Rap Genius Back In Google After 10 Day Penalty, Ranks For Its Name But What About Lyrics?

rapgenius-logo

Lyrics site Rap Genius says that it is no longer penalized within Google after taking action to correct “unnatural links” that it helped create. The site was hit with a penalty for 10 days, which meant people seeking it by name couldn’t find it. That’s been fixed, though it’s unclear how much traffic the site will regain for generic lyrics searches.

Rap Genius Back By Name In Google

After the penalty, people couldn’t find Rap Genius when searching for it on Google by name. Now, searches for “rap genius” show the site back at the top of Google’s web search listings (though news headlines items do come first in Google’s news box):

Removing Links To Remove A Penalty

The company explained in a blog post today that it received a manual action notice from Google on Christmas Day accusing it of unnatural linking, which resulted in a penalty. The Rap Genius post detailed some of the linking practices the company has done and how it tried to correct what it thought Google objected to, which included asking people to remove links as well as disavowing links. The post concluded with an apology:

To Google and our fans: we’re sorry for being such morons. We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking. We’re focused on building the best site in the world for understanding lyrics, poetry, and prose and watching it naturally rise to the top of the search results.

Fast Return To Google

Rap Genius was never banned from Google. Instead, it was slapped with a penalty that appears to have made its content that would normally show in the first page of Google listings slip to the sixth page (sometimes called a -60 penalty).

The drop lasted for 10 days is about the same for another big brand that was hit with a penalty over linking early last year, Interflora, which found itself penalized for 11 days. But it’s less than the 90 days that both JC Penney and Google’s own Chrome browser web site were hit with in 2011 and 2012, respectively, over link issues.

Back For Some Lyric Searches But Still Missing For Some

While Rap Genius is ranking again for its own name, it’s not clear that it is regaining traffic for what’s most important to it, generic terms related to lyrics.

Searchmetrics analyzed some of the terms sending Rap Genius traffic that it took hits for, as well as the overall drop in is search visibility. It’s too early for the Searchmetrics tool to show if there’s been rise in visibility (give it a day or two), but some spot checks on terms show it may not all be back to normal.

For “rap lyrics,” Rap Genius has a solid number one listing, back after dropping, according to Searchmetrics, 100 spots:

For just “lyrics,” it’s not in the first page of results — though it probably wasn’t there before the penalty, either:

lyrics_-_Google_Search-3

This seems likely because the site started with a focus on rap lyrics (hence its name) while many older sites have been far more encompassing. It could also be that the other sites are just spamming Google, as Rap Genius alleged when it first blogged about being penalized and saying “other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff.”

For a fairly high-volume search query such as “someone like you lyrics,” where Rap Genius took a 95 spot plunge according to Searchmetrics, it now ranks on page 7, not much of an improvement:

someone_like_you_lyrics_-_Google_Search-4

Moreover, the page that it apparently was ranking for, lyrics for Mac Miller’s “Someone like you” song, isn’t the one showing in page seven of the results. As far as I can tell, it’s not showing up in the top 100 results all.

The Rap Genius page for Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” which fell 92 spots, is nowhere to be found in the top 100 results, from what I can see.

I think it’s fairly likely Rap Genius will see some of its direct Google traffic recover, now that the penalty has been lifted. But I suspect that the removal of so many links may also cost it some of the rankings it previously had, so that traffic may remain lower than it was.

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Related Topics: Google: Penalties | Google: SEO | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    No doubt RG is an absolute winner. Perfect promotional campaign.

    re Google … well, let’s see :
    - seems, that it keeps spam under control. But it doesn’t, since Matt Cutts was informed about this by the third person ;
    - seems, that it acts when the spammer is identified. But it doesn’t, since 10 days later RG is back in SERP.

    What conclusion should others make from this story ?
    Is it ” Spam, but carefully ” ?
    Or is it ” Feel free to spam, if you are Big enough. Turn it into promotion if caught. ” ?

