fbpx

Skyscraper Technique: How To Create Content That Attracts Backlinks

In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about the skyscraper technique. In a nutshell, it’s one of the best and most effective ways to create content that will drive more backlinks to your site than any other page you have.

Aside from talking about it, I’ll also show you how to do the skyscraper technique the right way. In the end, you should be able to create the skyscraper content that will help you rank on top of search results.

What is the Skyscraper Technique?

Brian Dean of Backlinko developed a method of increasing organic traffic that combines content creation and link building outreach in 2015. This result was the skyscraper technique, a tactic that, even five years later, remains as one of the best ways to boost your traffic.

The technique is divided into three steps:

  1. Find linkable assets
  2. Create a better version of it
  3. Reach out to link prospects

It all looks simple on the surface, and it is to an extent. But there’s a lot that goes into its execution, which we will discuss later.

In Brian’s initial post about this technique, he was able to grow a site’s traffic by 110% in two weeks.

skyscraper technique brian dean results

The popularity of this tactic spawned lots of case study throughout the years, most of which are positive. However, there were other studies proving that the skyscraper technique is not the silver bullet that everybody claimed it to be.

This article on Search Engine Journal by Shanty is a great example of a failed skyscraper technique campaign.

They did everything that the technique required them to do. However, despite 40 hours of research, content creation, and outreach, the brand failed to land a single backlink through the campaign.

skyscraper technique shanty

Nonetheless, the author did mention some of the mistakes it made along the way that resulted in its failure. Therefore, it’s not because the technique is flawed. It’s because there are factors that the brand failed to put into account when developing their strategy.

How to Do the Skyscraper Technique

As seen above, the skyscraper technique is not the all-in-one solution to all your SEO problems. That said, the results ultimately depend on how one develops the strategy for this campaign.

Below, you’ll find not only the exact process on how to launch the technique successfully but also learn the little details that separate a skyscraper content that generates lots of backlinks from one that attracts none at all.

For this process, we suggest that you use Ahrefs because it possesses all the features that you need to run the technique. However, I’ll show you other applicable tools you can use to pull off the tactic.

Step 1: Find linkable assets

The key here is finding a page related to your niche that has lots of backlinks. The fact that websites linked to it mean that they find value in it. And by creating content that’s better than this, you can entice people to link back to your created content instead.

When looking for linkable assets, exclude homepages and landing pages from the search. What you want to find are informational content like blog posts.

For this example, we’ll try to come up with skyscraper content ideas for a sports massage therapy website.

Using Ahrefs, there are different ways to find content related to your industry with lots of backlinks.

Competitors

To do this, log in to Ahrefs and go to Organic search > Competing domains to see websites that share your ranking keywords.

ahrefs competing domains

The fact that they’re ranking for the same keywords as the site makes it easier for you to find related content that you can turn into skyscraper content.

Click on any of the competing domains and check their backlinks.

ahrefs domains top pages

The idea of this method is to find your competitor’s content pieces with the most backlinks. From here, analyze if you can create a much better page than theirs.

ahrefs top pages

Unfortunately, this method might not be most efficient when it comes to finding content to recreate on your site. By limiting your search to one domain at a time, you’ll find yourself repeating the process until you’ve run through the hundreds and thousands of domains in the results. Nonetheless, searching by competitors allows you to unearth potential content ideas for your campaign.

Topic Research

Using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, you can find content about your topic with the most domains linking to it. This is a good way to filter down your results to relevant content with the most backlinks.

Go to Content Explorer on the menu and type in the topic of your website. For this example, let’s use “injury rehab.”

Here are the results:

ahrefs content explorer

The pages you will see from the Content Explorer varies. As mentioned, we want to target informational content like blog posts because they are more conducive to be converted into skyscraper content.

Also, you also have to consider the search intent of the phrase you typed. “Injury rehab” doesn’t have clear user intent, i.e. what about injury rehab do people want to know?

That said, it’s your job to find the best content from the results that appear here.

ahrefs content explorer referring domains

Once you have access to the referring domains, make sure to focus on sites that offer a dofollow backlink. You want to maximize your link building outreach by putting an onus to sites that allow for the link juice to pass from their site to yours.

ahrefs referring domains

Then click on the Links to target drop-down menu for each domain to see which pages in the domain that the target page has a backlink.

ahrefs links to target

Click on the page to get an idea on how the backlink of the target page looks like here. However, don’t concern yourself too much with this – the point here is to simply show you the type of dofollow backlinks the target page has and see how you can position your skyscraper content in this regard.

