For many people who don’t normally listen to rap music, the first time they ever heard of Rap Genius was when it popped up on news sites across the web in December 2013.
The site that quickly became one of the top lyric sites online since it’s launch in 2009 became infamous after Google took it off its search pages.
Unethical Link Building Slapped by Google
Google discovered that the site was using unethical link building tactics to get their pages ranked on the search engine.
Sites of Rap Genius’ size and stature rarely face penalties like these, but when they do the results can be costly for them but informative for the rest of us.
Looking at what happened to Rap Genius can help all of us learn how to build links ethically.
The lyrics site was taken down because of an affiliate program that was actually a link trading scheme. The site offered to point Twitter followers to blogs who linked to their lyric pages. They went as far as specifying the exact text they wanted used in links to their site.
This sort of link trading is explicitly forbidden by Google’s rules and regulations, and so the site faced a hefty punishment.
Google Wants Organic Links
As someone who runs or promotes websites, you have to understand that Google wants organic links. This means people who link to your site because they like what it has to offer, not because you offered them something in return. The history of Google is filled with people who have tried to game the system by buying and trading links.
Google is constantly updating its search engine to punish people who engage in these sort of tactics, known as black hat SEO among experts.
Unnatural Website Promotion Strategies
The tactics that the Rap Genius team used surprised many people because of their sheer audacity. The text used to link to a page is called “anchor text,” and when it comes to most popular pages the anchor text is extremely varied. After all, if you ask ten people to describe a page in a few words you’ll probably get ten different answers.
These sort of unnatural promotion strategies lead to link profiles that include an unusual number of repeats. This is one of the things that Google’s search algorithm is programed to detect. Even if you’re not engaged in buying or trading links you should check your link profile to make sure that it doesn’t look unnatural.
You Need a Varied Link Profile
No matter how you look for links, the first thing you should take from this is that you need a varied link profile. This means links from a wide number of sites, using all types of anchor text. The best way to do this is by creating a website that people will want to share with their friends and followers.
In the end Google is in charge and if you want to buy links you should try Google Adwords.
Ethical Website Promotion is Key
This latest news is a reminder that ethical website promotion is key when it comes to lasting success. Black hat SEO tactics can lead to short term results but when Google catches on the punishment can be serious. With that said as of January 4th Rap Genius is back on Google after a public apology and a lot of deleted links.
The moral seems to be that while you should always promote your site according to Google’s rules, being punished by them doesn’t necessarily have to be the last word for your site. Still, you should remember this story going forward unless you want to risk everything you put into your site on a temporary ranking.
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