What’s this about?

I’m disappointed in Google ending First Click Free.

I think that shutting down First Click Free is a poor decision for users, but a potentially beneficial one for big publishers.

Unfortunately, given the fact that news publishers have little clue on how to make money from the web (hence their predicament), I’m not convinced even this sop will allow them to reap the profits they feel they so richly deserve.

Get ready for “flexible sampling”, leading to more click-bait and fake news, by reading and actioning the Key Actions List.

This is an extract from TWIS SEO News & Updates w/e 6th October 2017.

#SEO #SEONews #GoogleNews #FirstClickFree #FlexibleSampling #WebSpam #Cloaking

Google Ends First Click Free – Allows Cloaked Spam Instead

Key Issues Summary:

  • As we revealed in Google Ending First Click Free, Google has now ended the First Click Free program for news publishers.
  • Google has replaced First Click Free with a program called “Flexible Sampling”.
  • Flexible Sampling works in two ways: firstly, it allows publishers to restrict content access after a defined number of views in a defined time-period – eg 3 articles a day, or 10 articles a month.
  • Alternatively publishers may show lead-in or teaser content, before requiring subscription for full access.
  • Google have updated their Google webmaster guidelines to cover this and have provided new paywall structured data, which subscription sites with paywalls will need to use to avoid being treated as cloaking spammers.

Google Ends First Click Free

Key Actions List:

  1. If you are currently using First Click Free to manage user access to paywalled subscription content, you need to modify your systems to act differently.
  2. You need to review Google’s flexible sampling announcement on their webmaster blog.
  3. You need to implement their structured data markup for subscription and paywall sites.
  4. You need to test whether lead-in content works best for your site, or metering the content available.
  5. If choosing lead-in content, you need to test content length to find the best length to encourage user action.
  6. If choosing metered content, you need to test the number of articles and time-length to discern the best combination.
  7. There is no “golden rule” about these things.
  8. Click here to contact me to discuss how to migrate from First Click Free to Flexible Sampling.

Insights & Discussion:

Sigh. Google is giving in to the cloaking spammers and allowing publishers to restrict access to content after a certain number of views, or only provide an introductory snippet instead. Describing this on Google’s blog as “Enabling more high quality content for users” is laughable.

This is bad for the user, and bad for Google, which really appears to be steering away from its lofty mission to index the world’s content.  In particular, I cannot reconcile this move with their statement on the mission page that they want to “maximise access to information” by making a “commitment to a free and open web”.

If publishers truly wanted to survive in the new economy, they would already have made significant changes away from their bloated and expensive infrastructure and would have brought people on board who know how to make money on the web, rather than people in fancy hats. I have been a publisher, I know acceptable profit can be made, even when you giving a lot of product away for free.

As a result of this, it probably means there will be more cloaked spam on the web with poorer search results. Publishers will struggle to implement and more content will be blocked from Google’s search results.

This may pull more publishers back to Google, who had drifted away to Facebook before discovering that is not a solution. This may also push more users to Facebook as Google’s search results become choked with cloaked spam.

More Information:

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The State of SEO Mid-2017 Released

The State of SEO Mid 2017

We recently released the super-exciting The State of SEO in mid-2017. Read it now.

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  • News publishers cried they couldn’t make money (to pay for their fancy glass-walled offices).
  • So, Google ends First Click Free.
  • And replaces it with Flexible Sampling, which allows for cloaking effectively.
  • Watch for the first de-indexed news site as they get their structured markup wrong.
  • Read The State of SEO in mid-2017.
  • Read about how Google’s Mobile First Index is not Mobile Friendly.
  • Finally, get your content ranking well on Google by starting to understand Find Crawl Index.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to discuss what these changes mean for your web property, or would like to know how to implement them, please feel free to contact me.

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