December 10, 2014

Barnacle SEO: An Arthropod’s Advantage

A cluster of barnacles.  Photo from Gizmodo.

By Megan G.

Say that you own a small but unique Italian-inspired cafĂ©, and that you have an effectively optimized site for this business.  Keywords, hyperlinks, internal backlinks—you’ve got those all down pat.  Yet, your awesome site still gathers virtual dust on the third page of Google.  To make things worse, that dastardly generic coffee shop across the street ranks much higher than you.  Those java jerks steal all your fun slogans and discount ideas, and now they have snatched your rightful place in the SERPs.  

What are they doing that you’re not? 

The answer lies in a simple and useful form SEO.  That rival coffee shop’s highly-ranked search result does not link to their main page, but instead to their Yelp profile.  The owners have stuck their business onto a large, reputable directory, and now ride that branded ship to victory.  In short, their business became a barnacle. 

Real barnacles attach themselves to rocks, piers, whales, ships—anything big and at least partially submerged in seawater.  They then let the ocean naturally bring them their daily nutrients via the flowing currents.  In the world of SEO marketing, this maritime metaphor translates thus:

                 The barnacle is your small business.

     The ships, rocks, etc. are directories and social media sites.

     The ocean is the Internet.

     The currents are the SERPs.   

     The nutrients are your customers. 

This concept is called “barnacle SEO,” and its invertebrate-inspired tactics prove highly valuable, especially to smaller businesses.  You plug your company into a high-ranking directory or social site, and the customers searching for your sort of business in Google will naturally find you there.

Will Scott of Search Influence originally coined the term, defining it as “attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for customers to float by in the current.”  The “large fixed objects” refer to directories like Google Places, Yelp, and the Yellow Pages, as well as popular social media sites such as Facebook and Google+.  Google’s algorithms greatly favor brand equity, making all the above-mentioned sites prime barnacle real estate.  If you haven’t submitted any profiles on these platforms, then barnacle SEO should be the next step for you and your business.  
The leading results in Google SERPs are directories.  

Another important aspect of local SEO is mobile site optimization.  Joining directories like Yelp guarantee a positive mobile experience for your potential customers, as branded directories and sites often have apps for mobile users.  Consumers are also more likely to trust a review on your Yelp or Google Places profile, rather than the glowing testimonials from your website.  

Search Engine Land asserts that a small businesses must promote these third-party company profile pages as aggressively, if not more so, as their company’s own site for effective barnacle SEO.  Again, this is about using a well-established foundation to gain an advantage.  If your main webpage gains little to no traffic, then join a site that already has a following.
Oh, the places barnacles will go! Photo from Monterey Bay Humpbacks.

If barnacles went out searching in the open ocean themselves, they would easily be swept away by the rough waters.  Sticking to a whale’s maw makes finding nutrients easy, just as sharing your business’ content in directories and social sites can make finding customers a much simpler task.  In fact, eGumball can ensure that task is even less stressful by doing most of your barnacling for you!

What helpful barnacle SEO tactics have you heard or practiced?  Let the The Tek Team know with a comment!  If you enjoyed this article, then please visit our widgets to like, share, and subscribe! 

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