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Guide to DebugView in Google Analytics 4

#Google Ads
11/6/2023
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Guide to DebugView in Google Analytics 4

Guide to DebugView in Google Analytics 4

Never trust your gut when implementing something in Google Analytics. Always check that the data has been received by the platform and displayed in the reports as expected.

Fortunately, GA4 has an excellent feature for this called DebugView.

DebugView in Google Analytics 4 allows you to check the input data in more detail (without waiting for hours). In this article, we will understand how to use it.

Where can you find DebugView in Google Analytics 4?

You can find it by going to the "Administrator" section (at the bottom left of the GA4 interface), and in the middle column, select "DebugView."

Where to find DebugView

This is where your setup should take place. Make sure to distinguish this from the preview and debug mode in GTM. These are two different tools.

Google Tag Manager preview mode configures tags stored in the GTM container (Google Analytics 4, Google Ads, Facebook Pixel, etc.). Google Analytics 4 DebugView is for viewing the input data in your GA4 feed (and only for that).

When you go to DebugView, you most likely won't see any data there (since it only displays events that contain a special "debug mode" option). In other words, you must enable DebugView in the GA4 event trace to start seeing anything.

In the next section, we will learn how to do this.

3 Ways to Enable DebugView in Google Analytics 4 (for Websites)

To enable DebugView in GA4, you have several options for websites (any of these will work):

  • Enable the GA Debugger Chrome Extension
  • Enable Google Tag Manager preview mode on the page you're customizing
  • Send the debug_mode parameter with the event

1. Google Analytics Debugger extension

Our first option is to install the Google Analytics Debugger extension. Once established, click on the extension icon. It should show the status “ON.”

Google Analytics Debugger extension

After that, you can start working with the site, and from that moment on, you will see your events coming to DebugView.

Why did it work? The installed and activated Debugger checks all requests sent to Google Analytics 4 and adds the parameter needed to display DebugView data. This option _dbg.

2. GTM preview mode automatically makes data visible in DebugView

If you installed GA4 using GTM and are currently in preview mode, you don't need to do anything else. Like the GA Debugger Chrome extension, the GTM preview mode adds an option that forces GA4 to display the input in the DebugView window.

3. The debug_mode event parameter

Suppose you want to make the data visible in DebugView without enabling GTM preview mode, and you don't want to install another browser extension. In that case, you can add the debug_mode parameter to the events. To enable the option, add debug_mode to the Google tag and then enter any value (but "true" without quotes is most appropriate).

You have two options on how to enable the debug_mode option:

  • In the Google tag (aka the GA configuration tag). In this case, all other event tags that use it will also inherit the parameter.
  • Or only in certain GA4 event tags. In this case, the debug_mode parameter will only be applied to those tags, and only those individual events will be displayed in Google Analytics DebugView 4

Let's consider how to do it using Google Tag Manager.

In GTM, you can do this by opening the Google tag and adding the following parameter:

Enable the debug_mode option in Google tag manager

If the debug_mode parameter contains any value, the event will be visible in DebugView. Even if you type "false," it still activates the debug view.

That's all. After enabling DebugView (by selecting one of the options above), you can go to GA4 > Admin > DebugView and see what's happening there.

Consider the DebugView interface.

The DebugView interface can be divided into the following sections:

  • Data flow per minute
  • Data stream per second
  • Top events
  • User properties
  • Device selection

DebugView interface

Here, you will see data for the last 30 minutes.

1. The minute stream (to the left of the DebugView) looks like a chain with circular links corresponding to each of the last 30 minutes. The circled number indicates the number of events received in that particular minute.

DebugView interface

2. The data flow per second (middle column) is where the main debugging happens. Here, you will see a list of events at a more detailed level. Each event displays a timestamp that corresponds to the time it was registered. You can click an event to view a list of its parameters.

DebugView interface

3. The "Top events" widget shows the most popular events registered within 30 minutes.

[1] Click on any of these events works as a quick filter.

[2] By clicking on one of the events, you can select a specific parameter

[3] You will then see the timestamps for each parameter sent with that particular event in the last 30 minutes.

[4] Alternatively, you can click on a specific timestamp and view all the options for that event.

DebugView interface

This is quite handy if you want to see how (and when) parameter values changed within this event.

4. User Properties shows the latest state of the user property set for the currently selected device. You can click the little clock icon to see how the values have changed in the last 30 minutes.

DebugView interface

5 Device Selector allows you to select the data of a specific device to be debugged. The selector is located in the upper left corner of the DebugView.

DebugView Device Selector interface

If multiple visitors have Debug View enabled (for example, they all have Chrome extensions enabled), you'll see multiple devices there, and it may take a while to find yourself.

Using DebugView

When you start seeing the data in DebugView, you can click on each event, and a list of options will appear.

Click on this parameter to see the value obtained by GA4.

Using DebugView

If you're getting a lot of events, you can click anywhere on the white background of the middle column (data stream by seconds), and it will pause.

Blue icons represent events, green icons represent conversions, and orange icons represent user properties.

Using DebugView

Unfortunately, for now, there are cases when the arrival of data takes longer.

Most likely, this is related to some problems in GA4, so we hope that, over time, the service developers will deal with this nuisance.

The author of the article

Serhii Popovych

Serhii Popovych

Google Ads Team Lead

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