Understanding and Leveraging the DATETIME_DIFF Function in Looker Studio for Efficient Data Analysis and Visualization

 Understanding and Leveraging the DATETIME_DIFF Function in Looker Studio for Efficient Data Analysis and Visualization

Google Data Studio (GDS) boasts a sleek list of functions designed to ease your data analysis and visualization endeavors. One of the most handy tools in its arsenal is the DATETIME_DIFF function.

Functionality and Introduction

DATETIME_DIFF is a pivotal tool in the space of metrics analysis. It is specifically designed to determine the difference between two given Dates or Date & Time fields. Such a functionality allows you to precisely calculate the duration between two specific points, which in turn, facilitates refined data analysis. This function is especially useful when analyzing trends over changing timescales, customer behavior over periods, and evaluating performances.

The result obtained is typically a number or integer denoting the interval between the specified dates according to the part variable (MICROSECOND, MILLISECOND, SECOND, MINUTE, HOUR, DAY, WEEK, ISOWEEK, MONTH, QUARTER, YEAR, or ISOYEAR).

The DATETIME_DIFF function has a date part and can operate on either Date or Date & Time fields. However, it is important to note that this function isn’t available for compatibility mode date types.

Using the Function

To use the DATETIME_DIFF function, input the syntax as is,

DATETIME_DIFF(date_expression1, date_expression2, part)

The date_expression1 and date_expression2 variables refer to the two Date or Date & Time fields. The function will fail if it finds the first expression takes place later than the second - it is crucial to respect the order. The part variable determines the unit in which the difference will be returned.


Consider keeping track of sales for a business. Two important dates would be when an order was placed and when it was shipped.

DATETIME_DIFF(DateOrderPlaced, DateOrderShipped, DAY)

The above example will output the number of days taken between the receipt of an order and its shipping.

Another example comparing the number of orders placed in the first quarter and the last quarter of a financial year would be:

DATETIME_DIFF(DateFirstQuarter, DateLastQuarter, QUARTER)


Though the DATETIME_DIFF is splendidly functional, it does have some limitations:

  1. The function does not operate on compatibility mode date types.
  2. If the first date expression occurs after the second, the result will be zero or a negative number.

Pro Tips

To make the most of the DATETIME_DIFF function, consider the following:

  1. Ensure the first datefield maps to a time that is before the second.
  2. Use the part variable effectively when returning a result to make the result beneficial for your analysis.
  3. The DATETIME_DIFF function is particularly instrumental when making comparative analysis over varying periods.

In summary, the DATETIME_DIFF function is an incredibly useful tool within Google Data Studio that supports comprehensive and effective data analysis.

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