First Click Free is a Google tool that allows Google bots to crawl and index content held behind forms, predominantly on subscription or registration-only sites (ie. those with paywalls) such as The Times or The New York Times.
Introduced in 2008, it allows Google to gain access to behind-form content—content which lies behind registration forms—and allows these pages to appear in search engine results for relevant queries. Search engine crawlers, which systematically go through websites to index (or inventory) their content, do not automatically attempt to fill these log-in forms out in order to access the content behind them. As these pages are uncrawlable, First Click Free is the only way to allow log-in-only content to be crawled, indexed and thus seen in search results.
Working as an agreement between publishers and Google, First Click Free allows the search engine to index content which would otherwise be inaccessible to crawlers It prevents Google’s spiders from thinking that your site is devoid of content and therefore not worth ranking at all, and incentivises users to register for paid content from publishers.
If a user sees content on a SERP which is behind a paywall, they can access three such pages per day. This has the benefit of directing new, high-authority websites to a user’s attention, who may then potentially register or subscribe to continue reading further content.
For more information on first click free, including implementation, we recommend visiting Google’s First Click Free Tutorial.
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