Google Is Looking Into Rap Genius Linking Scheme Masked As Affiliate Program

rapgenius-logoYesterday, John Marbach exposed the popular music side, Rap Genuis, for starting an “affiliate” program in order to get unnatural links pointing to their web site. After it was exposed, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, said, “we’re aware and looking into it.”

Here is the Facebook post, which is still live, on their Facebook page:

rapgenius-affiliate-facebook-post

When John Marbach emailed them, they asked that he link to their site with keyword rich anchor text. In exchange for the links, Rap Genius will tweet out a link to their post and that will result in him getting “massive traffic.” Here is a copy of the email shared by John:

Screen-Shot-2013-12-23-at-3.29.13-PM

Now this is not all that uncommon and no one should be surprised that a site, even a popular site, is doing this. It is a shame to see, especially after all Google has done to publicly shame sites using manipulative link building techniques. Will Google take action? We don’t know, they have not responded to our inquires for more details. But trust me, you do not want to be the site called out for doing this, forcing Google to take a close look at your site and all you have done over the years.

Postscript: Rap Genius responded saying they messed up:

We effed up, other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we’ll stop. We’d love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results.

They then went on to defend themselves and why they thought it was not a linking scheme.

Here are some stories of Google going after manipulative link schemes:

Postscript: Rap Genius has now published an apology, saying that in some cases, Google might consider the links it is trying to create to be “unnatural” but also saying that Google should also take a closer look at the practices of other lyrics sites.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | SEO: Spamming | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    I didn’t get it … How is Google related to this ?
    Do links worldwide belong to Google ? Is Google a Link Nazi ?

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    I didn’t get it … How is Google related to this ?
    Do links worldwide belong to Google ? Is Google a Link Nazi ?

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz
  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz
  • http://www.keshkesh.com/ Takeshi Young

    What’s with all the outing going on lately? No money exchanged hands here, I say no harm no foul.

  • Shawn

    Google better be careful, or this can turn into a racial issue /sarcasm

  • Shawn

    I can see the black community, jessie jackson, al sharpton and his ilk saying google is racist

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom
  • Cody

    One of the major contributors to how well you rank in search engines are
    links. Being fully aware of this, Rap Genius is trying to gain a
    massive amount of links to better compete with other websites that try
    rank for the same thing.

    While that in itself isn’t a problem,
    what they are doing is openly trying to game the system. Google doesn’t
    like when companies try to game the system, and not addressing this
    could lead to other major companies doing the same thing. This could
    cause major problems for them, and force them to either manually address
    major companies that try this, or create an algorithm for it.

    Instead,
    they are addressing it publicly to show that this type of tactic will
    not work to improve your sites visibility, and to deter others from
    doing the same. Google isn’t doing anything more than that.

    Regardless if the links are discounted or not, this is an awesome strategy for them to gain a lot more exposure!

  • Cody

    One of the major contributors to how well you rank in search engines are
    links. Being fully aware of this, Rap Genius is trying to gain a
    massive amount of links to better compete with other websites that try
    rank for the same thing.

    While that in itself isn’t a problem,
    what they are doing is openly trying to game the system. Google doesn’t
    like when companies try to game the system, and not addressing this
    could lead to other major companies doing the same thing. This could
    cause major problems for them, and force them to either manually address
    major companies that try this, or create an algorithm for it.

    Instead,
    they are addressing it publicly to show that this type of tactic will
    not work to improve your sites visibility, and to deter others from
    doing the same. Google isn’t doing anything more than that.

    Regardless if the links are discounted or not, this is an awesome strategy for them to gain a lot more exposure!

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    Confirmed. This is the spam attempt.

  • Bilc Vlad Calin

    If this is a link scheme that affects in anyway the quality of the search results provided by THEIR search engine it’s THEIR responsibility to flag these sites as spam and remove them from SERPs in order to improve THEIR product.

    I don’t understand what the First Amendment has to do with anything in this situation. I would strongly advise you to read it. No one is “abridging the freedom of speech” here (I’m assuming that’s what you’re going for here). Company A (Google) created a product (the search engine), company B (Rap Genius) is using that product and has allegedly found a way to exploit that product completely disregarding company A’s rules of conduct, hence company A is looking for a way to improve their product and possibly penalize company B in the process… in relation with THEIR product. Company B might still do just fine on other search engines.

    I refuse to believe you don’t see all this. Ulterior motives, ulterior motives…

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    See updated post above.

  • Shawn

    Funny, the owners of google are Jewish and you say Nazi, how classy of you

  • Henley Wing

    Ironically, the RapGenius folks responded with a post where they outed others as well: http://news.rapgenius.com/Rap-genius-founders-open-letter-to-google-about-rap-genius-seo-lyrics

    BTW, Takeshi, was wondering if I can interview u for a post I’m writing about what keeps search marketers awake at night? Can I email you?

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    Jewish are much smarter, than you are :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJyGJQx2Fgk

  • Shawn

    it’s you are, not you’re, come on, you are better than this

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    Thank you for pointing out my grammar error, however I don’t like any conversations where nationality or race or sexuality is involved.

    Feel free to consider me as the Black Jewish Homosexual guy and don’t bother me more with something like this.

    Thanks )

  • http://www.keshkesh.com/ Takeshi Young

    Sure, you can e-mail me at my first & last name at gmail.com.

  • http://www.keshkesh.com/ Takeshi Young

    All this free publicity Rap Genius is getting is going to boost their SEO more than their original spammy tactic could have: http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/24/rap-genius-apologizes-for-not-so-genius-seo-spam-tactics/

  • Federico Riva

    thinking that jews are smart is racist.

  • http://wtff.com/ WTFFcom

    Read below.

  • http://federicoeinhorn.com/ Fede Einhorn

    I reported for spam on the exact the same scheme a site that is ranking 1st for my main query, still they are 1st after the reports, which I started to send over a year ago.

  • Jonathan Jones

    The reason they got caught:
    http://i2.wp.com/vlexo.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/16-links-one-article.png

    16 keyword targeted anchor text links on a single offsite page? There was no caution at all, and it’s as if they were only trying to rank for the short term with this sort of link building. That’s just messy.

  • wood railing

    This penalty is ridiculous! I fail to see where rapgenius.com has “engaged in a manipulative link scheme”.

    No link backs. No link wheels. No link spam. No pyramids.

    They asked bloggers to link to the site, and that’s what happened. Isn’t this what big G says to do? Ask for quality links?

    WTF!?

  • sheepwhisperer

    Rap genius is clearly using unfair means to skew the popularity of specific pages. Is that hard to see? For example, maybe Rapgenius shouldn’t be the top result for “Justin Bieber Heartbreak lyrics” but due to them gaming the system, there they are.

    They are illegally inflating the popularity of pages to bring more traffic (read: revenue). It’s against Google’s TOS and damn well should be.

  • sheepwhisperer

    They aren’t quality links when you have to acquire them in this fashion.

  • http://www.altosmarketinggroup.com/ Neil DuPaul

    They should definitely take a closer look, I actually find Rap Genius to be one of the best lyric sites, if not the best.

  • dontaskmeforanaccount

    First amendment only applies to Government -> People…

  • http://www.simpleseo.nl/ Wouter van Nierop

    I understand that purshading people to link with keyword anchor text can be seen as a link scheme but in fact almost all affiliate programs offer you exact match dofollow keywords html copy/paste code so really what is the difference here?

  • http://www.simpleseo.nl/ Wouter van Nierop

    I understand that purshading people to link with keyword anchor text can be seen as a link scheme but in fact almost all affiliate programs offer you exact match dofollow keywords html copy/paste code so really what is the difference here?

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