It’s time to talk about another Google+ – the +1 button Google fairly recently introduced. The feature was officially rolled out in early June as an answer to the Facebook Like, allowing users to recommend content that their friends will then see via Google’s social search.
The +1 button launch brought concerns as to how the application would affect SEO. And while exactly how it affects page rank isn’t entirely obvious yet, we know it does. Which is why it makes perfect sense that +1s are now for sale.
A report in The Atlantic brought our attention to a site called Plussem.com, which is offering +1s to boost your site. At Plussem, for $20 you get 50, $70 nets you 250, all the way up to $360 for 2,000. The site describes itself, saying:
“Google are [sic] now striking back at Facebook with there [sic] version of the Like button. This will be used to judge contents [sic] worth [sic] by using real people to rate it rather than there [sic] own bots. To cheat the searching algorithm be sure to get the ball rolling for your site by purchasing Plus Ones.”
If you were able to muddle your way through that grammatically-challenged mission statement, you know that there isn’t some complicated operation going on here: The site has a person with a verified Gmail account click +1 on your desired content and that way each +1 your site gets originates from a different IP address. Plussem also spreads out its +1 bingeing to make it that much more convincing. We contacted Plussem to ask about their process and if they would like to comment on the attention their site is getting. We were told that “‘where there is demand there will be supply.’ I can not explain our process publicly. I can only say that we deliver our customers the service they request for a fair price.”
An SEO company trying to game Google is hardly revolutionary. The company’s stranglehold on search is motivation enough for Web publishers to attempt to understand the nooks and crannies of its algorithm – and to then exploit them. And Google does everything it can to keep its page rank process a mystery, possibly to a fault. Its Panda updates this year had varying results, and in some cases actually hurt its content farm crackdown. So given the power it wields over search, we don’t think it’s inappropriate for Websites to do what they can to figure it all out and try to boost their page rank.
That said, this type of marketing is generally bad news. First of all, we wouldn’t trust our money anywhere that can’t figure out the difference between “their” and “there” – that’s reason enough for caution. Secondly, +1s aren’t really worth the money at this point. The feature doesn’t have the kind of pull a Facebook Like does yet given Google+’s limited userbase. On the new social network, you can see what users give a +1 – but there simply isn’t a wide enough population on the site to make that useful yet.
Currently, +1s don’t have a big effect on search results. You only see them when one of your Google contacts +1s something, and we’re willing to bet you aren’t Gmail buddies with the spammers working for Plussem. Eventually +1s might become more visible to a larger population, but that isn’t currently the case.
Not to matter. The site that operates Plussem, SEOShop.biz, also sells Facebook fans, fake product reviews, forum posts, and a handful of other faux marketing services for your site. The SEO world is riddled with this type of trickery, and we don’t necessarily advocate against exploring and experimenting with methods to boost page rank. But given Google’s harsh punishments for this type of activity and its ever-changing algorithm, this particular scheme and many like it are definitely not worth the risk.