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14 min read

The Skyscraper Technique: What Is It And Does It Still Work In 2024?

Stewart Dunlop


Chief Link Building Strategist

Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique has taken the SEO and link building world by storm—and it’s easy to see why.

It is a great way to earn quality backlinks at scale and combines some of Google’s most important ranking factors.

While there are indications that this link building tactic isn’t as effective as it used to be, it can still help you outrank your competitors when you use the right approach.

This article outlines everything you need to know about the skyscraper technique before considering it as part of your content marketing strategy.

We’ll also examine why this approach has worked so well in the past and how to get the most out of this link building tactic in 2023.

Key Takeaways

  • There is reason to believe that the skyscraper technique isn’t as effective as it once was. However, if you follow the right strategy, it can still be a successful link building tactic.

  • The skyscraper technique is a great way to find top-ranking pages that have generated tons of backlinks to inform your content strategy.

  • The skyscraper technique is said to be so effective because it involves reaching out to blog owners interested in linking to high-quality content.

  • The skyscraper technique involves finding top-ranking content for a particular keyword, creating your own page that is even better than what exists, and replicating the backlinks.

What Is the Skyscraper Technique?

The skyscraper technique is a white hat, outreach-based link building tactic that involves improving existing content and replicating the backlinks.

link building

The process is relatively straightforward:

  1. Find top-performing content that ranks for your target keyword.
  2. Create better content on the same topic and publish it on your website.
  3. Contact the blogs or publishers that link to the original article and ask them to link to your content instead.

The skyscraper technique aims to help your content outperform the best pieces online and rank as highly as possible in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The idea is that Google will see that you provide more engaging and informative content than what already exists, potentially allowing you to outrank these pages.

This strategy was developed in 2013 by Brian Dean, a link building expert from Backlinko. The skyscraper technique increased organic traffic to his website in just two weeks by 110%.

Out of the 160 emails he sent, Brian secured 17 high-quality links—which translated into an 11% success rate.

Considering that the conversion rates for link building are generally between 2-3%, this was very impressive for a cold outreach strategy.

💡Where Does the Skyscraper Technique Get Its Name From?

In the same way that a skyscraper stands out against a skyline, this technique aims to create the best content that stands out from the other articles in the SERPs.

This involves creating more relevant, engaging, and visually appealing content than other articles on the same topic.

What Made the Skyscraper Technique So Effective?

After Brian Dean shared his results, the skyscraper technique became an intelligent way to build links and find topics for high-quality and relevant content.

Now that you have a better idea of this strategy let’s closely examine why it works so well.

It Helps You Create Better Content

The first step in the skyscraper technique is to identify great content that already ranks for your target keyword.

This also involves analyzing the content to see what makes it so good. For example, you may find that the best pages all include bespoke images.

Therefore, not only does this process help you identify areas in your content that need improving, but it can also highlight things you could be doing to offer more value to your readers.

approach is scalable

The Approach Is Scalable

One of the main benefits of using the skyscraper technique is its ability to get your content in front of many webmasters and bloggers.

For each keyword you want to target, you’ll be able to find hundreds of prospects online that you can reach out to.

If your content is high quality and offers more value to readers than what currently exists, you’ll increase your chances of winning backlinks and attracting more people to your website.

The Ranking Potential Is Huge

As we mentioned earlier, one of the main goals of using the skyscraper technique is to outperform an existing piece of top-performing content.

If the existing page you’re trying to beat has been ranking for a while, there’s a good chance that Google has already indexed the website.

By creating something better, you could overthrow the older content, outrank them, and drive more traffic to your website—especially if your outreach campaign wins high-quality backlinks.

There’s Already a Demand for Your Content

Unlike other link building strategies, the skyscraper technique gives you more certainty that there’s a proven demand for the content you’ve produced.

This is because the webmasters and blog owners you contact have already linked to a similar page.

All you need to do is show them why your content is better than what currently exists and leverage this demand to win quality backlinks for your website.

climbing to page 1

Is The Skyscraper Technique Still Effective?

