Traffic to Rap Genius is crashing: how one SEO trick prompted a Google crackdown

Rap Genius has been busted by Google, and they can feel it.

RapGenius founders, with a TechCrunch staffer (the one in the vest). Photo from TechCrunch [Creative Commons]

Rap Genius’s traffic is tanking. Despite a strong community, it turns out that the lyrics site still primarily derives traffic from search. Some say they were gaming that search power.

When we wrote about annotated lyrics site Rap Genius earlier this month, the wheels were already in motion for the change, after staff at Google took notice to a Billboard profile.

Specifically, it drew the attention of Head of Search, Matt Cutts, who was apparently made especially irate by a leaked email suggesting that bloggers embed links to a Bieber page on the site.

Effectively, the guys at Rap Genius bragged that they had figured out the secret sauce to winning at SEO. The weird thing is that everyone online knows this fact: if you really do figure out a trick to win at SEO, the last thing you want to do is tell anyone that you’ve figured out a trick because as soon as Google finds your trick, they will re-rig their algorithms so the trick doesn’t work anymore. Google can change the rules any time it wants to — the company did more than 500 changes to its search system in 2013.

Or, worse, Google locks you out. That’s what’s happened to Williamsburg’s Rap Genius, according to Valleywag.

RapGenius is trying to build a revenue model outside of search, including licensing its annotation software to other sites, such as the New York Times partnership we listed in our bullets on our first piece. That said, it’s probably too early for a nascent venture to make up for whatever the site is losing during this shock to their core business.

Companies: Genius / Google
Series: Brooklyn

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