Digital marketing is one of those industries with clearly defined seasons.
Tactics work for a while… But the moment a certain strategy goes wide enough that everyone is trying it, the effect often wears off.
In some ways, this is what has happened with the so-called Skyscraper Technique.
Used by content marketers around the globe, the process involves finding other content currently ranking for a specific keyword and trying to outdo it by posting additional content.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what the process includes and why it isn’t as effective as it once was.
Plus, we’ll break down the reasons why it worked in the first place and how those elements are still crucial today.
Ready to jump in and learn more? Let’s get started.
What is the Skyscraper Technique?
The Skyscraper Technique is a content marketing method designed to improve search engine ranking and boost organic traffic.
It was first coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, who detailed the process of how he used it to boost traffic for his digital marketing clients.
Generally, the process includes doing keyword research to find the best keyword for a particular subject.
Then, you see which pages are ranking for that search term. When you find a piece of content that’s particularly strong, then you attempt to create content that is longer and stronger than the initial one.
The reasoning behind this is that Google will see you’re offering more informative and engaging content than the original post, thus allowing you to outrank the original piece of content.
Dean refers to this in contrast to the giant skyscrapers in major cities where one building rises and a second one is under construction to beat the record for height. (Hence the name.)
It is a process that is simple enough for nearly anyone to implement and plays into the fact that content is still king — a fact that nobody is arguing has not changed.
However, there are indications that the Skyscraper Technique isn’t quite as powerful as it once was, which is an important aspect to know if you’re considering using it as part of your overall digital marketing strategy.
Is the Skyscraper Technique a Proven Framework to Boost Traffic?
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, the Skyscraper Technique has been quite effective for thousands of marketers in the past.
But, as content marketing changes, so does the need to create pieces that are more than just longer regurgitations of someone else’s content text.
To understand this, we need to first break down the aspects of the Skyscraper Technique that make it successful and take those ideas a step further for today’s content needs.
1. It Centers Around a Primary Keyword and Central Idea
Perhaps the best part about the Skyscraper Technique is that it focuses on a primary keyword and a central idea.
For content marketers, this is a slam dunk way to come up with topics that are already proven with an audience.
It also keeps you from going off in a random direction with a specific post.
Essentially, the post you’re trying to outdo is the framework for what you’re going to create, which saves time and guesswork.
Why This Still Works Today: Creating content is a numbers game.
The more you can publish, the better chance you have to boost your rankings and improve organic traffic.
The Skyscraper Technique eliminates guesswork and saves research time.
2. Using a Competitor’s Content Can Offer New Insight Into the Topic
Another reason why the Skyscraper Technique works is that reviewing your competitor’s content gives you a chance to see a new angle on your chosen topic that you might not have otherwise considered.
For example, let’s say you’re writing a skyscraper post about dog ownership in America.
Maybe the original post mentions something (with statistics) about singles choosing to own a dog over finding a spouse.
While it is only a small portion of the piece, you see it as an opportunity to expand upon and add a few hundred words to yours.
See how this might work?
By using the competitor’s information, you can expound and make your so-called skyscraper piece “taller” and more informative than theirs.
Why This Still Works Today: Content is always changing.
And some niches add new facts or information faster than others. A good piece of insight from your competitor’s piece can lead to a profound update using the latest updates on the topic.
3. Existing Rankings Show Users Want This Content
The first step in using the Skyscraper Technique is to find content you’re trying to outrank.
During this process, you’ll uncover traffic data that shows users want this content and that they’re going to continue to search for it.
After all, your competitor wouldn’t be ranking for it if there wasn’t a need, right?
This eliminates the proof of concept part of content marketing.
Not only does it mean there is someone out there who wants more information on a particular topic, but it gives you an approximate idea of how your content should eventually rank.
Why This Still Works Today: Proof of concept is an incredibly powerful aspect of any digital marketing technique.
With the Skyscraper Method, you’re essentially getting this process done for you with minimal trial-and-error on your part.
4. The Skyscraper Technique Focuses on ‘More’ and ‘Better’
Let’s face it…
There’s just far more content out there on the web than anyone could read in a lifetime or a hundred of them.
With the Skyscraper Technique, content marketers are essentially boiling down the best bits of a specific topic and adding even more pertinent information.
The end result?
Content that’s even better and informative than the initial piece — which, for the purpose of overall search intent, is preferred by the end audience anyway.
Why This Still Works Today: Audiences want more out of content than just a few posts and an infographic.
That’s why taking what’s already available and making it better by adding more information, interactive elements, and other bonuses is a good thing.
How to Execute the Skyscraper Technique
Let’s say you’ve read everything we’ve mentioned above and you want to try the Skyscraper Technique out for yourself on your next content piece.
To help you out, we’ve created this roadmap with steps on how to make it happen.
