Sitecore has many strings to its bow, it is an industry leading digital experience platform. Made up of four distinct products, when combined they create a seamless, end-to-end content, commerce and personalisation platform.
Sitecore technology is favoured by enterprise level business due to its ability to create highly personalised, intuitive digital experiences that resonate with customers and drive businesses forward. Valued across industry, Sitecore was named leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant 2020, an annual independent report into digital experience platform providers. An accolade Sitecore has been awarded for the past three years.
Creating content for different channels or touchpoints is time-consuming and can often lead to frustrations and mistakes being made. As technology evolves, content must become adaptable and multi-purpose. Digitally savvy marketers are optimising their content to serve voice search SEO on ‘faceless’ voice search technology like Alexa, Siri or Google Home. Sitecore is a gift for marketers that are striving for flexibility with their content at scale.
Using a headless CMS architecture like Sitecore XP means that your content is created once and then delivered to any device or interaction point with efficiency using the latest APIs. Saving marketers time and money in the process. Sitecore uses an ‘object’ based architecture which means each element of the ‘page’ is a separate entity and can be ‘picked up’ and repurposed for the needs of any particular channel. This could be a mobile device, AR headset or in-store digital signage. Content is created once and universal for all. This gives marketers the power to manage an experience, anywhere the internet is connected and means users always get a consistent experience where ever they may be.
Sitecore Content Hub gives your marketing team the ability to take charge of your entire content lifecycle from one integrated platform. Content Hub can be integrated seamlessly with Sitecore CMS and commerce solutions. This means that marketers can organise, plan and schedule content production from one central solution. This is an invaluable tool for enterprise-level organisations who often have huge amounts of content, spread across different teams and territories.
A dedicated centralised digital asset management – Sitecore DAM – allows you to quickly search, categorise, preview, share and assign rights to your assets. Allowing you and your team the ability to work with all your digital assets in one centralised place. This helps to avoids errors, duplications and makes the whole lifecycle more efficient and less time-consuming. Compliance issues can be avoided as automated rules can be assigned to individual assets, limiting their usage based on time and location for example.
Another great feature integrated into Content Hub is the Marketing Resource Management tool (MRM), This tool allows marketing teams to plan. budget, manage, develop, distribute content and collaborate at scale from one solution. Full marketing campaigns can be developed and tracked, including work that spans brands, markets and languages. These tasks can all be monitored with confidence as marketing managers can assign their team members tailored profiles based on each individual’s role requirements.
Delivering an engaging customer experience is a top priority for brands looking to gain competitive advantage and retain customers. Personalisation is proven to build brand loyalty, boost sales and improve market share. In a recent survey with Forbes, 40% of those surveyed said their customer personalisation efforts have maximised sales, basket size and profits in direct-to consumer channels.
It’s important that ambitious enterprises fully understand what their CMS and eCommerce platform offers them and their customers with regards personalisation. Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC) is the only solution that extends Sitecore XP and has been fully optimised for commerce. Brands can run their entire digital commerce operations from one centralised solution, whilst XC can personalise digital storefronts for each customer, connecting individuals with relevant content personal to them. Using real-time data and historical intelligence, Sitecore XC can build a unique online experience for all.
This personalisation power doesn’t just stop at storefronts, using Sitecore’s powerful automated marketing systems, customers can be segmented and campaigns directed to them based on their search history. They are then presented with relevant product launches, promotions and offers which is proven to boost customer satisfaction and maximise sales.
Testing is vitally important to make sure that customers are being presented with the best creative execution of ideas. This is can be headlines, copy, ads or promotional materials. In Sitecore, testing is built in to allow marketing teams to run live tests on one variable – A/B testing- or multiple variables – multivariate testing.
Set up simply through the page editor, A/B testing can quickly demonstrate the impact of changing one aspect of a creative solution. Sitecore automatically presents the original idea to one audience, and the alternative solution to another audience, the results are then presented, helping marketing teams to explore the success of creative ideas quickly and efficiently.
Multivariate testing is more complex but allows marketing teams to test multiple ‘on-page’ variants at once. It requires a larger amount of traffic to guarantee accurate results but eliminates the need to run several, sequential A/B tests. Saving time and allowing for the winning ideas to be implemented quickly, leading to lower bounce rates and increased customer conversions.
With so many excellent features, Sitecore technology has everything an enterprise-level organisation needs to give its customers a world-class digital experience. To get the most out of your investment is smart to consider partnering with a top tier Sitecore Partner like Kagool. We’re a digital agency that specialises in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore websites for enterprise-level businesses. We have been delivering great digital experiences for our clients since 1999 and have some of the best talent in the industry, ready to find intelligent solutions to complex problems. So, we’re confident your project would be in the safest hands.
If you’re new to Sitecore and would like to see the software in action, why not book a demo with one of our experts? Or if you feel your organisation is not getting the most from its current Sitecore configuration, contact us, we are happy to advise you on how we can help your organisation achieve its business goals faster with an optimised Sitecore installation.
The business world pre-COVID19 was a very different place. The rapidity and breadth of changes that we have witnessed since the onset of lockdown in March is huge. Businesses acted swiftly to protect staff and customers. Organisations were forced to make significant changes to the way they were run, overnight.
With COVID-19 restrictions in full force, many businesses around the globe reprioritised their offerings. As customer behaviour changed rapidly it was left up to individual organisations to discover how to survive in this new online-first reality.
The past few months have been incredibly tough for all businesses. Even those more progressive in their level of digital transformation, have struggled. But what has become apparent, for all involved, is the uncertainly surrounding the pandemic, its trajectory and the restrictions it brings. This means that many businesses are beginning to look at digital transformation as a headline priority for this year, working on from the emergency remedies put in place during lockdown.
Some digitally savvy companies have quickly developed new technologies, or even repurposed existing technology. They have used the pandemic as a catalyst for change and propelled themselves in new digital directions. This being achieved in a timeframe which would not have been feasible under ‘more normal’ circumstances. With the recent ‘Global Web Index Coronavirus Research Report’ finding that levels of concern about COVID19 are now dropping in almost all markets globally, enterprises must act now to develop long term strategies to make sure they are fully equipped for the recovery stage of the pandemic and beyond.
