Google ends its punishment of Rap Genius, restores its search ranking

Popular song lyrics website Rap Genius says it is finally out of the doghouse, after being penalized by Google for trying to unnaturally boost its search ranking.

Rap Genius was found guilty of getting spammy websites to publish links to it, in order to game Google’s search algorithm, a process called “growth hacking”. (Read this account of how a similar SEO practice nearly drove this entrepreneur to bankruptcy.) Google rewards websites that have a large number of outside web pages linking to them, with a higher ranking in Google search results. But you can get dinged pretty hard if those links aren’t genuine or if they’re posted by spam websites. Which is exactly what happened to Rap Genius.

The lyrics service was found guilty of tweeting out links to spam websites, in exchange for having those websites link to it, in order to increase its search engine ranking. Google penalized it by dropping it was down the search ranking. If you searched for “Rap Genius,” the actual website would only show up on the 6th page of the results, instead of being the first match. This dramatically dropped RapGenius’ traffic, it went from nearly 650,000 visitors a day to just under 150,000 a day, according to Quantcast. However, traffic  was restored after the site worked with Google to remove all the spammy links to it.

In a contrite blog post, the founders of Rap Genius apologized to Google, and then laid their soul bare, detailing exactly what they had done wrong and how they did it. It’s a good read, especially as a cautionary tale of how SEO strategies can backfire. It also lays out exactly what they did to get back in Google’s good graces.

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