Are SharePoint Web Analytics Good Enough?

I’m a geek when it comes to analytics. On my own SharePoint blog I currently use google analytics. Sad. Sorry to say… I’d use a Bing equivalent if there were one. The SharePoint analytics are great around very specific areas, but are lacking in others, but do have logging where you can build your own reports. Is it worth it? I say… on your own blog it’s no big deal to go with a free one, but if you’re serious there are now a rich ecosystem of third party web analytic solutions.

The best writeup on out of the box analytics is from Ryan Duguid from the SharePoint Marketing team. He does a good job selling it. In my mind it’s lacking for serious analytics, and you wouldn’t get an argument from Microsoft. They realize that. They as well would tell you there’s a rich ecosystem here. Good enough? Not for most. Not even enough for what I want on my blog. J

Web Analytics in SharePoint 2010: Insights into Reports and Metrics

Here are the top of mind things I’d say you need a third party web analytics solution for:

  1. Mapping out your users where they are coming from (Locations, Regions, Countries, Languages, ISPs, Domains)
  2. Farm wide analytics (without development) – I personally want to know the real counts, not just on the portal, but across all web apps, so I can see how my authenticated users, visits and sessions are increasing over time. I’m also interested in much more detailed statistics around session length and I ultimately want bits and bytes. How much content is being transferred? When focusing exclusively on webs and site collections, I’m missing out on being able to get all up numbers. I’m also really missing out on trends with how my enterprise is changing over time.
  3. Authenticated Users count – I really like being able to determine who exactly is using it, who are these top users and then drilling in on what they are doing in their sessions. Often it is a crawler, and then I want to ignore them, or find out if it’s all web services or what are they doing. The more I can dig in on sessions the better I can understand what are these long running sessions.
  4. Devices and OS – Mobile Device type. You want to know how many IOS iPad vs. iPhone vs. Windows Phone 7. You won’t get this out of the box. You’ll also find that Chrome isn’t well represented and if it the browser didn’t exist at the time SharePoint 2010 shipped, it may not be listed. I’m noticing the unknown is getting larger and larger in the browser.
  5. Fulfilment – if you want to see what path your users are following through the site, you’ll find it lacking.
  6. Top documents, sites, pages – while you may get top sites in a site collection or top destinations on a portal you’ll definitely find the product lacking.
  7. How is the product being used? – You’ll very likely end up writing your own reports on gathering how many databases you have, how many site collections, how many unique owners, and on and on about details about file types used, and site template types used
  8. Enterprise rollups – you may want to pull all the logs or all the data together to see how search is being used and what people are doing with it.

 

What SharePoint Analytics does ok…

I’m not saying SharePoint does everything you’ll need, but I think you will find that these reports are useful. I prefer to get weekly excel reports of what queries are happening, and how my best bets are being handled. I do get frustrated with the large number of user searches that clog up my best bet recommendations. I’d like to say don’t recommend person.aspx ever… simply turn it off and stop recommending it for any searches. I can put the a list of executives and so on in by hand, but .

  1. Search Keywords Usage (Note there are differences between SharePoint Keywords and FAST keywords)
  2. Best Bet Usage Reports (FAST has separate reports, with more functionality)
  3. Top Queries
  4. Failed Queries
  5. Health logging and reporting – there is a lot of in the box health analytics that is not going to be found in external third parties. This also is not something in the IIS logs, so it should be seen as separate.

Essentially there are 3 categories you’ll find and beyond these areas is where you’ll find the edges. There is some custom reporting, but it often involves more work that it’s worth for what you might get off the shelf as canned reports else where. You need to decide how much it’s worth both in collecting and building vs. buying something off the shelf.

  • Traffic reports: These reports provide metrics such as:
    • How much traffic your site gets (Number of Page Views);
    • Who visits your sites (Top Visitors);
    • How visitors arrive at your site (Top Referrers);
    • Daily Unique Visitors, Top Destinations, Top Browsers, etc;
  • Search reports: These reports give you insight into what users are searching for, for example:
    • How many times users searched (Number of Queries);
    • What were the most used search terms (Top Queries);
    • What queries have high failure rates (Failed Queries);
    • Best Bet Usage, Search keywords, etc;
  • Inventory reports: These reports display key metrics regarding the inventory of your sites:
    • What is the total disk drive space user (Storage Usage);
    • How many sites exist (Number of Sites);
    • Top Site Product Versions, Top Site Languages, etc;


 

No matter what solution you choose, you’ll likely still use some of the reports that are in the box. One of the biggest limitations in the SharePoint Usage Analytics is your ability to build reports that can easily be shared with polished looks. There’s a lot of online pagination. I can’t see all authenticated users on a single report as an example. I can’t even get that report in excel. If you want repots in Word, PDF, and nicely polished reports with great charts and graphs you’ll definitely be looking for more than what you find in the box.

 

If you’re looking beyond SharePoint Web Analytics, which isn’t really a stretch, there are some things to consider in your third party choices.

  1. Do you need real time metrics?
  2. Do you want the analytics happening in place or on separate infrastructure?
  3. Are you more comfortable adding a javascript bot (snippet of code) in the masterpage?
  4. Do you need SharePoint specific analytics or are you simply interested in web analytics that you’d get from generic log analyzers?
  5. How well do you need to understand your audience?
  6. Is commerce and path and decisions important in your metrics? There is a big difference in your purchase here.
  7. Are you interested in a vendor with SharePoint expertise?
  8. Is this tool designed for Intranets or Internet sites?
  9. Will it support your SharePoint Upgrade? Is the company already thinking about v next?
  10. Are the reports just in the browser or do you have various formats for those who will want to see them on a regular basis in email, PDFs, word, excel for munging, etc…

 

In your pursuits at looking at looking at third party solutions you’ll find different types of solutions. Some will analyze your IIS logs, those I’d consider the basic type of analytics solutions. The more engaging ones have “bots” that will be able to give you more real time results. With SharePoint you’re likely going to want to know what’s going on with your data, so there may be solutions that even get more integrated than a simple bot. Not all solutions are created equal.

Vendor Solution

Check out Intlock’s CardioLog 2010 – SharePoint vendor Web Analytics and Usage Reporting Solution. They sponsored this blog. They didn’t tell me what to write, just dug into my thoughts on it. I do plan to do a product review on Intlock’s solution, so we can find out just what type of reports, problems they are solving, and so on. Anxious to hear your feedback and experiences in this world of analytics. You get an idea of what the SharePoint Analytics have vs. Intlock and other solutions by looking at their comparison report.

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