Around 9pm on Xmas Eve Eve, an article titled “RapGenius Growth Hack Exposed” started trending on Hacker News.

100 or so comments later, the discussion quickly changed from “growth hacking” to “black hatting” after Matt Cutts chimed in with a comment:

matt cutts hackernews rap genius

Mr. Cutts was so moved by this that he decided to Tweet about it as well, being sure to mention @RapGenius in the Tweet as well:

matt cutts twitter rap genius

Note: Cached version of original post can be found here or image snapshot here

Immediately after this, RapGenuis Tweeted the following (which was later deleted):

[quote] “@jasonjm75 @randfish feel stupid in retrospect – gonna stop – but I hope Google revisits how ALL lyrics sites do SEO! our competition is… doing some ULTRA shady stuff! I have no doubt in my mind that they pay for links “[/quote]

Rap Genius Openly Promoting Blackhat Tactics

The “growth hacking” industry is filled with very smart people, and a ton of them are seasoned SEO’s that know all about this little “trick.”  When someone “exposes” a growth hack of a big brand, everyone’s ears perk up.

After reading about 25% of the article I immediately face-palmed and knew that this was just another black hat tactic being used to gain an edge in the SERPs.

Essentially, Rap Genius is offering to Tweet a post out to their 100k users in exchange for a snippet of code (read: links) to be placed in the blog post that is tweeted.  Make sense?

RapGenius fessed up to this in their Tweet (now deleted) and also told on their competitors stating that they did “ULTRA shady stuff” and “payed for links.”

That is what I call “the captain taking the crew down with the boat.”

The irony of this story is that Tom Harari, a very knowledgeable SEO who works for i Acquire wrote an amazing post about RapGenius at Moz on how he would do their SEO if he had the chance.

Google Taking No Prisoners

I’m now starting to lose track of how many people Cutts is outing and personally going after for openly using methods against Google Webmaster Guidelines.

For the past few weeks, Matt Cutts has been targeting several link brokers attempting to openly violate their guidelines.

It is clear that Google (and whatever PR they are employing) is making it clear to everyone that these sort of tactics will not be tolerated.

Manual Action in RapGenius Future?

If I understand Google correctly, Mr. Cutts will send this “case” to the manual review team, they will see that they have been using tactics outside of their guidelines, and apply one or more actions to their site.

From their, RapGenius will need to go the route of link removal in the same way they gained these links in the first place: by sending out emails

Lesson: Don’t Be So Blatantly Obvious With Your Blackhat?

No, not the lesson. Of course the lesson in all of this is to follow Google’s very simple webmaster guidelines and not employ blackhat methods.

On the same token, lots of black hats are saying something like “How could they be so blatantly cocky as to openly promote this blackhat technique.”

And that is one of the main reasons why these people will receive a harsh penalty.  You don’t see Matt Cutts tweeting about people he is investigating in his spare time.  He is publicly shaming the people that are publicly promoting their blackhat methods.

Some might say these people deserve it, especially because they are so openly violating guidelines that the rest of us are following.

RapGenius is currently ranking for all sorts of juicy keywords, including the major-money Justin Bieber ones from his new album.

Update Noon Est. December 24

RapGenius posted an “open letter to Google” a few hours ago in retaliation to all of the comments over the past 12 hours.

(mirrored copy on Pastebin)

In my opinion, they knew they screwed up and are now begging for mercy.

This was a huge justification again placing blame on the fact that they were not aware or did not know what Google’s guidelines were.

They briefly mentioned an apology and owned up to what they did, the other 90% of the article was basically them justifying their behavior.

This I find extremely hard to believe, especially with how well funded and connected these people were.  Sure, some of the founders might have been ignorant to this fact but I am sure multiple people in their organization knew this was not ok.

For now, their rankings are in tact (we are monitoring them closely) and no action has been taken that we are aware of.

Let’s all stay tuned to see what happens to RapGenius, their fate and their rankings.

Update Noon December 25

RapGenius has received a penalty from Google.  Check out our full writeup on the post here: