Rap Genius 'Morons' Return to Google's Good Graces

After apology, lyrics website says its pages should rank high in searches

Rap Genius, Google, SEO
Rap Genius gents: "We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked." Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Rap Genius is back on top. In an announcement over the weekend, the site said it had made peace with Google and returned to its usual place atop the Internet giant's search results. The Googlers had buried Rap Genius's pages in results for lyrics searches — and, in effect, dramatically reduced traffic — as punishment for a link-exchange program that would've given the site an artificial boost.

"It takes a few days for things to return to normal, but we're officially back," Rap Genius founders Tom Lehman, Mahbod Moghadam, and Ilan Zechory wrote. "First of all, we owe a big thanks to Google for being fair and transparent and allowing us back onto their results pages. We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked."

The Rap Geniuses also went a step further and used words like "sorry" and "apologize," which SPIN's in-depth report on Google's Rap Genius smackdown noted the site avoided in a previous statement on the matter. "To Google and our fans: We're sorry for being such morons. We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking," they wrote.

To return to Google's favor, Rap Genius undertook an extensive link-removal effort. The ambitious, privately financed company came up with a list of almost 180,000 inbound links to Rap Genius and wrote "scraper" software to figure out which links were spammy. Then Rap Genius got in touch with the webmasters for those sites and asked them to remove the shady links.

It might take a moment before Rap Genius reliably returns to its customary place in search results. The site's Zechory told The Washington Post in an email that "it takes a couple days for google to re-index everything, so search results are a little wonky right now, but we are officially reinstated."

The short-term effect of the whole scenario on Rap Genius' traffic is no joke. Online-audience tracker Quantcast shows the site's daily traffic tumbled to between 265,000 and 310,000 unique visitors in the days after Google's punishment, compared with around 1.3 million for the rest of December. And Rap Genius has other challenges: It struck a deal with Sony not long after the National Music Publishers Association called the site "blatantly illegal," and one of its co-founders said pretty terrible things to a then-SPIN senior editor.

Ultimately, though, it's easy to see the quick resolution of Rap Genius' Google face-off as a win for the site. As SPIN's Deeper Than Rap: Beyond Google's Smackdown of Rap Genius concluded, the light the whole affair shed on lyric sites' questionable SEO practices in general might end up helping Rap Genius by weaking its competitors. The hatchet-burying could be a smart move for Google, too: Regardless of whether Genius Media Group carries out its plans to become something much bigger, accurate search results are more valuable than holding a grudge.

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