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back to article Lyrics upstart Rap Genius blacklisted by Google for Justin Bieber SEO scam

Online lyrics site Rap Genius has been slapped down by Google after admitting trying to boost its search rankings by exchanging promotional tweets for hyperlinks from bloggers. On December 23, the lyrics site posted on Facebook that it was beginning a "Rap Genius blog affiliate" program. Blogger John Marbach got in touch and was …

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Not surprising. All SEO is attempting to blag Google into listing your site higher than it would if left to its own devices. While there's money involved, that will never change.

I don't often say nice things about Google, but -credit where it's due- they are putting in the effort and trying hard to weed out the crap.

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However

If Google had their own lyric site, the EU would be investigating about now.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing is worse than when caught the party tries to justify it and say see, others are doing bad things too.

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"Nothing is worse than when caught the party tries to justify it and say see, others are doing bad things too."

The best response is "Thanks for that information. They're now blacklisted too"

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Just like my ISP (Brighthouse) says when I complain that their DNS ads-instead-of-not-resolving breaks my SAMBA setup. Unfortunately everybody else does it too, except Google.

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Brighthouse?! Does the monthly fee get broken down into smaller 'more manageable' payments that end up costing you 50% more? :-)

Anyway, yeah, returning a wildcard instead of NX is yucky, but if any changes to the external domain system can affect your internal stuff, you have a badly setup system! - both for reliability and security reasons...

Still, just run your own dns server, and skip the ISP altogether...

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Facepalm

The geniusing remains the same

The company's founders also included links to other lyrics sites that they claim also breach Google's terms and conditions.

"Damn, looks up we F'ed up pretty bad this time, eh? Hey, here's an idea: let's start finger-pointing other sites and accuse them of some unspecified 'stuff' that's purportedly even worse than what we were caught doing. That's sure to gather favor with Google and our readership!"

Really, the geniusing just keeps coming at Rap Genius...

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Re: The geniusing remains the same

Perhaps they're doing a public service if the net result is that it helps Google remove even more crap.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The geniusing remains the same

Perhaps they're doing a public service if the net result is that it helps Google remove even more crap.

Sure, but like will.I.am driving past a curve on the hills and toppling himself into the sea, while the net result would certainly be positive for mankind, I doubt it would be either intentional or provide much personal gain.

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when teenage girls searched for the deep meaning in the androgynous Canadian pop star's lyrics

Surely that should result in an empty page of results?

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Anonymous Coward

good!

it is good that these guys were caught with their pants around their ankles... if only all the others would be caught too... playing the search engines is akin to playing the stock market which amounts to manipulation... fork'em all and let's get back to reality and showing what is really and truly out there without all the male bovine fecal material...

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"Androgynous"??

"when teenage girls searched for the deep meaning in the androgynous Canadian pop star's lyrics,"

Androgynous? Certainly not - she's a lady through and through!

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I hate to break it to you

I work(ed) in the advertising and digital agency business and I don't see anything wrong with what they did (so long as the blog post by the bloggers do include some blurb about bieber).

This is standard practise SEO pretty much any company big or small would do. The big ones (basically any big brands) usually comes in the form of some free benefit to well known (usually global) charity or sponsorship in exchange for a link on said charity site with a blurb.

Those of you who don't know what actually goes on in companies and agencies (or the world) might be shocked at such revelations but I think Google is being too draconian, heck even the agencies themselves usually put their own link into the footer of sites as a credit link for SEO (and referral) purposes. Thing is the SEO "industry" will exist whether you like it or not, this particular event isn't even at the level of a "black hat" SEO.

Some of the comments here baffles me since such practises has gone on for longer than a decade. I guess the only real difference in this case is their reliance on non-trusted third parties, but other than that seriously, there is no difference. I'm willing to bet 80%+ of Google's first page ranks have done something similar perhaps in a different form. This is literally just akin to a link exchange and it's common(ness) dates back to the 90s.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

@02X7Cm

"This is standard practise SEO pretty much any company big or small would do"

Obviosuly you werent very good at your job. The results of what these guys did is well known and very well documented.

Anyone clamining to have anythign to do with SEO knows this extremely well.

As far as I am aware, only scammers build a network of backlinks like this for their customers.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

"I work(ed) in the advertising and digital agency business and I don't see anything wrong with what they did (so long as the blog post by the bloggers do include some blurb about bieber)."

So... a spammer dpoesn't see what's wrong with spamming.

Yeah, ok. That's credible....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate to break it to you

>This is standard practise SEO pretty much any company big or small would do.

This regrettably truer than I'd like but it doesn't mean it's effective. This is bad SEO. It's one step away from link farming and it's long been known that Google take a very dim view of this sort of behaviour.

Anyone who suggests that it does work is either an idiot or a charlatan.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

You're part of the problem then, you Internet polluting whore. This just means that honest operators who "optimize" by choosing their keywords carefully for the content on their sites and have legitimate reciprocal links, are buried in the crap that people like you promote.

Google will do their best to mitigate this behaviour, whether YOU like it or not.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

>>"As far as I am aware, only scammers build a network of backlinks like this for their customers."

