Skyscraper Technique: How to Use It and Get Results
Building backlinks plays a key role in off-page SEO. Today, it is especially important to get high-quality links from reputable sites. They will help Google to rank and drive traffic. Read more in the article Build High-Quality Backlinks in Scalable Way in 2020, more information about Off-page SEO at 11 Off-Page Optimization Strategies.
Getting high-quality links is a long and time-consuming process, so SEO experts are constantly looking for new ways to effectively build high-quality link mass. One such method is the Skyscraper Technique.
What Is the Skyscraper Technique?
The Skyscraper technique is a method of obtaining high-quality backlinks developed by the founder of Backlinko Brian Dean. He described and presented his technique in 2014 after a year earlier he had an impressive result– an increase in organic traffic by 110% in just 14 days. The effect was achieved after applying the skyscraper method for one of the blog posts, after which the number of backlinks grew rapidly.
The main result was that the organic traffic of the entire site doubled.
It is known that, although content is king, even the best content is not enough to attract and retain a target audience and provide a high level of traffic. The Skyscraper SEO technique is aimed at integrated content marketing to obtain high-quality links, which in turn not only affects Google ranking but also brings users to your site.
How Does the Skyscraper Method Work?
The Brian Dean Skyscraper method looks clear and transparent. It is an absolutely white SEO technology, which consists of three stages:
- Determine the most high-quality and popular content with a large number of backlinks.
- Make original content that will be better than the top options found.
- Find those who made links to content similar to yours and agree to place links to your material.
Advantages of the technique:
- Even before starting work on content, you should determine trends and popular topics that attract the attention of the target audience. This allows you to accurately create a product with good marketing potential.
- Skyscraper technique allows you to identify a potential audience. Working with a specific audience is always more effective than the abstract creation of quality material: knowing the preferences and interests of the public, it is easier to hit the target.
- High-quality backlinks: choosing contacts for outreach during the monitoring process, you can evaluate the quality of resources and their credibility. Thus, you can control the process of obtaining high-quality links that are of high value for Google ranking.
Skyscraper Technique Step by Step
The first step of the strategy is to find content in your niche that has already received a large number of backlinks. Brian Dean calls such resources linkable assets, which fully reflects their essence. These are assets that not only demonstrate high results in the number of backlinks but also are a database for creating a contact list for the final outreach stage. As an example, let’s find the most successful materials on sports at home. Having selected the pages from the top of Google’s search results, we can check their backlinks using the SEMrush SEO service.
Espn.com is the leader in terms of the number of backlinks but its reference domain indicator is only 31. Turning to the analysis of links, you can see that most of them are marked as lost and they were posted on sports betting sites and other low-ranking sites.
If you analyze the page, it becomes clear that it is associated with sporting events and competitions, so its presence on such sites is understandable. Most likely, there was a purchase of links and an increase in the gray link mass in order to promote the site to the top in SERP. Therefore, in addition to backlinks, it is always important to consider the Reference Domain metric, which can be called one of the indicators of the credibility and quality of the link.
In the case of the blog.decathlon.in website, which came in second in the number of backlinks, it is clear that all of the links are valid and they can become a resource for further work.
Skyscraper Content: Make It the Best
Having chosen the most successful content in terms of backlinks, you need to choose keywords. To do this, you should use SEO services to find the best option for keywords, both short and long-tail ones. You can read about keywords in the article Long Tail Keywords, and look for more services for SEO here: Top SEO Tools for Businesses in 2020. After that, you should proceed to creating the material. Brian Dean makes the following recommendations:
- Increase the volume of content, making it more informative, detailed, and elaborate. This recommendation is especially relevant for articles, guides, studies, and in general, is suitable as the main Skyscrapers blog strategy. Many SEO-specialists note that voluminous articles and deployed content are better ranked and of greater interest to the user. At the same time, it is important to remember that when making the best version of top content, you need to focus primarily on quality and benefit for the site visitor. The length of the text should be justified.
- Update outdated content. If you are writing a guide, remember that it should be relevant at the moment. The same goes for research articles. Any evergreen content will be especially good if you emphasize its value for today. In the case of a guide, you can link it to the current year, adding important and relevant details and trends. In the case of an article in a niche that does not differ in dynamics, you need to come up with a move that will emphasize your content against the background of others. It can be tied to a season or current events. In the example of home training, the relevance of such a request has recently been high due to isolation in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic. Creating a guide during the period of getting out of isolation, you can describe which tips from home training should be kept as an everyday habit, or as an option of express training at home for those who return to business and want to be in shape, etc.
- Quality design and visual content. Users like visually appealing content with an original and stylish look, photos, and videos. Also, an advantage will be high-quality and original infographics, which often justifies the time spent on it. Original photos and content-relevant videos will also increase its value in the eyes of users.
