How to Analyze Data in Excel Like an Expert

There’s a lot to understand within Excel. Most of us don’t use much of its most powerful tools. Even if you’ve mastered the advanced Excel formulas, there’s still a lot left to explore.

In this post, we’ll look at two data analysis methods that experts use to make more sense of their data. In each case, you’ll learn to visualize data: in a summary table and in a Google Map. Your type of data will determine which is most useful.

Basic Data Analysis with Pivot Tables

If you’ve been asked to “drill down”, process, or explain an extremely large dataset in excel, then you’ll want to make Pivot Tables part of your repertoire. Pivot Tables are an Excel feature that allows you to calculate, summarize, and analyze data.

Unlike other forms of data analysis, you don’t need to do very much to prepare your data. No need to arrange all the data alphabetically from top to bottom, ensure all decimals are set to a specific count, and you don’t need to remove your other formatting. All that’s required is a header at the top so Excel knows what category your data will fall into when pivoting.

Our data above has the headers of Date, Agent, and Sales so Excel will know what to define the dates, names, and dollars under once the pivot begins. Let’s build!

Within Excel, click the Insert Tab → Pivot Table. This will automatically grab the data on the worksheet and offer to create a pivot table.

As shown, Excel defaults to creating a new table and on a new worksheet and adds data to the data model for the Pivot Table. Typically you won’t need to play with any settings here and instead just click OK to continue. You’ve now created a basic Pivot Table, but let’s check out the settings.

Every good pivot tabler knows though the real driving force of a table are its fields. Remember earlier how we ensured that we added Date, Agent, and Sales as column headers? Well, those have now become our pivot table fields. These fields can be placed into the bottom to create a dynamic cross section that can be used for all sorts of examination.

Start by clicking the checkbox next to each field. Excel will auto-assign the field to what it believes is the best corresponding section. Sometimes this is all you need to do but with more intensive data, you’ll want to adjust the data to match what you want to see. Here are a few examples of what the data will look like and their corresponding pivot table.

View Sales by Agent and Date

Default settings after clicking each of our boxes puts the Date in the Columns area, Agents in our Row area and Sum of Sales in our values area.

What we get is a run down of how each agent performed for each day listed and a grand total over the course of time within.

Filter by a Specific Agent

Sometimes you don’t want to see all the data, even when it’s summarized. Building off the previous example, we can actually filter by the agent and get a whole different view of the statistics.

To see Jim’s totals for instance, you’d click the dropdown box on Row Labels → Uncheck Select All → Check Jim → then Click OK.

Oh look! A brand new analysis showing only Jim’s totals and dates so now we know how well Jim performed based on our original data.

View Sales by Date (with Agent Breakdown)

Perhaps we’re more interested in how well sales did per day in our data. Unfilter the previous example and swap the Date and Agent field from their spot in Columns to Rows and vice versa.

Now we have a nice analysis of how our fictional company did for each date listed.

Pretty great right? Even more ways to view the data can be done by stacking the Date field below the Agent field in the Rows area or vice versa. Play around with how you’d like it to look and what makes sense to you and you’ll be analyzing data in no time!

Format the Data in Your Pivot Table

You may have noticed there’s something a little off about our pivot examples. Each and every time we’ve changed it, our actual values seem to be lacking a little something: the dollar sign!

Every field within the Values area of a Pivot Table can be customized in various ways. With our default settings, we have Sum of Sales, but we can change that however we’d like. To edit a field within the Values area, click the drop down on the field and then click Value Field Settings.

From here, we have a few excellent options to really display your sales data in a different way.

To change our numbers to have dollar symbols, we would start from Value Field Settings, then click Number Format. This next window should look extremely familiar as it is the same format field from everything else you do within Excel. If you choose either Currency or Accounting, we will now see our dollars back on display which makes things a whole lot clearer.

Create Advanced Pivot Tables

Once you have the basics of Pivot Table creation and field editing down, there’s so much more you can get into. Let’s take a look at one more example and get a little more intricate. You’ll apply your new Pivot Table skills, as well as some new tricks, to understand if Acme Incorporated made or lost money in 2018.

Here’s our sample data:

Let’s start by first making a Pivot Table using our data.

For this Pivot Table, let’s walk through our process to intelligently see if we made profit in 2018. For this example, we’ll be creating a pivot table that displays each agent’s name in the rows, adds the accounting type in the columns, provides a grand total in dollars for all and also is filterable by date and account.

  1. Add the Date and Account fields to the Filter Area. Order doesn’t matter as they are filtered independently.
  2. Add the Accounting Type field to the Columns area.
  3. Add the Agent Field to the Rows Area
  4. Add the Amount field to the Values field

Now use your formatting prowess to display the numbers: edit the amount field number format to be Currency and check the option to display negative numbers in read and parenthesis.

