Natural Search Blog

Pay-Per-Action Ads may open up Google to being a victim of fraud

I was just reading Barry Schwartz’s report that Google is opting-in some AdSense publishers into Pay Per Action (CPA) ads. He poses the question of why would Google push these ads on the publishers who haven’t asked for it? The immediate answer I come up with is that this could actually be a test to try to detect fraud, since CPA is thought to be less prone to exploit. After all, the publisher would only get paid for these ads if someone buys – not just clicks on the ads on their sites. Perhaps the publishers that are getting opted-in are ones for which Google has had some question about the quality of click-through in their regular PPC ads.

Google AdSense logo

I’ve been thinking that an unpublished problem with Google’s pay-per-action product is that Google itself is likely to become more a victim of fraud with these types of ads. Read on and I’ll describe…


Build It Wrong & They Won’t Come: Coca-Cola’s Store

I just wrote an article comparing Coke’s and Pepsi’s homepage redirection, concluding that Pepsi actually does a better job, though both of them did ultimately nonoptimal setup for the purposes of search optimization. Clunky homepage redirection isn’t the only search marketing sin that Coca-Cola has done — their online product shopping catalog is very badly designed for SEO as well, and I’ll outline a number of reasons why.

Coca-Cola Store

In this article and in the redirection article, I’m criticising Coca-Cola’s technical design quite a bit, but I’m not trying to embarrass them — like any good American boy, I love Coca-Cola (particularly Coke Classic and Cherry Coke). In fact, this could ultimately benefit them, if they take my free assessment and use it as a guide for improving their site. I’m doing this because Coca-Cola is the top most-recognized brand worldwide, and the sorts of errors they’re making in their natural search channel are all too common in ecommerce sites. I chose Coca-Cola’s e-store because they make such a great example of the sorts of things that online marketers need to focus upon. If such a juggernaut of a company, with huge advertising and marketing budgets makes these sorts of mistakes, you could be making them, too.


Questions for SEOs

A few weeks ago Stephan invited me to their motley crew and though I start with great enthusiasm, I’ve had many sleepless nights considering how to make a first impression. I’m Paul O’Brien and while I, as do many, write a blog of my own at, I am grateful for the opportunity to share, amongst the tremendous SEO experience that Chris, Stephan, and Brian bring to the table, my natural search perspective and experience from Yahoo! and HP. My background lies in advertising, paid search, comparison shopping, and brand and demand gen advertising; SEO is only a part though it consistently remains the most beneficial. I’m a practical SEO, heavy in analytics and science, dependant on resources and support, and light on the technology; hopefully, I can share with you something of value.

At the risk of not delivering to your expectations, or perhaps merely my own, I thought I’d start simple. I noticed that over a year ago Stephan posted a great series of questions for SEOs, questions about the industry, the practice of SEO, and our future. Missing from NaturalSearchBlog is a discussion of the appropriate questions to ask an SEO when seeking support. Here are my thoughts:

Look for a company that understands your business, marketing, technology, and the internet extensively.  Most importantly, do not shop around based on price. You don’t want a deal as you need expertise while at the same time, SEO isn’t really expensive rocket science (it is alien for most people but not rocket science).

Find a professional that meets your needs, start with these questions, let us know what works for you, and what you look for from an SEO.

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Want to optimize? Don’t use Trackback Submitter

For a number of weeks now, we’ve seen a real spike in comment spam submitted to NaturalSearchBlog. We have a nice, heuristic-based module that keeps this out, and we moderate comments. I normally review the filtered comments, and they’re usually just tons of crappy spamlinks for sex, drugs, and gambling. Today I found a number of bona-fide comments that got aggressively filtered out with the deluge of spam, so I resurrected those and approved them. If you’ve commented here recently, we apologize for the delay in approving the comments — but they just got sucked in with the bulk of crap.

