On average, the number one result on a search engine results page (SERP) gets 39.8 percent of clicks. That’s double what the second result gets (18.7 percent) and four times as much as the third result (10.2 percent).
What do the top results on a SERP typically have in common?
They often have the greatest number of backlinks, or at least a high number of quality backlinks.
Just take a look at this first SERP position for the keyword “digital marketing”:
Per Ubersuggest’s Traffic Overview tool, you can see just how many backlinks the URL has:
How do you think those backlinks are achieved?
There is no doubt that many backlinks are built organically. That is, a website publishes a post that is so good that websites naturally find it and link to it from their website. It’s link building 101, really.
The truth is, though, that’s not how most backlinks are achieved. Instead, it often takes intentional work from digital marketers to build their link profile. One way to achieve this is with the Skyscraper Technique.
Simply put, if you aren’t currently using the Skyscraper Technique to build your link profile, your competitors likely are.
In this post, I’ll explain how the Skyscraper Technique works and why you should consider giving it a try. I’ll then share my step-by-step guide for implementing it with the help of Ubersuggest so you can begin building—or bulking up—your backlink profile.
What Is the SEO Skyscraper Technique?
The Skyscraper Technique is a link building strategy where you find top-ranking content with backlinks from reputable publishers, create your own version of the content (but better!), and then offer up your content as a replacement linking option for publishers.
The goal is to improve your own backlink profile.
What Makes the SEO Skyscraper Technique Effective
It’s absolutely possible to receive “organic” backlinks.
You write a top-notch post, you promote it on social media, you rank well on search engines, and the backlinks will come!
That’s all well and good, but any digital marketer knows that the above steps don’t always shake out how you expect. Also, it takes considerable time to rank on search engines and you can’t always plan what will go viral on social media.
That’s where the Skyscraper Technique for link building comes in.
When a website is already linking to an outside resource on a topic, it’s because they don’t have an internal resource that meets the need. This gives you the opportunity to fill that need.
Take this Wix post on optimizing images for your website, for example:
They linked to my blog post on loading times:
My blog post met their need for a credible source.
The simple fact is that most websites will want to link to the best resource on a topic assuming the original linked domain isn’t one of their own.
So if you can create a better piece of content, then chances are you can improve your backlink profile exponentially. All you have to do is put yourself out there.
The SEO Skyscraper Technique: Step-by-Step Guide
The SEO Skyscraper Technique can be broken down into three steps at its most basic level.
Step 1: Find Relevant Content with Reputable Backlinks
How do you know which content you should target?
There are two ways to go about finding content to use for the Skyscraper Technique, both of which can be achieved with my free keyword research tool Ubersuggest.
By Competitor Domain
The first is to look at top-ranking competitor domains, narrow it down to the content that has the greatest number of backlinks, and then create content that improves upon that particular piece of content.
You can achieve this with the Top Pages by Traffic report in Ubersuggest:
Simply enter your competitor’s domain and then sort by backlinks. You may have to filter through some results, like the homepage and landing pages (e.g. neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/).
Once you’ve done that, though, you’ll see the top content pages for a website.
Let’s say you’ve searched “neilpatel.com” and you find my article titled “What is Content Marketing, and Why Is It Important?” You can choose to target the broad keyword “content marketing” or the long-tail keyword “what is content marketing.”
You can now work through steps two and three of the Skyscraper Technique as outlined below.
The second way to find relevant content ideas is to look at keywords you want to target.
Using Ubersuggest’s Keyword Ideas tool, you can search for an initial keyword to learn the monthly search volume, cost per click (CPC), and SEO difficulty (also known as competition):
You may choose to go forward with your original keyword idea or choose one from the “Keyword Ideas” section of the report.
Now let’s see what content is currently ranking for the keyword you’ve chosen:
The goal is to pick the content with the most backlinks. This is because backlinks are a vote of confidence from other websites, so the greatest number of backlinks indicates that content is currently the best on the topic.
However, you can target more than one content piece at a time, especially if their topics are close like the Ahrefs and Single Grain examples above.
From here, you can begin to work on an article titled “X SEO Techniques to Drive Traffic” or something along those lines.
Step 2: Create a Better Version of the Content
When improving upon another website’s content, there are a few areas to consider.
The first is the length of the post. While longer content doesn’t always equal better content, you may find an opportunity to add or expand upon sections that the original material overlooked.
Let’s say the original piece of content is titled “The 25 Best Restaurants in NYC.” How can you level up? Aim for 30 or even 50 recommendations for your own article!
