We often hear from Technical Authors who say they (or their bosses) have concerns about publishing their user guides on the Web. They are worried their competitors might read them, the manuals might stop a prospect from buying the product, or that a client might not buy a support contract.
On the other hand, there are many reasons for publishing user documentation on the Web and having it indexed by the Search Engines. Apart from a better “after sales experience” for customers, it’s great for improving a company’s Search Engine rankings, as Google loves information-rich content.
The good news is that Google does offer a possible solution for these two opposing pressures to be resolved, called “First click free“. According to Google:
While the first article can be seen without subscribing, all clicks on the article page are “trapped.” This means that if users click anywhere else on that page, they’ll be prompted to sign up. This allows our users to view the article of interest while also exposing them to your site, encouraging an actual subscription.
However, it might not be perfect for you. People can potentially go back to Google, find another article from the same site, click to it from Google and read that.
Google is offering additional options for content appearing in Google News search (called Subscription and Preview), but these aren’t available in the main Google Search Engine. Whether they will be added as options for non-news content is unknown.
You can also have content on your Web site that is hidden from Search Engines. Google’s Robots Exclusion Protocol options (robots.txt files or the meta robots tag) offer automatic exclusion from indexing by Search Engines. You can also hide content behind a login screen.
For more information, see Josh Cohen Of Google News On Paywalls, Partnerships & Working With Publishers.