The world of SEO has been buzzing with chatter, following popular lyrics website, Rap Genius’ relegation from the first page of Google search results, including their own brand name ‘rap genius’.

In addition to the hit on the brand name, the site was banned from Google for 10 days over the festive period for many key terms, resulting in an 80% drop in daily traffic.The debauchery that incurred the wrath of the world’s most powerful search engine was a black-hat plan involving bloggers. ‘Surely a blogger outreach strategy is the done thing in online marketing these days?’ you ask.

Of course, if executed correctly. Unfortunately, the company opted for a route that has become increasingly frowned upon by Google and SEO experts alike…. bribery.

Bloggers were offered a chance to join the ‘Rap Genius Blog Affiliate’ programme. All bloggers had to do was write a post (it didn’t have to be related or relevant) and include a link back to rapgenius.com and the favour was rewarded with a tweet of a link to their blog content from the Rap Genius Twitter account and the promise of ‘MASSIVE TRAFFIC’.

Not a bad coup for bloggers from a leading site with thousands of followers. There was no editorial process and blog content contained links to highly searched for, but completely irrelevant, Rap Genius pages.

It is the lack of quality control, regarding the content that they were associated with that has caused them to fall out of favour with the world’s most powerful search engine. The lyrics website ignored guidance from Google; Rap Genius’ naughty online antics were no different to that of many smaller websites hit with penalties, so the general opinion is that it was right that they faced the wrath of Google.

Some argue that obliterating Rap Genius’ rankings altogether was a step too far. We see it as a lesson learned and it would appear, so does the popular lyrics website. Google has certainly made an example of the company, by sending out two very clear messages 1) no one, whatever the size of the player, is exempt from a Google penalty and 2) conduct good SEO practice or action will be taken against your site.

Reactions to Google’s actions have been mixed. Rap Genius was honest and apologetic, regarding their questionable SEO practices, stating ‘To Google and our fans: we’re sorry for being such morons. We regret our foray into irrelevant, unnatural linking.’ This apology has gained the start-up company kudos in some circles, due to being upfront about their dubious strategy, as other, larger companies often play down similar behaviours and redress it through ‘outsourcing their SEO’.

Rap Genius have even written a blog post on their site, to explain the whole thing and have made good of a bad situation by explaining how the disavow i.e. clean-up process works, when you are trying to get a manual penalty removed. They even managed a cheeky plug for their iOS app at the end. They survived a Google penalty and are out of the SEO doghouse.

There is also little doubt that the controversy surrounding their ‘punishment’ has provided them with some much-appreciated PR and traffic, hey, even we’re writing about them!