Just over a year after an investment of $15 million propelled Rap Genius into a meteoric rise in popularity, Google ensured that the young company closed out 2013 with an equally astounding crash back down to earth.
After discovering that Rap Genius was manipulating the system of search rankings through its "blog affiliate" program, Google banished the lyrical-annotation site from the top of its search results. This rendered the young company virtually nonexistent to music fans who would otherwise yield results from Rap Genius' page when searching the lyrics of a favorite song.
With no revenue and dependency on much of the traffic Google search directs towards their site, which ultimately drives success, the three cofounders of Rap Genius have an important question to consider: What the f*ck do we do now!?
Being shunned from Google's top search pages is like a nail to a coffin that gets screwed deeper with every passing minute. Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory know this, which is likely to be the reason the three wasted no time in writing an open letter of explanation and apology to Google, prefaced by this statement:
"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."
The founders then went on to explain what it is they did wrong and set the record straight on what it is they didn't do. They didn't sign off, however, without one last attempt at dragging their competitors' names right through the mud with them.
"PS: With limited tools (Open Site Explorer), we found some suspicious backlinks to some of our competitors (CLICK FOR DETAILS)," the letter read, before providing links that cite the "wrongdoings" of other lyrics sites.
If the efforts of Rap Genius seem a little desperate, particularly the shameless finger-pointing, it's because they are and rightly so. If there's one thing that Google has shown over the years, it's that it can be ruthless when it wants to.
When J.C. Penny was manipulating its own search rankings back in 2011, to a much larger degree than Rap Genius, Google practically wiped the company off the search engine map, as well. The department store's main site was banished to the later pages of the Google search engine, on occasions when it would otherwise show up first.
BMW was given what BBC called the "death penalty," as it was completely erased from Google searches when the German company was caught using shady tactics to redirect traffic to its site.
Even smaller companies can't hide from the tech giant's wrath. Mark Stevens, a link-selling specialist who aids companies in maneuvering their way to the top of search engines, says once his company came to Google's attention, it was put to the sword, as well.
“Literally, you typed the name of the company into the search box and we did not turn up," Steven told the Times. "Anywhere. You’d find us if you knew our Web address. But in terms of search, we just disappeared.”
So, what is there for Rap Genius to do, you ask? With its search rankings falling off a cliff, it's all about reconciling with Google and doing so quickly, avoiding suffering too much damage.
Judging by a statement given to Tech Crunch, it appears as if the startup is well on its way to doing so:
"We are working with Google right now to resolve this," the statement from Rap Genius read. "They’ve been really great, helping us identify changes we need to make, even on Christmas. We’re working on it as fast as we can, and expect to be back on Google very soon."
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