The next thing to do is export the results.

ahrefs export

The reason for downloading the list is to later find out the emails of the author or site owners and ask for the link back from the page.

Do this exact method on the pages that appear in the Content Explorer results with at least 50 backlinks.

Keyword Research

Using this method, you want to find keywords that your site hasn’t optimized for yet. You want to target unique keywords to avoid keyword cannibalization.

Similar to the method of researching your competitors. Go to Organic search > Competing domains and click on Keywords unique to competitors.

ahrefs keywords unique to competitor

On the Content Gap page, click on the SERP drop-down menu to see the top pages ranking for the keyword.

ahrefs content gap serp

From here, you’ll have around 100 pages from SERP to get inspiration for your campaign. Make sure that the content you want to recreate is an informational post that has at least 50 backlinks.

Step 2: Make Even Better Content

Once you’ve identified the topic you want to create into a skyscraper content on your site, the next step is to determine how to make it better.

“Better,” in this case, depends on the kind of content your target page has.

Below are rules of thumb that you should follow when making a piece of content better:

  • Is it one of your audience’s biggest problems? Writing about your readers’ pain points is the best way to generate traffic to your site. By providing answers to questions your audience has about your topic, you deliver value through your content.
  • Is the information outdated? You must present the latest data and statistics to your readers. This is important, especially if you’re writing about a topic that’s undergone lots of changes through the years.
  • Does it grab your attention? It doesn’t matter if the content is well-written. What’s more important is whether or not it compels you to not leave the page. Consider adding more visuals, buckets brigade, and other elements to convince visitors to read the content until the end.

At the end of the day, “better” content is all about satisfying your reader’s needs and wants. However, the points mentioned above are just the basic things you must normally do to improve in your version of their content. So, there are probably more things you must do to make your content “better” depending on your point of reference.

In Brian Dean’s example, he improved the previous page ranking for “google ranking factor” by including the latest factors and presenting the information in a compelling manner.

vaughn's summary

Going back to our sports massage website example, here’s a page about scar tissue with 140 backlinks that we could turn into a skyscraper content:

medical news today scar tissue

This is just a section of the article, but it has a typical blog post structure with images and links. In fact, it’s a very well-written piece by an authoritative site.

However, this doesn’t mean that the article has no room for improvements.

Below are ideas on how you can make your version of the content much better:

  • Add custom graphics and videos – The article is using stock or generic photos to communicate its message. Creating branded graphics or even infographics to convey your message in your article would be a nice touch.
  • Create a simplified version of the content – The topic is medical; thus, it is probably difficult to understand for non-medical readers. Therefore, consider writing the article from the perspective of people who don’t have a medical background and want to research more about scar tissue.

Again, the ideas you will come up with at this stage depends on the content in front of you. You can have even more suggestions to make better content – it’s just a matter of finding the right page to recreate.

If you’re not happy with the ideas you’ve come up with, then find another linkable asset that you want to try out.

Step 3: Reach out to link prospects

Once you have created your skyscraper content, it’s time to let the whole world know about it. In particular, you want to reach out to site owners who linked to the target pages and ask a backlink from them.

While it sounds simple in theory, actually getting it done is a different thing altogether.

There are different steps involved in the outreach process:

Collecting the emails

At this point, you only have a collection of domains with backlinks to your target page. And since your purpose is to replace the target page with your skyscraper content, you must find a way to reach out to these people.

The best way to do this is by plugging the domains one by one using Hunter.

hunter email finder

If the tool finds multiple emails from your search, you need to identify which one whom you should reach out to in your campaign. It’s best to avoid sending it to all the emails to not annoy people in the company.

When you sign up for a Hunter account, you get access to 50 free emails in a month. However, assuming that you’ll be sending out emails to more than 50 domains, you need to subscribe to a plan to get more emails.

Creating the email template

Once you have their emails, it’s time to craft the email you will send to prospects.

Here’s an example of an email sent by David Vallance as part of his skyscraper campaign:

outreach email template for skyscraper technique

In the email, David asked website owners to replace the linked page of free stock photo sites with his better and updated version.

Out of the 96 emails he sent, 20 replied, and 12 gave him his link for a 12% conversion rate. It performed even better than Brian Dean’s in his initial skyscraper campaign (17 links out of 160 emails for an 11% success rate).

