You may have noticed in recent years that blogging has been enjoying an incredible renaissance due to the newfound love which Google gives to sites posting fresh, high quality content.
The Skyscraper Technique pioneered by Brian Dean of Backlinko takes the concept of blogging for SEO and supercharges it by adding a strong strategic element.
If you're unfamiliar what what this blogging technique is, don't worry I'll explain the process further in the article, but the short version is that it takes blogging from less of a random "dear diary" type of activity, to being a highly focused weapon which can be used to capture specific areas of traffic for your website.
When I first read about Skyscraper blogging I absolutely loved it. To me it just made sense because blogging has always been such a wishy-washy process with results which were difficult to quantify.
So I dived in with both feet and took a shot at creating my own piece of Skyscraper content to see if it would work for me, and my SEO clients.
The results were, well let's just say the results were mixed.
But it's often said that you learn more from failure than success, so prepare to learn a lot from my experience.
Blogging like it's 1999
Back in the day (think early 2000's) blogging was basically pointless.
Websites which had blogs weren't all that common. The ones which did have blogs often didn't use them, and the ones which did use them, did a pretty poor job of it.
They were always full of completely self-serving garbage, where the entire purpose of the article is clearly just an excuse to add another call-to-action at the end like "if you need xyz service, call us now".
Most people's faces when reading another blog article begging readers to "please call us and buy something now!"
The sad thing is that a lot of bloggers still write like this today.
Why was the blogging landscape like this?
Because there was no incentive to do any better!
Back then Google wasn't rewarding websites which posted fresh, high quality content like they do today.
So blogging was dying a slow death, and writers everywhere were crying over their keyboards because it was almost impossible to justify to a business owner, why their beloved craft was worth spending money on.
Blogging in 2017
Fast forward to today and copywriters everywhere are frolicking through the fields and rejoicing that Google has since realised with their 2011 "Panda" update that blogging is an extremely valuable activity and should be rewarded with better rankings!
The change to their ranking algorithm worked in the favour of big news sites which post lots of content on a daily basis to ensure that users would be exposed to important fresh content as it happened through the search engine.
But it also had big benefits for smaller websites and gave them a way to level the playing field against the bigger guys in their niche.
With their new "Content is King" philosophy, Google were effectively incentivising websites which would post high quality content by rewarding that page with stronger rankings.
What's still missing from blogging?
While it's great that bloggers and the websites they write for are being rewarded with better exposure in search engines, the issue is that today most bloggers are still heavy on the creative side, but low on research, and analytical skills.
They're creative people who love writing and are used to creating beautiful pieces of written content, and not so strong when it comes to digging into technical SEO tools and creating a product which can have a clear ROI.
What does this mean?
It means that while blogging is a really great way at grabbing high search engine rankings (and traffic) for a particular topic/keyword search, the topics which many bloggers choose to write about are just created at random.
They sit down one day and basically just brainstorm a bunch of topics, and then they start writing.
An actual picture of a blogger coming up with a content plan of articles to write about.
Writing content in this way means you have really no idea of how your content is going to perform, how much benefit it will have for your website/business, or how to define if the project is successful and driving the business forward!
If your blog article brings 10,000 visitors to your website every month that's great, but if none of them buy anthing from you then it's totally pointless right?!
Here are a few questions which would stump most bloggers about the articles they write...
- What search terms are you targeting with this article?
- What is the competition level in search engines for search terms relating to this topic?
- How much traffic is out there for this topic?
- What is the search intent of the reader?
- What phase of the buying cycle is the reader in when they find this article?
- What do you expect the ROI of your aticle to be?
These questions will cause most bloggers to be like...
Skyscraper Technique Theory
The theory behind the Skyscraper Technique is beautifully simple.
Create high quality content which servers your users above all else, but before you even write a single word, conduct a robust research process in order to give the article a very specific direction and purpose.
You are writing for the user.
A true "white-hat" SEO philosophy if ever I saw one.
Skyscraper Technique Execution
The process of creating skyscraper content is actually pretty simple.
