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The term “Barnacle SEO” was originally coined by Will Scott. It refers to an SEO strategy of leveraging other sites’ rankings in the SERPs for valuable keywords that your site may never have a chance of ranking for.

To illustrate this concept, Rand uses the example of how the Ashland Shakespeare Company could potentially use barnacle SEO.

One potentially relevant and high volume keyword that could be valuable to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is ‘Shakespeare Quotes’. However, the sites ranking on the first page for this keyword are difficult to compete with – Wikipedia, Enotes, GoodReads – to name a few. However, though Oregon Shakespeare Festival may not have any hope of ranking for this keyword, by engaging with the pages that ARE ranking for this keyword, they could do ‘barnacle SEO’. Rand poses these possible tactics:

  • Updating information on the Wikipedia page for Shakespeare Quotes and including their site in the references
  • Offering suggestions, videos from their theatre/actors etc. to sites such as Enotes
  • Posting books that Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been referenced in or written related to Shakespeare quotes, on GoodReads


The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is just one example of a business that could leverage barnacle SEO. However, many more, if not all sites could take advantage of this. Here is the process:

  1. Make a list of valuable, high volume keywords.
  2. Collate a list of the pages ranking highly for these terms.
  3. Brainstorm how you could engage with these sites to somehow boost your marketing.
  4. Now execute!