer different questions.
1. How do you compare values?
A common data question may be what if I want to compare values? But, how does that translate into business questions in the marketing and advertising world? Let's take a look.
Common business questions:
- How much did SEM sds cost in last 12 months vs previous year?
- How do my social activities differ by gender?
- How are my conversions and goals trending over time?
- How do my total customers compare with my total revenue?
- How much is a cost per click?
- How much is a cost per impression?
The questions listed above are all common business questions a marketer or advertiser might ask that compare two values.
So, what's the best way to represent this type of data? Any type of chart or graph that compares two values is a great option. In this case, a simple column or bar chart.
For example, let's look at the first question, How much did SEM sds cost in last 12 months vs previous year?
With the click of a button, you can set your values and see how your spend from last year compares with this year.
Instead of sorting through 24 months of numbers, you can quickly see that you spent less this year than last.
2. How do you show how individual parts contribute to a whole?
Another common question you may have is how do I show the individual parts of a whole? That's a bit vague, so let's look at it in terms of advertising and marketing questions.
Common business questions:
- What is the percentage of visitors for my site by source?
- What social channel contributed to the most leads?
- How are my website visitors divided by age? Gender?
- How is my social engagement divided across channels?
- How have my channels performed?
The questions listed above are all common questions someone may ask to show how individual parts contribute to the whole.
The best way to represent this data may be a pie chart, bar chart, or area chart.
For example, let's look at the question how have each of my channels performed? With a pie chart, you can quickly glance and see that direct is performing best followed by display and other avenues are the least notable.
3. How do you show trends in a data set?
The next question you may have is how do I analyze trends in data?
This translates to the following business questions for advertisers and marketers:
- How many conversions were delivered by a certain period of time?
- How does social engagement compare with impressions?
- How did engaged users and page impressions trend?
- How did my number of fans trend in last year vs previous year?
- How many leads, trials, and users did I get each month?
Trends are typically best presented with a line graph, dual axis or column chart. The data visualization type you select will depend on how many values you want to compare.
For example, look at the question how did my number of fans trend in the last year vs the previous year? You are only comparing two values, so a simple line graph will represent your data well.
Now look at the question How many leads, trials, and users did I get each month? In this situation, you have three values, so a dual axis chart is more suitable.
Different data visualization types will help you turn those raw numbers into images that everyone on your team, and all your clients, can understand.
While it's important to know what each graph and chart is and how to use them, sometimes it's easier to select the right data visualization type when you approach it by looking at your business question first.
For more insight into data visualization, check out our extensive catalog of visualization articles.