February 25, 2021
Google First Click Free program

After Google First Click Free Program Exit, Wall Street Journal Traffic Drops 44 Percent

After The Wall Street Journal stopped participating in the Google First Click Free program, which allows visitors to bypass its paywall, traffic fell 44 percent…

Back in February, The Wall Street Journal left the Google First Click Free program, and it resulted in a 44 percent drop off in search traffic, Bloomberg reports

After Leaving the Google First Click Free Program, Wall Street Journal Traffic Experiences a 44 Percent Decline

The Google First Click Free program allows web visitors to access publisher content, even if it uses a paywall. The program is very popular with publishers, because although it allows visitors to access paid content for free, it significantly increases search traffic and ad-revenue, offsetting potential lost subscription revenue. 

However, for sites using paywalls who are not in the program, Google cannot fully index published articles. This means sites’ unindexed content won’t appear on the SERP, or search engine results page, for certain topics and related queries.

The Journal’s chief marketing officer, Suzi Watford, told Bloomberg: “Any site like ours automatically doesn’t get the visibility in search that a free site would. …you are definitely being discriminated against as a paid news site.”

But, the Wall Street Journal also disclosed in the interview, while its Google search traffic has dropped, it’s experienced a four-fold increase in subscription conversions. And, the search engine marks subscription content clearly in its news search results, but does not use that designation in regular search results. Additionally, the subscription designation does not appear in the Google “Top Stories” section.

Recently, Google added a “Personal” results tab under the “More” option on its SERP. Back in May, Google delisted approximately 860,000 EU links over the “right to be forgotten” decision.

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