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How Sitecore Analytics complements Google Analytics

Sitecore Analytics is rather new or unknown for most marketers. In this article I will elaborate the benefits and possibilities of Sitecore Analytics, compare the functionalities with Google Analytics and describe how these two solutions can enrich each other.

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Integration with the complete Sitecore platform

With the release of Sitecore 8.2 (August 2016), Sitecore has extend and improve some new features that are complementary with more traditional analytics tools (like Google Analytics). Sitecore Analytics is more than the reports you can consolidate in the Experience Analytics module. The power of Sitecore Analytics can primarily be found in its integration with the complete Sitecore Experience Platform. A solid Sitecore Analytics configuration is key to fully benefit from all the features in Sitecore such as profiling, personalization, path analyzer, A/B testing etc.

Sitecore Platform

Own the experience and the data

Every interaction with your customer, both online and offline, can be stored in the experience database (Sitecore xDB). It enables you to collect insights from a wide range of sessions and users. With the Experience Profile you can even drill down the behavior of a single user and use these insights to communicate on a personal and relevant way.

xDB

With xConnect you can easily select, extend and manipulate the data you have collected. Unlike GA, you are the owner of this data. For many organizations, being the owner of your data isn’t always essential. Third party data can even be seen as an advantage: collecting data requires storage and storage requires money. Nevertheless data is becoming more valuable for each organization, so sharing it with others isn’t always something you prefer doing.

GDPR

Another game changer regarding this topic is the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation was adopted on 27 April 2016. It enters into application on 25 May 2018 after a two-year transition period. It addresses topics like export of personal data outside the EU, Data Protection Directive, right to be forgotten, first-party cookies vs. third-party cookies etc. If you look to it from that perspective, being in full control of your data doesn’t sound irrelevant at all!

Path analyzer

The Path Analyzer maps the digital track (or funnel) of your users, displaying it in an easy-to-use visual way. These path visualizations map vital insights in order to detect opportunities. If, for example, a lot of visitors watch certain click-through pages without converting, this might mean that something is not running smoothly. Path Analyzer will provide you with the insights you need to get started yourself or follow suggestions from Sitecore.

Path Analyzer

Path Analyzer is one of the most improved modules with the release of Sitecore 8.2. For starters it has been rewritten in HTML5 instead of Silverlight. Silverlight is a technology from the area of video recorders comparable with Adobe Flash. So thank you Sitecore for rewriting this module. Next to the HTML5 update the UX and feature set has also improved a lot. Thanks to improved and flexible way to segment user interactions, you can easily analyze specific behavior.

Why should you (still) use Google Analytics?

GA is launched more than 10 years ago and it’s fair to say that GA simply has more dimensions, metrics, reports and features available (out of the box). Maybe some of this data isn’t always that valuable, but it is rather frustrating to miss a specific feature that is valuable for your organization. Nevertheless, a lot of the reports that you can find in GA are also available in Sitecore Experience Analytics. The reports that we are missing today will probably be available in new releases in the coming months or years (8.3+). That being said, there are some features where GA distinctly rises above Sitecore Analytics. A few examples:

(enhanced) E-commerce data

You can integrate metrics like revenue, transactions, avg. transaction value, e-commerce transaction ratio and more in every report. Enabling “enhanced” e-commerce tracking will require some expertise and implementation efforts, but it will enrich reports that will be very useful for analyzing e-commerce behavior on your website. Such as:

  • Shopping funnels;
  • Most viewed products;
  • Product Detail Views;
  • Cart-to-Detail ratio;
  • Buy-to-Detail ratio;

Google Analytics

 With the announcements of Sitecore Commerce, Sitecore will probably enable comparable functionalities in the future. Nevertheless Sitecore has still a long way to go, to compete with the e-commerce tracking of GA.

 

Ease of setup and integration

Adding a small JavaScript snippet (or Google Tag Manager Container) is enough to collect a lot of insights and you can easily extend these insights with small customizations. Because GA is so well known all over the world, there is a lot of documentation, learning material, how-to guidelines, blog posts etc. available. The strong and well known API makes it also very easy to (point-and-click) integrate GA into a wide range of external solutions (such as dashboard tools and BI).

Deep integration with AdWords

Obviously you can easily integrate data from other Google products such as: AdWords, AdSense and Webmaster Tools. AdWords, the advertising platform of Google, is eventually the reason why GA is free and state of the art. If you’re spending media budget on AdWords you certainly want to use GA to evaluate the Return on Investment of your campaigns. The well-known UTM-tagging and the cost data import features in GA makes it also very useful to evaluate other (paid) attribution channels next to AdWords.

Multi-Channel Funnels

The Multi-Channel Funnels reports gives you insights how your marketing channels work together to create sales and conversions.
Many people, for example, may purchase on your site after searching for your brand on Google. However, they may have been introduced to your brand via a blog or while searching for specific products and services. The Multi-Channel Funnels reports show how previous referrals and searches contributed to your sales.

Multi-Channel Conversion

Why Should you combine GA and Sitecore data?

It becomes even more interesting if we combine the power of GA and Sitecore Analytics together! Combining Sitecore and Google analytics data can work in both directions:

Push data from GA into Sitecore

Thanks to the flexible and strong API of GA, it’s perfectly possible to integrate each GA report into the Sitecore backend. This can be useful to extend the existing (out of the box) reports of Sitecore with unique GA reports such as e-commerce tracking, attribution modeling, AdWords etc. The main advantage is that you don’t have to login into GA to see the preferred reports. It also helps you to filter/focus all the GA reports to the reports that matters for your organization.
Another interesting and relatively easy optimization is matching the Google Analytics session ID with the Sitecore contact ID. If you push the Sitecore contact ID to a GA custom dimension, you are able to match your contact ID with a specific metric or dimension that is only available in GA. This could be handy to match the Cost Per Click you spend for a new lead/prospect and push this data into xDB.

Push data from Sitecore into Google Analytics

Sitecore has a powerful way to create profile patterns based on your behavior. On this website we match each page to a specific interest/expertise. By visiting this blogpost, you are getting 10 points for the digital marketing profile. With this tactic we are trying to get a grip of witch content you’re interested it (and witch content you aren’t). This information helps us to personalize content based on you expertise / interest.

profile pattern

It’s perfectly possible to push this profile information to GA with a custom dimension. We can use this profile information in GA. This extra information can be useful to gain more insights or to create better remarketing audiences for Adwords. As a result it’s perfectly possible to modify and personalize your AdWords campaigns based on Sitecore’s xDB.

These are just a few examples of how you can combine GA- and Sitecore Analytics data, but the possibilities are endless.

A full recap of the Sitecore Symposium of 2016 will be given on the next Meetup session on September 29.

And if you truly want to become inspired, visit us at the More Than Digital Day on October 6 where we will present you with a brief but thorough recap on the 2016 Symposium!

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