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How to effectively debug GA4 reporting issues

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Direct data transfer from GA4 to BigQuery is one of the best features of GA4. It allows you to have raw data in a database/data warehouse. This not only allows you to dig deeper into the data for analysis but also allows you to debug your tracking issues in real-time.

Below is one example of how BigQuery helped us find the issue with GA4 data.

Note I have a BigQuery course and also conduct live workshops. My next full-day live workshop is in Phoenix, AZ. If you are interested in attending it or scheduling one in your city then reach out to me.

Following is the image of the Pages and Screens report in GA4.

As you will notice, several pages have extremely high views, but only 1 user.

No matter, how long of a time frame you look at the number of users in this case was always 1.

What logical explanation can be there for such a behavior?

One possible explanation is that this is due to spam traffic. Right?

Another explanation is that it is a bug in GA4. That’s the one I see thrown quite often. When the digital analytics team can’t find a proper reason they blame it on GA4.

But how do you know for sure? Should you dismiss this as spam or bug and move on?

The next step is to check it in GTM and ensure that everything is set up correctly or not. Use the GTM debugger to see if everything is firing as expected.

And that’s what we did.

The GA4 setup looked a bit odd. However, we needed more than just a review of tags to confirm that it was causing the issues we saw in the reports.

So we hooked up GA4 data and started digging into the data in BigQuery.

And Voila! Within a few minutes, we found the issue.

A glance at the data and a few SQL queries confirmed what we initially suspected when we looked at the implementation, It provided proof that the client needed to feel confident in our analysis and solution.

GA4 data in BigQuery saved us a lot of time and headaches.

In short, we found that the agency that set up the tracking had messed up tracking on certain scenarios which caused the session and user count to be wrong. Not only was this affecting the pages we saw above but it was affecting the entire site. In other words, all the data in GA4 was getting affected and hence was wrong.

I will not go into the details of the issues with the setup and how we fixed it. The point of this post is to highlight the importance of having GA4 data in BigQuery.

So if you haven’t yet started sending the GA4 data to BigQuery, do it immediately. It will save you a lot of debugging hours as well as get you ready for data-driven marketing.

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