Barnacle SEO - for local search SEO

What is Barnacle SEO?

Barnacle SEO is a technique of local search SEO that focuses on appearing well on other high ranking and high traffic websites rather than gaining top positions yourself within the search engines. It was first discussed in 2011 but is becoming interesting again following the Google pigeon updates that impact local search.

Barnacle SEO - SEO for small local businesses

Why the Barnacle?

The natural history lesson: Barnacles are sea creatures with a hard shell that attach themselves to large objects such as rocks, large animals such as whales, or man-made objects such as ships. They sit and wait for the food to float by. Those on the shoreline close up tight when out of the water.

Rockpool watchers will know that barnacles are not actually stationary – but move around slowly, competing for the best position on the rock or ship. The best position being the one that has the highest flow of water and hence food supply.

Barnacles are too small to chase after and catch their food – but they thrive by positioning themselves in a fast moving current for food which they grab as it floats by.

Barnacle SEO - positioning yourself where traffic is

Applying Barnacle behaviour to your business

Some businesses in highly competitive markets are too small to reach the top positions in local search. Example might be some small tourist businesses such as B&B owners or hotels in popular areas. Others might be service providers such as wedding photographers, hairdressers or builders in a very busy and competitive market.

Rather than waste money attempting the impossible with a small budget, it may be better to follow the barnacles and use your marketing budget to gain best positions on ‘good rocks’ – which in the search market are high traffic relevant websites.

Determining the best rocks (websites)

Barnacles would give themselves an easier life if they choose nice smooth rocks. They not only look nicer (not sure of the relevance to a barnacle) but they are easier to grip as easier to create an airtight seal. But the smooth rocks will be out of the fast flowing water. So the best rocks for barnacle are not the best looking, but those with the highest supply of food.

A website owner should use the same logic – choose their directory sites based not on looks, but on volume of relevant traffic.

Determining the best boat (directory)

A similar logic applies to how barnacles choose which boat in a harbour they decide to cling to. The size of the boat, its age, name or even the celebrity status of the owner have no bearing on the best boat to attach yourself to. Best places are those with easiest access to most Barnacle food – and this means flowing water. It is obvious that being near to expensive waterside restaurants or sailors café’s is no help as this is the wrong type of food.

So a website owner must choose the right type of directory site that gets the right sort of traffic from which your listing will be able to attract a high number of relevant enquiries or sales.

Further Information.

About Barnacles: Scientific name is Cirripedia. There are over 1,200 types of Barnacle that live in the sea, generally in coastal tidal waters.

About Barnacle SEO: First mentioned by Will Scott in November 2011 in an article called “Barnacle SEO – Local Search Engine Optimisation for The Sam’s Club Crowd’. In this article (now offline), Will defined this as “Barnacle SEO: attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current”. 

Friday 1st August 2014

⇐ Back to Insights

Join over
300 happy customers
Top of page