Falling From A “Skyscraper”: Why Famous SEO Strategies Won’t Work For You

Dale Cudmore is an internet marketing writer. He has a top-notch editor to make sure all his writing is amazing.

    How many famous SEO strategies have you tried to replicate?

    I’ve tried quite a few, but have never been able to get the same great results as what the original authors led me to expect.

    You might accuse me of not putting forth enough effort, but I put dozens of hours into implementing each strategy — it was not from a lack of effort.

    I did everything that the leading SEO authorities said to do, and yet the best I could do was rank on the 2nd or 3rd page of results.

    So today I want to share my case study of replicating a very well-known link building technique along with some of my thoughts of why “guru techniques” might not always work for you.

    My experiment building a “Skyscraper” …and falling from it

    Like I said, I’ve tried many different white hat SEO techniques over the last few years, but this was the one that finally made me realize that something was seriously wrong.

    skyscraper-technique-brian-deanIf you haven’t heard of the skyscraper technique, give it a quick skim. The basic idea is to pick popular pages, improve upon them, and then reach out to sites that linked to those lower-quality pages and get them to link to you.

    It’s a great strategy, and it obviously works for some, so I decided to give it a go.

    This was on a brand new site that I had high hopes for: RawResume.com (note that the site was sold in March of 2015, so it may have changed since then). This was a site dedicated to helping people improve their resume and find jobs.

    Step 1: Pick a Keyword to Target

    After a bit of digging, I decided to target keywords similar to “how to write a great resume.”

    As you can see from the Term Explorer image below, the keyword group consisted of medium-competition search phrases and a decent overall search volume (~9,000/month).

    term explorer writing a resume

    Step 2: Create Better Content

    I went through the first few pages of results in order to look at the quality of the competition’s content.

    Overall, it was very poor.

    Here was the page that was in first position at the time:

    Rockport-Institute-guide

    It’s a complete guide, but is basically wall of text after wall of text, and very few examples or actionable information at its core.

    The second result was even worse from a content standpoint, just a short article from Business Insider:

    BI-resume-guide

    Could I make a better guide to writing a great resume? You better believe it!

    After 20 hours of research, writing, and formatting, this was the result (You can see the full guide here):

    my finished definitive guide

    I can confidently say that this is the best (free) guide to writing a good resume online, by far.

    When you create the highest quality content, it not only satisfies readers more, but it also makes other site owners more likely to agree to link to it.

    Step 3: Get High Quality Links Through an Email Outreach Campaign

    You’ve heard that one “high quality” link is better than a thousand “low quality” backlinks. I have no doubt this is true.

    A high quality link consists of both authority and relevance. Authority in the sense that the page itself is trusted in the eyes of search engines, and relevance in the sense that it makes sense that the page would include a link to your page.

    And that’s the beauty of this particular strategy. You only reach out to the most authoritative sites that are also relevant to your page. Essentially, you’re “stealing” your competitors’ best backlinks.

    I made a list of similar guides and articles that were about how to write a great resume. All you need to do is compile the first few pages of Google search results, and you will find 90% of the most linked-to pages.

    From there, take a look at each page’s backlinks by using a link analysis tool like Site Explorer by Ahrefs.

    For example, I analyzed the backlinks for that Rockport Institute guide that was ranking #1 for most of the searches I was targeting :

    rockport URL analysis

    You’ll see that it has 385 backlinks. In my mind at the time, a few dozen really solid links, in addition to the better content, should have allowed me to overtake this page as the #1 result.

    To get the links, I made a list of all of the pages that linked to the Rockport Institute guide that had a URL rating of greater than 5. (Please note that this cut-off was arbitrary; you could go lower if you wanted to expand your list of prospects.)

    Once I had a decent number of prospects, it was simply a matter of sending an email telling them that I had a new and improved guide that would fit well on their page. I also pointed out any broken links on the page to improve my success rate. A good email outreach strategy is crucial here.

    In total I sent 232 emails and obtained 15 links, for a 6.5% success rate. This is decent; some niches will be slightly worse, and some will be a bit better.

    In addition, I also picked up a few more links from Reddit and other blogs that came across my guide naturally (learn about marketing on Reddit before you try it).

    So this is what the page looks like today, which hasn’t changed much in the last few months:

    current links and authority of guide

    Overall, I was able to pick up some very high-quality backlinks:

    backlink analysis resume guide

    Step 4: Profit? (Wait for rankings)

    So far, this looks like any great case study you might read on an SEO blog, but here’s where it changes.

    I didn’t get the #1 spot…

    I didn’t get top 3…

    I didn’t even get to the first page…

    Here were the rankings for a bit over the first 60 days (I started tracking a bit late):

    resume guide rankings

    As of now (over 6 months later) the rankings have not changed significantly.

    There were periods where rankings have improved for a few days, but then they drop back down:

    current guide rankings

    I did everything right:

    1. I targeted low-medium competition keywords
    2. I created truly “epic” content
    3. I was able to get great links from about 20 pages
    4. I was very patient waiting for rankings to come

    And yet, no results. A few visits a day from random long-tail search traffic, but nothing significant.

    The Reason Why Your Rankings Never Improve as They “Should”

    I’m not afraid of hard work, and I doubt that you are either.

    But, we’re also not crazy. Why would we put in 20–30 hours creating a guide and sending emails if you don’t get the rankings that you should (based on the quality of your content)?

    The reason that you’re not getting the rankings you work hard for is not because you’re doing something wrong or because Google hates you.

