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Google Has Officially Penalized Rap Genius For Link Schemes (searchengineland.com)
502 points by tomlemon 1275 days ago | hide | past | web | 283 comments | favorite

Tried all of these just now:

  Justin Bieber All Bad Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Confident Lyric
  Justin Bieber Heartbreaker Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Memphis Lyrics
  Justin Bieber One Life Lyrics
  Justin Bieber All That Matters Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Hold Tight Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Pyd Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Change Me Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Recovery Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Bad Day Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Roller Coaster Lyrics
  Justin Bieber Lyrics
All of these just yesterday were in fact ranked in the upper 5 (very often #1 actually). Rapgenius results are now not even in top 10.

Most surprisingly, even

  Justin Bieber Heartbreaker rap genius
will not show up on Google results. Wow, that was a swift and harsh response. The only surefire way to get to a RG site is by doing "*bieber site:rapgenius.com".

They were using a wide array of questionable SERP optimizing techniques (http://www.rocketmill.co.uk/hideous-seo-strategy-rap-genius among others). One described here is very interesting: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6958883. Apparently that's an old one, but it's first I'm hearing of it. From all of this, to their rape jokes and everything else in-between, you can't say they didn't have something like this coming.

Quite frankly not showing me rapgenius results when that's one of the search terms is idiotic. I guess now I have to remember to go straight to their site whenever I'm looking up lyrics. I'm glad I at least know about them and I feel bad for the people that are now going to be trapped in craplyrics.com hell.

I understand and agree with google's desire to punish spammers but their effort should not have such a major impact on users who obviously know what they are looking for.

Just wow. I think the intention was to make an example of Rap Genius for other companies. I honestly had no idea how severe these violations were until now.

> I think the intention was to make an example of Rap Genius for other companies.

Doubt they intended to penalize them quite this drastically. Its likely that they algorithm is just being overzealous some keywords being blacklisted. Quite similar to how the UK porn filters are filtering out Claire Perry, the most prominent campaigner for the filters[0].

> I honestly had no idea how severe these violations were until now

The violations are pretty serious and have been for the better part of the last (half-)decade. RapGenius should have known better. For me the worst was when the pretty much said "But everyone else is doing it".

Too bad this will obliterate them.

Unintentionally though, going forward RapGenius will be the poster child for what happens to children on the naughty list.

[0] http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/12/25/the-best-...

I agree, they are clearly trying to make an example for others.

Just use Bing for now :)

Even Googling just "rap genius" doesn't get me their site in the top 10 (just their Twitter).

Now, what about actually getting quality site when I search for "Justin Bieber All Bad Lyrics"? The first page now is now just full of low quality lyric sites.

Well, really, are they? I have Adblock, and really the sites I get from "Justin Bieber All Bad Lyrics" are fine if I was just interested in the lyrics of that particular song.

Shouldn't "Justin Bieber All Bad Lyrics" just show you all Justin Bieber lyrics?

Google giveth, and Google taketh away.

This looks like a -50 penalty. This is both good and bad for Rap Genius.

Good in that it will be temporary: specifically 30 days. This is better than a fundamental algorithm change like Panda or Penguin because there's no coming back from those.

The bad is that -50 penalties effectively destroy 90+ percent of your traffic. It's a very harsh lesson to be taught. You also don't want to have it happen again because the 2nd time is 60 days, and the 3rd time is permanent.

I don't think RapGenius will be doing something like this again.

From RG's perspective it's also frustrating because they'll see competitors do scammy things and get away with it. But that's the dual edged sword of such public personas. With RG getting called out so publicly Google had to do something about it. It's also good for Google that this penalty is getting a lot of publicity since it's proving an example to everyone else.

  Good in that it will be temporary: specifically 30 days.
Please don't preach about SEO if you know nothing about it or aren't up-to-date with how SEO works because, this is completely wrong. The penalty that Rap Genius have will be applied until their site fall backs into the Google Guidelines[1] and they help webmasters to get their site back in line with those guidelines through informing them what type of penalty[2] their site has.

This may take 90 days as it took JC Penney[3], 11 days as it took Interflora[4] or even 30 days. However, it should be relatively quick and straightforward for Rap Genius to recover from this penalty because, the penalty is based on links they've built themselves through their "tweet-for-links" system meaning that identification and removal of links should be relatively quick and straightforward.

  This is better than a fundamental algorithm change like Panda or Penguin because there's no coming back from those.
Again this is wrong. Essentially Panda looks at content and Penguin looks at links - both of which are within Google's Manual Action penalties[2] - and both of which you can recover a site from.

In order to fix a Google Panda penalty you need to completely overhaul your site to remove any rubbish content as well as, to improve the content. In cases where you cannot improve the content to add unique user value, you should completely remove it from the site.

In order to fix a Penguin issue, you should see my overview here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6963785 although essentially, you just need to identify the links which need cleaning up, try and get those links "cleaned up" yourself, submit a disavow file (if necessary) and then get Google to reconsider the site.

[1] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

[2] https://support.google.com/webmasters/topic/2604771?hl=en&re...

[3] http://searchengineland.com/90-days-later-google-lets-j-c-pe...

[4] http://searchengineland.com/interflora-gets-google-rankings-...

I haven't been into the SEO stuff since Panda, so it looks like quite a lot has changed. If Google is giving more information about what you're actually doing wrong, then that's great.

Previously (like 5 years ago) you'd just see a massive hit to your rankings and would be scrambling to try and fix anything and everything you could think of that may cause it.

The answer is easy... Don't pull crappy stunts or dirty tricks to improve your rankings... Deliver a relatively light, clean page with relevant content.

Where are you getting this number system from? I've never heard of it until now.

-50 is the number of results they were bumped down. If you search "rap genius" you'll find it on the 5th page.

Ahh... Thank you for the clarification. :)

Personal experience.

This was many years ago though (> 5) so likely the numbers have changed since then.

Do you know if applied penalties are listed in "Manual Actions" under Google's Webmaster Tools? Is a 60-day penalty exactly 60 days?

I ask because I have a site that had its Google traffic cut suddenly by over 75% in October. This lasted 64 days, until it increased just as suddenly last week, though not to the same traffic volume as before. I'm trying to figure out if it came back because an unseen penalty expired, or if there was something I did to trigger more conventional SEO rules.

You actually need to submit a reconsideration request, and if Google is happy with your efforts (i.e. removed or attempted to remove the bad links with supporting evidence) it will lift your manual penalty. Sometimes you have to do it few times.

My favorite part of this is in the original blog post exposing the scheme, mahbodmoghadam, RapGenius co-founder/dude-bro in chief, immediately commented and said "Did you post it??? how about this: attach the HTML to THIS article and I'll tweet this out for you - that would be META!"

Like scoring an own goal, doing a victory dance, and then sprinting back out to score another. Just amazing. I wish I could find a violin tiny enough to appropriately express my sympathy for these clowns.


Mahbod's early growth strategies on Quora: http://i.imgur.com/vsnk8V5.png

He seems like a major dick. No offense to the talented engineers at RG.

That entire conversation is just surreal!

I agree that Rap Genius should have been penalized here, but so should literally every other lyrics site on the net. I've done SEO in hyper competitive spaces in the past and honestly, the system is broken.

Google and Cutts love to preach this "Create value and quality content and you'll rank high" bullocks but it doesn't work like that. When you have a high number of well funded competitors who are all playing dirty, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to compete with them with white hat tactics. You either play hardball yourself and risk a ban or you play nice and get creamed in the SERPs.

It's really a rock | hard place situation in some niches.

Oh, and I just saw the founders made this statement:

"We are working with Google right now to resolve this. They've been really great, helping us identify changes we need to make, even on Christmas. We’re working on it as fast as we can, and expect to be back on Google very soon."

WHAT? What makes these guys so special that they actually get help from Google. I think that pisses me off more than anything. There are a ton of webmasters out there trying to do the right thing SEO wise who get banned or penalized but could never, ever, get personal help from Google. We don't even get the courtesy of knowing why we've been banned most of the time. (Although to be fair this has gotten much better in GWT).

In some highly competitive spaces your competitors will spam links to your site which eventually leads to negative SEO. Which I don't think Google will admit exists but it happens.

Let's not feel sorry for these guys just because they were part of YC. They were taking part in black-hat practices, which were clearly in breach of Google's ToS. I expect this penalty to expire eventually, but let this be a lesson to anyone else thinking about doing the same.

My bigger issue is with the fact that they're able to "negotiate" with Matt Cutts and team while thousands of other sites don't have that bargaining power. Started a discussion on this here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6964169

Why do you think they negotiated at all?

Agree, Is there any evidence this happened?

I'd like to see if they penalize other lyrics companies similarly and commensurately though...

Report those other companies to Google's anti spam team.

Better yet, post an exposé on HN (that seems to be pretty powerful these days).


This is the worst Christmas present possible. Well, Google had no choice and the apology was not a stellar one (not that it could have mattered).

If I recall correctly, Google once penalized Google Chrome for doing shady SEO [1]. Although it was not as brutal as this which sends them to the equivalent of Siberia.

My Questions.

1. I normally search "<song name> rapgenius". Now, it is no longer on the first few pages. Is that not against Google's goal of giving the searcher what (s)he wants?

2. Probably the only way for RapGenius to counter this would be to go heavy on AdWords. Is that not a bit conflicted on Google's side?

Hopefully this punishment will not be permanent. I would hope they have learned to tone things down sometimes.

This may be a lesson in disguise as they would be forced to think of how to survive without SEO. If they can survive now, they will be doubly badass when this penalty is lifted.


Edited to include source

[1] http://searchengineland.com/google-chrome-page-will-have-pag...

> I normally search "<song name> rapgenius". Now, it is no longer on the first few pages.

