What is the skyscraper technique?
Identify content within your industry that attracts lots of backlinks. Naturally, these pieces will often be associated with high search volumes (relatively speaking).
Create a superior piece of content. It could be more detailed, better researched, have a more attractive design.
Reach out via email to those that have already linked to competitor content, and introduce your new and improved version.
To put it in more colloquial language, you’re trying to ‘one-up’ your competition. You then shout about how well you’ve one-uped the others in a bid to gain links. If you’ve seen American Psycho, you’ll hopefully know the infamous business card scene. Classic one-upmanship.
Does the Skyscraper technique work?
All the big boys have thrown their hat in the ring for this search term. The list includes Ahrefs, HubSpot, Neil Patel, Search Engine Journal, the list goes on. Whilst not originally a piece of skyscraper content, ironically Brian’s article is a great case study for link earning, as shown by the article’s backlink profile via SEMrush:
- The original article was simplistic. That’s effective when introducing a new concept but over simplification leaves too much on the table.
- It was a victim of its own popularity. SEOs are chomping at the bit to get a competitive advantage. If everyone starts using it, the efficacy will drop.
Does it mean that either technique is rubbish? Absolutely not, they only need to be adapted to take into account a different SEO landscape.
- The inherent authority of your website will have a direct impact on the longevity of your content. i.e if you are new (like we are) the likelihood that your content will rank is low.
- Similar to the inherent authority of your website, the authority of your brand will make a difference. If Larry Kim reaches out to people, he’s going to have much more success than little ‘ol me.
- Money talks and budgets can have a real influence. We reference social and paid channels, but budgets can also include video production. In some cases, the creation of a tool can be highly successful, but needs budget.
A Skyscraper Technique that works in 2020
- Research topics where a better solution exists
- Identify key amplifiers
- Create the content
- Invite amplifiers to provide further commentary
- Develop a brief, but effective social media strategy
- Personalise every piece of outreach
- Protect your asset
Step 1: Research topics where a better solution exists
- We don’t get distracted by the big shiny numbers (i.e search volumes or competitor backlinks).
- We focus on how effective our skyscraper content will be in the current landscape.
- It prevents people from investing lots of time on skyscraper content that won’t work. In all content creation there are hits and misses, we need to minimise the misses.
- It provokes thought around exactly what is a better solution to the searcher’s intent. This will be invaluable in the content creation process. Olga Mykhoparkina (I think I spelt that right) wrote for Search Engine Journal stating that one the mistakes she made was not addressing real pain points for the customer.
How do you conduct this research?
- Si Quan Ong wrote a great article for Ahrefs recently on how to best use their platform for research.
- Neil Patel looks at how to use Uber Suggest for competitor analysis. There are also some who are trying to promote the ‘Uber Skyscraper Technique’ through the use of Uber Suggest and Postaga to automate a lot of the process. We haven’t fully dived in to that one, but it might be worth checking out.
- There’s also a lot of literature for platform specific research such as SEMrush or Moz.
- Finally, Monitor backlinks provided a lot of information on how to use Keyword Planner and Buzzsumo.
- Have a read of our SparkToro review to see how you could use this platform to understand your audience in more detail.
Remember that some of these articles are helping to promote their own specific platforms!
Step 2: Identify Key Amplifiers
That’s okay, you only need a few to say yes which is why you need to be compelling. You can also look at amplifiers that have not covered the topic but are still industry relevant.
Step 3: Create the Content
Some further tips on content creation:
- Don’t lose sight of normal ranking factors. If a piece of content can rank in its own right, it will deliver more traffic and earn more links than if it did not. It makes sense to do everything you can to ensure this happens, regardless of the skyscraper technique. Take into account SERP features such as featured snippets or Google images.
- What is going to be attractive to your outreach targets? It could be a piece of independent research or even a funny take on a subject. Simply creating a longer blog post won’t cut it.
- Evergreen content is a good bet. It not only buys you a little more time to create your awesome content (without the potential time decay hovering over you). But it allows for longer term link earning. Have a watch of this White Board Friday on creating ’10x content’ for some additional tips.
Step 4: Invite Further Commentary
Step 5: Create a brief, but effective social media campaign
- Create a multiple post campaign to promote your content throughout your outreach period and beyond
- If you have managed to attract contributors, tag them in the posts.
- You might also want to tag other contributors that you have reached out to. Seven points of contact and all that.
- Include some paid promotion to key outreach targets and other content creators.
Step 6: Link Outreach
As I mentioned at the start of the article, it was a victim of its own popularity. Half a decade later and verbatim emails are still hurtling through cyber space on a daily basis. It’s similar to HubSpot sales templates….if you know, you know. The first one might work, but the rest act as big red flags. Most content creators nowadays will have received these sorts of emails. The personalisation is so automated that it’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing…..without the sheep’s clothing.
DO NOT copy and paste templates you find online. It’s lazy.
Some of you may be thinking that Twitter DMs might be a good way to contact the higher profile individuals. Bear in mind though that many of these people will prevent people from direct messaging them:
Personalise every piece of outreach
Widen your perspective
Don't forget about your contributors
Step 7: Protect Your Asset
Recognise the other benefits