What is Barnacle SEO? Game Changer For Your Business !

For a small business owner, prioritizing maximizing organic search result rankings is crucial. 

Achieving a high position in search results often requires a substantial investment in SEO and time, depending on the industry or locality.

While Barnacle SEO can be a valuable strategy, it should not stand alone as your sole approach. 

Similar to your review-building strategy, it is advisable to diversify your efforts.

This guide will explain barnacle SEO and provide insights on creating a strategy tailored to your business.

What Is Barnacle SEO And How Does It Work?


Although Barnacle SEO has been around for at least 11 years, it remains a potent strategy for driving traffic from challenging keywords without the necessity of direct ranking. 

Coined by Will Scott from Search Influence in 2008, this approach involves strategically associating your brand with top-ranking websites for your targeted keywords, akin to barnacles attaching themselves permanently to surfaces like rocks or ships to feed.

To successfully implement barnacle SEO tactics, you essentially need to ‘latch‘ your brand onto high-ranking domains that are already established and prominent in search engine results for competitive keyword phrases that are difficult to rank for independently.

Here are a couple of examples illustrating how to execute barnacle SEO:

a. Local Plumbing Business Scenario

Suppose you operate a small plumbing business in Illinois. Despite implementing various strategies, achieving organic rankings for high-competition keywords like “plumber in Chicago” proves challenging, with directories, notably Yelp, dominating the results.

Instead of competing with Yelp, you can employ barnacle SEO by claiming and optimizing your Yelp business page

Linking to your Yelp page from your website and social media accounts further enhances your presence.

b. E-commerce Website Selling Graphic T-Shirts

Imagine you run an e-commerce site selling graphic t-shirts inspired by the movie ‘Harry Potter‘. Ranking in the top 10 for “Harry Potter” on Google seems unattainable due to competition from authoritative sources like Wikipedia and IMDb.

Apply the barnacle strategy by aiming to get your site mentioned on these authoritative platforms. 

Consider purchasing an ad on IMDb or contributing a valuable article to a news source, including mentions of your brand and links to your site.

The key to success in Barnacle SEO lies in patience. Unlike more aggressive SEO approaches, this strategy doesn’t directly drive traffic to your site. 

Instead, you await potential customers encountering your business through mentions on major domains.

Barnacle SEO vs. Classic SEO

seo tools

To gain a deeper understanding of barnacle SEO, let’s distinguish it from conventional SEO tactics.

  • Firstly, barnacle SEO centers around activities like guest blogging, review marketing, and brand mentions. In essence, this means creating content for other sites to enhance their rankings.
  • In contrast, traditional SEO necessitates concentrating on keyword research focused on terms that can improve your own site’s ranking.
  • While both approaches entail a comprehensive competitor analysis, barnacle SEO places a greater emphasis on providing value to the readers of the targeted site.
  • It is crucial to highlight that barnacle SEO is not a magical solution for amplifying your site’s traffic
  • Instead, it functions as a complementary strategy to support your other SEO marketing efforts, particularly when aiming to rank for highly competitive keywords.
  • Even as you leverage the authority of another site to bolster your brand, your barnacle marketing endeavors must remain authentic, original, and purposeful. 
  • The goal is not merely to ride on the success of the host site but to collaborate and secure a share of the larger opportunity.

Barnacle SEO: Pros and Cons

Barnacle SEO, a strategic digital marketing approach, presents distinctive advantages and certain challenges. 

A clear understanding of these aspects enables businesses and marketers to make well-informed decisions regarding the integration of this technique into their SEO strategy.

Advantages of Barnacle SEO

  • Leverages Established Authority: Capitalizes on the high domain authority of well-established websites, facilitating rapid visibility of your content to a broader audience.
  • Cost-Effective: Particularly beneficial for small businesses or startups, as it offers a more budget-friendly alternative to traditional SEO, requiring less investment in terms of time and resources for SEO development and maintenance.
  • Quick Results: Utilizes platforms with existing high rankings, potentially leading to faster improvements in traffic and visibility compared to the gradual process of building SEO from the ground up.
  • Enhanced Credibility: Association with reputable sites enhances your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of both users and search engines.
  • Diversification of Traffic Sources: Enables tapping into new audience bases, diversifying traffic sources, and reducing dependence on any single channel.

