Selling Google+ "likes" is gradually becoming a rather lucrative business, helped by cheap labour and the ever-falling price of internet access worldwide; the trend is not unlike what we saw previously with Twitter & Digg back in the day, except that this has a more widespread implication for SEO and could turn the nascent social networking service into a massive headache for Google, as many try to play the system.
Google+ selling sites like Googleplus1supply, buygoogleplus1 or Blackcatseo have cropped up during the last few months - among many other websites - with the sole aim of selling Google+ "likes" to publishers and businesses.
Google has yet to officially come out against this practice which some might view as tacit approval from Google's higher ranks; after all, a quarter of the bonuses of Google's executives hinges on whether or not the company is successful in Social Media.
The going rate for google+ "likes" is roughly $250 per thousand (around £125) and most of the suppliers rely on huge networks of Google account holders, with some apparently reaching "hundreds of thousands" of accounts.
The process is quite simple; once payment has been made, the provider slowly increases +1 "likes" to the client's websites over a period of up to 14 days to improve the websites' ranking, which in turn generally means higher ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Dripfeeding the +1 at the rate of 100 per 24 hours means the sites that have subscribed to the scheme won't be viewed with suspicion; moreover, most of the Google+1 suppliers pledge to use only real humans to avoid raising a red flag.
One of the suppliers is even offering a lifetime guarantee that Google will never remove the "+1's" from the client's website or they will be given their money back. What does that mean for publishers and businesses? Well, if the impact of +1 is more significant than other signals and has a definite impact on Pagerank, it could be the Pandora's box that breaks Google's well-oiled machinery.
And there's an even bigger problem; some massive online freelancing websites have been inundated with Google+1 requests; we counted more than 300 ongoing Google+1 related projects on just one of them with some "requesters" looking for more than 10,000 Google+1 "likes" in one go.