The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Effective Skyscraper Content Strategy

by Aljaz Fajmut April 4, 2019

Want to win the content war with linkable content that gets shared by influencers and appeases Google? It’s time to go along with skyscraper content.


Back in 2015, Google launched an algorithm called RankBrain. In case RankBrain slipped under your radar, it’s an Artificial Intelligence-driven algorithm that uses AI to sort its search results.


And what the AI is looking for is content that offers more value, more depth, more relevance and better context than ever before. Once it spots all this, it will position a particular piece of content as the authoritative, go-to piece for a specific query.


This is where the skyscraper technique comes in, which — coincidentally — was also conceived in 2015. If you can nail an effective skyscraper content strategy, your chances of winning the content war have just got a bit higher.


In this article, we show you how to do just that in a few straightforward steps.


What Is The Skyscraper Technique?


Backlinko’s Brian Dean invented the skyscraper technique in 2015. It’s essentially a 3-step process:


  1. Find shareable (linkable) content that’s already performing super well on a topic your audience is interested in
  2. Spot weaknesses in said content and find a way to improve it
  3. Pitch it to influencers and share


With the skyscraper technique, you can give RankBrain and your audience more of what they want by producing the most in-depth, authoritative content possible on a particular topic or query. Skyscraper content is long-form content that covers all the bases of a specific subject with depth and value, and which creates space for topic clustering.


It also creates incredible opportunities for more high-quality backlinks.


One obvious snag: Skyscraper content doesn’t exactly sound easy to create. The good news? It is! And here’s what you need to do…


Find Popular Content in Your Niche


For the skyscraper technique to work, you have to find content that’s already popular in your niche. You can’t run the risk of choosing a topic and hoping it performs well.


To find content that’s already being shared like crazy in your niche, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo.


With BuzzSumo, you need to pop in a search query before generating the results. The tool will show then you what particular content is being shared across social media. Like this:


As you can see, there’s plenty to choose from here. I could go with anything I want from the image, and it would make for a solid skyscraper page because people are already sharing this type of content. There’s a massive demand for it!


However, let’s not stop there. While we have some ideas so far, let’s see what Google has to say, too.


Research the SERPs


Inspired by what I saw on BuzzSumo, I pop a search query into Google and here are the results:


The top two links are the links that the search engine’s algorithm has thus far deemed is the most relevant and the most valuable to the end user. In other words, this is the content I need to beat with my skyscraper piece that goes above and beyond what they’re offering.


So I take a look at each piece of content and see what they’re all about. They’re pretty good!


But they could be even better. And it’s my job to make it better.


And this is what the skyscraper technique is all about: Taking content that’s already popular, turning it into your own words and putting your spin on it — and ultimately improve it.


This could mean working in your unique angle, adding more data and research, adding more sections and adding more value to the end user.


To do this, you need to identify possible weaknesses in the existing content and work out exactly how you can improve upon it.


It might even be that a particular piece of content, no matter how good it is, is now out of date. For example, if there’s an article about backlinks that’s popular, it might have been written back in 2016. And as we know, what worked in SEO back then might not work today.


Another good tip to ensure that your content will be relevant is to find your audience’s pain points and dig deeper into that.


So take a look at popular content from BuzzSumo and the SERPs and see how you can take it on and make it bigger and better. Let’s explore how to do that in the next section.

Create Long-Form Content


Long form content contains 1,000+ words. It consistently gets shared more than short-form content, and it’s these shares (and links) that are key to the skyscraper content strategy. The more times your article is shared, the more RankBrain will view it as the authority piece on a particular topic.


There are two main things you need to nail:


  • Your headline
  • Your body copy


Your headline is what draws people in and persuades them to click on your article and not someone else’s. Moreover, research has shown that 59% of your audience will share your article on the strength of its headline alone. Wow.


Meanwhile, the higher your click-through rate on Google is, the higher you’ll rank.


For skyscraper pieces, you’ll need to use action words in your headlines, such as “massive review” and “ultimate guide” that tell the reader your article is pretty damn comprehensive. It’s important to be bold to encourage more clicks.


You should also leverage numbers if you’ve got a lot of them. For example, “101 SEO Tricks For 2019” sounds super comprehensive and valuable. Much more so than “7 SEO Tricks For 2019.”


Don’t forget to take a look at the article that inspired you, too. What was the headline? Is there a way you can make it more “ultimate”?


Your headline, of course, isn’t enough by itself. To keep readers on your page, you need to deliver the goods with your body copy. In other words, the content itself. If a site visitor arrives on your page and sees that your content hasn’t got the value and depth suggested by your headline, they’ll bail out and your bounce rate will go up. RankBrain will then realize your headline is misleading and it will knock you down the rankings.


To nail the value and depth, you need to put yourself in the position of your readers. What they want from you is to take their hand and walk them through a particular process, from beginning to end. They want you to provide them with the solution as clearly, as painstakingly and as ‘ultimately’ as possible.


This means you need to cover all possible pain points. It means you’ll need to back up your points with data, solid research and content, and it means you need to add visuals, infographics and anything else that will help them out.


Remember that internet users can be busy and impatient. Put everything on a plate for them, make their life easy. Be direct with your language and content, but also be engaging and informative.


Please take a look at your competitors content that inspired you, and ask yourself what it’s missing. What would you as a reader like to see in this article? What value can you bring that’s currently absent?


Find Influencers and Pitch Your Content


Once you’ve created your long-form, valuable content, it’s time to reach out to influencers in your niche. You aim to persuade them to share your article.


There are tools available that can help you find the right influencers, such as Ninja Outreach. Ninja Outreach’s database is home to millions of influencers for you to pick from. Not just this, but it lets you sort results by domain authority and page authority — which are both pretty significant.


The tool also comes with pre-made templates that will make it super easy for you to write your pitch.


Alternatively, I could find influencers manually by typing “industry + blog” into Google.


Add some possible influencers to a spreadsheet, before sending personalized, polite emails to each one asking for a backlink. Here’s an excellent resource on how to write the perfect pitch, but the main thing you need to remember is that you’re chasing a link. As such, your pitch should be short, and it should get to the point as soon as possible.


Here’s an example of a skyscraper pitch you could use:


“Hey (insert name)!


I was looking for some information on (enter topic) and came across your blog. I enjoyed it! At the same time, as I was looking through this article (link to article), I noticed that it’s missing some critical info that would benefit your readers.


I recently created an article on the same topic, but it’s more up-to-date and includes more data and research. Plus, we did this excellent case study that we feel would add lots of value to your audience.


If this is something you’re interested in, feel free to go ahead and use it!”


And that’s all you need to do. Just make sure to keep track of your email outreach campaign so that you know who to (and when to) send follow-up emails.




Victory is within sight. Skyscraper content is your secret weapon to satisfying RankBrain while persuading influencers to share your highly shareable content. Because it goes above and beyond what everyone else is doing, it’s the best way to win the content war.


And as you can see, it’s not even that hard to implement. Instead of coming up with brand new topics, you can instead take an existing, well-performing piece of content — and improve it.


As long as you’ve got an awesome content team behind you, you’ve got this.

Aljaz Fajmut
Aljaz Fajmut is a digital marketer, internet entrepreneur, and the founder of Nightwatch — an SEO tool of the next generation. Check out Nightwatch Blog for SEO and marketing tips and follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut