Can Google's system be gamed by +1s? At least one website seems to think so -- and will charge clients $9.99 per 50 +1s.
Plussem.com offers "Google +1 Packages." or +1s that range from $9.99 for 50 +1s to $169.99 for 2,000 +1s. The site says, "To cheat the searching algorithm be sure to get the ball rolling for your site by purchasing Plus Ones." The site goes on to say that, "Buying Plus Ones can help your site out by showing Google that the content featured on it or the page being [sic] is of value to real people and not spammy." From the site:
1. All +1′s come from people with a google account that has been verified by phone (Phone Verified Accounts)
2. All +1′s come from real people. No bots are being used!
3. All +1′s are being given by manually going to your website and clicking the +1 button
4. It’s untraceable because the +1′s are being given from different IP’s
5. All +1′s are given dripped over a couple of days so it looks natural
As The Atlantic points out, the low cost and manual labor has to mean a bunch of very poor workers in developing countries will be clicking +1 for fractions of pennies. But is what they're doing any different from what other SEO services offer? We all know that JCPenney gamed the Google algorithm and was found out and punished, but only after a stellar Christmas season. The truth is there will always be these kinds of companies out there, which is why any search engine user has to use a little critical thinking to get past the spam.