Barnacle SEO

Updated: Jun 4

This is one of the ways to get qualified visitors to your website without increasing your ranking. It might be an old technique that was popular 3-4 years ago, but it's still very effective to secure high quality and organic traffic, without having to increase your rankings.

Barnacle SEO is essentially a term coined by Will Scott of Search Influence and credit to him for that. The idea that Will proposed is attaching oneself to a large fixed object and collecting benefit as the currents bring it. In terms of SEO, it means taking advantage of larger sites like SEO Master, for example.

People will discover websites through search engines but lots of SEOs miss this opportunity because they think in SEO terms. Doing SEO means working with sales in mind, this is every SEO's ultimate goal, to produce more revenue for the company.

So why don’t we reverse engineer the process and start from the very end of the funnel? From sales perhaps and we work our way back to traffic.

What normally SEOs do is the following:

  1. Try to get backlinks and increase the number (one of the KPIs and one of the most important ranking factors)

  2. Write quality content to attract readers with an inbound approach (measured in terms of number of readers and conversion rates)

  3. Implement new ways of doing SEO with featured snippets and rich results (measured in how many visitors you actually get)

The reverse process starts from the end and goes backwards. Your website needs to produce sales, which means you need leads. And leads are coming from users.

If your website is not ranking for a specific keyword that is important to your business and it brings sales, then your job would be to improve the position for that keyword.

But this is assuming that all your visitors come directly from Google. What if you use the middle man and get your visitors from a third party website?

Now you might think that I am talking about buying links or doing referral marketing. I am not talking about any of this. I am referring to getting SEO traffic to your website from SERPs of other third-party websites.

This is what I call indirect ranking.

What is Barnacle SEO ranking?

Barnacle is a type of  SEO strategy that allows a business or website to link to a large website that ranks highly for the keywords that the business or website wants to rank for in order to gain traffic, leads, and potentially higher rankings.

This technique is only applicable to these situations:

  • You have one or more keywords you want to rank for

  • You can’t rank because your competitors’ sites are too big

  • There are more than 1 website ranking on top of you in SERP

  • These websites are not your competitors

You can easily set up a partnership with those websites and be featured on their landing pages. All you need to do is pick up the phone and set up a deal to be featured on their page from the SERPs.

Before I go into the details of how to achieve this, let’s see what results in you can get.

The results

I have done this recently with great results. On a project for ranking for a competitive keyword, we couldn’t get position #1 and neither any of available the featured snippet, which you can check with SEMrush. My idea popped up in my mind when I have noticed one of those website ranking on top, wasn’t our competitor.

This means they are open to advertising our brand. If you can’t rank directly, you can rank indirectly. It's the same principle as PPC, you can stay on top of your organic SEO results, only that with Indirect Ranking you can stay on top, AND you get still organic traffic.

The website ranking on top of ours was about starting new careers, which is a great match for us, since our company offers courses and diplomas. This is the result of a small test in terms of conversion rates, from 1 single 150x150 px banner on their landing page, I hope you’ll re-think the banner blindness phenomenon:

We see very low volumes, but a promising starting point, considering 1 banner was uploaded on the landing page. This was just a small test to find out what the potential could be.

Imagine you are able to increase the partnership 100x with this referral website and see the following results:

You might be thinking that it’s very expensive to set up such a deal. But if you negotiate the deal in order for your website to show only on 1 page, then your advertising costs are massively reduced.

The process

So, the process consists only of 4 steps:

  1. Make a Google search on the target keywords you want to rank for. More specifically, look for websites that have good rankings for some of the keywords. And the keywords you target must be producing sales/ leads already for your website. Identify the websites on top of yours.

  2. Make sure they are not your competitors, but they are still in an industry that is relevant to yours.

  3. Click on the search result and analyse the landing page to find advertising spots. I normally look for banner opportunities and sponsored content. The more space those ads take on the landing page, the more likely is that your brand can be seen by their audience.

  4. Find the advertising details and negotiate a deal. Normally you can send them an email or just pick up the phone ask for more information on what prices they ask for. Then specify that you only need to target one page.

The benefits

I am going to share the benefits of this technique:

  1. The page you are showing your ads collaterals is relevant to your core website. More specifically, users that don’t find your website on SERPs, will find it on another website’s landing page, which is what I call indirect ranking.

  2. You get the backlink from a powerful domain, which always helps your link building.

  3. Traffic from a Google landing page result is always of high quality, hence you see the high conversion rates stats.

You can scale the traffic volumes to 100x after you test a small portion with 1 single banner (or sponsored article).


I wouldn't advise using this technique in every scenario in which you can't rank position 1 for a keyword. This technique is best used as a temporary measure to get quick traffic from organic searches until your SEO efforts will reach the desired ranking.

Then your job is essentially to pursue and execute. Now, this process is relatively simple and straightforward, but it's a very rarely pursued tactic. When people think about SEO, they think about ranking themselves. They don't think about barnacle SEO and latching onto these solitary objects, these larger objects and letting the currents bring it to them. I think this can be incredibly valuable.