Rap Genius

Rap Genius & Google: Why White Hat is Good and Black Hat is Bad

If you hadn’t heard the news, lyrics site Rap Genius got hit with a manual penalty from Google for encouraging bloggers to link-swap.  This has been a pretty textbook example of Black Hat SEO for a while now, and it seemed that Rap Genius was simply begging to be made an example of. And they were. After Matt Cutts caught wind of some of their practices, it wasn’t long before a manual penalty smacked Rap Genius back to the 6th page, even for searches specific to their brand.

Black Hat SEO Does Not Work

It’s a mistake a lot of business owners make when looking for SEO services.  Inevitably, someone, somewhere, will make some astounding promise, or advertise that they can get you to the top of Google overnight.  And do you know what?  They probably can, actually.  They’ve probably discovered some crazy loophole or exploit that can make your rankings soar.  But it’s not going to stay a secret.  If SEO history shows us anything, it’s that clever spammers will find a way to manipulate rankings, and it works for a very short period of time.  Google will eventually update their algorithm, and the game changes.  It’s an arms race that any good business owner would do well to stay away from, as it is very hard to come back from this type of penalty.

White Hat SEO Does Work

It’s not hard to play by Google’s rules, even when their rules are constantly changing.  It may seem trite, but if you want to rank well, you need to have good content.

Good content is:

  • No spam
  • No blatant link-swapping schemes with bloggers
  • Written by a human, for a human… not a robotic essay that could’ve been written by a script with a few keywords plugged in

Good content is lots of things, but to reappropriate Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote: “you’ll know it when you see it.”

White Hat Moving Forward

A good rule of thumb when creating content for a website is to provide value.  If your blog or article offers an answer to a tricky question or serves as a quick reference guide to a common problem, people will like it.

Answer questions for people, and the rankings (and traffic!) will follow.

And as for Rap Genius?  Well, they actually got around to scouring their backlink profile and cleansing it of spammy links using some pretty clever tactics with Google’s Link Disavow tool.  It’s nice to see that they were able to recover, but many small businesses may not be able to survive the kind of traffic hit they took.  So keep them in mind before you sign on to any shady SEO deals… when dealing with Black Hat and Google penalties, it’s less of an “if” and more of a “when.”