Your guide for developing skyscraper content in 2022
If you've consumed a lot of content about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content marketing, or link-building, you've probably seen the term “the skyscraper SEO technique” thrown around.
Put simply, the skyscraper technique is a link-building strategy that helps you develop relevant content by capitalizing on topics with strong demand and good backlinking opportunities.
The skyscraper technique isn't exactly new, but it has remained popular for a strong reason: it's worked very well for many marketers. It's not an understatement to say this technique has shaped today's internet.
In this article, I want to dive into the skyscraper technique in detail, including covering the problems with it and how to skyscraper content the right way in 2022.
Let's jump in!
What is skyscraper content?
The skyscraper technique refers to a content marketing strategy that sees you publish high-quality articles that have taken inspiration from a successful, “linkable” post. If you do it correctly, the technique will win you many quality links.
Now, we can't jump into how to use the skyscraper content technique today without covering its origins, so where did this mysterious technique come from?
The skyscraper content technique is the brainchild of Brian Dean from Backlinko.
Back in 2015, he published a now iconic article titled “Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days.” In it, he describes how he used the skyscraper technique to increase backlinks to the post “Google's 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List” (initially published April 18th, 2013). His strategy also boosted his website's organic traffic by 110.94% in only 14 days.
Brian's skyscraper technique uses three steps:
Step 1. You find some content in your niche that is worthy of a backlink.
Step 2. You re-write the article and tweak it until it's far better than the original. You publish the article on your blog.
Step 3. You promote your new article to anyone who will listen.
What kind of results can you expect to see? Read on…
Why people adore the skyscraper content technique
When executed correctly, your skyscraper article will win you backlinks. Backlinks are extremely valuable for your website's growth — they are digital marketing gold!
Research from Backlinko shows that the first Google result has an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than the other first page results. So, once your article has backlinks, it will rank better in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Backlinks will also increase your organic traffic, as other websites will send people in your direction. Some viewers will stay on the linked page, but others will explore your website. Some viewers may even purchase your goods and services.
Increased traffic and backlinks can also help you increase your reach and brand authority on other platforms like social media. More website traffic means more likes, comments, and shares — and these bring more people to your page.
You can think of the skyscraper technique as a snowball. Once it starts rolling, momentum will help it grow bigger and bigger.
Now, telling you these benefits is all very well and good. But you're probably wondering if there are any successful use cases that show the value of the skyscraper technique. It just so happens that I have two to share:
Use case #1. AuthorityHacker
AuthorityHacker is a marketing education company that heavily invests in cold outreach. AuthorityHacker uses the skyscraper technique in tandem with the shotgun approach (known as the “shotgun skyscraper technique”).
Over three years, AuthorityHacker sent 630,000 emails to 152,000 prospects promoting skyscraper content. As a result, the team scored 4,306 backlinks from 4,244 referring domains.
On average, it took eight days for an email to convert into a backlink.
Use case #2. CreativeLive (Ryan Robinson)
Back in 2015, Ryan Robinson used the skyscraper technique in an article targeting the keyword “freelance hourly rate calculator” from Fast Company (here's that article).
He worked with CreativeLive's design team to create an infographic capitalizing on the article's success. Here's the article housing the infographic:
Before long, Ryan's skyscraper post was shared over 8,200 times and outranked the Fast Company article. By the time he detailed the experience in an article for HubSpot, the infographic had over 72,000 page views, and CreativeLive got 3,648 new email subscribers.
What's wrong with the skyscraper content method?
We've already sung the praises of the skyscraper method, including showing you two use cases where it helped marketers get ahead. But this doesn't mean the technique is perfect — far from it.
There are many drawbacks to the skyscraper method, including these three:
Content length vs. content value
When people adopt the skyscraper technique, they tend to produce hardcore, detailed ultimate guides that cover everything involved in a topic from A to Z. Many of these articles are true works of art, but the result doesn't always match the effort the author put in.
It's true that articles that span 1,000 to 2,000 words tend to rank higher than those that span 300 to 500 words. But longer doesn't equal higher quality. In fact, many longer articles are full of fluff that detracts from the reading experience. If your article loses readers frequently, it will have a higher bounce rate, and it won't win as many backlinks.
Poor reader experience
The skyscraper technique encourages marketers to produce content for search engines, not readers. This is a big problem.
Content that is written for search engine algorithms prioritizes keywords and topics that rank well over anything else. The needs, desires, and interests of the reader are often forgotten — making for a poor reading experience.
If I click on an article that's dense, a bit nonsensical, and clearly not written for me, I nearly always click “back.” That's a pretty normal response. A poor reading experience won't keep readers on the page, and it certainly won't win your page backlinks!
Note: I'm not trying to say here that I think SEO detracts from the reading experience. SEO is extremely valuable, and there's nothing wrong with optimizing your article. I just believe those optimizations should be subtle and never detract from the reading experience!
Bad skyscraper content — unoriginality
The third drawback is that the skyscraper technique encourages marketers to publish unoriginal pieces.
If you follow the skyscraper technique to a T, it does push you to find an original angle and produce new content, but many marketers don't do this. The result is that the internet is littered with “ultimate guides” that just regurgitate the content in every previous ultimate guide.
How to skyscraper content the right way
I know I've leveled a few criticisms at the skyscraper technique, but I don't mean to imply that it's all bad. Sure, there's a lot of bad skyscraper content online, but there's also a “right” way to skyscraper content that produces high-quality content that benefits both the reader and your website.
