No matter how much your search engine optimization strategy rocks, there are just some competitive keywords that are hard to beat. But what if you could bounce off of other websites’ success instead?
The idea behind Barnacle SEO is just that. Like a barnacle attaches itself to a big ship, your brand can latch onto high-ranked websites and ride the current of their keyword strength. In turn, you can save your SEO team from the uphill battle of highly competitive keywords.
Ready to become seaworthy? Let’s go over Barnacle SEO opportunities, so you can build a network of barnacles and boost your brand.
What is Barnacle SEO?
The term Barnacle SEO was coined by Will Scott of Search Influence. The concept is simple: don’t waste your marketing efforts on competitive keywords that are beyond your reach. Instead, as part of your SEO strategy, find opportunities to attach your brand to top search engine results.
There are several ways to get your brand mentioned on the “First Page” results on Google. Depending on the sites that rank high for your desirable keywords, you may be able to partner with them to make a review profile, get a brand link placement or buy an advertisement.
For example, your catering business may not be able to compete for the search volume keyword “best Thanksgiving dinners.” However, you can make use of barnacles such as:
- getting listed on Google My Business,
- adding a photo of your Thanksgiving spread on Reddit,
- guest blogging for a Top 10 Thanksgiving Meals round-up
- and running an Instagram Thanksgiving campaign.
These are just a few ways that your brand can get listed or linked on top results, even if you can’t compete directly for the competitive keyword. Getting included in this way can do wonders for your ranking and brand reputation! And you may even get valuable organic traffic. Win-win.
Barnacle SEO vs Parasite SEO
Barnacle SEO involves attaching oneself to a high-ranking entity to leverage its SEO power, while Parasite SEO exploits the authority of high-ranking websites to rank a page for targeted keywords.
Here are its key differences.
- Definition: Barnacle SEO involves attaching oneself to a large, high-authority entity in order to leverage its SEO ranking power, while Parasite SEO involves using high-authority domains to rank high for targeted keywords.
- Use Cases: Barnacle SEO is typically used to enhance the visibility of a smaller site by attaching it to a larger, more authoritative site, such as a popular business directory. Parasite SEO, on the other hand, is commonly used in affiliate marketing, reputation management, and event promotion to quickly rank for competitive keywords.
- Longevity: Barnacle SEO is generally seen as a long-term strategy, as it relies on building reputation and trust over time. Parasite SEO, however, can yield quick results but may not always be sustainable due to the risk of penalties from search engines if conducted unethically.
Which is better? Here's our expert answer: It depends.
It largely depends on your specific goals and risk tolerance. Barnacle SEO is a safer, more sustainable approach that's beneficial if you're looking to enhance your site's reputation and trustworthiness over the long term. This strategy is best suited for businesses looking to build a strong foundation and grow steadily over time.
On the other hand, Parasite SEO can yield quick results, making it an attractive option for affiliate marketing, reputation management, or event promotion where ranking quickly for competitive keywords is crucial. However, this strategy carries a higher risk and may lead to penalties from search engines if conducted unethically. Therefore, it's best used when immediate results are needed and the potential risks are understood and managed.
Why Barnacle SEO is important
Why bother with a Barnacle SEO strategy? To start, it’s a much better investment of your team’s time and resources. You may also see a lift in your brand’s ranking and domain authority by focusing on Barnacle SEO instead of competing directly.
Point #1: Latch onto great content to maximize your site reach.
No need to reinvent the wheel. If other sites are doing something right, you can latch on this great content in order to elevate your own brand. Basically, you can get mentioned or linked in order to receive more traffic and maximize your site reach.
Point #2: Diversify your efforts to improve ranking.
SEO is a complex field that involves lots of trial and error. In addition to your traditional SEO, having a Barnacle SEO strategy can help diversify efforts so that you’re exploring all possible avenues to improve your ranking for the toughest keywords, and raise your backlink profile.
Point #3: Add touch points for customers to find you.
The more you’re mentioned or linked, the more chances potential customers have to find you. By adding these touch points (i.e., the first page), you can increase your online visitors and work to get more engagements and purchases.
Point #4: Improve your brand authority and reputation.