One of the 5,000-plus spam comments was from a vile company called “Trackback Submitter”. I knew what this was, of course, but I went to their site anyway in order to see what they say about themselves, and found unsurprisingly that they LIE, LIE, and LIE! If you’re a webmaster wanting to build traffic, avoid this software or you could damage yourself. Read on and I’ll explain…


“Search Master” teaches SEO101 but needs SEM101 himself

Was surfing an SEO blog and this Google ad caught my eye:

Google ad for an SEO seminar in Auckland

I’m pretty up to speed with the SEO experts in New Zealand, being based here and all, and I hadn’t heard of any SEO training being given by any master optimizer in Auckland. I was intrigued to learn more about this self-proclaimed “Search Master”. So I clicked. Guess what I got! Yep, a nasty error instead of a landing page!

The page you requested could not be found. Please click here to return to the homepage

Methinks this “Search Master” with his SEO101 and SEO201 courses needs to go back to school himself for SEM101. 😉

Lesson #1 in SEM101: If you’re going to pay for clicks, make sure your landing page works!

We all make mistakes, but this seminar is in 3 days and you’d think he’d be watching the online registrations pretty closely right about now…

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testosterone 400 gets taken to task over its search mistakes

This article just out on is an entertaining rant about’s search marketing mistakes, which include…

As I was perusing the article and the included screen captures, I couldn’t help but think that a critique like this would be well-suited to being produced as a screencast, using Camtasia Studio or similar.

Maybe I should produce my monthly SEO Report Card column as screencasts? Would that be valuable to you folks?

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Tsk Tsk … Spammers

Note to self: Never send a blanket email campaign to SES attendees lest we get blogstormed by Zawodny. Check out what he did to Atlas OnePoint’s rankings.

Continue reading »

Be careful who you link to

There is an interesting and amusing thread over at SEW. A punter asks, on the surface, an innocent question as to why his mate’s site has dropped out of Google.

A bunch of the regulars offer some suggestions for possible problems, and then on the second page, GoogleGuy appears and really wades in, revealing the site is linking to some very bad evil affiliate spammers.

Interesting that GoogleGuy would take the time to do some research on the site. Interesting that SEW allow such specifics to be discussed. Interesting that a good number of other SEO’s didn’t catch the real problem. And amusing that the punter gets his butt kicked from very high up in such a public manner. At least he had the good grace to admit he’s been a bad boy.

The lesson here people, is to be careful who you link to and who they link to in turn. Reciprocal linking is bad, you don’t know who else they have requested a link from. And do you have the time and skills to research those link properly. It took GoogleGuy to find the real problem and a bunch of professional SEO’s missed it.

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Your Google listing is a reflection of your brand!

For years, Starbucks didn’t seem to have a clue… the home page showed up in Google with the title “Cookies required.” It wasn’t even “Delicious, fresh-baked hot-out-of-the-oven cookies required!” Finally now they’ve corrected this to a ho-hum “”

These guys don’t exactly looked “clued in.” For an offline equivalent, I’d imagine a yellow pages ad announcing: “No time for a proper ad this year. Check next year’s book and hopefully we’ll be on the ball by then.”

Not nearly as bad, but still needing attention, is Home Depot’s home page search listing with the title “Thank you for visiting.”

The worst offender is Hotmail: for years their home page shows up in Google as “Sign-in Access Error.” Gee that really instills confidence, particularly when I’m searching Google for “free email” and Hotmail’s access error listing is juxtaposed next to Yahoo’s much more compelling listing, titled “Yahoo! Mail – The best web-based email!”

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Ongoing search engine submission? You’ve gotta be kidding!

I just heard about a supposedly-reputable competitor of ours in the search engine optimization space that’s charging clients recurring fees of many hundreds of dollars per month for “submission services” to major search engines. What a joke! That just goads me, that they would take unsuspecting clients for a ride like that. We haven’t submitted a single site to any major search engines since 2001 or earlier. A site with good links gets found by the spiders. Period. Frankly, resubmitting sites that are already indexed isn’t just unnecessary, it’s asking for trouble. And charging for it to boot? Well in my mind that’s unethical.

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