    It’s because you’re not on the same playing field as the guys behind all those case studies you see.

    Comparing My Results to Others Revealed Two Things…

    I needed to get to the bottom of this.

    There were 2 main things I learned and observed.

    1. You Only See a Highlight Reel

    It’s similar to how Facebook causes depression.

    You see the best of everyone else. Their vacations, accomplishments, and other things in their life that they are proud of.

    This can make you feel worse about your life.

    But getting those good things (results) all the time is not normal. They are the exception.

    No one posts updates saying, “I just ate a tub of ice cream, I hate my body.” They post the good stuff.

    Blog owners do the exact same thing!

    Guess which post would get more attention:

    I used the super awesome secret SEO technique, ranked #1, and get 20,000 visitors per month”

    …or…

    I used the super awesome secret SEO technique, ranked third page, and get a few hundred visitors per month”

    The first one, of course.

    I’m not blaming blog owners, it would be silly to post every case study — good or bad — for many reasons.

    But you need to keep this in mind: whatever case study you’re reading is the exception, not the norm.

    skyscraper-technique-iceberg-illustration-case-study

    If bloggers could post successful case study after case study, they would. The reason they post case studies rarely is because there aren’t that many.

    I believe the difference in results comes down to 4 things:

    • quality of the execution of the strategy
    • niche and keyword factors (competition)
    • variance — not every swing will be a home run
    • your starting point (your site and resources available to you)

    2. Your Starting Point is the Most Important

    The quality of the execution is typically up to you for the most part.

    The competitiveness of your chosen niche is out of your control past your initial starting point, as is variance in search algorithms.

    What is in your control, and I think is the defining difference in most cases, is your starting point.

    Brian Dean, best known for his extremely detailed guides and case studies at Backlinko shared that he was able to get a post to rank #4 for the fairly high competition term “backlinks” (this post if you’d like to take a look).

    Do you think if you or I would have been able to rank so high if we had published the exact same post before Brian did?

    Not a chance!

    Most of us don’t have the traffic (way over 60,000 UVs per month now), nor do we have the domain authority.

    Check out these stats for the Backlinko domain:

    backlinko stats

    A 65 domain rating is no joke.

    Here’s how domain rating works: A domain with a high domain rating (authority) has a ton of high quality links pointing to it. As long as the site is set up reasonably (with internal links), some of that authority is automatically transferred to any new posts. This makes it much easier to rank any page.

    Most SEOs massively underestimate the effect that domain authority has on your ability to rank.

    I’m 100% guilty of it myself.

    You think: “If I do everything else right, and get a few extra high quality backlinks, I’ll still be able to get great rankings.”

    But it doesn’t work like that. Almost all people are absolutely terrible at estimating personal results. We make optimistic predictions and rationalize the failure later.

    Those few extra backlinks won’t even come close to matching the power that hundreds or thousands of links pointing at other pages on the domain provide.

    Let’s Look at Some Case Studies…

    I don’t expect you to just take my word for it, although I suspect the realization is forming in the back of your head right now.

    I’ve collected a few published case studies to analyze the results and their link profiles.

    Note: Most are from Backlinko. I’m not picking on Brian, because I love the site and he does amazing work. There just aren’t too many other people out there willing to be open with case studies and provide links and full transparency.

    Keyword DifficultyRankingReferring
    Domains
    to Page
    URL RatingDomain Rating
    My Resume GuideMedium3rd page221745
    Case Study 1High23264565
    Case Study 2Medium1853760
    Case Study 3Very high71222158
    Case Study 4Low4302949

    Note #2: Pages may have continued to get more links since the case study was published, they are likely stronger than when the results were first reported.

    At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference in domain ratings between the domains, but there is.

    Domain rating is based on a logarithmic scale, which means that it is 10 times harder to go from 55 to 65, than it is to go from 45 to 55.

    At these ratings, every single point is highly significant.

    My page had the lowest URL and domain rating; no surprise it had trouble ranking.

    What stands out to me is case study #4. Even though the URL rating is decent, and it’s a very easy keyword, he still couldn’t crack ranking 4th. This is due to having a decent, but not great domain rating.

    The other 3 case studies went after more competitive keywords. Despite having obviously lower quality links (look at the URL rating), case study #3 was able to rank pretty high for a very competitive keyword based on its domain rating.

    The Solution for You and Me

    Very few case strategies are published with a new (or relatively new) site in mind. Because they aren’t impressive.

    If you’re starting from scratch, it’s clear that you can’t expect to have even a fraction of the results you read about on blogs right away.

    While this might sound discouraging at first, I don’t think it has to be.

    Instead of spending 30 hours on a piece of great content and promoting it, and feeling down when you don’t get the same results you read about, you now know that it’s not your fault.

    So what is the solution? One word: consistency.

    You need to get domain authority in order to achieve the results you read about, and the only way to do that is to consistently apply effective SEO strategies.

    Here’s a great case study about going from 0 to 100,000 visitors…after 9 months.

    Whether it’s the Skyscraper Technique or a different strategy, it takes time to build a strong domain rating.

    Let me know about your experiences trying to replicate case studies on your own in a comment below.

    Dale Cudmore is an internet marketing writer. He has a top-notch editor to make sure all his writing is amazing.

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    • UK

      Bonus: A lot of the Backlinko ideas didn’t work for me over here in Germany, since I either don’t have the same audience as in the US or the presented tools are not usable in the German market.

