RapGenius, why it was penalized? How they get back their original ranking?
RapGenius is a company that makes its money from providing music lyrics. Every day, millions search for the lyrics to their favorite songs. It is imperative that RapGenius’ URL be among the first results that people click on when searching for lyrics for it to make more sales.
How RapGenius was manipulating search engine ranking?
In order to grow their traffic, RapGenius decided to employ a growth hack targeting blogs. It worked by blogs adding some code to the bottom of their posts which would link back to RapGenius’ website, in exchange for RapGenius tweeting the blog post on the promise of massive traffic. No one ever noticed this strategy unless following posts at RapGenius were noticed by John Marbach and asked Mahbod about this RAP GENIUS BLOG AFFILIATE.
To help them do this, they targeted the most widely searched artiste in 2013: Justin Bieber. The links were designed to trick Google into giving RapGenius better rankings on search results for Justin Bieber. Following is email reply that John Marbach received from RAP GENIOUS and there clearly targeting Justin Bieber lyrics links.
As it was quite clear from this email, how RapGenius was manipulating its search engine ranking by getting thousands of spammy links on blog footers. When John Marbach, the founder of email filtering startup Glider discovered RapGenius underhand SEO tactics, he exposed them prompting Google’s webspam czar Matt Cutts to announce that Google would be investigating RapGenius.
Then Google official slapped RapGenious on Christmas Day. For any domain name search, rapgenius.com was not found on Google search results, instead there were other links of RapGenius twitter, Wikipedia and Facebook links were showing. See how it looked on Christmas day:
The founders of RapGenius did apology on their news blog “We effed up, other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we’ll stop. We’d love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results.”
In this new blog they admitted they were doing this link building by affiliating with popular blogs. They deployed specialized strategy to find and engage with such blogs.
Google did not accepted this apology and went for enough. It was then that the search engine giant decided to make an example of RapGenius and removed them from page one to around page five. After Google implemented the manual action RapGenius entered into negotiations with them and they were allowed back on first page on condition that they stopped black-hat SEO.
They deployed following techniques:
- No buying and selling of links or link in exchange or link back with some free offer or gift
- Removal of spammy links
- No follow tag to implement, so no page rank juice
- No large scale article marketing and guest posting
They also had to have all the spammy links removed, and that required contacting all the websmasters of the sites that carried those links and asking them to remove them. The ones that could not be removed had to be entered into the Google Disavow tool that prevents them from influencing search result rankings.
See how their traffic decreased and recovered:
To do this they created a scrapper that was able to have 177,000 links removed which was enough to convince Google of their contrition. It has been claimed that RapGenius could have benefited from its association with Andressen Horowitz, one of the most well-connected venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. The venture capital firm had shelled out $15 million in funding for RapGenius. It is claimed that due to this association, RapGenius may have gotten off a lot easier than would have another company.
But still their complete traffic has not been resorted yet, before Christmas day, RapGenius were observing 800,000 unique page views per day. On the day of Google penality their page views were dropped to around 100,000. Now their page views are close to 700,000 per day.
Vanishing from the SERPS overnight can be shocking. However, how you handle your recovery is what really determines whether you close shop or not.
Author bio: Anjum Mudassar, digital marketing strategist with years of experience of working in different industries. Currently I am heading a team of internet marketers ( http://www.seocompanies.com.