Barnacle SEO, a term first introduced by Will Scott on Search Influence in 2011, is as applicable in today’s local search environment as ever.
The local search results for broad keyword search terms are often dominated by local or industry review sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor.
Instead of wasting resources trying to replace these behemoths in the search results, or giving up on ranking for that search term, the Barnacle strategy calls for taking advantage of their search position by “attaching oneself” to them like a barnacle to a ship, then just riding their ranking success.
In this case, “attaching oneself” means optimizing your listing with them so that you appear at the top of their results.
Sample Search Results for Real Estate
Search for “Real Estate” in your local area and chances are that your search results will be cluttered with results from Zillow, trulia, and Realtor.com and other similarly large real estate sites.
1. Claim (or set-up) your Listing: Depending on the site, your listing may already be there waiting for you to claim it, more likely however, you’ll have to register and set up a new account.
2. Complete Information Fields: Provide as much information as you can – complete all relevant fields. Longer descriptions often rank higher.
3. Include Keywords: Use industry and location related keywords in your titles and text fields.
4. Set Categories: Take the time to search for the best Category classifications for your business. Add as many relevant categories as are allowed.
5. Add Images/Media: Adding images and video may not only help you to rank higher, but can help improve your click-through-rates once you are ranking.
6. Get Reviews: Not always an easy or enjoyable task, reviews definitely make a difference on these sites. Try to incorporate it into your regular client follow-up routine. If you are trying to rank on multiple sites, you will have to decide whether to spread your reviews out, or focus on one site.
7. Research Specific Site Requirements: The above tips will provide a solid foundation to get your barnacle optimization started, however, individual sites will have other factors that influence rankings – on site activity (updating listings, etc.), adding your blog, answering community questions, etc..
Often you can find videos or webinars that outline specific strategies for a given site.
Another way to get an idea of what ranking factors a site weighs more heavily, or to judge how difficult it will be for you to rank, is to Reverse Engineer the rankings. To do this, search your category on the site (i.e. “real estate, Henderson”) and look at the profiles that appear at the top. What differentiates the top few from later listings? What separates the highest ranking listing from the second, third, etc.?
Ranking well on these sites can definitely drive traffic to your site, but Barnacle SEO should only be one part of your overall SEO (and marketing) strategy. Relying exclusively on a 3rd party site for traffic and leads leaves your business exposed to too much risk – the site may change their ranking system or business model, or Google may change its algorithm or penalize that particular site.
What are the Barnacle sites for your industry? Have you found ways to optimize your listings on those sites?
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