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Google Tells RapGenius “Yo! That’s Uncool!”


google-logo1Remember back in the day when Marketing Pilgrim was just a little ol’ SEO blog?

Well, things have changed with the changes in the online landscape. One thing that hasn’t changed though is our interest in a good ol’ fashioned Google beat down of supposedly unscrupulous SEO tactics by a site. Especially when that site is attached to about $15m of Marc Andreessen’s money.

Online lyric site RapGenius has faced the wrath of the Goog. According to several sources the site has been stripped of its search rankings and is now in the process of ‘making nice’ with Google to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The Business Insider reports in a rather simplistic manner

Rap Genius was caught trying to game Google to get higher search rankings.

Google’s search results are based on a lot of different factors, but at the most basic level, Google measures how many other sites are linking to your site to determine where you should be in search rankings.

So, Rap Genius was asking people to add links to Rap Genius pages on their sites. It’s a fairly crude, somewhat scuzzy practice. And Rap Genius got caught doing it.

Google really hates when people try to game Google. So, Google has severely punished Rap Genius.

Severely punished in this case means stripping the site of their rankings which is the lifeblood of their business. Yup, that hurts.

TechCrunch puts a little more meat on the bone with this

But earlier this week, Rap Genius invited bloggers to join its “Rap Genius Blog Affiliate” program. John Marbach, the founder of email filtering startup Glider, emailed in asking for details, and Rap Genius offerered to tweet links to his blog in exchange for him placing a series of links to Rap Genius’ Justin Bieber lyrics on his blog. The links were designed to trick Google into giving Rap Genius better result rankings on searches for lyrics to songs from Bieber’s new album — sure to be popular searches this season.

This is the email that RapGenius sent.

RapGenius Email

But of course, RapGenius has seen the error of its ways and sent this TechCrunch

“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.

It sucks to be off Google for us and for the thousands of our community members who have worked so hard to create what’s often the best search result.

We hope everyone who reads this will take a little time out from their Christmas and head to Rap Genius and sign up so you can contribute your knowledge on your favorite subjects – becoming a member of our community makes the site way more fun. Merry Christmas”

Like any irreverent and obnoxious kid that got caught doing something they knew was completely wrong they are acting contrite which is the proper thing to do but also a complete act considering the history of this group.

Now this is a search issue so you know that Danny Sullivan has a point of view. He has started his examination of the situation at Search Engine Land and had this to say

…..the attempt by Rap Genius to gain links to rank better was fairly dumb on many aspects, if particular in a post-Penguin world where savvy SEOs understand that getting the exact same type of links in a sudden burst is probably going to cause you problems with Google.

Still, when this all blew up on Christmas Eve, even I was scratching my head to figure out if this was actually a Google violation or not. Rap Genius’s apology post had the company deciding itself that maybe it violated guidelines that links should be “editorially placed.”

Maybe. Maybe not. We don’t know exactly why Rap Genius is in trouble because Google won’t say (yes, we asked, and we got a no comment on the matter for now). We know it’s in trouble because it’s no longer ranking, but ironically, this might be because since Rap Genius has declared itself in violation of Google’s guidelines, Google acted to penalize it based on that, even if Rap Genius might have been fine.

The point is — understanding what’s a good link with Google is incredibly hard these days. Google tells you links are important to rank; Google also tells you an increasing number of rules about which links “count” or how links might hurt you or even how you may need to “disavow” links.

Danny promises to give some more thought to this since he found himself working on an SEO story about a rap lyric site on Christmas Day and realized it could probably wait. His take will, as always, be interesting.

So what about it SEO’s? Old news? Dumb move? Who cares? Why bother? Rethinking your ‘strategy’? So many options ….. so many options. Let’s hear them.