Google Hits Rap Genius Website for Black Hat SEO

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Rap-Genius-black-hat-seoGoogle decided to strike back hard this week after it discovered that the lyrics Website Rap Genius was using black hat SEO tricks to get top rank in Google searches with its online marketing efforts.

After Google got done with them, RapGenius.com is not showing up on the first page of results for the phrase ‘rap genius.’ And, popular searches such as ‘Jay Z Holy Grail Lyrics’ do not bring up the website as they used to.

RapGenius.com was founded in 2009, and is a site dedicated to lyrics and text annotation. It allows users to give their own explanations for the lyrics in a song, as well as legal documents, religious texts, images and more. Other users see the explanations when they hover over bits of text on the website. The startup website got a lot of attention when it got $15 million in funding from Andressen Horowitz back in 2012.

The founders of Rap Genius were riding really high in 2013, as the site got very lucrative placement in Google results. But the gig was up this week when Rap Genius invited some bloggers to join its new Rap Genius Blog Affiliate program. The founder of Glider, an email filtering startup, asked for more details. And Rap Genius then offered to tweet several links to his blog, if the founder of Glider would put some links from Justin Bieber lyrics on the blog that linked to Rap Genius. The links are set up to trick Google to give Rap Genius better ranking. This is because they links contain Bieber lyrics, which are sure to be very popular in Google searches.

The founder of Glider then revealed what Rap Genius was doing by publishing that email in a blog post read by many people. That caused Google’s Web spam master Matt Cutts to announce that Google was investigating. Rap Genius apologized later to Google, and stated that the whole lyrics website category needs to be looked at. Rap Genius claimed that many websites were engaging in shady tactics designed to fool Google.

The apology seems to not have helped Rap Genius – the site has been swept from the top five pages of the search results for ‘rap genius.’ Whether Google overreacted is open to debate. As of this writing, Rap Genius is working with Google so that it can be placed higher in the search rankings.  Perhaps Google will restore some of the site’s ranking, if the site promises to clean up its act. We’ll keep an eye out for updates.

Google, which is now gunning for the hotel travel business, does not like sites playing tricks on its algorithm that is for certain. So use caution out there, Web masters, and do not get Google riled up!


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