Although many things differentiate Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics, one of the core differences is the ability to build custom reports using GA4 Explorations (GA4 Explore).
GA4 Explorations allows you to visualize your website or app data using an amicable drag&drop interface. This makes Google Analytics 4 an alternative to such business intelligence tools as Tableau, PowerBI, Mixpanel, Amplitude, and other analytics solutions.
Since building custom reports is the core part of every business optimization and the majority of businesses use GA4 to understand their business performance, this will make sense to discover GA4 Explorations in detail.
What are explorations in GA4?
GA4 Explorations is your way to ad-hoc analyses and deep insights about your website or product users.
Whenever you can’t find a piece of essential information in the standard reports, you should use GA4 Explore.
If you want to dive deeper and see how many users come back to your website over time or how many of them finish the website funnel, you should use GA4 Explorations. There you can use any metrics and dimensions available in GA4, apply segments and filters, and pivot your data.
Additionally, GA4 allows you to select among 6 chart types and 7 report templates.
What kind of reports you can build in GA4 Explorations
So, 7 report templates are at your disposal in GA4 to help you get started with the explorations.
It’s also beneficial to use them to access data faster than start a report from scratch when you become a pro at GA4 Explorations.
Free Form Exploration
Free form exploration allows you to use the dimension and metric to build the report in the tabular format by default.
You can also apply filters and segments to include or exclude specific events.
Apart from that, Free Form reports allow you to change the visualization methods from a tabular view to a line chart, bar chart, donut chart, and others.
It’s the most frequently used report in GA4 among our clients because it’s pretty close to what people used to have: Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. But it doesn’t mean that the report is basic. You can answer complex questions using it.
Check out our devoted article to unveil the possibilities of using Free Form reports in GA4.
Almost every website or app has a funnel or several steps users need to complete to reach your goal. For ecommerce businesses, it can be a transaction, while for SaaS companies, it can be an onboarding process or a sign-up event.
All of that can be tracked with Funnel Explorations reports in GA4 Explorations. You can configure funnel steps, see how much time users spend to reach the step, and many more.
We also have a dedicated blog post for this exploration type, check it out here.
Some analytics tools can charge you more for using the next report type – Path Exploration. However, it’s not true with Google Analytics 4.
You can overview how users navigate through your website, what pages they see, and what events they generate. You can include and exclude branches and events you want to use.
SaaS companies can use this report to see what events new trial users perform in their product after they sign up. Along the way, you can limit the report to show only users’ first product session data.
Also, this report can help you to improve your website or mobile app UX/UI. If you are considering updating your design, you can read our article, where we explain how you can get more from the Path Exploration report.
Segment Overlap report is the most mysterious report in Google Analytics 4 Explorations because only some understand how and, more importantly, when to use it.
It enables you to select up to 3 segments and see how they overlap. For instance, we selected the following segments to understand how different demographic users use the client’s website:
- Desktop Traffic
- Age 18-25, 25-34
- Age 45-65+
We found that in 90% of cases older generation had used the desktop as their primary device, while for the younger generation (18-34), it had been the opposite; they preferred to use non-desktop (mobile) devices to enter the website and make a purchase.
Thanks to this insight, we a/b tested a different website version for mobile and desktop users.
If you want to read more about this case or read more about Segment Overlap, consider reading our dedicated article about Segment Overlap.
GA4 Explorations is also a place to look at the individual user deeply.
If you know the client_id or user_id, you can use the filter in this report to find the exact user and open the user profile.
The user profile window shows the user’s events and the user and event properties you registered as custom definitions. If you didn’t register a property as a custom dimension, you wouldn’t be able to see it in the GA4 User Explorer report.
Whenever you need to check how many users return to your website in a month or two, or if you want to see how many users that made a purchase 2 months ago made a purchase this month, you should look at Cohort Exploration.
This report will help you to track retention and churn rates over time and see how your product or website changes help to improve these metrics.
The report is a must-have for every SaaS product but can also be used by any other digital company. Read more about Cohort Exploration here.
The last one on our list is the User Lifetime report.
This report can improve your paid acquisition strategy. Because you can use it to understand how much revenue, on average, one user delivery to your business within the user’s lifetime and how much they stay at your business.
These two metrics can help you calibrate your paid acquisition strategy and don’t spend more than you can earn. The last metric also will help you to organize your cashflow better.
User Lifetime report should be essential to your business if users can return and purchase your products or services again. Don’t hesitate to read our complete guide.
GA4 Explorations Functionality
GA4 Explore reports follow the same structure, and although some of them have additional features, all of them have the following three sections:
- Tab Settings
- Report View
Because of that, we decided to go with the Free Form report for this article. Let’s explore each section of this report individually.
The first section allows us to do a few things with the report.
Firstly, you can give a name to the report.
Secondly, you can select the time range you are interested in analyzing.
Thirdly, you can build segments to analyze the specific sample of your users. For instance, you can analyze users acquired by Google Ads campaigns or desktop users.
Fourthly, this section enables you to import dimensions and metrics from GA4 list that you want to use for the report. If you want to use “event_name” in your report, you first should import it here.
The second section can differ a bit from one report to another, but in general, it allows you to do the following actions:
Firstly, you can switch between GA4 Explore templates (Technique): User Explorer, Cohort Explorations, Free Form, Funnel Report, and others.
