Back in 2015, Brian Dean told us about a link-building strategy he had been using with an 11% success rate. In fact, the tactic doubled his organic traffic in only 14 days. He penned it as the “Skyscraper Technique” and, since then, has become an incredibly popular content marketing weapon.
With a vast amount of competition out there, content marketers need to work twice as hard to stay relevant. Quality content alone is not enough. It needs to be underpinned by smart link building techniques that generate traffic. This is what the Skyscraper Technique is designed to do.
What is the Skyscraper Technique?
The Skyscraper Technique is a method of attracting backlinks by improving high-quality content that already exists. A content writer will search through the most popular blogs, social media feeds, and articles to see what people are reading. Once they find one that fits their industry or niche, the marketer takes the topic, adds more sources and visuals, and makes it all look more appealing.
The advantage of the Skyscraper Technique is that you are writing about something which already has a captive audience and is generating search traffic. In doing this enough times, eventually, you will see your own traffic pick up.
Checklist for the Skyscraper Technique
Let’s have a glance at the steps you would take to get started with the Skyscraper Technique.
Link worthy content will have already generated lots of links. There are loads of ways to find something suitable for your blog post. Firstly, use Google. Start looking for topics in your niche and see which have high traffic volumes. Check social media for shares, likes, and followers ad you will soon get an idea of what the audience is interested in. Anything that appears in the top 10 organic results of a Google search must have a substantial backlink volume.
There are tools out there that can help find content as well.BuzzSumo, for example, is specifically built to help writers find content ideas. Visual.ly offers a quality infographics directly where you can see which are the most popular.
Once you have a topic to write about, improve what is there, and make it better. There are several ways to do so easily.
- Increase the length – add new information and sources to the content and expand upon some of the points.
- More relevancy – include more up-to-date sources of information if they exist
- Add designs – include images and graphics that were not in the original content
The foundation of the content is already there, giving you scope to rewrite it for renewed vigor before going onto promoting it.
Perhaps the most critical part of the Skyscraper Technique is promoting your content. Gather up distribution partners such as blogs that cater to a similar industry or niche. You can even go to sites that linked to the original content and reach out to them with your post. Ahrefs has a tool that shows you the sites with backlinks to the original content once you enter the URL. You can see an example in the image below.
Advantages of the Skyscraper Technique
The main advantages of the Skyscraper Technique are:
- There’s already a demand for the content
As you have already researched and seen that people want the content, there is a higher chance of generating traffic
- The audience is primed for the content
If you are creating something better than a piece of content that already exists, the audience will already have enthusiasm for it.
- Ranking potential is enormous
The existing content is already indexed, but now, you are creating something newer and better. In time, you should outrank the original content
Each of these advantages is music to the ears of any content marketer. However, as great as it sounds, the Skyscraper Technique is not without issues.
How can the Skyscraper Technique go wrong?
It would be perfect if the Skyscraper Technique were as easy as “one, two three.” However, a content marketer working with the technique needs to put some context around it. There are various reasons why the Skyscraper Technique does not work as expected.
Branding and Authority
Content marketing strategies are built up over many years. A writer can improve on an existing piece of content and make it perfect, but that will not guarantee overnight success. The reason is that as much as quality content is vital, so is the authority of the person who is writing it.
For example, if you write a fantastic blog post at an ideal length, rich with content, but come up against Amazon when competing for ranking points, you will not come out on top. Domain authority comes out on top regardless of how well structured the Skyscraper Technique is.
On top of domain authority, content writers have brand bias working against them. Even if your content is better than what Amazon has written, they dominate the market as a credible brand.
According to Ross Hudgens of Siege Media, the answer is not to keep doubling up on the Skyscraper Technique efforts. Instead, a brand is better reverting to building up domain authority. If we consider the originator of the Skyscraper Technique, Brian Dean, he was starting at a base of 100,000 backlinks from 10,000 websites. The technique is founded on the basis that domain authority already exists.
Before starting with a Skyscraper strategy, the marketing team will have to work on domain authority.
Authority scores also apply to the individual pages of your website. Therefore, even with quality content, you stumble across the same issues that are prevalent with URL authority.
Neil Patel gives an example of how this works. You can see two examples below from Backlinko (Brian Dean’s site) and Searchmetrics.
The image shows the enormous advantage that Backlinko has over Searchmetrics when it comes to page authority. To compete, Searchmetrics would need double the number of sites linking to their page, regardless of the quality of content.
Something that can get missed from Skyscraper tactics is search intent. The content that you create needs to line up with what the people searching want to see.
Let’s say you were looking to invest in a new business intelligence tool for your business. The first thing you might do is a comparison of the top ones to look at.
The problem we see here is that the top choices tend to be from individual companies with paid ads claiming they are the best business intelligence tool. We don’t see a comparison until the 4th an 5th options in the search. Companies are paying for the search term, where they do not actually answer the user query.
For the Skyscraper Technique to work, marketers need to target keywords that will get clicks. Click-through rate helps your ranking where the content is relevant. A user clicking on a link is the same in SEO terms are providing feedback on a brand or product. If your result does a better job of answering the intent of the user, it will rank above the competition.
An essential step in the Skyscraper Technique must be to target search queries. As you research into the blog topics, study the audience and what they are looking for the repurpose the content appropriately.
Don’t underestimate promotion
Content creation is rightly a focus for marketers. However, the time spent on writing content and promoting it can be disproportionate. Sometimes, it takes weeks researching and creating the perfect piece and then minutes to click publish without a second thought.
It is fundamental to keep in mind that the content world is saturated with content. If you are already struggling with brand and page authority, missing promotion opportunities as well would be like content suicide.
Content needs to be posted to every relevant form of media. Social channels should be a given today, but the content should be customized slightly depending on the audience. For example, an Instagram user will not consume information in the same way as a Facebook user, so consider how your content fits the brief.
Sites such as Business2Community allow regular contributors who can submit content and have it live within 24 hours. In the B2B world, LinkedIn has a vast network to enable you to show off your knowledge and quickly pick up backlinks. LinkedIn Pulse picks up the most viewed content and puts it in front of larger audiences.
Digital marketing expert Neil Patel suggests using search operators to help get an idea of the current landscape. For example, if you want to write guest posts about digital marketing, you could construct a Google search as below.
Instantly here, you have links to several places to promote and publish your content. If you work in specific industries, reach out to those publications directly, and build a relationship with the editor or reporter.
The Skyscraper Technique is a brilliant way to create content for a willing audience. However, to do it well, brands must first create domain and page authority so they can compete with the big boys. Comprehensive research has to include keyword targeting, ensuring that you are answering the questions posed by searchers. Finally, none of it will work without a promotional plan to get the content out there.
The takeaway here is that content marketing is never easy. While on the surface, the Skyscraper strategy seems like a no brainer, there is more to it than meets the eye. That said, when done well, it works very well and having such a tactic should be part of the marketing arsenal.