Right around Christmastime, Google made popular hip-hop site Rap Genius disappear from the Internet as punishment for unapproved search engine optimization techniques. Today Rap Genius wants the world to know that it is back in Google’s good graces.
And it’s true. I just Googled up Rap Genius’ annotation of Beyoncé’s “Partition” (featuring a link back to David Haglund and Forrest Wickman’s great post about how “Partition” quotes The Big Lebowski in French for some reason) and it all works fine.
One important legacy of this contretempts is a somewhat hilarious post from the Rap Genius founders that seems to be offered in the spirit of Maoist self-criticism. They detail how they started out with an optimized (for those not in the web game, SEO tactics are about structuring your keywords to maximize googleability) but legitimate linking strategy but strayed into misbehavior over time. Now that they’ve seen the error of their ways and renounced sin, they’re abandoning not only the most aggressive tactics that got them into trouble but taking extra care to ensure that they’re seen as squeaky clean.
As far as it goes, this is a happy ending. Rap Genius is a great site and it’d have been a shame for Google to somehow permanently cripple it. And an endless SEO arms race would be deeply undesirable, so it’s good to see Google enforcing some useful norms. But the larger question of Google’s vast and essentially unchecked power over the World Wide Web remains. “Don’t be evil” is a nice idea, and thus far I don’t see any indication that Google has used this power for anything other than good. But especially if Microsoft decides to cut its losses on Bing one of these days, antitrust issues are very likely to arise in this space.