Who remembers this story from February 2009? This is when Google began testing the use of Ajax in its search results to speed up page loads. It definitely makes things faster and Google said speed was the sole reason behind it. The problem is that the search query is now hidden behind the hash tag of the URL, and browsers don’t send hash tags with referrer data. In other words, analytics services like Clicky can’t get the search term that the visitor used to find your site.
We raised a small fit about it because we think knowing what your visitors are searching for to find your site is an extremely important aspect of running a web site. I claimed that they would have some way to keep the searches integrated with Google Analytics, but Google denied that was possible. I don’t really believe that – they are able to integrate AdWords data into Google Analytics just fine – but whatever.
Anyways. Google stopped doing it for a while, or at least dramatically reduced the number of users who “get” this feature, because I didn’t see any plain “google.com” referrers in our stats for quite a while. Recently though, I’ve been seeing more, and in particular, the last couple of weeks.
We get a lot of emails about this, people asking us how could the referrer possibly be just “google.com” and nothing else.
Well, this is the reason. And we’re getting a bit tired of this question 🙂 So, as of about an hour ago, when we see a referrer come in that is just “google.com” (or any other TLD) and there is no path and no query, we’re simply going to pretend the referrer doesn’t exist. The downside to this is that previously, at least you knew they came in from Google, even if you don’t know what that search was. Now you won’t know even that. But, you have to consider our perspective too. This is mainly about about support.
The other option would be to keep the same referrer in there and just make up a “fake” search, e.g. “Unknown”, so you would see that for visitors who had an unknown search term from Google. But we’re afraid there will be a lot of people who take this literally and think someone is actually searching for the term “unknown” and then they will think Clicky is broken.
From a support perspective, we think the best thing to do is just filter these out. But please let us know how you feel about this decision, or if you have any other ideas.
Update: We hear you. None of you like this. We’ll be removing it later today and coming up with something else. We liked the idea one of you listed, of having it say “unknown” but then just linking that to a help page explaining what it means. We’ll probably do something like that.