Among the new improvements and features that came packaged with SharePoint 2013 is what used to be called the Web Analytics Service. Although technically the Web Analytics Service has been discontinued/deprecated in SharePoint 2013, it has been replaced by what is now called the Analytics Processing Component. The Analytics Processing Component was built from the ground up to better integrate with Search and scale better with large environments.
There are a couple of reasons why the Web Analytics Service was rebuilt in SharePoint 2013. One of the main reasons is that SharePoint now leverages the analytics data to add and improve on features that can benefit from the data. Search relevance directly benefits from this data by promoting items or documents that are more frequently clicked on than others. Another reason is that the Web Analytics Service didn’t scale well with larger farms. In SharePoint 2010, the Web Analytics Service application would run into some problems as the farm and the user base grew. With a lot of clicking and tracking going on in the farm, there would be heavy strain on disk I/O and SQL storage. The Analytics Processing Component has been designed to address this issue.
The analytics architecture in SharePoint 2013 is comprised of 3 main parts: the analytics processing component, the analytics reporting database and the link database. The analytics processing component runs the different analytics jobs. Search analytics jobs that analyzes content that is being crawled and added to the search index and Usage analytics jobs that analyzes user actions/events such as clicks or viewed items. The databases in the architecture store the data generated from the two different analyses. The analytics reporting database stores statistical information such as total number of views on specific documents etc. The link database stores information about searches and crawled content.
Even though under the hood, the Analytics Processing component is completely different from the Web Analytics Service found in SharePoint 2010, the Analytics Processing component encompasses most of what the Web Analytics Service application offered.
New features found in the Search Analytics component
There are a slew of new things that the SharePoint 2013 Analytics Processing Component can do that the old SharePoint 2010 Web Analytics Service couldn’t. SharePoint 2013 can now track hits on specific list items and documents. This data can be seen through a new button “Most Popular Items” in the SharePoint 2013 ribbon.
List/Library analytics data
To enable the “Most Popular Items” button in the ribbon, the “Reporting” feature must be activated at the root site collection. This is found in the site settings page under site collection administration on the option for site collection features.
The analytics data presented on the list/library level can provide an end user with a quick glance at what are some of the more important or relevant documents/items in the list or library. There are three default views for the analytics data presented here. “Most Views”, “Most Views by Unique Users” and “Most Recommendation Clicks”.
Each document in the document library will show to counters, “Recent” and “Ever”. “Recent” shows how many times the particular document has been clicked on or viewed in the past two weeks. “Ever” is the total number of times the document has been viewed since it was uploaded to SharePoint. Additionally, each document has a “Popularity Trends” report which is presented via excel format.
The “Popularity Trends” report for individual items shows how many hits or views the document has and presents the data through a “Daily” and “Monthly” graph.
Site analytics data
Analytics data is also available per “Site” in SharePoint 2013 in much the same way it was available via the “Web Analytics Service” in SharePoint 2010. Under Site Administration for a site, you will now see a “Popularity Trends” option.
Again, the data is now presented via excel as opposed to the static page that SharePoint 2010 used to have. Data is displayed via graphs for daily and monthly hits for the particular site.
Site Collection Analytics data
Just as in SharePoint 2010’s Web Analytics Service, analytics data is also available for an entire site collection. This includes hits for all the sub-sites in the site collection. Under Site Collection Administration, there is an option for “Popularity and Search Reports”. The reports found under this section include the number of hits for the entire site collection as well as search analytics data for search queries made within the site collection.
Central Admin Analytics data
Analytics data can also be found in central admin through the search administration page. The option “Usage Reports” will direct you to a number of search analytics reports such as top queries of the day or month. These reports were intended to help search administrators determine which manual steps they can take to improve the search system.
Above is an example excel report of the “top queries by day”. The data is simple and straightforward. SharePoint logs each search query made and displays them in descending order. Other reports available in central admin include “Top Queries by Month”, “Abandoned Queries”, “No Result Queries”, “Query Rule Usage” and the “Number of Queries” report that shows the total number of all search queries made.
SharePoint Analytics Processing component limitations
SharePoint analytics definitely has a lot more useful information in 2013 but there are still a lot of things it can’t do. Even though SharePoint can track hits to individual items, it does so anonymously. SharePoint does not track and store exactly who views each site, page or document. This fact alone limits a lot of the functionality that SharePoint analytics can offer compared to fully featured 3rd party web analytics software. SharePoint analytics can tell you that a specific site has for example, 100 hits per day. A fully featured 3rd party web analytics software can go further and tell you that 80 of those 100 hits come from a specific department or group of users. There are many more features that are pretty much standard in 3rd party web analytics solutions that you simply don’t have in SharePoint Analytics. User centric data such as the IP address or username, clicks to external website links and the total time each user has spent on specific pages are some of the features SharePoint Analytics doesn’t provide just to name a few. Some 3rd party web analytics software can even provide real time analytics data. SharePoint on the other hand relies on scheduled jobs and Search crawls to update analytics data.
Above we can see an example of a 3rd party analytics software dashboard. The dashboard is meant to give administrators an at-a-glance view of information they would want to monitor in real time and is a standard feature in most of the 3rd party software you will find. SharePoint’s lack of a dashboard for analytics implies that SharePoint 2013 analytics was not really intended or designed to be used for monitoring purposes.
Although there are many features that SharePoint analytics 2013 offers compared to SharePoint 2010, there are however a couple of things that are no longer available. The web analytics report that shows the total number of page views, daily unique visitors and total number of search queries per web application as seen above is no longer available.
Despite the fact that there are many improvements to Analytics processing in SharePoint 2013 and the usage reports/Popularity Trends have now become much more useful, SharePoint 2013 analytics still lacks a range of features and is not a replacement for full featured web analytics software. It simply wasn’t designed to be. As mentioned earlier, SharePoint analytics was designed from the ground up to better integrate and use the analytics data in the Search service and scale with large environments better than it used to. SharePoint analytics can still be used to get a somewhat rough idea of the activity within sites and site collections. If you need more information than that, then you would need to look at 3rd party web analytics.