Free Form Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Exploration Report

Last Updated: September 9, 2022

Learn to create and use the Free Form report (formerly known as the Exploration Report) in Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Free Form report overview

The Free Form report represents your data in a dynamic table layout. You can arrange rows and columns as you like and apply custom segments and filters to refine your data.

In the earlier legacy version of Google Analytics (known as Universal Analytics), you had the option to create a custom report under the ‘Customization’ menu option.

In the case of GA4, the custom report is replaced by the Free Form report with a more advanced user interface and new functionality.

Introduction to available configuration options

Here we will see the various options available while configuring the Free Form report. Follow the below steps to know more.

Step 1: Navigate to your Google Analytics 4 property and click on the ‘Explore’ menu.

free from template

Step 2: You will see the various analysis templates. Click on the Free Form template.

Step 3: A new console will open like below.

console overview

The screen is divided into three columns; ‘Variable’, ‘Tab Settings’ and ‘Free Form’.

Variable Tab:

In the context of analysis, segments, dimensions and metrics are called variables. You can also change the date range and report name under the ‘Variable Panel’ column.

Tab Settings:

The ‘Tab Settings’ column configures report techniques such as exploration, cohort analysis, path analysis, etc. You can also select the visualization type here, e.g. table, pie chart, bar chart, etc.

Free Form Tab:

The ‘Free form 1’ tab is where the data is shown to the user. Whatever configuration we do in the ‘Variables’ tab and available in ‘Tab Settings’ will be reflected in the ‘Free form 1’ tab.

Step 4: Now click on ‘Exploration Name’ to give a descriptive name to the report.

report name

Step 5: Click on the drop-down arrow to change the date range.

Date range

Step 6: You will get a small pop-up window where you can specify the date range, i.e. yesterday, this week, last seven days, etc., or set a custom date range. Select your date range and click on ‘Apply’.

exploration report date range

Step 7: Now, add segments to our report (optional). You can apply a segment by clicking on the three vertical dots on the segment name and then clicking on ‘Apply’.

exploration report apply
exploration report edit segment

You also get the option to edit and delete the segments. Click on ‘Edit’ if you want to edit the segment configuration. A new overlay will come like below, where you can modify the segments by adding more conditions.

If you want to create a new segment, click on the ‘+’ button and define the conditions of your segment.

exploration report conditions

You can apply up to four segments to your report.

Step 8: Just like segments, you can create a dimension for the report by clicking on the ‘+’ button under ‘Dimensions’.

exploration report dimensions

If you want to use the existing dimension, simply drag and drop the dimension either under ‘Rows’ or under ‘Columns’ in the ‘Tab Settings’.

exploration report columns

You can also double-click on the dimension name to directly add to the ‘Rows’ section.

If you want your dimension to appear as a row, then drag it under the ‘Rows’ section and if you want it to appear as a column, then drag it under the ‘Columns’ section.

If you want to delete a dimension, click on the cross ‘X’ in front of the dimension.

exploration report dimensionss

You can apply up to five dimensions in rows and two dimensions in columns for your data table.

Step 9: Just like dimensions, you can create a metric for the report by clicking on the ‘+’ button under ‘Metrics’.

exploration report metrics

If you want to use the existing metric, simply drag and drop the metric under ‘Values’ in the ‘Tab Settings’.

exploration report values

You can also double-click the metric name to add to the values section directly.

If you want to delete a metric, click on the cross ‘X’ in front of the metric.

exploration report delete

Step 10: You can use the ‘Tab Setting’ column to change the configuration of the tabs. If you want to add a new tab, click on the ‘+’ button in the ‘Tabs’ panel.

exploration report tab settings

Step 11: A small pop-up will open as below. To continue, select the report technique you want.

exploration report report technique

For example, let’s click on ‘Cohort Exploration’, A new tab will open like below.

cohort

If you want to add a new tab again, click on the ‘+’ button in the ‘Tabs’ panel, Let’s add the Path Exploration report as an example. Click on ‘Path Exploration’, and you will see the third tab added as below.

Path

If you want to create a duplicate of the tab, click on the drop-down menu of the current tab and then click on ‘Duplicate’. This will create a duplicate tab.

duplicate 1

If you want to delete a tab, click on the current tab’s drop-down menu and then click on ‘Delete’.

delete 1

If you want to switch between the tabs, hover your mouse on a tab and then click on it.

switch

You can change the reporting technique for the report through the ‘Tab Settings’ column.

