Why Your Next Giveaway Promotion Should Avoid Google+

Are you running a giveaway by incentivizing entrants to use Google+ features and buttons, such as asking your readers to +1 a URL or add you to a circle?

A word of caution: you’re probably in violation of Google’s terms of service.

While it’s a feature that’s requested often, there’s a reason Google+ features haven’t been built into the Rafflecopter widget. In this post we’re going to highlight Google+, explain Google+ giveaway & contest rules concerning your promotions, and what to look out for when setting up your next giveaway.

The Fundamentals: Introducing Google+

By now you’ve heard of Google+, the social network that launched a little over a year ago that was supposed to ‘rival Facebook‘ (and depending on who you ask, maybe it does). Fast forward to August 2012, and Google+ is said to have over 250 million users. *thumbs up*

To control what kind of  experience Google users have on both their search engine and Google+, several guidelines have been put into place specifically around the topic of promotions, contests, and sweepstakes.

Google+ Pages Contest & Promotion Policy Explained

In November of 2011, Google launched Google+ Pages. Their equivalent of a Facebook Page, this is a place where brands and businesses could build relationships with those interested in connecting. It didn’t take long for folks to read through their page policies and find out how much involvement Google wanted in regards to your contests and sweepstakes.

The answer? None.

The Google+Pages Contest and Promotions Policy document is very clear: you can link to promotions running elsewhere on the web, but the promotions cannot be run directly on your Google+ Page and you must release Google from any liability associated with your promotion.

Giveaways & The Google+ Platform Buttons Policy

With Google+ comes functionality similar to what Facebook offers: meet the Google+ Buttons, their equivalent of the Facebook Like Button. As millions of new users join the service each month, page owners and website owners are naturally trying to grow their circles and increase +1 button clicks.

If you have Google+ buttons on your site and you’re running giveaways, zoom in on the Google+ Platform Buttons Policy. Before you incentivize your readers to click the +1 or add you to their circles, read the following two policies below:

Publishers may not attempt to discover the identity of a Google+ button user unless the user consents to share his or her identity with the Publisher via a Google-approved authorization procedure. This prohibition includes identifying users by correlating Google+ button reporting data from Google with Publisher data.

Google makes it difficult for publishers to determine who has clicked on a +1 button and forbids you to attempt to find out who has clicked the +1 button unless this is done with your reader’s consent and through a Google authorized app.

Publishers may not direct users to click a Google+ button for purposes of misleading users. Publishers may not promote prizes, monies, or monetary equivalents in exchange for Google+ button clicks. For the avoidance of doubt, Publishers may direct users to a Google+ button to enable content and functionality. When a Publisher directs users to a Google+ Button, the button action must be related to the Publisher or the Publisher’s content. For the +1 button, the content or functionality that is enabled for the user must also be accessible to any of the user’s social connections who also enable it.

Even though you’re allowed to tell/direct your readers to click the +1 button, Google doesn’t want +1 buttons clicked if it’s tied to some incentive, whether that be a prize you might win/receive or a payment.

Is Google+ Anti-Sweepstakes? Three Thoughts.

You’re allowed to link to other promotions you’re running from your Google+ page, but that’s about the extent that Google wants to be involved. What’s the deal, Google?

Here are three thoughts that come to mind on why Google has taken this position:

  1. Google might want to differentiate themselves from Facebook. Having nothing to do with sweepstakes and contests on Google+ might allow for a more professional, button-down atmosphere.
  2. It’s no secret that Google+ and the +1 button can improve your visibility in search engines. Google might see contests and sweepstakes as a way to alter search results in an unauthentic way.
  3. Google just bought Wildfire, a company that makes social media marketing software. This acquisition might play into how they allow giveaways, contests, and other promotions run through Google+.

Conclusion: Giveaway & Sweepstakes With Google+

It’s true: we’ve never heard of a Google+ page get banned for a promotion, either.

But I bet you’ve heard of sites getting hit without warning due to poor or black-hat SEO, whether it be through manual action taken by Google (remember when J.C. Penney was outed?) or through one of many recent search algorithm updates (get to know Google Penguin & Google Panda a little better).

Google has been known to take action on ‘questionable’ SEO tactics… don’t put your site at risk. Google+ features haven’t been built into the Rafflecopter widget and we plan on holding off should things remain the same.

Use caution when running promotions involving Google+ functionality. In fact, just don’t do it. While there’s always some wiggle room for interpreting these rules, tying an incentive to a +1 button, a Google+ badge, or a share button might have the potential to land you in ‘Google jail’.

Have any Google+ promotion policy predictions? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Greg Goodson

Greg Goodson is the cofounder of Rafflecopter, the world's easiest way to run a giveaway online. Follow his shenanigans, ramblings, and memes on Twitter at @GregGoodson.

