How to (indirectly) increase your organic traffic with Barnacle SEO
Picture in your mind one of the most competitive keywords in your industry. Can you see it?
And now, imagine your page ranking very high for this keyword. Does it seem real to you?
For someone, it might. But for most of us, it is not reality.
Of course, everything depends on your industry, your competitors, and the experience of your SEO specialist.
But this article isn't covering how to rank on the first page for a specific keyword, on the contrary, it’s about what to do when you know that this situation is not possible for you.
Even though it’s not going to rank high, you can still get some interesting traffic from this specific keyword.
The name for this is tactic Barnacle SEO.
What does Barnacle even mean?
Barnacles are crustaceans, attaching themselves permanently to a hard substrate like the bottom of the boat. They are basically a type of “parasite” that can slow down a boat when there are many of them. But, at the same time, they move as fast as the boat.
The term Barnacle SEO was used for the first time by Will Scott and then it was popularized by Rand Fishkin in his Whiteboard Friday.
What is Barnacle SEO then?
A definition is a must have, so here it is:
Barnacle SEO is a tactic in which a website does not try to rank high for a competitive keyword, but rather tries to get a link or reference from a larger and more authoritative website, whose content can be changed and which is already ranking well for this keyword.
Of course, when your competitors are ranking on the first page, you won’t even try to get a link from them. But if we are talking about very competitive and general keywords, they probably won't be ranking high either.
Here are some examples of pages that often rank very high and from which you can get a link for yourself as well:
Wikipedia: The public encyclopedia.
Quora: Page based on the principle of “question-answer”.
Reddit: Discussion forum.
Tripadvisor: Travel tips.
Yelp: Service recommendation.
In addition to those, you can find local catalogues, industry catalogues, lots of aggregator or comparison sites, and local pages as well on the first page of SERP.
The first page is often covered with different media, news sites, or other authoritative websites that are not selling anything.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Barnacle SEO?
Links to authoritative pages that appear high in search results increases the value of your page in the eyes of the search engine.
You won't be trying to get ahead of sites that appear in the first page, instead, you will try to join them.
References on the authoritative site can bring you new traffic.
Mentions will help increase your brand awareness.
You help to create a better content value on the page that appears in the top search results, therefore you help customers and readers.
Barnacle SEO cannot be used for every single keyword and for each industry. There will also be websites where you wouldn't be able to interact with the content.
If you are successful and get a link from the page, the traffic from this link is still not guaranteed. This is especially true when there are many other links on that page already.
Getting mentions and links from authoritative sites is not an easy thing to do. Many people don't try this tactic only because it is time-consuming.
For whom is Barnacle SEO suitable?
Barnacle SEO is suitable for all industries which specialize in products and services that have a high volume of first page content from authoritative websites which aggregate tips and links to other sites.
In general, we can say that Barnacle SEO is suitable for local businesses, restaurants, coffee shops, or clubs.
Example 1: When I searched for “Hairdressers Prague”, the pages that were ranking well were, for example, expats.cz (portal for expats), yelp.com (service recommendation), and prague-stay.com (lifestyle portal).
Example 2: When I searched for “Clubs Warsaw”, the pages that were ranking well were, for example, tripadvisor.com (travel portal), inyourpocket.com (city guides), and goout.net (event calendar).
Do you have a tip for an industry that is suitable for Barnacle SEO? Let us know in the comments and we will be happy to add it to the article.
How to proceed with Barnacle SEO
Does Barnacle SEO seem like something worth trying? Let's take a look at how to proceed and what the steps of this process are.
1. Identify keywords
Do you already have your keyword analysis ready? If so, you’ve just saved yourself some time. If not, you should probably start working on one now. Keyword analysis is an essential part of most SEO activities. Part of keyword analysis is also finding out what the search volume and competitiveness of each keyword are.
To find out the search volume you can use the Search Volume Miner in Marketing Miner.
To find out the competitiveness you can use the SERP competition Miner.
Once you have this data available you need to identify those keywords which are highly competitive, those which are very general, and those that have a high search volume.
2. Analyze search engine results (SERP)
For each of the keywords you've chosen in the first step, you'll need to find out what pages appear in the search results. You can do this by typing the keyword into Google and going through the results one at a time. However, if you have more than one of these keywords, you can save time with the SERP Analyzer Miner.
Click on Next step.
Choose the SERP Analyzer Miner in the Market Prospecting section.
Wait for your report to be processed.
The report might look like this after processing.
3. Be creative
Now comes the creative part. You have to go through the individual results that appear in the SERP analysis and think about how to get a link from them. I will tell you a few tips below in a practical example.
4. Get a link or mention
The hardest part comes at the end. You’ve already analyzed SERP and you’ve figured out how to try to get the link on the website and now you have to go for it. You have to get the link on the page.