- Make content more meaningful. Often posts in the form of lists do not contain detailed information for each item. Make your content more valuable by writing paragraphs and abstracts, supplement them with tips and lifehacks, links to useful information, and practical examples.
When working on content, it is worth considering the specifics of your resource, goals, and a user request, to which an answer is given. The Skyscraper website strategy should take into account the style of the site, its concept and focus. When you write an article in a blog on a site, it should be relevant to the general theme and what your site is dedicated to. More information on the topic can be found in the Website Content Audit article.
If the content for the blog is made primarily in the form of articles, then the skyscraper website strategy can be aimed at creating image content that attracts attention and forms user loyalty. For example, for a culinary site or DIY site, the visual design of the content is very important. Read more in DIY SEO. A good format for such resources is step-by-step illustrated instructions and videos. The production of such content can be time-consuming and quite expensive, but it is necessary to build an image of the brand.
The Right Outreach to the Right People
This is final stage, on which the success of the skyscraper technique implementation largely depends. In the process of communication, content is offered to people who are interested in a niche and have already posted a link to the content, based on which an improved version was created. Outreach and business communication skills will be needed here.
If the sample content has received a huge number of backlinks, including very reputable sites, such as major publications, news portals, or leader sites in the niche, it is worthwhile to analyze and sort the recipients.
It will be difficult for novice brands or bloggers to reach out to industry sharks. It is best to focus on representatives of the middle segment in the niche, as well as on developing sites. It will be easiest to agree with the latter, in particular, to discuss the option of cooperation.
Representatives of the middle market segment are also in the process of active development and expansion of the list of contacts, so they can be open to communication. When contacting industry leaders, you should consider a separate strategy: offer them truly unique information, research, product, etc. Such communication should be approached being carefully prepared and understanding what the special value of your content is and how it can interest large players when targeted.
How can you get an addressee? Of course, when sending hundreds of letters, you should use the template. Brian Dean gives an example of a template for his letter that brought him positive feedback and results:
That was in 2014 however. In 2019, Tim Soulo from Ahrefs cites a similar email as a bad outreach option and says that he sends such emails to the trash because of the obvious mass mailing.
Today, in order to pay attention to the letter and get an answer, you have to make more effort. It is worth analyzing the context in which recipients referred to similar content. Based on this information, form a letter that will look as if it was personally written for everyone.
It is important to make sure that the address is valid and current, because letters sent to outdated addresses may not reach the addressee if forwarding is not configured. To search for contacts, you can use the Google Chrome service Hunter.
You could also use its extension Email Finder.
Look for more useful extensions in the article 50+ Best Free SEO Chrome Extensions.
In the letter, you need to contact the addressee personally and show your awareness of his or her activities, company, etc. This will cause friendliness and increase the chances that the dialogue will take place. For more on Outreach, look in Blogger Outreach.
How Effective Is the Skyscraper Technique in Practice?
In the time since Brian Dean introduced his method, the opinions of SEO experts on the effectiveness of the technique were divided. Some share success and impressive results. Others, on the contrary, talk about wasted time and effort. Let’s look at examples of different cases and try to understand what determines the success and failure in applying the Skyscraper technique.
1. Robbie Richards Case: 272% in 30 days
Robbie Richards, an online marketing specialist, used the Skyscraper technique in 2014 to promote “16 explosive content promotion strategies”. The result is impressive. Within a month the post received 233 backlinks from 30 referring domains and took 4th place in SERP.
The main effect was an increase in traffic.
To improve the content, Robbie Richards increased the volume of the post and made it relevant for the current time as well as immediately actionable. The author emphasizes that increasing the volume of content makes it more valuable and attractive for obtaining links.
One of the reasons for the success is the active promotion campaign that Robbie Richards used to promote his content. To work, he used the linkassistant BuzzBundle tool to identify his target audience in social networks, forums, Q&A sites, and blogs using network monitoring. Another method was working on the LinkedIn network, with an eye on industry representatives who can be found in thematic groups, among influencer subscribers, as well as in niche forums, in FB, and other platforms.
Summing up this case, we can say that a significant role in obtaining the result was played by active and systematic work in social networks with an eye on a segmented target audience. Moreover, it is obvious that it is not always possible to devote so much time and attention to the daily promotion of one content.
2. David Vallance, senior copywriter from digitalimpact.co.uk case
The organic traffic of the article grew by 72%, the overall website traffic growth during this period was 40%.
In 2015, David Vallance wrote an article titled, “The Ultimate List of Free Stock Photography Sites (40+ websites)”, updated list 2020. Previously, he studied the content in the niche of articles on stock sites and as an example chose the following article: 17 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Stock Photography on Bootstrapbay, which received 1,781 backlinks. While working on content, the author increased the volume by expanding the list to 40+ sites, making it more relevant and detailed. The backlinks of the article from Bootstrapbay gave 104 addresses, of which a list of 96 current contacts was compiled. Below is an example of a letter sent by David Vallance.
