Google Penalises Rap Genius – Offsite SEO Gone Wrong

On Christmas day, Google penalised a large US-based lyrics website and removed its presence from the SERPs. John Marbach, the guy that exposed Rap Genius wrote an article on his blog entitled “RapGenius Growth Hack Exposed” detailing how Rap Genius had improved its search rankings by enticing bloggers to add linkbacks to Rap Genius’ website that contained heavily targeted anchor text — in exchange for a Tweet to said page. (A link for a Tweet)

This is what the search results look like when you search for “Rap Genius” at the moment:

Rap Genius Google Search Google Penalises Rap Genius   Offsite SEO Gone Wrong

As you can see can’t be seen other than on other websites mentioning the now penalised website.

This is the sort of link building that has been doing:

16 links one article Google Penalises Rap Genius   Offsite SEO Gone Wrong

That’s just asking for trouble. That’s 16 links to the same site with targeted keyword anchor text to specific pages on the website.

The reason they got caught? They weren’t careful enough. This sort of link building activity likely sent alarm bells ringing, and the fact that they were publicly exposed and publicly reaching out to bloggers like this on Facebook was just another nail in the coffin or even the final nail in the coffin.

What’s the course of action?

Rap Genius can definitely bounce back from this, as we’ve seen this sort of penalty with brands like Interflora and BMW. They need to contact all of the sites that they’ve reached out to delete the linkbacks to or either disavow them. Now Rap Genius’ entire backlink profile will be under scrutiny. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether they recover from this. I don’t see why they shouldn’t recover from this if they act quickly.

Another point is the fact they’ve likely gained a lot of attraction, as major sites like TechCrunch are now linking to, which should count for them when they get back on their feet. It’s really quite interesting how a negative can also be a positive. Obviously the negativity of this is at a much higher percentage, but sometimes you just have to look at the positives — even if minimal.

Matt Cutt’s “When penguins attack” post on Twitter


What’s your take on this?

Author: Jonathan Jones

I first first started creating websites back in 2005. This led me to creating a free web hosting business in 2007, which still exists today. I ventured into creating types of websites such as blogs and forums using Wordpress, vBulletin, Invision Power Board, Drupal and Joomla. I've since worked on some of the leading brands in the UK finance sector, in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) field, and now work for MoneySuperMarket, the #1 price comparison website in the UK. Social: Google+ and Twitter.

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  1. I love when stuff like this happens. It truly exposes BAD SEO behavior. It seems that Rap Genius clearly knew they were manipulating the search results and didn’t think of the repercussions. They probably won’t make that mistake again. It’s definitely a much needed wake up call for the SEO industry as a whole.

    • Hi Sarah,

      I agree with what you’ve said actually. It’s also a big wake up call, which I think all SEOs should be taking into account with whatever offsite work they are doing. This would be a truly embarrassing thing to happen if an SEO agency was caught in the same way as Rap Genius.

      But it’s quite obvious why they were caught. They were spamming the same anchor text links with 16 links per article page; that’s just dumb.