The Skyscraper Technique is a not-too-common link building technique that aims for the best results possible with the minimum of effort required, focusing on rapid SEO growth.
While the technique is often talked about in SEO circles, many people do not ever look deeper into what it can offer.
Like any SEO trick, the skyscraper technique relies on the market as much as the user – but when implemented properly, skyscraper link building can lead to enhanced pieces of content that see even better growth.
But what is the skyscraper technique, and does the skyscraper technique work better than other link building strategies that might be pushing for the same basic goal?
Table of Contents
What is the Skyscraper Technique in SEO?
The skyscraper technique is based on the idea of trying to always outdo the best piece of content in a chosen niche – like always building a skyscraper slightly higher than the other one next door to it.
In other words, the skyscraper technique focuses on finding the piece of content that performs best in a given niche and then creating something even better as a replacement backlink to any sites that are linking to that original piece of content.
In theory, this allows you to replace existing content with your own piece of content by making the original redundant.
This could be because your new content is more accurate, more in-depth, or tailored to be more relevant to a target audience rather than a general reader base.
By improving on existing content, you can “steal” its position as a reference point and resource, earning links from other websites that would have gone to that other content if you had not surpassed it.
Who Created the Skyscraper Technique?
The skyscraper technique comes from Brian Dean of Backlinko. Brian Dean provided the initial push that introduced the skyscraper technique to the link building community.
The original idea that Brian Dean had was to take the next step in building links with good content.
In the eyes of Brian Dean, a link builder was already having to create new content – so why not create better content to guarantee a higher spot in Google rankings?
The initial Brian Dean breakdown of the technique contains a lot of personal findings from Brian Dean himself, based on his experience.
However, like all techniques, Brian Dean is no longer the only person experimenting with the skyscraper technique.
Like a lot of SEO methods, the original concept by Brian Dean has been iterated on to create a more up-to-date method.
One key takeaway from the original Brian Dean article was that quality matters more than quantity.
Quality backlinks to quality content gave Brian Dean greater success than pushing for more links at all costs.
Another detail to note is that Brian Dean was still experimenting when he originally discovered it.
While the idea of skyscraper content is only a year or so old, Brian Dean paved the foundations for the more optimized version that link builders are using today.
Why Use the Skyscraper Technique?
The skyscraper technique is a surprisingly simple link building strategy that is based on using actual existing pieces of content rather than having to make vague guesses.
Since you are targeting content that is already linked to by other websites, you simply have to improve upon that content.
A few reasons that the skyscraper technique works so well include the facts that:
- Skyscraper content is easy to produce because you are basing it on content that already exists.
- The content creation process is much faster because you can use the already ranking content as a baseline and source of inspiration.
- When you create skyscraper content that surpasses the top-ranking content in the same niche, you are basically guaranteeing yourself high-quality backlinks.
- If you create something targeted at an audience with a proven demand for high-quality content, it is just a matter of time before you start to receive links of your own.
This also comes with all of the usual benefits of hosting high-quality content on your website, such as greater traffic and better-ranking content.
If used correctly, the skyscraper method can become a powerful way to get more value out of a niche you are already settled into.
The skyscraper technique can be incredibly powerful, but only if it is done right.
The basic idea of “create new content that is better than the current best piece of content” makes sense, but a deeper explanation may be needed if you want to understand how you are supposed to do it well.
Finding Competitive Content
The skyscraper technique does not work without high-ranking content to use as a reference point, and that means finding the current high-ranking online content within your niche.
Even if the content is already linked to heavily by a range of important sites, you can still steal some of that content’s links if you create something even better.
The important thing is to understand which content is actually ranking the highest and getting the best results.
In general, you want content that is naturally competitive and linkable.
This often means things like how-to guides and comparisons, list articles, well-written product breakdowns, infographics, or even things like cheat sheets.
Anything that can be used as a resource by relevant audiences is worth looking into because resource pages tend to get more attention than your typical opinion piece or casual blog post.
Remember: in this instance, existing links can be more important than future link prospects.
While copying link-worthy content that has not taken off yet can work, the skyscraper technique is about overtaking existing leading content pieces.
Looking through your competitors’ content with backlink analysis tools is a great way to trace high-quality links to their targets.
This can allow you to find the content that is getting the most link traffic from your mutual industry or audience.
There are a range of tools that let you do this, mostly through backlinks report tools that can quickly break down the backlink profile of that specific page.
This gives you easy access to the list of sites linking to that page, as well as the value of those sites themselves.
Look at Backlink Opportunities
Once you have this data, you need to sort through and see which sites actually provide a worthwhile link.
Not every site in this list of sites will be useful or even relevant. Be sure to actually look at the sites linking to the page and the page itself.
If the highest-quality content on their site has nothing to do with your industry, then trying to copy it might lead to relevancy issues – stick with the best piece of relevant content instead.
