Can Google's First Click Free Program be Used for Web Search?

Jun 5, 2008 • 10:05 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

Last night, I had a nice chat with Googler, JohnMu. I joked around with John, asking if he has messed up yet, in terms of Google communication with webmasters. He said not really - which I agree with. But he knows I am waiting for him to slip up and I may have found it.

A new Google Groups thread asks about using Google News's First Click Free program within web search. I.e. if you have paid content and want Google to access that content, without cloaking, can you give Googlebot access to that content and give the user access only the first time he/she has requested it?

Now, in the You&A With Matt Cutts, Matt from Google said, from what I understand, that it is acceptable in web search, to use this Google News first click free program to get around the paid content issue. Trust me, Danny drilled Matt on this issue and Matt said it is an acceptable method of showing paid content to Google web search bots while restricting the access to the normal user.

A quote from our coverage:

Matt hasn't looked at that issue. He mentions the "first click free" policy meaning that the first page the user sees is the same as Googlebot. In other words don't deliver one page to user and another to Google.

A quote from BruceClay's coverage:

Danny: Wall Street Journal has different headlines on Google News than their own site. Isn't that deceptive?

Matt: Matt says he's not familiar with that particular issue, but he wants to mention First Click Free. With that program users can see the news story they click on without having to register or pay and cross the wall. That's fair as far as Google sees it because that page is presented as the same for both users and engines.

JohnMu, did I get you? Well, in a post in that Google Groups thread, JohnMu said:

Actually, first-click-free is something that is currently reserved for Google News, so this is not something that can be used for web search.

Hmm, conflicting messages. Who is right here? I understood that Matt said Google's first click free program can be applied to web search (my understanding from sitting in the room). But now we see a JohnMu say the opposite about 24 hours later.

Can the Google First Click Free program be used in Web search? I will get an official statement from Matt or Google on this and update this post when I have it.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

Update: See Matt Cutts has commented saying this is allowed...

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Comments:

Matt Cutts

06/05/2008 04:28 pm

First Click Free originated with Google News, but you can use the same way of handling content in web search (show the same page to users and Googlebot, then if the user clicks to read a different article, then you can show them the registration or pay page). Because the same page is presented to users and to Googlebot, it's not cloaking. So First Click Free is a great way if you have premium content to surface it in Google's web index without cloaking. Hope that makes sense.

Teddie

06/06/2008 08:43 am

Thanks for clearing that up Matt; Barrys post was making me a little nervous. We're just rolling some FCF stuff out on one of the UKs biggest news sites and had taken Webmaster World and the The Washington Post as acceptable precendents in our approach to the implementation.

Ruben Zevallos Jr.

06/06/2008 10:16 am

It's very interesting to know this possibility, because all premium content are not covered by Google...

Mikkel deMib Svendsen

07/05/2008 01:22 pm

Thanks for bringing this up! And thanks, Matt, for making Googles point of view clear on this. Much appreciated :)

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