You know when you type in a local search term (like “auto repair”) into Google and you see a business’s Facebook page or Yelp page or YouTube video or channel (or even its YellowPages listing)? Well, if your business has good rankings for one of those, you’ve just pulled off a bit of “barnacle” local SEO.
Will Scott coined the term “barnacle SEO” and explained the basic strategy back in 2008 (!). It’s a clever but very doable strategy based on a fact you probably know already: that there are certain sites that Google consistently ranks really well for local searches. It has favorites.
Of course, the Google+ Local and AdWords results take center stage. But there are always the organic rankings. A few of them belong to local businesses. Most or all of the rest of them typically point to Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, CitySearch, even Yahoo, and other third-party sites. In a way, you can mooch off their popularity (and the good job of SEO they do).
Your goal – as a humble barnacle – is to latch onto those big ships. They can take you places. There are a few ways to go about doing that.
I’m going to rattle off the approaches I’ve seen work for a few of my clients and for others.
(By the way, I’d like this to be an “evergreen” post. So I’ll be adding strategies here as I discover more good ones.)
Let’s go over some basic strategy before getting into more-specific strategies:
Two species of barnacles
There are two basic types of barnacle local SEO:
(1) Get a given page for your business to rank well in the organic search results, or
(2) Be at the top of the rankings in a site that ranks well.
I like the example of Yelp:
So one opportunity is to get your business’s page in the organic results. The other opportunity is to rank well within that high-ranking site’s search results (which, again, themselves rank visibly in Google). Ideally you do both.
Three basic steps
The first step is just to have pages / accounts on all the sites that matter. I’m talking about having basic and industry-specific citations. And a local Facebook page for each location, and a YouTube channel with a few videos you created for your business, if at all possible. Probably not news to you.
The second step is also pretty simple: Beef up those pages as much as possible. First and foremost, pick every relevant category you can. Add as much relevant “additional” info as you can: a short description, a long description, as many services as you’re allowed to mention, photos, etc.
The third step is the trickiest. You have to activate each page (or listing, or profile, or whatever you want to call it).
I’m mostly referring to doing a combination of things with those pages: drumming up some followers / fans / shares, getting some reviews, and (to a lesser extent) getting a few links to those pages.
The best “ships”
- “Engage” with your customers and others. I hate using that word, because it’s so clichéd. I want to take a shower. But I think it conveys my advice. You want stuff on your page, you want people on your page, and you want the people to be consuming and commenting on and “liking” the stuff. So my advice is to use your Facebook posts and the rest of your page not to talk about how great you think your company is, but to share useful info, even if it’s just an occasional morsel. (Read this if you don’t know how to do that.)
- Ask some customers to write you a Facebook review. Yes, there is such a thing now. (No, it’s not the same thing as a “like.”)
- Link to your page whenever possible. You probably already do so from your site, and that’s a good idea, as long as you have the link open into a new browser tab (you don’t want people leaving your site to see your Facebook page). Also, many sites where you can get a citation ask you to specify your Facebook URL. Do so. Be on the lookout for other occasions to link to or get a link to your page, but don’t embark on some big link-building effort.
Yelp and other IYPs
- Get reviews. I talk all the time about how to do this, so I won’t dwell on it here. I’ll just refer you to these posts:
- Link to your more-important profiles. Let’s say you’ve got some good HealthGrades reviews and you want HealthGrades to be your barnacle. Link to it from your site, from the “Links” section of your Google+ page (“personal” or non-local “business”), and wherever allowed on other listings of yours.
- Get creative. Let’s say you have a few microsites (tsk, tsk) and realize you shouldn’t link them to your main site. Try linking them to one of those profiles – maybe use ol’ YellowPages as your test-dummy – and see what happens.
- Encourage other activity. Like check-ins, in the case of Yelp or FourSquare. I wouldn’t put a lot of effort into this. It also depends on your demographics. But just see what you can do – how you can get customers to use your various pages.
- Name your video relevantly. Yeah, that means there should be a keyword in there. But it also means it should read smoothly. If the video title sucks – if it’s written for Google and not for humans – nobody will click on it. It needs to be catchy.
- Read this post by Chris Silver Smith, and apply the suggestions.
- Feature them wherever possible. Embed some videos on your site. Upload them to your Google+ Local listing, if possible. Link to them on your other local listings, where possible (many sites ask you for links to your videos). Post them on Facebook, as appropriate.
- Pony up. You’ll have to use your discretion, of course. Many paid listings aren’t worth it. But depending on your local market, there may be a site in your industry that ranks well, and that might itself be a place where a lot of potential customers search. If your more-visible competitors seem to be listed there (one way to see this is with the Local Citation Finder), consider throwing a few dollars at it in the name of science.
Great posts on barnacle local SEO
Barnacle SEO – Local Search Engine Optimization for The Sam’s Club Crowd – the great original post by Will Scott
Barnacle SEO for Local Search Success – Mary Bowling
Learning Local SEO from the Ones That Do It Best – Nyagoslav Zhekov
10 Tips For Using YouTube To Kill At Local SEO – Chris Silver Smith
What ships have you latched onto? What are some “barnacle” strategies you think are worth trying? Leave a comment!