Using the barnacle SEO method to prove local community awareness

Using the barnacle SEO method to prove local community awareness

Once again, the Mozzers strike with great SEO information. This time it’s how to improve your local ranking by using the “Barnacle SEO Method”. We will let Miriam Ellis explain it from her post over at Moz.

‘Barnacle SEO’ was a term first popularized by Will Scott in 2011 to describe the process of attaching your business to existing high-ranking entities (like major directories) and then promoting them as a means of dominating search engine results for desired terms.

Today, we’re going to take that novel concept in a different direction, with the goal of increasing brand awareness for single, multi-location, and enterprise local businesses by latching onto existing influences in any given community. Up ahead: simple tips for interpreting your city, a downloadable community awareness spreadsheet, and real-world examples for your inspiration!

Before we dive in, take a look at these two eye-opening statistics:

“73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when they’re making purchasing decisions.”

“63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic, over and above competitors.”
Cohn & Wolfe

The Cohn & Wolfe survey of 12,000 participants included these definitions of authenticity consumers care about: the business stands for more than just making money (74%), has a relevant and engaging story (43%), and is well-known in its region or field (63%). The combination of these three statistics should ring bells with any local search marketing expert or department.


Independently owned businesses hit roadblocks when they fear they have nothing real to say. Multi-location businesses fret over meaningful differentiation of one location from another. Large enterprises struggle with fostering local authenticity because the distance between the CEO and the clerk behind the checkout counter is sometimes too great, and brand-wide initiatives may result in generic, rather than truly local, messaging.

How to overcome these challenges? The solution lies in realizing that almost any given community is already writing your local story; you just have to discover how to latch onto it.

A significant portion of your blog posts, social outreach, and even paid advertising can be based on the fact that there are local, national, and global influences already firmly established in the minds of your consumers, almost every day of the year. Whether it’s the small-town 4th of July BBQ or the big-city Earth Day celebration, there are events, holidays, weather patterns, long-standing customs, and emerging news items of which your customers are already aware. Your barnacle local awareness marketing simply involves tying your business into pre-existing conditions, proving that you, too, are aware.


To put it another way, you don’t have to tell a customer that summer has arrived. He already sees the sunshine and feels the heat. But if one of the branches of your home improvement franchise is located in a steaming hot, asphalt-topped shopping center, you can:

  • Set up a big, friendly, self-serve cooler of iced tea and invite customers to pop in for a free drink.
  • Erect a doggy drinking station under a shady overhang and let customers know they can stop by anytime.
  • Set up a few quality lawn chairs next to your big display of high-powered fans and invite customers to take a seat and enjoy the breeze.
  • Blog, tweet, post, hang up signage, and otherwise share your call for neighbors to come cool off while they’re making their usual shopping rounds.
  • Hold a summer contest with a prize of vouchers for the local swim center or other refreshing retreat.
  • Sponsor the swim center and earn a sponsorship listing on their website

All of this says you’ve noticed it’s summer, too, that your customers are perspiring, and that you’d like to help. Your outreach establishes your goodwill and an extra reason to visit your business.


Or maybe yours is a large natural foods store enterprise, and you’ve got a location in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every October, the city hosts the famed week-long Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Your customers are already aware of this event, already talking about it, and making plans surrounding it. Your proofs of local awareness could include:

  • Sponsorships
  • Donations of money or supplies
  • A food booth at the event
  • An event photo contest with a nice prize
  • In-store specials on picnic items to take to the event
  • Fun tips for planning a great picnic meal
  • ‘Secret’ insider info on great parking spots near the event grounds
  • Staff photos of the fiesta
  • Sharing all of the above on your website and social profiles

Your outreach will put this branch of your enterprise right in the middle of a major community happening, establishing your local awareness.

With even a modest application of research and brainstorming, chances are, your community is literally overflowing with inspiration for barnacle local marketing opportunities. For efficiency’s sake, organization will play a key role in planning your schedule of timely outreach. Read on!



There’s nothing quite so organized as a good old spreadsheet, and to save you trouble, we’ve created this one for you, pre-filled in with major holidays and a few influences and fields we think will help you get started. Some holidays are on fixed dates, of course, but you’ll want to edit the dates of others each year.

Here’s an example of what a completed spreadsheet might look like for the month of September for a hypothetical major medical center in the city of Boise, Idaho:


Access your complimentary spreadsheet here.

To make a copy for your own use, simply select “File” from the main menu, then “Make a copy.” You can then add in your own events, change up the formatting, translate it to Swahili, whatever you’d like.

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