Do not spam! may sound like a very obvious admonition, but I am constantly reporting posts, comments, and profiles as abuse, i.e. spam, especially in Google+ communities, and I am quite surprised by the sheer volume. While some Google+ communities allow self-promotion, therefore allow link dropping, many communities expressly or through consensus decided that such activities are not allowed. Owners and moderators of communities are often inundated with spam: I often have to spend a lot of time, removing spam, and banning spammers, when I open my Google+ account and go to the Communities tab, and I really resent having to spend time on dealing with spam and spammers.
Spamming can take different forms, but on Google+, there are certain types of situations, where a post or a comment is likely to be considered as spam by others. While some spammers are conscious about the fact that they are spamming, professional spammers if you like, and they are using a slash-and-burn strategy with disposable Google+ profiles and Google accounts, I have a feeling that some people might not consider what they are doing as spam. In the following paragraphs, I will try to set out what I consider to be spam, or spammy behaviour. Please note that they are my take on the issue, and others will have different views: some people are stricter than I am, while others are more forgiving. While posts and comments may be removed quite easily, and profiles and pages are not so easily suspended for isolated incidents, if Google suspects a pattern of spammy behaviour, it may permanently suspend, in other words delete, the offending profiles and pages.
Self-promotion on your own Google+ profiles and pages
In my opinion, it is OK to post a link to your site or blog on your Google+ profile or Google+ page when you have posted something new, however when you start to send e-mail notifications to those in your circles or mention people for every single update, then that represents a very hard push, because the recipients will see their notification counts go up as well as receiving e-mails, and many people will consider such hard selling as spam. People might start to mute or remove your Google+ profile or page from their circles, meaning that you’ll be losing readers, but in some instances people may go further and block and report your Google+ profile or page as spam.
You always need to consider, before choosing to send e-mails or mention people, whether there are good reasons for pushing the message or not, especially if the content does not directly relate to someone. If, for example, you have quoted something from someone, or resharing someone’s post, then it would make sense to mention that person. However, if you have a general message that is not relevant or interesting to most people in the circle, but pushing it just because you have posted your most recent blog article, then that would be in most cases a bad idea.
Commenting on posts on other people’s Google+ profiles and pages
If some types of behaviour on your own Google+ profile and page could be considered as spam, because you push your messages too hard to others, then you will have to be much more cautious, when you’re going to comment on posts on someone else’s Google+ profile or page. People are naturally protective of their profiles and pages, so comments that are not related to the post, but pushing a website, would be removed, and reported. You wouldn’t barge into people’s homes uninvited, and put up a big banner on the window, advertising a product.
Comments are meant to engage with the post and the posters, so make sure that you’ve at least read the post, and some of the comments, before jumping in and post a comment. Dropping links that have nothing to do with the post or the subsequent discussion in a comment that doesn’t meaningfully engage with the topic would be considered spam in many cases. Comments such as A great post! [Link to your site] would be spam, because it lacks engagement, and the primary intent looks like dropping a link.
Starting a post in Google+ communities
As mentioned at the beginning, some communities on Google+ may allow self-promotion, many do not, and you need to be very careful. It would probably be safe to assume that unless there is an explicit statement by the owners or moderators that self-promotion is allowed, such would not be accepted. Quite often, self-promotion is explicitly prohibited in the About section of the community. It would also make sense to read and observe what kinds of things are posted in the community, before you post for the first time, to find out the boundaries. Most communities will develop their own limits as to what is acceptable and what is not, and the only way to find that out is by observation and participation. Watch and learn, then post.
Ask yourself: would I want this in my stream?
People have different opinions as to what kind of activities constitutes spamming, but there are a couple of questions that you can ask yourself. Would you want the message you’re about to post to appear on your own stream or community? Is the main purpose of your post to start or participate in a discussion on Google+, or is it solely or mainly for posting a link? You will need to imagine yourself in other people’s shoes, and how you’d react if it was posted on your Google+ profile, page, or community.
Consequences of spamming
Given the large numbers of profiles and pages involved, Google must be using numerous different signals to determine spamming and spammers algorithmically, and it would be safe to assume that manual reports, that is to say people reporting comments, posts, profiles and pages as spam, will influence Google’s decision. It is very unlikely that a single report will directly result in a suspension of a Google+ profile or page, but the more your profile or page gets reported, the more likely Google will take actions on it.
There may be serious consequences if you spam on Google+, including the permanent suspension of your Google+ profile. While most other Google products and services will not be affected, in that you will still be able to use for example your Gmail or Blogger account, it will not be possible to recreate a Google+ profile on that log in. In other words, if you’d like to use Google+ again, then you will need to do so using another log in. Google+ acts as an agent of integration of different Google products and services, and losing your Google+ presence may have more significant repercussions in the future.
Beyond the possibility of the permanent suspension of your Google+ account, there may, in the future, be an issue with your reputation and trustworthiness as an author. While Google+ is still in its early days, the concept of authorship which links your various web entities to your Google+ profile, thus a representation of your person online, may become more important. In such an instance, building up a reputation, slowly but surely, will be vital, and there is no faster way to lose online reputation than doing something unseemly, such as spamming Google+.