Song Lyric SEO | How Lyric Finder Sites Make Disgusting Ad Cash
In this niche report, I examine a strange style of site that thrives on duplicate content.
If you’ve ever Googled your favorite artist’s song lyrics before and discovered you’ve been singing them wrong for years, you’ve probably stumbled across a lyric website.
As a long-time Nirvana fan, song-lyric sites often provide invaluable, and somewhat embarrassing, clarifications.
For a legion of grunge-rock fans like myself, we often had no idea what Kurt Cobain was saying!
One of the biggest players in the niche is Genius (formerly Rap Genius), the Brooklyn-based “encyclopedia of music” website.
This annotation-embedded platform was founded in August 2009 by Tom Lehman, Ilan Zechory, and Mahbod Moghadam (Source). They’ve since expanded into original video content, merchandise, live event production and also have an app (Source).
I’m going to examine Genius’ content & user experience strategy and how exactly they’ve come to dominate the lyrics finder niche.
- Comparing Lyrics Sites
- Breaking It Down
- Cool Features
- Crazy Rankings
- The Big Idea
- Starting Your Own?
- Summing Up
Comparing Lyrics Sites
For context, here’s a breakdown of how some of the biggest song lyrics finder sites are performing by Keywords, Total Traffic, Ahrefs Rank and Total Backlinks as of December 2018:
|Lyric Finder Sites||Total Keywords||Total Traffic||Ahrefs Rank||Total Backlinks|
Genius is dominating Keywords and Traffic, while Lyrics.com has the most Total Backlinks.
Genius Traffic Figures
According to SimilarWeb, Genius is getting an average of 115.32 million visits a month, the past 6 months from November 2018.
The other interesting stat here is how low the United States traffic is- only 24%. Advertisers prioritize U.S. traffic- so this might diminish the display ad earnings performance somewhat.
Genius Traffic Sources
According to SimilarWeb, 86% of the site’s traffic comes from organic search, which makes sense.
They also get a good deal of direct traffic, which also makes sense- it’s got great brand recognition so people type the site directly into their browser.
There’s a small bit of social traffic, as well- estimated at 1.54%. Their Instagram has over a million followers- not too shabby:
Based off of SimilarWeb’s traffic estimation, Ahref’s available CPC estimations, and a ballpark CTR of 2%, I plugged those numbers into an AdSense Earnings Calculator:
That gave me some ballpark figures:
Keep in mind, this is a very rough estimate- but it’s pretty stunning display ad earnings nonetheless.
Genius is at least making several hundred thousand dollars a day. And that’s just the display ads- there are affiliate and sponsorship opportunities the deeper you look.
For example, the Apple Music integration- you can play a preview of the song, but you’ll need to have an Apple Music account to get the whole thing.
It’s not all easy profit, however. According to Crunchbase, Genius has between 51-100 employees and has raised close to 72 million dollars, as of this writing.
So, this isn’t the work of a solopreneur and a couple UpWork contractors. This is a fairly large enterprise.
Breaking It Down
Below is a song-lyric landing page for Nirvana’s song Lithium.
There’s a lot going on- I’ve provided some enumeration pointing out some interesting aspects of the on-site experience:
- 1-7: Ad Units
- 8. Song/Artist Information
- 9. Apple Music player- it plays only part of the song. For the full song, you’ll need to sign in/up with Apple Music- a possible affiliate relationship.
- 10. Info-packed widget area containing song/album/artist info and user-generated content about the lyrics
- 11. Nirvana-specific header with view stats
- 12. Comments section (with ads)
- 13. Embed/share feature- you can actually embed the lyrics/comments into your own website.
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In the past, song lyric sites could get by merely republishing song lyrics and acquiring a fair bit of traffic for little to no effort.
Nowadays, song lyric sites like Genius have upped the ante.
As you can see, there’s a ton of value-add on this page to justify the 7 ad units.
In the sidebar, there’s a ton of valuable artist and song track information. Including- when you click on a particular lyric in the main content area, there’s new information that pops up in the widget area.
Much of this sidebar information is Wiki-style user content- users add their own edits and interpretations of the lyrics that get reviewed by other site users and, presumably, site moderators.
