One of the features that differentiate GA4 from Universal Analytics is Exploration. And Path Exploration report is a part of this Google Analytics 4 feature that allows you to understand your users better.
Apart from this report, you can also use the following reports in Google Analytics:
- Free form Exploration
- Funnel Exploration
- Segment Overlap
- User Explorer
- Cohort exploration
- User Lifetime
All of them are covered in my GA4 Explore series. Every report has unique features that you should be aware of. Therefore, I recommend you to read about them as well. You can access them through the links above.
This article discusses Path Exploration and how E-commerce and SaaS companies can benefit from it. Let’s get started.
What’s Path Exploration in GA4, and why should you use it?
So, the Path Exploration report allows you to see the events (pages or screens) users generate by visiting your website, using products or buying an item on your Ecommerce. Beyond that, it can also help you to determine the sequence or order of these events. You can see how this report looks below.
Thus, this report can answer at least the following questions:
- Which pages do users visit after the landing page (their second page)?
- What actions do your new signups (new product users) take after registration?
- Why and how do users leave the checkout pages before making a purchase?
- What features or actions do your converted (trial-to-paid) users vs users who didn’t convert?
Overall this report is an excellent source of information to see the aggregated view of how users use your website or product. You can use it instead of Hotjar, Microsoft Clarity or other tools. It helps you to find weak points and improve them; by doing that, you can improve the business’s bottom line.
In the image above, you see that this report has many features and toggles that you can click on to change the report to show what you are interested in. Of course, not all of them are easy to use and self-explanatory. Therefore, let’s look at each of them more carefully.
Path Exploration Report Interface
First, let’s divide the report interface into three parts. It will help us to learn more about their features.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the first part is called “Variables”, the second “Tab Settings”, and the last one “Path exploration”.
Report part #1 – Variables
Let’s start with the first one. It consists of the following elements:
- Exploration Name
- Dates range
1.1 Exploration Name
Exploration Name allows you to specify the report’s name and save it in Google Analytics 4 to access it later. You don’t need to click on any button. GA4 saves it automatically when you exit the report.
1.2. Date ranges
You can use date ranges to extend the dates of your report or limit it to one date. GA4 Exploration allows you to see the data up to yesterday. If you are interested in real-time (today’s data), you should enable BigQuery integration.
The segments feature allows you to select a group of users for the analysis.
For instance, you can be interested in analysing only traffic of your specific Paid Ads campaigns or in analysing your clients’ first product session (relevant for SaaS and mobile apps). You can use (custom) dimensions and metrics in Google Analytics 4.
Apart from selecting a group of users, you can also exclude events you don’t want to see in Path Exploration. To do that, you should create event-based segments with specific events exclusion rules.
This section allows you to add as many dimensions as you want. You can use the dimensions to break down your data afterwards or create filters.
For instance, you can be interested to see how mobile and desktop users’ experience differs by applying “device category” dimension as a breakdown.
Apart from importing and using dimensions, you can also use metrics. Unfortunately, the GA4 Path report allows you to use only pre-defined metrics “Active users”, “Total users”, or “Event count”.
After understanding the first part of the report, let’s look at the second.
Report part #2 – Tab Settings
The second section of the path exploration report is “Tab Settings”. It consists of the following sections:
- Node Type
- View unique nodes only toggle
- Node filters
Let me explain each of them to you.
This feature could be more helpful and can be used to jump from one report to another of Google Analytics 4 Explore functionality. Although I rarely use it, I use this to remind you that you can learn about other GA4 explore reports in these articles:
- Free form Exploration
- Funnel Exploration
- Segment Overlap
- User Explorer
- Cohort exploration
- User Lifetime
This is where you apply the segment you created in section 1.3. To apply the segment, you should drag and drop it from section 1.3 to section 2.2.
2.3 Node Type
This section represents what kind of dimensions you can use for node types. It’s impossible to delete or change the node type in Google Analytics 4.
2.4 View unique node type
You can switch it on to see only the unique events. For instance, if users generate two pageview events and you enable this option, these events will be combined. If this option is inactive, the report will show two separate events.
As mentioned in 1.3, you can add dimensions to break down your path exploration data.
For instance, you can break it down by device category. In order to do that, you can drag “device category’ from the dimensions and drop it in the breakdown. In order to see the breakdown, you should click on small icons at the bottom of the report.
This section allows you to select one of the three possible values: Total users, Active users or Event count.
If you want to see the US traffic only, you can create a segment and apply it or you can use “country” dimension and use it to create a filter.