It's not an answer to whether Google is giving users what they want, but you can just create search engines in Chrome[0] for the sites you search frequently. Make sure you set a custom shortcut for it that's only one or two letters. When I want to search Rap Genius, I type 'rg ' (note the space) and I get this: http://i.imgur.com/At9KxBr.png

I have this for at least 20 different sites, so I almost never use Google if I know what site I want to search, a prominent exception being if the site's search really sucks, like reddit. In those cases, I have custom search engines set up that will search Google without whatever I searched, plus "site:example.com" appended to it.

You can also hack this functionality to set up shortcuts for frequently visited sites ('hn' for Hacker News, 'gm' for Gmail, etc.) by creating a search engine without a '%s' (which is where whatever you search is substituted in). So I type 'hn', hit Enter, and it takes me to http://news.ycombinator.com

0: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95653?hl=en

As well as in firefox and opera (at least The Opera, not that crap they ship nowadays). And perhaps others.

Edit: That being said, searches on various sites often suck. My default search engine is Google's Feeling Lucky, so if I want to search and IMDb entry for example, I just type in `imdb <name of the movie>`. If I'd had imdb as a keyword for IMDb search, I'd go to the IMDb's search results and would have to click on the result. With feeling lucky search I end up on the entry directly. Same goes for Wikipedia and a few others. If I want to see Google results, I have a keyword for that - g.

> If I'd had imdb as a keyword for IMDb search, I'd go to the IMDb's search results and would have to click on the result. With feeling lucky search I end up on the entry directly.

Right, that's why I, if I were a frequent IMDb user, would have 'imdb' set up to do an I'm Feeling Lucky search with "site:imdb.com" suffixed to whatever I'd entered. Pretty much the same as suffixing 'imdb', but the "site:" syntax ensures that only IMDb results actually show up.

> Same goes for Wikipedia and a few others.

I actually find Wikipedia to be very good about sending me directly to the page of interest, without having to click through from a search results page. I use Wikipedia for movie info (rather than IMDb), and it works very well.

Pet peeve: saying "you can just" and then describing something completely esoteric.

I use a "search shortcut" as well with the "Alfred App" for Mac. It's easy to bind a shortcut to either search directly at the intended site, or perform a google search with the appropriate prefix (i.e. "site:rapgenius.com).

If you're finding that you continuously make such searches, it might be worth taking the time to set up your shortcuts. I have them set for Amazon, YouTube, Wikipedia, EtymOnline, etc.

I have done this so that SMS takes me to me Google voice inbox. It's pretty nifty...

>Is that not against Google's goal of giving the searcher what (s)he wants?

definitely. That should tell you just how pissed off Google is - they are willing to go so far as to give their users an inferior search experience just to punish RapGenius. This isn't about being fair or getting even, this is about setting an example. If they have to give a few people inferior searches for a while, i guess they feel that's a worthy compromise in order to discourage this kind of SEO tactics in the future.

I think it just shows how this works; when a site gets penalized, it's across the board, regardless of search terms. And personally, I think lyrics sites without every single line being annotated by mostly lame jokes and pictures are actually better quality.

> they are willing to go so far as to give their users an inferior search experience just to punish RapGenius

Another way to look at it is that RapGenius was willing to go so far in their mindless quest for bling and Bieber fans that they overstretched the rubber band. Google basically gave them what they begged for, and now all that is left is HN to get over it.

I agree that this sends a strong message that google is willing to sacrifice user experience on it's own search engine to punish link schemes. RapGenius is by far the best lyric site from a user perspective. When I search for lyrics I look for a rap genius link.

You can still search rapgenius by using keyword site:rapgenius.com feature

Use duckduckgo.com, it still works there.

Not only that, as you might guess, Duck Duck Go has !rg.

Google penalized Chrome, their own product? Source?

But, google do have a choice? This is human stuff here, not an algorithm. I'm not going to argue about whether Google should have or not, but saying they "had no choice" isn't correct IMO.

I think the lack of choice he is referring to is trying to remain impartial. Sure, they could pick specific companies and give them better rankings or look the other way but that sets a really dangerous precedent for filtering information. In this case, it's just lyrics and Rap Genius appears to have better content than some of the other high ranking sites but you can't make an exception and start allowing some sites to break set rules.

They've never been impartial, not for years :) if they were, SERPS would suck.

I'm upset that googling for "rap genius" still does not return one single rapper in the first 10 pages.

and none of these guys are geniuses either

and justin bieber cannot rap, so google is correct in this case

1. I normally search "<song name> rapgenius". Now, it is no longer on the first few pages. Is that not against Google's goal of giving the searcher what (s)he wants?

One tip if you want to search in a site you can always use the "site:" trigger.

Example :

we will rock you site:rapgenius.com


Even if the site is penalised it isn't de indexed ( I guess ) so you still can do a site search.

Thats how I search every website. I never/hardly use any website's search, most times its awful.

Excellent. They deserved some coal in their stockings.

>If you go to Google and search for [rap genius], rapgenius.com will not be found on the first page

That's pretty crazy. Whenever I put up an obscure site, I notice ranking on the domain happens almost immediately with no effort.

[edit] Holy shit, I didn't realize quite how awful this is. Very often, I search for "<song name> rapgenius" because I really enjoy the annotations; that's not even on the first page of results. Making it worse, the first page (even when searching for a song) contains stories about them making rape jokes and spamming. https://www.google.com/search?q=today+was+a+good+day+rapgeni...


And the greatest gift of all was to be schadenfreude.

For people who act like arrogant jerks were punished severely that day.

The penalty that has been applied will degrade heavily with time. Rap Genius will have an opportunity to rebuild their ranking in the coming months. I suspect they'll be fine, as the product is solid; so clean-up in aisle three, and then business as usual. They're also very well capitalized to withstand this.

5th page for "rapgenius"

There are two lessons here: (1) don't do shady shit, (2) Google should only be one of many sources of traffic.

For lyrics sites, Google is the alpha and the omega. There are no other traffic sources for that niche.

Wow! Just checked and they ranked 59th for "rap genius" and 51st for "rapgenius" on google.

"<song name> site:rapgenius.com" should help.

I wonder how many "legitimate" links a site like RapGenius gets. I've never seen anybody link to them, except maybe in social networks. Similar for the stackexchange sites. Sometimes people link to good questions from blogs, but a large portion of links are probably from other stackexchange sites, twitter, and Jeff Atwood's blog (which is a marvel of SEO and affilate marketing in itself).

For many of these high quality content silos (for lack of a better word), the PageRank paradigm seems pretty broken. People don't feel compelled to link to well-known sites precisely because they are well-ranked. And when they do, it is in form of viral posts in social networks, which is not really a great input to determine site quality.

I wouldn't be surprized if Google's real secret algorithm nowadays consists of millions of special cases maintained by thousands of poorly paid interns.

I was thinking something along the same lines. PageRank was great back in the day, but in today's world, the link is not the only way of determining whether a site is good or not. I wonder if a rethink of the HITS model or a complete overhaul of search ranking based on social and reputation cues is in order?

StackOverflow does well despite few people linking to them because the search terms are so niche, if I search for a fairly generic programming term I maybe get one StackOverflow post in the first 10 but if I search for an error message, they'll all be SO. Other StackExchange sites maybe don't benefit quite so well from that long tail, though. Sites like Quora presumably have the same problem.

It's interesting how sites like these, and in turn mobile apps, are turning information into vertical silos (which want you to stay within their bounds) rather than the horizontal web of equality we're used to.

(Also, the interns are pretty well paid, but yes. They start out as autocompleters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blB_X38YSxQ)

The genius of the original PageRank is that links serve as machine actionable artifacts of 'social and reputation cues'.

But of course Google's algorithm is way more complicated now, and takes into account all sorts of things. They of course have all sorts of smart experienced people working on improving it, and apparently still determine that links should count for a lot.

I'd guess there are actually lots of links to stackoverflow.

Are you saying SO questions high google rank is mainly a result of links from within the SE network?

No, but I guess e.g. physics.stackexchange.com or judaism.stackexchange.com benefits a lot from the SE internal links, and I guess for those smaller sites it is the main source of page rank.

That is, if page rank still works like Google claims. I'm pretty convinced that there is a lot of manual curation going on. At least for popular terms and for the first page of results.

Yes, internal links can be extremely valuable especially in narrowly relevant niches like SO.

> and Jeff Atwood's blog (which is a marvel of SEO and affilate marketing in itself).

Really? What makes you claim that?

Why poorly paid?

It's the cliche. But you're right, the most menial worker at google earns probably a lot more then I do (in academia). I don't know...

The sad part is that RG was the most high quality lyrics site I've seen. Their revenue is going to take a huge dive, much more than their link scheming was hurting Google (or probably anyone else for that matter).

Its also sad thay they went about it in such a stupid, stupid way.

They could have built a nice "Link to your favorite lyrics" widget for people to include in their "homepages". Make the appearance customizable, jumble the HTML, and include some stock bla bla to make it "individual" and to appeal to google.

Then announce a competition. We'll showcase the best homepages that link to our lyrics in the most creative way. Maybe give away some silly prizes. Completely legal, nothing for Google to complain about, but gives you the same effect very cleverly.

Instead they did this brazen crap... makes them look very amateurish. Technically not very different, but the tone is completely different, and Google had no choice but to penalize it.

Definitely amateurish. I shuddered a bit at the language used in their reply e-mail for the affiliate program. It's nearly condescending and, and...well, you get it.


Right on. I'd use a widget to embed lyrics with audio in every blog post if they made it easy. May be integrate with spotify. And create a Wordpress plugin.

Where can I find the guidelines that specify what is legal under Google rules and what is not? As someone who isn't familiar with rules, it's not obvious to me what the technical difference is between what they did and what you're suggesting. On a gut level your suggestion seems less spammy, but I'd like to know what the actual rules are.

Agreed. It is natural for a website to want to get traffic. How can Google prove that RG's tactic was for SERPs and not just for the direct link traffic from blogs?

That might have worked a few years ago links via widgets like that high risk I am afraid

It doesn't matter that they had the best experience and content because Google was forced to do this to set an example and show that they aren't playing favorites. Imagine other companies who will start testing more black hat strategies with the expectation that it's okay as long as they believe they're better than sites ranking higher than them.

