Google Penalizes Rap Genius For Shady SEO Tactics

Google has put the smack down on popular lyrics and annotation site Rap Genius after the search giant discovered that it was using shady SEO (search engine optimization) tricks to boost its rankings in search results. TechCrunch reports that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) removed Rap Genius from the search results for its own name. Now the top links which come up are news stories on this same topic, a Wiki entry for the site and the site’s Twitter page.

In addition to the obvious removal of Rap Genius’ home page from the search rankings, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) also changed the results of some popular questions. For example, searching for “Jay-Z ‘Holy Grail’ lyrics” no longer brings up the Rap Genius lyric page. According to TechCrunch, however, Google and Rap Genius are working to resolve their differences.

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Rap Genius Search

Rap Genius tried to trick Google

The founders of Rap Genius are apparently well-known for their interesting (to put it mildly) behavior and also their excessive use of foul language. This week the site invited a number of bloggers to sign up for the Rap Genius Blog Affiliate program.

Email filtering company Glider looked into the details surrounding that program. Glider’s founder discovered that Rap Genius would tweet links to his blog if he would put some links to the site’s Justin Bieber lyrics on his blog. Those links were meant to trick Google into boosting the rankings of Rap Genius for lyrics to popular songs, specifically, those from the latest album from Justin Bieber.

Glider warns others about Rap Genius’ tactics

He then published the full email sent by Rap Genius online, and it didn’t take long for Google’s web spam director Matt Cutts to announce that they were investigating. Rap Genius did apologize openly in a published letter, asking for its site to be reviewed again and suggesting that black-hat and gray-hat SEO practices are common among its competitors.

Black-hat SEO is considered to be the worst of the worst in terms of shady SEO techniques and includes certain types of linking similar to what Rap Genius was attempting to do. Gray-hat SEO includes practices which are considered unethical, although they might not result in action from search engines like Google. Rap Genius’ plan may fall somewhere between the two depending on who you ask, although some may place it squarely in the black-hat camp. Others might say Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s punishment was too harsh, particularly in its decision to banish the site from search results for its own name.

Google’s ban the ultimate punishment

Rap Genius’ business relies entirely on traffic from Google and other search engines in order to make money. Now that the site’s pages have been moved down to the fifth or sixth page of Google’s results, they are essentially unsearchable, which means the site is making little, if any cash.

In a statement Rap Genius provided to TechCrunch, the site said Google has “been really great” and is working with them to make changes to their site so that it would comply with Google’s requirements. As of this writing, Rap Genius hasn’t been restored in Google’s results, but if the two can reach a compromise soon, it may become easier for searchers to find the site again.