Ultimate Guide to Skyscraper SEO: How to Build Backlinks and Boost Rankings

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Hello friendly unicorn.

Let’s talk about skyscrapers and SEO.

What is the Skyscraper Technique?

The “skyscraper technique” refers to creating content that completely outperforms any competitor content in terms of comprehensiveness, detail, and usefulness for the reader.

The goal is to make content so remarkably extensive that it dwarfs all other resources on that topic. If done correctly, the long-form “skyscraper” content will attract backlinks naturally and have a high chance of ranking #1.

How to Execute the Skyscraper Technique

The skyscraper technique is a proven SEO tactic for generating high-quality backlinks through content marketing. By following these steps, you can execute it effectively:

  1. Find existing popular content with ample backlinks around your target topic using tools like Ahrefs. Look for pages with 50+ referring domains.

  2. Analyze the content and create an outline for an even more comprehensive "skyscraper" piece that improves upon it.

  3. Produce remarkably in-depth content that dwarfs the competition in usefulness and detail. Make it significantly longer, more visual, and more useful than any other resource.

  4. Promote the new content extensively, reaching out to sites linking to old content and asking them to link to your upgraded version instead.

  5. Continuously update the skyscraper content to maintain its authoritative position.

Follow this process precisely to execute the skyscraper technique properly and obtain results in the form of new quality backlinks driving increased organic traffic.

Does the Skyscraper Technique Still Work?

Yes, the skyscraper technique still works well in 2022 and beyond. Many marketers continue getting good results with this strategy.

The principles remain sound – creating incredibly useful content tailored to search intent and promoting it to earn links. As search algorithms evolve, pieces matching user intent well tend to perform best.

However, some outdated aspects like over-optimization and thin content stretched to hit word counts may be less effective today. The focus should be on value, not just length. But the core tactic still delivers when executed properly.

Why the Skyscraper Technique Fails and How to Improve Your Chances of Success

There are a few key reasons the skyscraper technique can fail:

  • Just using Brian Dean's old outreach email template that people now recognize and ignore. Write your own personalized emails instead.

  • Not tailoring your pitch by analyzing how prospects previously linked to competitor content. Segment your outreach list.

  • Failing to promote to enough high-quality sites. Expand your outreach list using ahrefs and competitor research to increase prospects.

  • Thinking bigger content is always better. Consider true value to the reader rather than length goals. Curate quality information.

  • Forgetting about E-A-T and branding. Google cares about expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. An unknown site may struggle to rank skyscraper content.

Do proper competitor research, create valuable content, segment your pitches, expand your outreach list, and promote strategically to improve success rates.

The 3 Steps to the Skyscraper Technique

The skyscraper technique involves three core steps:

  1. Find existing content related to your topic that already ranks well or has lots of backlinks. Identify content to improve upon.

  2. Create something significantly more detailed, extensive, and comprehensive than what you identified. Expand well beyond competitor content in value.

  3. Reach out to sites linking to old content and request they link to your new "skyscraper" instead due to its greater value.

By following these three steps methodically, you can execute this technique properly.

Skyscraper Technique Success Rate

How effective is the skyscraper technique? Success rates vary based on factors like niche, competition level, outreach list size, and content quality.

In Brian Dean's original case study, he obtained 17 backlinks from 160 outreach emails for an 11% success rate. But his results are not typical.

With a robust process, you can expect maybe a 1-3% backlink success rate from cold outreach. So you need large outreach lists and great content to score wins.

Why Does the Skyscraper Technique Work?

There are a few key reasons why the skyscraper technique is effective:

  • Google and users prefer comprehensive, in-depth content that thoroughly covers a topic. So ultra-detailed posts can outrank competitors.

  • If you create something much better than what already ranks well, it appears extremely authoritative, which attracts links.

  • You target sites who already link to content on that topic, so they likely appreciate related resources.

  • Longer content with more media gives viewers more reason to share or link to specific elements.

  • Skyscraper content is crafted for strategic keywords, so it directly answers user intent.

Essentially, skyscraper content works by aligning perfectly with search user needs and matching SEO best practices. The epic length simply allows packing in maximum usefulness.

How to Use Skyscraper Link Building

The process behind using skyscraper content for link building involves:

  1. Find existing pages ranking well or with lots of backlinks around your target keyword.

  2. Analyze the content and create an outline to beat it with a much more in-depth and useful "skyscraper" piece.

  3. Produce the new long-form content packed with details, visuals, and media the original lacks.

  4. Export the backlinks to the competitor content using Ahrefs.

  5. Reach out to those sites asking them to link to your superior version instead.

By following these steps, you can leverage skyscraper content for quality link building.