  • WithOurBest Blog

    Interesting read. Google + is just too much for me, I tend to avoid it anyway, not just for sweepstakes.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      I don’t think that folks know what to use G+ for in general – you’re not alone! :P

      • http://twitter.com/avonproducts4me JR911 ~ SWVA Saves $

        I couldn’t agree more….it’s really clunky, useless, and doesn’t flow very well. I only have a page to say I have one should I ever decide to pitch a company for a review/giveaway.

  • Chris

    I didn’t see an explanation why asking people to circle your page is a violation of Google’s terms.

    • Chrystal

      If you actually read through the terms, they consider the +1 and Google+ buttons to be the same thing.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      hey Chris – the Google+ profile badge and page badges are buttons that can be embedded on your site which makes it easy to add a G+ profile to your circle. These buttons fall under the buttons policy.

      You could do away with the button and just link to your page on Google+ and ask folks to circle your page or profile to get around the button policy, but the problem now is that your readers are physically going to Google+ as part of a promotion, which is against their policy as well.

      If you’re incentivizing folks to +1 your site or add your profile to a circle in exchange for a change to win a prize, it’s not allowed :(

  • KolchakPuggle

    I’d be amazed if Google + just worked most of the time! Half the time when log in I get told “this feature s unavalable”. Excellent, thanks a heap google+

  • http://www.superlucky.co.uk/ Superlucky Di

    I hadn’t realised Google had bought Wildfire… that must be why I see more Facebook pages using alternative platforms for their contests! I definitely think all the sweepstakes and contests make Facebook look messy and ugly compared to Google+ – which as you say looks more professional. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate Wildfire.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      Yup – and according to some reports, Google is doing everything they can to keep all Wildfire employees on board. Google doesn’t just like the product Wildfire has built, they also like the team behind it, which makes you think they have something up their sleeves :P Time will tell!

  • http://www.theluckyladybug.net/ Cheryl Free

    I’ve been suspended by Google after years of having an account … without warning and simply because they couldn’t believe my full name is real. Trust me, you don’t want to go there (for any reason)!

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      yikes! :o (meanwhile, our dog has had a Facebook account for 5+ years… just sayin’ :P)

  • ashley

    Good to know! I haven’t had trouble with google+ but twiiter has suspended my account twice for tweeting entries for contests :/ the weird part is I never had a problem per rafflecopter

  • http://twitter.com/Android_Travels Android Travels

    Never realized that. Good to know, especially since my last promo featured Google clicks. Thanks for the heads up.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      totally – glad that helped!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gladys-Parker/100001000007499 Gladys Parker

    I had been told beware of using G+ in giveaways this explains a lot! Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      you bet :) haven’t heard of any pages getting banned, but I would hate to have our search listings dinged :o

  • http://113tidbits.com/ tony greene

    So what’s the verdict on using G+ for Empire Avenue missions? Is that the same as being incentivized to click publisher’s widgets? Eaves (EA currency) has no value.

  • Maria

    Hi, Just came across this and am new to rafflecopter and google plus. Am trying to set up a promotion and wanted to include google plus so this is very helpful. I had an idea as I was reading through this, but wanted your take on whether or not this would be “legal”. In the giveaway you can list a bunch of tasks worth different points that increase their chance of winning. Could one of those tasks (which is worth points but not mandatory for entry) be that they have to go to your google plus page and get some information off of it? Is it possible to set it up so that the information is only available if they add you to their circle or click +1? I am not trying ot be sneaky, just trying to see if there is a roundabout way of achieving more presence on google plus.

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      hey Maria – it sounds like it would be a decent work around, but it’s still affiliated with G+. I wouldn’t recommend it for any particular reason than just to play it safe!

      • Maria

        Oh thanks for the speedy response. With regards to ebooks, do you have any comments about potential problems with goodreads or amazon?

        • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

          do you mean in regards to awarding people to review a book on Amazon? :o

          • Maria

            well that would be great, but could backfire big time. No, I wa thinking more that on goodreads people could follow you and on amazon they could “like” your book or “tag” your book. And another question is can you ask to have something retweeted?

  • http://allaboutclothdiapers.com Autumn Beck

    Now I’m completely paranoid! I have a fairly decent sized blog and just started a big event today. I added g+ as an entry and obviously had a lot of ++ hits. I’ve deleted that as an option for today’s giveaway and the next 8 I have running over the next 3 weeks. I do have a disclaimer for all social networks but I’m scared this mistake is going to hit me big! Google already has bumped me from #1 to #10- #12 for the term “cloth diapers” in favor of stores (I’m an information site).

    Have I really messed up??

    Just a mom :)

    • http://twitter.com/rafflecopter Rafflecopter

      hey Autumn! it’s tough to say… I’d be surprised if you got hit almost immediately if at all. as long as moving forward you steer clear, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about :o

  • http://113tidbits.com/ tony greene

    Google plus is the cat’s meow!!

  • Mitch

    If we choose to ignore this and do it anyway, how can we do it as a custom entry option?