Was your business traditionally ‘bricks and mortar’ only? Or purely focused on physical face to face interactions? The onset of COVID19 will have meant quick fire changes for your organisation. Emergency closures of stores and offices meant revenue streams were hit and crisis management strategies were utilised or hastily developed. This time of flux may have meant ‘knee jerk’ digital options were offered to your customers, not fully developed and experimental in nature. Some businesses may have even shut their operations down completely, in the short term, due to lack of a digital alternative.
As a different world takes shape post-COVID19, longer term strategies and digital portfolios need to be re-assessed and re-prioritised. Digital is now a huge part of customer’s lives. Even as lockdown restrictions are lifted, some consumers will still want to shop online and avoid face to face interaction, until COVID19 is firmly in the past. Longer term strategies are a must. If your customers have embraced your new digital service then building a full eCommerce site should be in your plan for 20/21. Businesses will thrive by moving where the customer goes and providing them with a competition-beating digital experience. With traditional buying behaviours on hold for now, investing in a digital future will mean your organisation is protected against further uncertainties the pandemic may bring.
The rapid onset of COVID19 meant that an enterprise’s C-suite were left to make some very difficult decisions. Budgets were frozen or cut in vital cost-saving measures. Stores and offices were closed and some staff furloughed.
A major casualty of the lockdown, traditional retail based outlets with no digital offering, have suffered incredible losses during lockdown. Take Primark as a key example. Their sales plunged from £650 million a month to £0 as they closed their doors with no online business to fall back on. Some have fared even worse, already struggling before the pandemic, huge high street names such as Victoria’s Secret, Oasis, Warehouse and Debenhams have called in the administrators.
In the short term, management reigned in the spending but as we move to the recovery phase of the pandemic, it is important that budgets are now revitalised, with digital activity prioritised. This will mean a shift in mind-set from some of those at the top, where digital transformation may have been resisted or slow before the pandemic.
A key approach to make sure that budgets are secured is making sure that business stakeholders at all levels are involved and on-board with the digital revolution. Where some may still argue that they are not a ‘digital-centric’ business, it is important to instil the message that whilst your organisation may not be traditionally digital, you are a ‘customer-centric’ business. A business that is driven by customer behaviour, and if the customer is moving online, so must the business.
This will mean a change in financial budgets and investment in worthwhile customer-centric technology. Digital marketing tools, systems and processes will become more cost effective as more customers are online only. Investment at this stage will again protect the overall business as we move into recovery and allow income streams to continue to flow if further lockdowns are implemented.
As the globe went into lockdown, immediate business concerns included the need to gather information to allow understanding of how customers and other business were responding. This included evaluating how buyer behaviours were changing, listening to the market and then working out tentative steps to get businesses up and running again in the new reality. Information gathering was required, but now is the time to use the data to understand how your business can come back stronger and smarter, redefining digital activity within your sector,
Utilising a range of digital tools can and will make business easier and allow your organisation to move successfully into a new phase of digital development. At enterprise level, re-evaluating your digital strategy should be a priority. If you don’t have a digital strategy, now is the time to implement one.
Making sure you have the best possible tools in place will allow your organisation to move forward at pace. Software with the ability to capture and analyse customer data allows your business to understand user’s behaviour on a macro or micro level. Utilising a platform like Sitecore will allow your organisation to deliver memorable, competition beating experiences across a range of sectors with ease.
Making sure your CMS platform is performing for your business is vitally important in a recovering global economy. Ambitious organisations are now focusing on providing world-class customer experiences, which increase conversions and drive businesses forward in times of uncertainty. The brands that are able to successfully integrate digital transformation into their company DNA will thrive and advance their business in highly challenging times.
If your organisation was seeking improvements to its digital productivity and customer engagement before the onset of COVID19, these issues have probably increased ten-fold over lockdown.
If you’re unsure which direction your organisation’s digital strategy needs to take, don’t worry we’re here to help. At Kagool we have long understood the need for digital transformation in business. We’re a Sitecore Platinum Partner, and have teams of digital transformation experts ready to help your organisation move forward at this difficult time. We can help you leverage technology, not only to drive your business forward but provide your customers with a world-class experience.
We live in a world where receiving messages and information tailored to our needs makes us feel “special”. A more valued customer. Therefore understanding how to optimize personalization is a must for ambitious marketing teams within forward-thinking organizations.
Personalization can be described as the utilization of information held on an individual, to serve targeted content, data and offers through any channel that is specific to that user’s interests. The result is the delivery of unique personalized experience for your audience.
Personalization comes in many forms. Typical personalization techniques can include: brands emailing information about products recently viewed online, customers receiving SMS messages about products they have recently purchased or a customer returning to a website where the first thing they see is the products they were looking at the last time they visited.
All of these personalization techniques are powered by data and importantly personalization forms part of customer expectation, when it comes to an online experience. With technology now readily available that allows companies to deliver highly personalized experiences to their end-users, this has become “the expected”. This was confirmed in a recent survey where 80% of customers said they were more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand who provides personalized experiences.
Amazon is a leading example of excellent personalization. Without Amazon utilizing past browsing and purchasing information, it could be quite painful to find what you want. Instead, interactions are tailored, you instantly see products that are “relevant” to you, thus engaging you instantly. We’ve all done it, bought something when you didn’t really expect to, this is the power of personalization.
As personalization becomes the expectation, businesses and marketing teams are acutely aware of this important development and are looking for software, like Sitecore, that will help them build strategies with a heavy focus on delivering personalized and engaging experiences. Why? To make users feel valued, ensure they get the right information and products, and ultimately to ensure they return.
At Kagool we are dedicated to Sitecore Partner. It is our platform of choice. Sitecore 9 personalization can be utilized to provide an omni-channel experience and ultimately deliver highly personalized experiences to the user.
Data is crucial. The more data the better the insight into your users and how they interact with your website. So as a marketing team, how do you get it right?
It’s imperative that your implementation is best of breed. This can be categorized on 2 levels, ‘code’ and ‘platform configuration’.
At Kagool we pride ourselves on delivering best-practice Sitecore 9 personalization experiences, ensuring that the platform is configured the way it is meant to be, in-line with recommended Sitecore practices.
Without a strategy you are playing the “hit and hope” game. And will likely get nowhere, or even worse, damage your reputation by delivering irrelevant content to the end-user. The result of that being that they may go to your competitor.
