Rap Genius, a popular lyrics site, used to top search results for popular song titles. However, its pages are now pushed back thanks to action taken by Google’s Head of Webspam Matt Cutts after discovering the site was perpetuating a spammy affiliate link program to try to boost unnatural inbound links.
The link program raised so much attention that Cutts had to publicly state his team was “looking into it,” on Twitter after John Marbach exposed the initial “growth hacking” scandal Dec 23. By Christmas Day, Google had banished the site to less than ideal pages of search results.
According to ValleyWag, if you search Google right now for “Rap Genius,” the site’s home page isn’t anywhere to be found on the first page of results. You can find plenty of stories about this very scandal, however. The seventh page is the earliest the actual site appears in the results, with the lyrics page for Eminem’s track, “Rap God.”
The lyrics site counted on people searching for lyrics to popular songs. Previously, the site would come up at the top of the results in such cases, especially if you searched for the individual lines of songs. In fact, the site posted about 50 dedicated pages for each song, optimized for a particular line that redirected to the main song page once clicked. This meant Google was flooded with new content for each song, keeping the site constantly relevant. Google caught on when Marbach revealed that the site was using affiliate bloggers to embed links in their posts back to the lyrics site’s pages for every song on Justin Bieber’s new album.
Rap Genius offers a cleaner browsing experience than other lyrics sites, but for a site that has $16 million venture capital behind it, the SEO scheme is a major issue. Google is notorious for redesigning algorithms to prevent sites from using Black Hat SEO techniques.
The site’s co-founders did apologize prior to the rankings drop and said in a statement that they are “working with Google right now to resolve this,” and “expect to be back on Google very soon,” TechCrunch reports.
The incident stands as a lesson for content marketers everywhere: even successful companies with venture capital, a business plan and a thriving community can be demoted in the search results if Google discovers that questionable tactics are being used. Instead of going for the quick link bait, sites must focus on creating high-quality content in order to bring the most SEO success and expand a company’s reach online.
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