For sites like Quora or Wikipedia, it is quite easy. You can just update content and get a link. But you must be a regular contributor and your content needs to have high value.
If you need to contact a magazine or a blogger and ask them to update their content, you might want to use the Contact Finder Miner to help you find the primary contact of that site.
Practical example of Barnacle SEO in use
Let's see how this process works in a real life application. I will show you how I proceeded within each step.
1. Identify keywords
I chose only one keyword for my Barnacle experiment. It should be enough for this practical example.
My keyword is “Link prospecting”. We’ve already covered this topic on our blog and as the keyword is quite general and competitive, we decided to support the article with this Barnacle SEO tactic.
2. Analyze search engine results (SERP)
According to the process described earlier, I used the SERP Analyzer Miner. This is my output example that I downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet.
3. Be creative
I went through each result and I wrote a comment to the table on how I was going to try and get a link for Marketing Miner.
What can we see in this spreadsheet?
I decided not to deal with 2 websites at all, because it was either a commercial page or another landing page that was not possible to interact with.
One of the result was Quora. This is the easiest way for me to get a link, because I am active on Quora and I can add an answer with a link by myself.
In the case of the article on crazyegg.com, I didn't have any hope that somebody would respond if I would approach them via email. So I decided to add a comment with some content value. Even though they did say in the comment section that they usually don't approve comments with a link.
The rest are articles about link prospecting. These websites are not our direct competitors and each article refers to some external pages. That's why I see potential here to get some links.
4. Get a link or mention
How did my experiment go and what tips can you take from it?
I got 2 links from 10 possible pages. It's not the best result, but it's also not a bad one. I'll explain why.
What went wrong?
I decided not to deal with 2 websites at all (as I mentioned above).
The authors of 2 of the articles (specifically searchenginejournal.com and monitorbacklinks.com) replied to me that their article is a guest post and they can't interfere with it anymore. But at least they answered. But according to that, I think that there is a very small chance of success in Barnacle SEO regarding guest posts. That's why I wouldn't spend much time on it in the future.
The comment on the crazyegg.com article was not approved, as I expected. However, getting mentions through the comments is a way to go in Barnacle SEO. I got lots of traffic just from comment referrals on my personal blog. But you have to make sure that your comments are helpful for the readers.
The remaining authors that I approached didn't reply to my message. But this happens all the time as the response rate of link building outreach is quite low. But it is always worth a try.
What went well?
There was not much competition on Quora. I got my answer to the second position. But I will be honest, these “upvotes” are not all natural. I had to ask lots of friends to upvote my post because I wanted to see what the result would be. But Quora has much better algorithms than I expected and they didn't rank the answers only according to the number of upvotes.
I got a link from the link prospecting guide on pageonpower.com. I connected with the person responsible for this content on LinkedIn and because he liked our article we got a link.
Ways to use Barnacle SEO
At this point, you should already have an idea of how Barnacle SEO works both theoretically and practically.
However, let's summarize all the possible ways you can use this SEO activity for your website.
Make comments under an article. If an article has good rankings and you have something interesting to say, add a comment to the article. However, the comment has to be relevant and beneficial. At the same time, it shouldn't be very long, because the reader can automatically skip it. There are only a few people that can read long comments after finishing reading a long article.
Discuss on discussion forums. This is very similar to commenting. You have to engage in the discussion with a relevant answer. Ideally, you should be a regular contributor, because when you add only one post with a link, nobody will probably approve that. This category also includes websites like Quora.
Create a profile in catalogues or lists. If you can get your website on any catalogue or list that appears high in search results, you should definitely do it. If you have a budget, you can even pay for higher placement or you can optimize your profile so that you will be at the top results even without paying for it.
Join roundup articles. Are articles like “XY experts responds to topic AB” familiar? These articles usually have really good rankings, so when an authoritative site approaches you to join this kind of article, don't hesitate. You can even try to get placed in this article after it is already published.
Write a guest post for authoritative websites. If you already know that you don't stand a chance to get in top search results for the specific keyword with your website, you can find some other website with a higher probability to rank well. Approach this website and write a guest post for them.
Be the best. Articles or list like “XY best …” usually rank pretty high and users are looking for these kind of keywords very often. If your brand or product is the best, you can be on these lists as well. But, if you are not yet the best, you can still do everything possible to make sure that magazines and bloggers that publish these articles will notice you.
Create a profile or specialized content on social networks. If you are not able to optimize your own website for a specific keyword, optimize the content on social networks. Youtube, Facebook, or Pinterest will always rank better because of their domain. Get your content with a link right there.
Do you have another tip on how to use Barnacle SEO in practice? Or would you like to share your own experience using this tactic? Let us know in the comments.