Google’s long had a “First Click Free” program that allows news publishers to make their content accessible to search spiders but requires human visitors to login if they’ve already viewed one page on the site for free — hence the “first click free” name. Earlier this year, Google said this program was OK for web publishers to use — not just news publishers. Today, they’ve done a post more formally making that point.
Let me take you through some of the history of this program as it relates to web search.
Back in March 2007, Danny Sullivan’s Yet Another Debate About Cloaking Happens article talked about how First Click Free was offered to news publishers but not general web publishers, something he wanted to see changed
In September 2007, First Click Free: Accessing Subscription-Based Articles For Free Via Google News covers how Google did a blog post to help promote the idea of First Click Free. It still was a news publisher-only program, but many news publishers weren’t aware of it.
In June 2008, Google did a blog post saying that Google News’s First Click Free policy could be applied to “to include your premium or subscription-based content in Google’s websearch index without violating our quality guidelines.”
Many people missed this important change. Danny highlighted it in a post that came out of SMX Advanced. Over at Search Engine Roundtable, Matt Cutts also commented to clarify things, after Google elsewhere has mistakenly said First Click Free was something “reserved” for Google News. Matt said:
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.
Today’s post should help end any further confusion. First Click Free isn’t just for Google News — anyone can use it.