Sign up FAST! Login

Google Obliterates Buzzy Startup Rap Genius For Trying To Game The System

Stashed in: Search, Awesome, SEO, Growth Hacks!, Parks and Recreation!, Google FAIL, @a16z, Hacker News!, Wikipedia, Rap Genius, Rap Genius

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Rap Genius, the startup with $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, has been clobbered by Google.

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

If you try to search for "Rap Genius" you won't get the website. You'll get its Twitter page, its Wikipedia entry, its Facebook page, but you won't get a direct link to the website. Searching for lyrics no longer brings Rap Genius pages.

Rap Genius and Google are reportedly working on a solution to fix the problem. 

They're working on a solution to Rap Genius asking people to link to them?

That's odd. 

Can't they just stop asking people to link to them?

It is frightening how much power Google has. 

What happens if one day they decide not to link to Wikipedia?

Oh, I see: Rap Genius is in Google Jail for the crime they just committed. 

They're trying to talk their way into a lesser sentence:

I love the use of Jean Ralphio gifs to represent Rap Genius founders. 

Rap Genius is a poster child for growth hacking gone wrong:

Funny description of the Rap Genius founders:

The idea has people excited, but the founders of the company make some people nervous. They're kids from Yale, but act like they're rappers. They talk trash, dress unusually, and do goofy stuff like, well, like this. 

I agree that it's next to impossible to know what Google's Rules are these days:

After getting caught trying to game Google, Rap Genius apologized, but at the same time, tried to deflect blame by saying others do the same:

"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."

Incredibly, this apology may be the reason that Google all but wiped out Rap Genius from its search results. 

Danny Sullivan, who understands the mechanics of Google's search results better than anyone who doesn't work at Google, said:

"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."

One point lost on Danny Sullivan: Rap Genius is about ANNOTATION not LYRICS:

And Sullivan adds one more point, which is huge for investors in Rap Genius. He says that Google might eventually just nuke Rap Genius altogether by providing its own lyric pages:

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.

Read Sullivan's full analysis here » 

Slate's Matthew Yglesias weighs in with "Google Just Made Rap Genius Disappear"

"Lastly this reminds me of the point I made before about Facebook's central role in the growth of "viral" web content. Having a lot of traffic is great. The more the better. But when a huge share of your traffic comes from one particular source, it's really not your traffic. If it's all search, then it's Google's traffic. If it's all Facebook likes, then it's Facebook's traffic."

Which means that the only way an independent website can survive is to diversify.

And even still it speaks to the tremendous power that Google and Facebook have.

Search and social are great for discovery, but it's great content or product that gets people to actually stay.  When you get someone to bookmark you, you've really accomplished something.

Another great way to drive traffic is via the one that brought me here!

Chris, good point. 

What RapGenius did wrong was old school link spamming:

RapGenius Growth Hack Exposed |

RapGenius Growth Hack Exposed |

That's bad for Google and bad for everyone but Rap Genius. 

More about this "growth hack" that went horribly wrong:

Basically, Rap Genius deserved to get removed from Google. 

Valleywag wonders "Is Rap Genius fucked?"

The short answer is yes. 

Rap Genius always acted like privileged jerks to get more link juice. 

If Google decides that link juice is worthless, then it's worthless. 

My favorite paragraph from that article:

Rap Genius designed itself to be eminently Google-able. The whole thing is a gaudy, whirring, hyperactive link-bazaar. Links to and from YouTube, links to images, articles, other Rap Genius pages—links upon links, links for the sake of links—a constant work in progress to make the entire internet one giant hyperlink to itself. For Google, this is web catnip, and it showed: a week ago, if you googled virtually any rap lyric or track name, Rap Genius would be the first result. Number one.

(Devotees and defenders of Rap Genius are legion on Twitter.  Drama!)

What are they saying? Please post the best of!

Russell Brandom ‏@russellbrandom


On the bright side, Rap Genius is doing just fine on Bing …

Casey Newton ‏@CaseyNewton 1h

Big lesson from Rap Genius’ plunge: lyrics are a commodity. SEO, not annotation, is its lifeblood …


By ಠ_ಠ @MikeIsaac

A startup gets in hot water with Google's search team. Was it a misstep, or did it just get caught doing what other companies are doing?

Ben Popper ‏@benpopper 5h

Pretty insane that Google could punish Rap Genius so hard they don't even appear when users search for Rap Genius …

news.yc Popular ‏@newsycombinator 5h

Rap Genius drops from 1.2 M Daily Uniques to 493 K …

My favorite:

Rap Genius ‏@RapGenius 6h

If you have a twitter account and you don't have a rapgenius account - you are trippin... 

Haha, I like that Rap Genius thinks I'm tripping if I don't have a Rap Genius account.

Seriously though, what content does Google actually WANT to index?

It's quite unclear to people who want to add to amount of good content available in the world. traffic fell from 1.2 million daily uniques to 493,000 after the Google removal:

Yesterday Rap Genius was down to 235,000 uniques:

Rap Genius Traffic Chart Cratered Since Getting Pulled From Google

Hacker News on Rap Genius traffic being down 80%:


I know, right? Cue Jean Ralphio:

jean ralphio damn gif

jean ralphio wink gif

I almost fell asleep during that sentence jean ralphio gif

The RapGenius guys are forever Jean Ralphio in my head.

Rap Genius founder gif Jean Ralphio Imgur

...after two weeks of punishment, Google let Rap Genius get back their mojo:

But they still will always remind me of Jean Ralphio. 

Google Puts Rap Genius Back Atop Searches, Favoring Smart Results Over Holding A Grudge | TechCrunch

Google Puts Rap Genius Back Atop Searches, Favoring Smart Results Over Holding A Grudge | TechCrunch

jean ralphio damn gif

P.S. The rap genius behind the feeble SEO spam attempt is co-founder Mahbod Moghadam, the one who had previously used his brain tumor as an excuse for being a jerk:

You May Also Like: