Master the Skyscraper Technique: Building Quality Links

Master the Skyscraper Technique: Building Quality Links
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Want to know how to use the Skyscraper Technique to build quality links in 2024? Well, you’re in the right place.
In a few moments, you’ll learn:
  • How to implement the Skyscraper Technique (with step-by-step instructions)
  • How to get results from it in 2024 (with proven tips and tricks)
  • Why does it fail, and what can you do about it
But first, let’s walk you through the basics.

What is the Skyscraper Technique?

The Skyscraper Technique involves improving an existing piece of content(preferably one with lots of backlinks) and asking those linking to it to link to your content instead.
It was introduced in 2013 by Brian Dean, who likened it to “finding the tallest “skyscraper” in your space… and slapping 20 stories to the top of it.”
Here’s how it works:
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Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

How to Use the Skyscraper Technique for SEO

As illustrated above, the Skyscraper technique can be implemented in four easy steps:

Step 1: Find Relevant Content (using free or paid tools)

There are two ways to find relevant content:
a) Find Content On Competitor Websites
Plug your competitor’s name into an SEO tool. We’re using Ahrefs for this, but you can use any SEO tool.
Navigate to the Best by Links report in the Site Explorer option. It will show you a list of pages with the most backlinks on a website.
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You can export these results to an Excel file and identify pages to improve and recreate on your site.
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b) Find Content Through Relevant Keywords (Using Free Tools)
You can also find relevant content using your target keywords.
To do this, look up the top results for a keyword on Google.
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Next, scan each of them using a free backlink checker.
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Identify the page with the highest number of referring domains. For optimal results, consider their domain rating (DR) and percentage of dofollow links.
Once you've found a page with several quality links, run it through the backlink checker again. This time, copy/paste the list of referring domains into an Excel doc (we’ll show you how to use them during outreach)
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Now that you’ve found relevant content, let’s improve upon it.

Step 2: Create Better Content

Many people confuse creating better content with longer content, but that’s not how it works.
To create skyscraper content for a keyword, you must include new information, insights, and perspectives in your article. Remember, the “tallest” skyscraper, in this case, is also the best source of information.
With that in mind, let's explore some factors that could help you create better content:
a) Length: We’ve already established that more content doesn’t equal better content. But, there are instances where you have to surpass a page in terms of quality and quantity to gain backlinks. Take Brian Dean’s article Google’s 200 ranking factors(published in 2013), for example.
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It’s one of the lengthiest listicles on this topic – with references for each ranking factor.
At the time of writing, it had over 6,800 backlinks and ranked 2nd for the query “Google ranking factors.”
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Now, we’re not saying the number of items was the only reason this listicle ranked well or gained backlinks(because there were several other factors at play).
However, having 200 items in an article is unprecedented for this topic(we checked, and no one’s even come close) – which is why, we believe its length may have also contributed to its success.
That said, the length of your skyscraper content should be relative to its depth(more on this later) and the volume of insights and information it aims to convey.
b) Freshness: Another way to create skyscraper content is to refresh a popular piece with new insights and information.
As Brian Dean suggests, “If you can take an out-of-date piece of content and spruce it up, you’ve got yourself a winner.”
Don't stop there, though.
If you have a fresh perspective on a topic or an experience you haven't shared, include it in your skyscraper. That will set it apart from everything written online and give people a compelling reason to link to it.
c) Depth: Most online content skims the surface instead of providing depth and value.
Your content should strive to be different.
It should offer in-depth analyses or actionable tips to help readers make decisions.
Take a List post, for example. It should include detailed analysis and insights for each item, backed by credible references – like Brian's ranking factors article.
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An “ultimate” guide, on the other hand, should have proven techniques or step-by-step walkthroughs to convey information.
d) Better Design: You should also include images and videos in your skyscraper content to boost its visibility and engagement. Avoid stock images, though, as they're often considered impersonal.
Now that you know how to create superior content, let’s progress to the next stage: content promotion.

Step 3: Promote your new piece

If you want more websites to link to your content, promote it on various channels, including social media, exclusive communities, and forums. This will help you generate more buzz and build social proof of its linkworthiness.
You can go about this in two ways:
a) Share your content on social media: For many publishers, content promotion begins and ends with a post – that either contains the contents of their article or its link. However, effective content promotion entails a more extensive approach. As B2B marketing expert John Bonini notes:
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b) Post your content in exclusive communities: You can also leverage marketing and link-building communities (on Slack and Discord) and niche-specific forums (on Reddit) for content promotion. However, like social media posts, you should share insights rather than the whole article or its link.