But we’re not here to compare apples and oranges. What’s more important here is the value of creating an email that resonates with recipients.

The way I see it, here’s a couple of reasons why the outreach was a success:

  • Reworked a great topic – The skyscraper content delivered on the promise of creating a better version of previous content. Instead of 17 free stock photo sites, David upped the ante by featuring over 23+ sites than the original.
  • Found the right prospects – Aside from finding domains with a backlink to the target page, you also want to find people who would be willing to replace the link. This is oftentimes a crapshoot because there’s no way you can know how people will respond to your outreach. However, just like David, it would help if you…
  • Wrote a simple and straightforward email – The email didn’t beat around the bush and went straight to its objective. It is also a short message, which meant it didn’t waste the time of recipients.

As you can see, the skyscraper technique is a top-to-bottom campaign. It won’t matter how good your outreach email is, for instance, if there’s no interest in the content you created.

Also, take note that David’s post was written in 2016, and this email template may not work as well as before.

But the point remains the same: you need to create an outreach following the principles above. You may end up writing a different email because it ultimately depends on the kind of content you wrote and the prospects in your outreach.

First, you need to find an angle on how you can successfully get backlinks from your prospects.

To do this, you need to review the type of backlink your target page has on your prospects.

From Ahrefs’ Referring Domains, click on the Links to target drop-down menu to see the page on the domain with a backlink to the target page. Click on it to open the page.

link to target page

Do this on the top referring domains to see a common thread. In the example above, the link is located within the content. And the only way to get a link within it is by reaching out to site owners asking them to replace the existing link with yours.

Assuming that this is how your target page got most of its backlinks, it’s time to create your email template.

Using David’s email as inspiration, here’s something that I’ve come up with:

Subject:

I have an idea to make your post better!

Body:

Hello, [First Name]!

I stumbled upon your website and read this article about [topic]. Here’s the link: [URL]

I also saw that you linked to a page about scar tissue. It’s a pretty informative post that covers everything people need to know about the topic.

However, I went out of my way to create an even more comprehensive guide about scar tissue. What also makes this better is because [reasons].

Here’s the link if you’re interested: [Link]

If you like it, maybe you should link to it in your article to provide more information about the topic to readers.

What do you think?

[Your Name]

There’s a lot you can do to improve this template. However, the principles behind this email are sound enough that recipients will at least read it.

The difference with the email I wrote is you have to indicate in the [reasons] why they should check out your post in the first place.

Oftentimes, people assume that their prospects are automatically interested in what they have to say. However, that’s never the case, so you must give them the reasons first to make a compelling case.

Also, consider creating follow-up emails to your initial outreach. There are times when people don’t reply because your email got buried on top of other emails or they simply forgot.

follow up email

Sending the emails

Sending emails is easy, in general. But when you have hundreds of prospects that you have to send your emails to, the task becomes cumbersome.

Manually sending all emails (including the follow-ups) will take you hours, if not days, to complete. Making matters worse, you can’t do everything in one fell swoop. For follow-up emails, you have to wait for days before sending them out.

In this case, it’s best to use a tool like Mailshake that will help automate the entire process for you.

mailshake

You can set up your outreach campaign using the tool. Just upload the list of emails and the drip campaign, schedule the times when the tool will send the emails in the interval, and you’re off to go!

Also, you need to set up the custom variables, i.e. [URL], [First Name], etc. in the spreadsheet, you will upload. This way, the tool will replace the variable with the assigned value in the sheet, so you don’t have to input them one by one.

From here, you can monitor the campaign to see how many opened or didn’t open your email, replied, and who wanted to link back to your content.

Use the data to help you optimize the campaign by improving the emails.

Conclusion

So there you have it – the skyscraper technique laid out for you to replicate for your website!

As you can see, your skyscraper campaign is dependent on your niche. Some topics simply don’t have enough backlinks to go around, or maybe because they’re not that interesting enough for people.

That said, you don’t have to use this technique if you feel you won’t be able to generate the results you need for your site. As said earlier, the skyscraper tactic is not the solution to your SEO problems. As a technique, it can only do so much for your site.

However, when done correctly at the right circumstances, it is powerful enough to strengthen your link profile and multiply your search traffic. As long as you follow the blueprint above, you should be able to copy the process without a hitch.

seo profile image

Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

  • social media icon
  • social media icon
  • social media icon

Online Courses