Rap Genius is having a rough Christmas. After controversy surrounding their search-engine optimization techniques, changes within Google have sent the search results plummeting for the much-feted lyrics-annotation site. As of press time, RapGenius.com is on the fifth page of Google Search results for "rap genius," with nearly half a dozen articles about this very controversy ranking higher. RapGenius.com is still the first result on Bing.
RapGenius.com is on the fifth page of Search results for "rap genius"
The controversy began with a post by Thiel fellow John Marbach, detailing Rap Genius's little-known affiliate program. Advertised on their Facebook page, the program asked bloggers to add tagged links to Rap Genius's Justin Bieber pages to the bottom of a given post. In exchange, the founders promised to use their Twitter and Facebook presence to promote the post, in turn boosting their own Google SEO traffic. The post garnered hundreds of upvotes on the Hacker News linkboard, where it came to the attention of Matt Cutts, a Google engineer in charge of webspam. In the first comment on the thread, he promised, "we're looking into it." Shortly after, results at RapGenius.com plummeted in Google's Search results.
The Rap Genius founders responded to the allegations in a lengthy (and annotated) apology, detailing their practices and calling attention to the even more egregious practices of competitors like Songfreak.com. "We do not want to break Google’s rules," the statement reads, "and will do whatever it takes to learn them inside out and comply with them."