      • This is super interesting to me. What did you do when you hit those barriers?

        A) Throw your hands in the air and give up?

        B) Figure out a way to adapt it and make it work?

      • Dale

        I’m not really sure why it would matter where you are, maybe shoot Brian an email or comment?

        The skyscraper technique is probably my favorite one I’ve come across and tried, but it does have limitations, just like any other strategy.

        • Brad Gerlach

          I think the problem is that people in general confuse the terms strategy and tactics, and use them interchangeably. The Skyscraper Technique is only one SEO tactic and not a full strategy. I even think Brian calls it a strategy, when it is really simply a tactic.

          A strategy is the larger, overall plan that is comprised of several tactics, which are smaller, focuses and less impactful plans of the overall plan — or strategy. 

          The Skyscraper Technique is focused on finding popular content and making it better content while getting links from those that linked to content of lesser quality. 

          There is other tactics that can help boast traffic and links, but that is out of the scope of this discussion.

          • Jane Freeman

            Good point. This tactic has also been around since the birth of the web, Brian has just slapped a name on it and tried to claim its his tactic lol

            • Brad Gerlach

              Brian did try to claim it, he did claim it. Google will suggest Skyscraper Technique for certain searches. 

              And sure, he put a name to the technique he uses. Many techniques in the world are know by many by different names. But, if you read the article, you know that Brian goes into detail on how HE does this, which includes a email template and some other particular steps that he follows. I am sure there are other steps one could follow to something similar. 

              Brian took ownership of the technique because he wrote how how he precisely does it.

          • MSL formerly dancinggirl1555

            Appreciate the clarification between strategy and tactic, but what does it mean for the Skyscraper Technique to be “making it better content [how?} while getting links from those that linked to content of lesser quality”? Also, do you mean “There [are] other tactics that can help [boost] traffic and links” rather than “boast” traffic? Thanks for any clarification you can provide…savvy re: technology I am not.

            As an aside FYI: “Impactful” is not a word. In fact, experts call its use “barbarous.” Decades of telling K-6 children that they’re “special” just for showing up has given us a citizenry that believes it knows everything to such an extent that a self-appointed writer even self-published a book about writing with “impactful” in its title. Gasp! Instead of checking things for themselves, people follow others like lemmings, so the new rule is: if you hear someone use a word, it’s probably incorrect, regardless of the person’s education, title or obscene income. 

            That quality in all things matters has never been more evident than in what the disgusting election choices our fellow Americans have given us say about our failure to care about or insist upon quality for the last 30–45 years.

    • Brian Dean

      Interesting post, Dale.

      I’m with you on some of it. No technique works 100% of the time. And The Skyscraper Technique is no exception.

      That being said, I’ve got three thoughts:

      1. You talk about the importance of “starting point”. Absolutely important…but not the end all be all. My first foray with The Skyscraper Technique at Backlinko worked on my site even though it was brand new: http://backlinko.com/skyscraper-technique

      Same story with Chris: http://backlinko.com/viral-marketing

      2. If Domain Ranking is important (and I agree that it is), then you can’t just give up after your first Skyscraper post. A site builds authority from multiple pieces of pillar content.…not just one. 

      3. Speaking of DR, your chart is extremely inaccurate. You’re looking at the current DA of the site…not the DR when the site first executed the strategy.

      • Annalisa Hilliard

        I echo Brian’s point in #2. As I was reading this, I kept thinking you got off to a good start, but stopped prematurely. 

        I do however agree that a lot of what people write about are their successes. Thus, I’d encourage you to keep going with this project and continue to develop helpful content and attract quality links.

        • Dale

          Thanks Annalisa.

          I did actually use the strategy a few more times with similar results, and planned to keep going with the site until I received an unexpected offer I couldn’t pass up.

          Obviously it would have made for a better article here if I could have kept going.

          I’m glad you got that takeaway — that’s the main lesson here.

      • Dale

        Regarding #3, I agree, but I don’t think there’s any way of determining a past DR, unless you have any suggestions, this is the best I have for now.

        The main point I had in the article is your point #2. However, from being in that situation myself, it’s hard to invest ~30 hours into a post in your spare time (like most beginners are), and then not see the results like you see on case studies. 

        Because at that point, you start thinking, “well even if I do this again and again over the next few months, I still don’t know if I’ll see any significant results.”

        I did continue to produce other pieces of pillar content, until I sold the site unexpectedly. I have no doubt that it would have done well at some point, but I know that others in my shoes would have serious doubts. This leads to waiting around for rankings to change (that don’t for the most part).

        Brian, I tried to stress in the article, but would like to re-iterate, this wasn’t a shot or criticism of your work, because Backlinko is probably my favorite blog to follow.

        Thanks for weighing in.

      • …and the takeaway:

        if you want traffic — try “Skyscraper” technique;

        if you want rankings — build “City of Skyscrapers”.

        makes sense? 🙂

        • I would have to agree with you on this, Tim. Brian brings up a few solid points and there’s a strong correlation with utilizing these techniques to establish content pillars (focus on the plurality). 

          Ultimately, the point lies within the need to continue doing creating pillars of content over a consistent amount of time. Joe Schmo can’t come in and build one awesome piece of content, do a great job promoting it and expect to receive the world in return after 6 months or so (that would suck for the rest of us who have been around for a while!). 

          I think it all comes down to establishing your entire domain as the authority in a particular subject area, not just one awesome piece of content.

