Google updates paywall program

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Google makes paywall concession

A program that lets paid-for content rank on Google has been enhanced in a move that could help publishers target regular visitors.

Traditionally, search engines penalise sites that engage in a practice called cloaking, whereby crawlers are shown one page but visitors are shown another. Although this is designed to stop underhand online marketing practices, it also harms publishers that legitimately redirect browsers to requests for payment.

To rectify this problem, Google News and Google Search operate a program for participating publishers called First Click Free. This allows search engine users and crawlers to access the desired page for free but redirects subsequent clicks on the same site to a paywall.

Five clicks free

First Click Free has now been improved so that users can access no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing. This fixes a flaw that enabled users to re-enter a site through Google an unlimited number of times. And the update could potentially allow publishers to focus on frequent visitors that might be more likely to pay for content than casual users.

Explaining the concept behind First Click Free, Josh Cohen, senior business product manager at Google News, said: "As newspapers consider charging for access to their online content, some publishers have asked: Should we put up paywalls or keep our articles in Google News and Google Search? In fact, they can do both