Just click on the drop-down under ‘Technique’.

chenge technique

A drop-down will pop up like below, select the technique you want from the available list.

select technique

You can also select the visualization type here. Available visualizations are table, pie chart, line chart, scatter plots, bar chart and geo map.

Visulization

How to create a sample report

Let’s create a sample Free Form report by following the below steps.

Step 1: Navigate to your Google Analytics 4 property and click on the ‘Explore’ menu.

Step 2: You will see the various analysis templates. Click on the ‘Free form’ template.

free from template

Step 3: Now click on ‘Analysis Name’ to give a descriptive name to the report.

report name

Step 4: Click the drop-down arrow to change the date range.

Date range

Step 5: let’s apply a dimension to the report. As an example, we will apply ‘Region’ as a dimension. If you look at the image below, the ‘Region’ dimension is unavailable, so we need to create a new dimension. Click on the ‘+’ sign.

exploration report create dimension

Step 6: An overlay will appear as below. Search for the ‘Region’ dimension.

exploration report region

Step 7: Select it and then click on ‘Apply’.

exploration report apply2

Step 8: Now you can see the ‘Region’ dimension available under the ‘Dimension’ section. But this dimension is still not applied to our report. To apply, drag and drop it under the ‘Rows’ section in the ‘Tab Settings’ column.

exploration report drag dimension

Step 9: Now you will see the dimension applied in the ‘Free form 1’ tab, as below.

region dimensio

Step 10: Now, let’s add another dimension, ‘Device Category’. And this time, we will drag it under ‘Columns’.

exploration report second dimension

Step 11: Now, you will see two dimensions appearing in the ‘Free form 1’ tab. ‘Region’ as a row and ‘Device Category’ as a column, like below.

two dimension

Step 12: Now, as you can see from the above image, the selected metric is ‘Active Users’. Let’s remove this metric and add a new ‘Sessions’ metric. Click on the cross ‘X’ in front of ‘Active Users’ to remove it.

exploration report active users

Step 13: In the ‘Metrics’ section, sessions are unavailable, so we need to create them. Click on the ‘+’ button under the ‘Metrics’ section.

exploration report metrics2

Step 14: An overlay will appear like below. Search for ‘sessions’, select it and then click ‘Apply’.

exploration report search session

Step 15: Now you can see the ‘Sessions’ metric available under the ‘Metrics’ section. But this metric is still not applied to our report. To apply, drag and drop it under the ‘Values’ section in the’ Tab Settings’ column.

exploration report drag metric

Step 16: You can now see in the ‘Exploration’ tab that the ‘Session’ metric has been added to our report, as below.

session

Step 17: Now let’s add another metric, say ‘Total Users’. This time it is already available in the ‘Metrics’ section. Double-click on it to add it to the report.

exploration report second metric

Step 18: The new metric ‘Total Users’ is applied to the report like below.

total users

Step 19: Let’s add one more metric to the report, let’s say ‘Conversions’. Since it is not available in the ‘Metrics’ section, we will create it just like we did in the case of ‘Sessions’. Once created, apply it to the report by double-clicking, and you will see it in the ‘Reporting’ tab, as below.

conversion

Step 20: If you want your report to start from the second row, you can change the setting to start at row 2, like below, and you will see that the table will start from the second row.

exploration report start row

Step 21: If you want to revert to the previous settings option at any time, you can click on the ‘Undo’ button at the top of the ‘Reporting’ tab. You can also use the ‘Redo’ button to reverse the last ‘Undo’ action.

exploration report undo

Step 22: By default, the report only shows ten rows. If you want to show more rows, click on the drop-down menu and select the number of rows you want to show.

exploration report show rows

You can see up to 500 rows in your data table.

