Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days

Skyscraper Technique Here’s the brutal truth about link building:

There are WAY too many people in internet marketing today that think “great content” is enough.

They say, “if I publish great stuff, people will naturally link to me”.

If only it were that easy…

If you’re serious about generating high quality links, you need to be very systematic with how you create and promote your content.

Otherwise you’re taking the “cooked spaghetti approach”: throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall and hoping something sticks.

Well today I’m going to show you a technique that almost guarantees that you get high quality links from every piece of content that you publish.

Get More Traffic This Month: Get access to a free downloadable PDF checklist that will show you how to get higher rankings with The Skyscraper Technique.

Keep reading to learn how…

The Skyscraper Technique: (Content Marketing for Link Builders)

On April 18th I published  Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List.

After executing “The Skyscraper Technique“, the number of backlinks to that page shot up like a rocket:

Referring Domains Ahrefs

More importantly, organic search traffic to my entire site — not just that post — doubled in just 14 days:

Organic Search Traffic

As a nice bonus, that single post has driven more than 27,000 referral visitors to my site so far.

referral traffic google analytics

The best part?

You can do the same thing for your site…even if you don’t have a Fortune 500 marketing budget or connections with influential bloggers. 

The 3-Steps to Using “The Skyscraper Technique” To Get Quality Links and Targeted Traffic

There are 3 basic steps to The Skyscraper Technique:

Step 1: Find link-worthy content

Step 2: Make something even better

Step 3: Reach out to the right people

Here’s why this technique works so well (and what it has to do with a skyscraper):

Have you ever walked by a really tall building and said to yourself:

“Wow, that’s amazing! I wonder how big the 8th tallest building in the world is.”

Of course not.

It’s human nature to be attracted to the best.

And what you’re doing here is finding the tallest “skyscraper” in your space…and slapping 20 stories to the top of it.

All of a sudden YOU have the content that everyone wants to talk about (and link to).

Step #1: Find Proven Linkable Assets

A linkable asset is the foundation of any successful link-focused content marketing campaign (including this one).

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “Linkable Asset”, but it’s the perfect description of what you want to create: a high-value page that you can leverage for links over and over again.

Keep in mind that linkable asset is not “12 Things Spider Man Taught Me About Social Media Marketing” link bait nonsense.

It’s content so awesome, so incredible, and so useful that people can’t help but login to their WordPress dashboard and add a link to your site.

But how do you know if your linkable asset is going to be a huge success…or a total flop?

That’s easy: find content that’s already generated a ton of links.

Here’s how:

OSE Top Pages

One of the fastest ways to find content with a track record of attracting quality links is to use Open Site Explorer.

1. First, find a site that tends to generate tons of links from their content. Put their site into OSE:

open site explorer search

2. Click on the “Top Pages” button:

ose top pages

3. And look for content with at least 25 linking root domains:

ose linking root domains


Topsy is an awesome site that can help you find heavily shared content in your niche.

1. First, enter a keyword related to your niche:

topsy search

2.  Choose “All Time”:

topsy all time

3.  And you’ll have a solid list of proven, highly-shared pieces content:

topsy results

Google Search

Another strategy is to look for articles that already rank for competitive keywords.

If they’re ranking for tough terms then they probably have a lot of links pointing at them:

google search results

Just pop each of these into your link analysis tool of choice and see which ones have links from at least 25 referring domains.

In my case, I stumbled upon a few people that had tried (and failed) to compile all of Google’s 200 ranking factors.

These articles earned hundreds of high quality links…even though they fell short of the 200 mark.

For example, here’s the link profile for the page that was ranking #1 for “Google Ranking Factors”:

ahrefs link analysis

When I saw that articles that didn’t even list all 200 ranking factors generated links like this, I realized I that had a golden opportunity sitting in my lap.

Which brings us to step 2…

Step #2: Make Something Even Better

Your next step is to take what’s out there and blow it out of the water.

Here’s how you can take existing content to the next level:

Make It Longer

In some cases, publishing an article that’s simply longer or includes more items
will do the trick.

If you find a link magnet with a title like “50 Healthy Snack Ideas”, publish a list of 150 (or even 500).

In my case,  I decided to list all 200 ranking factors…or die trying.

The first 50 were a breeze. 50-100 were really hard. 100-150 were really, really hard. And 150-200 were damn near impossible.

It took 10 gallons of coffee and 20-hours of sitting in front of my laptop (don’t worry, I took bathroom breaks)…

…but in the end, I had something that was clearly better than anything else out there.

More Up-To-Date

If you can take an out of date piece of content and spruce it up, you’ve got yourself a winner.

For example, most of the other ranking factor lists were sorely outdated and lacked important ranking factors, like social signals:

Outdated Content

If you find something with old information, create something that covers many of the same points…but update it with cutting-edge content.

Better Designed

Sometimes, a visually stunning piece of content can generate a lot more links and social shares than something similar on an ugly page.

Just check out Help Scout’s Customer Acquisition Strategies for Entrepreneurs:

Content Curation

This guide is a curated list of links to other internet marketing sites.

And the page has generated a lot of buzz because it’s beautifully designed.

For my guide, I added a nice banner at the top:

custom banner

More Thorough

Most lists posts are just a bland list of bullet points without any meaty content that people can actually use.

But if you add a bit of depth for each item on your list, you have yourself a list post that’s MUCH more valuable.

In my case I noticed that the other ranking factor lists lacked references and detail:

Low DetailSo I made sure each and every point on my list had a brief description (with a reference):

ranking factors post

Important Note: I recommend that you beat the existing content on every level: length, design, current information etc.

