Rap Genius Returns to Google with an Apology

"It takes a few days for things to return to normal, but we're officially back!," says the recently exiled lyrics crew. Sure enough, RG links are popping back up on Google, and the foot-in-mouth Yalie founders say they're "sorry for being such morons."

The news comes as part of a long, detailed post about the company's SEO practices (and abuses), chronicling how the group basically tried more and more daring ways to manipulate search results to their advantage. It worked, until it went too far:

We regret our foray into irrelevant unnatural linking. We're focused on building the best site in the world for understanding lyrics, poetry, and prose and watching it naturally rise to the top of the search results.

It also looks like the startup learned a lesson about being entirely dependent on Google:

Though Google is an extremely important part of helping people discover and navigate Rap Genius, we hope that this ordeal will make fans see that Rap Genius is more than a Google-access-only website. The only way to fully appreciate and benefit from Rap Genius is to sign up for an accountand use Rap Genius – not as a substitute for Wikipedia or lyrics sites, but as a social network where curious and intelligent people gather to socialize and engage in close reading of text.

Perhaps most interestingly, the mea culpa is particularly hard on Mahbod Moghadam, who you might remember as the Rap Genius co-founder who told Mark Zuckerberg to suck his dick and then blamed it on a brain tumor. The group explanation on the site serves as a public chiding for Maghadam, too. Referring to the "blog affiliate" program that finally got Rap Genius busted, the group says the following:

It started when John Marbach wrote to Mahbod to ask him about the details of the "Rap Genius blog affiliate program" (a recent Mahbod coinage)

[...]

Mahbod wrote back, and without asking what kind of blog John had or anything about the content of the post he intended to write, gave him the HTML of the tracklist of Bieber's new album and asked him to link it. In return, he offered to tweet exactly what John wanted and promised "MASSIVE traffic" to his site.

The dubious-sounding "Rap Genius blog affiliate program", the self-parodic used car salesman tone of the email to John, the lack of any discretion in the targeting of a partner – this all looked really bad. And it was really bad: a lazy and likely ineffective "strategy", so over-the-top in its obviousness that it was practically begging for a response from Google.

The whole thing is basically pinned on Mahbod. We imagine Google will be keeping its all-seeing eye on the site in the meantime, and Mahbod will have some uncomfortable words with his colleagues and investors.