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While searching for news, I am often presented with pages that have 'premium content'.

For example this story by The Australian.

I checked it's canonical URL and it's same as the page I landed upon

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/martin-parkinsons-blessing-for-tony-abbotts-plea-to-stay/story-fn59nsif-1226872844602

I checked the site's code hoping that 'premium content' might be hidden using CSS but that's not the case either.

My question is - how have they managed to rank so high with a big popup & a fraction of full content that's supposed to be on this page when there are other sources with full stories and a much more pleasant user experience? Any chance they are serving full content to the bots?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

That URL returns a temporary 302 redirect to Googlebot to a URL on the website that checks the cookie stored to see if the user is logged in and whether to show premium content or not and for Googlebot where no cookie is stored, the full story is displayed and indexed in Google.

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that makes a lot of sense. Can you please share how I can perform a similar check to extend this research? (Thanks heaps) –  vDog Apr 3 at 12:00
    
Fetch as Googlebot with Web Sniffer and use site operator in Google (site:domain.com) to see what Google indexes. –  zigojacko Apr 3 at 13:08

This is known as a paywall. Google has a program for news publishers called "first click free" - which allows for the blocked content to be crawled by Google, in most cases you also get to read the article for free if you access it via Google (with a 10 monthly article access - like NY Times for example). You can read more about it here:

https://support.google.com/news/publisher/answer/40543?hl=en

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Didn't know this existed and Google offered workarounds to premium content sites. Thanks :) –  zigojacko Apr 3 at 13:09

Ranking is a complex situation, remember that big influence for that is related links and amount of visitors.

That page that you mention, even without knowing if the subject is relevant and attracted much attention on any specific demographic, can be analysed and many SEO relevant elements are working.

  • it's a popular site
  • it's a fast site
  • has social media buttons and people seem to use them
  • has lots of internal links, some of them are popular pages
  • has words that seem relevant and common on search queries
  • the site itself has some weight so each link has a good influence
  • ...

A lot of people may not know that the site only offers part of the content, or the may be OK with only the main idea of the article, so when they do the search, they click that link. The Australian is one of the first results on a Google Australia search for news.

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