When Brian Dean first invented the skyscraper technique, it became a goldmine for attracting links and increasing organic traffic.

Nowadays, there’s reason to believe this tactic is less effective than it once was.

However, like with any link building strategy, there are several other reasons why this approach sometimes doesn’t work too well.

Let’s explore some of the most common in the section below.

Webmasters Are Used To It

A crucial part of getting the skyscraper technique right is convincing a blog owner or webmaster to replace an existing backlink with your own.

Although webmasters were generally more willing to link out in the past, they have become inundated with these requests over the years.

Unless your email campaign is engaging and makes a strong case for why your content is better than what currently exists, webmasters will most likely overlook it.

This shuts down any possibility that your page will win the link or generate extra traffic online.

search engines

Search Engines Have Evolved

When the skyscraper technique first became popular, many marketers thought that simply making their content longer was enough to beat the top-ranking pages.

Although this can bring more value to a reader, it doesn’t necessarily align with their search intent.

To get the skyscraper technique right in 2023, you’ll need to get creative and think about how your content can best serve the user who typed the keyword into Google.

Gone are the days when Google rewarded the longest posts. In modern times, more concise content often brings more excellent value to the reader in less time.

💡What Does Search Intent Mean?

This is what Google thinks a user is looking for when searching a particular keyword.

When your page meets what Google considers the right intent, you have the highest chance of ranking for the keyword or term you’ve targeted.

Site Authority Is Crucial

Many people thought the skyscraper technique would instantly revolutionize their website’s organic traffic. But, they forgot about one crucial factor—site authority.

When you look at the SERPs, you’ll see that a website’s brand and authority often precede the quality of its posts.

You could create the best page in the world, but it’s unlikely to outrank other “skyscrapers” with a higher domain rating (DR) and backlink profile than your own.

🌇The Verdict

Although the skyscraper technique has been around for a while and is slightly more challenging to execute nowadays, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

If you follow the right strategy, you can still use the skyscraper technique to gain high-quality backlinks and drive organic traffic to your website—all it takes is a bit of know-how.

How to Use the Skyscraper Technique to Drive Results

Below, we outline exactly how to use the skyscraper technique to find ideas for unique content that people will want to link to.

We’ll also show you how to create an engaging outreach campaign that webmasters won’t be able to ignore.

how to

1) Identify Proven Linkable Assets

The first step in the skyscraper technique is finding high-quality pages generating tons of backlinks.

At LinkBuilder, we use Ahrefs, but many other online tools can help you with this first step.

Within Ahrefs, there are three different ways that you can find linkable assets.

This includes the following:

  1. Site Explorer.
  2. Content Explorer.
  3. Keywords Explorer.

While each works well, the most direct way to identify linkable assets is through the content explorer.

💡Wait, What Is a Linkable Asset?

This is a high-value piece of content created specifically to attract links, generally from other websites in your industry or niche.

Here’s how it works

Enter a general topic related to your industry or niche into Ahrefs’ content explorer. This database will help you find millions of web pages, words, or phrases.

As you can see below, we’re looking for results for “best SEO tool.”

Because you’re trying to find pages with lots of backlinks, it’s a good idea to set the minimum “referring domains” filter to 50.

In our case, we set the language filter to English so that we would only get results for our target language.

And just like that, we have access to 883 pages with great backlink profiles that we can use as guides to inform our content.

2) Create Even Better Content

Once you’ve identified good content that has earned many links, you can create your linkable assets.

Remember, the skyscraper technique aims to improve upon what already exists to create the best content for a particular topic.

There are a few different ways that you can do this:

1) Make your content more detailed

When you analyze the SERPs carefully, you’ll see that a lot of content online is surface-level.

This is why making a piece more detailed is often a proven way to bring more value to your readers and outperform one-dimensional, top-ranking content.

For example, you could:

  • Add interesting statistics or facts to give more depth to the copy.
  • Explain complex concepts or terms in text boxes or graphics.
  • Include case studies with your examples to illustrate real-life applications of the idea.