You know what? If they actually are better, then that's only a good thing in my opinion. Who cares about "fairness" here, we want the best results. That's one way of looking at it anyway.

I agree it was what they should've done. At the very least it was the right direction. Hopefully their reputation is enough to keep them afloat while they build up again.

I suspect the several million in funding they've taken can also keep them afloat for a little while.

agreed, one of the better sites out there but what revenue?

I can't imagine that this is permanent. Rap Genius is actually one of the most high quality lyrics sites out there, not another spam farm. So removing them for good actually reduces the quality of Google's search results.

I do suspect that because of the attention this once case received, and since Matt Cutts was personally looking into the company's SEO tactics (talk about bad luck), they issued a public, but temporary, slap. That would serve as an eye opener to Rap Genius about how dangerously they're playing the SEO game and a warning to everyone else tuning in.

If the "slap" is too temporary then it backfires as a deterrent because such a slap would teach future companies that you might as well game the system and then accept your small, temporary punishment if you do happen to get caught, which you might not in the first place if you are more clever about doing it than the rapgenius guys were. There's really no point to Google making public spectacle of a penalty that might end up so temporary as to be toothless.

In any case, I find it hard to shed a tear for these guys, they either knew full well that they were flagrantly disobeying the Google rules or they are incredibly stupid. And unlike some others I'm not so surprised that their previously high ranking might have been gamed because they are one of a set of companies I know of that has huge mindshare with the HN/startup crowd, but virtually none with people I know who aren't part of that first group.

It's not permanent.

Google wants to make a point, they turn off the traffic faucet, Rap Genius repents, and things slowly return back to normal.

They don't even rank for "rap genius" right now. Their Facebook page does though.

You don't think this gives competitors a chance to compete better?

We are all much better off now that azlyrics.com is back to its rightful place at the top of the lyric search results.

Rap Genius alleges that their competitors are using the same tactics. Will those sites also get the same scrutiny? Perhaps now would be a good time for a new lyric site run by some nice bland people to go on the offensive and rise to the top.

So, the only reason RG in the first place was able to provide lyrics with no spam at no costs is because they were riding on VC money. Other lyrics sites have to make money somehow. But then you might say -- well, what does that matter to the audience? The answer is, usually the spam-free groovy train usually does eventually come to an end. Sites can go on for long periods of time serving straight up spam/ad-free content, but that always ends. Who knew what RG was intending to do after this ended? Would they have gone the Facebook route of datamining the hell out of Biebers fan to advertise them shit they don't need?

One last thing to keep in mind: Rapgenius was an unlicensed lyric site. They weren't playing ball on either side of the fence. Let's hope that a lyric site emerges that provides lyrics with at least acceptable, non-distracting ads, and serves licensed content. I really think merely going by this strategy will get you ranked high on Google.

It makes sense that a site needs business model to be sustainable, but Rap Genius is still searching for or developing their model. It does not appear to be based on displaying ads alongside lyrics, and that also is not the main point of their site.

Rap Genius was originally called Rap Exegesis, and while it has a lot of rap lyrics it is a community supported text annotation site, with an ambition far beyond a lyric repository. They have a great deal of content beyond rap, or even lyrics in general. They have poetry and literature, announcements, and press releases (I'd love to see them make a Rap Genius page of Ulysses with the contents of Ulysses Annotated). They have a platform and are building a community. That's why it's attractive to VCs, and that's why it's something beyond the eyesores one mostly lands on searching for lyrics.

I hate that lyrics have to be licensed for informational purposes. I think it's stupid.

writers (a.k.a the anonymous person who wrote your favorite songs) make their living writing those lyrics & deserve to be paid for their work

No one deserves to be paid simply for working. You might be the best X in the world but if the world doesn't value X then you don't get paid. Pay is earned by doing things people want to pay for, not simply by doing things. If people don't want to pay for music/lyrics then music/lyrics has no market value. You don't deserve anything.

Clearly there is value since there is demand. What you're saying essentially is that peoples right to pay what they want outweighs the creators right to set their own price for their creations. That's not the way the world works. Demand can dictate price to an extent in that the seller wants to maximize earnings but it doesn't dictate it absolutely.

These companies(RG, azlyrics, etc) are making money where their main product is the creative work of someone else. Damn straight that other person deserves a cut of the profits because without them there is no site.

> What you're saying essentially is that peoples right to pay what they want outweighs the creators right to set their own price for their creations. That's not the way the world works.

No, that's exactly how the world works for luxury items like music; demand drives, not supply. What the seller wants to charge means absolutely nothing if demand is elastic and consumers can simply stop buying. Demand sets the price, not the seller. Creators can set whatever price they like, and consumers can and will ignore them; if you want to sell something you have to set a price the market will actually bear.

> Damn straight that other person deserves a cut of the profits because without them there is no site.

No they don't; they got paid to write the song, they're done. The notion that a person deserves to be paid forever in secondary markets where people trade their creations is a perverse and absurd notion that exists only in the messed up modern world; it's wrong and it's stupid. You as an artist do not deserve to be paid every time someone makes a copy of your art; period. If I paint a copy of a Picasso, I don't owe the Picasso family anything and the same should apply to any other creation. Copies are not theft and the artist doesn't deserve anything.

> No they don't; they got paid to write the song, they're done. The notion that a person deserves to be paid forever in secondary markets where people trade their creations is a perverse and absurd notion that exists only in the messed up modern world; it's wrong and it's stupid.

Whether or not a person deserves to get paid forever for their work is irrelevant to this discussion... The point is that someone is getting paid forever in this situation -- either the original songwriter or the owners of the lyrics site. I'll accept for the sake of argument that it shouldn't be possible for a person to monetize his or her work in perpetuity -- so then why the hell should it be allowable for an unrelated third party to do so?

> I'll accept for the sake of argument that it shouldn't be possible for a person to monetize his or her work in perpetuity -- so then why the hell should it be allowable for an unrelated third party to do so?

Ok, fair question. I didn't claim a person, be it first or third party, shouldn't be able to monetize anything; I said they don't deserve it, not that they can't do it. I'm disputing the sense of entitlement displayed by the use of the word deserve. No one, whether the creator nor the third party, is entitled to consumers money.

The seller sets the price. People either don't buy it or acquire it without paying. But the buyers don't set the price. In this case the buyer is the website and they have to pay the price since they are using the product openly and publicly.

>No they don't; they got paid to write the song, they're done. The notion that a person deserves to be paid forever in secondary markets where people trade their creations is a perverse and absurd notion that exists only in the messed up modern world; it's wrong.

Who is this magically being that pays the writer to write the song exactly? It isn't a secondary market it's a primary market. The song writer has created something(A song!) and the site wants to use that song. They are dealing with the song writer or copyright holder that is a first sale.

That person deserves to be paid for what they have created which is what this is. Your job wouldn't exist without that belief and neither would mine.

> But the buyers don't set the price.

I never said they did, please do try and comprehend before simply repeating yourself.

> That person deserves to be paid for what they have created which is what this is.


> Your job wouldn't exist without that belief and neither would mine.

This is a belief you hold, not a fact.

> they got paid to write the song, they're done.

In the vast majority of cases this is wrong. Most songwriters do not get paid to write songs. They get paid only when they receive royalties on the reproduction of their song.

This is good for society because it means that the songs that everyone likes will provide the most reward--so songwriters have a strong incentive to write the best songs they can.

So it's ok to copy and resell books without compensating the author?

You're wrong. Saying that music/lyrics has no market value is just as stupid as saying that just because I personally don't want to pay for a Mercedes Benz means it has no value, and I can take one freely.

Clearly SOME people are willing to pay for the right to use lyrics, ie. singers, record labels, etc. Just because a single individual, ex. rapgenius, doesn't want to pay for the music/lyrics, which they legally are obliged to do, doesn't mean that music/lyrics have no market value. There is a market value which has been established, and which people pay for. It just means that if they don't pay for the lyrics, they are stealing it.

> You're wrong. Saying that music/lyrics has no market value

Well since I didn't say that, you're wrong.

Are you for real? The world values the lyrics/songs, and are searching for them. There is a system in place to compensate artists, and "OMG DISRUPTION PIGGYBACK" is getting really tired.

Commenting on established artworks with a cute little javascript popup doesn't add anything to the original art. If I want to check lyrics, I am looking for the lyrics, not a popup that shows a picture of a ham when I hover over 'ham'. RG doesn't even have good content, just a bunch of smartass nonsense and obvious comments.

> The world values the lyrics/songs

Never said they didn't, try understanding what was sad before flying off the handle.

You're right -- no one deserves to get paid simply for working (i.e. creating a work). But everyone deserves the opportunity to sell that work. When someone else takes what someone does, it diminishes the value of that opportunity. Copyrights protect that opportunity.

> But everyone deserves the opportunity to sell that work.

We agree.

> When someone else takes what someone does, it diminishes the value of that opportunity.

No it doesn't, those people wouldn't have paid anyway. Copying is not theft. This is the same tired argument the MPAA's been trying to make and it's just a sign of the establishment not adjusting to the new reality that distribution is not a profitable industry anymore.

> No it doesn't, those people wouldn't have paid anyway.

You can't know all of the ways they will possibly make money from the content. Justin Bieber may want to charge Apple more for including vetted lyrics in iTunes. But why would Apple give Justin Bieber money when they can just copy the content from Rap Genius? Or cut a deal with Rap Genius for a feed?

> distribution is not a profitable industry anymore

This is where you're missing the point. You see the price as paying for distribution, but it's really about the value of the content. Historically, the two were inextricably linked by a physical medium. Now they are completely separate things with different prices and costs, and are almost unrelated to one another. Just because one goes close to zero, doesn't mean the other does, too.