Step 1: Research
Do some keyword research on your niche to get an understanding of the competitive landscape, and the opportunities which exist for certain keyword searches.
In the research phase we're really trying to understand if there are any opportunities to capture traffic which we want to target.
You can use Google's Keyword Planner to do this research and best of all it's free however you'll get better data out of it if your account has some active ad campaigns running.
At the same time we're also going to be identifying any authority figures for our niche that we can reach out to. More on this later on.
Step 2: Assess the competition
Physically check what pages currently rank in the #1 spot for your chosen keyword. This is the page we want to beat for the #1 so we need to see what it's like and decide if we can do better.
Ask yourself these types of questions.
- How good is the current #1 ranked page?
- Does it have any backlinks?
- Can we make something which is vastly superior?
- How much effort will it take to create that content?
These questions help us to understand how difficult the task will be to create a superior piece of content which deserves to be ranked #1.
Step 3: Plan the content structure
Once we start creating our new piece of skyscraper content, we won't just blast ahead and start writing straight away.
First we need to create a blueprint for the content which will basically lay out all of the sections of the article, and the information we want to cover.
Here's an example blueprint which you could use...
2. Describe the problem
3. Describe the solution
4. Provide real world examples
5. Example 1
7. Include a notable case study
8. Case study 1
9. Case study 2
10. Include quotes from relevant authority figures
Using a list like this to describe the structure of your content piece will make it way easier to write, and you can use it like a checklist to make sure that you don't forget to include anything in your article.
I like to arrange my article into a simple set of headings and subheadings to clearly map out the reader's journey through the article.
Step 4: Publish and outreach
Finally we're ready to publish our article, but there's still more work to do.
We obviously need to publish it on our website so people can view it, but this is where the Skyscraper technique goes the extra mile in make awesome rankings happen.
During the planning stage you'll notice that step 6 was include quotes from relevant authority figures.
So while we've been writing our article we're also going to be reaching out to prominent people in our niche to ask if they'd like to add a few comments on whatever our article is about.
It's a great way to add serious uniqueness to the content, but once the article gets published, we then revisit those connections we've made for a second round of awesome SEO power!
How? Well let's use this article as an example.
In the beginning I explained how Brian Dean is basically the father of the Skyscraper Technique. So while I was writing this article I reached out to people like Brian, and Niel Patel and asked them to comment.
Here's what I wrote to Neil.
Yes you can reach out directly to important figures in your niche and often people are pretty cool and will actually write back to you!
Now that they responded and got involved, the second pass is where the REAL power of outreach lies.
I wrote back to Niel and Brian to let them know the article was online, thank them for their help and let them know that if they thought it would be useful for their audience, I'd be pretty pumped if they shared it.
Why is this a big deal?
Links which point back to your website or landing page are a strong signal to search engines that your page is important. Think of it like a vote.
And backlinks from highly relevant, high authority websites have a lot more weight! So a link back from Brian Dean, or Forbes is going to be worth a LOT more than getting a link from some guy with a website about cats (low authority and not relevant).
- So during the research phase we identified our outreach targets.
- We get unique comments from them and include them in our article.
- Then when we publish the article we make contact again and share the complete article with those outreach targets and encourage them to share it with their followers, provide a backlink, or both (assists with traffic and link building which is good for rankings!).
HINT: Authority figures in your niche are going to be flooded with emails every single day. So your emails need to be short, punchy, genuine and unique, and the content you're asking them to share needs to be unique as well!
Brian invented this blogging technique so he's not going to waste his followers' time by sharing another article which says the exact same thing as 100 other articles out there.
SO what's unique about this article?
There are plenty of articles about how Skyscraper blogging works, but in this instance you can see by the title and the intro that this isn't simply a success story or a "how to" guide.
This article documents the trials and tribulations which I've experienced while implementing Brian's technique, and my results along the way whether they're good or bad.