If you are using Sitecore experience platform, there are a couple of different approaches to try.
AI personalization relies on the platform collecting data from every user visiting the site, not only collecting it but analyzing it time and time again. This is where Sitecore Cortex, steps in. It analyses the data and can detect trends between users and visits and will automatically drive content tags to the relevant data. This enables the marketing team to rely on the system itself to drive personalization, thus taking away some of the overhead.
Sitecore 9 has many highly productive tools available, including the ability to A/B test.
A/B testing is a great tool that allows your marketing team to effectively optimize your platform through testing. You can simply run variations of components and make subtle changes to determine which is more interactive. Most of all, it’s a fast way of analyzing the impact of changes, and most of all, they can be small changes. You don’t have to make wholesale changes if something isn’t working. Prove it first, make subtle changes, it could simple come down to a “title” or a dis-engaging “description”, so keep it simple and test, test and test again.
The importance of A/B testing when planning personalization is to provide the ability to target audience types with content that is written in a certain way, or to display a different image based on the audience type.
It can be used to test content engagement across any page in your website, and it can provide statistics around the most “interacted” piece of content in your test, therefore providing you with the evidence of which variation of the content is more successful.
The importance of personalization is easy to see and we all experience it on a daily basis. However, it can only be successfully achieved with a platform like Sitecore 9, which is feature rich, complete with personation tools and has the ability to perform A/B tests on content. Not only that, but it is a platform that can implement the strategy you set out as a business or a team.
Sitecore has to be implemented well and to best practice, if not, the features will be wasted. And to deliver a personalization strategy that achieves what you want, you have to define your strategy thoroughly upfront.
At Kagool, we can help you achieve that. As an award-winning, Sitecore Platinum Partner, we have worked with Sitecore for decades and are proud to have completed over 500 Sitecore projects. Our teams are made up of Sitecore specialists, who have the technical ability to make your business personalization goals a reality.
Off-page SEO refers to all the activity that takes place away from your website, which determines where you rank within the search engine results pages (SERPs). Optimising for off-site SEO ranking factors is crucial for improving the relevance, trustworthiness and authority of your website. This is mirrored in Google’s algorithm factors, with off-page SEO contributing to over 50% of the ranking factors. Having a strong off-page SEO strategy can be the difference between where you and your competitors feature within the SERPs.
Improving your off-page SEO performance will directly correlate with your Domain Authority score (DA). Your site’s DA is a ranking score that determines the ability of your site to rank within the SERPs. This score is from 1-100 which is based upon numerous factors including linking root domains, and the number of total links. The DA of your site is not a metric used by Google in determining where you rank, but is a good indicator for how well your site is performing from an off-site SEO perspective.
Here are five off-site SEO techniques that you can follow to ensure your website has the best opportunity to improve its domain authority, and ultimately rank higher within the SERPs.
Creating backlinks is at the core of off-site SEO and is a technique that is crucial for any site with the aspiration of ranking on page one. Backlinks are the number one ranking factor when Google determines where your site ranks. Google will more likely rank a site higher than another if one domain has more backlinks. Furthermore, Google also take into account the quality of this link, a site with a higher domain that links to you is much more effective than a link from a site with a low DA. Nevertheless, Google’s algorithm does take into consideration the relevancy of the link to your domain.
There are two types of links that can be created to boost your off-page SEO performance:
Creating authoritative and relevant backlinks in line with the guidance provided by major search engine like Google should be at the forefront of any digital strategy. Links will bring referral traffic to your site, and Google will view your site as a trustworthy, reliable source of data. Yet building links is hard work and requires a long-term strategic approach but if done correctly, the average ranking position of your website in search results is likely to improve significantly.
One of the most effective off-page SEO techniques is using social media. Using social media platforms is a great way to extend the reach of your content. Not only can social media encourage more clicks to your latest piece of content, but it can be a crucial source of valuable backlinks from a site with a high DA:
Google hasn’t directly stated that a link from a social media platform will benefit your SEO, although they have said that social platforms are crawled for data in the same way to any other site on the web.
Whilst the SEO impact of a backlink from a social platform remains unsure, one certainty is your social profile’s ranking in the SERPs. Not only will your social profile’s rank, they’re likely to rank towards the top for any brand-related search term. With this in mind, ensuring your social profiles positively reflect your company and what it stands for can influence a user’s first impressions, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with your brand. Moreover, amplifying insightful content through social platforms is likely to get shared, increasing the visibility and the likelihood of your content being linked to.
Provide third party websites with guest content is another effective online marketing technique that can also yield off-site SEO benefits. This could be a thought-leadership piece through to ‘how to’ video content, something that will capture the attention of their readers. You should look to reach out to third-party websites whose target audience is similar to your own, such as niche online trade publications. This way you will be increasing exposure and brand awareness amongst potential customers and heighten the chance of driving referral traffic from that website. Of course, you will also benefit from a valuable backlink. Nurturing online relationships through providing insightful content can be a fundamental source of qualified traffic and leads.
Remember, placing content on a website with a strong DA, requires you to provide them with content or data in which is totally unique, and is likely to be in high demand from their audience.
Always remember to be strategic with sites that you target in order to place guest content, and ensure that you are reaching out to sites which are trustworthy, and relevant to your own target audience.
A forum posting site is an online discussion board that allows users to have meaningful conversations in the form of a posted message. When carried out correctly, forum posting can bring multiple benefits for your business:
Forum posting requires a long-term approach in order to build a trustworthy reputation amongst other members of the forum. Identifying forums with a ready-made community, who are discussing a service like which you offer. This is a great way of engaging with existing or potential customers online.
Identify forums threads on topics relevant to your business that you can add value to, such as expert knowledge on a specific topic to help answer a user’s question. Where appropriate, there may also be the opportunity to add a link back to your website as part of a forum discussion. However, always ensure that this activity is carried out sparingly, and a backlink to your website is only ever posted if it is highly relevant to the conversation, and genuinely helps to answer another user’s question.
Also known as directory listings, local SEO has always been a consistent off-page SEO technique. When done correctly, submitting your business into local listings can be vital for increasing revenue, reputation and rankings, particularly in localised search results. Localised search results include those results where the user referenced a location as part of their search, as well as those where the results served are determined by the user’s IP address or location. The latter includes searches often reference phrases such as ‘near me’ or ‘nearby’. Local listings are largely free and can be extremely powerful.