Nor do I care about the ways people like to think up to ban other people from doing stuff. If you don't want your work copied, don't publish it. The whole copyright/patent system is a ridiculous absurdity based on the false premise that creative people require monetary incentive to do anything. When technology renders enforcement of laws impractical, then the laws are simply bad. Copying is not theft, creators are not entitled to anything, they deserve no protection for their published works at all.

Art doesn't have to be a business and art will be created regardless of whether artists can profit in perpetuity from their work. The notion that ideas and words are property and can be owned is perverse doublespeak meant to trick people into transferring their gut instincts about physical property onto things that quite simply are not property.

Performers should make money from performing, not being paid forever because the government created artificial monopolies on words and ideas.

If someone makes money off a copyrighted work, the copyright holder deserves to be paid.

No they don't; they might legally be required to pay, but legal != deserves. Copyright and patent laws are wrong and create artificial scarcity to create a monopoly where there should be none. Just because something is the law does not make it just or right; they don't deserve anything.

So you would do away with all non-physical trade?

Where did I say or imply this?

"Copies are not theft and the artist doesn't deserve anything."

That doesn't imply what you seem to think it implies.

Then clarify because so far all you've done is said "People don't deserve this! Copying isn't stealing. They shouldn't get paid for this" then when anyone challenges you they get the reply "Thats not what I meant" or some snarky comment about their comprehension.

Clarify what. I could send you a bitcoin, look, non-phisical trade. If you want to critique something, it's up to you to make a clear critique, not me to figure out what you mean when the words you wrote are trivially and obviously false. When you infer I mean things I didn't say, it's not snarky to point out I didn't say that or mean that. I said what I meant, deciphering meaning was not an exercise left for the reader, it's right there in the words I wrote.

Are you saying that songwriters deserve to be paid whenever I simply want to know what the lyrics of a song are? That doesn't make any sense to me.

Are you saying writers of books deserve to be paid whenever I simply want to know what their book says?

Could you provide an example that is even more unrelated? This one is still about writing...

(Seriously though, this is something absolutely different)

Are you saying writers of poetry deserve to be paid whenever I simply want to know what their poem says?

Is that close enough for you to see the similarity, or do I need to explain how songs and poems are functionally indistinguishable and further how poetry and prose is functionally indistinguishable; and therefore how written works are functionally indistinguishable and if you support copyright in one but not the other your perspective is logically untenable?

Or perhaps you'd like to explain to me why a poem should lose its written copyright rights when someone sings it.

Songs are (in general) not "musicized" poetry. It's closer to a movie. People work on it and it sells as a whole. Lyrics + music + singing or screenplay + scene + acting (simplified). I don't see why I should pay anyone for quoting a movie. Nor I don't thing lyrics of a song are worth anything as standalone. Those who wrote the screenplay/lyrics have deal with owner of the final product and are paid from that (or were paid once and that is one extra reason to not pay them over and over).

Its exactly the same, just a matter of length of the content.

RG shows ads.


But what about the links on the left titled "Recommended Sites", they list pretty much identical websites.

I really hate how one search engine can make or break a site.

We live in the AOL dark ages and most don't even realize it.

Care to elaborate? RG clearly broke the rules and forced google's hand here. Google has to protect the integrity of their search results against such gaming, else a day might come when all of Google's search results are due to black-hat SEO and Google's brand itself would be worthless.

This would be the equivalent of Walmart/Safeway refusing to carry some company's products because of {false/mis}-representation.

I don't disagree with what Google did at all, and I don't agree with what Rap Genius did.

What I'm saying is that when there isn't a lot of competition in the search space, businesses will use underhanded tactics to game a certain search engine. Having so much depend on a single entity is antithetical to the web and good, competitive business practices.

Google's response does seem a bit heavy-handed. Under less public circumstances, maybe a strong warning would have sufficed. However, the public nature in which RG got caught forced their hand. Google could not afford to be seen as condoning such an obvious transgression of their rules with a slap on the wrist.

Again you miss the point, which is not to debate about the correctness of Google's decision, but the fact that one search engine can make the entire difference between a company being successful and not. This lack of competition is surely a bad thing, even if the decision to penalize RG specifically was a good decision.

I think bluthru meant that one company can decide what the rules are and basically remove sites from the internet from a normal person's point of view.

"RG clearly broke the rules and forced google's hand here"

One company's rules not some standard organization. Its Google's site, but they wield more power than Microsoft ever dreamed of.

He's hating the fact that we are in an environment where a single site has so much power, not taking issue with the particulars of this decision.

The point is that Google sets the rules for the internet based on what makes their algorithm work - I.e. What is good for Google. Instead of improving their algorithm, they now manually punish sites for not obeying.

> The point is that Google sets the rules for the internet based on what makes their algorithm work...

Google sets their own rules for their own product. They don't run the Internet.

These RapGenius guys consciously decided to try to game Google and lost. Boo hoo. Can't win every game you play.

In effect they do set rules for the Internet as a whole, though. For instance, if you're the owner of (say) a news website, Google don't want you to host text ads that contain live links because their entire search engine is based around the assumption that links are non-paid. So they penalized a number of major news sites for doing this, effectively forcing them to stop by taking away one of their main sources of traffic.

Sure, but, arguably, those rules are "correct". The fact that they run the leading search engine implies that they provide the best quality (or at least best perceived quality) search results. Those rules presumably contribute to that.

That's a circular argument. Google has only been able to punish rule breakers since it became the leading search engine.

That is still a rule for their product, not for the internet.

Their product has a monopoly in most of the world. Therefore it's a rule for the internet.

> Their product has a monopoly in most of the world.

Yeah.. it really doesn't. The DoJ would be all over their ass if there was really a case to be made there.

> Therefore it's a rule for the internet.

That doesn't even logically follow if we assume the first. It is more than possible to use the internet without giving a shit about google's product. Even if it were a monopoly this would be true.

Google changing how their product reacts to RapGenius does not effect anything other than how their product reacts to RapGenius. Just because RapGenius cares a lot about how Googles product reacts to their own does not mean that the rules of Googles product are rules "of the internet".

If Google had the power to set "rules of the internet", then the MPAA/RIAA would have won their battle when Google changed how their product handles search results for torrents. Of course they did not, because Google cannot.

> Yeah.. it really doesn't. The DoJ would be all over their ass if there was really a case to be made there.

This just shows that you don't understand what a monopoly is. Monopolies are not in themselves illegal, so there is no reason for the DoJ to get involved unless they break one of the laws regarding what monopolies can and can't do.

And, of course they are being investigated for doing exactly that in Europe.

Google sets their own rules for their own product. They don't run the Internet.

Can you hear yourself?

Google has an acknowledged monopoly.

I'm not defending RapGenius - I think what they did was slimy. That doesn't change the fact that it's Google who decides the rules and polices them.

Instead of improving their algorithm, they now manually punish sites for not obeying.

They definitely also work on improving their algorithm; it's just that often the algo does not automatically penalize or ban a site, but rather flags it for human review, which certainly makes sense to me.

I'm curious to know whether you have a citation for this automated flagging process - not because I don't believe you - I think it's very likely to be true - but because I've never seem this acknowledged.

I think this is the issue people should focus on more. We are at the point where one external entity that you have no contract with and is under no obligation to continue looking on your business favorably can if it chooses send you out of business.

According to alexa their top 10 traffic sources are:

google.com - 35.7%; youtube.com - 4.4%; google.co.uk - 4.0%; facebook.com - 3.9%; google.de - 3.5%; google.ca - 3.1%; google.co.in - 2.6%; google.fr - 2.5%; google.com.tr - 1.5%; google.es - 1.1%;

Except for facebook all it top sources are Google owned(58.4%). This will truly be disasterous for their revenues.

Considering they rank 59th for "rap genius" and 51st for "rapgenius" on Google.

There are tons of lessons to be learned here. Don't depend on a single source for traffic and most of all don't excessively try gaming the system, the system usually catches up.

I think the true lesson is more a compound of those things: Don't depend on a single source for traffic and if you do don't try gaming that source. Relying on Google is likely a lyric industry standard.

the biggest lesson is don't brag about it in public!

> Don't depend on a single source for traffic

Sure , now tell me what other search engine has the same market shares as Google. Answer : none , there is no competition in SEO, there is only Google. If there was some real competition , Google would not be so arsh.

There is only one lesson to be learned here : Since one depends on google for SEO, one should not try to game Google. because today basically , if you are not in google results you dont exist on the web.

This just makes Google less useful. RG had the best lyrics and annotations for lots of songs. Now Google sends me to barely-readable sites that only exist to show as many ads as possible per page, even if I include "rap genius" in the search.

It's not about whether or not google is useful for finding this particular site and this particular niche, it's about making sure their search results overall aren't being gamed. Sucks for RG (though they pretty much deserved it here) but better for all of us that use search engines to find good content, which is pretty much all of us.

> This just makes Google less useful.

In the short term. In the long term, this move probably has prevented a lot of black hat SEO and spam from happening on the web.

You could always go direct to RG.

That's beside the point. Millions of people that search Google for lyrics every month getting sent to worse sites is a problem for Google, not for me.

The disappearance of 1 lyrics site(albeit a good one) from the face of Earth doesn't even come closing to putting a deny into Google's search quality. There are a million other sites out there. RapGenius is the one that has lost, not Google

We should start the same kind of campaign to add these kind of links to the bad lyrics sites. Maybe Google will penalize them too.

Btw., duckduckgo still shows rapgenius on top.

Honestly Rap Genius isn't that appealing of a site and the design is pretty terrible. It's incredibly difficult to read anything on the page (azlyrics is actually better at this).

I really hope someone new comes along and makes a better site with the same premise (annotating lyrics).

Whilst this may be surprising to some people on HN, this happens all of the time to sites who build links in an unnatural way.

For instance, this has happened in the past to well known brands such as J.C Penney through NYTimes expose[1], Interflora[2] more recently and a lots of others.

An apology which RapGenius offered [3] doesn't fix this either.

