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Author: Jonathan Stuckey

Getting some basic analytics from SharePoint

SharePoint's ease-of-use for publishing is often its downfall

As a page author we often want to find out about how impactful our content or story has been, and in all good (modern) content management solutions you have source of page-analytics or tools which help. Nearly all platforms offer some statistics, but most platforms support Google SEO or Analytics plug-in options too.

Creating good content is about being able to deliver useful, engaging content for users. If we don't know how it's been viewed, what user did next etc it's difficult to refine and improve what we (as authors) do.

Well, what about SharePoint Online?

Microsoft has been known to provide crippled features and functionality and its analytics data reporting and tracing has been no exception. Over the last 10-years Microsoft has worked (very slowly) to replace the extensive infrastructure and tooling we had available in the Classic platform. To day the page owner/editing is served with very basic stats and tracking for limited period. This reporting and presentation is site and page specific, with no (out-of-the-box) aggregation or roll-up across site-collections or Hub(s).

What the page editor can easily see are basic stats for numbers of views, likes and comments - presented like this:

Summary statistic dashboard showing page access
Example of the page (and site) analytics summary on SharePoint Online

To see stats on a specific page – go to the page (e.g. a news article) and click on “Analytics” button on top in the editors toolbar:

SharePoint publishing page viewed by Editor role
Where to find the Analytics data on published page.

note: it can take a few seconds before this is visible

but default setup does not tell you “Who” opened the document or page only the quantity or volume. If you want to know who looked - which unique users reviewed the content, then you need to enable feature in the background called "Site Viewers".

Pre-requisite configuration by site administrator

For users (content authors and intranet administrators) to be able to get more information the page statistics, the site-collection administrator (or SharePoint tenancy admin) will need to enable SharePoint Viewers feature.

There are plenty of "now-click-here" type articles for this knocking around, but I didn't find any that tell you why you use this feature, and what it does not cover. In stereo-typical Microsoft technology fashion they only tell you how to enable it. Assuming you know how to managed SharePoint you merely:

  • Navigate to the site/site-collection

  • Click Settings

  • Select 'Site Contents'

  • In 'Site Settings'

  • Click-on Site Actions > Manage site features

  • Enable “SharePoint Viewers” feature

Then what?

Well, all this does is enabled the audit and history service to reveal the additional information within libraries on the selected site.

That's right - only the 1 site, and only on items within a library. There's no site-collection, hub or tenancy-wide analytic details.

The Site | Hub analytics equivalent still only provides summary, along the lines of the image at the top of the article. If you want tenancy-wide, or hub and associate-hub site trends and details - you need to either:

  1. buy a plugin or publishing module to deploy into SharePoint Online, or

  2. hire a developer to crack-open AppInsights and PowerBI to create you a dashboard, or

  3. hire a developer to crack the site page templates and inject Google Analytics or SEO tooling

All of these options having additional costs, risks and effort involved. If you are smaller organisation and can't afford to maintain an extensive Communications team and | or platform developer, then I would suggest a 3rd party plugin, if you are desperate for internal data.

Alternatively, just maintain a view over data exposed from the primary site you use for corporate News and/critical announcements.

What does the feature actually provide?

Well here's the thing - if you are a page editor, or site administrator - you can get 1-extra piece of data on your analytics - when you click on the Views (or Likes and Comments)

Site Pages library with SharePoint page highlighted
SharePoint page details pane highlighting statistical data

Select a page (don't open it) and open the details pane. Now you can see the itemised Views, Likes and Comments. Click on Views and you have the rolling weekly viewer figures and a list of user IDs of the people who opened it...

SharePoint file statistics pane on page in the SitePages library
Additional statistical data available on page once feature enabled

That's it. No - "how long were they on the page for?", or "who clicked or followed a link?", "no returns" etc. Its marginally useful if you are a very-small organisation. For everyone else - it is another reminder that SharePoint Online provides on the equivalent of the starter-kit for novices and enthusiasts - not a full-blown content management solution *without a lot of additional effort*.

Want to know what we know? Give us a call!

If you want the best experience for your users, you need to know some of the tricks-of-the-trade and all the stuff Microsoft doesn't bother to tell you. You will also need to do a great job of enabling your people.

If you want to know about getting more SharePoint as a publishing solution on your intranet, drop us a line:

About the author: Jonathan Stuckey

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