pig pen

The topic of ‘dirty’ links was brought up by two speakers at the last Northwest Mini Sweepstakes Convention I attended. As it’s such a volatile subject in the contest community, I wrote about it in the following issue of The Winning EDGE. (Read Vol 8, Issue 20 here.)

As I am sharing more contests from sponsors and am being given tracking links to promote their giveaways, I thought it would be a good time to:

  1. revisit the topic,
  2. explain the differences,
  3. how you can choose to handle the situation when it arises in your hobby.
  4. and give you an opportunity to enter and win using a real life example.


Many sweepers enter contests that garner them additional entries if they share a contest link and one of their friends enters from that link. (This is also known as a Closed Loop referral.) Rafflecopter, Gleam, Woobox, OfferPop, Strutta, ShortStack and EasyPromos are just some of the contest apps that enable the Closed Loop Referral feature.


Those shares are not dirty links. The link becomes ‘dirty’ when a personal referral link is placed on a sweepstakes aggregate website, giveaway blog, etc., so the poster (or site owner) garners the referral entries potentially giving them an unfair advantage in the sweepstakes or contest.  A clean link is a direct link to the contest or sweepstakes.  A clue to a potential dirty link is the characters id= within the URL.


That said, if the sweepstakes aggregate or giveaway blog is hired to promote the contest, the sponsor or agency will most likely give the company a tracking link, which:

  1. ensures the influencers are doing their jobs,
  2. and gives the company a way to track marketing analytics.


The line becomes blurry when someone like me both enters and promotes. How can you tell what I am entering and what I am promoting? How can you be sure I am not posting a ‘dirty’ link?

I will either state outright XYZ company hired me to promote this sweepstakes, or if you see an FTC compliance message within one of my blog posts or newsletter articles, you can be sure I have been given a tracking link to promote the giveaway. (See below.) You can also be sure I am not entered to win in compliance with the contest rules.

It is a wee bit trickier on social media because, on Twitter, for example, I only have a 140 character limit to do my job. That said, I always do my best to let you know, on any platform, if it is a giveaway I am promoting or one I am entering. (Please remember I do forget occasionally, especially late at night when I am entering on my mobile to mention if it’s a referral link. -LOL!-)


So, what can you do if you do not want to enter using a referral link, tracking link or potential dirty link? Go to the sponsor’s direct contest page and enter. Be aware, that after you enter you will be given the opportunity to share. I believe in the Law of Karma. Sometimes helping your contest friends comes back to you, and many times in ways you did not expect.

Now it’s your chance to test what you have just learned.



I have a new client contest perfect for ‘dirty link’ demonstration purposes. Lakota is giving away a $200 Ikea Gift Card and the app they use for their contests is Maven Social. Here are the various types of links for comparison.

Direct Link: http://www.lakota-pain-relief.com

Tracking Link: http://www.lakota-pain-relief.com/referral13

Referral Link: http://bit.ly/1tGRDWM which opens up to: http://www.lakota-pain-relief.com/Home/?purl=72D666&entry=

All of them will work. You can enter from all of them. The first will show Lakota only where you got the original link from, eg. a sweepstakes website. The second will show you got it from me. As Lakota hired me to promote their sweepstakes they gave me a tracking link to ensure I am doing my job (as I stated above). The third is the link I got from entering, and if you enter from that link I would garner an additional entry. This is the page you will get after you enter for you to share:

share screen

(NOTE: I only entered for demonstration purposes. Lakota is aware I did and will be deleting my entries before the final drawing is conducted.)

Which one will you use to be in to win? (I hope you picked the tracking link!)

DISCLAIMER: As per FTC requirements, I am required to disclose I was hired by the the contest sponsor to promote this giveaway.