Is it fair? Yes and No.

The only reason it isn't fair is that the site disappears from Google for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius]. My personal belief is that, devaluing the site for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius] actually devalues Google's quality. On the other side of the coin, if someone searches for [X rap genius] whilst they are under penalty its fair that they do not rank for that either. However, there are obvious reasons as to why the search quality team have decided to do this.

How RapGenius can fix it / How you can too if your site gets a penalty:

First of all, RapGenius if they are doing any link building now they should pause it immediately until they’re out of penalty.

Secondly, in their apology [3] said:

  "With limited tools (Open Site Explorer), we found some suspicious backlinks to some of our competitors"
They don't actually need to use any other tool to get out of penalty beyond Google Webmaster Tools although, ideally they should clean up all the links beyond the ones Google has found (trust me, Google doesn’t find them all within WMTs). Once you get out of a Google manual penalty and get hit by one again the search quality team takes a much closer look – you don’t want that!

Anyway, they should download all the links in WMTs, OSE, Majestic etc (although it looks like they only have OSE[3] so they should just download them from WMTs and OSE) and then remove the duplicates.

Once they’ve done this, they should flag every single link which, they believe is causing the penalty.

After identifying all the links which are causing the penalty, they should create a Gmail to outreach to all of the sites to remove the links. They should outreach to all these sites and documents all the sites they’ve contacted, status – still live/nofollow/removed/requested payment/no response etc.

Having got some links removed/nofollowed etc, they should then disavow all the other sites that have requested payment or not given them response to the removal. Personally, the disavow(s) that are done by myself are usually done at the domain level although, there are reasons to do this at the URL level as well (Rap Genius needs to make the decision which one to disavow).

After submitting the disavow they, should submit a reconsideration request which outlines, the work they have done – from the spreadsheet – and also offer Google’s Search Quality Team the login to the Gmail to show they’ve tried to get the links removed and that some people have asked for payment etc.

The Google Search Quality team will review the site then, they’ll either flag more links to be removed or they’ll get out of penalty – after which Rap Genius will start appearing for the BRAND term again and other results once the Google Algorithms trust the site again.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html?_r=...

[2] http://searchengineland.com/google-says-no-comment-on-why-in...

[3] http://news.rapgenius.com/Rap-genius-founders-open-letter-to...

You seem to have a lot of experience with this kind of stuff.

Could you possibly give me a tldr on this story?

I recall the exposé talking about how they were trading twitter links for keyword link building. Yet I'm having a hard time working up the requisite outrage.

It's not spam - the people linking back aren't being coerced (i.e. spam comments), and the content it's being linked from is legit (i.e. not a crappy link-farm site void of content).

Is the reason that this is Bad(tm) because the link back is not "organic"? It strikes me as being identical to say, paying every a thousand bloggers writing about Bieber to link to RG - except that last example is impossible to detect. They exchanged a small ad for twitter inbound traffic.

Is there just a blanket ban on trying to divine how the algorithm works? It's a commonly accepted practice to pay other people to promote or write about your product/service/brand.

Essentially Rap Genius violated one of Google's Webmaster Guidelines[1] by attempting to manipulate the SERPs through getting webmasters to link to several lyrics pages in exchange for a tweet. In doing so, Google considers this as link scheme[2] which is trying to manipulate the results specifically in relation to Buying/Selling Links:

  Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
There are several other ways to "manipulate" the SERPs this way including some of them which you have identified such as - spam comments, doorway pages, forum profiles amongst others - and Google has an algorithm codenamed Penguin which, detects and penalises webmasters who attempt to manipulate the search engines in such way (although it is more complicated than this).

However, Penguin is not the only way which Google identifies people being involved in these practices as they also have a place to report the links[3].

This is one of Google's Manual Actions[4] that webmasters receive, when Google believes you are not providing the user with additional value and/or are trying to manipulate the results.

They cover everything from Thin Content (mainly through Panda) to Hacked Sites to User Generated Spam to the recent Image Mismatch Penalty etc. You can see them all here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/topic/2604771?hl=en&re...

[1] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769

[2] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356

[3] https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/paidlinks?pli=1&hl=e...

[4] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2604824?hl=en

> ...by attempting to manipulate the SERPs through getting webmasters to link to several lyrics pages in exchange for a tweet.

How is that different from paying bloggers to write a product review with a link to a product? Why is not that considered a "manipulation of SERPs" - you exchange (money/tweet) for a link.

It's not different. As mentioned earlier, paying for links is against one of Google's Webmaster Guidelines[1] and your example specifically falls under the Link Scheme[2] category which is affecting Rap Genius.

Those types of links reviews for a link, are considered advertorials which Interflora were "famously" penalised[3] for and something Google specifically identifies within their Link Scheme examples[2]

[1] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769

[2] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356

[3] http://searchengineland.com/google-says-no-comment-on-why-in...


I was about to ask if the lesson to draw here was to make it look organic.

But mostly serious question here: how does TechCrunch have any Google rank then? How do most tech publications, for that matter? PR hits are extremely common; they're the name of the game when it comes to cheap content.

It's okay if it looks like it's mutual self interest, and not if it overtly competes with Google's advertising platform?

how does TechCrunch have any Google rank then? How do most tech publications, for that matter?

TechCrunch does not post advertorials, they post content for free and they actually posted on their site to reaffirm this fact[1].

Sure there may be some PR firms etc who might get paid to get that content on to TechCrunch or another tech publications but TechCrunch writers are not directly compensated for doing so.

As a result the content they write from a startup launch to a new feature etc is considered "natural" by the search engines as they're choosing to write about it.

Moreover, those publications get the majority of their search engine traffic through being in Google News ala. posting about "Twitter" and getting inserted into the "Twitter" SERPs within the "News" section. Additionally they also leverage internal linking to boost their SERPs potential e.g. whenever they talk about Zulily (they're in #9 for me in Incognito mode although they might be higher/ on Page 2 for you) instead of linking to the site they'll reference the "Tag URL"[2] as well as referencing Crunchbase[3] (although CrunchBase isn't really 'internal' as its an external site). Likewise, Google loves "fresh content" so they will naturally be inserted with little/no links within the top 7ish results for something generic (although this does not always happen) such as "credit card numbers" when they do a post about "credit card numbers" and will naturally lose search engine positioning for that term over time.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/08/we-are-worth-at-least-3k/

[2] http://techcrunch.com/tag/zulily/

[3] http://www.crunchbase.com/company/zulily

It's not different, and Google will penalise as needed (if the site is unrelated to the reviewed object, for instance, also the FTC can sue if there is no proper disclaimer)

Interesting, does that make sponsored posts necessarily against TOS?

Sponsored Posts are what Google calls advertorials and considered to be a link scheme[1] which means they're against their webmaster guidelines[2].

However, they're acceptable if they do not carry any link equity (aka. use the no follow tag) on the link.

[1] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356

[2] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

Interesting. I am in a small niche, where a lot of student society websites ending in .edu have links to their sponsors, and they don't nofollow them.

Typically they don't know what nofollow is, and their sites are run by people who don't really know much about websites.

I can't educate the entire sector. Is it better to steer clear of link building with this broad swath of sites? Most of the other sites in my niche have built links through these sites.

There is a shortage of followed links in my niche as most content creators in my narrow field are commercial and don't link to competitors.

Nah -- it's just like buying ad space on a site though, so the links to your site should be nofollowed.

"You seem to have a lot of experience with this kind of stuff."

Which is sad.

SEO is a cancer and, like cancer, there is no good SEO. Google and their broken search ecosystem have spawned a vast, useless, derivative "industry" that needs to die.

I say "broken ecosystem" because SEO should have a value that is inverse to how well google indexes. That SEO exists at all shows the extent to which it is broken. Website death penalties (or whatever we call this) don't solve the problem.

You are somewhat right and somewhat wrong.

SEO indeed is like what you described, but there is a fine line to start doing blackhat or stay whitehat.

Now the problem is, the line is so thin you end up crossing it at times. And everybody does. The way Google works you need to do both somewhat in a way to get the balance and stay top.

For example, link-building its one of the worst areas where defining white-hat and black-hat is really difficult. One way is doing guest post is allowed and great but paid posts aren't. There is no guarantee a guest post is not a paid post.

There are 'digital marketing agencies' which at times are so ridiculous that the backlink included in the guest post doesn't have any value in to the post as such but anchor text magic does all the work.

SEO isn't broken as such but there are too many backdoors to doing the white-hat SEO methods in the concealed black-hat way that it isn't realistic to blame he search ecosystem.

I agree, website penalties is not a good solution to the problem.

There certainly is good SEO. Good SEO is often indistinguishable from good accessibility, good marketing, good design, good conversion optimization, good information theory, good metrics.

You use sites because they used good SEO. You can find StackOverflow posts ranking at one, because they used the good SEO that the good content deserved.

Anyone with an internet business taking your comment at face value will find herself ranking not in the top 20, no matter how good their content.

Good SEO has worth, has value. Even Matt Cutts promotes good SEO and sees the worth. Without SEO analytics you are sailing blind. Without knowledge of how to interpret them. Without knowledge of the guidelines you get gaffs like these.

There is good SEO and there is vandalization. Rap Genius vandalized their rankings.

No industry needs to die. If it needs to, explain why.

Optimize your site for all users, not just search engines.

If you stay in this naive view of SEO you will never have a successful internet business in many niches. What is sad is that some developers and designers can not deliver a website that is SEO optimized, so a business owner has to pay double to get an SEO to fix all on-page accessibility issues.

This penalty is entirely the result of that blogpost and the PR it generated. I am willing to bet that Google already discovered many of these links, through spam reports, through manual spam fighters and through algorithmic detection. This PR, and the open letter, forced Google's hand. Of course they have to visibly act on it. Of course they are well aware that that niche has some scummy shady practices, and Rap Genius is not the only one. Of course they have a better internal tool than OSE and can check link profiles and detect networks in a manner of minutes.

