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Google Analytics vs Sitecore Analytics

05.02.2019

At Ratio we are lucky enough to have a strong pedigree in both Sitecore and Analytics products. If you’re reading this article, you probably also use Sitecore as your CMS as well as a third party Analytics product too, or will soon. A question we get asked a lot by our customers is how these products should optimally fit together in their martech ecosystem. "Should we use both? Just GA? Can they be integrated?" 

This article is the first in a series which will help to answer those questions.  

So what are the relative strengths of each platform? Which parts are complimentary?

Lets start with Sitecores strengths as well as unique knowledge it has about your website and users:

Sitecore tracking is “Server side” and could be more accurate than GA 
Adblock usage is on the rise world wide as is the adoption of products like Ghostery. Browsers are starting to introduce this functionalality in a native way, like Firefox with "Do not track". The implication of these shifts in behaviour and technology capability is that traditional web analytics products – relying upon the ability to execute Javascript – are measuring and reporting on the behaviour of far less than 100% of your website users. While Sitecore does rely upon a cookie to identify a user across pages and sessions, it is unaffected by users blocking javascript. The result? More accurate numbers. 

Sitecore can allocate users to sophisticated Personas 
Sitecore can dynamically move users between Personas based on the strength of their engagement with a particular type of content. The closest this could be replicated within Analytics products would be Segmentation, but segments lack the benefit of being dynamic and (without a lot of thinking) will not really be about the strength of engagement, just whether the user engaged at all. If you sell Cars and Motorbikes and a user saw both types of content but saw the Motorbike content 10 times more, would you want to include them in your "Car buyer" persona? It's very difficult to prevent this from happening using Segmentation alone. 

Sitecore is the source of truth for your content – it’s your CMS! 
Sitecore knows a lot that GA does not about your content. What taxonomy does it fit under? Who was the author? How many words is it? All of this context is invisible to GA without some form of integration, and yet is very valuable in assessing the performance of that content. 

Sitecore can deal in named individuals 
Sitecore can provide reporting on the journey of specific individuals. What goals were triggered, content was seen, personas were allocated and etc. This is incredibly important Business Intelligence in organisations that rely upon person to person relationships to sell. Third party Analytics products, conversely, are geared towards providing information about "Segments" of your audience, information which is less helpful when your sales person meets their client over coffee. 

Sitecore can calculate an Engagement Value score 
This is a very nuanced way of evaluating the engagement levels of the 97.5% of your users that don’t convert. This engagement value can be allocated based on achievement of on site goals like brochure downloads, CTA clicks and more. But, it can also be allocated using automation plans. An example of using Engagement value is a law firm we’ve worked with. They wanted to allocate more engagement value to a people profile view that came after viewing a specialism page; and less to a user who went directly to a people profile from the Homepage - clearly in this scenario, the website didn't play as strong a role in driving the successful outcome.

Sitecore is probably already your testing and personalisation tool 
It’s the source of truth about who saw what experience. Unless you’re testing two entirely different pages against each other (each with a different URL) or have already attempted some form of integration, GA will know none of this. 


And what’s so special about Google Analytics?

Its already your marketing source of truth  
You’re probably already using it to report on the success of marketing campaigns and pages. You should consider that one source of truth means any comparisons you're making between activities will be on a "like for like" basis. This means better decision making. 

You have organisational competencies 
There are not many markateers out there who have an extensive knowledge of Sitecore Analytics, within your organisation or outside of it. This is an important consideration – what platform can people actually use competently? However much I advocate for data and evidence based decision making, the reality is it's a battle to get this culture adopted in many organisations. Moving to a technology users have no familiarity with is additional friction which will make that even harder.  

Google Analytics has an amazing ability to slice and dice - “Segments”
I simply cannot overstate how important this functionality is in Google & Adobe Analytics. Almost on its own this feature means that GA should be your source of truth. Segments can allow you to perform incredibly sophisticated analysis of the behaviour of users on your website – but Sitecore has no way to replicate this functionality out of the box. Segments are pretty much the main way that insights can be extracted from your web analytics data.

Integrations, Integrations, Integrations 
Google Analytics has native integrations with the rest of the Google marketing ecosystem. For example, you can already understand on a keyword by keyword basis how your adwords traffic performs when it hits your website. This is not going to be possible in Sitecore Analytics.

UTM parameters are a much easier way to identify traffic than Campaign codes
UTM parameters can be created on the fly. That makes it very simple for marketeers to identify the source of the website traffic they are sending. Conversely, Sitecore requires the creation of “Campaigns” in advance of the activity occurring, then the generated parameter needs to be added to the destination URL of the marketing activity before it launches. This is quite an inefficient process. 

Marketing attribution
In most organisations, users don't arrive on your website and decide to buy immediately. Their journeys take multiple visits from varying channels, each of which plays a role in a different way. GA has attribution modelling that can help you allocate credit for conversions based on a holistic understanding of the users journey. 

As should be pretty clear, both of these Platforms have features and context that can help you optimise your marketing efforts.

In the next blog post, I’ll explore how to integrate the two platforms so that you can have a “Best of breed” approach.