In the early days of Google, this was standard and open practice. I didn't know anything had changed. My first reaction to this story was "isn't that normal?"

I'm surprised at the 11 downvotes of the GP. I'm think what they say *is* normal behaviour.

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Facepalm

Re: I hate to break it to you

Actually having looked into this particular case, I agree they should be punished, on first read, where the article wrote "that such quid-pro-quo arrangements were only for blogs that posted relevant articles". That bit caused me to think it was the normal practise.

But looking into the actual content that company sent to the bloggers, it actually made no mention of putting in relevant content.

So I blame the statement in the artcle. My view on link building still stands though, the key part is you must have relevant content.

This isn't bad SEO, it's done because it works by utilising the PageRank "pollination" system Google has and because pretty much everyone does it, the "natural" order is arguably preserved except for small portals that are run by people who have no clue how the web works.

I won't waste my breath explaining more to people who are clueless, naive and are just looking for news to bash. But know that you are also bashing WWF, RSPCA, Greenpeace (or basically all charities with reputation) and conglomerates like P&G (and all their brands underneath) as much as every advertising agency in existence, even social media sites like Facebook and ironically Google itself.

I'm not justifying the practise's morality, that's for others to discuss, but you can't stop it - full stop. No matter how hard Google or anyone tries. As I said - in this case the company used bloggers, the bigger companies would use charities or even the press - and it's basically the same thing. Discuss or hate to your heart's content, link building is a SEO practise you can't stop.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

@Gordon Pryra

Sounds to me that you're one of those that aren't actually aware of much on the internet and either have nothing to do with any industry connected to the internet or you're actually quite incapable at your job but thinks otherwise.

You have no idea what my job is, nor have I mentioned it anywhere and you assume my job was spamming or somehow involved in doing such acts? I hate to use the word troll but that's what you seems like to me.

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Just to add more perspective

I don't know why people don't even see this, but those affliates programs web hosting companies and even the likes of Amazon do, they're the same quid-pro-quo link building exercise.

Often those affiliate links don't contain desciptive blurbs or included in relevant contents either, and it is another classic SEO exercise as it boost page ranks and is targeted mainly towards bloggers and forum posters.

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Re: I hate to break it to you

This is not legitimate SEO you are describing.

There are legitimate SEO practices. There's simply the technical optimisation, i.e. robots, sitemaps, and there's growth, which involves directing searches towards relevant info that wasn't there before. My blues harmonica blog was turning up in people's search results for folk harmonica, so I wrote an introduction to folk, and it boosted my rank. This is the kind of thing Google wants you to do.

Google's whole business depends on the strength of their algorithm. If Google doesn't return good results, then people will not advertise with them.

If it is possible for a website to seem to Google to be more relevant than it actually is in reality, then eventually Google will block that site, and will find a way to detect these hacks automatically. This is not draconian, this is protecting their business interests.

Search engines just used to count words. Then some bright spark decided that simply writing the word a million times in an invisible coloured text would trick the engines. If this had been left alone, the top results would all be those sites whose owners had more words. The same happened with inbound links. People just made millions of duplicate sites all pointing to theirs. This had to be written out of the algorithm.

If this Bieber spam scam had not been corrected, Google's web results quality would have been ruined again.

Get a real job, not one where you're paid to fool a robot into thinking your information is important. Here's a novel idea, why not just produce important information?

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Mushroom

Re: I hate to break it to you

WWF, RSPCA, Greenpeace (or basically all charities with reputation)........

.

ha ha ha ha haaaaa haaaa haaaaaaaa.........

.

RSPCA...ha ha haaaa...Greenpeace......ha ha ha ha haaaa...

.

Sorry thought you were joking for a minute then, you're being serious.

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> Nothing is worse than when caught the party tries to justify it and say see, others are doing bad things too.

being kicked in the nuts is worse

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SEO is harmful to society

The world wide web is incomprehensibly huge, and we all rely on it to some extent.

The purpose of a search engine is to allow ordinary people to find what they want in this vast forest of irrelevant crap. In so doing they assist commerce by enabling the natural forces of supply and demand to work their magic. This is good for the economy, and good for the consumer.

Anything that acts to deliberately pervert this process is on the same ethical level as false advertising, and deserves to be punished.

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Re: SEO is harmful to society

The problem is, how do you determine what is and isn't relevant information? You may be searching on something to do with petrol and all you get are green activist information saying how bad it is for the environment. Now that is and isn't relevant, depending on your position.

Are you stating that it is completely wrong to ensure that your results are indexed as high up as possible? If so, why do Google publish what you must to to ensure a decent ranking?

TBH, it is a mess that is going to only get worse. Short of paying for your own 'walled garden (see other comment) where you pick an area you are happy to reside in, how is it going to ever get better?

Google are as much to blame for this as anyone. They have the control and started advertising on the search results. This 'officially' 'underlined the whole idea of search results and rankings.

Your best bet is to mix your search engines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Advertising and marketting are harmful to society

There, I fixed it for you.

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Surely this monster was created by Google?

First off, this kind of practice makes me grind my teeth in rage. However...let me get this straight.

