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What Is the Skyscraper Technique? (+6 Step Checklist)

October 29, 2019

Most people still think that creating “great content” is good enough to rise above in SEO rankings.

But with so many companies now firing their content marketing on all cylinders, it isn’t. Gone are the days when content alone was enough to get you high-quality links. You could be writing Shakespearean tragedies and people still might not naturally link to you. It just isn’t that easy anymore.

Marketers all over are continually experimenting with various blogging strategies. They’re coming up with better, more creative, shareable content to attract new customers. With the content marketing sphere becoming increasingly competitive, how do you and come out on top? Time to introduce you to the Skyscraper Technique.

To help you start off, we’ll break it down for you and demonstrate why it works, and everything else in between. There’s even a little checklist at the end so you don’t miss out on anything. Let’s dive in.

The Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique was created by Backlinko’s Brian Dean back in 2015. It gained immense popularity after the organic search traffic to his entire site doubled in only 14 days.

But what is the technique all about?

For a longer answer, the Skyscraper Technique is about searching for popular and well-received blog posts that relate to topics you or your business normally cover. Once you’ve found a piece that fits the criteria and already has a substantial audience, you then look for ways to improve the content. Listicles, infographics, and any new and unique ways you can make the content better – much better.

The goal here is to deliver the same message as the original blog post, but with your own twist to it. There are myriads of ways to go about it, which we’ll dive into later on. Once you’re done creating the improved content, reach out to the same site that you found the original content on.

Since the site’s already linked to similar content, they’re clearly interested in the topic and already have an established audience base for such blogs. This means all you have to do is get your blog on their radar and, lo and behold, you’ve landed a promising opportunity for a link. 

Why the Skyscraper Technique works

The skyscraper technique has been the surefire way to success for many content marketers since its release. Here’s three reasons why it works.

There’s a proven demand

You hit the jackpot every time you find existing content that is already pulling sizable traffic. This is because there’s already guaranteed demand for the topic you’re considering. So you no longer have to scour for hours only to write articles that your readers aren’t looking for. Piggybacking this way cuts down the effort and time required to produce new content while also adding to the information available to your readers.

All you have to do from here on is to understand why that particular topic was such a success. Was it emotional or entertaining? Did it solve some problems that your readers are experiencing? Look at what makes it great, so you can learn to do the same too.

There’s a primed audience

The audience you’re writing for has already gone over the original content. All you have to do now is build upon that content and you’ll have the potential to get them excited. Adding visuals and other value-adding content will have them interested from the get-go.

If the topic you chose is timely, then you should also make a list of influencers and brands who’ve shared the original content. This way, you can reach out to them right away and tap into their audience while they’re still intrigued.

There’s considerable ranking potential

More likely than not, Google has already ranked the existing resource well if it was such a success. It intuitively follows then that if you create something even better, you can topple over the original piece. You can easily attract more traffic and outrank the previous blog post - especially if you win over those high quality links. By putting in just half the effort, you still come out on top. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

Checklist for using the Skyscraper Technique

Are you ready to try the technique out for yourself? Here’s a short checklist to help you along the way! Let this be your holy grail for executing the Skyscraper Technique. 

skyscraper technique

1. Research and find opportunities

To start with the Skyscraper Technique, you first need to do your research. Don’t blindly choose a blog simply because it is doing well. That obviously won’t add any value to you or your company. Instead, restrict your research to relevant topics that you want to cover.

A good way to simplify the search is to set up Google Alerts for relevant keywords. Even within relevant topics, narrow your search by targeting topics that cover popular keywords and phrases. Conducting research once or twice isn’t good enough. A systematic approach to generating high quality links requires periodically analyzing popular pieces.

2. List down possible distribution partners

You found the original content on one site. But you can’t just pitch the new and improved version to that single blog of course. You need a whole list of potential blogs, brands, and influencers who might be interested in your content. Even though you’re writing a blog that is sure to be a success, that doesn’t guarantee that all the people you contact will publish it.

Brian Dean had a success rate of 11%. This might not sound like a lot, but it made a great impact. How so? Remember that it isn’t the quantity that matters, it’s the quality. If your entire list consists of high quality links, then even an 11% success rate can bring about amazing results. A good way to start the list is to write down the blogs you already know of. Then jump online to search for other similar blogs that share an audience overlap.

3. Create much better content

You have the original content in front of you. How are you going to improve it? You can’t just copy-paste it, throw some fancy jargon in there and think your work is done. Instead, there are ample ways to improve the content into a piece that genuinely excites the audience.

Here are a few of them:

visual approaches to improving content


It’s also critical to ensure that the visuals you add offer considerable value and make it easy to consume information. Also, keep your audience in mind. If you’re writing for enterprises but you’re putting memes in your content, that won’t go down so well with the readers. So always keep relevancy in mind.

Apart from adding visual content, another way to enhancing existing content is to make it longer and more comprehensive. But only by creating a more in-depth piece of content, perhaps even a holistic guide. Don’t forget to add statistics. These make the content more engaging and validate your ideas. If the original content already had statistics, update them. Even if the content you find is outdated but did well in its time, you can spruce it up and you’ve got a winner on your hands. 

TIP: Need some content inspiration? Check out these 10 innovative content marketing examples to help get your creativity flowing. 

Learn more: 10 Content Marketing Examples →

4. Promote the new and improved content

Showing social proof is a necessity now before you can reach out to any sites or brands. To establish such proof, you have to create a buzz with your own audience first. So get on your social media channels and promote your piece. Prepare about 20 snippets from the content to share on social media. 

These can include : 

Variations of the title
Short sentences from the piece
Any short quotes from the piece
Important statistics from the piece

5. Share with the right people

At this point, your enhanced content will have gained some momentum. So it’s finally time to get to sharing it. This is where you use the list of possible distribution partners from step two of the checklist.

Start sharing with everyone you’ve shortlisted. Create a template that works for you. But don’t forget to personalize it for each email to show genuine interest. Clearly write down what you’re asking of them in the email and how sharing it will also be beneficial for their followers. Let them know that you’ve written something similar to the original blog on their site, except more thorough and up-to-date. Attach a copy of your content to the email so they can go over it to see if they like it. 

6. Work hard to stay relevant

Any piece of content is only useful as long as there are people interested in reading it. Over time, however, the usefulness of even the most outstanding content starts to decline. Others do the same as you and publish even better content. Newer industry trends emerge. So your once “new and improved” content will eventually become stale.

The only way to defeat this curse and ensure that your content remains evergreen is to keep updating it. It’s hard work but it continues to pay off because you continue to create value and consequently, rank well.

Time to increase your search traffic 

By now, you likely see the potential and use of the Skyscraper Technique. Creating valuable content is hard work. Moreover, you can never be sure if the content will be a success or not. But with this technique, you don’t have to wonder. You’ll already know beforehand that your hard work will pay off.

Just remember that no one wonders what the 5th or 6th tallest skyscraper is. Everyone can only recall the name of the biggest, best, and tallest one. That’s exactly what you have to do with your content. Find the tallest “skyscraper” and build upon it by a fair amount to become the best of the best. 

Learn how the G2 Content Team went from 0 to 1 million in site traffic in under a year, with a big portion being thanks to link-building techniques, proper content optimization, and social networking. See how you can do it, too. 

Increase your traffic and build ROI with the full Road to 1 Million case  study.   Get the full story →

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