Challenges of Barnacle SEO

  • Dependence on External Platforms: A significant drawback is the reliance on other websites, where changes in policies or algorithms on these platforms can impact your visibility and traffic.
  • Limited Control: Offers less control over how your content is presented and managed on another platform, potentially affecting branding and user experience.
  • Competition: High-authority sites attract considerable content, leading to competition with top-ranking websites and numerous other businesses for attention.
  • Potential for Lower Conversion Rates: While visibility may increase, users arriving through these platforms may not be as committed or ready to convert as those who directly visit your site.
  • Sustainability Concerns: As a sole strategy, Barnacle SEO may not be sustainable in the long run, as search engines continually update their algorithms, posing risks associated with reliance on external platforms.

Why Barnacle SEO Holds Significance?


Wondering about the relevance of a Barnacle SEO strategy?

Well, it proves to be a more efficient allocation of your team’s time and resources. 

Opting for Barnacle SEO over direct competition may not only yield a boost in your brand’s ranking but also contribute to an elevation in domain authority.

1. Seize the Power of Existing Great Content to Expand Your Site’s Reach

No need to reinvent the wheel. By leveraging well-performing content from other sites, you can elevate your brand by getting mentioned or linked, subsequently increasing traffic and broadening your site’s reach.

2. Diversify Efforts for Improved Ranking

Given the intricate nature of SEO with its inherent trial and error, a Barnacle SEO strategy serves to diversify efforts. 

This ensures that you explore all possible avenues to enhance your ranking for challenging keywords and bolster your backlink profile, complementing traditional SEO practices.

3. Increase Touch Points for Customer Discovery

Enhance your chances of being found by potential customers through increased mentions or links. 

By establishing additional touch points, particularly on the first page, you not only attract more online visitors but also foster greater engagements and potential purchases.

4. Enhance Brand Authority and Reputation

Securing mentions or links from authoritative sites significantly benefits your brand’s reputation. Google’s algorithm favors sites engaged in trustworthy networks, allowing you to enhance your authority through association with reputable sources.

5. Optimize Your SEO Budget

While high-competition keywords are SEO treasures, reaching the top of results can be challenging. 

Rather than exhausting your marketing budget on these highly competitive keywords, a strategic approach is to focus on opportune keywords, leaving the fiercely competitive ones for barnacle strategies.

Techniques for Barnacle SEO


a. Engaging in Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is widely recognized as a prominent link-building strategy

From the perspective of Barnacle SEO, there is an opportunity to collaborate with websites that may not provide a do-follow link, offering greater flexibility.

In cases where the website boasts a significant size and the guest blog is anticipated to generate a substantial number of shares and visitors, the necessity of obtaining a do follow backlink diminishes. The authority of the platform alone becomes a valuable asset.

Connecting with the individuals responsible for these websites can pose a challenge, especially when targeting the most searched keywords. 

To address this, it is advisable to consider enlisting the services of a proficient guest blogger through platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr

These individuals often have established relationships with local publishers. It is prudent to review their past work and references to ensure their effectiveness.

b. Engage in Review Marketing

Participating in review marketing involves implementing a barnacle SEO technique, ensuring the establishing of a credible online presence for your business across various review platforms. 

Platforms such as TripAdvisor, Capterra, Trustpilot, Foursquare, Google My Business, Yelp and Angie’s List are noteworthy examples.

By creating profiles on these platforms, your business can cultivate a positive reputation, especially considering that consumers often refer to these sites to assess reviews before making purchasing decisions or exploring alternative businesses.

Given that it may not be feasible to be present on all review sites, it is advisable to select those that hold popularity within your specific niche. 

This strategic choice ensures that your business is well-represented where the majority of your prospective customers conduct research before finalizing a purchase.

c. Mentioning Your Brand

This entails referencing your brand on high-ranking websites, typically within the context of a review or a comprehensive article. There are several approaches to achieve this.

  • One approach involves having your brand mentioned in articles or blog posts authored by prominent bloggers or influencers. 
  • This strategy contributes to heightened brand visibility and fosters relationships with industry leaders. 
  • However, it is crucial to ensure that the mentions are pertinent and contribute value to the ongoing discussion.

