How barnacle SEO allows you to stand on the shoulders of Giants.
What is Barnacle SEO?
Barnacle SEO, according to Suzana Joel at Synup:
What does that mean? How do you “attach” to larger businesses and get them to build your own traffic? Well there are a few ways to do that through Barnacle SEO, but the premise of the fact is that it is used to leverage the domain name and keywords of your industry giants, to improve your own rankings.
Let’s give an example. You’re an SEO agency and desperately trying to improve your rankings. You’re struggling to rank for keywords and bring in new keywords, not because you’re a bad agency, it’s just taking a long time to see the results you’re expecting. So what you do is you write reviews on big businesses, compare plans, or discuss ranking changes about them, so that your articles can be pulled up in the rankings by using their brand identity.
Let’s say Google is your major competitor. So you write a review about “Google’s biggest algorithm update: Medic 2019.” What you’ve done there is Barnacled off of Google’s massive search volume, DA, and visibility. You’ve also ranked for terms like “Medic 2019”, “Google algorithm”, and “general update” queries.
While additional queries such as “algorithm update” and others are important, the real value of that title is the fact that Google is included. You can take that principle and apply it to any industry. While you may not rank very well for “algorithm updates” in general, creating niche, long-tail keywords will often be the boost you need to see quick results.
How do you do it?
1. Identify Barnacle SEO Opportunity
First you need to run a few tests to identify where the opportunity lies. Your competitors should be ranking for mid to long-tail keywords in your industry. They should also be solely based in that industry, for example what semRush might be to the SEO world.
Once you’ve identified a hot list of 5 or 10 competitors, it’s important to start figuring out each of their strengths, unique keywords, and where you believe their traffic is coming from. Using a series of tools, such as WHOIS, Website Architecture, and Ahrefs will give you a very holistic understanding.
2. Building the Article
Now you have an idea of the major leaders in your industry, what are you going to actually do to Barnacle? Well, here’s a short list of things you can do:
- Create a comparison between your product versus their product
- Write a review of their services as a mystery shopper
- Quote a recent press release or PR event they held
- Write comments on recent solutions or product announcements
- Discuss a new player in the market
- Utilise their important keywords
It’s important to include the name of the brand that you plan to Barnacle off of. There’s no point writing a review on “Cloudera’s Newest SaaS,” with the title “New SaaS in the Software Industry.” Ensure you’re really taking advantage of the SEO that your competitors have already built up.
It’s also a great idea to include some of your own product details, not necessarily in an aggressive up-sell way, but at least for a mention so readers are exposed to your products.
3. Publishing and Analysing
Once you’ve hit publish on your 750-1000 word article (recommended), it’s important to know if it actually worked.
The easiest way to check this, is by going into Google Search Console (GSC) and checking your recent rankings, page clicks, and for which queries you’re ranking. If you click “+New” you can set the parameter to “query” and enter the keyword that you’re trying to rank for. In this case, a competitor’s site or keyword.
Tips for efficiency.
Barnacle SEO can be hit or miss. Often you will try to rank against a big industry leader, but their unrelated sub-pages will often beat yours out for the sake of their domain Authority. If possible, find specific pages within their website architecture that do not reflect as great of a PageRank, which can be used.
For example if your competitor has lots of product pages, with the Home domain carrying a lot of authority, you could definitely try to rank for one of their isolated products instead of trying to rank against their brand identity.
A perfect ‘Host’ should have no more than 3-5 high DA barnacles with several smaller ones. Consider posting a few types of blog posts about them with revolving content, creating a holistic review or aspect consideration of whatever angle you approach.
Is this considered black-hat?
Black-hat SEO leads to the potential incursion of many penalties, and most dramatically the Google Black Mark. This will cripple your Search Engine Visibility and potentially lead to your website being de-indexed from Google.
The important thing that differentiates Barnacle SEO from duplication of content, and, well, Barnacle SEO, is the fact that it is still derived from your writing. You still have to go in and create the review, analyse prices, services, customer complaints, and piece the whole article together.
If you go into the article and copy large segments of information from elsewhere, you’ve effectively just been duplicating content. This can result in a DMCA Takedown Notice, Google Penalisations, or poor user experience.