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How to get millions of +1 for free

We found 4 ways to get millions of +1. They are easy and fast to implement.
di Maurizio Ceravolo
To infinity and beyond! This is how your social signals in Google+ could be raised.

Verso l'infinito ed oltre

Maybe I'm not yet at the level of Buzz Lightyear, the +1 button of my page still doesn't show an infinite value, but with a few millions I think I'm on the right track. Definitely it is a way to increase +1s faster (much faster) than the one explained in How +1 works on the sites.

This time the discovery is not mine but it's by Demetrio Siragusa on his FabLab Palermo page connected to the FabLab Palermo site. A few days ago, Demetrio, with considerable surprise, found the +1 counter increased to over 5 million, despite the followers are little more than a hundred. From the analysis of both the site and the page, Enrico Altavilla has discovered that the phenomenon is caused by a bug. The whole story can be read on How to get ten millions +1s in a week written by Martino Mosna.

From the discussion with Enrico Altavilla and Martino Mosna 6 + 1 tests were born to verify the assumptions we made and to try to understand in which ways the bug could work. A test was done on FabLab Palermo, which got over 10 million +1s, as you can see on the image below

10 millions +1s


The bug

It takes a few minutes to replicate the bug, and you need two things:
  • a Google+ page with a linked website
  • making the Google crawler believe that on the linked web site there is a redirect (in various forms) to a site with millions of +1
A page on Google + can have a linked site that appears below the avatar and the name of the page. This site can be verified, and in this case a checkmark will appear next to the address as below:


Sito verificato

There are two ways to link a site: you can be its webmaster in Google Webmaster Tools and approve the linking, or you can insert rel = publisher relationship in its HTML code. Each of the two procedures requires that the owner of the page is also the owner/webmaster of the site. This prevents people to verify someone else's web sites.

6 Google+ pages were created  for the test and each one of these has been linked to a different url on ideativi.it. To accelerate the timing each page has been submitted to Google through the Fetch as Google feature of Google Webmaster Tools. Each of the 6 URLS has a different HTML code, created with the goal of making Google believe that the page is a non-canonical version of a different page (in this case the Google homepage).


Test 1

This test uses the same HTML code that Demetrio Siragusa had on this web site:
<iframe src="http://www.ideativi.it/" width=100% height=100% frameborder="0">
<script language="javascript">
<!--
location.replace("http://www.google.com");
-->
</script>
</iframe>
The code is trivial. It's an iframe that points to a page and inside it there is a script that runs on browsers that don't support iframes. The script, if executed, redirects a client to the Google homepage. This code has fooled Google, because the search engine doens’t undestand that it runs only on prehistoric browsers. So, Google considers it as a real redirect but this is not the cause of the bug.

The bug is that Google verifies that the URL linked to the Google+ page belongs to me but they do not verify the ownership of the final URL where the redirect points. That’s why in two days after the creation of the Google+ page it got all the +1s of www.google.com.



Actually, it surprised me very much, even if it should have not, given the presence of some prior events like How I Hijacked Rand Fishkin’s Blog and How Webmasters Fake Their Google PR.

EDIT 25/03/2014: This hack doesn't work anymore. Google fixed it. To date tests 3, 4, 5 still work.


Test 2

The second test uses canonical tag directed to the Google homepage


It didn't work.


Test 3

In this test I used a meta refresh to redirect to the Google homepage
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://www.google.com/">



The linked Google+ page got, in a couple of days, millions of +1.


Test 4

This test implements a 302 redirection to the Google homepage.


The linked Google+ page got, in a couple of days, millions of +1.


Test 5

This test implements a 301 redirection to the Google homepage.


The linked Google+ page got, in a couple of days, millions of +1.


Test 6

This test implements a rel=publisher directed to the Google homepage.


It didn't work.


A second bug?

A few days ago +CircleCount published the list of the Google+ pages with the highest count of +1s:


In this list we find some unusual pages with millions of +1 and just a few followers,  like  +YouTube Next Programs, +Virtual Photo Walks Korea, +Google Local Tokyo, +Google Local London, +Google Local Austin, +Google Local New York, +Google Local Sydney, +Google Local DC, +Google Local San Francisco. In this case I do not have a suitable page to test with but the analysis of these pages gives me at least a hypothesis. They are all verified pages and all but one have a linked site. I think that, for verified pages, Google could automatically accept any cited URL as the linked one. So basically, if the page is verified, Google+ takes as verified any inserted link. This is why +YouTube Next Programs has the same number of +1s of YouTube with only 133 follower. And that's why all the above cited Google Local pages have almost the same numer of +1s.


Don't be too excited

You can increase the value of +1s of a page to millions in just a couple of minutes. And you can also add cloaking to any of these methods, making users unaware of these tricks. In any case, I advise against using these methods. I won't use them in any of my sites. Social signals are ignored by Google, as their representatives stressed more than one time. Also, it is a bug, an unwanted behavior and Google will probably fix soon. It wouldn't be nice to see the counter on your page falling from millions back to hundreds. As they say: from riches to rags.


Credits

Special thanks go to Demetrio Siragusa for letting me write about this bug and to Enrico Altavilla e Martino Mosna for the interesting discussion and the big help in writing this post. And more special thank goes to Enrico Altavilla for the advices and the help in adapting this post to English.
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