Getting mentioned or linked on authority sites is great for your own reputation. Google’s algorithm rewards sites that participate in trustworthy networks, so you can improve your own authority by association.
Point #5: Make the most of your SEO budget.
High-competition keywords are SEO treasures, but only if you can make it to the top of the results. Instead of using up your marketing budget on these keywords, you can focus on other opportune keywords and leave these highly competitive ones for barnacles.
Barnacle SEO Ideas you Can Execute
We love Parasite SEO, as it can be done by all types of businesses, and we've have successfully used this strategy to help our clients rank multiple times for key queries.
For instance, with our help, MentorCruise is featured in most of the listicles ranking on the first page of Google Search for the query "mentorship platforms". This provides a steady stream of revenue for the platform, without the actual website being in the top 5 search results for the query!
This involves leveraging the authority of high-ranking, popular websites to rank for competitive keywords.
By creating pages or profiles on these "host" sites, and optimizing your content for specific keywords, you have the potential to rank faster and higher. This approach can drive significant organic traffic to your site from these high-authority platforms, amplifying your online visibility and brand recognition.
Create viral linked signatures
There are some products that domains just naturally link back to when they’re customers. For instance, Instatus, a tool for creating beautiful status pages automatically includes a linked signature for its free-tier users. Genius.
Buy Me a Coffee, which empowers online creators with the ability to quickly create pages their fans can pay donations to, also allows its customers to embed a clickable icon that leads to the page:
To get started, create a company profile on review sites that are relevant to your industry. Some popular review sites include TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, Yelp and Facebook. If you’re in the software market, other review sites may include G2, Clutch, Capterra or Get App.
Identify the review sites that make sense and then create a robust profile that matches your brand. Take the time to fill in all the information, so that potential reviewers see you take your online presence seriously. Start inviting past customers to review as well, so you can stand out from other sites.
Besides review sites, you can take advantage of listing platforms, which help build citations and your online presence. The most well-known platform is Google My Business, which works in tandem with search results to boost your ranking.
However, other listing platforms are available. You might get listed in an online address book, yellow pages or check-in site such as Foursquare. Wikipedia is also a good option for getting indirect links. If you’re a toy company, for instance, you could add your product photo to Wikipedia’s page on action figures.
There are also niche address books you may benefit from. For example, if you run a dentistry office, you might want to get listed on the ADA’s Find-A-Dentist tool.
Forums are also a good starting point for building a Barnacle SEO campaign. By joining the conversation on forums, you can expose users to your brand. Some top forum sites include Reddit, Quora and Craigslist. There are niche forums specific to certain topics, too. For example, some popular gaming and tech forums include Discord, GameSpot and Stack Overflow.
Basically, there’s a forum for any topic of interest that your brand may be connected to. If you’re a fintech company, for instance, Money Saving Expert is a well-known forum that might prove relevant to gaining new visitors.
Listed on reviews or round-ups
Another option for your barnacle strategy is to get linked on another site’s review or roundup articles. It’s common for industry websites to offer these type of mention-rich articles, including:
- Review posts: Product reviews, alternatives, comparisons, competitors, etc.
- Round ups: Best of, top 10, deals, etc.
- News sites and press releases
Make the most of these types of mentions by publishing your own reviews or working to partner with other blogs to be a part of their round-ups.
Social Media Platforms
Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can also play a pivotal role in a barnacle SEO strategy. By actively participating in discussions, sharing valuable content, and engaging with your audience on these platforms, you can increase your brand visibility and drive traffic to your website.
Guest blogging on top sites and publishing platforms
Guest posting is an excellent way to strengthen your SEO strategy, get more traffic and build your brand authority. You can start with big publishing platforms such as Medium. However, you might have just as much success with smaller niche sites. Identify top-ranking websites in your market and reach out to propose writing a guest post.
Utilizing Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can be a potent tool in your barnacle SEO arsenal. Collaborating with influencers within your industry can expand your reach and increase your brand visibility. Their strong relationship with their audience can be leveraged to drive traffic to your website.
Content syndication involves publishing your content on third-party websites. This can not only help you reach a wider audience but also allow you to gain high-quality backlinks which can improve your SEO.
