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Barnacle SEO: How Going with the SEO Flow Improves Your Rankings

If barnacle SEO is not part of your SEO strategy, you’re not going with the flow.

Over the last several years, Google has began to favor what we’ll call “aggregator sites”—large websites that serve as online directories (think: Facebook, Yelp).

Unless your website is on par with these aggregator sites in Domain Authority and traffic, trying to compete with them on search engine results pages (SERPs) is futile.

To make matters worse, Google’s local pack—the map that sometimes pops up on SERP showing local businesses—has become more limited.

The local pack shrunk from seven spots to three, giving local businesses an even slimmer chance of ranking above aggregators.



Thus, barnacle SEO was born.

Barnacle SEO: How Going with the SEO Flow Improves Your Rankings

The idea behind barnacle SEO is this: If you can’t beat em, join em.

Rather than trying to compete, it’s easier and more effective to go with the flow.

With barnacle SEO, you can latch onto the sites that are already ranking highly. For instance, your Yelp profile or Facebook page might be able to rank where your own site could not.

The Power of the Latch: Why Barnacle SEO Works

Many SEOs see barnacle SEO as more of a “maybe one day” than a priority on their to-do list. They’d rather put all their energy into achieving rankings with their own site.

While getting your own site to rank is important, the power of barnacle SEO shouldn’t be underestimated.

Barnacle SEO allows your business to rank for high-competition keywords your own site can’t. You can rank above your toughest competition, earn more backlinks and create more ways for users to access your site and your business’s information—all with barnacle SEO.

The more channels there are to your website from authoritative sources, the better. You’ll increase the authority of your business in the eyes of users and Google, as well as effortlessly provide an excellent mobile experience to users in an increasingly mobile world.

The Art of the Latch: Barnacle SEO Basics

Where to Start with Barnacle SEO

Your SEO is only good as your competitor’s, and barnacle SEO is no exception.

That means, in addition to earning barnacle rankings that your own site can’t, you’ll want to take a look at your competitor’s barnacle rankings.

1. See what competitors are doing

You can find what your competitors are ranking for with Monitor Backlinks as the first step in your barnacle SEO strategy. Just click on the “See All” button in the “Latest Competitors Links” section of your Overview page:



Create a list of the aggregator sites they’re receiving backlinks from to ensure you’re receiving backlinks from those sites too—as long as they’re high quality.

This will put you and your competitor’s barnacles on a level playing field.

2. Check site quality

If you’re unsure about the quality of a site, you can analyze the site quality with Monitor Backlinks to check if it’s worth getting.

Check the site’s Domain Authority, Trust Flow and Citation Flow before taking the time to create a barnacle on it.



Monitor Backlinks will send you alerts when your competition is building more barnacles so that you can stay ahead.

3. Optimize your barnacles

Create and optimize your barnacles as best as you can on each platform. That means adding your business information, pictures and earning reviews where relevant.

Make sure your name, address, phone number, website and business hours are all listed correctly and consistently everywhere.

Since you can’t edit the format of your address on Google My Business (and because… it’s Google), I’d suggest you use that format for all of your barnacles for citation consistency.

4. Always check for consistency

With citations, consistency and quality are more important than quantity. A few well-optimized citation barnacles on high-authority sites is much better than having inconsistent or incomplete information across many citation barnacles. Stay away from low-quality, irrelevant and low-authority sites.

You can manage barnacle SEO strategy directly in the Monitor Backlinks tool. See which sites are linking to yours and get updated when anything changes.



The next step is to see which relevant keywords your competitor is surpassing you on with Monitor Backlinks’ keyword rank checker.

Plug these keywords into Google and see if there are any already-existing barnacle opportunities that you could use to outrank your competition.

If there’s not, you can always create them with advanced barnacle SEO. (Stay tuned for a walkthrough of more advanced strategies, after we’ve finished going through the barnacle basics.)

Hitch Onto General Aggregators

If your competitor has existing barnacles, they’re most likely on general aggregate sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, YellowPages and other citation sites.