Besides, you can be a great SEO and never do a single link-building campaign. There is tremendous value in simply finding new content and articles to rank for and drive traffic. I loath black hat SEO, not for the unfair temporary advantage it gives, but because it creates posts like yours. Because it burns companies that are now much more careful to hire good SEO's. Because I know that good SEO helps people access relevant content.

Like e-mail spam, search engine spam will die. SEO's will be retrained to create websites that are accessible, user friendly, give content that is relevant to the search query.

Just read: http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en/...

And try to find a single practice in there that is either manipulative, entirely done to service search engines alone, or hampers accessibility and user friendliness.

Good SEO builds authority. Creates quality mark-up. Makes descriptive website titles. Implements breadcrumbs and a sane website hierarchy. Rids the index of duplicates. Drives more users to your sites. Makes sure that blind people can access your content, like images or video. Makes sites load faster. Makes content more trustworthy etc. Good SEO needs no manipulation. There is a lot to gain by simply aligning yourself with Google's vision.

Please reconsider your tone, or realize you do not add anything of value to the debate, or to the many online business owners on HN. Can you imagine raising funds for an online startup and then have your post be the slide for "online marketing"?

"Anyone with an internet business taking your comment at face value will find herself ranking not in the top 20, no matter how good their content."

... which is a direct indictment of google and their (as you put it) ineffective search results. If the best content is not being served based on its merit, the search results are bad.

A very good explanation for this is that optimizing for good search results and optimizing for high ad clicks from searchers are two different things, and you can't do both. Therefore the price of optimizing for search-ad-revenue is less than optimal results and the unintended consequence is a side-game that parasites play called "SEO". I mean parasite in the nicest possible sense and I think it's an apt description.

"Please reconsider your tone, or realize you do not add anything of value to the debate, or to the many online business owners on HN."

I'm not here for the business owners - I came for the hackers.

>which is a direct indictment of google and their (as you put it) ineffective search results

I think Google has the best quality index of all search engines. There is a Kaggle challenge for Yandex right now where you can optimize the search results taking into account data like user sessions and dwell time. It's hard, but very cool. Google owns hard and cool stuff. Web spam is a multi-faceted and complex problem. But these guys are training neural networks on Youtube stills and make it detect cats. The last time I found a top 10 spam result that irked me was months ago. I filed a report and move on to the otherwise great index.

>If the best content is not being served based on its merit, the search results are bad.

If the best content is in an image without an alt attribute or longdesc or HTML fallback, on a page with no surrounding text, no sourcing, no pagetitle, no meta description. On a domain that accidentally blocks search engines with robots.txt, has no structural interlinking of pages, no backlinks, takes 50 seconds to load, redirects crawlers to a different page by IP, and only works with javascript on. If that happens to be the best content, then that is a shame. Google could probably still index it :). But the search results are better for not ranking that inaccessible, untrustworthy, undiscoverable piece of content very high. A store can sell the best goods, but if they put blinds in front of the window, do not promote or advertise, make customers crawl over obstacles to place their order, then such a store will simply not do very well.

>optimizing for good search results and optimizing for high ad clicks from searchers are two different things, and you can't do both.

Why not? Major sites both optimize organic results and their SEM. AirBnb could create content for each major city they host in and rank organically. They could advertise locally or very targeted to people interested in making use of their services and link to the actual property page or listings.

>I mean parasite in the nicest possible sense and I think it's an apt description. I'm not here for the business owners - I came for the hackers.

Google compresses nearly every information in the world to a single search query. That search box is the shortest program to expand to any related content that is currently found in the world. A giant information retrieval intelligence sends out its bots to crawl information every second and store it in global time consistent databases. From a black box algorithm with supposedly 200+ ranking factors, an SEO has to give each web page the optimal chance to rank for what its worth, by reading public documentation, experiment, analyze, track, predict, format HTML documents in an information retrieval friendly way, do split testing with contextual bandits or multivariate A/B, improve accessibility, improve the link graphs of the internet and semantic web with metadata. You come for the hackers, yet you treat SEO's and Google like script kiddies.

"The only reason it isn't fair is that the site disappears from Google for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius]."

How is that not fair? They were caught attempting to cheat google. Not only that, but cheat their competitors and us (the users). In most scenarios (criminal, sports, academic), being caught means it's game over. And that's exactly what happened here.

When you get caught stealing from a cash register or breaking into a house, they don't just make you put the stuff back and send you on your way. When you caught cheating in professional sports, you forfeit the entire game; in higher academia, kicked out of school.

If anything, I think google is too soft on people attempting to cheat them. When it's obvious and blatant, they need to lay down the law so hard that people won't even consider it next time. This will make the user experience better for everyone. A slap on the wrist tells people the risk is worth it and that means we will be served up potentially worse (less organic) search results.

  How is that not fair?
"My personal belief is that, devaluing the site for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius] actually devalues Google's quality. On the other side of the coin, if someone searches for [X rap genius] whilst they are under penalty its fair that they do not rank for that either. However, there are obvious reasons as to why the search quality team have decided to do this."

  If anything, I think google is too soft on people attempting to cheat them. 
Google's Search Quality Team are actually pretty strict in terms of reviewing the reconsideration request and if the site has previously had a penalty they pay extra attention to the cleanup.

Criminal, sports, and academic concerns are all governed by bodies that impose those sanctions. When Google imposes a sanction they are the judge, jury, and executioner.

Since Google offers a public service and is owned by public shareholders, this poses somewhat of a problem....especially when you consider their marketshare and whether or not such sanctions offers them a competitive advantage.

> Criminal, sports, and academic concerns are all governed by bodies that impose those sanctions. When Google imposes a sanction they are the judge, jury, and executioner.

Actually, in all of those cases, the judge and executioner (and, usually, the legislature making the rules) are all employees of the same organization. In some cases there is a separate jury as a finder of fact (e.g., in criminal cases in the US and countries similar legal systems), though in sports and academic cases there may well not be, depending on the particular rules of the particular organization.

Since when does the NCAA act as anything other than the judge, jury, and executioner?

Too true. Another hilarious example is google banning BMW for using doorway pages - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4685750.stm

If I remember correctly the site was completely deindexed.

>After identifying all the links which are causing the penalty, they should create a Gmail to outreach to all of the sites to remove the links.

Just slightly curious about this, because I receive these 'link removal' emails all the time for a site I run and have never acted upon them (our comments pages are indexed by google but not linked publicly after we switched to Facebook comments). Is there any reason a website owner should act and remove the links? Surely it's not my/our problem?

  Is there any reason a website owner should act and remove the links? Surely it's not my/our problem?
You should only remove links if they do not provide any value to your audience.

A website owner does not need to act and remove the links at all, you have the choice to not respond or refuse to do so. This is why Google allows people to disavow those links via the disavow tool[1] so they are no longer "counted" as providing the site with any link equity.

[1] https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main

> The only reason it isn't fair is that the site disappears from Google for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius].

So if instead of being rapgenius.com, they had shelled out big bucks for the domain lyrics.com, they would continue to rank for searches for "lyrics"? Our would someone at Google make a subjective decision about what terms are unique enough to their brand for them to not be penalized for?

Either of these seem much less fair to me than the status quo that all spammers get penalized for all search terms.

In that example they should still rank for "lyrics.com" which would be the BRAND term.

Google actually have done an EMD update to devalue sites trying to rank for generics using a generic domain.

As you can see using Google Adword Keyword Planner[1] for all locations in English the average searches are:

Lyrics - 1.2M avg. searches/month

Lyrics.com - 110k avg. searches/month

[1] https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner/

I think that it would make sense to allow direct queries for the trademark, e.g., "rapgenius" in the case of rapgenius. In your example "lyrics" would certainly not be trademarkable, so I would imagine "lyrics.com" or similar would be used instead.

> Whilst this may be surprising to some people on HN, this happens all of the time to sites who build links in an unnatural way.

What (if anything) happened between Google and Reddit, by the way? I remember Google results being stuffed with basically identical versions of the same Reddit comments pages (due to Reddit's language-localisation scheme: it.reddit.com , pl.reddit.com and so on), and then big chunks of Reddit (in all language versions) apparently becoming invisible in those Google results.

Reddit tried to resolve it through, a code level setting of the lang within their source code. However, Google ignores all code-level language information including lang attributes and document type definitions (DTD)[1] etc because, some CMSes set this automatically.

However, Google over the years have also worked on their international/localisation identification of sites. As a result they allow webmasters to geotarget them within WMTs[2] which seems to resolve the Reddit issue.

Having said that, there are other methods to fix the issue as well such as using the geotarget option within WMTs to using the rel alternate tag etc.

[1] http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/working...

[2] https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/62399

> they should create a Gmail to outreach to all of the sites to remove the links.

Yes, that's exactly what spammy link creators should do: add insult to injury by ordering the sites they spammed to clean up their mess. Bonus points for adding a supposedly scary "or we'll have no choice but to ... disavow you" rider.

"My personal belief is that, devaluing the site for the BRAND term e.g. [rap genius] actually devalues Google's quality."

I absolutely second this because I just did a search for Rap Genius and it only showed twitter.. So I did a search for it on Bing instead.

Said it completely true. This how any brand which has got manually penalized need to work out.

Great information,

but I kind of want to punch the CEO of Rap Genius in the face, for trying to shame the competition in an apology that they are responsible for.


For 200 pounds www.linkaudit.co.uk does it all for you

Current rankings:

#42 (was #1) - justin bieber memphis lyrics

#43 (was #1) - justin bieber all bad lyrics

#44 (was #2) - justin bieber hold tight lyrics

#45 (was #1) - justin bieber one life lyrics

#46 (was #4) - justin bieber bad day lyrics

#48 (was #7) - justin bieber lyrics

#54 (was #3) - justin bieber change me lyrics

#59 (was #2) - justin bieber pyd lyrics

#60 (was #1) - justin bieber confident lyrics

#63 (was #1) - justin bieber heartbreaker lyrics

#64 (was #5) - justin bieber roller coaster lyrics

#68 (was #2) - justin bieber all that matters lyrics

#68 (was #3) - justin bieber recovery lyrics

#50 - rap genius

source: serpscan.com

Can I ask why Justin Bieber in all the examples? Was this site somehow bieber-focused or bieber-promoted? I've never heard of it before this actually.

edit: Followed links to past stories and got my answer here http://jmarbach.com/rapgenius-growth-hack-exposed

I don't understand how Rap Genius' hack was any worse than what Mixpanel does with its free plan.


