Rap Genius Back After 10-Day Penalty

Jan 6, 2014 • 8:20 am | comments (35) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Rap Genius LogoOver Christmas, Rap Genius was penalized by Google for unnatural links. In short, they offered an exchange of traffic for keyword rich links to their site. It was outed, Google's Matt Cutts saw it, it lead to a manual action that had a serious impact on their traffic.

It lasted a total of ten-days and now Rap Genius is back in the search results. At least, when you do a search for their name in Google, [rap genius], their domain name is number one again.

Quantcast shows an increase in traffic to the site since the penalty was lifted on Saturday, will it go back to normal levels? Wait and see how the week goes. SearchMetrics doesn't show much of a traffic change yet but it may be too soon.

Would any other webmaster with such a penalty be able to get back so soon? Doubtful. :)

Rap Genius did lay it all out there and go through what led to the penalty, what they did wrong and the details, in very explicit terms. Plus, how they recovered, the steps they took, in detail. It is actually an excellent recovery post.

For more details on this story, see Techmeme.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Google On What To Do If You Can't Have 100% Unique Content


David Beart

01/06/2014 01:32 pm

It is absolutely ridiculous that well-known sites continue to bounce back from penalties while many of us have fought for months to recover our traffic. We have struggled since May 28th of 2013 when we received an unnatural linking penalty; though the penalty was lifted in August, we have not seen any change in our traffic. During this time we have removed thousands of inbound links to our site; removed content from our site that was not top notch, tracked down stolen content and improved our content. It seems it does matter what you do to get back in Google’s good books… but who you are!


01/06/2014 01:34 pm

We have added a reconsideration request on 2nd of December, but still no response, but how come they got so early response, and they got back from penalty.?

Stuart David

01/06/2014 01:49 pm

Because of the media attention on it, thought that would be obvious answer?

Alexander Hemedinger

01/06/2014 01:55 pm

10 days!?! Wow, who brown nosed there way to get that going? Honestly, that's ridiculous how a named site can be lifted so quickly in comparison to any one else's site.

Alexander Hemedinger

01/06/2014 02:16 pm

Didn't take Matt Cutts to be a guy who likes rap....


01/06/2014 02:22 pm

The two sites I've dealt with after getting this penalty recovered in under 2 weeks both of them and both were tiny sites. You sit down, do the work and tell Google about it as they suggest and generally it gets resolved quite quickly.


01/06/2014 03:16 pm

...the magic of being big enough and having contacts at Google.


01/06/2014 03:32 pm

Barry, I'm surprised you did not mention that Rap Genius founder Ilan Zechory was previously employed by Google as a project manager as was reported by Entrepreneur.com at http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230631 It's an important piece of the puzzle for everyone here to look at, especially when considering how a Google penalty was lifted so swiftly. We all know 10 days is not enough time to show an honest effort to remove unnatural links, submit a reconsideration request and have it reviewed/approved in lightening speed. What's the average wait time on reconsideration requests these days anyway? I thought it was about four weeks! This could very well be another classic example of preferential treatment when it comes to Google Search penalties.

David Beart

01/06/2014 03:58 pm

I would love to lay out all what we have done to get back in Google's good books however Google makes it impossible to contact them unless you have a penalty. In our disavow file we have explained why we disavowed each site (2,100 domains), times we asked for link/article removal, DMCA information, negative SEO links...etc. Though the penalty was removed 4 1/2 months ago, we are still not #1 for our own company name; this is despite 2,500 original articles. A lone Wikipedia page about a book written in 1925 surpasses us... that alone shows something is majorly wrong when it comes to revoked penalties.


01/06/2014 04:03 pm

they get ready to tell us about amazon penalty (about their 50 footer spammy links). So they what to show what they even forgiven one small webmaster! (not same level, isn't it?)


01/06/2014 04:04 pm

Barry didn't you make a post the other day saying Google want you to wait a couple of weeks before filing a request? I guess 10 days is now "a couple of weeks". At least we know

Barry Schwartz

01/06/2014 04:05 pm

After your first reconsideration request.


01/06/2014 04:06 pm

It was quite simple. I went through ALL of the sites linking to the target site and asked them to remove the link. I then documented EVERY link to the site and that I had mailed them, AND what the reply was. Any sites I didn't get a response from, I disavowed. Note: I was careful to NOT disavow or request good links were removed. Thats pretty much it. Disavowing everything doesn't work. Google want to see you putting in the effort to correct the issues, if you aren't going to do that, they aren't going to help you either. You need to make a genuine attempt to get the bad links removed and document it then send that documentation to Google.

David Beart

01/06/2014 04:15 pm

As mentioned Google revoked the penalty after 6 weeks... however our traffic has not changed a bit since then. Though officially the penalty was revoked, I believe it wasn't removed. We were #1 for our company name for 7 years... now we are passed by a single Wikipedia page... how can that be. A singe page should not be able to surpass a site with 2,500 original articles if content is indeed the key to a successful site.


01/06/2014 04:38 pm

after amazon spam, google stop hiding their double standards.