  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    No doubt RG is an absolute winner. Perfect promotional campaign.

    re Google … well, let’s see :
    - seems, that it keeps spam under control. But it doesn’t, since Matt Cutts was informed about this by the third person ;
    - seems, that it acts when the spammer is identified. But it doesn’t, since 10 days later RG is back in SERP.

    What conclusion should others make from this story ?
    Is it ” Spam, but carefully ” ?
    Or is it ” Feel free to spam, if you are Big enough. Turn it into promotion if caught. ” ?

  • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

    I can’t be the only one thinking how freaking unfair this whole situation is.

    I run a fairly popular website that gets about 10M page views a month. Unlike Rap Genius, I never made the headlines on TechCrunch for receiving massive investments. If my site was about to be slammed by Google, do you think Google would work with me (on Christmas day) to get the situation fixed? No, they would slam me forever and not give a crap about ruining my business.

    This situation seems to be fairly typical of how Google works. It will definitely work with the big guys, but the small guys, well, who gives a crap about them, right?

    Maybe I am just over reacting but I believe this is very unfair

  • Durant Imboden

    Well, that was quick!

  • Henley Wing

    I think the lesson here is that Google is not perfect, and sometimes there’s a lot of fear mongering that occurs in the SEO world, when in actuality there’s a LOT of leeway in the grey areas.

  • gour_atmarama

    > Maybe I am just over reacting but I believe this is very unfair

    I can understand your feeling when you see that not everyone is handled the same, iow. that’s it’s not fair, but the problem is that we did create the problem by becoming too dependant on the same mechanism.

    As long as we’re providing ‘food’ (aka data) to it, we can’t expect things will become better despite so many of updates and chanting of ‘only content is relevant’ mantras.

    What can we do? Well, inspire more people to use other engines (e.g. DuckDuckGo, Bing…), not use GA but keep suhc data for our own and our clients by e.g. deploying Piwik and other alternatives.

    Big G needs (our) data and traffic to survive no matter how big it is, but as long as we’re happy providing those freely, they won’t care about small fishes in the pond.

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    Rarely anything in life is fair. Get used to it.

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    Rarely anything in life is fair. Get used to it.

  • cbets

    It does pay to be black hat early on. Look at the backlinks for retailmenot (especially on bugmenot). Build up the ranks, and secure them with an investment from Google Ventures. Then continue to spam. It’s called corporate responsiblity: http://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/corporateresponsibility

  • CharlesBiggs

    Wow. Just wow. Google/M.Cutts just make me laugh. How can anyone take this company/guy seriously anymore? You’re losing credibility Cutts and fast!

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    Lesson learned for RapGenius.Google is doing everything they can to provide people with relevant information. Good to know that they are aware to what’s happening and taking necessary action to those who want to cheat in Google’s algorithm.

  • http://www.xbox247.com/ GameOverViper

    For “Mac Miller – Someone like You Lyrics” Rap genius results are 2 and 3 on page 1 now – http://gyazo.com/fa191ffc7c6c0569804a7a02db490d45.png

  • http://www.seoexpertadvice.blogspot.com/ Rahul Trivedi

    Yes, smartly link removal is the key thing to get site back in SERP from manual as well as algo penalty.

  • Gridlock

    Bear in mind NOBODY from Google has confirmed they were even penalised, let alone had the penalty reversed. The whole thing stinks IMO, and the publicity (and links) obtained far outweigh any cost from the supposed penalty.

  • http://dewlance.com/ Dewlance

    Their moto is “Don’t be evil” then why Google penalize? ;(

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh Zehtabchi

    Do research on the founder of RG. Explains a lot.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh Zehtabchi

    Do research on the founder of RG. Explains a lot.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh Zehtabchi

    Do research on the founder of RG. Explains a lot.

  • http://alex-hemedinger.blogspot.com/ Alexander Hemedinger

    When did Matt Cutts like rap?

