Rap Genius tried to play Google but paid the ultimate price. The search-engine giant practically sent Rap Genius to Internet exile, burying the lyrics website in search results. How did this come about? It involves a blogger and a hacker website, and Rap Genius getting caught using manipulative SEO tactics.
Blogger John Marbach wrote a blog entry on Monday after he saw a Facebook post from Rap Genius. It read: “Do you have a blog? Do you wanna be a RAP GENIUS AFFILIATE? Help us help you!” The site then provided an email address.
Since he was a fan of Rap Genius, Marbach decided to inquire about the opportunity. This was the response he received from one of the Rap Genius co-founders, Mahbod Moghadam:
“Yooo waddup! Here is how it works: If you have a dope post that you would like us tweet out- get you MASSIVE traffic- then put this html (below) at the bottom of your post and send me the URL along with the EXACT text you want tweeted. I will send that sh*t out and it will bloooowwwww up!”
Embedded were links to songs from Justin Bieber’s new album, “Journals.” Marbach seemed to instantly know where Rap Genius was going. In Monday's blog entry, he began to eloquently break down why it was important to the site to include links to Bieber's lyrics, even if the post written had nothing to do with the "Beauty and a Beat" singer.
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In short, it would be a big boost for Rap Genius to drive traffic to its site through the new Bieber album since that’s the upcoming music for 2014. The links, if bloggers provide them in their posts, would help Rap Genius get a better rank on Google.
ABC News added that once Marbach posted his article, it became popular on Hacker News. That’s apparently how the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, found out about it. The team's policy on linking states "creating links that weren't editorially placed or vouched for by the site's owner on a page ... can be considered a violation of our guidelines."
Rap Genius has now been banished from the Internet. Business Insider reported that the site's unique visitors dropped from 1,376,535 on Monday to 493,420 on Wednesday after Google found out about the scheme.
Business Insider said that Rap Genius and Google are trying to work out their problems and that Rap Genius' founders began the mending process by writing an open letter of apology on its website to Google.
"This is where we messed up," the statement read. "In some instances, we have fallen short in terms of making sure that the links people post are natural."
But the founders pointed out that Rap Genius isn't the only one violating Google’s policy. "With limited tools, we found suspicious backlinks to some of our competitors," they said. "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."
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