Rap Genius's three co-founders have a new reason to pop bottles this weekend: they've reportedly resolved their issues with Google, according to a lengthy new blog post detailing how they messed up and how they fixed the problem. Last month, Google penalized Rap Genius for using spammy SEO techniques, pushing links to the popular lyrics website further down in Google search results and causing traffic to Rap Genius to plummet. Rap Genius quickly apologized and promised to amend its ways ("We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked," the co-founders say again in today's blog post), and the mea culpa appears to have worked. "It takes a few days for things to return to normal, but we’re officially back!" the Rap Genius co-founders write. But as their blog post details, it apparently took a lot of analytics work on their part to get back in Google's good graces.
"we’re officially back!"
As the Rap Genius co-founders explain, their site was penalized by Google's PageRank system for the offense of having "unnatural links to your site," in this case, links that came from blog posts that featured Rap Genius lyrics out of context, which Rap Genius nonetheless promised to promote. For all site owners, Google recommends a four-step path to fixing this problem, which Rap Genius's co-founders say their team followed. This involved identifying as many inbound links to Rap Genius as possible – the blog post says the Rap Genius team counted a total 177,781 – and then filtering out those links that could be problematic. The Rap Genius co-founders say they wrote various scripts to help them cull the list, and have open-sourced them on Github. Eventually, they whittled down the list to 590 pages that were in violation of Google's guidelines, and said they asked the webmasters to remove links to Rap Genius or reported them to Google as spam.
"we did two things that were more or less totally debauched."
The Rap Genius co-founders also describe in no small detail how they got into this position in the first place, defending their original "link-building strategy" as sound, which they say included agreements to write sponsored posts for such websites as The Atlantic, Esquire, and The Huffington Post. They also defend their practice of embedding entire tracklists at the bottom of other blog's posts linking back to relevant Rap Genius content, but admit that embedding irrelevant links in outside blog posts and promoting those blogs was "more or less totally debauched." And while Rap Genius positions their tale as a cautionary one, they also couldn't help but sneak in a bit of hip hop-style self promotion at the end of their blog post, teasing a new Rap Genius iOS app coming out next week.