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Google Displaying Lyrics: Is Knowledge Graph Content Scraping?

knowledge graph

Even if you're not familiar with the term "knowledge graph," you've probably had experience with Google's Knowledge Graph technology. Whenever detailed information about your search pops up directly on the search engine results page, that's the Knowledge Graph at work. For example, a Google search for "Benjamin Franklin" returns birth and death dates, works written, images and much more in a box placed prominently on Google's results page.

Yesterday, a digital marketer noticed that song lyrics are showing up in the SERPs. This is great for users but potentially ruinous for lyrics sites.

Song Lyrics Now Part of Knowledge Graph

As of now, when a user searches for something like "I Want To Hold Your Hand lyrics," the words to that song will show up right on the first page of Google. It looks like this:

knowledge graph lyrics


Of course, there are still some kinks to work out - any music fan knows that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was definitely not written by the Glee Cast. However, this is the type of result that will occur during Google lyrics searches for the foreseeable future. Also, notice the link to Google Play at the bottom. This link takes you to the Google Play store, where you can purchase whatever song you were just searching for. This is a savvy business move from Google. Also, these Knowledge Graph results are beneficial for users in that they save the user the step of having to choose a lyrics site and click on it. It's fairly well-known that many lyrics sites are low-quality and with filled popups, ads or other annoying features.

Great For Users, Bad For Publishers

Not everybody sees this as a good thing, however. It's likely that Knowledge Graph results for lyrics searches will severely impact the amount of traffic that even very popular lyrics sites such as Genius.com or SongMeanings.com get. Indeed, Wikipedia took a nose dive in traffic when Knowledge Graph results first began being displayed. For example, here's what the Knowledge Graph looks like when searching for Dallas:

dallas knowledge graph


The problem here is that the first paragraph is taken directly from Wikipedia. If you wanted to know whether or not Dallas was the biggest city in Texas, your answer is right there on Google - you don't need to visit Wikipedia. However, the content is taken directly from Wikipedia. So, to some, this can be viewed as an unfair flexing of Google's muscle. It could also be interpreted as a violation of one of Google's own quality guidelines: scraped content.

Is Google Scraping Content Itself?

Scraped content involves hosting content on a website that's taken verbatim from another website. It's usually used by less reputable sites in order to gain traffic or search engine rank without having to be relevant or unique. It's a bad and unethical strategy that could not only get you in trouble with Google, but could also bring up copyright issues. One of Google's definitions of scraped content includes "sites that copy and republish content from other sites without adding any original content or value." But isn't this exactly what Google is doing with Knowledge Graph?

Well, you probably won't find many people arguing in favor of keeping a bunch of ad-ridden lyrics sites on the web. Also, song lyrics can't really be considered original, owned content on a lyrics site, so it's arguable whether or not lyrics in Knowledge Graph are any worse. Still, it can't be denied that Google is using other sites' content in Knowledge Graph while also using Knowledge Graph to make money.

What do you think? Is Knowledge Graph stepping on toes for profit? Or is it just displaying content that any site technically has a right to anyhow?

T.J. Anderson

Posted on 23rd December, 2014 by T.J. Anderson

About T.J. Anderson

T.J. Anderson is a Chicago-based content editor and writer, as well as an SEO and marketing specialist.

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