SEO Case Study: Rap Genius vs. Google

SEO Case Study: Rap Genius vs. Google

Online MarketingSearch Engine Optimization

Chances are that if you have ever questioned a lyric and typed the song and artist in the search bar of Google, you have seen Rap Genius pop up. Rap Genius, an annotative lyric site, has gained considerable attention over the last few years through recognition by music blogs and contributing writers for publications like The Huffington Post and Esquire. When you search  “Rap Genius” on Google, it is always the top result. If you looked up a lyric search, Rap Genius is almost always in the top three. That is, until Christmas day, 2013, when Google presented Rap Genius with a big lump of coal.

In the early morning of December 25th, Google reprimanded Rap Genius for breaking their SEO guidelines. Subsequently, when you searched “Rap Genius” on Google, the site itself did not appear until the 6th page. Bloggers and publications alike started questioning how the ever-growing and successful site managed to abuse search engine optimization in such a harsh way that Google responded with such a punishment.

Rap Genius had started embedding links of irrelevant music lists to their posts, and asked contributing bloggers to do the same, promising them site traffic as long as they posted the provided link.

Google has strict rules regarding SEO. In their Search Engine Optimization Guidelines, Google states that they will not tolerate misleading marketing. This includes irrelevant link posting, as Rap Genius was doing. According to Google, it is not only unfair to the user, but it manipulates the search engine, potentially causing top results to be inorganic.

Not surprisingly, Rap Genius began fixing the problem almost immediately. Ultimately,they deleted all irrelevant links containing tracklists from their pages, and contacted their sponsored bloggers asking them to do the same. The end result was a total of 124,286 pages being scrapped successfully.

In Rap Genius’s official explanation and apology, they state that their true main focus on their site is ultimately to provide an understanding of lyrics and poetry, and they simply became more ravenous for recognition as they became a top Google result. Rap Genius got caught up in the vanity of being a top seach, and they are aware of it. In their apology, they vow to stick to the rules and continue to work on genuine content for their users.

So what is to be learned from all of this? When it comes to search engine optimization, it is best to play by the rules if you want the most popular search engine on your side. And isn’t that how it should be anyway? Play a fair game, and earn your spot because of your content. Remember that the viewers of your page are what got you to that top spot in the first place, and deceiving them will only lead to users that deem you untrustworthy and ultimately are not dedicated to your site.

Ultimately, Rap Genius exemplified excellent crisis management. They immediately fixed the problem, and explained and apologized to their publics. Let’s just hope they continue with their new stream of sincerity- a new Beyonce album is out, and we’ll all be needing to review the lyrics before heading out to karaoke.

If you want to learn more about the basic principles and how you can avoid Rap Genuis’s blunder, check out our guide on Search Engine Optimization.