01/06/2014 04:41 pm

because this penalties are unliftable (main idea to make money for big G, but not for webmasters), unless you know some matt cutts. Remember how somebody from googlers tell us what their algorithms have "memory of site history"? You can get rid of bad links (disavow this links), but algorithms will be remember this forever. So, manual reconsideration requests is just one big cheat created especially to win time.


01/06/2014 04:43 pm

wikipedia is whitelisted. any spam not will harm this site (and google + coalition sites)

Oh Contraire

01/06/2014 05:25 pm

You contradict yourself so badly. First you say this: I went through ALL of the sites linking to the target site and asked them to remove the link. Then you say this: Note: I was careful to NOT disavow or request good links were removed. Also, David Beart said he did all that. He knows you need to put a proper effort in. That´s why he documented everything in the finest detail. You are telling someone how to do it when they have already done exactly what you say they should do. Another contradiction if you like!


01/06/2014 07:01 pm

Similar story here, took 4 weeks to get a response that the penalty was removed, that happened in November of 2012, we did not really see any positive impact from that but we were hit by Panda also. Probably a good chance you were hit by a combination of manual and algo penalties.

Josh Zehtabchi

01/06/2014 08:32 pm

The Internet: Learning from Politics since the NSA. What a joke.


01/06/2014 08:36 pm

yeah, soon will be guaranteed quick approvals for some $$$.

David Beart

01/06/2014 11:16 pm

One thing I want to point out to those that may read this post is we have spent considerable time and money trying to get back in Google's good books. What is beyond frustrating is all feedback we see that states an ‘algorithm penalty’ must still be attached to our site. Perhaps this is not the case… could it not be that Google notified us through GWT that the penalty was revoked, but that it never actually removed the penalty. Unfortunately there is no way to know as it is impossible to talk to someone at Google unless you have a penalty or have an inside source. This is beyond frustrating.

I think this right

01/07/2014 12:51 am

The manual action was not revoked, they overcame it with all the new links coming from websites reporting on the story.

Yo Mamma

01/07/2014 01:25 am

GO AWAY GOOGLE - Life withot you will be sooooo much better


01/07/2014 04:46 am

Isn't it obvious by now that Google does not want you in their "good books" but instead wants to increase your frustration to a level that will prompt you to join and spend in Adwords so that they make more money? Lyrics is a spam infested niche that Google can't make much money from. If you sell products or services, Google has Adwords for you and they reserve organics for their close friends and associates.

The Captain

01/07/2014 05:32 am

Most of Google's link penalty algos seems to be keyword specific, & you can overcome the penalty with enough awesome links. With all the attention they have been receiving & new natural back-links it makes sense that are popping up. Let's see if Google decides to smack them down again.


01/07/2014 07:30 am

Fair enough, but this was a manual penalty...so to overcome one of these you would need someone at Google to turn the switch back on!


01/07/2014 09:22 am

Sorry, I should have been more clear, I only removed/disavowed the bad links, been very selective to make sure all the bad links were removed. The reason this site recovered was it still had good links afterwards. If you remove/disavow the links that were keeping you ranking, then your ranking is naturally going to plummet. So if you've done that and your rankings aren't recovering, there is a very very good chance that the only reason your site was EVER ranking was because of the spammy link building. It just means that perhaps the links weren't the only thing wrong with your site that was preventing it from ranking. If you want help finding out what is wrong with it, post your site on the webmaster help forums. All the sites which had this problem and weren't recovering I've seen had other issues.


01/07/2014 11:03 am

If You had get unnatural linking penalty, it means you have got manual link penalty.. This will only revoke only by the Google to take manual action of penalty removal.. How much time it will be take it is depends into the Google end

Josh Zehtabchi

01/07/2014 07:45 pm

You mean having a founder that worked at Google... :)

The Captain

01/07/2014 08:26 pm

Maybe, or maybe not. Has anyone ever had a manual penalty & then received as much press and new awesome links as Rap Genius has. Perhaps the manual action program does not account for the kind of Viral media blitz that we saw with Rap Genius.

Shaun M.

01/07/2014 09:21 pm

agreed it's extremely frustrating as the most you'll get back is an AUTOMATED message stating there are no manual penalties, and no one knows if a real check is done to see if the penalty was actually removed (my assumption would be that there isn't). There are threads from the google webmaster forum that have been covered here that basically state that google knows when your site has been hit with an algorithmic penalty, so why not just share that information with us in webmaster tools. In our case we saw large drops that coincided with panda updates before it became a 10 day roll out or whatever it is now, so we can still make an assumption that we haven't done enough to recover from panda but we're really just guessing at this point.


01/08/2014 12:07 pm

Yes, could be..although I think in the RG case it is more a question of someone knowing someone that did the trick.


01/09/2014 10:05 am

You are Lucky Guy... But it is not possible in every case.

Spook SEO

02/02/2014 07:37 pm

Nice attention Barry, if you turn back when we see that Rap Genius got a penalty everyone was discussing that they are working on it what has caused them this penalty and they were more focused on the issues. It may be possible that when they get the penalty there was no Google update at that time and the reason of the penalty was just due to the links they made at that time or just in December. It is possible that they removed only recent links they made and the problem was only related to that like they made in December not the previous links and content.

blog comments powered by Disqus