Rap Genius is bad at making friends. In November the National Music Publishers Association called the site "blatantly illegal" because they never actually obtained the licenses required to display lyrics. And though they seem to be making strides toward legitimacy in that department (Rap Genius and Sony struck a deal), they've now pissed off Google for allegedly participating in a link scheme. The Internet giant is now punitively burying the lyrics site beneath pages of undesired search results.
Blogger John Marbach exposed the problem on December 23 after RG posted this to Facebook: "Do you have a blog? Do you wanna be a RAP GENIUS BLOG AFFILIATE? Help us help you!" That was followed by an email address for co-founder Mahbod Moghadam. Marbach wrote Moghadam for more information, and was told that if he added a bunch of Justin Bieber RG lyric links to his own "dope post," RG would tweet out a link to Marbach's article, which would "bloooowwwww up!"
Marbach shared the entire exchange on his personal site, and explained the danger: "What you see here is the beginning of a potential growth hack for RapGenius." The site is hoping to increase it Google rankings in lyrics searches, he wrote, by planting inbound links referring to one of the most searched-for names in music on other sites. Google's bots would see those links as a sign of legitimacy, and automatically place Rap Genius higher in Bieber-related lyrics searches.
Instead, if you now use the world's most popular search engine to find "Rap Genius," you'll get everything but the site itself: a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Wikipedia entry, and a whole bunch of articles about Google bringing the virtual hammer down on RG. Whoops. To their credit Rap Genius posted an apology. To their discredit, they used the opportunity to rat out their competitors' shady practices by way of excusing their own dirty dealings.
Their extensive "Open Letter to Google About Rap Genius SEO" begins with a "too long; didn't read" summation: "tl;dr: We effed up, other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we’ll stop. We’d love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results." All in all, it's a pretty fair response, and one which thankfully avoided threats of mouth-rape.
TechCrunch reports that the two parties are working together to resolve the issues amicably.