My first Attempt at Skyscraper Technique
Now that we've got a solid understanding of what we're supposed to do with this technique, I'm going to walk you though 3 different case studies where I applied skyscraper technique, and the... well... interesting results I had along the way.
To set the scene I was pretty excited to dig into this and create a big success story right off the bat. So I jumped in and started following Brian's example for a website called My Wedding Concierge which I own. After all I can't use this technique for own SEO clients until I've gone through the process 100% and seen it work for myself.
So I dived in and started doing a bunch of keyword research and identified an opportunity.
The keyword celebrity wedding dresses has 6,600 searches per month (worldwide) and I thought it would be perfect for my first attempt.
The competition was decent, and I'd be going up against some big name brands but I thought it was worth looking into more closely so I took a look at the current top ranking content for that keyword search. What did I find?
Complete and utter garbage!
The #1 ranked page was from Cosmopolitan.com and was a stupid slideshow which showed 40 celebrity wedding dresses. It was such a superficial article I was amazed it ranked first.
I thought this was a page I could easily improve upon so I pushed forward.
Based on what I'd read in Brian's skyscraper article I decided that the main way I would improve on this article was to create a massively superior volume of content.
So I decided to include 100 celebrity wedding dresses, in a long-form article which covered dresses from the 1940s until modern times.
This was going to be a massive task and wedding dresses aren't my thing so I hired a writer who was more interested in the topic and therefore more able to write an engaging article.
I estimated that with 100 words or so per dress, the article would end up being a 10,000 words monster, so when it was done it would absolutely CRUSH the #1 article through sheer weight of content.
It took a few weeks to produce including the first draft, a few revisions and corrections, and then inserting all the of the media into the post.
The final article had photos, some videos embedded from youtube and a handful of posts from Facebook and Instagram for good measure just to mix it up.
During the outreach phase I send about 100 emails to notable dress designers and had a few awesome responses!
In fact about 5% of people I emailed me back with something I could include in the article.
People like David Tutera, Gilbert Chagoury and Romona Keveza (well known international designers) wrote back to me with some great quotes which added a really unique flavour to the article.
Just like Brian said it would. NICE!
The article totally BOMBED and got nowhere near the first page.
Well because of that media showcasing the dresses, the page was waaaaay too slow to load. Like I'm talking over 15 second load time which is a rankings killer.
Page speed is a big rankings signal so the slower your page loads, the lower your rankings will be.
The faster a page loads, the higher it's likely to rank for any given keyword!
I went back and reoptimised all of the images but even then the page was still just way too slow.
I could have done some work to improve the speed of the page in other areas but the website was so old it would have taken way more effort than I was prepared to invest. This was just an experiment after all.
But that's not where this story ends. I knew that this failure wasn't due to Brian's technique, it was caused by other factors which I had overlooked.
So I went back to the start to attempt the experiment again!
Second Attempt at Skyscraper Technique
For the second experiment I wanted to pick a niche which I knew a lot about, so I chose to explore my favourite breed of dog. The Samoyed!
This is a niche where there are a lot of web pages. Some are good, some are bad. There are a few big players in the dog/website space, but not a lot.
I decided to pick a few keyword targets in this space and create some content pieces which thoroughly served the user and deserved to be ranked #1.
Again I followed the method Brian taught me and started with keyword research.
I used Google Keyword Planner and simply typed in "Samoyed" to see what people are searching for all across the world relating to this topic.
The results were great!
This table represents the number of (global) monthly searches for these keywords.
As you can see, plenty of searches being done in this niche.
This made it easy to come up with titles for multiple articles I could write, plus because I know a lot about this breed of dog, I could easily write it myself without much effort.
There was a mixture of competition for these keywords, so I could cut my teeth creating these articles and see what the results were depending on the competitiveness of any given keyword.
Like I said before, the quality of pages on dog topics varies greatly. There are loads of junk web pages from dog owners who throw something together on Weebly or Wix (vomit) and a few big brand sites like Pedigree who have better quality, higher authority content to compete against.
