Barnacles, those weird little arthropods that like to attach themselves to rocks and the bottom of boats, are a slightly odd thing to name a marketing tactic after, especially one that isn’t at all unpleasant despite the name, but barnacle SEO really is aptly named. Barnacle SEO is, very simply put, the practice of leveraging the high search rankings of sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google Places, or well respected syndication services to boost the visibility of your own content. While it can be extremely effective for local search optimization, that’s certainly not all it can do, and it is by no means a brand new strategy. But as syndication and directory sites expand, the way it can be used expands as well.

Things to know

You’re probably already doing it – Because there’s a lot of overlap between barnacle SEO and social media, you’re already employing barnacle SEO by doing things like keeping your business information on Yelp and Google Places up to date and accurate or managing a company Facebook page. You may have been thinking primarily about what happens when people search directly on a given site like Yelp for your business, but the fact that that information will also then come up early on search results is a convenient bonus. Ranking well on a general search and ranking well on an individual site’s search (like Yelp, for example) can both be accomplished in the same way — accurate information about the type of business, location, hours, and contact info, backed up by great service to get positive reviews.

You don’t need to be everywhere for it to work – Because barnacle SEO leverages the authority of existing sites, you really don’t need to go signing your business up for every possible directory or syndication service. Focus on the biggies like Yelp, Google Places, Facebook, and even the Yellow Pages since those are the ones that are going to have the pull to rank highly, and don’t overlook any smaller sites that may be specific to your industry or region, like trade groups or regional business associations.

It’s not a black hat tactic – Because you’re not artificially forcing your site or your business information to show up on results that may not be relevant, barnacle SEO is not a black hat SEO tactic, despite the slightly unpleasant name. The business’ information is still only going to show up on searches for which it should legitimately be relevant.

It can be used for content as well basic business information – Yelp and Google Places listings are some of the most obvious examples, and can be great helps for brick and mortar businesses with frequent searches for hours and directions and similar information, but syndicating your content from a blog or white paper or similar to a respected syndication site relevant to your industry or area of expertise can take advantage of the same general tactic (leveraging the authority of a site that may rank higher than your directly owned content) to get your content in front of a wider audience. While barnacle SEO isn’t exactly cutting edge technology, it is something there’s no excuse for ignoring, especially as things like Google Now and Yelp mobile expand and real time, location aware local search becomes more ubiquitous and more powerful. It only takes a few minutes, so what are you waiting for?