This is a guest post from Razvan Gavrilas of CognitiveSEO.com (our link analysis tool of choice). He’s created some great studies in the past. His writing is great, so we’re happy to post this here.
The Skyscraper Technique is used to engage your audience with presumably the most relevant, complete and comprehensive piece of content on a given topic. The concept describes writing a piece content on a topic that’s significantly better than anything on the web – putting together research and data from prestigious sources and giving valuable inputs in the industry.
The paradox of this information era is that, very often, qualitative content can be missed out – as there’s generally more content than the reading intent of the audience.
Daily, two million blog posts are written and published – it’s not a friendly environment to start creating an audience on your own, in a context where market share is something pretty much already outlined, specifically in niche domains.
We all know our influencers – we follow them daily because they’re relevant and their experience is valuable to us. It’s a lot harder to think of a no-name as a potential source of insightful information.
So here’s what the skyscraper technique suggests – you start looking for a niche topic. Research it like your life depends on it. Write something that is, objectively, significantly better than anything out there. Promote it more efficiently than you’ve ever done.
Let’s suppose that you’ve decided to write the most valuable blog post from the entire web on content marketing tips and ideas – it’s meant to be a classical evergreen article that will be able to bring traffic and engage web users even one or two years from now on, not just the week after you press ‘publish’. Moreover, it’s meant to be one of those reference texts in the industry, that will propel your exposure.
But it can’t simply be this easy, can it?
1. Keywords – Follow in Hemingway’s Footsteps
You’ve got to stop thinking of keywords as an objective per se. They’re merely a means to an end – the vehicle getting you to your objective. Don’t address keywords, but people through units of language that appeal to their interest.
Content marketing is a pretty mature niche, no doubt about it. It’s why you have to be a man with a plan – literally. Finding keywords is a generic enough process which actually should include more steps than just thinking of three words from the same semantic field.
This is detective work – and I’m afraid, dear Watson, it’s not at all elementary this time. You’ve got to seriously categorize your audience into personas. Then think of the one or two types that have the biggest intent of reading a piece of content on a topic. It’s them who matter. Whatever you’ll be writing about, you’re going to try to engage them, including influencers in that niche.
Starting from an audience can help you outline a general idea of what your content is going to be about – it all depends on who you’re planning to reach and what you’re planning to achieve with your content. Research it until you’ve got a general impression of what you’re going to talk about – benchmark your ideas comparing them with what was recently written in the industry. Monitor the niche.
Then read until you figure out the keywords. It’s not easy to come up with keywords ideas. While generic keywords are very hard to honor because they’re overused in the industry, the more specific ones address niches – therefore, by definition, a smaller number of people.
Aim specifically. Let me walk you through this thought process. It’s like when you were in primary school and you got an A in a class – it meant a lot when it was the only very good grade and it was merely a starting point when all your classmates got As as well. Same goes with keywords – the more generic they are, the least they speak the language of relevance.
For instance, if I’m trying to make a striking article about content writing for my audience, I’ll first think of the generic keyword ‘content tips‘.
“Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.” ― Isaac Asimov
Google Trends is the friend I can rely on when it comes to keyword popularity and value. The fact is, you can’t cheat a good search engine, however long and fast you run from the guidelines that govern it. But you can analyze it.
So let’s see the truth about the best keywords suggestions based on Google Trends’ results.
As I believe there’s no real understanding of the power of a keyword without a comparison with another one in the same niche, I’ve decided to see how ‘content marketing tips’ performs in order to determine if it’s what I should be choosing for my article.
And, further, ‘digital marketing tips’.
I do judge my keywords by interest over time. However, when using the skyscraper technique it’s very relevant not to aim too high – a very popular article with dozens of thousands of backlinks and millions of social media shares will always be very hard to dethrone. However, a more specific blog post on a niche is:
- easier to do, because it’s more specific and your entire approach will be more to the point and
- easier to promote, as it competes against defeatable posts with a decent number of social media shares and backlinks.
Find the most relevant approach to have an interested audience, with a high reading intent and specific enough to make this plan plausible. Aiming for too much can ruin your entire plan of ranking first in the search engine’s results.
