The tl;dr version of the tale: Rap Genius was found to be running a super-spammy “affiliate program” to trade inbound links to Rap Genius for promotional tweets from Rap Genius. It was so shady that when Google got wind of it, the search engine pretty much de-indexed all Rap Genius pages.
And now, the startup’s founders are back in the (hopefully above-board) SEO game and are showcasing their contrition:
“The dubious-sounding ‘Rap Genius blog affiliate program,’ the self-parodic used car salesman tone of the email to John, the lack of any discretion in the targeting of a partner – this all looked really bad. And it was really bad: a lazy and likely ineffective strategy, so over-the-top in its obviousness that it was practically begging for a response from Google.
“We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked.”
As penance, Rap Genius had to find all the inbound links they could, figure out which “unnatural” or suspicious sites were involved in the link-building scheme, and cross reference the two lists to home in on the spam links.
Rap Genius also developed a “scraper” in Ruby to help with parsing the lists. And a Whois scraper to get contact info for unsolicited inbound links. And use Google’s disavowal tool.
Then, the fun part: Rap Genius had to email several hundred bloggers and webmasters to get the spammy links removed.
Kids these days. Rap Genius stayed top-of-mind for our staff writers all last year, but for all the wrong reasons. Maybe the founders should spend some time annotating the Mary J. Blige hit “No More Drama.”