SEO Insights > Flexible Sampling from Google has replaced First Click Free

Flexible Sampling from Google has replaced First Click Free

Posted by Simon Schnieders on October 8, 2017

GoogleGoogle NewsSEOSEO StrategyTechnical SEO

Google have removed First Click Free (FCF) as a requirement for walled content in News and Search citing that publishers know what strategy works for them.

Google now actively encouraging publishers to experiment with different free sampling schemes, as long as they stay within the updated webmaster guidelines.

We reached out to Google representatives to see if this could also apply to publishers beyond news such as ‘Daily Deals’ websites and the answer was ‘it needs to have a valid use for the structured data types’. Given  it’s ‘NewsArticle’ in the structured data, that would be a no.

Google calls this *Flexible Sampling.

One of the original motivations for FCF was to address the issues surrounding cloaking, where the content served to Googlebot is different from the content served to users.

Sites with paywalls are strongly encouraged to apply the new structured data to their pages, because without it, the paywall may be interpreted as a form of cloaking, and the pages would then be removed from search results.

Types of *Flexible Sampling

There are two types of sampling Google advises:

1. Metering, which provides users with a quota of free articles to consume, after which paywalls will start appearing and;

2. Lead-in, which offers a portion of an article’s content without it being shown in full.

Both are described here

How to indicate paywalled content (= all content within Flexible Sampling)

*Publishers should enclose paywalled content with JSON-LD structured data in order to help Google differentiate paywalled content from the practice of cloaking.*


  • JSON-LD is the only accepted method for specifying structured data for paywalled content.
  • Make sure to follow these steps for all versions of your page (including AMP and non-AMP)

Where is this leading?

Google ultimately want to move towards frictionless micropayments for publishers which may be the answer to maintaining quality journalism and of course create further multiple revenue streams for Google. This would need to happen at the unbundled article-level for ‘drive-by’ audiences to consume content as well as for full subscriptions and bundles. [Original blog post from Google announcing ther change]

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