Wall Street Journal articles now rank lower in Google search results after the publication prevented Google users from reading an article on the website for free. Wall Street Journal makes most of its income from the fees it collects from its subscribers, which currently number at around 2.2 million, and is supplemented by the advertising income it gains on the limited number of free pages it provides to readers coming from Google and social networking sites. However, the company behind the publication, News Corp, observed several Google users take advantage of the free articles provided to them by deleting the cookies stored in their browsers and in turn allowing them to read the Wall Street Journal articles for free. This behavior by some users may have negatively affected the rate of new subscriptions to the publication, which prompted its publishers to stop providing free articles for individuals arriving from search results.
However, this move by the Wall Street Journal negatively impacted the search rankings of the publication. The algorithm currently being used by Google reads articles that are freely available on the internet. Once the algorithm is prevented from reading the entirety of the article, the website is penalized through lowering the search rankings. For the Wall Street Journal, the lower search rankings resulted in a 44 percent drop in the number of readers coming from Google Search.
Given the tendency of Google's search algorithm to penalize paid websites in search ranking, many publications resorted to allowing Google users to read at least one article for free. Google views this as a solution that is beneficial to the publishers, content creators, and the search company. In this scenario, the search rankings of the publications remain high, Google garners a portion of the free article's advertising revenue, and the publications may garner new subscriptions once users hit the limit of free articles. However, there are other publications that do not agree with Google's view on the situation, especially since the search giant and the publishers do not share the same business interests. As an alternative to providing Google users free articles, some publications utilize social media to increase readership and subscription numbers. This is essentially applicable to websites with niche markets where potential readers tend to be in the same social circle. In the case of Wall Street Journal, this method has been successful in mitigating the impact of the reduction in views resulting from the lower Google search rankings, with social media visits from Facebook and Twitter up by around 34 percent. The publication was also able to increase its subscriber numbers after its decision to bar Google users from reading articles.