‘Aim small, miss small’ isn’t something to live by. But it surely takes realism to know what you can reasonably achieve. Be reserved.
As you can see from the screenshot below, this idea worked wonders – using Google Trends I managed to generate a good keyword that will help me in the search queries – my blog post will refer specifically to digital marketing and tips to do it as good as possible.
Before I start writing, I like to double check. So I took the first links that appear on the Google search organic results when looking for ‘content marketing tips’ and the first one that appears when searching for ‘digital marketing tips’.
The result confirmed that, while both domain authorities were good, the one generating more links, from a larger number of referring domains was the one with the ‘digital marketing’ keyword – 69 from 209 compared to 73 from 301.
But I’m not going to stop here, because I’m also interested in the monthly number of searches – at least approximately – to be able to estimate how successful my post should be. According to the current tendencies, there were over 3.5 million searches of the ‘digital marketing’ keyword I’m interested in during the last month.
This is a great opportunity for me. Considering that the keyword addresses a potent niche, 3.5 million is a fairly large number.
When searching for ‘digital marketing tips’ I see that there are approximately one million searches per month, which – once again – is a good score for a long tail keyword.
2. Behind the Currently Successful Content. What Do the Links Say?
We’ve already established that this type of content only works as long as your efforts are considerable. So it’s crucial to make the following distinction: the links you’ll analyze to see the pattern behind their success and the total number of articles you’ll read on the subject while sketching a draft.
This chapter only addresses the problem of the links, and not the research issue. We’ll deal with that later. Now let’s focus on the success stories and the links that propelled them towards triumph.
I’m directly interested in finding out who linked towards the content of these articles. By doing that I can outline a pretty promising strategy. Discovering good authority links from the digital marketing tips articles would allow me to contact the admins/authors who are currently linking to similar content that has issues such as broken links.
The major advantage behind using a specialized tool such as cognitiveSEO is that you can filter the backlinks depending on your needs. In this case, I wouldn’t care about the low authority domains that linked to the content I identified as being successful. So I’ll start by filtering the results by that criterion.
For the link I identified from Entrepreneur, for instance.
So given that I’m interested in creating a database, what I’m going to aim at is finding good authority sources. After obtaining the results, I filtered them by not-ignored links and by highest authority. This way I’m going to identify reliable sources that link to good quality content.
Of course, there’s another thing I can do. The promotion behind a noteworthy use of the skyscraper technique can’t be limited to the first 10 high authority domains that linked to previously successful content.
It can come in handy to monitor all the lost links and contact the authors of those articles that come from a decent authority domain – this way I get to outreach more and not just aim for three-four celebrities and hope for the best.
Identifying the pieces of content that have a recorded history of attracting links is a must when trying to build something to perform better than what already exists on the web. Will it take time? Of course. Does it require in-depth research and dedication? Clearly. But it’s also worth it.
3. Build Something Significantly Better
The skyscraper technique isn’t your usual curating content procedure. It requires more than that. There are endless ways of creating robust content that brings a huge deal of traffic, provided that you engage and invest in writing and documenting at least as much as you do in promotion.
There isn’t a singular way of doing this. But as much as Google itself has guidelines, everything else on the web does (or should do) and creating a top notch piece of content using the skyscraper technique makes no exception.
- Use listing structures for your article, if it’s your first try. A list is easily manageable and simpler in the evaluation of what you’ve created, merged and connected. To engage in writing in-depth analyses (on any domain) is to start from the premises of appropriately evaluating your content’s worth. However, this is an acquired quality, and not something you’ll do flawlessly the first time.
‘Sometimes the best way to learn something is by doing it wrong and looking at what you did.’ Neil Gaiman
Which takes me back to the idea that lists are easier to follow and measure when it comes to the improvements and updates that you’ve created – both for you as a writer and the author of the related article. You can just add more items to the list and complete the half-done information from other lists, while offering the necessary attribution to the authors (in case they’re your inspiration). Getting a link can be tricky, especially when you compete with high authority sources (such as the ones you found on your Google search results).
Don’t make it seem that your content is slightly better. This won’t drive you anywhere. Make it outstanding, a very bold statement of your merits. And you will convert.