Remember that multiple links from one domain are less powerful than one link from a range of different domains.
In simpler terms, you want to find any sites that are relevant to your industry or niche and would provide a lot of SEO benefits if they linked to you.
These are the ones you should target, and since you have the content already discovered, you can use that as a starting point.
The core of the skyscraper technique is being able to create a better piece of content than a competing site.
This means that you need content that can earn you those high-quality backlinks and that will invalidate or surpass existing website content.
Skyscraper content needs to be a better piece of content than any existing content of its kind on the internet, at least in theory.
This can make it seem like an incredibly intimidating task, but most of the work is already done for you.
Improving Your Content Past Competitors
Since you already have competitor content as a reference, creating skyscraper content simply requires you to approach the issue as “make that, but better.”
This could mean extra word count that goes into greater detail, unique insights from experts in that field, a better user experience, video and image references, or even just consolidating a lot of material into one place.
For example, if you were trying to overtake an article about choosing the best browser, you could add more details about the extra features of each browser platform.
Since you are offering more information, your content is more comprehensive.
Of course, this is all case-by-case and depends entirely on your goals and the content itself.
Going too off-topic can hurt your SEO, so make sure that you stick closely to any target keyword or audience you are specifically trying to reach.
Creating search-optimized content also does not hurt.
On-page SEO can help you produce skyscraper content that ranks better overall, making it better at gathering search engine traffic.
Using similar (or identical) keywords to your competitors makes it easier to push your similar content past theirs and also makes it much easier to perform proper content marketing on that article or page in the future.
Choosing the right keywords is important, so be sure to use any keyword research tools you have available.
Like any keyword-based marketing technique, you need to take things like keyword difficulty and search volume into account when choosing how to rank your pages.
Using the skyscraper technique as an effective link building strategy means that you still need to focus on the links and keywords.
Get keyword ideas from hard data, and try to find link prospects that you know you could actually target successfully.
Be Transformative and Be Better
One of the biggest ways to misuse the skyscraper technique is to simply re-create some existing website content as your own.
Even if you do not use duplicate content and avoid similar pitfalls that can harm your rankings, you are not going to get top-ranking internet content that way.
If you simply re-write a blog post that already exists in slightly different words, you get something that will perform about the same (or worse) in search results.
The point of the skyscraper technique is to produce something better by using existing content as a stepping stone: for example, building a how-to guide that uses details from multiple other guides.
This kind of content strategy only properly works if you try to take the “next step” with the content you create rather than simply replicating an existing article.
Conducting an Outreach Campaign
If your skyscraper content is finished (or mostly complete), then you will want to start approaching sites and getting them interested in your content.
In general, you want them to understand why they should link to your content.
For example, it might be a better resource or less biased than the article you used as a reference.
No matter how you do it, the important thing is that those high-quality links end up pointing at you.
Even if their links to the original content remain, you are still getting the benefit of having them linking to your content as well.
Identify Your Best Prospects
The skyscraper technique can be approached in a range of ways, but you always want to target likely prospects for link building.
A backlink analysis is the best way to get a full look at your link building opportunities, especially because it can show you how effective the link would actually be.
Using keyword research tools can also help you find the best keywords for maximum organic search traffic.
Together, this information makes it easier to create link-worthy content that has a chance of being noticed rather than content marketing to an audience or niche that does not really exist.
Tools like Site Explorer make it easy to narrow down your options since Site Explorer can quickly show you the backlink profile of your target site without more than a small delay.
Of course, gathering data through tools like Site Explorer is only part of the process. You can also sometimes find obvious signs of potential.
For example, broken links (links that no longer lead to a valid page) are an invaluable asset because they highlight a link that needs to be replaced. If no other content is available, the site owner is basically forced to either link to you or delete the link entirely.
While you could wait until sites naturally want to link to your blog post or article, this can take a long time and does not have any guarantee of success. Approaching sites directly is a much more effective option.
Finding contact links is easy, but you do not always have to go for the contact option of the site that wrote the content.
Looking at articles might provide you with writer emails or other contact options.
If you are trying to do this in bulk, then a proper email outreach tool can really help with contacting a range of writers across multiple sites all at once.
Once you know which sites you want to try and target, you need to actually create pitches.
These should ideally be personalized emails that explain why they should be linking to your content instead of another piece.
Do not be too forceful – be friendly and approach from the perspective of somebody who wants to update the information they are linking to.
For example, you could emphasize that you have a more comprehensive article with more up-to-date information that would be useful for their readers.
Even if the site can tell that you are still acting as content marketers, first and foremost, you want to make it clear that your content is genuinely better.
If you are offering long-form content that might be too bulky for them to skim through, consider slipping in some hints towards specific bits of information that are more up-to-date.