And voila! These changes now provide a powerful analysis covering a full year’s worth of data in a matter of seconds and mouse clicks. 2018 proved profitable for Acme Incorporated with 14 million in profit and the most profitable agent being Kelly.

This is just the cusp of what can be done with Pivots, but this knowledge alone will get you super far with your data analysis. Real quick, we’ll outline a few more advanced tricks you can use to make your data analysis with Pivot Tables work even better.

Replace empty cells or error values in data with 0s

  • With a cell in your pivot table selected, navigate to the contextual PivotTable Tools ribbon and click on the Analyze tab then options on the far left.
  • Within this new menu, locate the Format section
  • You can put a check into either For error values show: or For empty cells show: and then add the value 0 into the input box.
  • What this will do is add a value into those places where your base data may have errors and allow it to compute correctly regardless of if someone botched the actual entry before. This saves countless time and if something doesn’t add up, now you can look for 0s within the Pivot Table and head back to the core data to fix it.

Refresh Pivot Table Data whenever you open the workbook

  • Click Options from the left side of the Analyze tab under the contextual PivotTable Tools ribbon.
  • Click the Data Tab then check Refresh Data when opening the file.
  • This will ensure your pivot table data will always update depending on what is in your base data saving you LOTS of time.

Add a slicer

Once of a data analyst’s favorites, adding a slicer to a pivot table gives a clean way to filter the data and is very intuitive for someone who has never touched a pivot. In other words, you can share your Excel document with someone else and let them click a few buttons to see some numbers and start data analyzing with the best of them.

  • To add a slicer, Click the Analyze tab under the contextual PivotTable Tools ribbon. Next, select Filter → Insert Slicer
  • Next, you can pick exactly what you’d like to filter by and as you click each option, it will auto sort the data in your table to match!
  • To clear the slicer, click the filter with a red x in the top right corner and your data will turn right back.
  • Another great way to use a slicer is to have one for each filter you’d like to see. For example, we could make one for an agent, accounting type, and account then drill down depending on what we click on each slicer!

Perform Geographic Data Analysis with a Map

Pivot Tables are great ways to analyze data within Excel. If you have geographic data, such as addresses or cities, you’ll want to display it on a map. BatchGeo can help you visualize location data.

For example, you can take sales data by location from Excel and display it in a clustered map.

View Household income, average clustering in a full screen map

Or filter by specific groups of data, choosing which to include or remove from the map.

View Graduation Rates vs Incarceration Rates in a full screen map

Create Your First Map for Free

Use the Excel mapping tool to copy-paste your data from your spreadsheet directly to a map, no coding necessary.

The Worst Statistic About Your State On a Map

Many of us in the U.S. take pride in our home state or the state in which we currently reside. After all, we’re not likely to move to a state we absolutely despise unless a job opportunity outweighs the negatives. And trust us, each state certainly has its negatives. From preventable hospitalizations and the smallest increase in newborn life expectancy to dismal unemployment rates and a future $223 million going towards preventing rising sea level damage, we’re shining a light on some of the darkest state statistics. The map helped us identify regions of the U.S. with the worst health as well as which side of the nation, East versus West, faces similar issues.

View The Worst Statistic About Your State in a full screen map

Take a look at the map above for the different categories of negative state statistics including natural disasters, environmental negatives, and crime levels. Then read on for the fascinating trends you can pull from the data.

The South Could Be Healthier

Using the map grouping feature to group by health, it’s clear the South’s health struggles rise to the top. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia all face health-related concerns serious enough to be considered the worst fact about these Southern states.

State Details
Alabama Alabama has fewer than 85 mental health providers per 100,000 people, the least of any state and well below the national average of 212.8 mental health providers per 100,000 people.
Arkansas Nearly a quarter of state adults report having fair or poor health, compared to 16.0% of Americans.
Kentucky Preventable hospitalizations are a sign of poor health habits and a suboptimal medical system. Kentucky has an estimated 76.56 preventable hospitalizations per 100,000 Medicare enrollees, the highest of any state.
Oklahoma Between 1980 and 2014, life expectancy at birth improved by only 3.4 years in Oklahoma, the smallest improvement of any state and less than half the 7.2 year national increase.
South Carolina Just 54.2% of South Carolina residents have access to places for physical activity like park parks and recreation centers, the smallest share of any state.
Tennessee According to the CDC, 9.8% of Tennessee adults have a major cardiovascular disease of some kind, compared to the national prevalence of 6.9%.
Texas In Texas, 17.3% of the population lacks health insurance, the highest uninsured rate of any state.
West Virginia West Virginia’s 35.5% adult obesity rate is the highest of any state. The national obesity rate is 28.0%.

