RapGenius.com Learns Hard Lesson on Christmas Day
Google, the $373.64 billion search engine behemoth that has become an integral part of many people’s daily lives, is not a company that you want to cross.
Most of the world's web sites derive a large portion of their search traffic from Google and its affiliated sites. Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the search space - when it comes to market share, Bing and Yahoo! aren't even close.
If you are a site that derives a large portion of its revenues from people who arrive via search engines, you obviously want to play by Google's rules or risk the consequences. Talk about power - Google can literally halve your business overnight (or more) if they decide to issue your site a penalty.
One of the companies that learned this lesson the hard way is an upstart lyrics site called Rapgenius.com. Rapgenius.com doesn't just list the lyrics for various songs, but they also depend on their users to help unearth the meanings of the lyrics in the songs. Rapgenius.com is not a tiny business - they have received a couple rounds of funding, including a $15 million round in October of 2012 that included money from Andreessen Horowitz.
Rapgenius.com obviously wants to rank as high as possible when users search for things like “Jay-Z Holy Grail lyrics”. If you visit the site via one of these searches, you may interact with the site in a way that makes Rapgenius.com money (purchase of a song, etc).
The more searches Rap Genius gets, the more money they will make.
Well, Justin Bieber just released a new album, and RapGenius.com decided that they want to rank well for lyric searches pertaining to the Canadian superstar’s new album. Not a bad idea at all, as there is sure to be a mountain of searches for this album’s lyrics.
Here is where RapGenius.com made their mistake.
Google doesn’t like it when people “game the system” in order to rank higher in their search engine. Links are an integral part of Google’s search algorithm - the more links that you have pointing towards your page or site, the better you should rank in their engine.
The thing is, Google wants these links to occur organically - they frown upon people paying for links or using “schemes” to acquire links.
RapGenius.com concocted a scheme that would greatly inflate the number of links pointing towards their site, and Google brought the hammer down after finding out.
Here is the blog post (from John Marbach) that highlighted the RapGenius plan. Basically, in exchange for adding links to various Justin Bieber lyrics pages on RapGenius.com, the company promised to Tweet out the URL with the included links. Basically, in exchange for linking to RapGenius.com, the company was offering exposure and “MASSIVE traffic”.
Well, word quickly got out about this post, and Google promised that they would “investigate”. Now, some people may say that what RapGenius.com did isn’t that big of a deal, but it is in direct violation of Google’s terms and conditions. As mentioned, Google doesn’t like schemes that artificially inflate the number of links pointing back to a site.
On Christmas Day, Google brought the hammer down on RapGenius.com, knocking the site completely out of their search results. If you search “Rap Genius” in Google right now, you will see a link to their Twitter page as the first result.
For a site that depends largely on Google traffic, this is obviously a massive blow. RapGenius.com has issued a mea culpa and has said that they are actively working with Google to resolve any issues.
In short - don’t mess with the Google, as they have the power to completely obliterate a business literally overnight (and even on Christmas morning).
Source: Techcrunch.com - Google Destroys Rap Genius’ Search Rankings as Punishment for SEO Spam, But Resolution in Progress
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