Rap Genius on Google ban: ‘We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked’


The Rap Genius founders being interviewed on May 1 at TechCrunch Disrupt. (TechCrunch)

Late last month, the rap lyrics site Rap Genius was banned from Google for running a shady "Rap Genius blog affiliate program," in which the startup promised to promote any blog post that linked to them — regardless of the content of the post or the relevance of the Rap Genius link. That runs afoul of Google's rules, which prohibit attempts to manipulate Google's PageRank algorithm to get a higher position in search results. The penalty: Rap Genius pages were "demoted" in Google search results, triggering a collapse in Rap Genius's Web traffic.

But the startup now says it has patched things up with Google. In an apologetic blog post, the company's founders write "big thanks to Google for being fair and transparent and allowing us back onto their results pages. We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked."

To get back on Google's good side, Rap Genius launched an ambitious link-removal campaign. It got a list of 178,000 pages that link to Rap Genius, then wrote an automated "scraper" to download each page and determine whether it contained spammy links. If it did, Rap Genius contacted the webmaster and requested that the links be removed. The firm got hundreds of inbound links removed.

Apparently, the removal campaign satisfied Google. In an e-mailed statement to The Washington Post, Rap Genius co-founder Ilan Zechory said that "it takes a couple days for google to re-index everything, so search results are a little wonky right now, but we are officially reinstated."

The massive traffic hit that Rap Genius took over the past week is a powerful warning to other sites tempted to try to game Google rankings.

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Brian Fung · January 3, 2014

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