Not only can your business benefit from an increased amount of exposure and traffic, but being listed in local directories presents the opportunity of building a valuable backlink from a high DA site. Many directories are well-known on the web, and you are probably already familiar with many of them:
Submitting a local listing may seem easy, but ensuring that you provide identical information across each listing is crucial for this off-page SEO technique. Business information such as the business name, address and contact number must be identical across all listings. This may seem simple, but discrepancies like abbreviations, or misspellings can have huge impacts on your listings as it can create confusion for Google. In the likelihood of this happening, Google may display the wrong information, or even not show your listing at all in the SERPs.
However, when local listings are implemented correctly they can be extremely powerful and can bring additional business from both national, and international audiences.
Planning out your off-site SEO strategy is not straightforward and requires a level of skill and expertise. If you don’t have the suitable resource, we’re here at Kagool to make it easier for you. Get in contact to learn the best approach for optimising your Sitecore website, or to book a digital marketing audit, and assess your current website’s performance.
We have been helping enterprise-level businesses achieve their digital goals since 1999. As a top tier Google and Sitecore Partner, we specialise in digital marketing and work closely with all our clients on all aspects of performance and search marketing. We’d be happy to help and discuss your project requirements.
On the 28 May 2020 Google announced a new algorithm update which will be launched in 2021 via its Webmaster Central Blog. This update will focus on how a user perceives the experience of interacting with your page. As a site owner, providing high quality user experience should always be a priority of any long-term digital strategy, but with user experience about to become a ranking factor, now is the time for businesses to plan ahead.
Trying to create an effortless user experience (UX) is nothing new for digital designers and marketers, as it’s an important contributor to website and SEO performance. Most of us are aware of the benefits a seamless user experience can bring, in terms of building customer loyalty, and driving conversions. The importance of a well-designed user experience is endless and can be the difference between you and a competitor. Nevertheless, many businesses are yet to optimise key elements of their website that impact it, often due to lack of time and/or resource. However, with Google’s Core Web Vitals update on the horizon, never has it been more important to prioritise UX and invest the time in SEO-led development work to achieve optimal performance.
Google explained that the three core areas are the subset of Web Vitals that will apply to all web pages. Each area should be measured by all site owners and will be surfaced across all Google measuring tools.
We have seen previous Google page experience updates that will now combine with the new Core Web Vitals.
Existing page experience signals which we are all familiar with:
It’s evident that the user experience is a crucially important factor and can be the difference for where your page ranks in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Google still seeks to rank pages that provide the user with the best information, even if the user experience is inferior. Nevertheless, providing the user with a great experience can be the differentiator for Google when it’s deciding where you and your competitors appear in organic listings.
Google believe that the Core Web Vitals are critical to all web experiences. This is reflected with the commitment of surfacing the metrics across the popular Google measuring tools:
The new Core Web Vitals metrics are incorporated into the latest version of Lighthouse 6.0. The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) are lab implementations of the Core Web Vital update. Lighthouse provides crucial diagnostic information when optimising your site for the user experience. An additional diagnostic to the Lighthouse 6.0 update is the Total Blocking Time (TBT) which quantifies load responsiveness. TBT measures the amount of time between the First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Time to Interactive (TTI), a diagnostic that connects with the First Input Delay (FID), a Core Web Vital.
The CrUX report allows website owners to track how real-world Chrome users experience your website, or even your competitors. CrUX provides a true understanding of how your site performs in the field as those users are loading and interacting with it. Unlike lab data, CrUX data comes from opted-in users in the field. If your site does not have Real User Monitoring (RUM), CrUX can provide an easy way to assess your Core Web Vitals through a real-life chrome experience.
The CrUX report is a powerful tool and provides you with first-hand data that is essential for a true understanding of how users interact with your site.
Google hasn’t wasted any time in updating the speed report in GSC to facilitate with the new Core Web Vital metrics. As you open GSC, you will be most likely presented with a notice about the new Core Web Vital report. Similar to the old speed report, it breaks down the different metrics but now shows the updated metrics. Google haven’t announced the exact changes within the report but the new metrics analyses URL performance across mobile and desktop. This update to GSC can provide crucial insights into the performance, highlighting areas which require improvement. However, with the Core Web Vitals expected to evolve, these metrics are inevitably going to evolve further.
Chrome DevTools is a set of web developer tools built within a chrome extension, which allows you to promptly edit and diagnose issues across your site. At first, the Chrome DevTool may seem overwhelming, but rest assured, this tool is crucial for preparing your site for the Core Web Vital update.
It is particularly useful in terms of identifying any unexpected layout shifts (CLS), something crucial for user experience and the Core Web Vital update.
PSI is a useful tool that many digital marketers are already familiar with. PSI has the benefit of reporting on both lab and field performance. PSI provides insight into how users experience pages on your website in real-world circumstances. One of the most beneficial aspects of the PSI is the list of recommendations that it provides for improving this experience. Like many Google tools, the PSI tool has been resurfaced which enables your site to be benchmarked against the Core Web Vital metrics, something that can be found under both the lab and field sections of the report.
Merging the PSI report with the GSC data can be a great starting point when identifying which URLs are performing badly and require attention, and what actions are needed to address any issues.
Google have also recently released a Web Vitals Chrome Extension which is available to download. The Core Web Vitals Extension measures all three of the Core metrics in real-time on desktop. Like any extension on Chrome, they can be great for an ‘on the go’ performance review, with the results being available at the click of a button. This extension like many others gives you the opportunity to review the competition.
Dealing with yet another Google page experience update will undoubtedly seem like yet another worry for already under pressure digital marketers. However, Google have given us months to prepare for this update, so whilst it might seem like a stress you could do without, ensuring that this update is at the forefront of our digital strategies moving into 2021 is crucial.
To make it a bit easier, you can contact us to learn more about how to best optimise your website or to book a digital marketing audit to check your current performance. We are Kagool, we have been helping enterprise-level businesses achieve their digital goals since 1999. We are top tier Google and Sitecore Partners that has a specialised digital marketing team that work closely with our clients on all aspects of performance and search marketing. Get in touch to discuss your project requirements, we’d be happy to help.
Before delving into the detail on the differences between Sitecore 8 and Sitecore 9 its worthwhile to understand the importance of a Sitecore upgrade. There are two main reasons why upgrading to the latest version is paramount:
Sitecore provides patches and updates to its versions and falling behind on these means that your organisation risks missing out on crucial security fixes. With public websites constantly facing new threats, remaining on an old version could mean that your site is vulnerable to these security risks.
The updates not only contain security patches, but also bug fixes and performance enhancements, which help the platform to perform at its optimal level. Sitecore has a fixed support lifetime for each version of its software, this is usually three years for mainstream support and six years for extended Sitecore support. Sitting on an older version for too long will mean that your organisation will no longer have the option of applying the latest security patches or receiving support from Sitecore itself.
The second important reason to upgrade is that your business will miss out on all of the new features and latest technology, which in the digital space can mean you lose that competitive edge. The new features which will be expanded on in the next section have been added to different versions along the platform’s evolution. Failing to keep your solution up to date simply means not seeing the best ROI possible by not fully harnessing Sitecore’s vast potential and value.
Typically, if your organisation is considering a Sitecore 9 upgrade then a reasonable considering is, is it necessary? What makes the new version of Sitecore better than our current solution?
The initial release of Sitecore 9 is now a couple of years old and with the latest Sitecore 9.3 release having dropped late last year means that there are now some very key differences between Sitecore 8 vs Sitecore 9.
Why should Sitecore 8 users upgrade to version 9?
The most notable difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 was the introduction of Sitecore Cortex, the artificial intelligence and machine learning feature. This specifically designed to empower the customer to get the most out of the platform. If your organisation’s website is still on Sitecore 8 you may be aware of something called Sitecore xDB. If not, this is where all of the data which Sitecore collects from user interactions on the platform is stored. With Sitecore Cortex this would enable teams to analyse this data and deliver more engaging customer experiences. It assists with making marketing operations more efficient and allowing for even greater insight and understanding of your customers.
Sitecore is one of the best digital experience platforms for collecting data, big data, but it has never been the easiest to share this data or add to it. Sitecore xConnect has changed that, creating a simple way to connect to Sitecore xDB where all of the valuable data is stored. This is all done following industry data standards, meaning that organisations can now easily integrate data not currently held within Sitecore.
This may not sound all that interesting or mean a lot if you’re new to the platform or have limited exposure to the technical detail. But it’s important to be aware that this is a big deal. In the past, all of the analytical data was tightly coupled with Sitecore CMS, so by decoupling Sitecore xConnect and making this available to other systems means that you’re now able to record all analytics from any interaction. You are also able to integrate this with other established systems which you may already have like a CRM. This is a huge benefit to all organisations, as it means you can finally get a unified view of all your analytical data, which in turn means you will be able to provide better engagement on your platform. This gives your business future insight into how your customers interact with the platform and with your organisation as a whole.
The main difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 in terms of forms is that in Sitecore 9 the Sitecore Forms feature has been reimagined and written from scratch. The majority of websites include a variation of a form as it is a simple way to collect information from the client. In Sitecore 9 the introduction of Sitecore Forms doesn’t sound that interesting on the surface as previous versions were able to include the Web Forms For Marketers (WFFM) module. However, due to the modern demands for forms this has begun to limit their effectiveness, and thus Sitecore Forms has become a key feature. Now out of the box functionality and not an additional module. Allowing for easy to build forms via a drag and drop interface, allows marketers to quickly build multi-step forms with dynamic questions.
Marketing automation in this day and age has become a necessity and Sitecore have addressed this with their new Sitecore Marketing Automation feature. Much like the forms mentioned above, there is a new drag and drop interface which allows marketers to quickly create new campaigns with goals, events and outcomes easily configurable from once centralised place.
So ‘why is it a necessity?’ you might ask. When set up correctly marketing automation can assist with enhancing the customers entire experience on the platform. As this is a new feature in Sitecore 9 it means that you can take full advantage compared to those still on Sitecore 8. By doing this you will benefit your business in numerous ways:
and this is just to name a few!
Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing service which provides a platform to run applications such as Sitecore without the complexity of building and maintaining physical infrastructure. As the world moves towards a more cloud-oriented approach for a variety of services Sitecore has gotten ahead of the curve in Sitecore 9. Making some rather large changes, by making the application smaller, well smaller components that is. This allows the customer to get a lot more flexibility and scalability from the platform. By responding to different increases or decreases in traffic the platform can now scale accordingly, which in turn improves performance, while lowering running costs. This meaning that cloud hosting is now the ideal way to go.
As mentioned previously Sitecore xDB is where all of the valuable data is stored and in Sitecore 8 architects were limited to MongoDB as the technology of choice. In Sitecore 9 however, with the introduction of xConnect another significant change was made to how the data was stored. Meaning now architects have a variety of choices when it comes to where this data is housed, SQL Server, SQL Azure and Cosmos DB to name a few. This means businesses can choose the technology that best matches the skill sets of those in the organisation.
In Sitecore 8 and below, identity management and authentication was used solely for the Sitecore website. However, with the industry looking to move towards a centralised system that houses the users identity and security information and allows other systems to connect to it, this made it difficult to do. In Sitecore 9 Single Sign On from an external provider is now standard out of the box.
Making the decision to upgrade your organisation’s Sitecore solution isn’t something that’s done lightly. Considering how an upgrade can benefit your business and help move your organisation forward through digital transformation is key. Discussing the details of your upgrade options with a Sitecore Partner, that has the expertise and experience can be helpful.
We are Kagool, a digital marketing agency that specialises in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore websites. We have been helping enterprise-level businesses achieve their digital goals since 1999 and have a team of highly skilled Sitecore experts that have smart answers to complex technical questions. Contact us today to discuss your Sitecore 9 upgrade options or to book a demo.
Every year BIMA 100 recognises the top 100 professionals who are shaping the future of Britain’s digital industry. Director, Craig Johnson has been recognised and nominated in the 2020 BIMA 100.
The BIMA 100 ceremony will be held at a prestigious event in London, attended by other nominated professionals. Judged by a selection of industry experts, there are 11 categories to be nominated against:
In the last year, Craig has launched an innovative graduate scheme, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University to tackle the digital skills gap. This successful scheme has already taken two graduates on who have been a great addition to the agency. The recognition for Kagool marks a series of recent accreditations from Best Companies and Northern Digital Awards.
