Google now allows users to search for song lyrics straight from its search engine, putting other websites that offer lyrics at a big risk of closing down.
Previously, Google brings up search results leading to lyrics websites such AZLyrics.com and MetroLyrics.com when users are looking for the lyrics to a song. Now, users looking for lyrics are served up a big answer box from Google containing lyrics to a huge part of the song with a link at the bottom pointing to Google Play, where users can purchase the song they just searched. Searching for "molly's chambers lyrics," for example, brings up the lyrics of the Kings of Leon song with a link at the bottom to redirect users to Google Play.
The change was discovered by Glenn Gabe, a digital marketing consultant at G-Squared Interactive, who posted his discovery on Google+.
"The hammer has fallen," Gabe says. "Google now displaying lyrics in the SERPs."
"I think there's a lot they can do to monetize the lyrics. And I expect that to happen, sooner than later."
Google's move to add lyrics to Knowledge Graph, a search engine feature that attempts to bring users answers straight from the source instead of making them click through to websites displayed in the search results, is not surprising. Earlier this year, Microsoft made the first step into lyrics territory, and it is only a short while before Google followed in Bing's steps.
Google has also been pouring continuous improvements into its search engine by gathering data from sources such as Wikipedia, the World CIA Factbook, Google Books, event listings and other sources of structured data from all over the Internet to deliver short answers to people's queries.
The new song lyrics answer box appears to be available to a limited number of users for now, and not all searches provided lyrics straight from Google. For instance, searching for "Britney Spears toxic lyrics" brings up the large snippet of text with the link to Google Play, but "toxic lyrics" doesn't bring up anything. The feature also appears to be limited to English-only songs for now.
It is unclear if lyrics websites have seen this coming, but the change will surely have a huge effect on these websites that serve up lyrics, sometimes unlicensed, in exchange for advertising revenue. Darryl Ballantyne, CEO of LyricFind, says websites that rely mostly on traffic from Google will likely bite the dust, but community-based lyrics websites such as SongMeanings.com and MetroLyrics.com have a strong foothold to keep themselves above the water. Ballantyne says these sites are "more than just SEO farms," which he expects "Google won't replace."
Tom Lehman, co-founder of Genius, formerly RapGenius, thinks the move is part of Google's greater plan to do away with publishers and become the No. 1 source of information online. Lehman points out the overarching European sentiment that Google is using its dominant position as a search engine to take over the lyrics website business. However, he says Genius won't turn down any offers from Google to work together in the future.
"Overall we're happy to see Google take an interest in improving lyrics online," Lehman says. "And we'd love to collaborate with them to create the best lyric experience the Internet has ever seen."
So far, Google seems content on working alone. A spokesperson for the company did not comment on Lehman's statement, only referencing lyrics to a Led Zeppelin song to confirm it has indeed started offering song lyrics in Knowledge Graph.
"There's a feeling you get when you turn to a song and you know that the words have two meanings," the spokesperson says. "Well it's whispered that now if you go search the tune, maybe Google will lead you to reason. Ooh, it makes you wonder."