Does Google consider an example of Wall Street Journal where

User who are not subscribed to WSJ do not see the full article and Users who come to the same article via Google search result link see the full article a violation of their webmaster guidelines and does this affect SEO? This is a form of cloaking but is required by Wall Street Journal to make money by allowing Google to index their content by showing it the full article but not showing the full article to users who have not paid for it.

So my question again is, does showing a different page than what is shown to users who are not privileged to see the page affect SEO?

  • Are you saying that the WSJ should not have a paywall? And that showing one or more articles for free is somehow a bad thing? This is cloaking? Not according to Google.
    – closetnoc
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:38
  • Google tends to prefer this for news sites, because it doesn't want to link to pages that users have to pay for.
    – Tim Malone
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:09

2 Answers 2


In general, showing different content to Google than is shown to users is regarded as "cloaking". It's a violation of Google's guidelines and so, yes, a potential problem for SEO.

However for subscription sites, Google operates a number of systems that allow for subscription-only content to be crawled and indexed.

One is "first click free", which allows non-subscribing visitors a free view of the content. The other is a "subscription" label on the search result.

Both offer a compromise between the publisher's desire to promote the content and Google's desire to maintain good user experience by ensuring users can either preview the content, or know before clicking that it's inaccessible without a subscription.


Google cares that you show visitors from Google the same content that you show to its bot. In this case they are showing the full article to both, so they are fine.

Google doesn't care about how you treat users that didn't get to your site through Google search.

The WSJ operates under Google's first click free policy where Google allows the site to get indexed in the search engine as long as the site allows users to read one full article per click from search.

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