SEO Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique has been around in the SEO world for quite a while.
It was coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko and it became popular among SEO practitioners.
Why so successful?
The answer to that question is this guide. We’ll explain what the Skyscraper Technique is, how it works and the results it can bring to your content creation efforts.
And to your link building, too.
(And we’ll also make a note on how to use the Skyscraper Technique ethically.)
What is the Skyscraper Technique?
The Skyscraper Technique takes its name from the magnificence of tall skyscrapers, and from the fact that an existing building can always get overtaken by a higher skyscraper.
Not only higher, but a better quality skyscraper, you want to hope!
The Skyscraper Technique work in the exact same way — it’s about building better, more useful content than your competitors, and letting readers decide which one they like best.
(Most probably yours, since it’s outstanding!)
In Brian Dean’s words:
“Have you ever walked by a really tall building and said to yourself: “Wow, that’s amazing! I wonder how big the 8th tallest building in the world is.” Of course not. It’s human nature to be attracted to the best. And what you’re doing here is finding the tallest “skyscraper” in your space…and slapping 20 stories to the top of it.”
The technique in a nutshell
- Browse the SERPs for your target keywords and note down the top 10
- Find the backlinks for these results (using tools like Monitor Backlinks’ Link Checker or Buzzsumo)
- Choose the ones with the highest number of backlinks and read them start to finish, noting down what they’re doing good and the common topics they talk about
- Create content on the same topic as your competitor, but make it 10X better (not necessarily longer, even though a Semrush study found that long form articles get top results in terms of performance and traffic)
- Promote that newly created content and pitch it even to the people who are linking to your competitor’s content.
This is where things can get unethical…
Building your content on the same topic as another person’s is not the problem. It happens every time in book and scientific publishing: it’s competition, which you study, of course.
The problem happens when you approach people who are linking to your competitor and ask them to replace their link with yours. That’s where things get nasty.
Keep the practice ethical by suggesting your link as additional value to that page, not as a replacement. Your goal is to ethically compete with your competitor, not to destroy them.
Now let’s see how to go through those 5 steps we listed above.
1. Finding High Quality Competitor Pages with a Lot of Backlinks
Your goal is to build upon the best available content in the SERPs and create something better that users (and search engines) will love.
Now, there are several ways to do that. Let’s list a few.
This is the most important method: to make a list of content pieces appearing in the top 10 of Google SERPs.
In fact, because links play a critical role in Google’s algorithms, you can be fairly sure that these pieces have at least a few quality backlinks.
Collect these links in a spreadsheet. You will analyze them in the next step.
Analyze your competitor’s content and check backlinks for the best pieces.
You can use a backlink tracker for this scope.
Below is an example:
Some pretty good backlinks in the mix, right? Like that quoted statistics from Adjust.com.
You will analyze competitor pages that got great backlinks like that in the next step. For now, just collect the URLs.
Buzzsumo is a good tool to find topics that people want to read — they’re the ones with the most shares and backlinks!
In the example below, for the topic “SEO copywriting”, we found some good pages that got at least a few backlinks and a lot of Facebook and Twitter shares:
Give this method a try and collect the best pages for the next step.
You can also use Ubersuggest to find top linked competitors for a target keyword.
Look at the example screenshot below:
When you look up a keyword or key phrase in Ubersuggest, you’ll be shown a number of sections in Keyword Overview, that includes Content Ideas.
In the Content Ideas section you can find a list of suggested content you can get inspiration from for your article, and each piece comes with the number of backlinks.
You can see immediately which content has the most backlinks.
Alternatively, you can click on Content Ideas on the left sidebar under Keyword Analyzer and get many more content… with all the backlinks!
It becomes easy to see who’s your competitor here, and what they are doing well, so that you can replicate their success and build upon it.
Forums are another great tool for going topic hunting.
Give Quora, Reddit, and Stack Exchange a try.
Once you have your topic ready, search it in Google and focus on the top 10 results in the SERPs: those are the ones you want to outrank!
2. Analyze Top Performing Competitor Pages
No matter what method from the previous section you used, nor if you used a combination of them, now that you have your list of competitor content handy, time has come to analyze them one by one.
- Start with the best page (i.e. ranks #1 in Google or has the most backlinks)
- Read the page beginning to end and note down the topics and angles it covers (leave out original findings if you can’t cite and link back to your competitor’s work)
- Proceed to the other pages and do the same work until you reach the end of your list. Also, note down common topics between the pieces you read
- Create an article outline using the topics you found in your analysis and note down where you could expand and build upon — you will use this outline later when you work on your Skyscraper content.
