Link Building Lessons From RapGenius’ Google Penalty
It has been nearly 2 years since the initial release of Google Penguin, and SEOs and webmasters still try to buy links with the hopes they won’t get caught. Google’s Penguin algorithm scours the web for links, evaluates those links against an unknown algorithm and penalizes webmasters thought to have participated in link schemes. Google is infamous for penalizing even big companies. The latest penalized company is RapGenius, an online music lyrics site.
RapGenius’ Link Scheme
RapGenius is in an extremely competitive market (song lyrics) and attempted to acquire links through an apparent affiliate network. The company announced it through Facebook, but when users inquired about the opportunity, they were given a list of links to post to their site in exchange for promotion through RapGenius’ Twitter account. This type of link exchange is against Google’s guidelines.
Because RapGenius didn’t bother to create any type of variance between links and anchor text, SEO news outlets quickly picked up on the link scheme. Unfortunately, targeting a specific set of keyword phrases and anchor text is easily detectable by Google, and it wasn’t long before Google slapped a penalty on the lyrics site.
Finding Link Spammers
RapGenius’ mistake was that they targeted the same anchor text on all sites and pointed all links to the same internal pages. The tactic creates an obvious link pattern, and Google took action on the site on Christmas Day. The end result was a tremendous loss of traffic. Even queries for the term “rap genius” didn’t turn up links for the company website.
Some SEO providers perform link spam campaigns in an effort to rank a site, and it’s up to the site owner to find and address the issue. The best way to find link spam is using tools such as MajesticSEO or Ahrefs. If you drill down into RapGenius backlink anchor text, you’ll notice the same text across several sites. If you’re ever unsure of your SEO’s tactics or want to check up on your own backlinks, you can use these tools to find poor quality backlinks pointing to your site.
The Effect of Google’s Demotion
Most people hear stories of traffic loss after a Google penalty, but RapGenius gave watchers the ability to view statistics for a popular site that receives manual penalties. RapGenius is verified with Quantcast, so users could search for the RapGenius domain on Quantcast and view traffic statistics. Looking at Quantcast’s graph, you can see that the company lost over half its visitors after the official penalty was applied.
For small businesses, a Google penalty can be the end of online revenue. For this reason, small business owners should take note of the devastating loss in traffic when links are purchased. Buying links in an effort to manipulate Google’s ranking algorithms can have a tremendous effect on online revenue, so avoid shady link schemes or artificial PageRank (PR) tactics.
To avoid a manual penalty on your site, don’t participate in link schemes including article marketing, link wheels, automated blog comments and forum profiles. While some of these tactics were commonly used before Penguin, they can have a huge impact on your search traffic if your site is picked up by algorithm filters.
Google’s guidelines tell you to naturally earn links through great content and good user interaction. Avoid getting caught up with all the poor SEO advice and focus your efforts on content and building your own site’s quality. The results are better than short-term effects generated by search engine spam.