7 January 2014 | Team Tamar

Rap Genius SEO: where did it all go wrong?


Rap Genius bad SEO

Rap Genius is back on the ranking map! Following a penalty from Google for spammy link building activity which resulted in its disappearance from search results, the popular lyric annotation site seems to have got away with a simple warning.

This week, Rap Genius founders publically apologised and recognised they ‘deserved to get smacked’. Having said that, they also justified their actions by suggesting most of their competitors used similar black hat SEO practices. To add to controversy, industry experts are accusing Google of double standards, since Rap Genius was able to recover from the penalty in a staggeringly quick 10 days. But where exactly did they cross the line?

Rap Genius Blog Affiliate

In theory, link building from one page to another aims to improve user experience by providing additional, valuable information about a particular topic. However, by creating a ‘Blog Affiliate’ program asking anyone to link to them in exchange for the promise of traffic to their blogs, Rap Genius encouraged building irrelevant, unnatural links.

For instance, marketing blogger John Marbach was asked to link to Rap Genius pages on Justin Bieber songs (arguably a crime in itself) in order to push up rankings for Bieber related searches, though his blog has little to do with music.

Spammy Content

In addition to building irrelevant links, such practice is deceiving because it gives search engines the false impression that sites reference Rap Genius because of the website’s quality or relevance, when in fact links are built in the hope of self-promotion.

Finally, Rap Genius’ policy of encouraging anyone to link to their website has resulted in the creation of low quality, spammy content pieces – in other words, uninteresting keyword/ link stuffed posts.

Of course, this again goes against Google’s policy of encouraging the creation of original, good quality content to improve user experience on the search engine.

Google’s dilemma

Ultimately, Rap Genius stands out as the perfect case study of what NOT to do when link building. Interestingly, it also highlights the dilemma search engines face when highly influential, good quality sites engage in bad SEO practices which ought to be penalised. Should such websites be removed for their faults, or kept because of their popularity among users?

Team Tamar