Since its inception, Google has been mostly about making the Web easier to use. Just type in an inquiry and a host of results appear. Now the search giant is bent on adding a new layer of convenience, but it may rankle rivals and regulators in the process.
This week, Google added results that display full song lyrics when users input a title and the word “lyrics.” For instance, typing in “Stairway to Heaven” and “lyrics” produces some of the words to the Led Zeppelin classic. For the rest, users are directed to Google Play, where they can purchase the song.
The question is whether Google’s attempt to make itself a primary destination for quick results is legal. Europe in 2010 launched an antitrust case against the company, claiming it is using its search engine to edge out local competitors. As a result of the litigation, Google’s new lyrics service is currently available only in North America.
This new option has the potential to disrupt websites like LyricsFreak, Rap Genius, Metrolyrics and A-Z Lyrics, which have long been staples for those who want to know the words to the latest chart-topper or old-time classic.
These websites rely primarily on search-engine optimization for traffic, and some have resorted to unsavory tricks to boost page views. Rap Genius in particular was busted by Google in January 2014 for getting users to register for a fake affiliate program, which was actually an SEO tactic to garner more traffic.
Consumers may get a cleaner, simpler experience in finding their lyrics directly on Google. “Users would rather have more accessible and reliable lyrics from Google than the spammy and cluttered no-name sites that currently dominate search results for song lyrics,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at the Local Search Association.
There’s no question about Google’s aim with the new service: to drive traffic and sales for Google Play. Songs like “Molly’s Chambers” by Kings of Leon, “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith and “Stairway to Heaven” show up automatically in search results. Tunes that are new to the market, as well as many classics, are not available, indicating that Google is still building its database.
Some lyrics websites may still find a niche. LyricFind does not rely solely on SEO for traffic. The site works with partners like Pandora, SoundHound and Shazam, all of which require licenses to display song lyrics on their sites and applications. “Many sites also build community around the lyrics, which Google won’t replace,” Darryl Ballantyne, CEO at LyricFind, told Tech Crunch.
Lyrics search is part of the Google Instant service, which displays quick hits for everyday queries about sports scores, the weather, flight times and the like.