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Why we need to master GA4’s ‘Custom Reports’

Google Analytics 4 provides several default reports, but just as with the old version of the system, it’s important to look well beyond these. For some uses, we need much more data and some unique data combinations; for other uses, such as in-house reports, we may need much simpler charts and tables.

Creating what we need for the job requires learning about ‘Custom Reports’. Mastering these is a great skill for reasons beyond just having the ‘right report’ for the job. Once we’ve set up a good report, we can apply it to specific groups of pages, or types of visitor.

Let’s have a 5-minute play with Custom Reports. In GA4, click the ‘Reports’ link under ‘Home’ on the left, then click ‘Library’ right down the bottom on the left. Then click the big ‘Create new report’ button and select ‘Create detail report’. There’s an option to start from scratch, or to take a predefined template and modify it.

Say we just want a super-simple report of the visits to the pages on our site, with the page title.

  1. Select the ‘Pages and screens’ template. This shows the page paths (URLs) and a whole bunch of metrics for each. Now we’ll modify it.
  2. Above the list of page paths, is the header for that ‘dimension’, which will be ‘Page path and screen class’. Click on this and change it to ‘Page title and screen class’. But the URL might be useful too, so click the ‘+’ and bring back ‘Page path’ from the ‘Page/Screen’ section.
  3. Now go to the ‘Customise report’ column on the right (if it’s switched to ‘Dimensions’, just click the left arrow). Click on ‘Metrics’ and click the cross next to any items except for ‘Views’ and ‘Users’, to leave just those two. Click ‘Apply’ down the bottom.
  4. If we don’t want one or both of the charts, we can click the little ‘eye’ icon next to these. For example, the Line Chart isn’t very useful in this context.
  5. Then click the blue “Save…” button and name the report.

Now, we want to make the report easily available. Go back to the ‘Reports’ link under ‘Home’ on the left. We’ll put our new report in the left-hand menu, like this. Click ‘Library’ right down the bottom on the left, then ‘Create New Collection’ and ‘Blank’. Change the name of the ‘collection’ of reports to something like ‘Important Reports’. Create a topic called ‘Top Pages’ and drag over the new report from the next column onto ‘Detail report’, then click ‘Save’. Back on the Library page, the new ‘Collection’ will have appeared, and clicking the three dots will allow us to ‘Publish’ it. And there it is on the left hand menu. Note that we can ‘Unpublish’ the existing sample ‘Collections’ (don’t worry, they don’t get deleted).

I hope from the example above it’s clear how we can build up our own sets of reports to replace the default ones, which will rarely be right for any of us. After trying out the report above, try using a template as the basis for creating a customised report on traffic sources, one of the most important reports in our armoury.

Let me know what you think.

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