If you ever do a lyrics search online, you will come across many websites that provide lyrics. You also probably noticed all of the ads for downloads and ring tones and such. The lyric website business is hyper competitive, and these sites do darned near anything to get an edge in page rank.
But Rap Genius went too far for Google’s taste. Someone noticed that on the site’s Facebook page, it was soliciting links for some of their promotional tweets. Google was not pleased with this and they penalized the site for unnatural linking practices.
The backstory: Rap Genius posted on their FB page about how you could become a Rap genius blog affiliate. A blog owner and Rap Genius fan wrote to the site and asked for more information.
What the guy got back was an invite to include a very spammy-like list of links of Justin Bieber. In exchange, Rap Genius said it would send out a promotional tweet to its followers.
So, the blog owner posted about this on Hacker News, and guess who saw it? Matt Cutts from Google’s web spam team. Within 24 hours, the site had been penalized and was no longer ranking for many popular lyrics.
Rap Genius eventually copped to doing wrong, and vowed to clean up its act. A lot of what they did apparently involved getting rid of poor quality back links. The site reported that it used the disavow tool and also emailed webmasters to remove links.
But as of now, it looks like Rap Genius has still taken a big traffic hit. They are not back up to their pre-penalty traffic. Before the penalty, they were doing 800,000 views daily. Now they only are at about 400,000.
There still might be some kind of penalty from Google that is hurting the site, as their traffic is just half of what it was. Or it could be that Rap Genius does not have as much visibility in results for some lyrics. Some people think that Google gave the site special help to fix its issues. The reason? Rap Genius gets funding from Andreessen Horowitz, who is a big venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.
So as you consider your marketing strategies for 2014, be sure to NOT include this type of boneheaded unnatural linking practice, ok?