By adding the details above to your pages, you’ll create an advanced piece of content that stands a great chance of competing against all of your surface-level competitors.

content optimization

2) Make your content more up-to-date

If the content around a particular topic is outdated, you have an excellent opportunity to produce something more relevant than what currently exists.

All you’ll need to do is cover similar topics as the existing content but include cutting-edge content highlighting any industry updates, trends, or innovations.

This is a great way to create content that readers will find genuinely valuable and will outrank competitors that haven’t updated their pages to keep up with industry trends.

3) Make your pages more visually appealing

Adding images or design elements to their pages is often an afterthought for many content marketers.

However, not only do images improve user experience and messaging, but they can also help your pages generate more traffic.

In fact, research shows that websites that use infographics receive an average of 12% more traffic than websites that don’t.

Ensuring your page is well-designed also makes it look more authoritative—crucial for attracting visitors to your website and building your backlink profile.

💡A Note on Longer Content

Creating content that’s longer than currently exists doesn’t necessarily mean it will be better than those pages.

When thinking of ways to improve your content, always consider whether extending an article will bring value to your readers or add depth to your topic.

3) Reach Out To The Relevant People

After creating your content, email outreach is the final step in executing the skyscraper technique successfully.

As mentioned earlier, webmasters have seen this strategy play out several times.

Unless your email outreach campaign is engaging, there’s a perfect chance that a website owner will delete it without even reading your pitch.

Before we get into how to craft personalized outreach emails, let’s look at how to find quality prospects that will want to link to your content.

Here’s how it works:

First, you must export your competitor’s links report into a spreadsheet.

Since they’ve already linked to a similar page in the past, they are more likely to link to your skyscraper content, which should be better than what currently exists.

Next, you’ll want to remove links that wouldn’t make sense to contact. This could include forums, spam, or article directories, to name just a few.

You can also filter your results to find better-quality prospects. For example:

  • Link type: Dofollow.
  • Platform: Blogs.
  • One link per domain.

This will help you identify prospects more likely to publish and share similar content to what you’ve produced.

Now, It’s Time for Outreach

The last step is to craft an engaging outreach campaign that blog owners or webmasters cannot ignore.

As experts in using outreach to generate links, we’ve created a highly personalized outreach approach that helps us drive results for our clients.

Here’s How We Personalize Email Outreach at LinkBuilder:

✍️ Personalized Subject Lines

This is the first chance to catch the webmaster’s or blog owner’s attention, so we use subject lines specific to the site we’re targeting.

To show them that our email isn’t part of a generic campaign, we will:

  • Include a name.

  • Ask a question.

  • Mention a recent piece of content they worked on.

🔍 Research

We check the target website to make the email as specific as possible.

We can make a more personalized offer by finding out who the individual is behind the blog and the type of content they publish.

Pro Tip:

  • Look at the web page’s author or “About Us” page to find the contact details for the site’s webmaster, editor, or blogger.
  • There might be a contact form you’ll need to fill out. Ensure this is as detailed as possible and include a way for the site owner to contact you.

💰Outline your offer

This is where you explain to the blog owner why you’re reaching out and outline why your content is better than what they are currently linking to.

Remember to look at the work they’ve published in the past and explain why you think your content will bring value to their audience.

It’s also a good idea to include links to other content you’ve produced so the webmaster can see that your work is high quality and worthy of the backlink.

Now, It’s Your Turn

As we’ve seen in this article, the skyscraper technique can effectively build backlinks and find ideas for high-quality content. However, if you’re using this technique, you will need to:

  • Produce content far better than anything else that currently exists.
  • Reach out to the right people.
  • Have a well-crafted and engaging pitch.

Remember, you can’t rely on the skyscraper technique for overnight traffic and rankings. You’ll also need to consider your site’s authority, industry, and competitors.

If you want to outsource your link building campaigns or want them done consistently at scale, our link building agency is here to help.

Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to discuss your link building strategy in more detail.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton