In this blog post, I want to explore some quick comparisons between Sitecore Experience Analytics and Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Why? There are other good articles out there that cover the differences and how the platforms complement each other (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3). But there is not much I can find that deals with GA4 specifically. And with the rapid and widespread shift to GA4 (by July this year), I’m interested in understanding how similar, or at least consistent, the two platforms are in how they measure website activity.
This is important because in the current age of martech proliferation and with the increasing challenge of data management, digital marketers want to know the best combination and stack of tools to power their data-driven marketing.
To lay my cards on the table upfront, even if all the metrics aligned perfectly across both platforms, there would still be good reasons for Sitecore uses to use Experience Analytics, as well as GA4. The bottom line is that the primary strength of Sitecore Experience Analytics is that the data is directly actionable within the platform, and used to power marketing optimisation activity. Whilst GA4 is ideally also actionable, this is usually through a manual process of deriving insights from the data that is then used to inform marketing activities, independently of the analytics platform itself (Google does offer a limited range of direct data integrations with it’s other marketing platform products, such as Google Ads, Optimize etc). Google Analytics is also more broadly accessible, customisable and extensible, and generally integrated into business reporting already.
For this exploration, I will be comparing 3 weeks of data from a Sitecore website using Experience Analytics and GA4. I have matched Sitecore goals with GA4 conversion events. For each of the conversion events, I have added an event value equal to the corresponding Sitecore goal value.
There is no direct comparison metric. Comparing Visits with Engaged sessions gives us a 14% variance. An engaged session is “a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews”.
|Sitecore analytics||Bounce rate||65%|
In GA4, bounce rate is the difference between engaged sessions and total sessions. Given that engaged sessions, as described above, is a broader and more comprehensive measure of site engagement, the GA4 metric is probably a better indicator of actual bounces. For example, if a visitor comes from a Google search query and lands deep on a page in your site and spends 3mins reading the page, and then leaves, Sitecore would still count this as a bounce (a single page visit). GA4, however, will still count single-page visits as an engaged session, as long as they are longer than 10 seconds.
|Sitecore analytics||Mobile visits||66%|
I don’t know what I was expecting, but good to know these metrics match.
|Sitecore analytics||Online/Organic Search||63%|
|GA4||Default Channel Group/Organic search||62%|
Sitecore only has two categories of online channel: Organic and Direct, whereas Google has many (e.g. Direct, Referral, Paid, Social). So I was surprised to see how close these metrics are.
|Sitecore analytics||Conversion rate||45%|
|GA4||User conversion rate||43%|
Note that as mentioned above, in order to create an accurate comparison, all Sitecore Goals have been matched with GA4 event conversions. Again, given the expected differences between the two platforms, I was surprised with this very similar result!
Comparisons between other general web analytics are also favourable. For example, both platforms record virtually the same top 20 referring sites, in the same order, albeit with some differences in visit values.
It is generally accepted that two areas where Sitecore Experience Analytics differs from GA is engagement value scoring and pattern matching analytics. In a future blog post, I want to explore specifically the differences and how GA4 can be used to also surface this kind of super useful marketing intelligence data.