          So much discussion on this post, well done Dale!

          • can’t agree with you more! 🙂

        • Brian Driscoll

          I agree. My first skyscraper post pulled 300 unique views, 35 + shares in about 9 days on a completely new website. Not recurrent huge traffic or rankings, because it was the first post, at least that’s what I believe.

      • Hendrik Henze

        Dale, thanks for the article and the insights.

        The problem you describe is exactly what we have with customers. We build skyscrapers as an agency to get attention for them.

        Most of times the first skyscraper does not have the effect that they wished for with the amount of money they invested. They get a few good links but by far not the amount Brian gets.

        This does does not depend on domain authority, though: Brian, Chris and also Jimmy Dally are in a niche that is known to link. It is way easier to get backlinks in marketing, design and programming niches. 

        Also as you start out you make mistakes AND people dont know you yet. If you want to guest post you have nothing to show. 

        I must say, however, that there are not that many alternatives to this. Especially, from a time invested point of view. To get higher rankings you need bad-ass links. These you get from the top sites. To get top site attention requires a lot of work. No matter what you do.

        So best thing is: Keep building your city of skyscrapers 😉

        • Dale

          Good point about the niches. I actually did the the technique as a “service” for a site in the home design niche. The content killed it on social media, but there weren’t many outreach prospects.

          I’ve never worked on an agency side of this, but it seems that setting client expectations is probably the most important thing for the long-term.

          Thanks for sharing Hendrik.

      • As mentioned above, The “Skyscraper Technique” is not and never was brand new, although the brand name was — you learned it like I did and a few others before us, via ballsy testing… 😉

    • Matt Cayless

      interesting post!.…having 15 extra links in its self will build the DA. So yeah, i find i am agreeing with Brain as this one may not rank well for now but keep up this strategy and soon it and other posts will.

      • Dale

        I think that’s the real power of the Skyscraper technique. It’s gotta be one of the fastest way to build DA out there.

        Thanks Matt

    • First post ! where i did get failure result using skyscraper technique. But it’s will be great work for me. I also got incredible results using Roundup post. You can apply this technique, i hope it will be great work for you guys ..

      http://www.virtualstaffing.co.uk/blog/business-growth-strategies

    • Thanks for this article.

      With the highest respect for Brian Dean (he’s a great professional with no doubts) the skyscraper technique can actually work for several niches, but there are limits of such methods when it comes to branding.

      If we google anything in these oversaturated niches (like — marketing, of course), we’ll see the first page packed with almost similar long reads, written in the same style, where 90–99% of content is absolutely identical. Just old-fashioned traffic and conversions, nothing more. Articles with more fresh ideas, better form but less words and backlinks don’t have a chance to go past this wall. Which is bad both for the industry, and for branding.

      Sure, in some niches these skyscraper posts bring traffic and real money, which is actually the purpose of any business, but I feel depressed when I see these identical articles — copying 90% of someone’s content won’t save you even if you add a couple of new (even meaningful) paragraphs and rewrite the rest. It doesn’t give us something bigger, something really unique.

      However, I understand many people just don’t bother. And that’s OK, I guess =)

      • Darren DeMatas

        If we can guess the next big thing and publish epic content before the big publishers, we will be good to go!

      • Dale

        Great observation Ksenia.

        I think “make it longer” is the easiest way to “improve” an article.

        As we go on, and more niches get even more saturated like that (where all the results are “200+ ways to peel an apple”), I think we’ll definitely see a shift to quality over quantity.

        Spending extra resources on involving experts, or presenting solutions in different ways (video, images, podcasts, etc.).

        • Yep.

          However, with ranking signals that Google uses today, businesses will have to switch from Google as their main traffic source to other distribution channels, when it comes to these saturated niches. It is happening now, and will become more large scale, I guess. 

          Because if they start small, without initial boost from length, backlinks, DA and stuff, they won’t be able to compete in SERPs with skyscraper articles even for long tails.

    • Link building of any kind is rarely an instant home run. Sending 232 emails and netting 15 links is fairly average, and as such you probably should have expected fairly average results. 

      It’s a flawed way to think, “Ok, I’ve sent 232 emails, that’s probably enough. That should be enough emails for enough links for enough PageRank for enough Google Ranking!” 

      How can you know when you’ve sent enough emails? How can you know when you’ve earned enough links? Only once you actually start ranking where you want to. The flaw is in thinking that link building is linear anyways. It’s cyclical. Even if you do get the ranks you want, they might slip over time. 

      If anyone follows the process you’ve lined out above, they’ll fail a majority of the time. Why? You only did 10% of the work required. Doing the research, making the content, those dozens of hours, is only 10%. The outreach, the promotion is the other 90% and you only sent 232 emails. That’s something that can be done in a single day — not enough time spent on promotion and outreach. The most common reason that content marketing fails is that 90% of the time is spent on content creation and 10% on outreach.

      Like you said, the solution is consistency. Not only in consistently creating compelling content, but also in consistently promoting it. It is still surprising to me that someone will take the torch so far with the content creation and then just let it sputter as soon as it comes to sending some emails to get some links. 

      One other thing I think you ought to reconsider. “Even though the URL rating is decent, and it’s a very easy keyword, he still couldn’t crack ranking 4th. This is due to having a decent, but not great domain rating.” 