Here are five strategies to help you craft really good skyscraper content:
Search for content topics with a genuine need
According to InternetLiveStats, people publish at least nine million blog posts every day. You might think that, at this point, marketers have covered every possible topic under the sun.
But that's simply not true! There are still many, many common searches that yield little to no proper results. My first tip for producing strong skyscraper content is to hunt for these uncharted territories and focus on them.
Here are a few techniques you can use to find skyscraper topics:
Search by keyword
Using a keyword explorer search tool like SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Google Keyword Planner, search for a broad keyword within your niche. Then, set your Keyword Difficulty (KD) to 40 (this will help you find pages with lots of backlinks).
Scroll through the results and look for articles that:
- Have good traction (aka. have as many links as possible!)
- Cover a unique topic
- Could be better in quality
These are your golden opportunities.
Search by topic
Use a content explorer search tool like Ahrefs or SurferSEO's content planner and enter a common search term. Then, sort the results by referring domains and set your filter to 50. Ignore any homepages or service pages (so you're left with only blog posts).
This should leave you with a list of high-ranking articles. Within these, look for an article with the three golden opportunities I mentioned in the previous section — good traction, a unique topic, and room for improvement.
Dive into unique angles — what people are searching for
My second tip is to improve on the original article with unique content. As discussed in the “What's wrong with the skyscraper content method” section, many marketers simply make their articles longer.
I cautioned against this, and here's what I suggest you do instead:
- Add new case studies or examples
- Use statistics to argue your case
- Define key terms or explain the history of the topic
- Share personal examples (like Ryan Robinson did in his article for HubSpot)
- Develop shareable images
- Make the topic more actionable with “how to” sections
- Link to existing content readers might find useful, including podcasts, YouTube videos, eBooks, and other blog posts
- Update the recommendations in the post so they align with today's world (this doubly applies if the inspiration article was published pre-pandemic!)
Now, part of this is that you must address the reader's search intent.
One great way to ensure you do this is by adding a comment section to the post and asking readers to leave any questions they have in the comments. Then, as people leave questions, expand your blog post to answer them.
You can also craft your content around the Google search questions that appear in your results. For example, here are the questions you would want to answer if you were targeting the primary keyword “TikTok advertising.”
Create better content — both in length and value
My third tip is to enhance the readability of your article so that it provides a better experience for readers.
When it comes to length, you'll want to make sure your article falls between 1,000 and 2,500 words. Make sure you also:
- Limit the word count in each H2, H3, and H4 to 350 words
- Limit each paragraph to 80 words or less
- Restrict your introduction and conclusion to less than 150 words each
- Insert an image or other piece of multimedia every 300 to 500 words
- Insert a link every 500 words or so
When it comes to value, you'll want to read over your article really carefully and remove anything that's not 100% critical. I also recommend simplifying your language using Grammarly, Writer.com, or Hemingway App. Grammarly and Writer.com are fantastic for spelling and grammar, and Hemingway App can help you reduce complicated sentences, remove jargon, and spot places where you've used passive voice.
Source: Hemingway App
Make your content stand out with visuals
My fourth tip is to invest in developing high-quality visuals for your blog post. Visuals include:
- Charts, diagrams, and tables
Each visual should fit neatly into the content around it and enhance the reader's experience. You'll also want to optimize it for SEO by
- Reducing the size of the image using tools like TinyPNG or ImageOptimizer.net (this will stop images from making your page load slowly)
- Adding an alt description so people can understand the image without seeing it
- Titling it something appropriate
- Mentioning the image in the surrounding text (for example, “you can see a breakdown of TikTok advertising costs in the table below..”)
Note: If you'd like more detail on visual content, read “The Role of Visual Content in Boosting Your Website's SEO.”
Update content as much as possible (especially evergreen pieces)
My fifth and final tip is to revisit your content regularly after you publish it and update it with current information. Here's a list of things you should focus on
- Adding new keywords
- Removing any dead links and replacing them with fresh ones
- Switching outdated statistics for newer ones (anything older than three years is “outdated”)
- Linking to trending or viral content
- Adding fresh examples and case studies
- Removing content that's no longer relevant or useful
- Altering the scope of the article to match readers' search intent
Note: You can learn more about repurposing content in “Repurposing Content: Why You Should Do It.”
Content marketing, skyscraper, link building, and SEO
Developed by Brian Dean of Backlino, the skyscraper method is a backlinking strategy that sees marketers find a highly “linkable” piece of content, create an improved version, and promote it until the piece starts winning backlinks.
Common criticisms of the skyscraper technique include that it promotes creating lengthy, unoriginal articles and that these articles offer a poor reader experience. You can avoid this trap by
- Ensuring you only use the skyscraper technique on content with a genuine need for it
- Making your article original with more links, case studies, examples, statistics, and unique angles
- Producing superior content with regard to value and length
- Updating your content regularly
And if you want help producing high-quality content, reach out to the MediaBerry team today. MediaBerry helps SaaS brands with all things link-building and content creation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Skyscraper posts take inspiration from an existing post that's popular and has many backlinks. These posts then cover the topic in more detail so that they replace the original piece in SERPs.
Developed by Brian Dean of Backlinko, the skyscraper technique helps websites increase their traffic, backlinks, domain ranking, and reach. The skyscraper technique has played a significant role in building the internet we use today.
There are three core steps you need to take to execute the skyscraper method:
Step 1. You find a piece of content with many backlinks in your niche.
Step 2. You re-write the piece and add extra, high-quality content. You publish the piece on your own blog.
Step 3. You promote your piece until it starts winning backlinks.