This isn’t always so easy to achieve with non-list-based articles, but it’s still possible.
If I’m improving upon a guide titled “The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your First Email Campaign,” I might look at competitive articles to find any missing sections. For example, I might look at the top 10 articles with that keyword and realize that a section on writing a captivating subject line is missing or poorly done. Then I can add that section to my own version of the same article which will naturally increase the overall length of the piece.
On a scale of one to 10, how actionable is your competitor’s content?
The goal is to make your content as actionable as possible. You can achieve this by filling in the blanks left by the competition, adding implementable steps, and utilizing examples.
Again, keep in mind that more content doesn’t always mean better. You should only go as deep as would be valuable to the general audience.
For example, if you’re writing an article titled “How to Write Your First Post on WordPress,” you probably don’t need to include an in-depth section on how to choose a content management system as they’ve obviously already done so.
By including only what your audience will find valuable, you display a level of understanding as to the audience’s working knowledge. That goes a long way to lend credibility to your work.
You may notice that many results on the first page of SERPs were published in the last year or so. That’s not a coincidence.
Freshness is a factor that’s looked at when considering the overall quality of content.
When creating a new piece of content as part of the Skyscraper Technique, you have the advantage of freshness. Your piece will be the newest and, presumably, the most up-to-date.
Just look at the link you’re hoping to replace. You may see broken links, out-of-date stats, or even old versions of software featured in screenshots.
This is where you can stand out, by providing freshness and relevancy with your post. You can even offer it as a selling point when you message the referring domain.
Media content, like images, videos, and infographics, plays an important role when rounding out an article. You should consider how your competitor is doing media, and then do it better.
- What types of media (e.g. screenshots, diagrams, infographics) does the competition use?
- Do the media formats convey the information in the most effective way possible?
- What new types of media can I add to my content (e.g. video, updated infographics) to make it stand out?
The key here is to use media where appropriate, but not overdo it for the sake of adding unique media to your content. Essentially, you want to add media—whether that’s a new type of media or one used on similar articles—that adds value for your audience. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you should try to think outside the box.
Step 3: Reach Out to Referring Domains and Request to Replace the Original Link
This can be the most intimidating step, but it’s also the most important.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to do a bit of research, and then you can draft an email template to send to all of your contacts at once.
If you went with the example idea “X SEO Techniques to Drive Traffic” from above, the two competitors you’d want to target—Ahrefs and Single Grain—have 1,796 and 2,357 backlinks respectively. You likely don’t have the time or desire to reach out to all of those sites. However, you don’t have to.
Grab the link of the URL you’re aiming to replace and head over to the “Backlinks Overview” report:
Here, you can narrow the backlinks by filtering and sorting.
First, change the selection from “All Links” to “Follow.”
This will filter the list to only those backlinks which are dofollow and, hence, actually worth fighting to replace:
This brings the number of backlinks from 1,796 to 1,640. Not earth-shattering, but you’re not done yet.
Now, open the “Advanced Filters” dropdown. Here, you can include or exclude certain referring domains, anchor text, and zones (i.e. .com.au, .com.de, etc.).
I recommend you exclude the domain of the URL you’re trying to replace (in this case, ahrefs.com) as they’re unlikely to remove their own link and replace with yours. You can also exclude popular link shortening domains (e.g. bit.ly) or domains where a link is created for personal use (e.g. ift.tt).
Finally, you can sort. First sort by Last Seen. This is the last time search bots were able to confirm the existence of the link. There is no hard-and-fast rule here, but it’s likely anything older than 12 to 18 months is safe to exclude. You can also sort by Spam Score so all of your top results will be either “N/A” or less than 25 percent.
Now, export to CSV, delete the rows older than 18 months or higher than 25 percent Spam Score, and you have your list of top domains to target.
You’ve just gone from 1,796 possible options to 179!
Now that you have that list narrowed down, it’s time to reach out to the contacts for each referring domain.
If you don’t use an email marketing automation platform, you may want to subscribe to a mass email platform. This will enable you to send to dozens, or even hundreds, of contacts with one click.
You can then use a template like this one to send to dozens of contacts at once:
I found your [topic] guide and noticed that you referenced [website name] article.
We’ve just published an in-depth [topic] guide over at [site name] that could add even more value to your content.[Explain value add. More statistics, better graphics, etc.]
If you like it, would you consider linking to it within your article?