      Maybe, but that’s probably bullshit. There are so many other factors that goes into why one specific URL doesn’t rank in one specific spot the way you think it should. How about the power of each individual link pointing to that URL? The domain rank of each of those URLs? The relevance of each of those URLs, which, is most certainly a sliding scale, not “yes” or “no”, which adds an incredible amount of murkiness to the link-equity-ranking picture.. It’s wildly speculative to point to a single metric and say “this is exactly the reason why this URL didn’t crack ranking 4th for this specific keyword”. No… probably not.

      • Dale

        Well the power of the links pointing to that URL will be accounted for in the URL ratings (it does more than just count link quantity). Other than that I agree with most of your points here.

        Here’s what’s really interesting to me: 232 emails is ~10% of promotion.

        232 manual emails is a damn lot to me. I exhausted all possible lists of emails to do those, of course only focusing on high quality links.

        Maybe you’re right though? Maybe 232 emails is a drop in the bucket. But everything I read up to that point made me believe that that was NOT average, but it was going the extra mile. If it’s not, I’d like to see anyone write a detailed article about what is truly exceptional (maybe you? 🙂 ).

        Thanks for the detailed thoughts Nicholas.

        • I’m a jaded white hat link builder. I’ve been working at a link building agency for 3 years this September. 232 emails is really a drop in the bucket. 

          Tim Soulo invited me to write a post here as well so I’ll have to see what time I can find to put something together. Right now is a busy time.. Handling a couple site migrations this week and I’ve got a presentation to do at SMX Seattle next week. Maybe sometime in June though.

          • Dale

            That’d be great. I think there’s a big disconnect from how admittedly amateur marketers approach SEO and how those with professional experience see it.

            There aren’t a whole lot of people talking about it though, so your perspective would be great.

            • I have to agree with you. 

              I come from a writing background so the link building is new to me. I found it very hard to find info about basic link building and how much work goes into it.

              232 emails sounds like a ton of promotion to me, so I’d love to hear how the pros do it.

            • Dale

              Seriously, that took me like 15+ hours!

          • Would love to read that.

    • Darren DeMatas

      As one of Brian’s students, I can say that his techniques have worked for me.

      But honestly, they all didn’t work 100% of the time. 

      I think the greatest lesson a teacher can pass is the ability to come up with ideas yourself. Brian learned how to do SEO from other people, tweaking what they did for him. I’ve had better results putting my own spin on what Brian teaches.

      The real value is seeing how Brian creatively approaches link building and getting ideas to do your own thing.

      Yes you can follow things step by step and get results. No matter what you do it takes a sustained effort. (Oh, how I miss the days of throwing up a keyword stuffed page and pointing some easy links.)

      I do agree with you that I’d like to see more of Brian’s failures. I’ve actually emailed him this. It does get discouraging when you follow things step by steps and get little to no results. I am sure Brian experienced this early on.

      What I do is take a big swing once a month or so (every 45 days) knowing that only a percentage of campaigns will work.

      • Dale

        Darren, really interesting, thanks for sharing.

    • Brad Gerlach

      Another student of Brian’s here and just started outreach for a blog post based on the Skyscraper Technique. 

      This technique is only one tactic of a backlink strategy. Blue strength of any strategy are the tactic. One tactic works the same, or best, every time, which is the reason to have a full strategy instead of relying on one tactic.

      • Dale

        Great point Brad!

        • Brad Gerlach

          Glad you understood my comment. I swear those typos weren’t in the original. But I hadn’t had all my coffee yet, so there is no way of knowing. But I am going to blame my iPad and autocorrect, lol.

          • Dale

            No worries Brad, iPads are tough :).

          • MSL formerly dancinggirl1555

            Autocorrect is a disaster and wastes a lot of time keeping track of, and correcting, its mistakes. This business of eliminating all user choice is wrong. I’d sure like to know who has been doing this to us, especially with the word processing programs. 

            People who don’t know the first thing about formatting various documents are deciding how mine have to be formatted, and it’s wrong. We have a right to make our own choices about how our text is laid out on a page. Does anyone know who’s in charge and how to reach them?

    • josh bachynski (SEO)

      If your SEO technique does not work 100% of the time.… sorry but then you simply do not understand how google is ranking websites these days.

      your SEO technique should work 100% of the time

      • If your SEO works 100% of the time, why haven’t you retired yet Josh? Anything that works “every time” is generally black hat and short term. 

        I mean what are you talking about man? I see you leave comments like this all over the SEO web and I just don’t get it. 

        Anyone that’s done any amount of manual promotion learns the 1st lesson of earned links pretty quickly… Failure is way more common than success. That’s why consistency and persistence are so important to eventually encountering success.

        If I had the magical knowledge to rank anything I want with my “100%-works-every-time SEO technique”, I’d be living on my own island in Dubai, and I probably wouldn’t need to do SEO anymore (or leave comments on SEO articles).

        • josh bachynski (SEO)

          by that all i meant was this is a tactic and not a strategy

          and sorry, yes, doing tactics and not strategy is already a bad strategy. lol ;p

          PS: and i don’t like dubai, i do live on a resort in canada

      • Dale

        Hi Josh,

        The point of this article wasn’t that SEO tactics don’t work, it’s that for most (amateurs in particular), they don’t work as expected.

        For example, if you use the Skyscraper technique, it will work every time in the sense that you will pick up some high quality links and have a great content pillar on your site. However, it doesn’t mean you’ll achieve top 3 rankings every time, especially with a new site.

        Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Hi Dale. I’ve tried Skyscraper technique a couple of times myself and it does work. When Brian first published the Skyscraper technique, Backlinko was only PR2 but he built a mega crap load of backlinks to his 200 Google ranking factors (currently I believe there are over 1,000). I’ve seen some other people attempt Skyscraper or similar and here’s where I see people failing with it: 

      1. Not doing enough promotion — If you are going after a really high volume keyword, then you need TONS of links. Most people might reach out to a couple hundred people max and then quit. To be honest, I could have done a lot more myself on some of the ones I did.

      2. People have trouble identifying what’s “epic” — Just because it looks nicer or is more comprehensive doesn’t mean that people are going to get excited about it and link to it. 

      Here’s a couple of recommendations:
      1. What I would recommend is going after something less competitive first. Once you get the hang of it, try to go after bigger fish. And definitely keep building publicity, your audience and authority for your blog as you go along because that will make things a lot easier. 

      2. Another thing I like to do when I create content is to submit it to communities and see how people react and if it gets upvoted. If the community members don’t get excited about it, then it’s going to be significantly harder to promote via outreach. 

      Brian Dean’s the real deal but as with any technique, it’s usually a little harder than it sounds. Hope that helps!

      • Dale

        Thanks for your detailed thoughts Brian!

        Would you mind sharing ranking/traffic results of those times you used the techniques?

        On your second recommendation, I did submit it to communities like Reddit and it did very well (close to the top of all time for its sub-reddits) and sent a good amount of traffic that converted.

        It’s also an interesting niche, because there aren’t a ton of communities built around looking for a job, which makes it a little more difficult to get out there. Although I think this was balanced out by more resource pages (on .edu sites) for outreach.

    • Dale, an interesting take on Brian’s technique for sure.

      My logic would be the following: even if this does not work as well as advertised, it is still a much better alternative compared to churning out “yet another post” on a random topic.

      What I like about the Skyscraper the most is that it uses a proven topic and it forces you to write a better piece. By default, you’ll be creating quality content and that will 100% of the times be better than pushing out 500-word posts every day for the sake of “blogging”.

      • Dale

        Good logic, and great observation Kosio.

    • Mike Bonadio

      I think “your results may vary” is a better wording for the title of this piece, which is obvious anyway.

      I don’t think Brian ever claimed you’d be cashing out and buying an island after one Skyscraper campaign. Anyone with any experience in SEO knows you have to keep plugging away and building up the DA of your site. These types of strategies set the foundation for building up that DA in a healthy way over time.

      I’ve found some great success with his strategies as I know have others. His guestographic strategy (among others) produced excellent results for some client work that landed them on page 1 in very competitive local markets and has brought in significant revenue to the client from that work.

      • Dale

        Good points, thanks Mike.

    • Marcel Fuursted

      Great post, Dale — however I don’t fully agree..

      But I think it’s more a matter of semantics (not semantic in matter of content, but semantic in matter of the words WE use).

      You see if technique is only a part of the entire recipe, then ofcourse it doesnt works every time — then it’s more luck then execution!

      But if your technique is the same recipe everytime:
      Same type if links
      Same age
      Same authority
      Same tech/code
      Etc

      Then you WILL have success everytime!

      Conclusion:
      No singular technique will work every time 🙂

      • Dale

        That’s a great point Marcel.

        There’s always going to be some things out of our control (like search engine algorithms), but the more parts of a tactic that are in our control, the more consistent it should be.

        Solid conclusion 🙂

    • Sam

      Hey Dale,

      You created 39 links from 22 domains! This is quite awesome! What other technique have you found which generates so much success?

      I’ve tried link outreach to resource sites and similar tactics but nothing has worked as well for my link building as the skyscraper technique. Admittedly I didn’t hit a home run, but it certainly worked 100% better than just creating another page.

      Have you checked to see what PA the pages had which linked to you? Have you compared your new baclink profile & domain authority to your KW competitors? Hopefully this should yield some more insight.

      By the way I checked out your recommended Case Study, great story but not as actionable as the skyscraper technique.

    • Thank you, Dale, for making me feel normal!

      It can be really disheartening when you copy someone else’s “fool-proof” strategy, only to find out that it didn’t work almost half as well.

      I’d be interested to know how else you promoted this guide of yours, was it predominantly through outreach? Did you try any content amplifiers or paid ads at all? 

      Personally, I am a real fan of Brian Deans’ Skyscraper Technique — but I agree that the type of content/industry coupled with your ‘starting position’ will have an effect on the overall success of the campaign.

      Pleas keep writing stuff like this 🙂

      • Dale

        You’re welcome Louise, now just be consistent and see those long-term results!

        And yes, I promoted it just like Brian has outlined in his articles and case studies on the technique. A simple email template letting them know that my awesome article might also belong on their page.

        One thing that helped a lot was first telling them they had a broken link, and then asking for the link after.

    • Domain authority is something I try and explain to clients on a regular basis. I advise them to think of authority as a domain’s ranking potential and often cite the example of Amazon where a product page with zero authority ranks because of the domain authority.

      Authority domains also get indexed quicker. For example I can write a post/article etc and see it indexed in hours where a low authority site might take days or weeks.

      Here’s a funny story. We put a client’s brand new domain site live at around 16:00hrs and they called us at 17:30hrs saying something must be wrong because they searched for XYZ and their site didn’t show up!

      Thankfully I sent them a link to our SEO Man page (Google SEO explained to find it) and the light bulb went on.