These should usually be pieces of info that are central to their content.
For example, if your content corrects a major flaw or mistake in the original, make that point known.
Like with most projects that involve outreach, how you approach this is up to you. There are a lot of options for building a pitch, so choose the one that makes the most sense for your situation.
How to Perform the Skyscraper Technique Successfully
While this article has covered the Brian Dean skyscraper technique fairly well, it is important to do the entire process correctly.
Unlike other link building techniques where you can search Google for easy wins, trying to use the skyscraper technique means getting a competitive advantage in a field that might be genuinely hard to break into otherwise.
This makes it vital to understand how you can judge a good skyscraper content opportunity from a bad one and how you can – in seconds- boost SEO results if you rely on genuine interest from a site and audience.
Build The Best Content Possible
It is important to emphasize that the skyscraper technique relies on not just good content but the best content.
You are trying to create content that overwrites and replaces an existing article, and that article may have been a solid resource for multiple years.
You can’t simply copy information from elsewhere on the internet and pile it into a poorly stitched-together article. You need to create content with real, tangible value.
Remember that you are not just trying to appease a search engine this time, either.
While it is important to rank higher in search engine results pages, you also want something that is actually better content for the sites that you are targeting.
This means that it is especially important to think about readability, clarity, and value as an article.
A guide or tutorial would work a lot better than a keyword-stuffed blog post with no real point behind it.
Be Proactive, But Not Aggressive
While organic link building methods rely on waiting, the skyscraper technique is about forcing those links through approaching other sites, and that requires you to be proactive.
It is important not to be forceful or put pressure on other sites to give you links, but you also do not want to sit around waiting for a reply each time.
The best way to use the skyscraper technique is by maintaining momentum as long as you can – keep putting out pitches and tweaking your content as needed.
If you have multiple potential pieces of content that you could replace, it may be worth working on a new one each time the first one is completed.
The downtime involved in waiting for pitch replies gives you time to find another target for the skyscraper technique, letting you keep the cycle going.
Don’t Forget Organic Traffic
While the skyscraper technique is a great tool, you do not want to focus on the skyscraper technique at the expense of literally everything else.
Remember that organic search traffic is also worth gathering and that earning other links (even if they are not from major top-ranking sites) can still have benefits.
Having more decent quality referring domains can make a difference, so do not be afraid to use your skyscraper post or article as a general-purpose link-building tool.
The skyscraper technique can also cross over with other techniques. For example, the backlinks report can be ideal for finding less important referring domains that are still worth targeting with regular link building.
Use Common Sense
There are a lot of ways to use the skyscraper technique, but it is also easy to make mistakes that you easily could have avoided.
Common sense is important if you want to ensure that you are getting the right rankings in the right places.
For example, if you want to rank higher on Google search results for specific terms, make sure that you use referring domains with some relevance to those keywords.
While the skyscraper technique is a unique way of approaching links, you still need to follow the same rules as with other link building options, and that includes issues like irrelevant content.
Make sure that you approach the skyscraper technique as only a part of your link building strategy, rather than as a unique thing.
Many of the rules are still the same, and you do not want to make mistakes that could damage your links or organic traffic.
Treat Each Piece of Content as Bespoke
It is important to try and put as much effort as possible into your content when you use the skyscraper technique.
As mentioned before, both site owners and search engines want quality content, so having better content overall will lead to greater results.
However, you also want to slow down and take the entire project one step at a time, especially if you are trying to steal a particularly valuable link.
Try to avoid relying too much on a specific formula or re-using the formatting of one article for another. This might be easier, but it also makes you complacent.
A large part of the skyscraper technique is about pushing forward and filling niches in ways that other sites are not. To do this, you need to actually pay attention to what your content is and what makes it more valuable than the content you want to replace.
A large part of what pushed Brian Dean to his original level of success was using well-made content and carefully planned pitches, using templates but hiding the fact that they were not entirely unique.
Even if you are taking shortcuts like this, you want to disguise it as much as possible. The skyscraper technique relies on providing value and making the target site want to use your content
The skyscraper technique is a versatile strategy that can provide a lot of solid benefits and does not necessarily take much time to understand once you know what the goals are meant to be.
However, unlike many SEO or link building strategies that use generalized techniques, the skyscraper technique is more focused on individual pieces of content.
This makes it more specialized and bespoke but also more powerful, especially if you can land a link replacement from a major website that begins to treat you like a major resource or point of reference.
Just remember that there is no perfect way to approach the skyscraper technique and no guaranteed sub-strategies that will work in any industry.
Slow down, explore your options, and remember that the skyscraper technique is meant to be only part of a greater SEO whole.
Searcharoo is a Link Building & Content Marketing company run by SEO’s based in the UK.
Our goal from the start has been to provide premium links and content services, at fair and affordable prices.