Barnacle SEO for Local Search Success

Barnacle SEO for Small Businesses

In Local Search, we often use the phrase, barnacle SEO, which refers to the practice of getting listings on websites that rank for the terms for which you wish to rank. Will Scott, my buddy from Local U, coined the term, “barnacle SEO” in 2011, and defined it as: “Attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.”

Good use of barnacle SEO can help your business to get in front of searchers who may not otherwise find you online. This can result in referrals from search engines, review sites, and aggregate websites. You will likely find one or two websites that will send you a decent number of referrals, but you also might want to consider casting a broader net. Getting a few referrals from many different websites can have a nice, positive impact on your bottom line.

Face it: very few small business websites will ever rank #1 organically for the most well-searched terms that are applicable to them. Terms like “hotel,” or “doctor,” or “electrician,” or “Italian restaurant,” are usually dominated by powerful sites, like Trip Advisor (hotel), Health Grades (doctor), Angie’s List (electrician), and Yelp (Italian restaurants).  These brands are trusted, and people use them to find the types of businesses they list. Therefore, your business needs to be listed on as many of these sites that rank on the first page for your high-volume search terms as possible.

Here is an example of the top Google search results for the search term, “Denver steak houses”:

SERPS for Denver steak hosue

As you can see, the 4 top-ranking websites are not from steak houses in Denver, but from websites that list the steak houses in Denver. The first business-owned steak house listing is the fifth listing, and it is followed by 2 more directory-type websites, Yellowpages and Opentable. If you own a steak house in Denver, it would behoove you to be listed on as many of these aggregate and review sites as you can. The review sites are far more well-known, and they frequently appear in the first page of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). A listing on this Cityvoter page may not be one you could easily obtain:

SERP result for Denver steak houses

However, you can get free listings on Yelp, Urban Spoon and Yellowpages with just a little time and effort. Some sites, like and Opentable, require membership, which may or may not be worthwhile for your particular restaurant.  You may want to investigate the return of investment (ROI) of your advertising with them.

DIY Advertising on a Budget:

Small business owners could benefit from a few minutes or hours of strategic research. Here’s how:

  • Plug in the search terms or keywords that are most applicable to your business into your favorite search engines;
  • Make a list of which websites appear on the first page of the search engine results; and
  • Investigate the websites in which these search terms appear; and
  • If you think your business could benefit from a listing, sign up.

If you’re not familiar with the referral sites in the results, take a look at them and see what opportunities there might be for you to get listed on them.  This is also a good way to see how your business peers are spending their time and advertising dollars. Consider paying to get listed on sites that look promising, but if you have a small budget, then just get started with the free ones.

In addition to being found on these sites and gaining more exposure and new customers from them, barnacle SEO can also help you to own a bigger chunk of the real estate on the first page of the search results.

Here is an example of one business dominating the search results for the query,  “jewelry repair Indianapolis”:

Example of SERPS for jewelry repair

This picture shows only some of the search results for Rudy’s Watch & Jewelry Repair. If you perform this search yourself, you will see even more results for Rudy’s on the first page. Way to be a barnacle, Rudy!

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1 reply
  1. Jim Rudnick says:

    Wow! Nice find here Mary – but I’m not surprised! After being in conferences and listening to your knowledge and skills, I’m not surprised at all! I think I’ll look into this myownself up here in Canuckland, and see if there’s a correlation here too. Should be I figure, eh?

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