Case Study: Spotify.com violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines

Juan Gonzalez
I studied Regional Studies of Latin American at the University of Cologne - Germany, majoring in "Business Informatics“. I also studied Business Administration and currently I’m doing a Master in International Business Administration. I feel a fascination with SEO and the people who make it possible.
7. November 2016 11 Comments
Visibility Index of Spotify.com on Google.com, Google.co.uk, Google.de and Google.fr

Visibility Index for Spotify.com on Google.com, Google.co.uk, Google.de and Google.fr

The domain Spotify.com has massively lost visibility worldwide on Google. The country with the largest loss is France (-82,1%) and the country with the smallest impact are the Netherlands (-44.5%). In the United Kingdom Spotify lost 48% of all their keywords (from 92,588 to 59,102) and 71% of their Visibility on Google.co.uk.

Starting our search for answers, we quickly find that the hostname open.spotify.com was responsible for the largest amount of visibility for Spotify.com and shows the highest losses now:

List of the hostnames on Spotify.com

List of the hostnames on Spotify.com

If we dig deeper in our analysis and take a look at the directories on open.spotify.com, we can see that all of them lost Visibility on Google:

Directories of the open.spotify.com hostname

Directories of the open.spotify.com hostname

Now, that we have identified where the problem is, we need to figure out what exactly happened to the domain. If you click on the small box in front of any of the individual URLs for open.spotify.com/artist/, you will discover what is going on here. For the keyword “National Philharmonic Orchestra”, for example, Spotify.com ranks with this URL: open.spotify.com/artist/2Ek1WGW7WeyDoxsZiu0AAd. If you click on this URL or the corresponding Google search result, you will be redirected to another ULR on play.spotify.com/artist/ like this one:

Snippet for Spotify.com on Google.co.uk

Snippet for Spotify.com on Google.co.uk

There is no real content on this URL and the user is forced to sign up to in order to see what they came for. If you look at the cached version of the same ULR on Google, you will notice that this version contains the actual content of the page. This discrepancy between what an actual user sees and what Google got (and saved in their cache) is the real problem here.

Google's cache for this URL

Google’s cache for this URL

The user and search engine are shown different versions of the page. This strategy is known as cloaking and, as Google explains, “Cloaking is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines because it provides our users with different results than they expected“, which led to Spotify losing their rankings.

I keep my fingers crossed and hope that Spotify will fix this problem soon.

Have a nice start into the new week!

7. November 2016, 16:21

A good example of cloaking in 2016, although I think it has been a mistake not to think about seo for doing that on purpose.

Regards!!

7. November 2016, 18:30

This is a perfect example how to shoot yourself in the foot with a paywall-like User exclusion

8. November 2016, 06:18

How would they be able to fix it? They were ranking because of the content the bot saw, but they don’t want users to see that content without being logged in. I suppose the way Pinterest does it works.

8. November 2016, 12:50

Do you know how long they have implemented this? How long it took to Google to find out cloaking in this case?

8. November 2016, 22:45

It’s really incredible that big business try to develop this kind of strategies that, finally, can damage the whole marketing strategy.

Let’s see its reaction.

16. November 2016, 18:46

God bless 302s.

David
16. November 2016, 18:59

Looks like they removed all the redirections; I don’t see any of those anymore.

Mark
17. November 2016, 11:11

Does it even matter though. How much do/does Spotify care about organic results in Google? Is it deliberate?

You’ve got 1 second – name me a music streaming & subscription brand, their brand recall is through the roof and affiliations with big name acts, gigs, sponsorships and other brands like Sony, Sonos don’t exactly harm them.

jason
17. November 2016, 21:39

Someone is getting fired 🙂

21. November 2016, 09:32

Surely Spotify saw this coming. It makes me wonder how prevalent cloaking is on the net and why does a site like Spotify even take the chance?

Laco
21. November 2016, 13:49

They should ask for login / sign up on “play on Spotify” click, would have also more conversions.