While SharePoint Online and the broader Microsoft 365 ecosystem offer many tools designed to support knowledge management, knowledge sharing, and collaboration, organizations often struggle with trying to measure the effectiveness of their intranets. The answer lies not in casual observations, but in the data. By tracking, analyzing, and acting upon key SharePoint Online analytics and metrics, you can ensure that your SharePoint-based intranet continuously improves over time and is a vibrant component of your organization’s approach to knowledge management.
SharePoint Online has some native, built-in analytics and metrics on both the site and page level that will assist with visualizing how users interact with the intranet. When site owners or editors understand how their sites and pages are being used, they can guide their content creation and publication activities to foster a thriving intranet. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at two kinds of SharePoint Online analytics that are directly available through the SharePoint Online interface: site usage analytics and page analytics.
Site Usage Analytics
SharePoint Online provides easy-to-access site usage analytics for admins, site owners, editors, and members with read-only access. Depending on the graph being reviewed, you can show the last 7, 30, or 90 days of data.
Overall traffic section:
Graphs you’ll see and what they mean:
Unique viewers – Illustrates the total number of unique individual visitors to the site. The data does not include how many times each visitor went to the site. Unique viewers is a great way to understand the big picture usage of your intranet. It will provide an approximation of how many staff members are going to your site, for example, and based on that data you can analyze the number of staff members using the intranet in a given period of time.
Site visits – Highlighting the number of visits to content on your site, site visits consider pages, documents, and news. To provide more accurate results, site visits filter out repetitive actions by the same user (like page refreshes). Understanding what content users most frequently access helps guide what they find most helpful, encouraging site owners and editors to produce more of that content, or structure new content in a similar way.
Average time spent per user – Depicts the actual amount of active time spent on sites pages or news post by a user. “Active time” here means that the page isn’t minimized and the user’s browser is the foreground app. While there are some limitations to this data, it could give a broad understanding as to if users are finding the content they are looking for or just browsing for an answer they cannot locate. (At this time, usage on the SharePoint Online mobile app is currently not incorporated in calculation of this report.)
Popular content in the last 7 days:
Popular content is broken down into site pages, news posts, and documents. Data can be sorted by unique viewers or views depending on the goal. This is a great way to learn what content is frequently accessed, serving as a good practice reminder to keep content updated. Additionally, News posts will help to confirm if news is being read in a timely manner. If it is not, consider posting news during a time with higher intranet engagement which we will talk about below.
User insights features data on how your users are accessing the intranet and what days and times are most popular.
Usage insights breakdown:
By device – Understanding the devices employed by users to access content will empower your organization to develop and build an intranet supporting the most used device(s). For example, if you have a high percentage of mobile users, your site should be created using a mobile friendly layout to mitigate user frustration. Ease of use for visitors will keep them returning to your intranet for information.
By time – Tells the user the day of the week and approximate time when the most unique visitors access the intranet (results are displayed in the current user’s time zone). This is helpful if you are trying to plan when to post news content or announcements. For example, if you notice an uptick of usage on a Monday at noon, post your news Monday morning to help drive traffic to the information you want viewed.
Other data available:
Shared with external users – Provides a list of files (if there are any) that the current user has access to that are also shared with users outside of the organization. This is helpful from a monitoring and compliance standpoint to know and understand what documents are shared.
Sight usage report (Excel) – Site owners can download an Excel report featuring site usage trends for the last 90 days. This report shows data for unique viewers, site visits, popular content, device usage, and site traffic. As a site owner, this report brings together much of the data visible though sight usage visualized data, but in spreadsheet for it can be manipulated and used for reporting or other ancillary needs.
Page analytics are similar to site analytics in that you will see how users are interacting with your page or news post. Why is this important? Because understanding how and when your users are accessing pages means you can tailor your posting style to be best utilized by your userbase. Additionally, knowing high-traffic times of intranet access will bring insight on when to post or publish news and pages for the highest readership. Depending on the graph, 7, 30, and 90-days of data can be reviewed.
Standard page analytics:
Page viewers – Provides the total number of unique page viewers. This is a great way to understand if your page is being accessed, potentially providing the information the users need. The data provides an approximation of how many staff members are going to your page. Based on that data you can analyze the number of staff members that should be viewing that pages information.
Page views – As the name implies, Page views shows the total number of page views. Like site views, page views filter out repetitive actions by the same user (like page refreshes). Based on your organization, if certain pages bring in a lot of views, it’s a good idea to take note and ensure that the page is kept current.
Average time spent per users – Working the same as sites, Average time spent per users depicts the actual amount of active time spent on sites pages or news post by a user. If a lengthy page is only being viewed for seconds at a time, it might be worth looking into if the page has information presented clearly and is named appropriately. (Usage on the SharePoint Online mobile app is currently not incorporated in calculation of this report.)
Page traffic by time – Tells the user the day of the week and time when the most visitors access the page intranet (results are displayed in the current user’s time zone). Identifying times of high traffic will help guide when to post news or publish new pages for the highest immediate readership.
The native SharePoint Online analytics are just a fraction of the data that can be surfaced from SharePoint Online. But other data must be extracted via the Microsoft 365 Audit Log and isn’t easy for most site owners or intranet administrators to access directly. Other useful data such as how many new pages each site published in the past 30 days isn’t natively tracked and aggregated by SharePoint Online, but these intranet metrics can be exceptionally valuable for an organization to review and analyze on a regular basis. (See: Top Intranet Analytics & Metrics for more details.) As is the case with all data, collecting the data is just step one – it’s critical to review, analyze, and act upon this data to keep your intranet fresh, relevant, trusted, and useful.