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Dazzle with Your Numbers: How to Visualize Data

Dazzle with Your Numbers: How to Visualize Data

How to visualize data feature image

Inventive Information Visualization Tips and Visual Data Mining Techniques

Death by PowerPoint is a serious crisis that globally ravages meetings on a daily basis. Okay, maybe it’s not that life-threatening. But knowing how to visualize data is a lost art which has led to excruciatingly boring presentations. Lucky for you, we’ve got some fresh tips on information visualization and visual data mining.

Start at the Beginning: How to Visualize Data Specifically for Your Audience

How you visualize data is going to very greatly for a client, your manager or a room full of conference attendees. Knowing your audience is the first step toward information visualization excellence. Rather than tell you in exhaustive detail, we’ll show you the main types of people you must cater to.

Information visualization matrix


The chart types are pulled from a great Duke University article about types of data visualization – I learned some new methods while writing the post! These quadrants are adapted from a neat HBR article that will quickly set you on the right path. Notably missing is the executive, who may only need the two or three most important points from your entire presentation.

The desired end state

After you’ve identified the core audience, determine the one big idea your must understand. This could include some of the following areas:

–  Share of site traffic from search engine optimization

– Revenue generated by your internet marketing company

– Website authority against your competitors

Once you know the end goal, you can work backwards to craft the perfect narrative. For maximum effectiveness of your information visualization and visual data mining, employ these three simple steps:

  1. Show the shortcomings before your involvement
  2. Demonstrate marked improvement from your work
  3. Highlight the potential upsides of continued work with you/your firm.

Visual data mining illustration

Information Visualization Tips and Tricks

Presenting your data can be tricky business. You must always represent data accurately. However, you must also present the proper framing and perspective that moves your audience in the intended direction. Here are some quick tips that can make your data visualization easier to digest:

  • Gray out the axes. When not essential, this can remove a big point of distraction for your audience if you’re painting a large picture.
  • Use dual axis charts. Sometimes interdependent data doesn’t play nicely together. For example, you could be showing count of backlinks to your site against number of first page keyword rankings. If backlinks are in the tens of thousands and rankings in the teens, dual axis lets you show both important trends to scale.
  • Use labels sparingly. If you’re presenting a time series chart such as revenue per month, use data labels for only the beginning and end months. This can quickly highlight differences while de-cluttering the chart area.

Bonus Round: Another great Harvard Business Review article on common methods people use to fib with data, and how you can fix it.

Data visualization photo


To conclude, let’s run through an example. Your customer emails you on a Monday and needs to justify their spending on your services to their boss. The client is not an expert in the field (read: novice or generalist). Your end goal is to retain their business. Therefore you want to put a time series that represents revenue you’ve generated for the customer. However, you need to connect it with the work you’ve done. You can construct a 2 year time period showing revenue before your work and call out year over year improvements. On a second axis, you can show activity by your business. You’ve fulfilled some best practices for data visualization. More importantly, you can sell yourself in one chart that otherwise would have been a monotonous, disparate PowerPoint deck grasping for results.

Let us know in the comments if you would do something additional or different! We can help solve your business and marketing problems, contact our team today to start the conversation. Our team regularly writes about marketing topics, including “What Does PPC Stand For?” and more.

Nick Lindauer
Nick is the vice president, client services and operations at Forthea. He’s been working in internet marketing since 2002, when – ironically – he answered an ad in the newspaper. When he’s not at work, he’s off spending time with his family, working on his house, building furniture, cooking on his two Big Green Eggs & brewing hot sauce.


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