Craig Johnson said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to be featured in this year’s BIMA 100. We’ve been working hard to develop new talent in the industry to bridge the digital skills gap. It’s an exciting time for Kagool, with lots of new projects in the pipeline”
If your organisation is in the market for an upgrade to your Web Content Management (WCM) system, researching and understanding the subtle differences between the products on offer can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating. The variances between vendors are small. But slight differences in product functionality can make huge differences to your business, depending on your organisation’s individual needs.
During your cms comparison journey, shortlisting a number of options will help you decide which WCM platform best suits your organisation’s goals. Acquia and Sitecore both offer highly flexible systems. They provide many features that will meet the needs of most businesses, however there are number of differences between the platforms that need to be explored.
Sitecore is a global leader in providing proprietary experience management software. This means it is a closed source, paid for software. Users require Sitecore licensing and specialised developers to develop a solution. Sitecore’s model is geared towards enterprise-level organisations that need a solution with a high standard of security, that’s built and governed to industry best practices. Generally, organisations that are serious about their digital roadmap and creating superior digital experiences with sophisticated capabilities are best suited with a closed-source platform.
That’s not to say that open-source software doesn’t have its benefits too. Acquia is an open source digital experience company that is heavily intertwined with the open-source WCMS, Drupal. Technically, it’s an open-proprietary platform which removes the common benefits of open source. For example, perceived benefits to open source are that its cheaper, it comes without a ‘vendor lock-in’ and has security advantages. To fully understand its structure, it is important to appreciate its origins in Drupal and why Acquia’s ‘open-proprietary’ set up doesn’t quite deliver in the same way as open source.
The first Drupal CMS was developed in 2000. In 2007 they went on to develop Acquia, billed as the open digital experience platform for Drupal. This new cloud-based software was built around Drupal to give enterprises (who were already using Drupal) the ability to build, operate and optimise their digital products. Acquia has now grown to provide a digital experience platform with Drupal at its core.
Open source software can often keep initial cost down, provide high security, good quality and avoid vendor ‘lock in’. However, Acquia, in this sense, is not a traditional ‘open source’ platform, which is explained over the following comparative rounds between Acquia vs Sitecore.
There is no licence fee to use Acquia’s Drupal distribution, Lightning. This essentially means the initial outlay for an enterprise is zero. True to the ‘open source’ nature of Acquia’s roots in Drupal. However, like most ‘open’ platforms, additional costs tend to stack up later down the line.
In comparison, Sitecore works on a paid licencing model, where various factors are taken into account. The price you pay to licence the software is dependent on the bespoke package of elements your enterprise needs. Sitecore pricing will differ depending on from how many user visits you estimate to have per month, non-production installations, concurrent users and which add-on modules you choose.
But what does a free licence get your organisation? It is very important to take a step back and look at what ‘out of the box’ components you are getting with Acquia. Yes, it’s free initially, but do the tools that Acquia provide fulfil your organisation’s needs and future ambitions? On closer inspection, it is here where Acquia loses its ‘open source’ nature and becomes more of an ‘open proprietary’ platform. In order to customise your core software, to meet your business’ needs, you must choose from several of Acquia’s paid for, pre-packaged modular solutions. You also pay additional fees for ongoing access to Acquia cloud hosting, maintenance and support.
Moving forward, implementation of the chosen platform represents one of the highest costs associated with getting any software package off the ground. When you compound the costs of adding on Acquia’s pre-packaged solutions, hosting and support plus implementation, the supposed ‘open source’ software may have a much higher price tag than initially anticipated.
So, between Acquia vs Sitecore, who wins on price? In the short term, Acquia is without doubt the cheaper option. However, if your organisation has plans to grow and evolve within this digital era and meet customer expectations, then you’re going to get better value in the long term from Sitecore and avoid any hidden extra costs later down the line.
For some organisations the pull of a traditional ‘open source’ platform is the ease of which you can access a global community of partners. These partners can provide endless ‘add on’ modules to suit your businesses individual requirements. If one application isn’t working, uninstall and try another. Avoiding ‘lock in’ to one particular vendor.
Whilst Drupal Core provides this, Acquia Lightning is a Drupal distribution and works differently. Acquia Lightning has Drupal Core at its foundations, but comes pre-packaged with Acquia components, essentially attaching you to a specific vendor: Acquia. As mentioned above, if this basic package doesn’t suit your business requirements, you can customise this by choosing from a number of Acquia add-on applications, further tying you to the platform. These components come with individual subscription fees, as does Acquia cloud hosting and support. In this sense, Acquia is a closed ‘eco-system’.
Similar to Acquia, Sitecore is completely customisable. Sitecore can provide a bespoke selection of modules to suit your organisation’s ambitions. These modules are all native to the platform providing reliable solutions with top notch security and robust support all with one vendor: Sitecore.
For vendor lock in commitments, both platforms are similar, it comes down to which software is going to be the most beneficial to your organisation and its long term goals.
82% of marketers believe their brands are meeting customer expectations, however only 10% of consumers strongly agree that most brands provide a good experience. This demonstrates that providing a basic website is no longer meeting the expectations of the majority of people who are digitally active.
In order to meet the ever increasing needs of users, Sitecore launched the first version of its digital experience platform (DXP) in 2008. Since then, Sitecore has developed a DXP that unifies creating, managing, delivering and measuring personalised digital experiences. It is in fact, the only vendor on the market that provides this.
Acquia initially offered managed cloud hosting and modified services for Drupal. Slowly developing over the years, it can now be classed as a WCM+. Self-labelled as a DXP, it approaches that capability but still is lacking in a number of areas.
For ambitious enterprises, Sitecore most definitely edges into the lead in this round with their market leading DXP. Continuing with this comparison the following rounds look closely at what Sitecore’s DXP and Acquia’s WCM+ can provide your organisation in more detail.
Headless content, ‘write once – publish everywhere’, is particularly valuable to marketers. This is especially true for enterprise level businesses who want to offer an omnichannel experience. Both Acquia and Sitecore offer headless scenarios. However, it can be said that Sitecore’s offering ‘Sitecore Omni’ is more mature. Sitecore offers all content stored in a single location, available to use anywhere on the site. It has a decoupled presentation layer, which can deliver personalised digital experiences for all users.