Unhealthy Outliers: South Dakota and Montana

South Dakota and Montana also make an appearance on the map when you group by health issues. South Dakota’s government spent just $1,022 per capita on health in the most recent fiscal year, the lowest of any U.S. state. In fact, New Mexico spends over three times as much as South Dakota on health. Plus, the national average for state health spending is $1,884 per capita.

As for Montana, the state has the highest suicide rate of any state at 26 incidents per 100,000 people. And while rising suicide rates aren’t new, between 1999 and 2016 Montana saw a 38% increase in suicides. To put it in perspective, the national average increased by 25%. The National Alliance on Mental Montana’s executive director suspects the state’s high suicide rate is because of Montana’s particular residential makeup. Many gun owners, Native Americans, and military veterans call Montana home. Unfortunately, these folks are at high risk of suicide. Additionally, as is the case in Alabama, Montana doesn’t have enough mental health care providers for their population and Montana recently faced further mental-health budget cuts. This seems counterintuitive since Montana’s residential makeup and ruralness resulting in geographic isolation, high rate of heavy alcohol consumption, and lack of daylight during the winter are all linked to depression.

Financial Woes of the Eastern United States

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

It appears that more than other region, the Eastern United States struggles financially. If you group the map by finances, the right side of the nation including Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, and Virginia all light up with a financial-related issue. For example, both Connecticut and Illinois struggle with debt. The average credit card debt in Connecticut is $7,258, the highest of any of the mainland U.S. states. Illinois also has a history of debt. In fact, Illinois’s debt is so serious that the state itself is at risk of a financial crisis or even bankruptcy. In its most recent fiscal year, the state had $244.9 billion in obligations and just $28.8 billion in assets.

When it comes to real estate, Indiana has something in common with the only non-Eastern state struggling financially: Hawaii. The cost of living in Hawaii is 18.4% higher than the average cost of living nationwide. Indiana’s real estate dilemma? Its home values. Indiana homes are some of the least
valuable in the nation as most are worth
less than $142,000. The typical home
nationwide is worth $217,600.

The Eastern U.S. Also Battles Environment & Transportation Issues

The Eastern United States battles another bad trend or two. If you group the map by both environment and transportation, it’s apparent the East also has trouble with these categories. Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ohio all face environmental issues. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island struggle with roadside transportation.

Environmentally-speaking, just 2.4% of Delaware’s energy comes from renewable sources, one of the lowest shares of any U.S. state. Nationally, 11.7% of energy production comes from renewable non-hydro sources. New Jersey is one of the least environmentally friendly states as nearly all residents live in high ozone areas. Air high in ozone can be harmful to health. Maybe New Jersey should also be classified as an Eastern state that is not ideal for those seeking optimal health. Also not great for health: the air pollution problem in Ohio. The average daily concentration of PM2.5, a harmful substance, is the highest concentration of any state. Lastly, North Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline that is susceptible to damage from rising sea levels. By some estimates, rising sea levels could cost $223 million per year by 2080 in southern North Carolina alone.

Photo by Omar Roque on Unsplash

As for transportation, 48.7% of Marylanders drive to work by themselves for more than 30 minutes each day, the highest of any state. We too noted this on our map of the U.S. city commute times. But it’s not too shocking Maryland has such a high solo commuter rate. This can be attributed to Washington D.C.’s infamous gridlock. On the other hand, residents of Pennsylvania likely opt out of driving as often since Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax. And we hear the roads in Rhode Island are pretty beat up.

Does the West Even Struggle?

So what do the Western states even struggle with? Unlike when we found that the West faces the most extreme high and low temperatures in the U.S. and the most NBA finals wins per team and opportunity, we don’t see many trends with the worst state statistics in the West. However, that doesn’t mean these states don’t have negatives. Washington and California face weather and natural disaster-related problems. Arizona and Colorado both have serious racial disparities they need to address. There are also a couple of Western states with negative lifestyle-related facts. Take Nevada’s sky-high divorce rate for example — though, who doesn’t get married and subsequently divorced in Vegas nowadays? Further lifestyle negatives include Utah’s lack of social spaces and Idaho’s lack of children in preschool. Other Western state stats: New Mexico’s got lots of crime while Oregonians and North Dakotans love their drugs. We guess the West’s trend is that they don’t have any trends.

Once you recover from seeing the worst statistic about your state laid out clearly on a map, check out some more popular maps related to the worst statistic categories like how to map local crime data online, different drinking ages around the world on a map, or the most disastrous natural disasters mapped. Then, make a map of your own. Just enter the spreadsheet information you want mapped into our data-mapping tool and you too can delve into the world of insight opportunities.

