Gaming +1?

You have probably seen +1 popping up on sites all over the web, almost as frequently as you see the ever-present Facebook “Like” icon. +1 allows users to give their “stamp of approval” to  content, and Google factors this into their search results. Because of its influence on rankings and ease of use, it was inevitable that gaming would occur.

Recently, a company set up shop, selling +1s.“Buying Plus Ones can help your site out by showing Google that the content featured on it or the page being is represented is of value to real people and not spammy.” This is quite ironic given the rather spammy nature of these sales.

For $10, a website can purchase 50 +1s, and other packages offer as much as 2000 +1s for $170 from Plussem. This company promises to make the +1s authentic by making sure they “come from real people” who go to your website and click the button manually.  Further, “It’s untraceable because the +1s are being given from different IPs” and “given dripped over a couple of days so it looks natural.”

The problem here is, of course, that low-quality sites can achieve the illusion of relevancy; it is very similar to link baiting or content farms, which Google has fought against for years with measures like the Panda Update.  According to The Atlantic, search engine users “think that The Magic Google Machine decided they should buy from one place rather than another because it’s ‘more relevant.’”

Other experts assume that Google anticipated this and has a plan to counter gamers.  According to Search Engine Watch, “Google must have the ability in the background to see whose social signals are clicked on more and give more weight to those.  Google has a ton of user data from Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Docs, search history and many more, so perhaps age and usage of the account is one thing Google will look at, as well as the topics the account-holder is giving +1s to.”

If Google has a plan, Matt Cutts and his team are keeping mum.

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