Robert_Charlton - 7:06 pm on May 23, 2013 (gmt 0)
Some even link each badge to a different URL, like a special page for each site that is "awarded".
Sounds in a way like profile pages you see on many types of user-generated content sites. I'd assume there would need to be a social component on the site, as well as checks and balances (you'd want to rate the raters), to make sure this isn't misused by profile builders. (Such systems can be abused in both directions.)
Any online ratings/rewards system can start getting quite complex... but to the degree that it reflects human behavior accurately and helps a site's users, Google might see it as valid.
Hard to say, though, how much weight they'd give to the badge links... These are not what I'd call "freely given editorial links", which is what Google is really looking for. The harder I think about it, the more of a stretch it is for me to think that a badge link back to the mother site conveys any real meaning for Google, unless it generates meaningful traffic.
I'm thinking the badge might be more like a logo on a t-shirt... where, if enough people wear them, that's a kind of signal in itself that can reinforce a brand... but the brand needs to be known enough in the first place for such an arrangement to be viable.