In comparison, Acquia’s headless architecture is still in its infancy and can present technical challenges to developers. These challenges can often be costly to fix and can mean losing the ability to provide a personalised customer experience for users. Something that is now seen as a necessity not a nicety.
Between Acquia vs Sitecore for headless, there’s no real contest, Sitecore is leagues ahead from years leading in the industry and years refining its technology.
Online user expectations have risen sharply in the last few years. Customers expect brands they engage with to know them and offer a seamless, personalised experience. Sitecore have been refining their personalisation capabilities for over a decade. Sitecore’s personalisation capabilities provide marketers with a suite of tools from behaviour based targeting to machine learning and valuable insights. Native to the Sitecore platform, its sophisticated tools can provide an omnichannel experience. Plus, its interface is user friendly even for beginners.
With Acquia, personalisation can be added onto the core distribution of Lightning with Acquia Lift. Lift is the only personalisation tool for Drupal and is billed as a ‘no code’ application. Like Sitecore, users have the ability to create content, collect data and build personalisation on one simple interface. However, in Acquia, when content is used in ‘headless’ scenarios, personalisation capabilities can be lost or require developer input to fix.
Sitecore again edges forward with their capabilities, providing a top tier level of hyper personalisation from years of refining this feature. If personalisation was a car, Acquia’s capabilities would be closer to that of a second-hand Vauxhall. Does a reasonable job in getting the user from A to B in the journey, but nothing like a Mercedes or Tesla, that’s considered everything it’s driver might enjoy during the journey.
One of the major advantages of Sitecore, is its integrated platform ‘Content Hub’ which provides end-to-end content management. Other platforms like Acquia offer a ‘white labelled’ alternative, where their platform is in fact made up from hundreds of third-party modules – all under the digital asset management umbrella. This can mean one poorly built module leading to issues throughout your whole site.
Sitecore Content Hub is fully integrated into the CMS, DXP and commerce products. The Content Hub includes Sitecore DAM, content marketing platform (CMP), product content management (PCM), and marketing resource management (MRM) capabilities. This gives marketers the ability to work efficiently end-to-end developing the content that makes up a user’s personalised digital experience.
Both Sitecore and Acquia are very capable platforms, when utilised to the fullest they both possess the tools and processes to take your organisation further along its digital roadmap. The question is how ambitious is your organisation?
After weighing up the various pros and cons of each piece of software, only you can decide which you think is best suited to your organisations needs and ambitions. Acquia would be a suitable choice for smaller organisations that aren’t planning on growth that requires a scalable solution. It ticks the box for a lower budget solution, with limited features.
However, if you’re a results driven organisation and focused on future progression, Sitecore can provide you a first class enterprise level solution that will carry your organisation through into its digital future and provide outstanding value for years to come.
If you’re unsure of the steps you need to take to begin your organisations digital transformation, talk to us – we would be happy to chat through your different options. We are Kagool, a top tier Platinum Sitecore Partner with over two decades of experience creating optimised Sitecore experiences for enterprise-level organisations around the globe. Contact us today to discuss your project requirements.
Both Sitecore and Google Analytics have their merits and there are no technical reasons they cannot be run side by side. In a perfect world, you would run just one analytics solution. A tool that offers all the data and provides a complete single source of truth for a sites’ data, that all teams can operate and rely on confidently. Unfortunately, the perfect platform does not exist, so why not take the best of both with Sitecore Google Analytics?
There are three clear advantages to using a combination of Sitecore and Google Analytics:
Setting up Google Analytics in Sitecore can be relatively simple. We always recommend using a container tag such as Google Tag Manager.
Using Google Tag Manager is well worth the additional effort to future proof the setup and allow customisation or modification at a later date. Whichever way you set up GA, you will likely need your Sitecore Partner agency to first install the tracking codes.
Sitecore Analytics is integrated into the platform and included with Sitecore licencing. This feature offers an integrated and bespoke view that can be more specific and relevant to site activity and therefore more applicable to business objectives. The in-built analytics suite is designed to work alongside other Sitecore marketing tools, which is great for on-site activity insights.
The setup of Sitecore Analytics can be a little more complicated than Google Analytics, as the minimum requirements are higher. Knowing or setting values for engagements can seem a little daunting, but to really get the benefit of Google Analytics, a similar approach should be followed; setting up goals applying values to micro and macro conversions.
When running two analytics solutions side by side, there will be differences in the data. This is unavoidable without some heavy-duty server-side monitoring and processing. We always suggest using analytics as trend data. Therefore, we need enough data to offer statistical confidence. We can’t rely on a low number to draw definitive conclusions.
Google Analytics is not widely seen as intrusive but being part of the wider Google suite means it can be blocked and removed by many tools. Google Analytics is not currently blocked by Apple’s ITP feature but can be blocked by common browser extensions.
Sitecore analytics is rarely blocked by these same trackers. The screenshot below shows that it doesn’t even register as a site tracker.
Both tools process data in different ways, so cannot always be compared directly. Add to this, there is common confusion across the Google Analytics metrics of:
Google Analytics typically defaults to sessions or page views whereas Sitecore Analytics defaults to visits. This can lead to some confusion and misinterpretation.
One major flaw of Google Analytics can arise with sampled data. As the scale and complexity of an organisations data increases, so do it’s reporting requirements. When using Google Analytics to report, these actions can be limited by sampled data.
Signified by the green shield turning yellow, the sample size can drop drastically, reducing the confidence in the data. This can be minimised by simplifying the report view (less segments or report depth) or shorter time periods.
The most definitive way to minimise sampled data is to move from the free version of Google Analytics and upgrade to Google Analytics 360. However, this can come at a prohibitive licence fee.
In addition to availability of unsampled data, the Google Analytics premium licence also comes with complete ownership of tracked data. This can be a grey area for the Google analytics free version.
Data in Sitecore Analytics is unsampled at all times and is owned by the organisation. This can mean some slower processes, but higher confidence in the data and ability to transition it between platforms.
As mentioned above, neither system is infallible, and having the two to reference offers marketing teams the confidence of fall back data.
Broadly speaking, more organisations have experience with Google than Sitecore Analytics. So, using Google Analytics can speed up some simple reporting requirements and allow more team members to “self-serve” their ad-hoc reporting needs.