      Don’t underestimate the power of authority 🙂

      • Dale

        Hilarious story 🙂

        I think that most people new to SEO (obviously including myself) underestimate DA for a long time. It would have helped having someone set me straight early on.

    • The solution here is pretty simple. Your site needs more topic authority (more pages with related content). Google sees your site with a couple of pages on ‘resume writing’ and then sees another site with hundreds of pages.

      Think about it: who do you trust for SEO advice? Backlinko or a random website with one really long, detailed SEO article.

    • Thanks Dale for:

      1. highlighting many case studies only show to good things
      2. sharing examples of tactics that don’t always work 

      3. daring to question techniques that everybody thinks will always work 

      4. showing that one-size-does-not-fit-everybody
      5. highlighting that a starting point is an aspect to take really into account.

      btw. think that using the skyscraper to get back-links is a great tactic which will work in many niche area’s but (as you showed) not everywhere.
      — google (and others) really seems to look at “Age” of a domain, so sometimes you just have to wait or buy a domain with some age on it. 

      tx again for your article. 

      go4it,

      Rene

      • Dale

        Great summary Rene, glad you enjoyed it

    • Colin Fox

      Interesting post, I think that you have to use a selection of strategies, not just the one. I wrote a round up post over on my blog outlining (I think) 7 or 8 strategies for getting rankings AND traffic in 2015 and Brian was mentioned about 3 times for different ideas. 

      Just a matter of mixing it up and keeping going as it seems like you got up to a great start. 

      Pity (I read in another comment you sold it?) you didn’t keep the blog, it would have been interesting to see what 10 skyscraper posts would have done for you. 

      A lot of work though, next time i’m guessing you would have outsourced the outreach!

      • Dale

        Yes Colin, I sold the site. I got a great offer and it wasn’t a niche that I had much passion for. I did do a few more skyscraper-ish posts after this one, but not enough to have too much of an effect.

        Outsourcing outreach is always interesting. The appeal is obvious, but I don’t know if I’d be able to find someone I could trust for quality manual outreach for a price that makes it worth it. On top of just writing the emails (or parts of the emails), they would also know how to find the right person to email on each site, which can be tricky.

        Perhaps there’s a service out there that does this?

    • Chris Auman

      I think the bottomline here is a realization that most people don’t want to hear… Creating skyscraper content is HARD. Extremely hard. But even if you have the time, skill and resources to create one amazing piece and do everything right after that, it’s really just one small step forward. It’s not enough to just create one great piece, stand back and expect results. It’s not enough to create 10 and expect results. You have to keep doing it and that’s when you start separating yourself from the crowd because MOST people won’t have the time or fortitude to keep up. 

      My company is a perfect example and I’m annoyed to have to admit this. We created a massive post about Content Amplification but I’ll admit that we didn’t do most of the followup correctly and we have been unable to continually create content of this caliber because of limited time, resources and everything else. We’re a busy, growing company and even though we KNOW the right things to do, our resources are limited. It’s a really hard lesson to learn that even when you know all the right things to do, you may still not be able to execute effectively and compete. 

      This is really good news for those that can find a way. If you can consistently do all the right things, it WILL eventually pay off. But if you’re expecting to get results immediately and from limited work then you’ll fail just like 99% of the people out there that are looking for a quick fix.

      • Dale

        Chris, this is a fantastic summary, and that’s a great example regarding your company.

        Consistency is key!

    • James B

      an outsourced person with a good person gets me more or less one link for every hour they work over the course of a month. So I’m effectively paying $5 a link for great links from real sites. Probably the highest quality links per dollar spent I get. 

      Did you not know that for pages in high link velocity niches if you stop building links your rank will decrease. Looks to me like you were doing fine and then stopped. Seems like you should have failed.

      • Dale

        I would like to see more concrete proof behind your link velocity claims.

        Additionally, some of the links from the outreach took months to come in, so it wasn’t like I stopped building links overnight. Rankings never dropped over time, just stalled.

    • Muhammadatt

      Thanks for sharing this case study. I think you bring up a really good point apart from the specifics of why this technique did not work for you in this particular instance, which is the high failure rate of trying to replicate most case studies or “guru techniques.” Internet marketing gurus love to claim that their techniques can be used by anyone in any type business or any niche, but this is almost always not the case. 

      Skyscraper and other white-hat, content driven SEO techniques might work great in a industry where there are thousands of bloggers and marketers who regularly churn out content, have active Twitter followings, and will happily link to other great content. Other types of business simply won’t have the same type of link opportunities — I mean, good luck trying to get links to your ‘skyscraper’ article for your window blinds, or plumbing supplies business. 

      I certainly wouldn’t blame Brian Dean — its a tremendous idea that no doubt works for *some* businesses. But its important avoid the temptation to simply copy a technique that worked for someone else and think that you can just slap onto your business and expect profits to come pouring out. If you dont have a really good understanding of the dynamics of your industry its easy to get whipsawed simply trying to replicate the growth hack du jour.

    • Sam

      Thanks Dale, this is true I’ve often heard it takes 6–12mths to gain any sort of traction.

    • Great post and some really interesting points you make. I suppose the only way forward is to create that city of skyscrapers like somebody already mentioned.
      Did we really think it was going to be any other way? Hard work, consistency, and a deep desire to succeed is the only way to go.

    • Great post Dale. Feels very refreshing to see a marketer be honest without being negative and misleading in the process. Not only did you leave actionable content for beginners, you managed to not step on any big brands feet unnecessarily. Much Thanks…

    • so what is better: to outreach to the author of the post or to the site owner (when they are different people)?