There’s even an area in the sidebar to ask a question- this helps to spark community interest in the different songs Genius Lyrics profiles.
They really go above and beyond creating an immersive, interpretative experience- incenting a virtuous cycle of user-generated content:
Organic rankings, more and more, are being determined by user-engagement data.
Google is evaluating how people experience your website- how long are they spending on your page, are they bouncing back to the SERPs to find better info, etc.
Genius has obviously put a lot of effort into crafting a superior on-page experience. The lyric analysis is really interesting- and when I perused the Lithium lyrics, there was a bunch of cool tidbits I hadn’t considered before.
Plus, it encourages you to delve deeper into the site- perhaps investigating other lyric pages from the same album
This is also pretty cool- at the bottom of the Genius page you can get an embed code. I added it below to see what it looks like.
Now, if you’re reading this on mobile, you’re just seeing a backlink to Genius.com, but if you’re on Desktop, you’ll see the full lyrics and a sidebar popup if you click on one of the stanzas:
It’s a great way for them to get backlinks and a value-add for readers who have websites and want to leverage Genius’ content.
I did some keyword research below- extracting 1,000 of Genius’ top-performing organic keywords:
As you can see, they’ve got some amazing rankings- these song and artist terms have huge search volumes. And many of them have insanely low Keyword Difficulties.
Some of their top keywords include:
- humble lyrics
- despacito lyrics
- genius lyrics
- rap genius
- rap god lyrics
- despacito lyrics
- dna lyrics
- mans not hot lyrics
- gucci gang lyrics
- bodak yellow
The Big Idea
Am I telling you to go out and start a lyrics website?
But it does give you an idea of the insane traffic potential inside of the music niche.
As an aside, if you’re interested in musical instruments, I did a niche report on the interesting traffic potential and affiliate opportunity there.
Starting Your Own?
That said, if you’re obsessed with a particular genre of music, it could make sense to start your own lyric-analysis site.
However, I wouldn’t recommend competing head-to-head with Genius.
For example, starting a lyrics site for every song lyric on the planet- you’d get overwhelmed and Google would probably have something to say about all of the duplicate content.
Pick A Genre- Niche Down
If I had to start my own lyrics website, I might niche down into a particular genre of music.
I’d also try to keep the on-page content over 50% unique. For example, if the lyrics were 700 words long, I’d like to have my own 701 words of analysis.
I’d play around with the ratios, somewhat- I wouldn’t want to see my site get filtered from organic search because the lyrics are duplicate content.
User Experience Considerations
That said, I’d try to strike a balance of providing some interesting data in the form of analysis, artist & album information, anything I could compile on to the page to both increase the user experience and make the content more unique.
You could also spruce up your content by embedding from Genius.com, getting Instagram images (like my Kurt Cobain image at the top of this post) adding YouTube videos, finding sheet music, doing proprietary research about the song’s financial success, etc.
Add in unique, interesting content and it will help your rankings and your enhance your visitor’s experience.
Traffic & Keyword Research
In terms of keyword research, I’d use Ahrefs or SEMrush to filter down the organic keyword rankings of a site like Genius.com to lower-difficulty levels- and pick off a bunch of keywords that seemed promising.
Try filtering the keyword research table above- limit the Keyword Difficulty to 15 and see what sort of high-volume search terms you can find.
For example, “gucci gang lyrics” has a 0 KD and 86,00 searches a month!
Perhaps lyrics would be a ‘silo’ of a larger music site- a site that, as I speculated before, could contain cultural thought pieces. Or, maybe you just want to rank and bank these terms and make AdSense cash- it’s completely up to you.
This is another niche with unexpectedly large traffic volumes- plus there’s a strong long-tail of more obscure songs and artists if you want to start your own lyric website.
The song-lyric content is half the battle- it’s obviously pretty easy to just copy and paste content.
But it’s not a viable long-term strategy.
My recommendation is to spruce the lyric content up with analysis and media to make it more unique and engaging- though Genius truly kicks it up a notch with all of its custom-developed bells and whistles.