Flexible Sampling


What Is Flexible Sampling?

Flexible sampling is a markup that replaced Google’s ‘First Click Free’ Policy in 2017 and enables Google crawlers to crawl an entire website and full articles in order to index all of its content.

It also allows webmasters to control how many articles a searcher can view before subscribing for the full experience.

Why Is Flexible Sampling Important?

Prior to flexible sampling, First Click Free was the main paywall method that websites had to use, which was originally established in order to prevent cloaking, a black hat SEO technique.

Businesses and publishers were not fond of the First Click Free policy, because it required them to enable a certain amount of free views, and it was perceived that Google was essentially in control of their business model.

Flexible sampling places more control in the hands of business and publishers and is also better for UX (User Experience) because it allows a user to get a taste of the content offered before subscribing.

This means less alienation, lower bounce rates and higher dwell time.

While free content is always preferable, flexible sampling won’t necessarily hold your website back. Mixing free and paid for content is a great strategy. And ensuring your paid-for content can’t be seen anywhere else will give you a boost.

How Does Flexible Sampling Work?

There are two main types of flexible sampling.

Lead-in Sampling

Lead-in sampling provides users with a brief snippet of a page’s content, for example, a single paragraph. It then utilises a CTA (Call To Action) in order to persuade them to subscribe for the full content.

An alternative form of lead-in sampling involves providing a summary of the web page, which can be a more effective strategy for good UX.

Displaying integrated target keywords in the header is good practice here.

Delivering questions related to the page topic, as H2 and H3 headers, and including brief answers to these questions is also effective.

Metered Sampling 

Metered sampling provides the user with a much more usable and natural experience by allowing them to view a set amount of articles before being presented with a paywall.

Hard Paywall

The alternative to these two options is a hard paywall, which completely closes off a website’s content. A hard paywall, however, is not part of a viable SEO strategy

This is because it prevents searchers from viewing any of your content at all, which leads to poor engagement metrics if they aren’t willing to pay for anything.

How Should You Use Flexible Sampling? 

To use flexible sampling on your website, businesses and publishers must mark-up their content. To do this, they must use the structured-markup JSON-LD

Doing this will make a web page crawlable, and prevent it from being flagged up for cloaking.

How Can We Help?

Considering using flexible sampling on your own site but not sure how to best approach it? Give us a call and we can organise a free strategy session for you and your team.

If you don’t have a team, we could also pair you with one through our matching service - you never know, you might get paired with us personally!

In the meantime, keep an eye on our blog for all the latest updates and tips in the marketing world.