Lyrics site Rap Genius says that it is no longer penalized within Google after taking action to correct “unnatural links” that it helped create. The site was hit with a penalty for 10 days, which meant people seeking it by name couldn’t find it. That’s been fixed, though it’s unclear how much traffic the site will regain for generic lyrics searches.
After the penalty, people couldn’t find Rap Genius when searching for it on Google by name. Now, searches for “rap genius” show the site back at the top of Google’s web search listings (though news headlines items do come first in Google’s news box):
The company explained in a blog post today that it received a manual action notice from Google on Christmas Day accusing it of unnatural linking, which resulted in a penalty. The Rap Genius post detailed some of the linking practices the company has done and how it tried to correct what it thought Google objected to, which included asking people to remove links as well as disavowing links. The post concluded with an apology:
To Google and our fans: we’re sorry for being such morons. We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking. We’re focused on building the best site in the world for understanding lyrics, poetry, and prose and watching it naturally rise to the top of the search results.
Rap Genius was never banned from Google. Instead, it was slapped with a penalty that appears to have made its content that would normally show in the first page of Google listings slip to the sixth page (sometimes called a -60 penalty).
The drop lasted for 10 days is about the same for another big brand that was hit with a penalty over linking early last year, Interflora, which found itself penalized for 11 days. But it’s less than the 90 days that both JC Penney and Google’s own Chrome browser web site were hit with in 2011 and 2012, respectively, over link issues.
While Rap Genius is ranking again for its own name, it’s not clear that it is regaining traffic for what’s most important to it, generic terms related to lyrics.
Searchmetrics analyzed some of the terms sending Rap Genius traffic that it took hits for, as well as the overall drop in is search visibility. It’s too early for the Searchmetrics tool to show if there’s been rise in visibility (give it a day or two), but some spot checks on terms show it may not all be back to normal.
For “rap lyrics,” Rap Genius has a solid number one listing, back after dropping, according to Searchmetrics, 100 spots:
For just “lyrics,” it’s not in the first page of results — though it probably wasn’t there before the penalty, either:
This seems likely because the site started with a focus on rap lyrics (hence its name) while many older sites have been far more encompassing. It could also be that the other sites are just spamming Google, as Rap Genius alleged when it first blogged about being penalized and saying “other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff.”
For a fairly high-volume search query such as “someone like you lyrics,” where Rap Genius took a 95 spot plunge according to Searchmetrics, it now ranks on page 7, not much of an improvement:
Moreover, the page that it apparently was ranking for, lyrics for Mac Miller’s “Someone like you” song, isn’t the one showing in page seven of the results. As far as I can tell, it’s not showing up in the top 100 results all.
The Rap Genius page for Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” which fell 92 spots, is nowhere to be found in the top 100 results, from what I can see.
I think it’s fairly likely Rap Genius will see some of its direct Google traffic recover, now that the penalty has been lifted. But I suspect that the removal of so many links may also cost it some of the rankings it previously had, so that traffic may remain lower than it was.