Be Scared of Google… Unless You Are Rap Genius.

Google Punishes Rap Genius

The story of Google destroying search engine rankings went viral, or almost. This story scared a lot of Search Engine Optimization “experts” who also use shady tactics to get better rankings on Google, it has also put a big smile on faces of many internet marketers who work very hard on producing great content and who stay true to white hat SEO. Google Rankings


  • Rap Genius (RG) offers to tweet messages for bloggers who will add links to Rap Genius from their blogs
  • Bloggers add irrelevant links to lyrics on RG website
  • Rap Genius gets 1st page rankings on Google and other search engines
  • Google understands it has been “gamed” and punishes RG by kicking them off the 1st page on Dec. 25th, 2013

When Google punished RG, the site went to to the 6th page of search results – which is pretty much the same as not having a website at all. How many people do you know who go past 2nd page when they search something on Google? Rap Genius get very upset about this and I am sure Andreessen Horowitz who invested $15 Million in RG in 2012 wasn’t very happy either. Juicy details on TechCrunch.

What Can We Learn?

Google does care about backlinks. Sites with more backlinks to them will rank higher. How many links you get and where you get them is another story but the main point here is: Links Do Matter.


Rap Genius is Back On Page One, 10 Days Later.

Rap Genius got a nasty Christmas gift from Google and most webmasters believed it was the end for the lyrics site, however only 10 days later Google put Rap Genius back to the 1st page of it’s search results, life goes on as usual. How exactly did it happen? As soon as RG lost its rankings, they started looking for a solution immediately. They apologized to Google for what they have done and they went on to remove all “unnatural inbound links”. Using a a link scraper, Google Webmaster Tools and I am sure some other tools. Rap Genius found over 177,000 links to its site and they had to sort through them to understand which links were OK and which links were Unnatural (from Google’s point of view, of course).

They compiled lists of links and started e-mailing blog owners and asking them to remove links to Whenever the owner of the blog/site couldn’t be reached, they simply disavowed spammy links using Google Webmaster tools.

It seems like Google was satisfied with the results and the efforts from RG because the site rocketed back to Google’s First Page almost instantly.


Google Hates Spam


Say Goodbye To Your Site if Google Penalizes it.

All is well that ends well, however this story wouldn’t end well for most of us, small website owners.

When I was just starting the Internet Marketing career and didn’t know much about proper search engine optimization I also tried to “game” Google. Most marketers did this at some point simply because they didn’t know any better. I got some spammy backlinks to my sites and sure enough I got great rankings! It was all fun and dandy while it lasted but eventually my sites got caught in the Google spam filters and my rankings vanished overnight. Google didn’t push me to the 6th page of search results but rather to the 126th page, in some cases it de-indexed my websites completely. That’s when I learned about the infamous Google sandbox.

I have done my research, asked questions on Google support boards and I understood I shouldn’t have used those spammy links, but it was too late. I removed all “unnatural” links whenever I could but my websites never came back. I have spent countless hours trying to recover but in the end I simply had to abandon those websites because nothing worked, nothing helped and Google didn’t want to hear anything about my sites.

Another Thing We Can Learn

At this point I realize that if your website is not as hot and popular as Rap Genius with Millions of dollars in investments –  you will be banned for life if you ever do anything shady. This is actually great because it means all low quality websites with shady SEO will not make it. However, it makes me sad that Google makes exceptions and huge websites only get a slap on the wrist when smaller websites would be doomed and lost forever. If Google cares so much about quality and websites violating their terms – shouldn’t this apply to ALL websites?


Stop looking for ways of gaming Google. When I understood this little secret I actually started getting better rankings – naturally and for the long term. If you want good rankings you should follow these easy steps:

  1. Create unique, sharable, quality content.
  2. Post consistently and try to post at least a few times a week.
  3. Share your content on proper social platforms.

If you content is good people will LIKE, Share, Pin and Re-blog it. People will link to it naturally. Google will love you and reward you with Good rankings. Sure, it requires work and time but it’s totally worth it in the long run.

Have anything to add? Comment below.


– Alex


14 thoughts on “Be Scared of Google… Unless You Are Rap Genius.”

  1. You don’t even have to game Google. There isn’t a link I’ve placed that isn’t relevant and I haven’t paid anyone to link to my site. Still, Google dinged me for what they consider unnatural outbound links, will not be specific with respect to which links they are referring to, none of them are paid and all are relevant, and I’m just screwed.

    Personally, I feel Google has acquired way too much power when they can control the content of sites to the degree they do.