- Remember how long it takes to do it properly. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of people you’ll have to contact and ask to link to your content – this isn’t a rainy afternoon’s job.
Aim for more than just the leads of the market share – you want to have an inclusive strategy. Analyzing links and exploiting opportunities from some of the average competitors who’ve written similar articles shows nothing but wisdom.
- You may encounter some authors who won’t be willing to link to your brand-new, shiny article – not because it’s not exhaustive, not because it doesn’t live up to the standards, but because it’s easier to say no.
You have to be prepared to deal with negative answers from high authority websites. Backup plans are often the key to success, as ironic as that sounds.
- Be careful to other SEO good practices. If you’ve got related articles on your website, try to link from those to your newly published article – don’t neglect what you’d usually do. If you’ve got friends or collaborators in the niche, remember to give them a heads up about your newest piece of content. It’s true what they say, that the shortest road is the one you know. Continuing this metaphor, it may not take you farther than you’ve already been, but it’s a welcome start nonetheless.
- Promote the content through social media platforms as if it’s the most vital article. The engagement that can be triggered through viral means shouldn’t be underestimated, even when you’re trying a new writing and reaching out technique – or especially then. Make it obvious that it’s remarkable.
- Remember to answer to the comments. A good social media presence can enhance and multiply the success of your blog post, be it on your blog or a guest post.
- Speaking of which, contact the people you have guest posted for in the past. Link to their pages if you can from your new piece of content. Be interactive, not intrusive!
- If you’ve ever had some contacts who are popular and authoritative and you never dared to bother to walk with your ideas by their side on social media, now it’s the time to ruin their peace. Have no mercy! I can’t stress enough the value of a robust promotion planning on social platforms, it can grow your page visits exponentially.
- Think ahead of how you’re going to monetize your content. You haven’t been working so much for nothing. A powerful image is key in building a solid business with consistent, constant revenue, but only as a means to an end.
4. Email Outreach Is Your Friend
Even more, treat the people you contact as if they were your friends (without the occasional cursing, of course). Be curious about their interests, try to satisfy their needs and never force them to take something they normally wouldn’t.
Instead, act as if they shouldn’t miss the elite information you’re providing, as if your every email is nothing but a huge favour.
To the ones that you’d like to link to your content, use an even more personal tone. Make them feel like it’s in their best interest to reply to your email.
Make the email personal. It’s not easy to differentiate yourself through email marketing, but there’s no successful outreach without it.
Don’t seem like you’re begging for something. Don’t send the email from a position of inferiority, but try to make it seem like you’re doing the influencer a favor by letting them know there may be something they’re interested in.
5. Monitor Your Content
So you think you’ve hit publish, you’ve promoted your content across platforms of all kind, everything’s done. Right?
Think of it this way – those people who were in the first page of Google results did a great job when they published their posts. But then you came along, and tried harder and did an even better job.
Surely someone out there will like to replace you. So, once you’re on the top of the skyscraper, a little fear of heights would do you great!
Remember reaching out? You told those people that some of the articles they linked to were obsolete. Don’t let yours to become one of those bad boys. Update them on every occasion, with relevant pieces of information – not just for the sake of it. This isn’t something that you should do weekly, just remember to maintain your position.
And monitor the web.
The syntagm ‘digital marketing tips’ has been mentioned over 700 times during the last few weeks only in the U.S. This looks like plenty of link opportunities – go further than this. Create an alert and see what you can build from it.
‘It’s a wonderful thing, as a writer, to be given parameters and walls and barriers.’ Neil Gaiman
Writing for the sake of writing belongs to art and nothing more. A competitive business requires following all the opportunities you’re given.
Although using this technique doesn’t guarantee immediate success, what’s to remember foremost is consistency. It will never suffice to publish a text, however good, and leave it ‘unattended’ out there.
It wouldn’t hurt to remember that composing such a strong piece of content can help you in your future endeavors, because it makes a certain statement about your reliability. For instance, it can speak for itself when you try to guest post, for instance. Remember that keeping connected to the content you publish is as important as documenting responsibly.