For some of these sites, optimizing your profile and earning user engagement could get you on a “best” or “top 10” list. For instance, Google might display Yelp’s “Top 10 massage therapists in X city” for the search query “massage therapists in X city.”

You’ll also want to remove any duplicate citation barnacles. Search within each aggregator for your business and use Monitor Backlinks to make sure there’s only one listing for your business.

Hitch Onto Industry Sites

Depending on your industry, getting barnacles on industry sites could be even more important than your general aggregator barnacles. For instance, interior designers should definitely be on Houzz and hotels should be on TripAdvisor.

To find industry barnacle prospects, start by checking Moz’s, BrightLocal’s and Whitespark’s citation by industry lists.

To cover your bases, search Google for “[your industry] directory.”

As discussed above, make sure the quality of the site is up to par before using it as part of your barnacle SEO strategy. At minimum, you’ll want to check the Domain Authority, Citation Flow, Trust Flow and backlinks.



Don’t Overlook Local Sites

If you’re a local business and can find a local directory for your city, check the quality to see if it’s worth adding to your barnacle SEO strategy.

It’s likely that they may have outdated resources, in which case you can help them get up-to-date by adding your business. If they’re linking to quality local resources, all the better. Reaching out is a great way to request links and build local relationships.

Rising Tides: Advanced Barnacle SEO

Once you’ve got your basics covered, it’s time to up the ante. With advanced barnacle SEO, you find out where your audience is hanging out online and actually create barnacle opportunities.

Even better, find out which keywords your competition is ranking higher for than you with Monitor Backlink’s keyword rank tracker. Then create barnacles specifically designed to outrank your competition for these keywords.

Some of these advanced barnacles are passive, meaning you’ll have to wait for the opportunity to arise at the right moment. Others are active, meaning you can create them yourself right now.



Expert Advice

You can provide expert advice directly to your audience by responding to their questions on forum sites like Quora and Reddit. When people use search engines to ask the same or similar questions, these types of pages often rank high if people find the answers helpful and platform appropriate.

For this type of barnacle, responding to people’s questions in a timely manner is important. You can set up keyword alerts with services like Google Alerts and IFTTT so that you can respond soon after the question is posted. You can use refined web search techniques to narrow down your search to specific keywords and platforms.

You can also barnacle through classic backlinking strategies such as finding holes in Wikipedia and providing guest posts and testimonials to relevant sites, all showcasing your expert advice. On some platforms such as Reddit, you can even create actionable mega-guide barnacles if the subreddit allows it.

Create Barnacles

In recent years, some search queries result in YouTube videos, Pinterest suggestions and academic papers at the top of the SERP.

Rather than battling other web pages with your own, you can actively create your own barnacle by creating one of these sources and skip to the top of SERP, dominating the competition.

Even YouTube videos don’t have to be very high quality to rank in this way. I’ve seen surprisingly low-quality YouTube videos rank first above high-quality written content, making them a great opportunity for barnacle SEO.

You’ll need to play around with the Google search engine to find opportunities and holes. Google will only show these varied results when it thinks it makes most sense for the search query and user.

Barnacle Your Barnacle

It’s important to recognize that aggregators like Yelp, Facebook and Reddit are all their own search engines. In this way, you can “barnacle your barnacle” by responding to posts within these search engines and even linking to them to strengthen them.

Like with expert advice, you can use refined web searches in Google like “@twitter [your keyword]” to search within these search engines. Timeliness will be important for social platforms, so using Google Alerts and IFTTT can again be helpful here.

Barnacle Your Business

You can create reasons for your barnacles to exist in the physical realm. Local and seasonal community events or sponsorships can go a long way for barnacle SEO through press releases and news.


Don’t get stuck on the idea that trying to rank your own site is the only path forward with SEO.

If you want to be successful in today’s search engine landscape, use barnacle SEO for creative ways to outrank your toughest competition.

Go with the flow!


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