One of the more interesting things about search engine optimization (SEO) is that there’s more than one way to get to the top of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). And though some SEO professionals might have their favorite techniques, at the end of the day, most of these can be effective in the right contexts.
But as valid as they are, all popular SEO strategies have their pros and cons, especially when they aren’t used as part of a wider multi-pronged digital marketing campaign.
Link building, for example, has near-infinite potential for improving a site’s rankings but can easily drain a digital marketing budget when improperly used to target competitive keywords. Technical SEO is affordable and can usually be quickly implemented, but the search engine visibility benefits can plateau quickly, forcing SEOs to move to a different strategy.
In this article, we’ll talk about a method for ranking competitive keywords that almost all SEO professionals agree is effective and easy to do but few bother to implement in reality. This method, as you might have guessed, is the skyscraper technique.
What is the Skyscraper Technique?
The main idea of the skyscraper technique is to create content that “towers” over the competition in terms of quality, value, and relevance. The type of content used in this strategy is at times referred to as skyscraper content, pillar content, long-form content, epic content, authoritative content, or other similar terms.
As the name implies, skyscraper content is often much longer than the typical 1,000-word article. Depending on who you ask, definitions of skyscraper content based on word count can vary from around 1,500 words to 10,000 words. However, the actual length of the content is less important than the basic principle of the skyscraper technique, which is to outdo whoever it is that’s ranking for your target keyword in terms of content quality, comprehensiveness, and user experience (UX).
Benefits of the Skyscraper Technique
The skyscraper technique offers several benefits that make it a good choice when competing for highly-contested keywords:
- Simple. In the title of the article, we said that this is the easiest way to rank for competitive keywords. And it is — provided that you have time and access to a good writer. If you have access to someone capable of writing well-researched, highly engaging, and logically-structured articles, you can already begin creating content that dominates Google’s results pages.
- Cost-Effective. The cost of running a skyscraper campaign tends to be much lower than a comparable link building effort, especially when factoring in the long-term benefits in engagement and conversions. While you do need a lot of time to create high-quality skyscraper content, you can probably cut back on your efforts once the campaign generates results, simply reassessing the landing page periodically and readjusting as needed.
- Increases Engagement and Conversions. Better content inevitably results in better engagement, bringing in more qualified leads and conversions for the site. These improvements will just increase the higher your landing page ranks on Google Search. Additionally, bumps in engagement and conversion can help underline the value of your services to your client, benefitting your business relationship.
- Offers Long-Term Improvements. Engaging, valuable, and relevant content is the foundation of a great website. It’s so important that it can sometimes overcome a site’s deficiencies in web design or technical SEO. When skyscraper content features throughout a site with strong UX and technical SEO fundamentals, it may even become resistant to site penalties and fluctuations to Google’s core algorithms.
- Can Make it Difficult for Other Competitors to Overtake You. Relatively few SEOs are willing or able to invest the resources needed to create effective skyscraper content. If you can get a landing page to dominate thanks to skyscraper content, your competitors will either have to try even harder than you did or spend significantly more money to unseat it from the top of the SERPs.
How We Use the Skyscraper Technique to Help Clients
We have successfully used the skyscraper technique to help clients with limited budgets dominate Google’s search results for competitive keywords. Some of these clients even belong to industries such as finance, where the top competitors typically have vast digital marketing budgets.
When we use the skyscraper technique, we don’t just look at the keyword leader’s content and make a longer version of it. It takes planning, careful execution, and patience to pull off this strategy successfully. Here, we’ll share how we perform the skyscraper technique to rank for difficult keywords.
Step 1: Identify the Leader and Learn Their Formula for Success
Before you begin writing your skyscraper content, you’ll need to identify the current leader for your keyword. Simply type in your target keyword on Google Search and check out the top organic results on the first page. The page that currently leads for your target keyword will serve as a benchmark for your future skyscraper content.
If you think you’ll succeed simply by writing wordier content than the keyword leader, you’ll be disappointed. If the keyword is highly contested, chances are the top landing page has good web design, significant backlink equity, and decent on-page SEO. To make your skyscraper content succeed, you have to make sure that your landing page can match, outdo, or come close to the leading page in as many areas as possible.
Of course, you’ll want to pay special attention to the content that is currently on the leading page. Think of ways that you can make that content more compelling, digestible, and comprehensive. Consider the overall experience of browsing the leader’s site and see if your own landing page can incorporate UX and web design improvements that will elevate the content.
Step 2: Outperform the Leader in Content and UX
After you’ve identified the areas to work on, you’ll want to assign the best writers and editors you have available for the job.
This is not the kind of project that you assign to just anyone, particularly for highly-contested keywords. Assigning real subject matter experts is ideal but writing teams that can consistently turn in well-researched, engaging, properly localized, and logically-constructed articles should do well in a pinch.
Despite what you might think, it’s not just writers and editors who bear responsibility for creating good content. To dominate especially difficult keywords, you want to ensure that the content that your writing team creates is properly supported by web designers, web developers, and graphic designers. When possible, make sure that your client’s site (or at least, the landing page) offers visitors a superior experience compared to the current leading site.
Step 3 (Optional): Support the Content With Other Digital Marketing Techniques
As mentioned earlier, it can be a while before Google picks up the changes to your landing page and moves it up the search results for your target keyword. Even if you do set expectations, a lack of immediate improvement may not sit well with some clients. Given this, boosting the landing page is probably a good idea.
To speed things up and maximize the odds that your new landing page succeeds, at the very least, promote it on social media. If there’s room left in the budget, support the content with a link building campaign to bolster its backlink profile and consider running PPC or social media ads as well.
By supporting your new skyscraper page in this way, you can kickstart visits and engagement which, in turn, may help generate positive signals that help the page climb the SERPs faster.
Why Aren’t More SEOs Using the Skyscraper Technique?
The skyscraper technique is, in our opinion, the easiest way to rank for competitive keywords. However, it remains an underutilized strategy, even though most respected SEO professionals agree that it could be highly effective.
The skyscraper technique is often overlooked for the following reasons:
- Many SEOs Don’t Understand Content Development. Contrary to what some might say, it’s not enough to simply write content longer than what could be found on the top page for your keyword. The content also has to be more insightful and engaging. Unfortunately, a lot of SEOs have a tough time identifying what good writing actually is and they might greenlight mediocre content. When the content underperforms, they may take that as a sign that “skyscraper content doesn’t work”, which may cause them to avoid it in future campaigns.
- The Skyscraper Technique is Time-Consuming. It takes a lot of time and effort to write well-researched, informative, engaging, and easy-to-read content. Moreover, it can take weeks or months before Google’s algorithm starts to prioritize your new content over the current leader’s. This can be problematic depending on the project timeline and the client’s business goals. Given this, a lot of SEOs may prefer to focus on other strategies that offer a faster ROI.
The skyscraper technique works great for highly contested keywords precisely because so few SEOs are willing to invest the resources needed to outmatch leading landing pages.
By focusing on content quality, comprehensiveness, and UX, smart digital marketers can feasibly outrank competitors with much bigger budgets than theirs. If the content can be further supported with link building, technical SEO, and superior web design, even better.
If you want to know more about how we use the skyscraper technique to rank difficult keywords for clients in different industries, contact us to set up a meeting.