Rap Genius, the popular 'smart' lyrics site which allowed users to add annotations and explanations to song lyrics in order to explain what they mean, was hit hard a few weeks ago after they were banished from Google's search results for engaging in SEO spam. But today they're back on top: The Rap Genius team posted the announcement on their site, apologizing for the practices and detailing what they did to correct it.
The startup, which came out in full force a year ago (against strong competitors such as AZLyrics and MetroLyrics) after major investments from venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, was punished by Google after it was revealed that the site was engaging in strong SEO spamming tactics such as swapping links with other blog sites and even linking a song's entire tracklist at the bottom of other sites. This landed them in hot water with the search engine, which described their actions as "a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to your site".
The action by Google moved their search results down so that links from Rap Genius would only begin to appear on the sixth page of results, a move which devastated their traffic stats, dropping them from 700,000 uniques a day to only around 100,000. Overnight Rap Genius turned from one of the most popular lyrics sites to a footnote on Google. Immediately after, however, the Rap Genius team began working to correct it. As they described on their site, they started by assembling a collection of over 177,000 URLs which contained inbound links to Rap Genius. After that, they compiled a list of 100 'potentially problematic domains' and dropped that 177,000 down to 3,333 URLs. After sending emails to various sites and asking them to take the problematic links down, they wrote a script which parsed and ranked the 177,000 URLs by suspiciousness. They then sent emails to webmasters, asking them to remove the spammy links.
All of this work eventually paid off. Yesterday, Google removed the blacklist and returned Rap Genius results back to the front page. As for the future, it doesn't seem like Rap Genius has any plans to engage in more SEO spam, and judging by their apologetic tone, we won't be likely to see any issues from them in the future. The company is currently working on developing an iOS app for release next week, as well as a number of other features and functions which we will hopefully be able to see soon.