WSJ Miffed with Google for Massive Drop in Search Traffic After Ending Free Readership

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Jun 6, 2017
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Wall Street Journal is one of the most respected media outlets, which makes them eligible for setting up a paywall for articles. It means that only paying subscribers could read the articles on the website. There used to be a “first click free” feature on the WSJ that allowed first-time visitors to read articles for free, but it was removed in February as users were taking advantage of it by clearing browser cookies. The repercussions of removing the feature turned out to be bad for the website as the traffic dipped by nearly half along with the ranking on Google.

Apparently, users were bypassing the payment wall by deleting cookies and posing as a new reader. While the removal of “first click free” feature led to an increase in paying subscribers, but the ranking on Google suffered a setback, ultimately leading to declining Search traffic.

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The publication is now miffed with Google for discriminating between free and paid content. Google defends its decision by saying that it believes in offering users quick to read news links without any barriers. “For the many publishers who already take advantage of this approach, it provides the ability to protect their business model and the opportunity to convert people who sample their content into paying customers,”  Google said in a statement.

It’s worth mentioning that there are consequences for paid articles that lead users to read just a few paragraphs of the articles and then demand subscription to read the rest. Google’s algorithms rank such pages lower in the search result, which is why WSJ witnessed a 44% drop in search traffic.

While the drop in search ranking is significant, the WSJ’s ad revenue remained unaffected by it. The media outlet witnessed an increase in visitors from social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Also, there was a substantial 30% increase in WSJ’s digital subscribers during the recent quarter.

Regardless of all the other growing factors, WSJ slammed Google for not showing equal treatment for paid news sites.

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