I figured this would add an extra element to this test because I could see how my articles performed against different types of sites on different topics.
At the time my Samoyed website didn't even exist yet so I had to register a new domain and spin up a brand new site just for this experiment.
This added an extra layer of difficulty to the experiment because new websites are harder to rank than older sites.
This chart shows that the majority of pages which rank in the top 10 organic search results are rarely brand new pages.
The website didn't, and still doesn't have any template applied to it whatsoever! I did this because:
- I didn't want to waste time make the site look beautiful if the skyscraper experiment failed and I ended up scrapped it and;
- I wanted to see how effective the content was in it's rawest form without much styling.
You can check it out here and see that the website still looks super ugly with it's default theme.
With this attempt I decided to write 2 articles on 2 different topics to test the theory from a few different angles.
The first article I wrote was called Samoyed Cross Breeds and I chose this topic because there were several thousand searches each month which related to this topic.
I figured that if I wrote my article right, I should be able to rank not only when someone searches for "Samoyed Cross Breeds" but also things like "Samoyed Husky Mix" and some other relevant variations.
So I went to work crafting what I intended to be the definitive resource on the topic!
At the same time I didn't want to go overboard because with what I'd learned from Brian and Neil, I fully intended to give my articles multiple passes over time, and see how adding and improving the content would improve rankings.
The funny thing is that this article is actually really basic!
I created some content from what I could learn about some various cross breeds which would be relevant to the article, and what I knew that people were searching for online, grabbed some reference images and published!
The second article I wrote was called How much does a Samoyed Cost.
Again this article was based on my keyword research because I could see that there were around 4,000 searches about this question occuring on a monthly basis.
I was interested to try out this article too because the competition was a little more difficult, and it was a different type keyword.
It's a question with a specific type of search intent so I was keen to try and rank an article which could potentially appeal to Google's knowledge graph.
Sample of Google's knowledge graph in action.
Knowledge graph is a fancy word for when Google actually shows a snippet of your article in the search results themselves in order to answer the user's question. If you can get it, it pushed a big piece of your website content on top of position #1!
Again I went through the proceess of researching and creating an article which was way better than every other article I had found so far.
The Result? SUCCESS!
Within a week of publishing I had already earned a place on page 1, and as of writing this article (24th of June 2017) the page I created now ranks 1st for "Samoyed cross breeds" in the organic results, has a knowledge graph result (technically considered position 0) as well as holding position 1, 2, 4, and 5 in Google images too!
As I said before this article is pretty basic.
There were already some poorly written articles about 1 particular type of Samoyed cross-breed or another.
So I simply consolidated all of that information into a larger and more comprehensive article, optimised the images as best I could and added some unique content like naming suggestions for the breeds.
With the "How much does a Samoyed cost" article I didn't even have to go through the whole process of reaching out to authority sources and generating backlinks to get the top spot, I was able to achieve it simply by creating a great quality article!
The article was published and again, was rewarded with great results!
Here's a breakdown of the current ranks and the associated keywords.
As you can see the results are really great with plenty of first page rankings.
The real eventual goal for this article is to reach #1 for the keyword "samoyed price" which has 3,600 searches per month.
You can see the progression of the ranking for that keyword below over time, and that currently it has reaches ranking 7.
A pretty good result so far, and I'm confident that with a little more time and possibly some additional content being added that it'll eventually reach the #1 spot and take all that traffic!
Skyscaper Technique Verdict?
I definitely had a bad start with the Skyscraper technique but really it's because of factors I hadn't accounted for, not because of any fault with the technique itself.
The benefit is that now that I've proven it works with my own sites I can pass on the benefits of this techniques to my own clients as part of our SEO packages!
All too often SEO packages include "blog writing" which is basically churning out 500 word garbage articles which might get ranked for some very specific localised keywords but aren't going to capture massive amounts of valuable traffic.
This method of creating content enables you to capture an audience on a global scale, simply creating content which is the ultimate resource on a particular topic.
What do you think? Have you tried blogging for business and what have your experiences been so far?