  • http://www.brand.com/blog James R. Halloran

    To be honest, this was a poor move by Google to withdraw the penalty from Rap Genius so fast.

    Now, all black hat practitioners will keep doing what they’re doing until they’re caught and beg for forgiveness later, especially now because they know it’ll only take them a week or two to get back online.

    These guys knew what they were doing regardless of what they said in their blog post. Unlike other people who acquire spammy links by someone else’s doing, these guys created their own link scheme on purpose.

  • http://www.brand.com/blog James R. Halloran

    To be honest, this was a poor move by Google to withdraw the penalty from Rap Genius so fast.

    Now, all black hat practitioners will keep doing what they’re doing until they’re caught and beg for forgiveness later, especially now because they know it’ll only take them a week or two to get back online.

    These guys knew what they were doing regardless of what they said in their blog post. Unlike other people who acquire spammy links by someone else’s doing, these guys created their own link scheme on purpose.

  • Jon Hogg

    Other sites won’t be so lucky to get a penalty removed so quickly, as lots of commenters have pointed out.

  • Garreth Dickson

    Now that they have admitted guilt to buying/building links unnaturally do they find themselves on a “google” watch list? They may or may not find the way back to the top and if they do build links or competitors I’m pretty sure Google won’t be so kind the second time around.

    I know quite a few people who panicked and immediately went on a disavow and reinclusion frenzy to only find themselves not only not back even close to where they were in rankings but obviously gone now in Yahoo & Bing.

    This seems to be a temporary win for the big guys who find their way to the news.. but for the rest it just seems like it’s Google’s way to let people build up a database of known spammers.

  • http://www.brand.com/blog James R. Halloran

    I know. That’s why I think Google should start implementing a time sentence like 6-12 months for each violation, so quick cheats like Rap Genius are still reprimanded properly.

  • Illogicalthinker

    Because spammers spit trash that is evil like pharmaceuticals.

  • IMSoldiers

    What strikes me is how Google can allow a site with so many poor quality links a return so fast. The reconsideration request does clearly state by Google that just disavowing links is not enough to lift a manual penalty so how did they recover so fast?

    They did explain in the blog post that they contacted webmasters and people who helped them build these links. So lets just take a look at these facts. Over the Xmas and New Year holidays they where able to get in touch with webmasters for link removal and the webmasters took the time from busy schedules and family to remove these links. I’m not saying it didn’t happen but come on, fishy much!!!

    They even state in that blog post that they used Whois data to get the email addresses, which would only yield a small %. This is not really doing everything possible to get the link removed now is it? Disavow = last resort remember :)

    A quote on their blog post make me laugh. “Next we manually examined each of these 3,333 URLs”

    So in the 10 days they managed to not only email these webmasters but check all those 3,333 links manually.

    There are so many things i can pick holes in to say they didn’t actually do all they said they did but i wont bore you…

    Reconsideration requested was not mentioned in the blog post but sod it.. Ill carry on under the assumption they did.

    Lastly requesting a review can take 2+ weeks for a reply from Google, usually longer. Yet the lovely workers at Google decided to review it for them as soon as it was requested bypassing the que…

    To recap

    In 10 days they

    - Collected all the back link data
    - Checked 3,333 links “manually”
    - Wrote a script to scan links for certain data
    - Filter the data
    - Write a script to get emails from Whois data.
    - Emailed webmasters
    - Made no attempt to actually get the contact information from other sources
    - Did not wait for a response “it was Xmas and New Year”
    - Did not re send emails
    - Did not re send emails again
    - Disavowed domain/pages
    - Submitted a reconsideration request ( I assume)
    - Back in Google.

    Google WTF are you thinking!!!

    #RantOver

  • krinalmehta

    >It’s called corporate responsiblity:

    ROFLMAO

  • krinalmehta

    I sincerely hope that was the case!

  • krinalmehta

    10000% agree with you! It’s a no-brainer to say the least.

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