Measuring Sitecore Personalization Directly with Google Analytics

Efficiently align Personalization with Custom Google Analytics Reporting in Your Digital Practice

January 20, 2021 | Mara Low

Illustration - Personalization PuzzleAligning With GA?

Sitecore provides tools to measure personalization success based around its own reporting and concept of Engagement Value. Without going into the pros and cons of those developing features, an inarguable consideration is that Sitecore Analytics and related subsystems are not flexible or robust enough to support a complete professional-grade analytics practice (at least as of today). For those who already have an analytics practice, it is often centered on the Google suite—which raises the question, is there an efficient, integrated way to assess Sitecore personalization impacts in Google Analytics (GA)?

Measuring Value in Personalization Activities

Understanding how personalization models, segments, targeting, and content strategies are performing in relation to established key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics is the key to a successful, advanced personalization practice. Digital teams need this continuous feedback and optimization loop to get the most value out of personalization, particularly under increasing demands to demonstrate the value and return on investment (ROI) of personalization to justify resource needs and to maximize digital spend.

While many platforms, such as Sitecore, offer built-in tools for tracking and measuring the success of personalization, your personalization activities need to be viewed in a wider (and richer) analytics environment. We find that it is often necessary to extend these capabilities with third-party tool sets to get to important insights.

TBG did just this when creating a new, easily reusable solution that extends Sitecore capabilities using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. Our solution allows you to:

  • Easily track and measure the impact of your personalized content and create personalization segments in Google Analytics with minimal, one-time custom Sitecore development.
  • Enable tracking on the personalized content items using a simple check box.
  • Understand which personalized content is getting seen, where and how often. 
  • Identify visit behaviors, interactions, and conversions for segments of website visitors who see personalized content.
  • Track and compare interactions with personalized components.
  • Easily enable personalization tracking with a simple check box control and a standard naming convention for content items.

The Integration

To get clear data about personalized interactions into Google Analytics, we added an inherited checkbox field on the data template for each component that allows Sitecore content editors to “enable personalization tracking” on personalization alternate content items.

The checkbox is easily accessible for personalized content items in both Content Editor and Experience Editor.

Data Template Checkbox

Enable Personalization Tracking

When a personalized content item is rendered on a page with personalization tracking enabled, Sitecore automatically generates and includes a custom ID in the HTML that can be parsed by Google Tag Manager to trigger a personalization event in Google Analytics. This shifts the activity of setup and reporting into Google Analytics, where these personalized events can be identified and associated with any other reporting or data points.

For usability, we recommend using a standardized naming format for content items that includes both the segment and component name information for the personalized content item name to allow for easy filtering and segmentation of data in Google Analytics.

Through custom scripting in Google Tag Manager, we are able to parse information passed via the ID to generate highly useful reports and segments in Google Analytics.

Reports Google Analytics Report

Event Action

The “Event Action” shows the pages where personalized content is seen.

And the Event Label displays the name of the content item. We also include the Sitecore Item ID to ensure that content items are differentiated in Google Analytics, in the event that a content editor gives the same name to multiple items.

Event Label

Assessing Personalization Value in GA

Once the data is in Google Analytics, we are also able to create segments for users who have seen personalization and compare their behavior and interactions to all site users and between different personalization segments. Now, we also can create custom dashboards to streamline tracking, analysis, and reporting of how your in-market personalization strategies and segments are performing.

Conditions Dashboard

For example, we can see that the new, personalized Johns Hopkins Health experience has resulted in more conversions and deeper engagement with the site, as evidenced by significantly higher conversion rate, more pages per session, and greater time on the site.

JHM Goal Completions Overview

JHM Sessions Overview

Centralized Universal Analytics Matter—and Personalization Should Not Be Excluded!

Ongoing measurement, experimentation, and refinement of personalization initiatives ensures that your strategies are meeting the ever-evolving needs of your customers and driving the most value possible for your organization. Analytics are just one way to gain insight into how your personalization and segments are performing. At TBG, we can also help you design and execute personalization A/B tests, qualitative surveys and more.

TBG are experts in all things personalization, large web ecosystem design, and digital operations. We provide panoramic services to help mid- to large-size organizations start or scale a personalization practice to get great results. We can train via pilot projects, manage the whole process, or we can plug in to your existing digital team to handle part of the picture (strategy, platform selection, execution, maintenance, etc.). You’ll find we are unusually substantive and easy to work with. Contact us to learn more about TBG's personalization services.

About the Author

Mara Low

I am the Manager of Digital Strategy & Optimization with TBG. When I’m not crafting user experiences, you’ll  likely find me fire hula hooping, hiking, or creating up-cycled art.

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