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May 28, 2024 BY Jarrett Way Marketing

What are Explorations in Google Analytics 4?

Mighty Insights

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If you weathered the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) last year, well done! You may still be working to get everything set up exactly how you want, but we hope the mountain looks a little more like a molehill these days. If you haven’t set yourself up in GA4 yet, don’t fret. We’ve published a few articles to aid in the transition, and we encourage you to start there.

Now that you’ve set up custom events, connected your other Google products, and switched over linked reports, it’s time to talk about GA4 Explorations.

What Are Explorations in Google Analytics 4?

In short, Explorations provides more advanced analytics outside of the standard reports you’ll find in GA4. Compared to Universal Analytics (UA), the previous version of Google Analytics, GA4 has quite a bit fewer reports that are available in the interface by default. Explorations is the part of GA4 where users can expand and customize data visualizations and comparisons and explore data in ways that the default reports don’t allow. They allow you to drill down to access deeper insights that may not be immediately visible otherwise. This is the gift of flexibility, allowing digital marketers to perform custom analyses to understand user behavior, website performance, and other critical metrics in greater depth.

Every Exploration starts with a canvas. The canvas is the large area on the right where your data will be visualized. When building Explorations in GA4, you can choose from various techniques. You can think of techniques as your paintbrush, providing different options for how the data is analyzed and visualized. You have a whole list of techniques at your fingertips:

Free Form

Similar to custom reports in Universal Analytics, the Free Form exploration allows users to drag and drop dimensions and metrics to create custom tables. It’s highly customizable and enables you to dive deep into your data. This is the default exploration technique.

Use case: Maybe you have a report you loved in UA, but GA4 doesn’t have it in the default reports. You could replicate your old report by adding the dimensions and metrics used in the UA report to a Free Form GA4 Exploration and save it for future use.

Funnel Analysis

With Funnel Analysis, you can analyze user journeys through a predefined set of steps. This helps you understand conversion rates between steps and where users are dropping off, which is invaluable for optimizing funnels.

Path Analysis

This exploration is designed to help understand the paths users take on a website or app, starting from a specific event or page. It can reveal common navigation patterns or sequences of interactions that lead to conversions or other important outcomes.

Use case: Your nonprofit recently implemented a redesign of your site, and it changed the structure of your site, making the donation page one level deeper into the site. Once a few months have passed since launch, you want to find out whether that extra step in user journeys is resulting in fewer site visitors ending up on the donation page. Just set the donation page as the last step in your path exploration, and compare the number of page views as users move through the site.

Segment Overlap

This tool lets you compare different segments of users to see how they overlap. It can be useful for identifying common characteristics among different user groups.

User Explorer

User Explorer allows for the analysis of anonymized individual user journeys, providing insights into how specific users interact with the site or app over time.

Cohort Analysis

This type of analysis groups users based on shared characteristics or behaviors, such as their first visit date, and analyzes their behavior over time. It’s particularly useful for understanding user retention and lifecycle.

Lifetime Value

This exploration helps estimate the potential value a user brings over their lifetime. It’s crucial to understand which user segments are the most valuable over time.

Use case: The Director of Marketing at your association wants to know whether users from organic search add more value in the long term than users who arrive at the site via social media links. Use the Lifetime Value exploration to compare the two traffic mediums and see whether your current marketing spend allocation is optimized for long-term return on investment.

Each of these techniques within GA4’s Explorations is designed to give marketers the flexibility to slice and dice their data in ways that are most relevant to their specific questions or challenges. Organizations can gain a deeper understanding of their audiences using Explorations, and further optimize their marketing efforts.

Variables and Tab Settings

To the left of your canvas, you’ll see panels for variables and tab settings.

In the variables panel, you can dictate the dimensions, metrics, and segments used in the Exploration. All of these will come from your GA4 account. Each Exploration can have up to 20 dimensions and 20 metrics.

In the tab settings panel, you can control the visualization of up to 10 tabs per Exploration. When choosing a single tab, the tab setting panel will let you configure different options for the technique and pull items from the variables panel.

Explorations vs. Reports

While Explorations and Reports in GA4 deal with the same data, they aren’t congruent in every case. The variables used in Reports aren’t all supported in Explorations, and they won’t be included in the visualization if you try to use them.

Need Help?

If you want some guidance on Google Analytics 4, we have a team of experts who can get you up and running. Reach out—we’d love to chat.

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