You create a dynamite blog post with well-written content, and you know users will find it valuable. Authoritative websites will organically find and link to your content because it’s so awesome…right? Unfortunately, gaining backlinks for a piece of content is not that easy.
Every search engine optimization (SEO) strategy needs a solid game plan for building high-quality backlinks to valuable content on a site. A decade ago, marketers relied on time-consuming black hat processes for finding backlinking opportunities, but in 2014, SEO guru Brian Dean introduced the SEO world to the skyscraper technique.
Dean’s backlinking strategy took content marketing by the shirt collar and exclaimed, “I have a better way.” In a post on his website, Backlinko, Dean explains how using the link-building skyscraper technique boosted his organic traffic by 110% in just two weeks. Let’s explore this powerhouse strategy and how it can enhance your SEO efforts.
Is the Skyscraper Technique Still Relevant Today?
Some marketers will tell you that the skyscraper technique no longer works in today’s highly competitive realm of SEO, but when used correctly, this link-building strategy still packs a punch.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s a brief list of case studies that illustrate the power of link-building through skyscraper content:
- AuthorityHacker, a builder of authority sites, earned 4,300 referring domains in just three years using the skyscraper technique.
- Your Content Mart, a B2B SaaS marketing company, increased organic search traffic by 36% MoM (month over month).
- Brian Dean increased his organic traffic by 652% in seven days by leveraging the skyscraper technique and user intent.
As is true regarding any SEO strategy, the skyscraper technique doesn’t always provide the results marketers expect. Don’t worry, friends. We’ll walk you through using the skyscraper technique correctly and help you avoid common pitfalls, such as ignoring user intent or sending boring, generic emails, so that you can make the most of your skyscraper strategy.
How the Skyscraper Technique Works
The skyscraper link-building tactic consists of four primary steps:
- Find content matching your niche with a high number of backlinks. To use the skyscraper technique, you must first find your skyscraper: top-performing content with a lot of backlinks.
- Targeting the same primary keyword, create new, better content for the same topic. During this step, you make your own really tall building, only taller and prettier than the existing one.
- Find authority sites linking to the original content (or similar articles). The skyscraper technique works because the site owners linking to the skyscraper content have already linked to content like yours.
- Reach out to these prospects about linking to your better content instead. The final step involves reaching out to and convincing backlink prospects that yours is the superior content.
Content marketers using the skyscraper technique aim to drive more traffic organically and improve their online reputations. Let’s dive into the skyscraper process in more detail so you can take advantage of this powerful SEO strategy.
Find an Article (and Its Main Keyword) With Good Backlinks Related to Your Niche
A great post for the skyscraper technique will rank high, have at least 25 to 50 backlinks, and provide high-quality informational content for users. Many marketers use blog posts, but any informative page apart from home, service, and product pages works well.
Many methods exist for finding content with copious backlinks and referring domains. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Using Paid Tools Like Ahrefs
Ahrefs provides content marketers with several helpful tools that you can use to find content. If you already have a target keyword in mind, you can use the Keywords Explorer tool to find relevant high-ranking content. Experts recommend keeping the keyword difficulty filter at 40 or above because terms with higher keyword difficulty ratings tend to offer more link-building opportunities.
You can also use the Ahrefs Content Explorer tool to find content. This tool lets you search for content related to specific topics and sort the results by the number of referring domains. Brian Dean recommends looking for content with at least 25 other websites linking back to it, but we’ve also seen recommendations for up to a minimum of 50 referring domains.
If you don’t yet know what topic or keyword you want your new content to cover, you can search for skyscraper articles by entering the URL of an authority site in the Site Explorer tool. This tool’s Best by Incoming Links report provides a list of the site’s top-ranking pages, including the number of referring domains. Be sure to filter for your target language and sort by referring domains.
Remember to choose a main keyword with a high search volume and difficulty rating. Keywords should also relate directly to your website, so target a niche keyword over a broad keyword.
Using Google Keyword Planner
If you use Google Ads for digital marketing, you have access to the Google Keyword Planner, a robust keyword search tool that can help you find content to use the skyscraper strategy. If you input a competitor website’s URL, this tool will provide a keyword overview to help you choose a topic for your skyscraper article.
