The Rap Genius Situation Simplified

Posted on by Daniel Hinds
Categories: SEO News Tagged: , ,

So, this past week I have been asked by a lot of people who Rap Genius is and why they’re suddenly showing up all over the traditional digital marketing news sites. They’ve been written about quite a few times now, but I thought I would take the time to give you all the simple explanation as to who Rap Genius is and why they are suddenly prevalent in the world of SEO news.

So, for starters, Rap Genius is a fun little site where people who are in the know explain rap lyrics to the rest of us. This may sound silly, but if you have ever tried to decipher exactly what they’re saying in a rap song, you know that this is actually an invaluable service.

They were ranking okay (excellent, really) but they decided they were climbing the rankings too slowly. They decided to use a little of that black hat magic to really solidify their lordship over the rap lyrics world. Their technique was this:

1. Have a large and active social media following.
2. Trade social media shout-outs for links with very specific anchor text (e.g. “lyrics to Tupac’s Hit em up”)
3. Profit

It worked for a bit, but like all black hat schemes, it quickly came back to bite them.

Google took notice, and Matt Cutts even addressed the issue and told the world that Google was working on it. Just a couple short weeks later, the site was hit with the hammer. They were actually given one of the more astringent penalties I’ve seen in recent years. The penalty was so bad, in fact, that if you search “rap genius” on Google, you won’t even find their homepage on the first page of results.

There are a few lessons we can learn from this:

1. Don’t do black hat SEO.
2. Don’t buy links, with cash, goods OR services.
3. If you’re going to get links, let the linker decide the anchor text so you maintain a credible and varied link profile.