The result of sending 96 letters was 20 responses and 12 backlinks, which amounted to more than 12% and exceeded the result that Brian Dean showed (in his case 160 letters brought 17 links, which is 11% efficiency).
In this case, the author adhered to the pure tactics of Skyscraper, not working with social networks and using standard outreach.
3. Ryan Robinson case
72,000+ page views and 3,648 new email subscribers. In 2017, Ryan Robinson saw an article on calculating the hourly cost of freelancers, which has collected thousands of backlinks. He decided to create similar content, making it more attractive visually. Together with the designer, they developed the infographic material, How To Calculate Your Freelance Hourly Rate. As a result, the content received 8,200 reposts and more than 72,000 views. Ryan Robinson also used promotions in social networks, forums and other platforms to distribute content. He recommends keeping successful content up to date by making timely updates and additions.
Despite these striking examples, which confirm the effectiveness of Skyscraper SEO, it often happens that it fails. One of these unsuccessful cases is shared by CMO at Chanty, Olga Mykhopakina.
In 2017, while promoting a startup messenger for corporate communication, the Skyscraper technique was chosen as one of the strategies. To develop content, they took an article on improving communication in a team, using “improve team communication” as the keyphrase.
After analyzing the content presented in the SERP top issues, it was decided to make the material in the form of a list. To improve the content, the list was expanded to 50 points, the text turned out to be twice as long as the original article, and the title included the year 2017 to emphasize relevance.
The list of potential sites for posting backlinks consisted of 230 addresses, the material was supplemented with infographics and memes, and in parallel, the publication was supported by posts on Twitter.
For outreach distribution, the following letter template was used.
Search Engine Journal
Considering the implementation time of the strategy (2017), we can assume that many of the recipients simply did not respond to such an appeal. The fact is that similar templates, made similar to the one of the Brian Dean example, since 2014 were reused and were already perceived as spam (the letter Tim Soulo wrote about looked almost the same). Read more about this here– What is SPAM.
The unsuccessful campaign, which took 40 hours of work, resulted in 24 responses, 15 proposals for paid placement at a price of $45 to $200, 3 promises to place a link, and not any placement after all.
Analyzing the causes of failures, Olga identified the wrong key and the very topic of the article, which is not relevant enough for marketers in comparison with guides and tips for working and solving problems. Another reason, in her opinion, was that at that time, no one knew about their brand. Therefore, the article with recommendations from an unknown expert did not look convincing.
We can add that the insufficiently well-thought outreach strategy also played a role. Still, in the case of the Skyscraper technique, it is not quantity that matters but the quality of the contacts. At the same time, more active work with social networks, the use of the LinkedIn network and other platforms and communication resources, could become useful.
When and How Should You Use the Skyscraper Technique to Get Results?
One of the reasons why the skyscraper technique may turn out to be ineffective in spite of all efforts, may be the fact that the brand is unknown or has a lack of credibility. In order for website owners to want to place a link, the resource must have a certain recognition.
On the other hand, very successful, unique, and valuable content can shoot but this is an isolated case, and betting on luck is not worth it. If the project is at the very beginning, you should be patient and wait for high-quality content to lead to a high-quality amount of backlinks.
If you look at the example of Brian Dean, with which the history of the Skyscraper technique began, already at that time his resource had a certain fame in its niche. In addition, the content he promoted, “Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List” was and remains relevant to industry representatives.
If you look at other successful examples of cases above, all of them were implemented in 2014 and 2015. During this time, the amount of content that appears daily on the network has grown immeasurably. Therefore, today there are more chances for success in the skyscraper technique strategy for those brands that already have some weight in their niche.
Another reason that the skyscraper technique may not work is the wrong choice of keywords, which was mentioned in the example above. Choosing an example for the content and thinking over your option, you need to carefully evaluate which consumer request it will match.
The Role of Multidirectional Activity
Outreach today, even if addressed to an interested target audience, is not enough to get backlinks. It is necessary to act in a comprehensive manner, to connect promotion in social networks, communicate with influencers, journalists, and bloggers. A good option is to use various platforms and resources, for example, Business 2 Community, where you can post content for free.
Today it is worth considering the Skyscraper technique as one of the many SEO promotion tools that you should work with. Creating the most high-quality and relevant content on the basis of one that has already received a large number of backlinks and is widely distributed on the network will certainly become good practice.
Additionally, targeted, thoughtful, and high-quality outreach will bring not only links, but also new business contacts and options for cooperation. To achieve tangible results in the process of implementing the Skyscraper technique, it is worth connecting all of the possible channels for promotion of content. Then, the probability of success increases significantly.