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50 Google +1s on sale at SEO shop for $9.99 (theatlantic.com)
142 points by bproper on July 25, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

I sort of assumed that part of the point of Google+ was that you could have +1s from your social graph weighed much more heavily. Trust only the recommendations of people you trust, or people they trust, or so on with diminishing weight.

Yes, but as long as there will be people no knowing about that, there will be room for such freeloaders.

My understanding is that +1s only affect your search results if you're connected to the person that's +1'ing. This makes ballot stuffing pointless. (edit: effect -> affect)

It still helps with social proof. Everyone can see the number on the site.

It probably does, but 50 plusses aren't very impressive. You'd have to buy thousands of them in order to appear viable. And even then, most people who are able to recognize a high "plus" ranking would probably be sophisticated enough to recognize a spam site instantly anyway. This kind of reminds me of those weird sites with a button on them displaying 3 million likes on Facebook and when you look at the actual source code, it turns out they embedded the widget with "example.com" as their site address.

Fifty ClickMob accounts on non-social sites are worth a lot more, for a short time you could totally dominate sites like HN, Slashdot and Reddit. But Google+ accounts that are not connected to relevant people, I just don't see the value...

It could also be or become a ranking/search quality signal in aggregate.

Google may also show aggregate +1's in their search results in the future (so social proof right in the search results):

>>And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop.


>>For instance, your +1 could appear as part of an anonymous aggregated count of the people who have also +1’d the same thing


affect, homie

Capitalization and periods, good buddy. (I couldn't resist.)

Fragment (consider reversing)

Google should buy 1000 +1s for some random obscure site and then ban all the IPs that +1'd it.

+1's are linked to individual Google accounts, it's probably more effective to ban the actual accounts. Also for those who said it's bot nets, typically the way these things work is the people doing the "plussing" get paid a very small cut. See Subvert and Profit as an example from both sides of the coin.

That'd be a good idea if you are sure all the +1's are coming from illegitimate users but with the existence of botnets/malware/etc, it's very possible that the people +1'ing have no idea they are doing it.

So shadowban them instead. The kind of people who would allow their system to be compromised are not the kind of people who would care or notice if their +1's didn't count.

I don't believe you're serious. Not only is that untrue (practically everyone is insecure in some way) but it's also a non sequitur; it's not the +1ers that suffer when their clicks don't count, it's their friends, who would otherwise benefit from having better recommendations.

It's not a bad suggestion. Their friends are going to be better off without the +1s of anyone whose account is compromised by a bot net.

I don't know if the situation has changed, but every AOL user used to be behind ~20 firewalls. So banning the IP of one AOL firewall would block 5% of AOL users.

How many AOL users are there left in the world? I don't mean to imply that there aren't many, or that they're not important, I'm really curious.

Slightly old data...but I'm sure the trend is still intact: in its 2009 fourth-quarter report released to the public on February 3, 2010, AOL.com reported a total of 4.999 million subscribers in the United States. This reflected a 27% drop from its 6.879-million subscriber base for the same quarter of 2008. At its peak, AOL reported having 30 million members worldwide, according to a 2006 report published in BusinessWeek.

I believe those aren't all ISP subscribers, though, but also people who are still paying for the service via another ISP, because they don't realize AOL made it free. They used to charge something like $25/mo as an ISP, or $10/mo if you had your own ISP and just wanted to use the AOL client for email/AOL-keywords/whatever. Eventually they made that free, but not automatically--- you have to go click on something to request to be switched over to the (identical, except for support) free account, and many old AOL users either haven't noticed or haven't gotten around to it, or don't believe it. I switched my parents over about two years ago, because until then, they/I weren't actually sure they'd get to keep their email address if they dropped the paid account (as of about 4 years ago, you can).

As an aside, this holds for more users than just those using AOL. For example, corporations, mobile phone users and universities.

I wonder if this could be used nefariously? Buy someone a 1000 +1 package, and watch as their account gets banned for spam.

That's not a bad idea. In fact you don't need this for doing that - you will probably _not_ want to avoid the obvious catches (like clicking from same ip many times, too frequently, etc.).

you could do the same by sending thousands of links. Search engines knows about this fortunately.

Both sites (http://seoshop.biz/ and http://plussem.com/) use Google Analytics. So Google could feasibly track who makes a purchase. If you make purchase on those sites and you've recently logged into your Google Webmaster tools or something and then get a load of +1's Google could surely fairly easily see that.

Promoting google+ votes is becoming a very hot business. Using these types of services could have negative or positive affects on SEO. We just have to see how google treats them. Another place to buy google plus votes is bulkones.com Will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few months.

Surely Google can detect this for sites that use Google Analytics -- they know where the majority of their traffic comes from (presumably a high-value economy) and they know where their +1s come from. If there isn't a significant geographical overlap, then there's something fishy going on.

EDIT: For tl;dr, The article mentions that +1s are likely coming from developing countries.

This may actually be detectable. If someone who has never, based on their search history, suddenly +1's something that would normally be outside their interest, you could weight that plus one differently than others.

In fact, I would be very surprised if Google _didn't_ weight +1 data, and simply used the total number as their "+1 Signal".

You'd be surprised how seemingly smart and dumb the Google ranking algorithm is. SEO's have been witnessing this for years. Techniques that shouldn't work do, and ones that are extremely complex and tricky are sniffed out by Google engineers quicker than anyone could anticipate.