Secondly, you can select the visualization type for your report (mainly for Free Table reports). Some of them are: donut, line chart, bar and others. You can find their proper list and a complete guide in a dedicated article where we explain the core differences and benefits of using them.
Thirdly, you can apply segments that you built in Variables to see the exact group of your users. As mentioned early, for instance, Google Ads campaigns users.
Fourthly, it’s where you can add dimensions and metrics to columns, rows, values, axes and build your report. Remember that you only import dimensions and metrics in Variables and then apply them to the report using Tab settings using drag&drop mechanism.
Fifthly, if you work with the free form report, you can also pivot your data and change rows and columns. It’s highly suitable in some cases because it helps to read data easier.
Sixthly, there is an option to change the cel type from plain text to a bar chart or heat map. GA4 applies a bar chart to every new report.
Lastly, you can create filters and apply them to the report using your dimensions. For instance, you can filter your data to see only “page_view” event data.
The third section is the one where your report data appears.
Firstly, there, you can add more reports to your GA4 explorations to understand context better. You can jump from the Funnel report into User Explorer report and use other combinations of reports.
Secondly, you can Undo or Redo recent changes.
Thirdly, you can export the report in .CSV, .PDF and other formats (including Google Sheets).
Fourthly, you can use the report navigation, select the segment of users, and click on the mouse’s right button to “View users” (individual users’ profiles – User Explorer report). You can also apply the filter or create the segment and Google Ads audience.
Last but not least, you can share the GA4 explorations.
As mentioned above, you can use the share button in the Report View section to share the GA4 explorations with your colleagues.
However, when writing this article, there is only one possibility to share it – in the read-only mode. Google may add other options in the future, but for now, there is only one – read-only mode.
It means that if you need to replicate the same report across many GA4 properties, you will need to re-create the report from scratch to be able to edit it.
Examples of analyzing website data using GA4 Explore
In order to understand how GA4 Explorations works and how to use them to analyze your website data and optimize your traffic, you will need to spend at least a few days or weeks for the actual practice.
Below, we will share a few examples of the reports we use to analyze clients’ data and deliver actionable insights. Feel free to re-create them in your GA4 property.
Ecommerce: Items Data
On July 20, 2023, GA4 received more ecommerce dimensions and metrics that we can use to understand whether the specific product interests the users, where they drop in the checkout flow and others. We can visualize the ecommerce funnel and break it down by item_name.
To build this report, you should import the following dimensions and metrics into your GA4 exploration:
|Item name||Items viewed|
|Items added to cart|
|Items checked out|
SaaS / Mobile Apps: Onboarding Funnel
One of the main parts of the SaaS success is the onboarding flow. Usually, it consists of a few steps that a user should complete to create the account successfully. Sometimes, it requires to add the payment details, sometimes not.
Anyway, Google Analytics 4 Explorations, the most concrete, Funnel report, can visualize this data and help us find the core stats about the overall funnel and steps.
For instance, how many users drop, what step is responsible for the highest drop, and how much time users spend between steps, on average.
To build this report, you should select “Funnel report” in GA4 Explorations and specify steps by selecting events tacking users’ onboarding flow progress.
Bonus: Consider adding a bit more context by adding session recordings and heat maps for the specific steps afterward to get even more insights on optimizing those steps responsible for the highest drop.
Games: Levels Progress
The core aspect in games is that users progress through levels. In order to track it, there are a few GA4-recommended events that help with that. One of them is “level_start” event. So, it’s crucial to understand how many users progress to the next level and what you can do with those not climbing to the next one.
You need at least a basic report to see the breakdown. It’s possible to do this with the Free Form report as done below or with the Funnel report, too.
To build this report in GA4 Explore, just export “event_name”, and “event_count” and filter the report by “event name equals level_start”
GA4 Explore Limitation
As with anything in Google Analytics, GA4 has a few limitations that you should be aware of (excluding the ones for individual reports):
- You can create up to 200 individual explorations per user per property.
- You can create up to 500 shared explorations per property
- You can apply up to 10 segments per exploration.
- You can apply up to 10 filters per tab.
Although, unfortunately, there are limitations, they are minor, and you can definitely enjoy using GA4 Explore without reaching them in the majority of cases.
Google Analytics 4 allows you to build reports using the drag&drop mechanism. It’s an entirely new feature that Universal Analytics didn’t offer.
There is also a set of pre-built GA4 reports that you can use to learn how to use GA4 Explore faster:
- Free form
- Funnel exploration
- Path exploration
- Segment overlap
- User Explorer
- Cohort exploration
- User lifetime
All reports follow the same structure with three core blocks: Variables, Tab Settings and Report View.
Although GA4 Explore has a few limitations mentioned above, all of them are minor, and you can enjoy GA4 explore functionality without reaching them in 99% of cases.
If you have any questions about GA4 Explore, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are explorations in GA4?
GA4 Explorations is a custom reporter builder that allows you to conduct ad-hoc analyses.
Explorations are custom reports that you can build on your own and select the dimensions and metrics you need, whereas standard reports in GA4 are usually pre-defined, and there are only a few things you can change in them.
If you need to create a GA4 exploration, follow these steps:
1. Open GA4 and go to Explore tab
2. Click on “Blank” template and start to build the custom report
3. Import the necessary dimensions and metrics
4. Apply them to the report