The topic of Web Analytics has come up a couple of times in the last month, so I thought I’d jot down a few notes about it to get you guys all excited about it. Here I go.
First, what is Web Analytics? Much like it sounds, it’s a way to analyze web traffic. There are many 3rd party products that provide this service. In this blog post I’ll be discussing solely the Web Analytics functionality that comes with SharePoint 2010. It is a service application that provides analytical information about your web applications. It provides the same kind of information as the SharePoint 2007 Usage reports. It also gives you insight on how Search is working, or not working. It also gives you inventory information like amount of space used per site collection, and the number of subwebs a site collection or web has. The information is invaluable and it’s free to use as long as you have Search Server or SharePoint server. Unfortunately this is one of the service applications that is not included with SharePoint Foundation. Sorry Foundation users. You’re stuck poring over IIS logs while the cool kids use Web Analytics, sorta like the little sick kid that has to watch out the window as his friends play outside.
How do we get started?
Like I said above, Web Analytics is a service application, so the first thing you have to do is create an instance of it. You can do this in Central Admin > Manage Service Applications > New Web Analytics Service Application or in PowerShell with the New-SPWebAnalyticsServiceApplication cmdlet. This will create the service application. You will have to start the two Web Analytics service instances manually before any of the action will start. When the service application is created it also creates two databases; a staging database and a reporting database. The staging database is used like a temp DB while the Web Analytics service app goes over the information and creates the reports. The reporting database is where the reports are stored. When they are created, they are set to use the Full recovery model. They are good candidates for the Simple recovery model unless you’re doing any kind of mirroring or logging shipping.
At this point the Web Analytics service application is ready to go. Now you just need to use SharePoint a bunch and then wait. You’ll have to wait a day or so for the Web Analytics service application to work its magic before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
After the service app has run for a few days you can go in and start poking around and see what reports are waiting for you. The reports have four scopes; web application, search service application, site collection and web. In the next few sections I’ll go over each scope and show you which reports are available.
The first set of reports we’ll look at are at the web application level. They are accessible in Central Admin under Monitoring > View Web Analytics reports. You must be in the Farm Administrators group to view the reports page. When you get to it you’ll see a list of all the web apps in your farm and some high level metrics like number of page views and unique visitors. Click a web app to get started. You’re taken to the Summary page for that web app, which gives you a quick view of that web app’s metrics. On the left you’ll see the links to the list of reports you can run at this level. It should look like this:
Here are the reports you can get:
|Number of Page Views|
|Number of Daily Unique Visitors|
|Number of Referrers|
|Number of Queries|
|Number of Site Collections|
For all the pages, including the Summary page, don’t forget the Analyze tab in the Ribbon. Each page offers different functionality in there, but it’s all good, so check it out. Here’s what it looks like at the web app level:
The two big advantages obviously are being able to control the date span of the report, and to export that report out to a spreadsheet. This addresses two glaring deficiencies in the usage reporting in SharePoint 2007. The reports were always exactly the last 30 days; no more, no less. There was also no way to get the report out of the web page. I’m sure I’m not the only person that would copy the test of the page and paste it into Excel to actually be able to use the information. Now we can cater the report to the exact range we want AND export it to a spreadsheet and use the data. Sort it. Filter it. Make graphs out of it. Call it Sally, whatever you want.
As we can see, the list of reports is some great information. For instance, I learned the number one referrer to my blog is pipes.yahoo.com, whatever that is. At least it’s not Myspace anymore. Don’t be shy, poke around here and see what’s going on in your web apps.
Some of the most fun with Web Analytics comes at the site collection level. To see these you must have the “View Web Analytics Data” permission in the site collection. To get to them go to Site Actions > Site Settings > Site Collection Web Analytics reports under Site Actions. These reports are similar to the web application reports, but with even more information:
There’s a few new reports at this level. Several are pretty cool. A lot of search settings are scoped at the site collection level and there are reports here to look at that information. For instance, Best Bets are scoped at the site collection and there are four reports here to help you with them; Best Bet Usage, Best Bet Suggestions, Best Bet Suggestions Action History and the most important of all, Failed Queries. That report is huge. As a site collection administrator you should be checking that report weekly, at least for the first couple of months the site collection exists. SharePoint search is amazing and it’s a great way to win your users over with SharePoint. Failed search is frustrating for users. By going in here and adjusting the search experience you can get some easy wins. After you’ve isolated some common search terms you can set up some Best Bets and search synonyms to deal with those searches your users are doing. In preparing for this blog post I followed my own advice and added six search keywords to deal with searches readers had been making. Go ahead, do a search for loopback and see what it gets you. To further help you refine your search experience there’s a link to Search Keywords that doesn’t take you to a report, but to the page where you add your search keywords. They’re serious about this search business.
The Analyze tab is also important at this level. Not only does it allow us to control the dates of the report and export them, it also allows us to sign up for alerts and email reports.
This is a great way to be proactive and keep an eye on your farm. For instance, you can be emailed if your page views exceed a certain number. You can also see storage usage in these reports as well. You can use this to keep track of how much space your site collection is using compared to its quota.
There is also a Web Analytics web part that you can drop onto a page. It’s under the Content Rollup heading. It’s kind of weak.
Under Site Actions > Site Settings there are also web specific Web Analytics reports. These are a subset of the Site Collection reports. Not a lot of new stuff here.
Search Service Application
There are a set of reports for each Search Service Application in your farm. You can find them in Central Admin > Manage Service Apps > Search Service Application > Reports > Web Analytics Reports. Here you’ll find more information about how users are searching and especially what works or what doesn’t work. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to check in on these Search reports from time to time. Users will give up on search pretty quickly if they try it a couple of times and don’t find anything. Google has spoiled us. We’re not very patient with search engines. That’s why you want to stay on top of your users’ search experience.
This was pretty quick, but I hope it’s gotten you a little excited about the Web Analytics that are included with SharePoint 2010. It’s built in, so you might as well give it a shot and see if it gives you the information you need. And if you aren’t looking for any analytics information, I recommend starting this up anyway. It will provide you with great information and if nothing else your boss will be impressed with the graphs. Bosses always love graphs.