    • What a real blog post, you revealed some hidden truths of blogging and SEO.

      Hope for this best, try, try and try we all can get success 🙂

    • Mirza Sahab

      First of all I would like to say very great post Dale.
      You have described the biggest problem of the most of the case studies that they just talk about virtual things, instead, they should clearly describe this technique may not work for them.
      I am a big fan of Brain Dean and reads his posts many times, but i have found one thing in his most of the articles that when we read them we get sure that we will also get the same results that brain get (you may have red how emil got 40000+ visitors) this is the biggest problem due to which beginners get stuck.
      Your article is free from this evil that’s why I am going to share it with my audience on Facebook

    • thats really an indepth honest read even after 2 years. The technique works but not as fantastic as i wish. maybe is me. 

      As more are aware of backlink, ive even had some site owners asking for some sort of monetary incentive.

      As Tim mentions, you’ll probably need to build a city of skyscapers.

    • Very informative post, it goes just right behind Backlino’s post.

    • Rockteem

      The post itself you are writing about is also a famous or proven SEO strategy (The keyword “Case Study”. Which is quite compelling). And it’s working like a charm. I came to this URL from the 3rd blue link. 🙂

    • Dale,

      Brian’s “technique” is not anything new to the SEO world — it’s a safe way of proving that Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” theory of how great ideas and concepts are created by their predecessors… well… is no longer a theory at all.

      As a Linkedin top 15 millennial marketer (recently crowned in the millennial playbook) — I’ve been executing a VERY similar technique for clients and partners across 17 different niches in 5 countries (including Spain) for almost the entire time I’ve been blogging.

      Do you think Hubspot ever wrote an original post? 

      In 3 final rounds as a “consulting prospect” in my early twenties I was required to publish something for them just as a cost of entry — they in term gave each piece of prose new authorship, added to my thoughts on the topic, turned that one thought into 10 or so different content types with the same exact message, and sweetened the job well done with a call-to-action (ebook saying the same thing each blog post unread by the downloader).

      In doing so, Hubspot has kicked your blog’s ass sideways for your own areas of expertise — Brian stuck a Backlinko flag on this and called his discovery “Skyscraper”… added Influencer Marketing to the package AND like my recent article covering the next evolution of this method — covered his ass with some dilligence, rules of what not to do, and ways to NOT say that he’s basically a Judo expert when it comes to SEO.

      Your blog post on this topic has elevated his theory or technique — and your ranking right behind it thanks to his attention to it… has only proven the Skyscraper to be a rule of content marketing law — although I believe he used Link Building as the keyword of the day, just to keep the spiders away.

      Your initial assessment of Brian’s technique in its very opening is all wrong. His post about previously popular content is a COMPLETELY different SEO concept — one Hubspot (speak of the devil) followed right behind him and confirmed they’ve been doing via republishing old content for years — whilst divvying it out to their partner agencies, who aside from maybe yours truly ranking right above or behind them on each of those co-branded resources… were simply left out to pasture, similar to what I’m seeing in your post here.

      NOBODY said ANYTHING about re-using old content from yourself to build a skyscraper… nobody. 

      Well not true — see VideoFruit and Neil Patel rants about republishing to get a full 360-degree view of what you claimed was Brian Dean’s muse for Skyscraper testing. You weren’t even close on this one… 

      To be candid, I stopped reading after a few graphs bc you already had missed the point — no point seeing the results of the race if yours started on a completely different track.

      I recently covered an evolution of Brian’s technique — now tested again across more than a dozen additional niches, clients and partners…as well as my own testing… called the Judo method.

      Since this is stealing from the energy needed to blog about your duff later today, I’ll close with this: “How did Kobe Bryant learn his all-too-famous dribble, shake and drive to the basket technique he’s so known for?”

      He stole technique from Harlem Globetrotter’s Point Guard, became too tall to execute the maneuvers and evolved it. 

      POINT BEING: You started this test or pre-written “Case Study” for all the wrong reasons and with all the wrong starting points. Brian’s techniques aren’t “famous” to anyone good at content marketing or new forms of SEO — they’re simply validation for years of work well done, amigo. 

      Brian, kudos for being the new Christopher Columbus of SEO — keep it up. Even if you didn’t invite the technique or tactic (more common keyword you wisely ducked and dodged) — I love your work, my entire team and I know the methodology, and loved your spin on it. Well done.

      As a followup piece, see the Unfunnel blog later, where you’ll find I’ve taken content topics and ideas from “industry giants” that include Hubspot, DigitalMarketer and Ramit Sethi in 2016 — and now outrank them for their own shit whilst on the way to their conference. 😉

      (see “email subject lines 2017” or 2016, see “blog post ideas” and countless other pieces of prose they fumbled and I picked up running for daylight)

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d4a30a205b84e0b9296e13939649a833d8acc96af38a8b2194915acd28222f2.png

      • Dale

        Get over yourself, seriously.

        Giant response to a 2 year old post and you got a lot wrong, because as you said, you didn’t even read the whole post. Nowhere did I mention re-using old content.

        • While you’ve clearly changed the original text of the post…

          If you haven’t heard of the skyscraper technique, give it a quick skim. The basic idea is to pick popular pages, improve upon them, and then reach out to sites that linked to those lower-quality pages and get them to link to you.”

          …is still pretty much wrong. LOL