I love how seoshop.biz offer a service to give fake product/service reviews for $1.20/review... and yet they show reviews of their own services on their product pages. Are these reviews meant to be convincing given they're coming from a company that actually SELLS the ability to create bullshit reviews?

Perhaps that's their "shopping window", where they showcase samples of their merch ;)

Perhaps http://seoshop.biz would rather get real reviews as they value there customers more than the idiots who buy the reviews?

Haven't read the article, though I don't find it too strange. Anyways, I even find that price too expensive for just 50 +1s. You can find twice that much for half the price at Fiverr: http://fiverr.com/gigs/search?query=google+%2B1

These kind of service ("liking", "digging", and anything that involves "votes" of some kind) has been offered since forever, why would it be any different with Google's +1?

Google have a few options here:

1. Attempt to detect these scam +1 votes, and either ignore them or penalise the targetted sites (although the latter is risky as it can be exploited to destroy the ranking of competitors)

2. Focus on encouraging more genuine use of the +1 button, so any +1 results that can affordably be bought are lost in the noise.

3. The spy vs spy option. Start selling +1 votes themselves under a dummy name, and then immediately remove them as spam (whilst optionally continuing to display them in google analytics). Google could of course afford to undercut all other sellers, and their +1 selling services could appear at the top of all relevant searches, rather than other sites attempting the same.

Option 1 seems the most likely for google, but if I were a small startup I'd definitely pick option 3, then blog about it a few months later.

How about just removing the sites selling them?

I think Digg tried to do that with a company in Australia and failed.

Old news.. You could get this done on Freelancer.com since the beginning.. I'm sure you could even go cheaper than $10 these days.. http://twitter.com/#!/freelancer/status/58323985988984832

Holy crap that's expensive. I'm not sure if it's scalable though. At that price I would be surprised if the botnets used mostly for sending spam doesn't just query google for whatever result and "click" the +1.

You should pay them to upvote this story :)

I see Google moving to use their 'news algorithm' to fight this kind of thing. When a news site gets linked to a great deal real fast then it shoots up in rankings, but once that super-high load disappears, suddenly as other news articles become more relevant, then Google basically blacklists that previous article despite that it has super-high backlinks.

Could Google just see a site get 1,000 +1's in a week and then never get another for 2 weeks and then blacklist it like the above news algorithm?

If you actually get +1000 and more people actually visit your site and enjoy your service you will be probably getting some more pluses.

Surely this is a side effect of Mechanical Turk-type sites and offers; if you offer someone $0.10 for what amounts to a few seconds work, it kinda starts to all look worthwhile.

Maybe this is an in joke or something, but searching for "seoshop" on google results in a landing page as the first result.

the article is wrong, it's not seoshop.com it's http://seoshop.biz/

Is this a common practice on other +1-like buttons? (say facebook "like"s, twitter's RTs, digg/reddit upvotes, etc)

Yup. You can buy pretty much any vote for $0.10-0.50 per account. Including Reddit and Hacker News. (Of course, it's black hat and you shouldn't do it.)

WOW! $1/vote for Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon etc - the cheaters must have pretty deep pockets if they want to game the system! Or does it only take 10-20 votes to swing things in one's favour?

A few, early votes are what matter, then the snowball effect takes over.

In reddit's 'hot' ranking algorithm, the first 10 votes are weighted as heavily as the next 100 which are in turn weighted the same as the next 1000 [1]. So maybe purchasing 100 upvotes is optimal for that particular system.

[1] http://amix.dk/blog/post/19588

It used to be cheaper. But they must have had problems garnering business or fighting voting ring detection systems. You'll notice there is a wider array of sites listed now than before. Lots of new video sites and things like Kongregate which weren't there back in 07 when they were very busy are listed now. For example, Hacker News (not listed, but surely is vulnerable to this sort of thing), about 4-5 votes within 1 hour and you're guaranteed front page. s&p aren't the only ones offering services in the market of course.

They will probably get shutdown as soon as this story gets enough attention.


Good question. I don't mean the sellers. But rather the accounts that are being sold. Meaning that the buyer of such an account will have wasted 10$. Don't see why would anybody pay for a +1 account though. Especially since they will eventually open the gates to everyone.

So imagine you are a black hat for a moment. You've run your drive by malware campaign and harvested a couple hundred thousand Google login credentials, or maybe you just sit and wait and when the browser is open you send a +1 to the site your master told you to send it to.

So now Google has hundreds of +1 votes coming from otherwise legitimate users. How do they fight that?

remove SEOshop from organic results, and block them from Adwords until they shut down the operation.

Good point. Had not thought of that. Although it would probably become kind of obvious that there is something fishy going on. Why would a site that has no real value all of a sudden start getting a lot of +1s? They would have to be really subtle to go undetected.

I wonder if some algorithm using ratio of giving and receiving +1s/circles/posts/etc could be used to curb this kind of practice, by converting +1s of legitimate users into +2s, +3s, and so on.

Seems to me the inevitable end game is PeopleRank as an analog to PageRank where Google trusts the +1s of certain people, for certain topics, differently.

that is actually quite cheap...I think I saw a few months ago someone doing a similar service for reddit, and it was like $1 per upvote

edit: didn't find the actual site, but similar: http://www.freelancer.com/projects/Internet-Marketing-Link-B...

Humungous banner screaming "WIN AN IPAD 2!" FTW!

It was only a matter of time ;-) Surely Google must have relaized that as soon as they released their +1 button, some people would start gaming it?

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