Adding Backlinks to your Content Creation Process

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? It’s the story of a cynical, stuck up jerk called Phil who relives the same day over and over again. He remembers the day before even though everything is essentially reset. At first, the repetition drives him crazy and he tries to stop it however he can. Of course this fails, and eventually he uses his time to become a better person. He is able to save the day, so to speak, and – as these movies usually go – get the girl at the end.

He essentially skyscrapered himself.

Skyscrapering is a back link creating technique used by Brian Dean of Backlinko.  The core concept of skyscrapering is to find something out of date and make a better version of it – just like Phil Connors did to himself. The basics of this technique are as follows:

  1. Find content with a lot of links to it (this is your skyscraper target)
  2. Make a better and up-to-date version of that piece of content
  3. Get people to link to your content instead

Finding the Right Content

You can go into Google and search for stuff all day and maybe come away with some good ideas. You can look at the first page of the SERP and find ones in the top, but you still want to double check their linking domains.

The key is to find something that is popular and referenced a lot, as well as something which retains value. Skyscrapering something which is “hot” because it is about a current, short-lived trend is not worth it. Skyscrapering takes time and you want to produce content that will take a long time to go out of date and fashion.

To Skyscraper, You Need Proper Tools 

Ahrefs is a tool which maps links between domains. Pop any name in there, and you will see the domains that link to it. Pick one of the top ranking domains and plug them in and check their top pages.

Buzzsumo is great as well, because it will give you a run-down of a domain or company’s most shared content. You can also search for keyword and find the most shared content from the past year or month.

Use Google to find authoritative domains and articles, and use other tools to refine your choice. Going for something that has at least 25 links to it from other domains is what Brian recommends.

Create Something Better

Now that you have your target, it’s time to improve on it. There are a few ways to make content legitimately better. The first is to expand upon it, either by making it longer or by making it deeper. A list of things is easy to make longer, for example, if you notice the original authors have left something out.

If you are writing about something outdated or topical, you can write a new article with updated information. Visual pieces can be redone and designed better. A lot of popular articles are just bullet points. Writing the same article but adding information and depth is another viable tactic

When creating your content, make sure that it adds substantial value over the existing one and that it wins out on as many levels as possible (up-to-date, speed, design, etc.)

Reaching Out

This is where you contact people directly about your new content. Brian uses ahrefs’s tool to export the list of all the domains that currently link to the content that will be skyscrapered. Weed out links that are not relevant (from forums, etc.). From the links that remain, get the email addresses of the people who run those websites and email them directly.

Your email should follow a casual style where you let them know that you were researching your topic, found out that they linked to one of your favorite articles, (your skyscraper target) and that it inspired you to write a better version. This version, you tell them, might deserve a mention on their page.

The idea here is to contact people already interested in your topic, and to add a link to yours, or to switch the link to the old article to point to your article.

Compared to just churning out content on a regular basis, skyscrapering takes a lot more work, but the difference is that you already know there is an audience. You find the stuff they like, and then make something much better.

My Experience in Skyscrapering

I used this technique once to pretty good effect – it resulted in a guest blog post, a few good links from an authoritative domain, and even a few more avenues of exposure. It came about rather randomly. I was doing research for another post and for some internal experiments we wanted to run and I had noticed that the top ranked resource on Google for what I was researching was terribly out of date. I had recently read Brian Dean’s technique and decided to give it a try. 

I wrote up my post and then contacted the site in question to let them know that their page was out of date. In return, they asked me to update their post by writing a guest post for them which brought some leads and exposure to Growth Labs.

The hardest part was sending that email – you have to be confident that what you have is better – and you can’t treat it like a mass email blast. The post I used to skyscraper got a few links to it from sources – some didn’t respond. I was lucky in that what I was challenging was not something terribly interesting so it was easy to find out of date information. 

And sending those emails can feel spammy. That’s why it is important to limit yourself to just the most worthwhile domains to change their backlinks to your content. This will help you feel more confident and also control the quality of the traffic you can get. 

While going out and searching for articles to update and then convince people to link to might take too much time for you or your business to invest in, we are all blogging and creating content on a (semi) regular basis. I mean, at least we should be. And for that content you are doing research and if you come across a post that is in sore need of an update, write yourself a note to investigate it further when you finish your piece. 

Skyscrapering is a nice tactic because it is effective and it can be integrated with any content production team’s process.