Paywall labels are labels that appear in the search results accompanying every query, indicating whether the content is free or paid. Now, there is much debate going on between Google and its users regarding the use of paywall labels. There are arguments from both sides about whether such a thing is necessary.
Certainly, there are benefits to providing paywall labels in search results, most of those favoring the user side, but we need to talk about the other side also. Paywall labels can negatively affect websites that provide paid content and services, and we’ll be examining exactly how and why.
Paywall labels will decrease traffic towards a website that provides paid content. Users will flock towards free content (as is the general tendency) irrespective of the quality and credibility. In a world where instant solutions are appreciated, hassle-free accessibility will encourage people to skip over content that is already restricted unless they pay a subscription or fee. And from the users’ perspective, having a label displayed on the results was recently confirmed in a poll conducted by Deyan Darketing, nearly 70% of those asked, said they would prefer clear labeling as it will inevitably help the user experience.
If a paid website registers less traffic, it will end up at the bottom of the search results, which in turn will decrease a website’s visibility. Decreasing visibility will damage the overall business and might kill it completely. A repeated pattern of users skipping certain articles combined with the popularity of other similar articles (which might be free) will take it out of the high priority list of search results owing to the fact how those algorithms work.
As mentioned already, paywall labels will encourage the users to skip over content, which will affect traffic and visibility. Paid websites are businesses just like normal businesses, they provide a service of which they charge a fee to sustain their website and quality, and loss of traffic and visibility will affect their revenue generation. The fee in the form of subscription or any other monetary method such as advertisements will only work if such websites can register the impression of the user, enabling paywall labels will take away businesses of quality websites.
Google says that enabling paywall labels will affect the quality of articles. In other words, not allowing paywall labels within the provided browser, Chrome, is their way of ensuring that quality journalism survives. Labeling articles based on their monetary nature will allow free and bad sources to rise in priority in search results, which can erode the quality of information.
A loss of quality will also mean a loss of credibility. Generally speaking, if the content is good, people will be okay to part with their money for it. Although the number of people who pay for their content is far fewer in comparison to those casual visitors. Paid content directly correlates with credibility, as you can trust the source because of the transactional nature and professional integrity associated with such a relationship.
From what we have observed, using paywall labels can indeed negatively affect a website’s traffic, visibility, and revenue. While the debate continues about the balance between the user experience and that of the businesses and their provided content. It is hard to ignore that not only will businesses be affected, but the quality of reliable information will also suffer and the further spread of unchecked and false information is very real.