About 3 months ago, Google announced that all users logged in to their Google account, their search terms would be hidden from the referrer string when they clicked through. Net result is no trackers can see these search terms (surprisingly, this includes Google Analytics). Google says this is for privacy reasons. That’s great, but I’ve said a thousand times, search analytics is one of the best reasons to run analytics in the first place so it sucks for site owners.

Anyways, the way our code processed blank search terms, they would show up like this:

This has led to a lot of confusion and many people thinking Clicky is broken, because they weren’t aware of this change on Google’s end (understandable).

Google updated their Analytics product to show the search as “(Not provided)” if it was blank. We’ve decided to do the same thing, although we are labeling it as “[unknown]” instead:

(Update: Per request, we changed this to [secure search] instead)

The main difference though is that this will now show up in your main searches report too. Previously blank searches just weren’t logged in there. Now you will see an item for “[unknown]”, and unfortunately it’s probably pretty high on the list. For our own stats on getclicky.com, it’s the #3 “search term”, representing about 1 out of every 6 searches.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google made this the default for all searches on Google sites within the next year or two. Hence I say to you, count your chickens etc, because that will be a horrible day for site owners the world round.

At the very least however, I am happy to know that Google is not providing a back door to their own analytics product that allows them to log the searches but not anyone else. That would just be evil, not to mention anti-competitive.