That’s a lot of work, we know, but analyzing top performing competitor content is critical to creating your 10x content.
3. How to Make a Piece of Content 10x Better with the Skyscraper Technique
As you have done in the previous section, creating awesome Skyscraper content involves studying your competition to see what’s doing well and replicate that.
But at the same time, you add more value and new sections with ideas or interviews that are unique to you.
Let’s see what areas you can add your “touch” to.
Start with your headline. You want it to be magnetic!
Get into your ideal reader’s mind: what type of language and approach would attract their attention?
A word of advice: refrain from copying your competitor’s headline. You want your content to be unique! Make your personality shine starting from the headline.
You can make your content longer, but the smart way — not by filling it with fluff, but by adding a lot of value.
As an example, you might add extra hacks. Or more tools. Or more data.
The end result should be a compelling read that readers feel like it’s a go-to gem in the niche or industry.
You also want to make sure your content is up to date.
Maybe the competitor content you analyzed dates back 2015 and it hasn’t been updated since.
You can do much better!
Scour the web and libraries for the latest research articles and statistics in your industry and build your content upon the new findings.
Readers will feel they can trust you because you bring current facts to the table.
Also, make sure to add images and screenshots.
Not many websites do that, often they only have one or two images, if they have any at all! You want to be a champion of visuals!
Just remember to add descriptive alt text to make these visuals accessible even by visually impaired people.
Examples and Tutorials
Finally, make sure every section in your content comes with practical examples and guided tours so readers don’t have to guess what they should do to apply your advice — be a great not just a good teacher!
4. Promoting Content Created with the Skyscraper Technique
The hard part is promoting the content using as many channels as possible.
You have to get as many eyes on your content as you can reach, and email website owners who are likely to link to it.
Like resourceful or curated blog posts and resource pages.
Make a list of people who might potentially be interested in linking back to your content.
Find link prospects among:
- People who already link to your competitors
- Bloggers in your niche (search “niche + blog” in Google)
- Resource page and resource articles
- Broken link building
Finally, reach out.
Below is an email template you can use for your pitches:
I stumbled upon your fantastic article/resource page/roundup while searching for NICHE TOPIC.
Can’t believe how many of those resources I did not know! I learned so much from your piece.
You know, I have recently published a resource on the same topic, specifically on YOUR TOPIC/ANGLE HERE. Would you like to take a look?
This is the URL:
I’m open to feedback!
Also, if you happen to like it, would you consider adding it to your list of resources? Maybe my text can give your readers some more data to work on.
Let me know what you think. 🙂 I’m all ears.
Remember to always tell your link prospects why you’re reaching out but avoid telling them to replace a competitor’s link that they find helpful.
Not only this is unethical, it’s also upsetting to the link prospect who will see their own decision on what to link and what not questioned.
Always be kind to your prospects, and never pushy.
5. Monitoring Your Backlinks
You can use a backlink tracker like Monitor Backlinks or Linkody to track your backlinks. It’s also useful to setup a Google Alert for your content.
But don’t look for overnight success.
Mind what Neil Patel says about branding: until your brand takes off and gets recognition, it’s harder to build backlinks.
It’s certainly harder to build links for an SEO guide on a small blog, even if the quality is high, than one on Brian Dean’s blog.
10x content is great, but if searcher satisfaction happens at 1x, you won't beat the big brand who commands the first click.
— Ross Hudgens (@RossHudgens) December 20, 2016
Why Is the Skyscraper Technique So Effective?
Mostly because Google swears by its three ranking factors:
With the Skyscraper Technique you create awesome content, right? Check!
And awesome content easily attracts backlinks, you know? Yes, so — check!
That means that the Skyscraper Technique allows you to create great content that Rankbrain will read and understand (for search intent) and that people are more likely to link to because its quality is high (the go-to resource in the niche).
See? You caught three birds with one stone.
What If You Don’t Want to Build Links?
Brian Dean created the Skyscraper Technique as a method to acquire backlinks, but you can also use it to just create top quality content that will naturally rank better in Google.
Just remember to always play it smart with your keyword strategy and search intent which are essential to rank well.
Conclusions on the Skyscraper Technique
Whether you use the Skyscraper Technique to acquire links or just to come up with great content, this is a great method to increase the quality of your website.
Epic content always gets rewarded, both in the SERPs and among users, who are more likely to share it and link to it.
Over to you: Have you ever tried the Skyscraper Technique? If yes, how did it go?
Share your experiences in the comments below.