Takeaways from Google’s Rap Genius slapdown

Before I dive back into our big product revamp. I would like to write down takeaways from a notable recent startup news item.

RapGenius traffic goes down 80% after it got caught doing black hat SEO.

Oops is the word. Rapgenius is a music lyrics site that features an annotation tool to attach interpretation of specific lyrical lines. It got caught soliciting links which is a violation of Google’s TOS hence a Black hat SEO technique which costs you a major ranking penalty in search results usually from 1st page to past 6th page results which only old Uncles clicks through. Takeaways:

  1. Do not mind that its founders talk in a very weird bro/hiphop/gangsta wannabe fashion – it does not matter. :)
  2. There is a thin line between growth hacking and black hat SEO so only do them when you are in Google top 10 Ad spenders like Expedia.
  3. Be careful with building a startup that have too many dependencies. Rap Genius has a lot. Copyrighted content from labels and artist, Google Search for traffic, Breakout hit songs for traffic spikes, interesting interpretation from smart users (this is their unique user-generated content which cannot exist without being attached to a lyric.)
  4. Personally, i like the product – I use Rock Genius (alongside SongMeanings.com) so I would not count them out yet.
  5. Obviously the response to this would be to build their iOS and Android app quadruple times faster (surprising to see they don’t have them yet) and playing nice-r with Google going forward.