A Lesson in SEM: The Impact Of Rap Genius In Hip-Hop And On The Internet

Posted: January 23, 2014 by ericbernsen in Business, Features, Marketing, Music, News
Tags: , , , , ,

Everyone has moments when they are listening to their favorite song and are inclined to look up the lyrics. This applies even more so to listeners of hip-hop as many artists have deliveries that are not always easy to follow along with. As the Internet continues to evolve, plenty of websites have popped up that outline the lyrics of musicians from all genres. However, none have made the impact Rap Genius has since its inception in 2009 as they became not just the go-to lyrics website, but a source of discovery through user annotations/interpretations. The site relies on user-generated content through a ‘Wikipedia-like’ format in which contributors earn “IQ” points for well thought out explanations. Rap Genius has become a lyric encyclopedia not just for hip-hop, but many other musical genres as they recently expanded with the creation of News Genius, Rock Genius, and Poetry Genius. Whether you want to read an explanation of an outrageous Eminem line or if you need some help understanding a Robert Frost poem, Rap Genius prides itself on being your primary destination for cultural knowledge. And although the Rap Genius co-founders have run into some legal trouble due to their somewhat misguided SEO practices, the website received a $15 million investment from the Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz last year and are well-positioned to become a digital giant. 

If you work in the marketing department for any business or company, you are well-aware that SEO and SEM have become essential in order to maximize exposure for your brand and/or product. Through daily activity on social media platforms and delivering e-mail marketing campaigns, the click-through rates, number of unique visitors, and number of impressions for your website rise which yields successful results for digital marketers. However, Rap Genius crossed SEM boundaries recently as they “manipulated the system” by enticing people to post links on their individual blogs/websites. The website would post on Facebook and Twitter about their “Rap Genius Blog Affiliate” program, which invited people to contact the site in order to gain traffic on their blogs by linking to pages on Rap Genius. As the site inappropriately abused its authority, the offering from Rap Genius led to things getting out of hand and the website was temporarily blacklisted by Google.

After their digital time-out (which removed the website from appearing on the first page of Google search results), the Rap Genius founders posted an apology about their SEM mishap as they wrote out a detailed outline that described the origin of their SEO practices, how things spiraled out of control, and what they did in their attempt to get back in Google’s good graces. It was an informative piece and some people went as far as saying that the controversy helped the website as the aftermath showed fresh incoming links from online magazines and a rise in Rap Genius Google searches. Nevertheless, Rap Genius continues to be a target of organizations such as NMPA (National Music Publishers Assoc.) who put the website on top of their list of offenders that do not have the proper licensing for the lyrics they publish. In describing the allegations, Rap Genius co-founder Ilan Zechory put it best:

“We are really excited to actually have a conversation with them. Rap Genius is so much more than a lyrics site. The lyrics sites the NMPA refers to simply display song lyrics, while Rap Genius has crowd-sourced annotations that give context to all the lyrics line by line, and tens of thousands of verified annotations directly from writers and performers. These layers of context and meaning transform a static, flat lyric page into an interactive, vibrant art experience created by a community of volunteer scholars.”

His point is well-taken and the website is already taking the necessary steps to become more “legitimate” with Rap Genius already reaching licensing agreements with Sony/ATV Music Publishing and the Universal Music Publishing Group. It is clear that with about 25 million visitors a month, the influence of Rap Genius has grown significantly and through a combination of relevant content, community building, and co-signs from RG verified artists such as Nas, RZA, and Kendrick Lamar, the site is on the fast-track to success. The presence of Rap Genius will continue to be relevant and only time will tell how the website expands as a potential major revenue-earner. But with projects such as a mobile app on the horizon as well as continuous work with artists and even universities, it seems that this is only the beginning for Rap Genius. With a passionate community of users and co-founders who possess a limitless style of ambition, the Rap Genius brand already has developed a strong identity and as long as the website continues to act on behalf of the hip-hop culture (and society in general), we are all for it.

Click here to read the Rap Genius apology to Google and you can watch an interview of the Rap Genius founders below as they describe the ins and outs of their website/company.

 

 

 

 

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