Rap Genius, a site that annotates song lyrics and other texts, just posted an open letter to Google after getting called out for shady link soliciting.
In a blog post, web entrepreneur John Marbach exposed how the company was asking blogs to link to the Rap Genius pages of Justin Bieber lyrics in exchange for social media shout-outs.
It’s an old SEO trick: Rap Genius wants to be the first site that pops up when you search for lyrics, so — to improve its search ranking — it needs to get links to the Rap Genius pages for popular tracks on personal blogs.
Rap Genius provided a list of links for blogs to use in exchange for a social media mention. If a blog literally plopped those links at the end of one of its articles without context, instead of in conjunction with a relevant article, the linking is known as “unnatural.” Soliciting unnatural links violates Google’s linking policy.
Rap Genius confessed that it’s requests did spawn unnatural linking and that it would be asking site owners to take down links to Rap Genius that didn’t fit well with their editorial content.
In its explanation, though, Rap Genius heavily stresses that it isn’t the only lyrics site that’s guilty of gaming Google.
The founders write:
“We effed up, other lyrics sites are almost definitely doing worse stuff, and we’ll stop. We’d love for Google to take a closer look at the whole lyrics search landscape and see whether it can make changes that would improve lyric search results.”