You knew it had to happen, right? As soon as Google opened up its search engine to "social signals," the search engine optimization shops had to find ways to game the system. One, Plussem.com, an arm of SEOShop.biz*, is offering +1s at the rate of 50 for $10, 250 for $30, or 2,000 for $170. In a galling turn, the company says, "Buying Plus Ones can help your site out by showing Google that the content featured on it or the page being is of value to real people and not spammy." That is to say, you should buy their spammy +1 service to prove to Google that your content is not spammy. Ugh.
But there's more. Plussem has thought of everything, it seems, in terms of making the +1s seem the most authentic. Here's what they promise:
- All +1′s come from people with a Google account that has been verified by phone (Phone Verified Accounts)
- All +1′s come from real people. No bots are being used!
- All +1′s are being given by manually going to your website and clicking the +1 button
- It's untraceable because the +1′s are being given from different IP's
- All +1′s are given dripped over a couple of days so it looks natural
From watching the trouble that Digg, Reddit, and their ilk have had stopping even amateur operations from beating their upvoting systems, I shudder to think what a professional operation will do to +1ing on the open Internet.
And another note: this is only possible because of the wild labor market that now exists for digital work. It's just a numbers game. If you can get X number of people hitting that +1 button to drive your sales up by more than you pay them, then it works. And in a way, it's a nice, market-based redistribution of money. Instead of paying a few high-priced advertising firms to drive sales, you pay a ton of very poor people with Internet access in developing countries a tiny slice of the money you would have spent on traditional marketing before.
The downside is that all of that social blocking and tackling is invisible to search engine users. They think The Magic Google Machine decided they should buy from one place rather than another because it's "more relevant."
*Correction 7/26: This story originally gave the company URL here as SEOShop.com when it is, in fact, SEOShop.biz. We regret the error.
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