Using SEOquake by Semrush
SEOquake is a browser extension available to Semrush users. This tool includes a toolbar and dashboard that provides an SEO summary of whatever page you visit. The dashboard displays a lot of valuable information that can help you analyze potential content, including ranks on Google and other engines and a backlinks report.
The free tool Ubersuggest provides a ton of great SEO data, including information on backlinks. If you have a keyword in mind, this tool can help you choose content by providing an approximate number of backlinks your new content will need for optimal ranking.
Create a Better Detailed Guide on the Topic
Once you choose a high-performing blog post, it’s time to create engaging content to beat out the original. The skyscraper technique doesn’t work if you don’t produce a better-quality article, so keep the following tips in mind for the best chance at becoming a successful link builder:
Check Whether Competitors’ Articles Cover the Topic Fully
Creating content that stands out as “better” may mean diving deeper into the topic than anyone else has. Read through your skyscraper article and other similar articles and published versions to find out what has been covered already and what hasn’t. The existing content may only touch on specific topics briefly or leave out details readers would enjoy learning about.
For example, you may notice several posts that present lists of terms without definitions or explanations. Your content can provide more value by expanding on each list item under an H3. This is a simple way to create content that appears objectively better than the original article.
Another tactic is to expand on existing lists. For example, if the existing article discusses five of the best SEO strategies, your content may include six, 10, or even more strategies to provide users with more value.
Research Subtopics About the Main Idea
To appeal to other sites as a good link, you must offer a high-quality piece of content. That means doing the research to provide accurate information and diving into subtopics for unique additions to the primary topic.
Conducting topic research will also alert you to updated information that makes the ranking article out of date. Most industries change in some way regularly, so keep an eye out for opportunities to present more up-to-date information.
Create an Outline
Creating an outline will ensure you don’t miss any content opportunities while writing your new page. Your outline should include all the details you want in the article that the other original doesn’t cover. The skyscraper technique typically involves creating a longer piece of content than the original, so keep that in mind when forming your outline.
We recommend ensuring you understand the user intent of someone searching for your main keyword before you write your outline. If unsure, type the keyword into Google, then look at the first results page. If the user intent seems more transactional or commercial than informational, you may need to choose another target keyword.
Decide Whether or Not To Outsource
Your decision to outsource content creation for the skyscraper technique depends on your current time commitments and budget. Some teams don’t have the time to dedicate to writing long-form content and choose to outsource. Outsourcing your content marketing may also help you save money if you spend too much time on it and not enough time on other essential marketing tasks.
Use Your Brand Voice in the Content
Remember that your piece of content shouldn’t sound like the existing piece, even if it contains all the same information. It should possess your brand voice and come from the perspective of your business. For example, if your brand uses a conversational tone on its website, your new content should match that voice.
Make the Content Visually Dynamic
To build links using the skyscraper technique and ensure your piece of content ranks high, make it more visually dynamic than the original. If the post you intend to skyscrape reads like a block of text with no visuals, yours will look better to backlink prospects with a few images or infographics.
Infographics are excellent options for making a post more visually engaging. For example, blogger Ryan Robinson used an infographic in this 2018 skyscraper article about calculating your hourly rate as a freelancer. This page is a rewrite of a Fast Company article and now outranks the original version with more than 75,000 page views.
Make the Content Easy to Read
Human nature dictates that most internet users will click away faster than you can say “skyscraper” if the content isn’t easy to read. What “easy to read” means depends on your target audience, but you can use these general tips:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and precise.
- Avoid technical language unless it’s audience appropriate.
- Define technical words and industry-specific terms.
- Use headers and subheaders to break up ideas.
- Use numbered and bulleted lists when possible.
- Use images to break up the text on the page.
- Use infographics, tables, and charts when possible.
- Avoid bright or light text colors.
- Optimize the page’s white space.
Once you post your new page, try to look at it from an internet user’s perspective. Is it engaging and appealing or boring and intimidating? Is there enough white space and visual appeal?
Match the User Intent of the Original Article
Google and other search engines have become smart enough to understand a searcher’s intent and provide more relevant search results. Long-term success with skyscraper pages requires understanding the user intent of the existing article before you write your own content.
