Microsoft SharePoint is a popular document management & intranet solution, used by thousands of companies to share information among employees and customers.
At a basic level, SharePoint is a web-based application that sits on top of IIS. If you want to see how users interact with your SharePoint sites, you can use web analytics software to generate usage reports for your SharePoint environment.
Many organizations use Google Analytics to track SharePoint usage. Here are some reasons why this isn’t a good idea:
1) Google Analytics Is a Marketing Analysis Tool
When Google Analytics launched in 2005, it was a traditional web analytics solution. But over the years the product has become focused on advertiser-specific features, like remarketing, AdWords / DoubleClick / Display Network integration, attribution, and advertiser ROI. It makes sense strategically – the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from delivering ads, and Google Analytics provides reporting for advertisers.
If marketing isn’t a concern and you’re only looking to track usage of your SharePoint websites, Google Analytics is the wrong tool for the job.
2) Google Analytics Doesn’t “See” Document Downloads
Most SharePoint environments allow users to access documents directly from within an application, and you can’t embed GA tracking code in a document. This means when a document is opened directly from the application, Google Analytics isn’t able to show you the document has been accessed.
3) Data Security
Depending on your company’s industry and the sensitivity of data stored in SharePoint, data security is usually a primary concern or an afterthought.
If data security is a concern, Google Analytics stores the full location (hostname and path) of the content stored by SharePoint.
4) No PII (Personally Identifiable Information)
One of the more useful features of using web analytics with SharePoint is the ability to see a list of usernames who accessed a page or downloaded a document.
Google Analytics doesn’t allow you to store PII: PII includes usernames, IP addresses, or anything that would enable you to identify the user. This means you aren’t allowed to store usernames in Google Analytics, and you won’t be able to see the list of users who downloaded a document.
5) Data Sampling
High traffic websites are subject to data sampling in Google Analytics. Sampled reports give you a general idea of the activity on your website, but the results aren’t 100% accurate.
6) No Broken Links or Site Errors
Page errors can occur with broken links, unauthorized content, bad redirects, and many other issues. Out-of-the-box, Google Analytics isn’t able to tell you about these website errors because the tracking code doesn’t “see” them.
An Alternative to Google Analytics
Angelfish Software provides web analytics for more than 25,000 websites and web-based applications. Our SharePoint customers love Angelfish’s clean design and detailed usage reports, and that you can use Angelfish to track SharePoint on-premises AND SharePoint Online.
Learn more about Angelfish web analytics for SharePoint here:
Google Analytics is the most popular analytics solution globally, used by millions of websites. Even though it’s an effective solution for external websites, Google Analytics is NOT a good choice for Intranet websites.
Google Analytics Isn’t Designed for Intranets
Google Analytics is an advertising tracking platform, targeted towards marketers and advertisers. Most of the new features released in the last few years are not relevant for Intranet websites, like Remarketing, AdWords linking improvements, and DoubleClick integration.
This wasn’t always the case: early versions of Google Analytics were more Intranet-friendly. But as Google Analytics has grown, the product has become more aligned with advertisers’ requirements and less Intranet-friendly.
Poor Document Tracking
But there’s a bigger problem: if someone accesses a document via a direct URL, Google Analytics won’t “see” the document has been accessed. Intranet environments commonly have direct URLs to documents embedded in both websites AND applications, which means Google Analytics isn’t able to provide an accurate count of document access.
When considering data privacy, the two areas worth mentioning are the Google Analytics ToS (Terms of Service), and the data laws enforced by your Country.
Firstly, the Google Analytics ToS forbids you from storing any PII (Personally Identifiable Information) within Google Analytics. This includes usernames, IP addresses, email addresses, or anything that would allow you to identify an individual.
Secondly, Google Analytics’ report data is stored in Google’s cloud, and some countries have stringent limits on the types of data that can be stored in a cloud environment. Again, these laws vary by country – it’s a good idea to verify the data privacy laws enforced by your country (and industry).
These regulations interfere with your ability to see how employees are using your Intranet sites. For example: if you want to see a basic list of employees that viewed your Intranet website in the past month, you won’t be able to use Google Analytics to create the list!
Google Analytics tracking requests contain a wealth of information, like server names, IP addresses, file paths, and more. This information is sent to Google’s data collection servers each time a page is viewed. If this information is intercepted by a would-be attacker, s/he knows exactly where to find your servers and documents. This is a major security concern for Intranet sites that contain sensitive data.
Google Analytics stores data in datacenters all over the world. When your data is stored outside your network in another company’s cloud, you no longer control access to the data.
There are many reasons a web page might not load successfully; examples are broken links, bad redirects, and unauthorized content. Google Analytics isn’t able to tell you about any of these website errors.
Angelfish Software is Ideal for Intranets
If you’re looking for a secure web analytics solution for your Intranet environment, Angelfish Software deserves your consideration.
Learn more about using Angelfish for your Intranet here:
In January of 2012, Google announced development of Urchin Software would be discontinued. We were disappointed to say the least, although we can’t say we’re overly surprised. Google’s focus on Urchin dwindled in 2011, coinciding with the launch of a paid version of Google Analytics.
We’ve been contacted by a variety of customers ever since – the most popular questions and answers are below. Feel free to contact us if you’d like us to clarify anything further.
It’s no surprise that Google Analytics is used by a staggering number of websites around the world. Google Analytics has lots of advanced reports, looks great, and it’s free. But for all the features Google Analytics has, it doesn’t give a complete snapshot of website activity.
Web analytics software companies are still touting their (recent) ability to segment mobile traffic in reports. This is important primarily because people using mobile devices interact with sites differently than people using more conventional machines.
With iPads and competing tablets entering the scene, the terrain becomes a bit more complex. It raises important new questions for the web analytics industry and companies who rely on it.