Google has discovered that popular website Rap Genius has been using a  questionable tactic to get top search results rankings, and the tech giant has laid down a severe punishment. The lyrics annotation site now appears on the lower end of results after the company was discovered using a SEO spam trick, which is a big blow to its business model.

A report from Tech Crunch broke down the matter between Google and Rap Genius in an investigative report. Essentially, Rap Genius found a way to boost its search engine rankings thus making it one of the Web’s most visible properties. A simple search for a popular rap artist’s song normally would place the lyrics site on the first page of results. Now, Rap Genius doesn’t show up until much later in search hits now.

From Tech Crunch:

But earlier this week, Rap Genius invited bloggers to join its “Rap Genius Blog Affiliate” program. John Marbach , the founder of email filtering startup Glider, emailed in asking for details, and Rap Genius offerered to tweet links to his blog in exchange for him placing a series of links to Rap Genius’ Justin Bieber lyrics on his blog. The links were designed to trick Google into giving Rap Genius better result rankings on searches for lyrics to songs from Bieber’s new album — sure to be popular searches this season.

Marbach wrote a blog post that exposed Rap Genius’ growth tactic, which caught the eyes of Google’s Webspam team leader Matt Cutts who launched an investigation. Rap Genius says the SEO hack was widely used among similar websites and apologized to Google while requesting that all lyric sites be examined. The apology wasn’t enough and the damage to Rap Genius’ numbers could be lasting.

The founders of Rap Genius did have some good news however, as they’re working on a compromise with Google to restore some of the site’s former rankings. Google has yet to speak publicly on the new talks with Rap Genius.

Hit the next page to see John Marbach’s letter from Rap Genius’ Mahbod Moghadam that sparked the trouble for the site.

Photo: Tech Crunch

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