RapGenius SEO Tactics Google Punishment
December 26, 2013

RapGenius’ SEO Tactics Elicit Google Smackdown

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Lyrics and annotation site RapGenius was penalized by Google for using dubious SEO (Search Engine Optimization) spam tactics. The site posted an open letter to Google on its News Genius site, which spurred Google to make reparations.

RapGenius realized the errors of its ways, but pointed out how other lyrics sites deployed worse tactics to get picked up by Google and other search engines.

"We effed up, other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we’ll stop. We’d love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results," the letter opened.

The website maintains that users and artists use the site to "explore lyrics interactively" by making annotations line-by-line. "By contrast, other popular lyrics sites are ad-strewn and reminiscent of a spammier era of the internet," the letter explains.

After using dubius SEO tricks to gain top search results, Google penalized the website sending those search results off the first page, TechCrunch reports. A search for "RapGenius" or queries such as "Jay-Z Holy Grail Lyrics" no longer appear on the first page of search results.

RapGenius posted its open letter, which opened a dialog between the two companies. Google is working on a resolution, TechCrunch said.

The kerfuffle began when RapGenius tweeted about its blog affiliate program. "But earlier this week, RapGenius invited bloggers to join its 'RapGenius Blog Affiliate' program. John Marbach, the founder of email filtering startup Glider, emailed in asking for details, and RapGenius offered to tweet links to his blog in exchange for him placing a series of links to RapGenius’ Justin Bieber lyrics on his blog. The links were designed to trick Google into giving RapGenius better result rankings on searches for lyrics to songs from Bieber’s new album — sure to be popular searches this season," TechCrunch's Josh Constine explained.

The tactics used by RapGenius go against Google's policies. The strategy would help RapGenius gain more visibility in search results. John Marbach posted a summary of the strategy on his website. He explained that he is a contributor on various blogs as well as a fan of RapGenius.

Ycombinator's Hacker News forum hosted commentary on the activities surrounding Google's decision. Google's Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at the search engine, started the discussion with the post, "We're investigating this now." The post appeared on Christmas Eve.

RapGenius evidently realizes the shaky ground it stands on, both in terms of its SEO tactics and its business model. The company, which has received $15 million in funding from investors over the past few years, says Google might supplant lyrics sites by providing its own lyrics pages, Business Insider reports.

"Finally, it’s probably an incredibly dumb business model to be doing a lyrics site that hopes for Google traffic in a time when Google, like Bing, is moving toward providing direct answers. Lyrics, to my understanding, often have to be licensed. That makes them a candidate for Google to license directly and provide as direct answers," Search Engine Land founder Danny Sullivan explains.