Step 4: Outreach

There are two ways to obtain backlinks for your skyscraper content:
a)  Email Outreach: The more traditional of the two approaches, it involves sending emails to your prospects, requesting them to link to your superior content.
You can execute email outreach in two ways:
  • Sniper Approach: This involves sending personalized emails to sites linking to the original content. Although it has a higher success rate, it’s extremely time-intensive.
    • Here’s how to implement it for your skyscraper content:
    • Curate a list of websites linking to the original content(remember, we’ve already done this in Step 1)
    • Remove low-quality sites from this list(directories, forums, etc.). Also, filter it for your target language (in this case, we're focusing on English).
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    • Next, use LinkedIn to identify content marketers and SEOs working for these websites. Check their contact info for their work email address, or plug their details into a free email finder.
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    • Write a personalized email to the SEOs and content marketers you’ve found. Tell them what you liked about the page you’re targeting(explain how you benefitted from the content). Also, share a compelling reason to link to your content.
    • If you spend 10-15 minutes on each email, you'll be limited to 45-48 emails each day (assuming an 8-hour focus on emails alone). Clearly, this isn’t ideal for those looking to scale their link-building efforts – which is why many link builders opt for this next approach.
  • Shotgun Approach: This method optimizes the most tedious aspect of the ‘sniper’ approach: sending personalized emails. Here’s how you can implement it for your content:
    • To begin, curate a list of websites for outreach (covered in the 'sniper' approach).
    • Once you’ve identified them, look for a point of contact(also, covered in the ‘sniper’ approach). In case you're unable to find a POC, look up the domain’s generic email address (we use Hunter for this).
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    • Create a compelling email for your skyscraper content(or use one of these proven templates).
    • Depending on your needs, you can either use Gmail (which lets you send 500 emails a day) or bulk email software(if you want to send more emails). Either way, you only need to load the template, enter the email addresses, and click send.
    • Note that you may see lower response rates using this approach. Even so, you'll build more backlinks with it than with the ‘sniper’ approach.
b) Zero Outreach - Let’s face it: regardless of the approach, email outreach remains a time-consuming endeavor – a luxury that many websites simply can’t afford.
For them, link-building tools that optimize or automate their efforts are the better choice. Take, for instance, Smartlinks, which can automate link prospecting and outreach.
To leverage it for the Skyscraper Technique, you need to:
  • Sign up for Smartlinks(for free) and upload your skyscraper content.
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  • Next, navigate to your content from the Pages screen and click the Receive Backlinks option in the right-side menu. This will show you a list of articles(and websites) you could receive backlinks from.
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  • To fine-tune these results for your DR(domain rating), Spam Score, and Traffic preferences, click the filter option in the Opportunities sidebar.
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  • Once you’ve found suitable prospects, click the Send Request option next to the opportunity. This will trigger an email to your target website, containing the details of the request.
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  • If the website accepts your request, the system will deduct Karma points equal to its DR from your account. Conversely, if you accept a request from another website, the system will credit points equal to its DR to your account.
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  • To only target websites linking to the original piece, navigate to the Find Opportunities option in the left-side menu. Enter the name of a target website into the form. If it's already on Smartlinks, you'll see a list of its articles.
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  • Once you find a suitable opportunity, click Send Request(the check button) to obtain a backlink.
And there you have it! A zero-outreach approach to the Skyscraper Technique.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, sign up for Smartlinks.

Is the Skyscraper Technique Still Relevant?

Although it has been around for a decade, the Skyscraper Technique is still popular among SEOs.
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That said, its impact has diminished due to overuse. Its reputation has also suffered from a tendency to prioritize content height over value.
In general, though, the Skyscraper Technique remains effective - unless you make some obvious mistakes, which brings us to the next section.

Why Does the Skyscraper Technique Fail and What Can You Do About It?

Our experience indicates that skyscraper campaigns fail due to three reasons:
  • Creating Content That Doesn’t Align Keyword Intent
  • Targeting websites outside your DA/DR range
  • Prioritizing Content Length Over Value
Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

a) Creating Content That Doesn’t Align With Keyword Intent

No matter how great your content is – if it fails to reflect the search intent behind a keyword, it won’t rank on Google(which is the ultimate goal of link-building).
There’s no exception to this rule. Heck, not even Brian Dean, who invented the Skyscraper Technique and is known for creating great content, could escape it.
In a recent podcast, Brian discussed how one of his skyscraper pieces couldn’t rank for a keyword despite his in-depth analysis and valuable insights. The reason was pretty evident: it couldn't beat results that better aligned with searchers’ intent.
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b) Targeting Websites Outside Your DA/DR Range

We cannot emphasize this enough, but if you’re trying to replace a DA/DR 80 link on a DA/DR 90 website, you must be within that range to have a better shot.
If you’re a DA 50 website, you’ll have a hard time convincing a reputable site to replace a link from another authoritative source.

c) Prioritizing Content Length Over Value

We’ve already said this earlier, but when it comes to the Skyscraper Technique, value is everything.
Sadly, too many people equate content length with value and miss the entire point of this link-building strategy, i.e., to create great content for building quality links.

Over to You

Now that you know how to get results from The Skyscraper Technique, give it a spin. If you’re still unsure and want to look into other link-building strategies, check out this comprehensive resource.
For other questions, feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the benefits of the Skyscraper Technique?

The Skyscraper Technique offers several benefits, including:
  • High-Quality Backlinks: By creating superior content, you can increase your chances of getting backlinks from high-quality websites and boost your website's SEO and credibility.
  • Improved Authority and Brand Awareness: Backlinks earned from this technique also boost your domain authority – which positions you as the go-to resource for information in your niche.
  • Increased Traffic: As your content gains recognition and backlinks, it attracts more organic traffic to your website, contributing to overall growth.

2. What is the Reverse Skyscraper Technique?

The Reverse Skyscraper Technique is a link-building strategy that essentially flips the traditional Skyscraper Technique on its head. Instead of targeting the most popular content, it involves finding and improving underperforming content for your keywords. You then ask websites linking to the original piece to link to your content instead.
The idea is that website owners prefer linking to authoritative, informative, and up-to-date content over what they’re currently linking to.

Written by

 Divya Mathur
Divya Mathur

Senior Content marketer at and Passionate about B2B SaaS and Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been in the content space for over 6 years and have first-hand experience in how On-Page and Off-Page SEO affect a site's traffic. These articles enable me to share my learnings and help you achieve better search results.