Here, they are bribing customers to link to their site? Would this not be illegal too?

It's different: it's a recommendation of our product and it drives real clicks back to Mixpanel (excluding google). Powered by badges are extremely common and are more akin to an ad. The main difference is that Rapgenius' sole goal is to game Google, ours is not.

it's actually not - Matt Cutts specifically made a video about these exact type of "widget" links a few months ago. He recommended that they be no-followed.

Thanks. The main reason I ask is because I would like to do something similar with my product. However, after this fiasco, was skeptical about it.

If it is an ad, then it would definitely be safer to mark the link as nofollow as ads are not allowed to be links with SEO benefits.

Mixpanel isn't completely dependent on SERPs. It is a different user acquisition/awareness tactic.

Also, illegal isn't really the right term to use here.

I don't understand how stat counter gets away with what they do. They offer stats similar to google analytics. They seem to get most of their ranking from including a link back to them with a random anchor text from a set of terms they want to rank for in the JavaScript block to install stats.

Nice catch. Since they are basically offering the same deal, reward for links, they must also be violating the same rule.

Google's revenue depends on providing the best results it can to searchers, within limits of result pollution they do themselves (clearly demarked advertising at present). If they allow cynical SEO then the results get worse for everyone and people will look for alternatives.

I'm glad they have a proactive slap-down policy. Let's not go back to the late 90s and the likes of altavista, when you might have got one hit in ten pages of spam, SEO link farms.

This is absolutely rediculous, google is upholding it's rules but forgetting the POINT of the rules. The whole point is to make the most relevant results come up on google searches. The fact that rapgenius needs to "hack their way" to higher link relevancy seems like a internal google problem and penalizing them makes googles results LESS relevant. Tl;dr google's cutting off their nose in spite of their face.

It's a pyrrhic victory. Now, the best lyrics site can't be found and Google itself is less useful for it.

At least https://duckduckgo.com/?q=it+was+a+good+day+rapgenius seems to work fine.

For what it's worth, they use Yahoo's search API.

100% agreed, google cut off their nose to spite their face here.

Certainly a harsh blow and a lesson learned, but not the lesson you think. The lesson is to not allow a third party "black box" to be the central traffic source for the monetization model of your business. Rapgenius understood this well and does have an excellent community on boarding strategy, but was still heavily reliant on google as a main pillar of its customer acquisition model.

I've lost one Alexa top 2000 site to a google penalty, and several smaller sites, saw this coming miles away.

I know exactly what they are going through, never forget the day when my JV partner called me at 4AM and told me the apocalypse scenario has happened. Even worst than the financial blow of losing a $30k a day advertising property, was the brutal realization of googling your brands name and seeing it not show up. Going in to analytics real time and seeing a sub 100 number for the first time in 6 months was quite an eery feeling as well.

Google did this to set an example, and they will be reinstated worst case in 6 months.

I think this is a great lesson in the disparity between two things:

1. Breaking rules

2. Not being liked and breaking rules

3 Not getting Caught

I think this could be a deathblow to Rap Genius.

I performed the following searches in an incognito tab and could not find rapgenius in the first two pages of results (I did not look beyond the first two pages):

"rap god eminem lyrics"

"machine gun funk rap lyrics"

"lose yourself eminem lyrics"

it looks like they might have stopped showing "rapgenius.com" in non site-specific results. Searching for "rap genius eminem lose yourself" doesn't give any results in the top 5 pages. The only time I can see results from them is by adding a "site:" modifier to the search.

I think you're right, that depending on how long this lasts, they could be in a world of hurt.

Right in the middle of my yearly Christmas music shopping spree! I’m already not finding the lyrics I want to find.

Since what they do have to offer is about a million times better than any other lyrics site I’m pretty sure they will weather this. I mean, they have to. Their service is pretty excellent, I’m not even sure why there way any need to fuck around with Google.

Just goes to show, invest in some real marketing, make something really valuable to someone rather than relying on 'growth hacks' that tend to explode in your face.

How does this show that? All this shows is that there is risk do doing growth hacks. It does nothing to show if these hacks are worth the risk. Rap Genius, is, after all, the most well known and successful site for rap lyrics as far as I know, so (ethics notwithstanding) unless this kills their business, it was a smart move.

Or hire experienced white hat growth hackers with experience working with big brands.

We always talk about not building a business on someone else's API... Funnily enough, you could almost say that applies here. Gone from any SERPS, entirely. Crazy. I dislike that Google has this much power sometimes :(

Wow, that's a very stiff penalty if they're not even turning up for their own brand name. It will likely cost them millions. It's a clear warning to all sites out there to avoid similar tactics.

I feel for them. At the end of the day business is suffering. However, a high profile example of the consequences of using these myopic tactics is also good.

They're aren't currently monetizing their site at all, no ads, so how will it cost them millions? The VC's already know that the founders are a bunch of fruitcakes. I think they'll be right back where they left off after the penalty is lifted, probably in 30 days. When the same thing happens to other small websites than those websites are literally destroyed, no 30 day penalties, banned for life. Shut down your website and start again.

Well Google does takes manual actions against link schemes. Google had taken action against its on Chrome browser in 2012. http://searchengineland.com/google-chrome-page-will-have-pag... check out for more info.

There is something very important going on here. The reality is most search results are gamed & Google knows it. Everyone should be afraid of this happening to them.

Clearly what RapGenius did was wrong, very stupid and extremely short sighted. However, you're still going to find a good percentage of your search results today from rankings achieved with equally as shady strategies.

Google is too big & too powerful to play these kind of games and arbitrarily decide who gets penalized and who doesn't. Dare I say it but part of me feels like there is not enough bureaucracy in large penalty decisions considering their impact. There are literally millions of other sites doing the same thing and happily continuing their day.

They seem to be using Quantcast and are directly measured. This should be interesting over the next week.


Its very scary to build your business on being ranked high on Google. When you build your house on sand...

Why did not they penalize their competitor websites which are using the same (even worse) tactics?

>> "Why did not they penalize their competitor websites which are using the same (even worse) tactics?"

Source? Proof? RG was penalised because their method were made public and Google was made aware of it. If there is proof other sites are doing the same (I don't doubt they are but proof is needed) I'm sure Google will penalise them too.

As I remember, In the "apology" letter RG provided a list of resources that prove that other websites are doing the same thing.

What they provided wasn't exactly 'proof'. Without any conclusive ground they accused other lyrics sites. Linking to Open Site Explorer and saying they they think some links might be suspicious hardly counts as proof, IMO. Besides, now that the matter has been brought under Google's attention, they'll of course penalize the other lyric sites too, if any violation is found. But in case of RG, it was all out in the open and I think that's why action was quick.

Their "proof" was a load of crap. AZLyrics has several lyric websites for specific genres (punk, metal, and so on) which are actually really good if you're a fan of that specific genre. Of course these sites link to each other because they're a part of the same company. It isn't anything like what RG is doing.

Question: From Google's perspective how exactly does Google lower the ranking for Rap Genius? I imagine they have some sort of 'naughty' list. Does Google just discount the rankings by some number they determine is fair? And is this effect permanent? If Rap Genius plays by the rules and still manages to have good SEO, will they eventually bubble back up to the top or are they officially doomed to lower rankings?

Just did a quick "bieber heartbreaker lyrics" query and couldn't find them in the first 10 pages of results...

Outch, this is going to hurt them.

As much as Rap Genius probably deserves it, this seems like it is treading dangerously close to Antitrust territory. Any lawyers on here?

Offering money or return-links for links is shady, but it's not inherently illegal or anything.[1] Google doesn't own the internet.

I wonder if it's a worthwhile risk. While there are some high-profile busts, in general most sites probably don't get caught. Though it's probably harder to do effectively since Google improved their algorithms.

In the flower case [2], Google claimed the links hadn't helped the sites. Though Google couldn't have penalized all the Flower companies, since that would have made their results much worse.

[1] If you're paying someone to link to you, that needs to be disclosed, but that doesn't mean the link needs to be nofollow. Though I guess following that rule would make it very easy to be caught.

[2] http://searchengineland.com/ny-times-covers-paid-link-scheme...

Rap Genius was given a "manual action" aka a penalty applied by an actual human because of the public outing that happened over the past few days, and the attention gained specifically by Matt Cutts.

Their overall link portfolio is not half as bad as their competition, however all this attention forced Google to take action being that they need to live up to their reputation as hard asses.

Let's face it, the algorithm might not pick up on these bartered links because they are a drop in the bucket of their overall link portfolio.

Really more than anything this is another PR stunt by Google's search quality team. They have been outing people on Twitter for the past month (backlinks.com I believe and another blackhat service) and want the general public to know that they mean business.

Google practices the exact same dirty tactics it punishes smaller websites for. Note how they have a lot of ads all over their pages? If small websites do that, they get punished. Also, note how Google steals content from wikipedia and posts it next to search results? If small sites do that they get punished. Lastly, google is the world's largest reseller of links, except their links are "ok", for some obscure reason....you can pay google a large sum of money and see your link on billions of pages worldwide via link ads.

If you're not scared of google's double talk, blatant spying, abuse of monopolistic powers, then you either work for them or you are completely alienated.

Man, that's a crazily passive-aggressive article... the author dances around it, couching his dislike (and fear) in slippery and vague language, but the clear impression one is left with is that he feels Google is "the enemy"... ><

Google is seriously doing a disservice to its lyrics searching users by penalizing RG. RG offers (in my opinion) the best quality and the most information rich lyrics pages on the web, it doesn't compare to anything out there.