The reporting functions between the two can facilitate different activities. Given the background of Google Analytics, integration into other Google Products such as Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform is in place by default. As such, Google Analytics is a more suitable tool for acquisition and click stream reporting.
Sitecore Analytics’ full title is Sitecore Experience Analytics, due to the focus on user experience. Therefore, user behaviour reporting has a more enhanced functionality. The Sitecore path analyser reporting offers a far more comprehensive visualisation of user navigation and funnel tracking than any standard implementation of Google Analytics.
As it’s an integrated solution, the transition from Sitecore Experience Analytics to workflows in Experience Editor for personalisation, profiling and pattern matching is hugely valuable and way beyond the data in Google Analytics. While Google Analytics could be integrated and pass data to Sitecore for these functions, having it running through the system is invaluable.
Both platforms have different strengths and weaknesses, but if set up correctly both add value and intelligence to an organisation’s digital strategy.
If you’re keen to start benefitting from using Sitecore and Google Analytics more effectively, we can help. We are Kagool, a top tier Sitecore Partner and Google Partner. We have been working with enterprise-level organisations across industries for over 20 years to help them transform their digital performance. Contact us to find out how we can help with your next project or to book a digital marketing audit.
Digital transformation has completely evolved how we interact, work and operate businesses over the last decade. Digital trends rapidly become the norm and organisations must be prepared to move with this quick pace to thrive or they risk falling behind. Businesses that are digitally savvy are looking to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to advance their organisations. 75% of businesses think AI will give them opportunities to move into new business ventures, whilst 84% say it will empower them to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage.
Enterprise-level businesses that choose Sitecore to power their digital strategy have access to sophisticated AI personalisation capabilities that:
Find out how to implement Sitecore AI effectively to create seamless, personalised digital experiences.
AI personalisation is the utilisation of machine learning algorithms to accurately identify and deliver valuable information specifically tailored to unique traits to end users. With the added strength of AI, marketers now can be widely relieved from numerous daily demands of manually constructing every scenario, returning time to allow focus on new opportunities and innovation.
Marketers report that personalisation increases their sales by 20%, whilst 31% of customers saying that they expect businesses to deliver personalised experiences. Sitecore have offered personalisation capabilities to their customers since 6.1 with the addition of the rules engine. Personalisation has been at the core of the Sitecore capability, a priority since 2009. The release of Sitecore 9 was a pivoting point for AI personalisation, when the platform introduced Sitecore Cortex (the machine learning function in Sitecore, integrated via xConnect) which would drive the transformation of marketing activity on the platform for the future.
When evaluating digital trends, we have researched and learned from the leaders in the market. Of those messages we listened, watched and heard; we found those that bring value to our goals. The vision statements for digital trends that will drive this new decade include emphasising the importance of brand awareness and resilience, the value of digital maturity for companies, and the value of integrating data across different platforms. Another heavily discussed digital trend is the integration of machine learning to previously manual and routine tasks.
With the introduction of Cortex to Sitecore’s platform, we are diving into the AI era. This integration pushes the platform into the future. Instead of requiring manual analysis and labour, our marketers are now supported in the ability to comprehensibly understand all that data we’ve been gathering for analysis. That information will be used to bring about better experiences for all customers.
We are moving from the era of collecting data, analysing it on our own to handing the bulk of the tasks to machines. Much like the industrial revolution added automation replacing tedious manual processes, profoundly increasing productivity, by using AI we will be injecting the same type of efficiency into the digital marketing process, and therefore the bottom line for many businesses.
Digital marketers have quite a bit on their plates, juggling between the content crisis and the task of analysing and understanding the copious amounts of data coming in from website activity. This means:
Marketers have had the benefit of tools such as Sitecore personalisation, path analyser, and A/B testing, all of which requires human touch to preserve relevance. Now with Sitecore AI, the machine learning algorithm can churn through the same data being gathered previously to learn about the visitors, remove the need for manually identifying how personas use particular pages, and automatically flag the various types of users who visit.
Ultimately, once the AI can identify particular content to be contributing to “successful” visits for particular persona segments, the platform can automatically start showing that content. Rather than requiring a marketer to manually identify and set up the page and personalisation rule. This means as the engine becomes “smarter”, users will benefit from seeing the best valued content for them, each visit, without any necessary tweaks or changes from the editor’s side.
Further to the added benefit of automatic personalisation, AI can also identify the gaps that marketers can address. Perhaps there’s a persona segment that has not been addressed, or there is content that falls flat with all segments. With the newly acquired time marketers can now address these gaps. Finally, Sitecore Cortex has the benefit of suggesting personalisation rules that, through analysing the previous visitors’ behaviors, the ML algorithm can draw correlations where a Marketer might miss. This is the safety net that ensures valuable insights aren’t lost. Each of these insights can drive value for the overall business.
Cortex analyses data within the Sitecore xDB (the database which holds all interaction and engagement information). The engine detects similar trends and behaviours of visitors to the site and automatically applies content tags based on engagement and visitor persona traits. With that automatic content tagging, there is a spill over benefit which drives SEO efficiency and accuracy. Once there has been a statistically relevant number of visitors, the automatic personalisation becomes more valuable by providing new suggestions on personalisation rules. This provides a percentage representative of how successful a newly authored personalisation rule may be when compared to the foundation of all interaction data gathered previously. This is called the Weighted Predicted Effect. An additional value for ‘Total predicted effect’, is provided which represents the success of the combined effect of all the personalised rules on that page. Engagement values are constantly being tested against and shifting with the tides that come naturally with each of the persona segment behaviors.
How to set up
At the current scale of data that marketers are working with, we need the help of machine learning to keep up. Without the need to manually set up, Cortex drives a constant testing scenario, comparing content and engagement values to always optimise performance. Simply put, all of this functionality is built into the existing features and pages available in the Sitecore digital platform in versions 9.1 and higher.
Cortex is available in Sitecore 9.1 and later. If you’re on an older version and are considering a Sitecore upgrade to benefit from AI personalisation and machine learning capabilities, contact us – we’d be happy to chat through your options. We are Kagool, a Platinum Sitecore Partner that specialises in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore solutions. We’ve been helping enterprise-level organisations achieve their digital goals for over 20 years, so your project would be in safe hands. Get in touch if you’d like to chat about your project.