You may do this by looking at search engine results pages or by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are users searching to find this article?
- Why are they looking for this type of content?
- Does the article answer a question or provide a solution?
The next step in the skyscraper technique focuses on targeting authority websites that already link to content like yours. To start, you can use one of the SEO tools discussed above to find out which sites link to the original post.
You can download a list of backlinks for the original article as a CSV file using Semrush, Ahrefs, or another SEO tool with the proper capabilities. This list will probably include forum links and article directories, but you need those from authority sites in your industry. Directories and forums don’t make quality links.
To find email addresses for your prospects, check website team pages, author pages, and contact pages (for non-generic emails) or use an email finder tool. Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn may also provide email addresses for some prospects.
Check Your Competitors’ High-quality Links
You should also check other competitor websites for link outreach prospects. You can find many promising sites by looking at the top-ranking pages for your target keyword. If you collect a backlinks report for each of the keyword’s top 25 pages, you may end up with a long list of backlinking opportunities.
Analyze Prospects Before Reaching Out
Before you expend any outreach efforts, analyze each prospect to ensure the site has the authority needed for valuable backlinks.
Authority sites include:
- User-friendly navigation
- Professional designs
- SEO optimizations
- High-quality content
The content on backlink blogs and sites should relate to the particular topic for your piece of content. Getting a backlink to an unrelated popular site may do more harm than good, so be sure to only reach out to prospects with relevant content.
Send Emails to Outreach Prospects
Whether you’re prospecting for sales leads or backlinks, outreach emails serve as the first contact between you and your prospects, and getting them to open the email is the first challenge. When writing the subject line, avoid a generic or salesy approach.
The best subject lines often feature:
- Fewer than 30 characters for mobile friendliness
- A question or the solution to a problem
- Natural (i.e., not spammy) language
You may use a template to draft your outreach emails, but be sure to change each one enough to personalize the email. For example, each outreach email should indicate to the prospect that you’ve researched them thoroughly. You may reference the prospect’s location, company, or position within the company to personalize an email.
Follow these steps to create an effective email outreach template for backlinks:
- Greet the prospect by name. A simple “Hi [Name]” will do.
- Mention the post with the link to the original article, and provide a link to that post.
- Mention your updated version of the same topic and link to it.
- Explain why your article is better and suggest updating the link.
- Sign the email with your name.
For an excellent example template, visit Brian Dean’s post about the skyscraper SEO technique linked above.
If you have thousands of high-quality prospects, you may wonder how you’ll find time to send and track all those emails. We recommend investing in an email outreach tool like Hunter or Saleshandy to get as many links as possible.
Share Your Piece of Content on Social Media
Prospecting backlinks is essential, but it shouldn’t be the only way you promote your new content. Be sure to link to it on your social media pages to get the word out as much as possible.
Social media also provides a great option for improving your brand’s reputation and credibility. If you don’t hear back from any of your skyscraper prospects, analyze your online presence. You can improve your online reputation by regularly posting content to social media, including images, videos, blog posts, and other content types.
Final Thoughts: Why the Skyscraper Technique Is Still Important Today
When the skyscraper technique first hit the content marketing scene, it provided a clear competitive advantage, but it can be more challenging to see the desired results when used today.
That is not to say this content strategy doesn’t work, only that organic traffic competition has significantly increased since 2014, and algorithm updates constantly advance the idea of “quality content.” While content needed to be good in 2014, it must part the clouds and release a choir of angels to outrank a competitor’s content today.
This is where the reverse skyscraper technique comes into play. If you create content you consider very high in quality that doesn’t rank high on SERPs, you may use the reverse skyscraper technique to figure out why and fix it.
Perhaps you didn’t spend enough time promoting the content and only got a few links. Maybe it lacks visual interest, or it’s simply not as good as it could be. Whatever the problem, you can use the skyscraper technique to help analyze and correct the content.
The content marketing professionals at Connective use the skyscraper technique to gain more links for our clients for more organic search traffic. You can contact us online to learn more about the skyscraper technique or our digital marketing services.
We wish you luck with your content creation adventure and hope you see the skyscraper technique work for you.