barnacle-seo-boatMany small local businesses are being inundated by advice to build links, write content, and become more sociable online. Don’t get me wrong, all of these tactics are wonderful, long-term practices that will usually reap rewards for your website. There are things, however, that a business owner can do in addition to all these things, to get them better visibility on the web. Hitching your presence to large, well established websites can also boost your conversion rates.

Whether you are utilizing large review sites, or a trusted IYP (internet yellow pages), these properties usually rank quite well for long tail, local-based key phrases that are good for your local business. This practice has been coined by Will Scott of Search Influence as “Barnacle SEO”.

What is Barnacle SEO?

Like barnacles that attach themselves to large boats in the ocean to be able to feed, small business websites can do the same, to get the waves of a larger reach and customer base that these large sites can provide, to pull in more customers. This works because of the way search engines treat well-established sites with much authority on the internet. For long tail words, these sites usually show up because not many smaller businesses and websites can compete with their domain age and link profiles that have taken years to build.


As you can see, these IYPs are ranking for the business name and locale on the first page of a Google Search Result. These types of rankings happen with millions of search results, along with review sites like Yelp. And the bonus is that your business is more than likely already listed within its pages. It’s up to you to claim your listings and make sure they are correct and updated with content, pictures, reviews, etc.

How Can I Become a Barnacle?

First step is to decide a good list of “big ships” out there that allow you to have profiles, pages, etc. Social sites like Facebook and Foursquare are good places to start. Review sites like Yelp are also a must and you can’t exclude the well-established directories and IYP sites (like, or as they offer profiles for your business also. These would be the sites that you would keep track of to update your business information, images, reviews and customer interactions. Nurturing these bigger sites should not take as much time as it would for you to be creating blog posts, and trying to build links to your website (although, you should still keep doing that).

The main goal of barnacle SEO is to utilize the authority of these bigger sites to help you float along and get customers on the way. With the right combination and attention, your barnacles can and will get you just as many new customers as your other digital marketing campaigns.

More Reading

Will Scott presented a great slideshow about Barnacle SEO at PubCon this year.