Ok, so I’m not an analytics professional but whilst speaking with a Sitecore enthusiast, a particular question was raised to me in relation to technically integrating Sitecore XP Analytics and Google Analytics. Specifically, the question was about how Google Analytics data could be fed into the Sitecore Experience Database.
At my current place of work we are currently finalizing our upgrade to the latest version of Sitecore to leverage as much as we can of the XP and AIDA goodness. For this reason I rephrased the question to:
“Now that we have all the latest analytics features that are wrapped up in Sitecore’s AIDA offerings; do we still need Google Analytics?”
Note that when I say AIDA here I refer to Sitecore’s acronym that represents Analysis, Insights, Decisions and Automation which is not to be confused with the marketing acronym that corresponds to Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
Many readers may be thinking at this point that this ground has been covered before when discussing previous versions of Sitecore. Indeed, several posts have been published arguing that Sitecore Analytics and Google Analytics tackle different problems and so it is not fair to discuss the two in the same context. Perhaps there is some truth to this but I think it is worth revisiting the question now that we have the number-munching behemoth that is MongoDB which can be crunched to provide much more insightful, personalized and predictive data in Sitecore XP.
Another reason why I think this question is important is because over the years I have been involved in several projects where Google Analytics has been put in as an analytics solution quickly and subsequently the analytical features of Sitecore, which are able to provide much more qualitative data, has been overlooked.
To tackle the issue at hand I think the best question to consider is why businesses are drawn to the features of Sitecore AIDA in the first place. We can then consider what aspects of these requirements can be filled by Google Analytics and then perhaps consider if and how the two can sit together in a single Sitecore XP solution.
Sitecore® AIDA® and Engagement Value
Aside from looking like the name that a pharmaceutical company might give to a product, you’ll notice that Sitecore has registered trademark Sitecore® AIDA®, which indicates that Sitecore has gone to a great deal of length to think about how to manifest the functionality behind the words in the acronym!
To summarize the conceptual framework of Sitecore® AIDA®, I would describe it as gathering analytical information of all interactions by individual customers, across all channels, to be able to gain fully rounded information about each of them so that they may then receive content or functionality that is most relevant to them in the context of the business goals.
Another phrase that is banded around in the Sitecore XP world is engagement value. Tools like Google Analytics are good at showing aggregate data that can be filtered; this data can consist of metrics like Page Views and Unique Users. The problem here is that we don’t have any indication about how valuable these interactions are; for example, an upward trend in pages views could be the result of a few links that people click on who are otherwise not interested in the content of the sites, and which don’t translate into any useful activity (such as registrations or downloads) and so are not really valuable to the business. What could perhaps be more interesting is to know is the value of the engagement to the business so that we can then determine how effective a particular campaign has been.
You can more read about Sitecore® AIDA® and Engagement Value by clicking here.
Benefits of Sitecore XP Analytics over Google Analytics, Omniture and other analytics providers
It could be argued that other analytics providers also provide similar functionality. Google Analytics provides the ability to track goal conversions which also can have values associated with them, and these can be monetary or arbitrary values.
There is functionality provided by other analytics that may be similar to the functionality provided by Sitecore. However, Sitecore’s ability to interpret this data in realtime and identify the type of user who is accessing the content and guess what he or she might want to do, is what provides Sitecore with the real business advantage.
In the context of the site that I am working on at the moment, being able to identify the user as a casual visitor as opposed to a student and then display potential upsell opportunities allows us to potentially leverage this to power to present the user with options to register interest in the company’s products.
I don’t want to teach marketers and Sitecore professionals to suck eggs (as the expression goes) but when we do pure comparisons of Sitecore XP Analytics with other analytical systems, we miss the point that the Analytics provided by Sitecore XP is in the context of leading customers to engage in actions that provide value to the business. This is in contrast to providing ‘vanity numbers’ of the number of people visiting the site and displaying figures which can easily fluctuate with no real gain or loss in value to the business.
It seems to me that at present it’s probably best that I don’t go switching off Google Analytics for the time-being, not least because I would probably get a barrage of emails and phone calls from the analytics expert demanding an explanation as to why the graphs in her Google Analytics dashboard have suddenly flat-lined. However, the plan is that as we progress with Sitecore XP we will get used to appreciating the data in terms of the engagement value that we get from our customers’ interactions and we learn how to better ‘funnel’ our customers towards desirable business outcomes using the predictive tools provided by Sitecore XP. We will also learn how to more of the Sitecore XP features to contribute to the raw data that is analysed and incorporate new ways of collecting behavioural data about users. Once we are able to achieve this then the data provided by Google Analytics will become less useful and less relevant.
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- Sitecore Analytics vs. Google Analytics
- How To Track Content Engagement with Google Analytics
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- Google Analytics Premium