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...