The Skyscraper Link Building Technique


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  • The Skyscraper Technique is a link building strategy where you find high-ranking content with tons of backlinks, capitalize on its weaknesses, and develop a much better piece of content. 
  • It’s a more targeted approach to a backlink gap analysis, as you’re reaching out to people who may already find your content interesting. 
  • Brian Dean, the creator of the link building strategy, touts some pretty high success rates from his outreach; as high as 11% in some cases. 
  • Of course, the success rates vary dramatically between link builders. As with anything in SEO, there are many variables that lead to “success” in any given effort. 

Link building is like a sport. As a link builder, you’re taking Ws and you’re taking Ls on a daily basis. It’s a rocky road, just like a series of games in a sports season. To minimize their losses, players and coaches often use micro-strategies or tactics to gain an edge over their competition. Link building is no different. Any tactic you catch wind of that gives you an edge over competition, you jump all over. So in this article, we’re going to walk you through one outreach strategy that’s been making waves in the link building community for a few years now: The Skyscraper Technique. 

Without wasting too much time, let’s dive into what the Skyscraper Technique is, its success rates, and how to execute it.

What is the Skyscraper Technique?

The Skyscraper Technique is the brainchild of Brian Dean from Backlinko. It’s a link building strategy where you find high-ranking content with tons of backlinks, capitalize on its weaknesses, and develop a much better piece of content. 

The process of this technique is as follows:

  • Locate top-performing content in SERPs for keywords that are relevant to your brand.
  • Take a “snapshot” of the publishers linking to those pieces of content you are targeting. 
  • Develop a better piece of content that capitalizes on the current content’s weaknesses.
  • Reach out to each of the publishers currently linking to those targeted pieces of content and recommend your shiny new article!

The reason this tactic is said to work so well is that you are reaching out to publishers and editors who are interested in linking to great content. Essentially, you are streamlining your outreach by reaching out to people who are already linking to similar content. It’s a more targeted approach to a backlink gap analysis (in a way), as you’re reaching out to people who may already find your content interesting. 

Side note: Why is it called “The Skyscraper Technique”? It’s because, generally, people like the tallest skyscraper in a city landscape. Likewise, people like the best content in the SERP landscape.

What’s the general consensus about success rates?

Alright cool, so the tactic seems amazing in theory but, what are the actual success rates of this link building tactic? Let’s dive into the results some link builders have experienced.

Brian Dean, the creator of the link building strategy, touts some pretty high success rates from his outreach. Of the 160 emails he sent out, he was able to attain an 11% success rate, which translated to approximately 17 backlinks. This may not seem like a lot, but for a cold outreach strategy it’s a good amount, considering conversion rates for link building are typically very low (sometimes as low as 2-3%).

Dale Cudmore, content marketer and full stack developer, performed the technique in 2017 and received a 6.5% success rate from the approximately 232 emails he sent. This translated to about 15 links. However, one thing noted during Dale’s test was that after building these 15 links his content never ranked for the keywords he was targeting. Ahrefs approximated that Dale would have needed ~66 backlinks for his content to actually rank for that keyword. 

Additionally, Olga Mykhoparkina, Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty, tested this strategy back in 2017 as well. Well here are her team’s results after 40-hours of efforts and about 230 emails sent: 

  • 24 total email responses
  • 3 unkept promises for backlinks
  • 0 backlinks yielded from outreach efforts

As you can see, the success rates vary dramatically between link builders. As with anything in SEO, there are so many variables that lead to “success” in any given effort. For example, Dale and Olga could have been operating in an industry that, at the time, was less receptive to outreach emails. Or, it’s possible their outreach templates were not fully as optimized as they could have been. There are many factors at play here.

However, there are a few things that are certain to help with increasing your success rates. 

  • Influence goes a long way. If you have influence and are perceived as a thought leader in the space, you’re sure to have better results. Just look at Brian Dean. He has a very well-known blog and is one of the most prominent figures in the SEO world. Just think to yourself, if an email from Brian hits your inbox you are more likely to respond. 
  • Additionally, content is really king. Your success could dramatically improve the better your content is. So, make sure your content is in fact better than the best that is currently out there and give them enough reason to want to link back to you.
  • Reach out to the right people. It’s not enough to just reach out to whatever emails Semrush or Hunter.io find you. Actually, dig into the contact pages or team pages of sites and look for the person responsible for handling editorial-based requests. 

Trying it for yourself? Here’s a few things you’ll need.

If you’re considering trying it for yourself here’s a few things you’ll need to embark on your Skyscraper link building quest. 

Semrush

First things first, get you a backlink analysis and email outreach tool. If you have Semrush, then you’re in luck because they have everything you need. In Semrush, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Grab a few of the top ranking articles from Google search for your target keyword
  • One by one, plug those URLs into the Backlink Analytics tool
  • Export the backlinks into an Excel or CSV spreadsheet
  • Manually upload the list of those backlinks into Semrush’s Link Building Tool

Email templates

Next, you’ll want to build out a few email templates that allow for some personalization variables like site name, publisher name, and article link. From our experience, it’s best to test with a few templates to see if one template seems to yield more responses than another. 

Dedication

Finally, you’ll need a whole lot of resilience and dedication as you embark on this journey. It’s quite possible that you won’t get any links from your first few runs. In fact, you may get a few responses telling you to “f$#* off”. Running this tactic with clients, we got a response telling us to “never waste anyone’s time ever again.” So, keep your head up and keep on going!

Final thoughts

The Skyscraper Technique is an extremely targeted outreach method and could yield you some serious results if you’re lucky and have enough dedication. Sure, influencers or thought leaders may have a better chance at acquiring new links then some Joe Blow but you can do it, too. Just make sure you’ve optimized every piece of your outreach campaign from the email templates to the publishers you reach out to. For regulars like you and I, making sure you cross your dot your Is and cross your Ts will go a long way. 

If you’d rather leave it to the link building pros at RMG, that’s fine, too — drop us a line here!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Brand Marketing Manager at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for reputation management, link building, and social media marketing for both the agency and its clients.
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