The Skyscraper Technique: How to Execute It for Maximum SEO Results

Published: Jul 08, 2020
Last Updated:
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Your online business needs a content plan. And one of the biggest elements of any content plan is your SEO strategy.

SEO, or search engine optimization, involves practices such as link building and keyword research to increase your website traffic and rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

But if you’re just starting out or don’t have the best understanding of SEO, how do you ensure that all the time and effort you put into creating content isn’t wasted? How do you ensure your content will be seen?

Today, one of the most discussed methods for maximizing your SEO results is the skyscraper technique. The good news is that any beginner can learn its three basic steps and harness its power.

Here, we define the skyscraper technique, outline its three steps, and consider whether or not it’s a concrete approach for your content marketing strategy.

What is the Skyscraper Technique?

In 2015, Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, developed a link-building strategy that involved finding and improving upon the best pieces of content for any given keyword. He performed a case study using his approach, detailing how he was able to increase his search traffic by 110% in just two weeks.

(Image credit: Backlinko)

Dean achieved this growth by increasing the number of backlinks to his content.

Quick refresher: A backlink is a hyperlink connecting one piece of content to another, and is a crucial part of off-page SEO. Backlinks also make up arguably one of the most important ranking factors for SERPs—the higher your number of backlinks, the more likely your content will rank well.

Supporting this claim, Ahrefs' study of more than one billion websites found a positive correlation between the number of backlinks a site had and the amount of organic traffic that it received on Google. In short, more backlinks to a website means more traffic to it.

(Image credit: Ahrefs)

Understanding the importance of backlinks, Dean established the framework of the skyscraper technique in three steps:

  1. Find content with a lot of backlinks.
  2. Write something better.
  3. Share it with the right people.

Just as people are attracted to the tallest skyscraper in any given landscape, consumers will be drawn to your better-than-the-best content.

How to Execute the Skyscraper Technique

Getting started in creating killer skyscraper content is something that even SEO beginners can do⁠—if you're willing to put the work into each blog post you write. Let’s take a closer look at Dean’s three steps.

1. Research Link-Worthy Content

The first step to creating skyscraper content is to find the best existing content out there in your field. The measuring stick for determining the “best” is the number of backlinks a particular article has compared to others of the same topic. The more backlinks, the better the content.

But how do you count the number of backlinks for any given article? There are two approaches you can take:

  1. Make an educated guess. Follow the top blogs and influencers in your industry and study what external content they link to. If you find an article that’s in your wheelhouse, do a quick search for it—chances are, you’ll find many other bloggers linking to it as well.
  2. Use a software tool to calculate exactly how many backlinks an article has.

There are several sites that allow you to research backlink information for given keywords or topics, including:

Tools such as these allow you to see hard numbers for backlink data. A blog post with at least 50 backlinks from different sources can be considered a worthy piece to move forward with to the second step.

A word of caution at this phase: Make sure to look for honest, quality content and not linkbait. You want content that is genuinely awesome, useful, and relevant to your reader.

2. Create Content That’s Better Than the Best

The skyscraper technique’s second step is to outdo your toughest competition.

This step involves taking relevant content with the highest number of backlinks, studying it, and creating something that will blow it up entirely. If you accomplish this, your content will be the new “tallest skyscraper” out there—the one that everyone will want to look at and link to.

Not confident that you have the writing skills to outperform the rest? That’s okay, because it doesn’t take the best writer to create the best content. Sometimes, you just have to be the most comprehensive, the most relevant, or the most creative.

Dean suggests four ways to improve upon a top post:

  1. Increase the word count. Sometimes just making the piece a little longer can go a long way when it comes to SERP rankings. Content length often reflects that you've spent the time on the piece, signaling to other bloggers that it's a quality piece. Be sure to add value with your extra words though, and not just fluff.
  2. Make it timelier. People like to see up-to-date content. Injecting a modern perspective into the article might give it the facelift it needs.
  3. Enhance the design. We live in a visual world, especially when it comes to today's content. Making your content look more attractive will increase shares.
  4. Cover more bases. If all else fails, put the time in to do the research and create a more thorough piece that analyzes every angle or discusses unique perspectives for a given topic in your field. The more comprehensive your take the better.

When you add more value to your content, you entice others to consume it and share it with their own audiences. Find a way to incorporate aspects of the best and add more with your own spin to make your piece the most useful and valuable out there.

3. Let the Right People Know About It

You want to reach out to the bloggers who have already linked to your competitor’s content. After all, they already have an interest in your topic and know quality when they see it. It won’t hurt to let them know about your new-and-improved piece.

It's also a smart idea to email other top bloggers in your niche with a personalized note about your new article and how it could strengthen their blog.

If you have email lists, shoot the piece out to them as well, but be sure to segment as much as possible so that you're able to send a customized message to each subgroup. The key is making a connection and communicating the real value of your content to your audience.

This last step in the skyscraper content marketing process can be time-consuming, but it's how your work will gain that instant traction you need to see improvements in your SEO results.

Does the Skyscraper Technique Work?

Dean was able to increase his search traffic by 110% using the skyscraper technique, but does that mean that everyone will see the same results?

Not necessarily—and not if you try to take shortcuts to skyscraper content success.

Now that the technique is catching on, there’s a tendency to find top posts and make them longer by simply rehashing material and adding fluff. But there’s a time and place for long-form content; it ultimately is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for boosting your rankings or your readership in the field.

Done correctly, the skyscraper technique creates useful and honest added value for your audience.

Readers are savvy and will sense gimmicks in an instant. Adding value for them means:

  • Providing useful statistics, case studies, or pieces of evidence to back up your claims
  • Offering unique takes that haven’t been explored before
  • Giving an exhaustive and detailed account of your topic

No matter how you go about providing value, you must put in time and effort to claim the top spot. With the amount of time you have to spend building your business, it’s often tempting to think, “Shouldn’t I just be putting this time and effort into creating lots of content?” With the skyscraper technique, the answer is no.

Skyscraper content is about quality, not quantity. It’s about working a little harder on fewer pieces to get them to a level that’s worth other’s time reading, sharing, and linking back to. It’s about narrowing your focus so that you work smarter to make the SEO game easier for you.

Approaching the skyscraper technique in a way that truly increases the quality of your work will set you up for the best boosts to your content marketing results.

The Two Major Takeaways

There are two important things to remember when trying out the skyscraper technique in your own content marketing:

  1. Content quality matters. It takes effort to be the best. Fluff just isn’t going to cut it.
  2. Backlinks is the name of the game with the skyscraper technique.

When you create quality content and build a solid collection of backlinks, you check off two crucial SEO elements in establishing your site’s authority and value. These are the elements that often take the longest to get right, but creating skyscraper content will help set you up for long-term SEO success.

This article was written by writer Andrea Tharp.


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