Website Banished for Trying to Game Google Searches

Rhett Pardon

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — On Christmas Day, RapGenius.com pretty much disappeared from Google's search engine.

The reason? RapGenius.com was penalized by Google after acknowledging that it had violated the company’s rules regarding gaming the system and optimizing search results.

This recent story behind the exploits of RapGenius.com is a precautionary tale for any business or personality, including those who ply their trade in the adult entertainment industry.

RapGenius.com is a startup with $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz that provides translations of rap lyrics. For instance, if you're trying to figure out what Jay-Z is talking about in "99 Problems," for instance, RapGenius.com will spell it out. 

Google's search results are based on scores of factors, but at its most fundamental level, the engine measures how many other sites are linking to a site to determine where you should be in search rankings. 

RapGenius.com, apparently, had a plan to fudge a bit, asking people to add links to RapGenius.com pages on their sites.

But Google caught on and banished RapGenius.com.

Now, searching for the phrase "Rap Genius" won't bring up the website until the fifth page of a search.

You might get its Twitter page, its Wikipedia entry and its Facebook page, but you won't get a direct link to the website.  

RapGenius, whose operators are seeking peace with Google, earlier this week wrote an open letter of apology admitting that it had been inflating its Google traffic rankings by giving shout-outs on Twitter to bloggers in exchange for linking back to RapGenius.com.

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