These guys will never grow up

End result: now we have to use those regular, shitty lyrics sites again, or dig through the results. Mmmmm, so much better. You can't even get there by specifying rap genius in your query! This blows.

Might be fair, but their argument about all their competitors doing this is completely valid. If Google's going to penalize RapGenius, they should penalize the other lyrics websites as well.

Can someone explain to me why Google is formalizing this against Rap Genius?

I really like their n-gram viewer of the New York Times wedding announcements. http://blog.visual.ly/rap-genius-new-project-visualizes-30-y...

I would be interested in learning what they have to say about NLP (Natural Language Processing) since they deal with language which is quite vernacular.

> Finally, it’s probably an incredibly dumb business model to be doing a lyrics site that hopes for Google traffic in a time when Google, like Bing, is moving toward providing direct answers. Lyrics, to my understanding, often have to be licensed. That makes them a candidate for Google to license directly and provide as direct answers.

Controversy aside - This seemed like the most interesting part of the write-up to me.

Opportunity to make the next big song annotation site before New Year's?

Seriously how hard could it be ... write a Node.js app that can handle 10k clients on one machine, and partition the data by the song being annotated. Don't even need $1 million dollars. YouTube hosts the videos, anyway.

Ah, but there is just one problem... song lyrics are copyrighted and a license to some database is like $20,000

Wish I knew a way around that.

The challenge is not technical. The challenge is community. RapGenius is a network effects driven site, so it's utility is driven by how many people use the site. Technology is table-stakes, but branding and marketing matter much more at this point.

RapGenius grew because their user experience was much better than their competition. This was the foundation for their branding & marketing. Their growth will be sustained by their content and (once these penalties are phased out) by users' ability to discover their unique content. The technology is merely an enabler for the community-generated content. New competitors must find ways around the community's cold-start problem.

Edit: typos

Can I use the wiki api or scrape this: http://lyrics.wikia.com/Lyrics_Wiki

What's really amusing is that after the penalty, most searches that include "rap genius" now have this result on the first page: How Rap Genius Won the SEO Game


I never heard of rapgenius before this, or never noticed what lyric site I was on since I treat lyric lookups almost like dictionary lookups.

As a result of this story, I now have heard of RG. So ironically, any press is good press, and despite the banning, and the public shaming in the media, it may very well be the equivalent of millions of dollars in free brand awareness.

People are always gaming the search engines. Lyric websites are some of the absolute worst perpetrators of this. They care for absolutely nothing but ad impressions and their sites are a tortuous experience to behold. That being said, I'd still say it's a shame since for once, someone gaming the system actually had decent content to offer.

Interestingly now on searching Rap Genius on google, articles about them getting penalised are coming on the first 3 pages.

fyi I grapped a rank report from a few days ago from some of their popular kwds. Looks like they are down 4-6 pages on average:


I'm confused and concerned by Google's policy. I make a product. If I send out product to blogger with a review request (which would, of course, include a link to my site), am I running afoul of the guidelines? I don't even care that much about the Google juice as I do the coverage.

Simply asking someone to review your product is not an issue. Offering money to do so or offering to do things in exchange for the review (like promoting their site on social media or your site) is.

It's super lame that Google penalizes individual cases versus just fixing their algorithms across the board, because it means that other sites that employ similar techniques and aren't high-profile/useful enough to get posted about to HN are able to continue unimpeded.

No need to pick between the two. Google does both.

I'm shocked to see that their previous fairly good ranking has been fraudulent all along.

I don't think it was. I think this is a huge penalty, not a correction.

Disagree, it's the best lyrics site by a country mile. Every other single one of them is dogshit (except OHHLA.com).

Looks like ordinary visitors can't even find their site now: https://twitter.com/fuckshivan/status/415879789522587648

The power of Google.

Let's not forget anyone that pays google in some way (adwords) bounces back from this almost immediately. Aka 6 months or less. Have known people only spending 10k per month that bounced back from penalization in 2-3 months.

That just proves how google search algorithms become inaccurate. I agree, RapGenius did some shady things, BUT it still has a better content then other websites which are now ranked much higher.

I'm not an expert in SEO but I bet 1/3 to 1/2 of the serious SEO organizations/individuals do the same thing or something very similar.

"Its not cheating unless you get caught"

The funny thing about this is that rap genius is the most user friendly site and it should be out ranking all of the other spam lyric sites.

what about others that are doing the same thing.

for example TINT


once you create a free account they have the following:

Dear valued Tint customer, Would you like to write a review about Tint? In exchange for your opinions/blog post, we are giving away 50% off FOREVER promo code for our Plus Plan. To learn more, click the button below:

screen shot: http://imgur.com/wDnAJ4c

It's worth noting that Rap Genius was not penalized on Bing. (and Yahoo which uses Bing).

RG may want to consider a hedge bet on search engines.

Damn, I tried searching up some rap lyrics that I knew worked a couple of days ago, no dice. How long does this penalisation last?

If RapGenius is smart, they'll turn this into beef and get front page coverage on a bunch of newspapers and websites.

You would think Google would be able to tell that a Justin Bieber link does not belong on an arbitrary twitter post

How long will this last? Rap Genius is a fantastic asset to the world, I hope this isn't permanent.

Try this:

[bieber heartbreaker lyrics rap genius] or even [bieber heartbreaker lyrics rapgenius.com]

This is one of the things where there is no clear right or wrong.

When you don't get Rapgenius when you search "Bieber Rapgenius," you know that Google is forgoing its mission of serving users and instead just flexing its big muscles for everyone to see.

searching 2pac lyrics rap genius yields no rapgenius.com either. it shows all the competitor lyric sites but not rapgenius.

I have mixed feelings about this. How long until we see a game of he-said-she-said? Of course, socially engineered link building aimed at gaming the SERP is against the interest of consumers and google. However, now that we can see a competitor get taken out from google SERP by pointing their attention to a malicious technique, we should see more stories like this.

The problem I have with SERP is that while it's good at finding the most relevant site (still returns spammy sites so not perfect) most of the time, it's built around the advertisement model. It doesn't give you a snapshot of the cross section of the data you are looking at across all the domains out there so that you can't choose on your own which lyric is the most to your liking (it really doesn't matter because lyrics are same across different websites). So the question of who ranks first even though they have identical content shows some underlying inefficiencies caused by the Advertisement revenue model. The more there is, the more advertisement gets seen and clicked.

I feel that the search engine space with selling our attention to advertisements only creates more waste by others trying to get a share of the revenue by jumping into a profitable niche by creating an identical or similar content (article spinning etc). In turn, more competition would create people to use more Adwords or other advertising platforms. The end result is that consumer ends up with untrustworthy websites with content in the back of their priorities. Content should be judged by comparing it with other websites that offer the same content with an overview listing all the different domains showing that content. While displaying such cross domain contents, it should not bring advertisement as an incentive model.

How is what Rap Genius any different than selling ad space, Googles core business? It seems to be that this was just an interpersonal request for an AD to link back to Rap Genius.

What is wrong with that anyway? Adwords and Adsense are just an affiliate program anyway.

I dont see much of a problem with it.


Very bizarre line of thinking when you put blame on the HN poster and not Rap Genius for doing all kinds of black hat SEO.

It's obviously wrong what Rap Genius did, no doubt about it. They should not have used these techniques. But, it's not a bizarre line of thinking to think of whether the person who posted it finds it to be worth it after the fact given the severity of the repercussion (which could effectively ruin the whole business).

RG's techniques were not honest and were costing other sites that were using legitimate techniques and playing by the rules their ranking in Google's search results (and maybe even revenue).

mlyang: It is absolutely a bizarre first reaction to imply that the reporter should feel culpable for the harm that RapGenius caused themselves.

If RapGenius is ruined that easily, RG didn't have a real business to begin with. Their scheme was something that would've certainly triggered Google's ban-hammer sooner or later; the only question was timing. My bet is that RG will reexamine and improve their distribution playbook. I say this because I don't think a16z would invest in a company whose distribution plans consisted solely of SEO.

But you could be correct. Maybe RG is such a fragile company that this nearly inevitable setback is enough to kill them.

p.s. just an FYI: it's generally considered bad form to delete a post that has already garnered responses, especially if those responses are critical.

I never implied that the reporter was culpable. He isn't, RapGenius 100% is. But if I were in the original poster's shoes-- for me at least-- I would've initially found breaking the story to be fun and interesting, but seeing how Rap Genius as a business is basically screwed for the foreseeable future, I would've definitely thought twice. I agree that Rap Genius is 100% wrong in its shady tactics, but as a lot of the other commenters in this above thread (who have not been down-voted to oblivion) have stated, this is a pretty harsh punishment on Google's part. Knowing the harshness of the punishment after the fact, I was just pondering as to how the original poster felt, that's all.

Perhaps you didn't intend to imply it, but unfortunately that message was communicated to several of us. Thank you for clarifying that you don't hold that view. This apparent miscommunication emphasizes the importance of not deleting (and not substantially editing) posts once they've garnered attention.

I, for one, hope the author feels no remorse for their article. It was a fun and interesting article, and they reported the story well.

I continue to hold the belief that if this incident creates a material problem for RG, then RG was already a ticking time bomb. That said, I have plenty of faith that RG will weather the storm, and that perhaps this will be a wake-up call that inspires them to do something more creative and valuable than a spammy link-swap.

I wonder if Rap Genius thinks their scheme was worth it in retrospect.

The person that posted it should be a complete opportunist about the matter and put it on their resume and apply to Google or something.It would be even funnier if they offered publicly to be a paid consultant for rap genius.

I think the best thank

you Would be to outflank

google And fill the blanks

With lyrics that lank

them back out of the dunk-tank;

Justin Bieber lyrics CLICK HERE

Classic blaming of the messenger.

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