Google announced it has already attracted 25 million
visitors to Google+, which some reports say could make it the fastest growing social
networking service of all time. With this rapid growth in the social sector,
it’s hard to imagine that Google won’t soon combine the amazing success of its
latest initiative with that of the company’s first – the good old search engine
(and, of course, advertising).
The easiest way to leverage the sharing activity of millions
of users would be for Google to include “+1” data into its search algorithm
(the use of social signals already plays some role in determining search result
placements), and websites have been springing up like weeds offering services that
would allow users to buy +1s in bulk.
Not that this is anything especially new, as similar
opportunities have existed for some time now – with third-party sites offering
to sell Facebook Likes and Twitter Re-Tweets and followers, among other
These sites offer packages that range in price and scope, such
as being able to buy 50 +1s for $19.99, 250 for $69.99, or 2,000 for $359.99 (some
of the more brazen companies offer 1000 +1 clicks as their lowest package
and one site, Buy A Follower, offers up to
10,000 clicks). Most of the sites, like Google Plus 1 Supply,
also promise that they do not use bots, proxies or fake accounts, but have real people giving out real +1s for a fee, because apparently
that makes it more legitimate.
Of course, many of these groups appear to be aware of the
negative implications of buying +1s, especially when trying to influence Google
search results, a company that works hard to curb attempts to game the system.
Just look at the purchasing agreement at Purchase Plus One, which informs buyers
that they may get banned from Google. That’s why these sites
promise to slowly deliver all of the +1s over a period of time (usually 1-2
weeks) to more accurately reflect the realism of the +1 process.
The biggest concern is that these sites are clearly aware of
the negative ethical implications of buying fake fans and scamming Google. In
fact, one such site, Plussem, even has the phrase “cheat the
search algorithm” written out plainly in its product description. Nonetheless,
these service providers are becoming increasingly common, especially as Google+
continues to expand so rapidly.
As little more than a new way to spam the search engines,
paying for the attention of non-relevant, disinterested users to “like” or
“+1” Web content only succeeds in corrupting the social ecosystem. Besides,
what’s the point in spending hundreds of dollars to have someone follow you but
who will never actually pay attention to your message or buy your products?
In the end, not only could you potentially be banned from
Google for knowingly defrauding the system by pretending to have fans that
don’t exist, but you could also be really embarrassed. Just ask Newt Gingrich.