    1. Robert, that sucks to hear. If I understand correctly, your site got punished for linking out to other sites? That’s not fun 🙁

      I agree that Google has too much power and control over our content and our business but it seems like we don’t have much choice but to “obey”.
      – Alex

  2. Actually, I share a different POV (don’t lynch me ok). Instead of thinking everyone should not get reinstated, I think that if you follow the rules and ask for reconsideration then you SHOULD get your rankings back.

    Rap Genius did everything else right except the backlinking. Branding, social media signals, etc. They didn’t have to game the system but they did and suffered JUST LIKE everyone else. Google made no exception to them – they made them suffer the same fate.

    But they cleaned up their act and did what they were supposed to do and Google granted them their rankings back. Problem is that us small business owners don’t get the same treatment so we say unfair – Google is being contrary, they should not have allowed Rap Genius.

    Well I think they’re being unfair too. But not to Rap Genius. They’re being unfair to the small business owners who doesn’t have enough connections or can’t speak loud enough to get the rankings back.

    Won’t you like to get the rankings back? Doesn’t Google provide an avenue for you to do just that? Don’t we all try, because Google says if we do this or do that we can get our rankings back? Otherwise why would we even waste time trying?

    Point is Google wouldn’t listen to us small business owners but they would listen to big brands like Rap Genius. They’re still being unfair but not by giving Rap Genius their rankings back but by NOT giving everyone the same treatment. It’s crab-in-a-barrel attitude to say that Rap Genius shouldn’t get their rankings back especially after they followed protocol.

    Just like everyone else here in the thread, I also had sites that got trashed by Google. When I realized what had happened, I spent zero time trying to fix it. I downloaded all my content and got a new domain name and went to work.

    I’m not a fan of Google doing as they feel, I just think that everyone should be afforded the same treatment. However, it’s good that RG got their rankings back by doing the right thing. I hope (maybe in vain) that Google will see this as a sign that they should consider all websites when we try to correct our mistakes.

    1. Jay, I actually think we’re sharing the same point of view here 🙂
      I am not “really” saying that Rap Genius should have been banned forever. They do have good content. Many of their visitors truly appreciate what the site has to offer.

      The issue here is that they were treated differently, because of who they are.

      Google should treat everyone equally. Either BAN everyone for infractions, or give a second chance to everyone just like they did for RG. Personally, I believe that site owners should all get a second chance.

      – Alex

  3. I had several of my sites sandboxed by Google but just had to take that on the chin. Now everything is done properly but it does annoy me when it’s down to the amount of money that has been invested.
    They should have lost everything and not got re-instated.
    Does make a mockery of the the system that Google introduced.

  4. This story sounds very familiar to me…starting out knowing nothing…looking for some easy rankings…learning too late that loads of low quality links is terrible for your site long term.

    I too spent countless hours trying to fix my broken sites, and even did 3 Google reconsideration requests. I removed about 75% of ALL links, starting with the lowest quality.

    Google finally approved my request so technically the site is no longer “red flagged”, but the rankings and traffic are 1/10 of what they used to be.

    I was very surprised when this Rap Genius thing got so much press – I’ve never seen a company as big as this complain about rankings!

    1. Nathaniell, I think most of us have been there at some point 😉

      I also got surprised when I kept hearing about it from websites and newspapers that have nothing to do with SEO or Online Marketing. I guess this will make SEO-services easier to sell to local clients: “See how much SEO matters? Buy my services, NOW!”

  5. The first thing I thought when I read the Rap Genius story, is “good”. They were getting punished for gaming activity which should be the approach by Google.

    Then after some heavy (and very public) bitching and complaining, the team over at Google decide they would do something they don’t do for anyone else. Give them their ranks back after they admittedly tried to game the system.

    Moral of the story, Google doesn’t play by their own rules and if you have enough power within an industry, you get a subset of rules and policies that nobody else gets.

    I am not saying Rap Genius doesn’t have the best content in their respective niche, they do. But they should have suffered the same consequences and sandboxing that the “regular” Joe has to go through when the implement the same blackhat strategies.

    1. Kyle, I am happy to hear we share the same point of view on this, I am sure most “web guys” also agree that Google shouldn’t have given VIP treatment to RapGenius. Sure their content is great but spam is spam, regardless of who is doing it. Thanks for your comment.
      – Alex

    1. Vincenzo, I don’t think there is a way of over-doing it. If I need to go around seeking backlinks – it’s bad, as simple as that. In the end Google always wins. I don’t spend my time looking for the new tricks to get backlinks, I spend my time creating content and I am already seeing great results 🙂

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