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GA4 Explore: How to create a custom report

In the previous version of Google Analytics, namely Universal Analytics, to make a custom report, you had to go to Customization > Custom Reports and customize it there.

However, things have changed. Google announced that they stop supporting UA and start focusing on GA4. You can learn more in one of our other articles here.

However, every marketer needs reports. Fortunately, in GA4 we have the option for custom ones, and we even have a lot of new stuff. Additionally, we can do as many in-depth reports as we want. In this article, we'll describe everything from the new GA4 Explorations UI (yes, they changed its name too 🤷‍♂️)

How do we access the custom reports?

After logging into the GA4 property of our Analytics account, we will see basic data from our data streams. This is enough for many people, but if we want to find answers to questions, then we need to go into the custom reports.

To do this, we need to go to our GA4 property and in the column on the left select "Explore".

The page that will load us contains several things: predefined methods with which to make our reports and a history of the reports we made. Presumably, you won't have a story unless you've tried to do something yourself.

For me personally, the easiest method is "Free form". In this article I'll show you how to work with it, but you can experiment with the others as well. Find the one that is easiest for you to start with.

Everything we need to know about the UI

After choosing your method, you will be shown a page where we see 3 main columns: Variables, Tab Settings and the output data we get by configuring the previous 2 columns.

We will look at each of them separately, so that you can get a general idea of ​​what it is and what it is for.

1. Column with variables (Variables)

In this column we have the main "variables" that we can work with. Here we set up both the data period and the different segment types, magnitudes, and indicators/metrics that we will use later.

We will look at each of them separately, so that you can get a general idea of ​​what it is and what it is for.

Important: If we want to use segments, indicators and dimensions that do not exist, we must add them from the plus signs after the corresponding component. A little below we describe how to do this for each of them.

Segments

What are segments? Segments are an easy way to break down the bottom line so you're not just looking at aggregate numbers (eg: all orders placed, all page views, etc.).

Example segments (and those given by GA4 by default) are traffic type. Through the traffic type, we can choose to be shown data ONLY from our paid Google ads. We can sift out the paid traffic and see only the direct traffic and so on.

The power of segments is huge, it allows us to really dig deep with our analytics and find simple solutions to the complex problems that come up throughout the advertising process.

GA4 gives us the traffic type as a standard segment, but we can add more by using the plus sign next to the "Segments" text. From there we can set up, like typical segments, we can use Google's improved artificial intelligence (if there is enough data) and show us users who are likely to buy a product within 7 days, for example. In short: endless possibilities. Almost.

Dimensions

Dimensions (or in Bulgarian - "sizes") are the data you want to monitor for the corresponding segment. 

For example: we have a paid traffic segment that made an event. If we want to track dimension "years" and "interests" of this segment, then we will add them to the dimensions and use them further. 

The dimensions we use are quite different. We can track both information from Google Ads (for example: campaign, ad account name, traffic source), as well as various things from demographics (interests, years), from geolocation (city, region, country, coordinates), from the device (device language, device type, device brand) and so on.

Indicators/Metrics

Metrics are a set of numbers in Analytics that we can display in report output. 

For example: we want to see by segment paid traffic in which country with the dimension country has the most sales made, which is the metric in this case.

Metrics are the final data we want to see in the final report by filtering it with the previous 2 variables: magnitudes and segments. Metrics can be both ecommerce events and regular events. We can also see data on the turnover of the online store we manage. Also, this way we can see different things about the user, such as only the number of people who have successfully bought only 1 time from us. Again, the possibilities are endless. Almost.

2. Tab Settings (Tab Settings)

After choosing the variables we will use, it is time to use them, finally. 😀 

In the "Tab Settings" column we can do several basic things: we can change the technique of the report, change the visualization, select segments and compare them, put our dimensions, as a column or row and use the indicators , as the value we want in the final report.

Report techniques

The techniques we use are several: freeform, funnel study, path study, segment overlap, cohort study, for the entire user period. 

We can use each of them for a different purpose, so it is important to be careful what we choose, to learn in detail about each of them, you can see the Netpeak Journal article here.

Source: NetPeak Journal's Google Analytics 4 Custom Reports

Report preview

The preview of the report speaks for itself. From there we can choose what view to have in our final report.

In the "Tab Settings" column we can do several basic things: we can change the technique of the report, change the visualization, select segments and compare them, put our dimensions, as a column or row and use the indicators , as the value we want in the final report.

In the example below, it is set to show which of the countries has the highest number of visits for any traffic.

Important: Depending on which visualization we choose, we can have a changed interface of "Tab Settings"

Tabular visualization
Don chart
Linear visualization
Dot chart
Bar chart
Preview over the world map

Set segments

Important: Depending on what technique and report visualization we have chosen, there may be differences in the interface as well as the options. The description below refers to "Free form".

According to what segments we have imported in the previous column, we can choose what to filter the final information in the report by. If, for example, we put a "paid traffic" segment, then this will be the thing on which our information will be displayed on the right.

We have the option to compare segments and their information by putting 2 or more segments in one report. See the example below:

Set dimensions

Important: Depending on what technique and report visualization we have chosen, there may be differences in the interface as well as the options. The description below refers to "Free form".

Again, as with the segments, we can take the picks from the previous column that we've added and use them however we want.

According to the different visualizations, we can put the magnitudes in a different way. For example: in the tabular visualization, we can choose (if we want more than 1 dimension) which is a column and which is a row in the final report.

Summary of custom reports in GA4

There is quite a difference between the UA reports and the ones in GA4. However, we need to adapt quickly to offer our customers the best and latest.

In this article, we've broken down the essentials in GA4 Explorer that a marketer/manager needs to work with the reports. The good news is that once you get the hang of it, there's nothing to be afraid of. There are many opportunities to go deeper, which in turn provides more answers to complex questions that may arise from a client or that you ask yourself. 

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