Google sets terms and conditions on search rankings. So this isn't really a web search engine, it is more a portal. Whatever they do, this will always happen - human nature. You have a business that is helped or based on rankings, then you will do what you need to to get it up the list.

Google are increasingly more like a walled garden, with a door in this instance. The internet will become factioned(?) in a decade. You wait and see...Hotel California anyone?.

(for the record, SEO is rife online where small businesses see it as sink or swim. I hate it, I hate the way searches are becoming harder for relevant information as more and more information is recycled. There will come a point were you will rely more on Wikipedia than doing your own search online. By that time, libraries will have disappeared and getting access to proper researched, provable references will become like gold dust. Maybe this is all bollocks, but it is a great premise for a fictional novel at least.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surely this monster was created by Google?

"The internet will become factioned(?) in a decade. "

Less than that, maybe. "There's an app for that" means the web is basically on the way out and walled gardens are the way of the future. Who will benefit? Not the punters.

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Anonymous Coward

Does SEO even work?

I just assumed by now either that everyone knows the basics, so everyone's even again, or that google and therefore its alternative skin - bing - just tweak the algorithm every month or so.

Isn't SEO a complete waste of money?

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Re: Does SEO even work?

"Does SEO even work?"

Yes, and noticably as well. The name may be confusing, "search engine optimization". It should probably be seen more are a way to tell the search engines exactly what your site is and what parts of your site are important.

Trying to game the SE's is easy to spot, and always hurts the site in the end.

The main reason these practises are used by the bigger sites is down to idiots working in "Nue Media", generally technically challanged getting sweet talked by the "SEO Gurus" selling snake oil.

Smaller sites using black hat methods only expect to exist a few days/weeks, they dont give a toss about being booted from the index.

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Facepalm

Re: Does SEO even work?

"Trying to game the SE's is easy to spot, and always hurts the site in the end."

Whilst you are "correct" in saying there are plenty of "SEO guru" selling snake oil around but sorry, you have no clue what you're talking about. SEO is done by every internet company in existence (Dropbox, Twitter, Flickr, Yahoo, Google, you name it, they've done it) plus companies who hires digital/advertising agencies to make their presence online.

At least 80%+ of sites on Google's first page would've done SEO, and I'm being conservative.

Anyone who's technically capable and been working on the internet since the 90s will be able to tell you that.

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Are we thinking about this the wrong way around?

Why not just remove Justin Bieber from the internet?

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404
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Re: Are we thinking about this the wrong way around?

+1

Liability issues - I'm convinced Bieber and Miley Cyrus are the same person....

:|

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Re: Block Canada (was: Are we thinking about this the wrong way around?)

Why not just remove Justin Bieber from the internet?

Still only a reactive, temporary solution. Next year or so there will be another sexually dubious Canadian teenage doing the rounds, and we'll be stuck all the same.

What we oughta do is to block Canada!

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Re: Block Canada (was: Are we thinking about this the wrong way around?)

You lot do all realise that you've turned into your parents, don't you?

"Youth of today.. *mutter* that's not music *mutter mutter* why does he look like that *mutter tut*"

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At least they got one good link...

...from The Register.

PR8 for the TheReg's domain. Nice link. And no doubt they'll get a few more from other news sites, so in a strange way they've actually got some really strong links from their negative blacklisting. Might take a few months to get back in Google's good books, but it's not the end of the road.

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They just flipped the coin and changed the game

Now instead of 'How do we get our rankings higher?' it's just become 'How can we blacklist the other sites?'

I'm guessing it'll shift the game to insert bogey links in other sites; then a swift report to Google (Sir! Sir! Have you seen what Smithy has done?) and one less competitor to out rank you

Looks like a short time of blacklisting fun can make a difference to revenues

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How about blacklisting every lyric site that has a pop-up inviting me to send a song to my "cell" as a ringtone? I thought the ringtone industry died in about 2005 with the advent of phones that can use MP3s, but it looks like they haven't quite gone away.

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Copyright breach anyway?

Aren't all modern songs lyrics web sites publishing someone's copyrighted text without authorisation?

I mean, yes, I use 'em, and I use Google to find 'em, but, still.

They also very often have wrong lyrics, but I don't think that's a defence.

And, chances are, they have a page for the lyrics of "Bob The Builder" that says, "If you know the lyrics of Bob The Builder, please type them in for us here." Or, if not Bob The Builder, then some other song that you were looking up.

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Anonymous Coward

Embarrassing

Did anyone click the link and read the emails?

"Yooo waddup!"

"if you have a dope post that you would like us to tweet out - get you MASSIVE traffic"

Mahbod Moghadam (owner of Rap Genius) is a ****ing loser.

Who would consciously send an email (which concerns business) written like that?

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Gav

Re: Embarrassing

What do you mean? I frequently get business correspondence that concludes

"I will send that shit out it will bloooowwwww up!"

Corporate speak can take many forms, and this is the "I'm running my business like we're keeping it real in a street gang, blud" form.

You just know Mahbod Moghadam has board meetings in his hoodie, and his nike shod feet up on on the table, don't you?

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

"Rap Genius" and Bieber in one story equals two losers.

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