How to use Reference Lines in Google Data Studio

How to use Reference Lines in Google Data Studio

Reference Lines in Google Data Studio are a new feature that lets you plot averages, targets and other values against your data in certain charts.

I’ll show you a few examples in this blog post.

Live Examples of Reference Lines in Google Data Studio

So I’ll show you a Google Data Studio report with some charts showing reference lines used for various purposes.

Read the official Google Data Studio notes on Reference Lines here.

Calculated Values vs Constant Values

The first thing to be aware of with Reference Lines in Data Studio is that you can have two main types; Calculated Values or Constant Values.

A Calculated Value is a changing value based on what calculation you choose. It could be Average, Median, Percentile, Min or Max.

A Calculated Value is a changing value based on what calculation you choose. It could be Average, Median, Percentile, Min or Max.

A Constant Value is simply a value that you input into the space provided. This could be useful for sales targets.

a constant value reference line in data studio

Using a Reference Line to show the Average Value on a Bar Chart

So while reference lines can be used to show the average value in time series charts, they can also be used in other types of charts. One example is the bar chart shown below.

It shows Users by Default Channel Grouping and the Average Value of all the channels. To set this up choose the Calculated value type and use the Calculation of Average.

Using a Reference Line to show the Average Value on a Bar Chart

Use two Reference Lines to show Two Different Targets in one Chart

So in this example let’s say we want to display our Target number of users as 500 and our Worst Case Scenario number of users as 200. We can display both reference lines in the same chart.

So in this example let's say we want to display our Target number of users as 500 and our Worst Case Scenario number of users as 200. We can display both reference lines in the same chart.

Have one Reference Line for each Axis in a Double Axis Chart

So in this example, I have a chart that shows Users and Goal Completions. The number of Users is on the left axis and the number of Goal Completions is on the right axis.

So let’s say I want to have a reference line for users and a reference line for Goal Completions. This is totally possible and easy to setup, as shown below.

So in this example, I have a chart that shows Users and Goal Completions. The number of Users is on the left axis and the number of Goal Completions is on the right axis.

Displaying Min and Max values on a Line Chart

So in this last example, I wanted to show how you can show two calculated reference lines on the same line chart. In this case it’s the number of Users over time and we want to display the highest number of users (Max value) and the lowest number of Users (Min value). We can do this with two reference lines in Data Studio.

the number of Users over time and we want to display the highest number of users (Max value) and the lowest number of Users (Min value).

Using Vertical Rerence Lines on a Horizontal Bar Chart

It’s also possible to use vertical reference lines on a Horizontal Bar Chart. See the example below show the average number of clicks for various dimensions.

Using Vertical Rerence Lines on a Horizontal Bar Chart in Google Data Studio

My Other Blog Posts

I hope you found this blog post interesting and helpful. You might like some of my previous posts.

Purchase Google Data Studio Templates

If you’d like to download one of my Google Data Studio reports as a template to use for your own data, you can visit Data Studio Templates and purchase one.