Google Analytics & Sitecore Analytics - rival products or complimentary services?

Author: Tom Sealey, Digital Strategist

Technically, both. First and foremost, they are rival products; they offer very similar services and compete directly for market share, but as an end user it is important not to think of these services as 'one or the other'. The true value lies in understanding how to use features of each tool to make the most of your data.

One of the most common concerns from our clients when selecting Sitecore as their Experience Platform is the notion of having to fully transition from their existing, fully implemented Google Analytics account over to Sitecore’s integrated analytics solution. Throughout this article, we address some of the more common questions we hear around this topic.

Should I transition over to Sitecore Analytics, or stay with my current Google Analytics account?

In short, we always suggest that our clients use both analytics solutions in conjunction, as each has advantages over the other. Google Analytics has been a big player in the Website Analytics game for a long time now, and with experience comes a very robust and user tested functionality which is built to cater to a wide array of business needs, as well as very in-depth filtering and segmentation capabilities which aid heavily in ad hoc data inspection. Where Sitecore Analytics exceeds Google Analytics is in its granular, enriched user data and its capabilities when analysing content, personalisation, user paths, and even A/B testing.

The following table breaks down some of the key components of each analytics tool, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Data Capture

Measure Sitecore Analytics Google Analytics
Real Time Data winner
Sitecore Analytics has the upper hand here due to the tightly knit integration with the CMS, meaning all data is captured in real time.
Granularity winner
This is where Sitecore is really able to stretch its analytical legs, its ability to capture highly granular, user specific data straight ‘out of the box’ places it miles ahead of Google Analytics on granularity.
Session Unification winner
Although user session unification is technically possible within Google Analytics, it requires additional setup and know-how to do so. Sitecore on the other hand has this capability ‘out of the box’, making the unification of user sessions much easier.
Channels - -
Both analytics tools are as adept as each other in collecting channel data. There is very little to tell the two tools apart in this respect.
Promotional Data winner
When it comes to the collection of promotional data and their respective spends, Google Analytics benefits greatly from its direct integration with Adwords, the most commonly used paid search tool worldwide. This alone places it ahead of Sitecore in its ability to track promotions. This, however, is not to say that Sitecore analytics cannot be integrated with Adwords with a little effort.

Analysis

Measure Sitecore Analytics Google Analytics
Visitors winner
Sitecores Analytics granularity gives it the edge when analysing visitors. The ability to drill down to individual user level when investigating visitor behaviour can provide great additional value.
Conversions - -
This is where Sitecore is really able to stretch its analytical legs, its ability to capture highly granular, user specific data straight ‘out of the box’ places it miles ahead of Google Analytics on granularity.
Session Unification winner
Both tools provide conversion tracking capabilities. In both cases, the user is required to set up goals manually and the capabilities are very comparable.
Attribution winner
We give Google Analytics the edge here as it is better prepared ‘out of the box’. Sitecore Analytics has all the same capabilities but requires some input from marketeers to categorise the data into the correct channels, campaigns, etc.
PA/B Testing winner
Although A/B testing can be monitored and measured using Google Analytics, Sitecore Analytics boasts the added advantage of having A/B testing tightly integrated within the experience platform, allowing additional functionalities such as automated testing and ‘winner’ selection, in which test scenarios can be instantly published to all users if thresholds are met.

Reporting

Measure Sitecore Analytics Google Analytics
Basics winner
Google Analytics boasts a much wider range of reports and views ‘out of the box’. Not all of these views are necessarily that helpful or useful to the end user, but most basic queries can be answered using one report or another.
Customisation winner
Sitecore Analytics boasts a greater ability to customise dashboards through the user interface, but also allows users to integrate custom-developed capabilities directly into their dashboards. Google Analytics, on the other hand, restricts report customisation, meaning data often needs to be exported into a 3rd party tool.
Drill Down winner
Both tools provide the capabilities to drill down through the data during analysis. In this instance, Sitecore Analytics out performs its Google rival due to the greater granularity of the data.

Setup

Measure Sitecore Analytics Google Analytics
Implementation Effort winner
Google Analytics takes very little effort to implement and offers immediate returns, with data collection beginning the moment tags have been implemented on the site. Sitecore Analytics takes a greater deal of time and effort to implement, but the results can be much more powerful if properly configured.
Time to Value winner
SDue to the ease of implementation and the immediate returns, it’s fair to say that Google Analytics has a much shorter time to value. To gain proper insights from Sitecore Analytics and harness its full potential, additional configuration and customisation are required.

Clearly, from the table above, Sitecore Analytics harnesses the power to drill down and better understand your data on a user-specific level. This level of granularity can prove invaluable when venturing down the route of personalisation, remarketing and more. However, Google Analytics with its much simpler, user-friendly interface is not to be ignored, if not only for the wealth of online community support and the availability of experienced analysts available.

Why should I continue to use Google Analytics if I begin using Sitecore’s Analytics solution?

There are several reasons to continue using Google Analytics in conjunction with Sitecore Analytics (many of which have been briefly touched upon in the table above):

  1. You already have a wealth of historical data in your Google Analytics account
  2. Google Analytics is best poised to analyse you Adwords data
  3. Many of the reports you currently use in Google Analytics may not yet be available in Sitecore Analytics

By identifying which reports work best for each purpose, you can maximise the effectiveness of your analytics; drawing as much insight as possible and better understanding your users.

Can the two tools work hand in hand?

Often clients express their hesitance in operating on two separate platforms, and for good reasons. There is almost always a slight discrepancy between any two data sources as they often collect data in different ways, and assign different rules to their metrics.

To avoid this, there is a very interesting concept which involves pushing data from one analytics platform to the other, and it works both ways.

Google Analytics, with its flexible API, is capable of integration with Sitecore’s backend system, meaning all your favorite reports can be regurgitated into one analytics suite – this solution addresses one of the issues noted above, but is not one for the novice analyst.

Sitecore Analytics’ strengths lie in the ability to profile and categorise users based on their interactions with specific pieces of content or pages across the site. The profile that is built up can then be pushed to GA via a custom variable, allowing you to integrate user profiles into some of Google Analytics’ strengths, such as the Adwords reports.

About Indivirtual

Indivirtual are a Dubai based Digital Agency. We are proud to work with some of the largest and most prestigious companies in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.

As a Sitecore Gold Implementation Partner, Indivirtual can help you to make sure you get the best out of Sitecore CMS, and the Sitecore Experience Platform.

As a full service digital agency, Indivirtual offer Sitecore consultancy, strategic planning, UX and creative design, maintenance, migration, support, training and analytics analysis.