Alternatively, you can proactively contact websites within your industry, requesting them to include mentions of your brand as a means of generating referral traffic.

While this approach can be effective, it may also entail a significant investment of time and resources.

Another viable option is utilizing Google Alerts to monitor instances where your brand is mentioned without an accompanying link. 

Subsequently, you can contact the site owner and propose the addition of a link. This automated approach can prove quite effective.

While this method serves as an efficient means to expose your brand to a new audience, it is imperative to ensure that your mentions remain relevant and contextually appropriate. 

Failing to do so may risk portraying your brand as spammy and could potentially harm your reputation.

d. Utilize Social Media

Giving a nod to common marketing techniques without explicitly categorizing them as “barnacle SEO,” social media is an essential mention in this context.

From a technical standpoint, you essentially function as a barnacle anchored to platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks. 

However, likely, you would naturally adopt these practices even without the specific label of “barnacle SEO.”

But why stop there?

Recognize that all social networks essentially function as search engines. Elevate your efforts by focusing on increased social engagement. Consider the following tips:

  • Respond actively to the most engaging posts.
  • Express your approval by liking or up voting these posts.
  • Avoid spamming but seize opportunities to indirectly mention your brand, perhaps through engaging videos or other intriguing content.
  • Encourage discussions and motivate others to participate.
  • Initiate discussions in the most popular groups and threads.
  • Craft high-quality, original content specifically tailored for platforms like Reddit, Quora, or LinkedIn.

e. Optimizing Google My Business and Other Directory Listings 

optimise seo

Directories often get underestimated in discussions about barnacle SEO, but this oversight is unwarranted. 

Local businesses stand to gain significantly by including service review sites like Google My Business in their barnacle SEO strategy.

Being featured on Google My Business enhances your influence on search results and increases visibility on both Search and Maps. 

The closer the alignment between the listing information (such as business type and location) and the search inputs, the higher the ranking.

It’s also crucial to acknowledge that reviews on these platforms contribute as user-generated content—a valuable aspect when ticking off items on an SEO checklist and incorporating barnacle SEO into your strategy.

f. Concentrate on Keywords with Profit Potential

The primary risk associated with a Barnacle SEO Strategy lies in the potential loss of your attained ranking when the affiliated website undergoes changes in its URL or removes your link. 

This underscores the significance of constructing a strategy centered on keywords with profit potential, as opposed to overly depending on any single website.

To maintain a competitive edge and sustain favorable rankings, it is crucial to diversify your link portfolio and prioritize highly competitive keywords. 

This proactive approach ensures that even if specific websites cease to exist, your ability to rank well remains intact.

g. Generate Creative Content – for instance, craft an infographic designed for Pinterest

The concept involves producing a valuable creative asset pertinent to your industry or niche. Subsequently, share this content with the website administrator of the targeted site(s) in your Barnacle SEO campaign.

This approach guarantees increased exposure for your creative content, making it accessible to a wider audience who may find it beneficial. By contributing value to potential prospects, you are establishing a reputation for yourself and your business.

h. Participate in Roundup Posts

Engaging in roundup posts proves popular as they showcase brief insights from industry experts and are widely shared on social media by both participants and readers. It’s a mutually beneficial endeavor.

What’s in it for you?

If the publishing website holds significant authority, often securing top positions in the Search Engine Results Pages, it presents an opportune moment to align with it.

While not targeting any specific individual, I have actively taken part in SEO roundups, resulting in increased visibility for Mangools and my brand.

Identify topics related to your business with substantial search volumes and strategically position yourself to be featured in roundup posts.


Barnacle SEO proves to be a valuable strategy for small businesses. Differing from traditional SEO, this method entails harnessing the authority of well-established websites to amplify visibility and traffic. 

While delivering rapid and cost-effective results and diversifying traffic sources, it comes with notable challenges such as limited control and reliance on external platforms.

In essence, when incorporated alongside conventional SEO tactics, Barnacle SEO can markedly elevate a business’s online presence, providing a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to digital marketing. 

This positions it as a crucial consideration for small businesses seeking to broaden their digital footprint.

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