2.8. Node filters
When you analyse data, you can find that you are not interested in some specific nod, you can click on the node and select “Exclude node”. Once you select it, it will appears in “Node filters” section.
Report part #3 – Path Exploration
The third part of the path exploration report is “Path Exploration”. This window presents the final data after you apply filters, segments, breakdowns and change other settings.
3.1 Right-side menu – Plus icon
This icon allows you to create more reports and include them in your exploration report. For instance, if you want to look at the specific node users, you can click on the right mouse and select “View users” and then “User Explorer” report will be created for you that will include the users of this node.
3.2 Left-side menu – Start over, Undone, Re-do, Share
You can use the left-side menu to share a report with your peers. The share functionality allows you to share the report in read-only mode. You can also export your report in CSV, PDF and as an image.
Apart from that, you can undo or redo the latest changes you made.
And the most valuable feature is “Start over”. It allows you to create a new report from scratch.
Where you can select the event you want to start with, this event can be the start or end event.
By default, path exploration shows your users’ actions working forward from a specific event or page. Backwards pathing lets you select a desired event or page and explore how your users got to it.
Sometimes it’s a unique feature. Let me give you an example. You see a massive number of transactions per user, but you know that users make only one purchase.
You use Path Explorer report and backward format, and then you see that users arrive at your thank you a page from checkout pages and direct traffic. It’s just an example. It can’t happen in Google Analytics 4 compared to Universal Analytics because GA4 doesn’t record transactions with the same ID more than once.
However, you can see more thank-you pageviews than transactions, and you can also fix it. If this is the case for your business, you can use a backward path explorer report.
3.3 Starting point and step menu
The main difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics Path (Behavior) reports is that you can change events you want to see by applying segments and selecting events you want to see.
To edit the step and to show only relevant events, you click on “edit” button and open the window where you can select what events exactly you want to see.
Moreover, you can change the node type from “event name” to “page title and screen” to or “page title and screen class”, or to “page path and screen class” for every step. This way, you can get much more information from GA4 account than you could from UA property.
And last but not least, in order to see more steps click on the node that you are interested in. For instance, I clicked on node “scroll” under event #3, and step #4 appeared.
These are all core features of the GA4 Path Exploration report. If you didn’t find some features in this article, please comment below, and I will add them to this article, but now, let’s look at how you could use this report to find second pages that users visited after landing on the product page. Universal Analytics had “Second Page” dimension that we could use for this, GA4 doesn’t have it (yet), but we can use Path exploration to find them.
Path Exploration in action (example)
I will use my GA4 property to show you how you can do it but you can replicate the same procedure for “GA4 – Google Merchandise Store” property publicly available for everyone. You can also use it to learn more about GA4.
To do such a report, you should open GA4, change your step #1 and step #2 to “Page title and screen name”. After that, you can see pages that users accessed after landing on my “How to use a hostname filter in Google Analytics 4” article.
That’s so easy and so informative.
Of course, the usage of the Path Exploration report can differ depending on what kind of business you have. It’s easy to understand that you can use it for Ecommerce companies, but SaaS companies or product companies can use it.
How to use Path Exploration report for SaaS?
You can read another blog to help you understand why GA4 can be a good solution for this type of business. Path Exploration can be used for the product companies as well.
Of course, you can use it for website or acquisition funnels, but you also can analyse users’ first product session by using the session number in segments. As a part of that, you can consider creating the additional “product_session_number” custom definition and use it in segments or as filters as well.
However, before analysing product data in Google Analytics 4, please remember that you can’t see and select event properties; therefore, you should consider it when you implement Google Analytics 4 for your business. If you don’t consider it at the implementation stage, you will have difficulties using the Path Exploration report. In this case, you can use BigQuery, but it will be much more resourceful.
Path Exploration report is one of the reports available in GA4 Explore. You can use it to find additional insights about your users, such as what kind of events they do after landing on a specific page or how they reach a specific page on your website.
SaaS companies can also use iPath Exploration reports to learn more about how their onboarding performances.
The main limitation of Path Exploration is that you can’t select event properties in the steps menu.
Frequently Asked Questions
Path Exploration report allows you to see the events (pages or screens) users generate by visiting your website, using products or buying an item on your Ecommerce. Beyond that, it can also help you to determine the sequence or order of these events.
To build a path exploration report in GA4, you should open GA4, go to GA4 Explore, and select the “Path Exploration” template.
SaaS companies can find path exploration helpful in analysing the first (or any) product session and analysing key users’ actions in their acquisition funnel.