Video Marketing on YouTube
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. By creating high-quality, SEO optimized videos and linking back to your website in the video description, you can significantly boost your SEO and reach a vast audience.
Partnering with Non-Competitor Websites
Find non-competitor websites within your niche that have a strong SEO presence. Explore partnership opportunities with them that could include guest blogging, content exchanges, or banner exchanges to boost your own SEO.
Utilizing Q&A sites
Sites like Quora and Reddit are often overlooked in barnacle SEO strategies. By actively participating in discussions relevant to your industry and providing valuable insights, you can increase your brand visibility and drive traffic to your website.
Consider appearing on industry-related podcasts. This not only helps increase your brand visibility but also allows for backlinks to your website in the show notes, boosting your SEO.
Local Business Directories
Listing your business in local directories like Yelp or Google My Business can significantly improve your local SEO. These platforms also enable users to leave reviews, adding credibility to your business.
Webinars and Online Workshops
Organizing webinars or online workshops provides valuable content to your audience while also improving your SEO. These events can be promoted on various platforms, and backlinks to your website can be included in registration forms or follow-up emails.
Leveraging Medium for Backlinks
Medium is a blogging platform that can be effectively utilized to generate backlinks for your website. Begin by creating valuable, engaging content that is relevant to your industry and post it on Medium. Ensure your posts include a link back to your website within the content or in your profile bio. Another strategy is to repurpose your existing blog content by syndicating it on Medium. Remember, when using Medium for SEO, the key is to provide value to the readers first and foremost. The backlinks and improved SEO will follow as a natural result of quality content that resonates with your audience.
To utilize Reddit effectively, begin by identifying relevant subreddits in your niche. Engage with these communities organically, providing valuable insights and solutions. The key is to add value before promoting content. Once you've established credibility, you can share content that links back to your website. Be sure to follow each subreddit's rules and guidelines to avoid facing penalties or being flagged as spam. Remember, Reddit users appreciate transparency and genuine engagement. Use this platform as a tool to provide value, and the backlinks and improved SEO will naturally follow.
How to take advantage of Barnacle SEO
Step 1: Identify opportunities by doing keyword research on who’s ranking the highest.
First off, you’ll want to understand which sites are ranking highest for your potential keywords. You can use tools such as Google Search, Ahrefs, Buzzstream and Twitter in order to plug in your target keyword and find out who’s topping the lists. From there, you can start digging into potential barnacle opportunities.
Generally, the more specific you are with your keyword research, the better the outcomes will be. In this example of niche keyword research below, we've helped Cleanvoice increase their monthly recurring revenue by 300% by targeting podcasting-related topics aggressively. This SaaS SEO strategy includes guest posting on relevant websites that garner traffic for podcasting related to podcasting. Embarque's SaaS SEO service provide this.
Step 2: Reach out or follow instructions to get listed or linked.
Get in touch with these sites to either get listed or create a partnership. This could be as simple as filling in a company profile, sending a message about a guest posting proposal or commenting on a relevant forum.
Step 3: Provide a valuable profile or content piece.
Don’t forget to add value when building barnacles. Users will sniff out sites that are too pushy or marketing-heavy. Simply create a user-focused profile, content piece or comment so that potential customers can see your value.
Step 4: Promote your barnacles.
Strengthen your barnacles by promoting them. You can use media (such as videos, infographics, memes or gifts) to add interest, as well as share them on your social media channels. Staying active will help your barnacle content latch on for good!
Step 5: Monitor your efforts and keep iterating.
Find out what’s working and not, so you can make improvements and keep moving forward. Measure your success by looking at page analytics, or other metrics such as new customers. There’s no one way to build barnacles, so don’t be afraid of trial and error.
Diversify your SEO with barnacles
Barnacle SEO is a key step in any digital marketing strategy. If you know certain highly competitive keywords are too tough with your marketing budget, you can use the Barnacle SEO technique to connect with top-ranking sites – and boost your brand while you’re at it.
If you’re not sure how to get started with barnacles, lean on our SEO expertise. Here at Embarque, we work with brands to identify opportunities for Barnacle SEO. Get in touch with our team today so we can start elevating your brand!