The Best Restaurants in 25 Major Foodie Cities

Calling all foodies! We mapped 10 of the most highly-rated restaurants in 25 U.S. cities known for their cuisine. From Atlanta to Washington D.C., check out the top 10 restaurants, their Yelp rankings, and the type of food that lands them on the map. We note the eight most common types of cuisine and more tasty trends, like the many vegan and vegetarian establishments and how food trucks are taking over the scene. Plus, we identify a steakhouse chain that is sure to be a highly-rated winner in three cities. We’ll also show you how easy it is to find the highly-rated steakhouse or other of restaurant nearest you.

View Best Restaurants in Major Foodie Cities in a full screen map

Fortunately, it doesn’t always cost an arm and a leg to eat out at a high-quality establishment. You can sort our map above by the price you’re willing to pay for dishes from Yelp’s highly-rated restaurants. Each dollar sign represents a range. There are 121 highly-rated restaurants on our map that Yelp classifies as “Inexpensive” ($) and 118 that are “Moderately expensive” ($$). Only eight of the highly-rated restaurants on our map are “Pricey” ($$$) and three of which Yelp deems “Ultra High-End” ($$$$.)

Common Cuisines

Popular types of food for highly-rated restaurants include:

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

  • American food like burgers, hotdogs, and delis
  • Coffee & Tea
  • Mediterranean food like Greek, Lebanese, and Middle Eastern cuisine
  • Italian food like pizza
  • Vegan & Vegetarian
  • Desserts & Bakeries
  • Japanese food like sushi and poke
  • Food trucks

However, there are many more types of food that highly-rated restaurants serve. Use the map to see them all, from the less common but equally yummy Vietnamese food to Asian Fusion, Armenian food, or a good Cuban meal.

Tasty Trends — Vegan, Vegetarian, & Highly-Rated Food Trucks on the Rise

Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

Who said vegan and vegetarian food is subpar? There are many vegan and vegetarian places that make the list of highly-rated restaurants. Filter the map by vegan and vegetarian options to see for yourself the 21 plant-loving restaurants that beat out even the highest-rated omni-establishments.

Like vegan and vegetarian-centered restaurants, food trucks cooking up delicious and highly-rated food in the confines of small spaces are on the rise. Traditional brick and mortar restaurants in Austin, Texas are especially susceptible to being overtaken by top-tier food trucks. Eight out of Austin’s 10 most highly-rated restaurants are food trucks. The map can show you the rest of the highly-rated food trucks in the U.S. You’ll even find the additional information section includes the specific cuisine of each food truck.

What’s Cookin’ in Atlanta, Houston, and San Antonio?

If you’re planning a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, hit up Flat Shoals Avenue, for three of the best restaurants in the city. In addition to the three highly-rated restaurants on Flat Shoals Avenue, Atlanta is one of the three cities where Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse is highly-rated. This restaurant chain ranks #2 in Atlanta, and #4 and #7 in Houston and San Antonio, Texas, respectively. But before you stop on by the Brazilian Steakhouse in one of these major foodie cities, note that it will cost you some serious cash. Yelp classifies this chain as Pricey ($$$).

You can also visit a Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse in Chicago. However, Chicago must have many other more highly-rated options than Chama Gaucha seeing as it doesn’t make it into the top ten most highly-rated in the Windy City. In fact, when we tried to identify this chain’s rank in Chicago, we gave up after it didn’t appear in Chicago’s top 350 highly-rated restaurants.

Find the Highly-Rated Restaurant Nearest You

Now that you have access to a map of the most highly-rated restaurants like the Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse chain, it’s time to find the highly-rated restaurant nearest you. The search box in the top right corner of the map can guide you to your closest 4 or 5-star restaurant.

Just type your city, ZIP code, or full address into the search box and hit enter.

Even more useful, you can narrow your search by the specific type of food you want to try, or even by your ideal price range. Before you search with your location, utilize our grouping feature to filter the map. Then search for the highly-rated restaurant nearest you with those specifications. The results of your search will only include what you elected to show.

Want to get even more information about your city’s foodie hotspots? Make a map like ours, but include more than 10 of your city’s highly-rated restaurants. Then whip it out the next time you can’t decide where you want to eat.

It’s simple. Just copy 25 or 30 of Yelp’s restaurants in your area, like San Diego. Be sure to go to “All Filters” and sort by “Highest Rated.” Then, paste the data into a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets. While you’re at it, check out our popular post about advanced excel skills and formulas. Once you’ve gathered your city’s restaurant data, you can format your spreadsheet using headers like restaurant, rank, food type, and of course, the location! The final step is to simply copy and paste your easily formatted spreadsheet data into our location data mapper.