Building great content with the skyscraper technique

27 SEP 2017 0

Want to know how the best online marketers get the most out of their content? It's called the "skyscraper technique” and it will change the way you think about your content.

The skyscraper technique is all about building on what is available to stand taller than everyone else. It isn't a trick, or some SEO "hack” that is used to dupe people into clicking on your work. It takes elbow grease and effort to work, but when you do it right, the payoff is worth it.

So what is the skyscraper technique? Well, the first step is -

Find the best performing content in your field:

Why waste your time making guesses about what your audience cares about when you can just know with absolute certainty what works best? That's why you need to seek out the top content in your field and focus on it.

This is way easier to do than you might think. Take a topic you and your potential audience cares about and throw it into Google, then click on the first 10 results. Boom, you've found the best performing content on the subject. Google works by floating the cream of the crop to the top of its results, so you can always use this as a quick and easy way to get a feel for what's out there.

Let's say you want to go a little deeper though. You can always use a content research tool like BuzzSumo to help narrow down your results and provide more insights. BuzzSumo is interesting because it helps to identify top performing keywords and also tracks social shares, something Google doesn't put as much emphasis on. It's also a quasi-free service – you can use the basic nuts and bolts of BuzzSumo for free and get quite a bit of mileage out of them before you're asked to pay for anything. It is also just one example of a content research tool, there are plenty of other options out there as well.

So what do you do with this top content once you've found it? You analyze it.

You want to look at how the top performing content out there right now works. Look at how the posts are formatted, what kind of tone they take, the language they use. Take notes, because you're going to be using this information to polish your own content. Write down the titles and headlines these pieces of content use, record the length of each piece, if there is any accompanying media, what they link to and what kinds of calls to action they may or may not employ.

Looking at the top performing content out there will help you focus your ideas and direct your effort to where it will do the most good. However, it will also help you identify where gaps exist in the current content landscape. You're not just looking at what the best content is doing, you're also looking for ways to improve upon it. Which brings us to our next step.

Make better content:

Okay, this is the part everyone has trouble with and I'll admit fight off the bat that it is a tall order. Simply saying "do better!” is a lot like standing in the audience at a race and yelling "run faster!” I mean, the advice isn't wrong, but it isn't particularly helpful either.

That's why we're not just going to yell "do better” at you, we're going to show you how.

Take all the info you gather on the top 10 pieces of content out there and look for opportunities to supplant them. You're going to need some mental agility here because there are a few ways to go about this and you'll need to use a variety of tools. 

Does the content that is out there already make the most of visuals and other media, or is it all text based? A quick video accompanying an article can do wonders for social shares and is an easy way to immediately gain an advantage if other content producers haven't done so yet. As can infographics and images, is there a clearer, faster way to express the common ideas shared between these articles with an image? 

What about the content itself? How in-depth is it? How practical and actionable? There is lots of top rated content out there that sounds good, but when you step back from it you realize you have no idea how to implement the ideas or strategies discussed. If the theory is good, why not consider a guide or a step-by-step process on how to get started?

Who is making the content? Do you notice that it mostly comes from the same sorts of people with similar roles and experiences inside your industry? Maybe there is opportunity there to come at the material from a fresh angle with a new perspective. 

And of course, be willing to dig deeper. If the research out there for your topic is solid, make yours exhaustive. If the ideas expressed are good, make your great. There isn't any trick to it, you just need to put in the effort.

This is where a lot of people balk. They think "yeah, that's all well and good if you have a marketing team at your beck and call and a budget for things like research, image production, and so on,” and there is some truth to that. If you don't have a ton of resources available, it's going to be hard to produce this kind of content.

That said, one piece of skyscraper content is worth a dozen lukewarm blogs or tepid articles. Divert time and effort from less productive content and channel it towards your skyscraper piece. Rome wasn't build in a day, and neither will your best content.

Even if you run a small business or site, there is a lot of opportunity out there for unique slants, different ideas, and expertly put together packages that combine the best of the top content. Especially if you work in an industry where the content battle isn't as fierce and there isn't as huge of a glut. The happiest discovery you make when working this process is that the top 10 pieces of content in your field aren't that great. That means you can write the content today that people will be studying a year or two from now when they finally catch up.

Once you've made your new, better than the best content, what do you do with it?

Get it out there and shared:

Creating better content might be the hardest part of this process, but the last step is no joke. Now that you've made some truly great content, it needs exposure and backlinks to really take off. So how do you get these links? That's the million dollar question.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the only 100% reliable way to get links is to make great content and keep making it. That said, you can always put your work where it stands the best chance of being picked up.

Share your skyscraper content on your social media platforms and don't be afraid to share it more than once. Skyscraper content is designed to be long living, so the occasional tweet or post linking weeks, and even months after originally posting your content is not out of the question. 

Try posting to different networks, or at least posting a chunk of your content there. Platforms like Medium or Linkedin will allow you to post your content in a more visible and public place. You need to be careful about this since the idea is to get people to your site and ultimately to increase conversions and meet your business needs, but sometimes it can be worth it. You can either include several links leading back to your site, hooks for more articles that are only hosted on your site, or even just a teaser or excerpt of your whole post that entices readers to check out the whole thing on your site.

While it's true that there is an element of luck involved in gathering backlinks, you can tilt the odds in your favor. You might not be able to control where lightning will strike, but you can certainly run out into a field and wave around a metal pole.

The next time you set out to create some content for your site, stop and think about the skyscraper technique. Yes, it is a lot of effort, but the reward is more than worth it.

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