Step One: Choose a Keyword
The whole process of the Skyscraper Technique starts with finding the right keyword that you want to center your content around.
For this step, use your favorite keyword analysis tool, such as Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, or whatever else you prefer.
Look for keywords that have a fair amount of traffic, which shows search volume and can indicate whether the topic is worth creating an additional post.
Step Two: Analyze the Competition
Next, look at what’s already ranking for that specific keyword.
For this process, you’ll simply need to use Google and do a search. Additionally, you’ll want to do the same thing on the Bing platform.
Look at what’s currently on the first page and determine whether it is worth competing against those websites.
If you’re seeing a lot of smaller sites and not a lot of major corporations, then you’re good to proceed.
Step Three: Choose Your Skyscraper Foundation
At this part in the process, it is time to choose your skyscraper foundation.
What this means is you want to identify one page you’re going to try to outrank for the specific keyword.
Then take time to analyze the main points of their content and areas where you can elaborate further.
Step Four: Outline How You’ll Beat the Competition
Once you’ve chosen the blog post you’re going to attempt to beat, take time to outline how you plan on accomplishing this feat.
Think of different areas like better content, improved layout and design, or even added interactive content to the mix.
In short, you need to have a plan on how you’re going to take what they have and add your own spin to make it even better.
Step Four: Create and Publish the Content
After outlining, it is time to actually bring your new skyscraper content into the world.
Write, edit, polish, and publish.
While it might seem like this would be the most labor-intensive part of the Skyscraper Technique, it is actually usually the easiest.
After all, if you’ve done enough homework, the process of pulling it all together is relatively simple.
Step Five: Find Out Who is Linking to the Original Content Piece
When your content is live, it is time to start getting backlinks.
However, you don’t want to just send emails out to just anyone. Instead, use your favorite SEO tool to find out who is currently linking to the existing piece.
Then reach out to them with a link to your content and reasons why it is better than the original.
Ask to have the original link switched with yours. While not all of them will say yes or even respond, all you need is a few to start to see upward movement in the SERPs.
Step Six: Rinse and Repeat While You Wait
Finally, you’ll want to rinse and repeat the process while you wait for Google and Bing to catch up with your improved content in the SERPs.
There’s no specific timeline on how long or if your content will ever outrank the competition, but keep trying the technique on other keywords to see if one (or more) eventually takes off.
Can the Skyscraper Technique Fail?
Now, at the beginning of this guide, we cautioned that there might be times when the Skyscraper Technique doesn’t work.
In fact, there are many times when the process fails — even though your content is clearly better and rises far above the competition.
Here are a few problems to look out for and possible fixes to keep them from happening:
The Competition on a Keyword is Too Tough
When it comes to finding content to use as a basis for the Skyscraper Technique, you need to watch out for no-win situations when it comes to ranking.
Simply put, some competitors are just too big and have a higher domain authority than you do.
This essentially means that it would be virtually impossible to outrank them with content that’s better than theirs.
This is why we highly suggest analyzing competitor pages before starting to outline your content.
To keep this from being an issue, try to select competition that’s around the same clout level or just slightly higher than you are.
You’re Getting No Response on Backlinks
In some cases, you might send out dozens of emails to publications and websites that are currently linking to your competition content… only to get zero response.
Actually, this isn’t entirely unusual. Especially if those main pages are journalists from top-tier news organizations.
Most writers for these publications are either freelance or they move around from one website to another.
That means reaching out to them might be difficult, as they’re no longer employed or able to receive messages on pieces they wrote years ago.
Instead, don’t get frustrated. Have a secondary list of the best publications in the industry surrounding your keyword.
Then reach out to them with several links for your content that they could use in a future piece.
This proactive approach is a great way to snag those top-level backlinks that your competition probably isn’t thinking about adding to an old piece.
Your Audience Pain Point Wasn’t Big Enough
While we’ve already mentioned that using the Skyscraper Technique is a good way to achieve proof of concept for a particular topic, there’s more that you’ll need to do to ensure the main keyword is a good fit.
Namely, you need to decide whether your audience’s pain point is big enough to click on multiple listings for answers.
Why does this matter?
In order to outrank sites on the first page of Google, you’ll need a fair amount of traffic when you’re further down in the SERPs.
That means people need to be looking at what’s on that front page, plus scrolling down further to get more ideas on how to solve their issue.
That means choosing the right keyword also means selecting a pain point that’s enough of a bother for your ideal buyer persona that they’re willing to keep reading to find a solution.
Wrap Up: Using the Skyscraper Technique for Content Marketing
There’s no doubt that content marketing can be a bit of a tricky business.
Learning how to create content that outshines what the competition already offers is a bit easier with Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique, but you can’t just rely on creating longer content and sending emails asking for backlinks.
Are you ready to learn more about how search engine optimization works and how to use it to boost your organic traffic?
Our SEO guide is a great place to start!