Common Mistakes with the Skyscraper SEO Technique

Some common mistakes that reduce the effectiveness of skyscraper content include:

  • Focusing solely on word count over providing real value to readers.

  • Using the same outdated email templates as everyone else. Personalize your outreach.

  • Not segmenting the outreach list by how prospects previously linked to competitors.

  • Neglecting importance of E-A-T and branding. Unknown sites may still struggle to rank content.

  • Failure to promote the new content aggressively via social media, email lists, PR, etc.

  • Lacking citations, metrics, media, quotes that substantiate the quality and depth.

  • Forgetting to update the content over time to maintain its authoritative status.

What is the Reverse Skyscraper Technique?

The reverse skyscraper technique uses the same principles, but instead of upgrading content from the strongest competitors, you improve upon weaker, less-linked-to content.

For example, you find pages in positions 4-10 for a keyword with minimal backlinks and create epic content significantly better than those.

The benefit is there may be less competition from big brands targeting head terms. So for less competitive niches, improving on mid-tail, long-tail or less-linked-to content can work well.

How Do I Identify Content for the Skyscraper Technique?

Use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to uncover already successful and well-linked content related to your topics. Search for relevant keywords and sort by backlinks or referring domains.

Analyze top-ranking competitors. Review sites linking to them. Check social shares. Identify strengths to build upon and gaps to fill.

The best content to skyscraper will have ample backlinks, indicating appeal and authority, but with gaps you can outperform them on.

What Makes Content "Better" or "Taller"?

There are several elements that make skyscraper content truly stand out:

  • Significantly longer word count (2,000+ words)

  • Much more comprehensive list of tips/stats/findings

  • Adding multimedia like videos, gifs, and images

  • Infographics, quizzes, calculators, or other interactive elements

  • Custom design, illustrations, and visual appeal

  • Consistent formatting and scannability

  • Extensive details, citations, and expert commentary

  • Actionable advice readers can implement

The more you expand upon and improve what competitors have done, the “taller” your skyscraper rises. But focus on value, not just size.

How Do I Promote Skyscraper Content?

To maximize links and exposure for skyscraper posts, you need extensive promotion including:

  • Email outreach asking sites linking to old content to link to yours instead

  • Reaching out to industry influencers and brands who may be interested

  • Promotions on social media, email lists, forums, and paid ads

  • Link inserts into related evergreen content

  • Guest posting on authority sites in your niche

  • PR outreach around the launch of the content

Ongoing promotion is key to earning backlinks long-term and sustaining its authority.

What Are the Success Rates of the Skyscraper Technique?

In Brian Dean’s original case study, he obtained an 11% link success rate from cold emails. However, expect just 1-3% with today's landscape.

Many factors impact success rates, including your authority, outreach list quality, email personalization and how epic your content truly is. But used correctly, this tactic can still gain high-quality links.

How Can I Measure the Impact of My Skyscraper Content?

Track key metrics before and after publishing skyscraper content to gauge its impact:

  • Google Analytics for overall organic traffic lifts

  • Rankings in Search Console for target keywords

  • Backlinks tracked via Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz

  • Referral traffic specifically from the skyscraper page

  • Social shares and embeds

  • Conversions from email list signups or sales from the post

Shoot for significant gains across these metrics. If not, further promotion may be needed.

Can the Skyscraper Technique Harm My SEO?

It’s unlikely creating in-depth, useful content would harm your site. But kneecapping competitors by manipulating links could be an issue.

Stick to promoting your content ethically without sabotaging others. If your skyscraper content offers real value, it will attract links naturally.

Avoid link schemes or other manipulative tactics just to outrank competitors. Focus on producing truly epic content and marketing it properly.

Is the Skyscraper Technique Suitable for All Niches?

The skyscraper technique can work in almost any niche when executed correctly.

For ultra-competitive niches, you may need to go bigger with word counts over 5,000+ words to truly dominate. But for less crowded niches, you can pull off "mini-skyscrapers" exceeding competitors slightly.

In tiny niches with little existing content, just creating an authoritative "pillar" piece can establish you as the leader. So yes, this tactic can be adapted to virtually any niche.

How Long Does It Take to See Results from Skyscraper Content?

It takes time to create truly epic skyscraper posts - often weeks of effort. After publishing, results begin gradually.

Give the content a few months to start ranking and accumulating links. Link velocity typically accelerates over time.

Update cycles also matter - consider an annual refresh to maintain superiority as the #1 resource. The results compound long-term.