Step 23: Now, the next setting is ‘Nested Rows’. This setting will only work when you have two or more dimensions in rows. If you enable it to ‘Yes’, your data in the ‘Reporting’ tab will look like below.

nested row

Step 24: If you see from the image, our columns are in the sequence ‘Sessions’, then ‘Total Users’, and then ‘Conversions’.

exploration report column sequence

If you want your report to start from the second column, you can change the settings in ‘Start Column Group’ like below and see the changes in the ‘Reporting’ tab.

exploration report reorder columns

By default, the report shows only five column groups. If you want to show more, then change the settings at ‘Show Column Groups’ up to 20.

exploration report show column groups

Step 25: The ‘Value’ section adds metrics to your report. You can add up to ten metrics to your report. The ‘Cell Type’ setting changes how your metrics look in your report. Available options are bar charts, plain text, and heat maps.

exploration report bar chart
exploration report plain
exploration report heat map

How to apply filters and segments to the Free Form report

Step 26: Now, let’s apply filters to our report. Suppose you do not want to see the (not set) values. Click on the square box under ‘Filter’.

exploration report filters

Step 27: A small pop-up window will open. Since we are looking at ‘Region’ as a dimension in our example, select it from the pop-up.

exploration report select region

Step 28: Click on the drop-down to select ‘Match Type’ and select ‘does not contain’.

exploration report match type
exploration report does not contain

Step 29: Now click on ‘Enter Expression’ and select ‘(not set)’.

exploration report not set

Step 30: Click on ‘Apply’.

exploration report apply3

You will see in the ‘Reporting Tab’ that the ‘(not set)’ value is removed, as below.

exploration report reporting tab

So that’s how you can apply a filter to your Free Form report. One important thing to remember is that if you apply more than one filter, it will be applied using AND logic.

Step 31: Now, let’s apply a segment to the report. For example, we will apply a segment to show traffic coming from organic. Since this segment is not available, we are going to create a new segment. Click on the ‘+’ icon under the ‘Segments’ section.

exploration report add segments

Step 32: An overlay will appear like below. Click on ‘User Segment’.

exploration report user segment

Step 33: Give a descriptive name to your segment, and then click on the drop-down to add a new condition.

exploration report descriptive name

Step 34: Select the dimension’ First user campaign’, then match the type to ‘exactly matches(=)’, and the value as ‘organic’.

organic searc traffic

Step 35: Now click on ‘Save and Apply’.

exploration report save

The new segment will be created and automatically applied to your report.

organic search traffic applied

Step 36: Once you define and apply the segment, a new setting called ‘Pivot’ is available under the ‘Segments’ section showing how your segment is displayed in the report.

Multiple options are available in the settings like now our segment is displayed as ‘First Column’.

first column

You can also select other options; for example, let’s select ‘First Row’ from the drop-down in the pivot, and our report will look like below.

first row

You can also apply a filter in the ‘Reporting’ tab. Let’s say you only want to see data for California. Right-click on it to get options like below.

exploration report filter segment

Select the filter you want to apply (‘Include only selection’ or ‘Exclude selection’), and it will reflect in your report.

Option 1: If you select ‘Include only selection’, it will also be reflected in the ‘Reporting’ tab, as in the below image.

only section

Option 2: If you select ‘Exclude selection’, regions other than California will be shown.

Free Form Report

Option 3: You can also create a segment from a selection. It will open a new overlay like below.

exploration report segment from selection

Click on ‘Save’

Option 4: You also get the option to view users for the selected dimension. Just click on ‘View user’, and your report will show user details as below (a new ‘Reporting’ tab will open).

exploration report view user

With the ‘User Details’ tab, you can explore more on the activities done by users in great detail.

How to share and download the Free Form report

Step 37: You can also share the report template with other colleagues. Just click on the ‘Share’ icon in the upper right corner of the ‘Reporting’ tab.

exploration report share

Step 38: It will open an overlay with details as below. Click on ‘Share’.

exploration report share with others

Step 39: You also get an option to download the report. Click on the ‘Download’ button.

exploration report download

A small pop-up will appear, as below, where you can specify the report format type.

exploration report download popup

Available options are

  • Google Sheets
  • TSV (Tab Separated Value)
  • CSV (Comma Separated Value)
  • PDF
  • PDF (all tabs): this will download all the tabs in reporting panel in PDF format.

The green check icon means that your report is not sampled.

exploration report sampled

If your data crosses ten million rows, your report will be sampled.

This is how you can use the ‘Exploration’ report and various options available in Google Analytics 4.

#1 Google Analytics 4 Intro

  1. What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – The Apps + Web Property?
  2. Key Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. Setup GA4 – Upgrade to GA4 – Implementation Guide
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#11 Google Analytics 4 Explorations

  1. Free Form Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Exploration Report
  2. How to Use the User Lifetime Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. How to Use Path Exploration Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Path Analysis
  4. How to Use Segment Overlap Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. How to Use the Funnel Exploration Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Funnel Analysis
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