All the best,[Your name]
Common Mistakes with the SEO Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique isn’t a surefire method for gaining backlinks. It takes a solid time investment, considerable skill, and a little bit of luck.
You can increase the odds of this work paying off, though, by avoiding the common mistakes below.
Overestimating Your Reach
Let’s say you have an SEO blog with a mid-range domain authority (DA) of 49. If you reach out to a publication who is linking to a website with a significantly greater domain authority—like Search Engine Journal with a DA of 89—you’re probably not going to be successful.
The fact is that quality and domain authority come into play when websites decide who to link to.
So choose the target domain carefully when just starting out. Aim for those within your domain authority range. As you gain more backlinks, you gain more DA. This will give you more leverage on future attempts.
How can you find out your DA score and those of the domains you’re looking to replace? With Ubersuggest!
Head to the Traffic Overview tool under Traffic Estimation and enter the domain you want to evaluate:
This will tell you exactly what your domain authority score is, as well as the DA score for any domains whose backlinks you hope to replace.
Targeting the Wrong Keywords
If you target a broad keyword, such as “SEO,” then you’re going to be swamped with results. What angle should you take? What audience should you target? You’ll find yourself with more questions than answers.
A more specific keyword, one that speaks to your current audience, is your best bet. This may be a long-tail keyword like “SEO strategies for new websites” or even a local link building opportunity such as “SEO services in Boston.”
The point is that you should know your audience and target the specific keywords that speak to their needs. This will go a long way in ensuring success for your backlink building campaign.
Failing to Personalize Your Outreach
Have you stopped to consider the different ways in which the URL you’re trying to replace is being used?
Just take a look at the list of different anchor text for one keyword in the Ubersuggest Backlink Overview report:
Anchor text is a good indication that websites can link to one URL for many different reasons.
So what happens if you reach out to all of the websites on that list by referencing just one angle of your article?
Chances are, your non-response rate will be through the roof.
This is why segmentation matters.
When you segment the list of contacts, you can more thoroughly personalize the email template you’re sending. For example, you can target the websites who are using the link to reference a statistic by highlighting the quality and relevancy of your stats.
Segmentation enables you to really shine the spotlight on why your resource is better to fulfill that website’s needs.
The Skyscraper Technique is a backlink strategy where you build upon the work of others to increase your backlink profile. When you increase your backlink profile, you improve the odds of ranking on search engines.
There are over 200 Google ranking factors, and one of the most powerful is backlinks. The Skyscraper Technique is a way to increase the number of backlinks your domain receives and, therefore, improve your domain authority and credibility.
There are three key components of the Skyscraper Backlink Technique. They are:
Find relevant content with a lot of backlinks.
Improve upon the content so your version is more desirable.
Reach out to the referring domains to replace the current link to your own.
When combined, these components can help you to build a solid backlink profile for your website.
The three most common mistakes to avoid when using the Skyscraper Technique are overestimating your reach (i.e. targeting websites that link to expert articles on your chosen topic), choosing the wrong keyword, (i.e. too broad or too irrelevant), and failing to segment your outreach (i.e. using one template to reach out to dozens of contacts without targeting their intent).
You may begin to see contacts responding to your backlink request—positively or negatively—within the first few days of sending your email. However, the benefits of an improved backlink profile can take anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months.
An alternative to the Skyscraper Technique is to use a link building agency like Neil Patel Digital to increase your backlink profile. This will save you the most time and effort so the return on investment (ROI) is unmatched to anything you can likely implement on your own.
When measuring the success of your Skyscraper Technique campaign, you’ll want to track your outreach efforts in a spreadsheet. I recommend you actively track the number of outreach emails sent, the number of responses (positive and negative), and the number of backlinks to go live. The ratio of backlinks to outreach emails sent will vary and success is relative. However, even just a few backlink placements can help to improve your domain authority and boost rankings.
The greatest drawback to the Skyscraper Technique for SEO is the amount of time and effort it takes to implement. It is never a sure thing that other websites will agree to include a link to your website. However, it never hurts to have a relevant, high-quality content published on your website. Who knows, it may begin to garner organic backlinks of its own!
Networking is an important part of any content marketing strategy, but especially so for building your backlink profile. The Skyscraper Technique is the ultimate in backlink networking, pushing you to create top-quality content with the goal of replacing backlinks on referring domains.
With the steps outlined above—finding relevant content, improving upon it, and then reaching out to referring domains—you too can begin to build your backlink empire.
Do you have questions about how I utilize the Skyscraper Technique for my content? Let me know in the comments.
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