What Can Be Learned from “Rap Genius'” Mistakes

While I’m still working on the new look & feel of this site, this story about Rap Genius popped up and is grabbing nationwide attention.

Earlier this morning, headlines broke that hip-hop lyrics site, RapGenius.com, was busted by Google and dropped entirely from their organic search rankings for an “affiliate” program they had been running for some time. According to the LA Times, Rap Genius was offering payment to bloggers to write articles & post links back to their site, which was artificially boosting their rankings in the search engine.

As we all should know by now, this is a big no-no in Google’s eyes. There is a fine line between running a true affiliate program– which offers marketers a chance to earn money for paid referrals back to a site or product; and true SEO-worthy links. Paid affiliate programs typically utilize redirect URLs, not ones that would be recognized by search engines such as Google.

It’s perfectly acceptable for bloggers to write stories about a website which includes a link, or even simply have a link to another site somewhere on their sidebar or footer, for instance. However, to not been seen as an attempt to “trick” the Google algorithm, any & all links should be related to content. For instance, in this post I do have a link to Rap Genius– which, given I’m writing about them specifically, makes reasonable sense, and shouldn’t be seen as a way to artificially boost their credibility.

Rap Genius is said to be working with Google in order to rectify the situation, but until then, currently only news stories about the site, and the company’s Facebook & Twitter profiles, are ranking for their #1 brand term.

Interestingly enough, Bing/Yahoo have not taken the same action, as Rap Genius still appears atop their search results.

Admittedly, working in display & SEM my whole life, I don’t necessarily have all the facts on how organic search operates, so if there’s anything anybody out there would like to add/correct, please let me know in the comments below.

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