This will make it objectively clear that YOU have the better piece of content.

Which is really important when you start getting the word out…

Step #3: Reach Out to The Right People

Email outreach is the linchpin of the Skyscraper Technique.

It’s similar to straight up link begging, but with a VERY important twist.

Instead of emailing random people, you’re reaching out to site owners that have already linked out to similar content.

When you qualify prospects like this, you know that:

1. They run a site in your niche.

2. They’re interested in your topic.

3. They’ve already linked to an article on that topic.

Now it’s just a matter of giving them a friendly heads up about your clearly superior content.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Use to export all of the links pointing to your competitor’s content into a spreadsheet. Tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer will also work.

ahrefs export

2. Weed out referring pages that don’t make sense to contact (forums, article directories etc.).  In my case, after cleaning up the list, I had 160 very solid prospects to reach out to.

3. I emailed all 160 of them using this template:

skyscraper technique outreach template

Even I was shocked at the overwhelmingly positive response:

Email Response

Out of 160 emails I landed 17 links: an 11% success rate.

Considering that these were cold emails that asked for a link in the first email, an 11% success rate is pretty amazing.

You may be thinking, “17 links, that’s it?”.

But remember it’s about quality, not quantity.

There were a lot of gems in that group of 17 links, including a link from a DMOZ listed site on a PR5 page.

Besides, just look at the meteoric rise in organic traffic that those 17 links got me (in a very short time period, no less).

Obviously there were a few links to that page that came organically, but some of the best were from The Skyscraper Technique.

Now You Try It

I hope you can see the potential of The Skyscraper Technique for your site and your business.

Yes, it takes hard work to create something great.

But with this strategy you already know ahead of time that your hard work is going to pay off (unlike pumping out reams of content hoping that something goes viral).

Ready to get started?

Click the link below and enter your email to get access to the PDF Skyscraper Technique checklist.

Skyscraper Technique Checklist

  • Glen

    Hey Brian,

    This is awesome content mate, thank-you. I love anything case studyish, especially when it’s start to finish and you’ve done a really high quality job. Appreciate the insights.


    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure, Glen. :-) Let me know how it works for you.

  • Danny Howard

    Hey Brian,
    Great Post, really great strategy… I think Reaching Out to The Right People is the hardest hurdle when promoting your content whether is great or astounding content if no can see or read it, then your kinda at a loose end regarding authority and brand awareness not to mention high quality links.



    • Brian Dean

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed the post, Danny. You’re right: finding the right people to contact is really hard. That’s what I like about this strategy: you’re targeting people who are very likely to link to your content (because they’ve already linked to similar stuff in the past). That makes it easy to get the word out…even if you don’t already have a following.

  • Ashley Faulkes

    Hey Brian, nicely done and written.
    I also noticed since I started blogging recently that people rehash old ideas but add nothing. But I had not made the leap that you made, or at least not a leap of THAT size!! Fantastic idea. It is going on my list of things I need to do as a new blogger to try to get at least a trickle of traffic :>

    Will start following your blog!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks, Ashley! This is a great way to drive links and traffic to your new blog. Let me know if you have any questions about the process.

  • Chetan

    Once again, a fabulous post.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Chetan! I aim to please :-)

  • Josh Taylor

    Cool idea. But why do you have “link-building” as a topic for examples? I guess that would make this a link-building article for link-builders about link-building in the niche of link-building from link-building sites who also link to a link-building article, which gets a whole lot of links.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks, Josh. To answer your question: I guess I’m a bit obsessed with the subject. But the technique can be effective in any niche (like guitar lessons) :-).

      • Josh Taylor

        You’re awesome Brian. I’ll have to try it out.

        • Brian Dean

          Let me know how it works for you, Josh!

      • Jason Bedunah

        Hi Brian,
        You mention using this in a niche but a lot of the details don’t seem to work for niches. For example, you mentioned having 100 linking root domains in OSE’s Top Pages but in a niche they aren’t likely to have that much.
        My niche is marketing specifically for software companies and while I LOVE this article because it can help me with clients, I’m not seeing how it translates well for niches. Do you have a version for niches? Or, how would you modify to get significant traffic for smaller niches?

        • Brian Dean

          Jason, that’s true. In the case of smaller niches you’ll need to go a bit lower with some of the numbers. Don’t let the details stop you from trying it out. I’ve seen The Skyscraper Technique work in some WEIRD niches.

          • Jace

            Hi Brian,
            I’m finding some of the same issues as Jason. Top companies in our industry have only 10-15 linking root domains for their subpages. Additionally, when looking at heavily shared content within the industry (via Topsy), it appears that no one is getting many social shares, even for companies that have been in business for 15-30 years. At most they seem to be a couple hundred shares.
            So when I look at this data, I’m not sure how to interpret it. Is it that competitors aren’t sharing good content, is it that people aren’t interested in what is being shared or is the target audience not being reached? I tend to feel that the competitors are on top of search pages because they have tens of thousands of links to their root domains, so don’t need to worry about publishing new, sharable content. So the idea of finding already popular content is great, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a precedent directly related to our niche.

  • carl

    Brian, I love this post and i can see lots of scope with this concept that you have shared. I will give it a try.
    thanks again. Question if you dont mind me asking, do you have space for advert on your sites? also can you share the link to the site you used for example on this post.

  • Andrii

    Been away for a while. Glad to see you still publish quality content!
    Good job!

    • Brian Dean

      Glad to have you back, Andrii!

  • Venchito Tampon

    Hey Brian,
    Thanks for sharing it. I’ll definitely try this link building strategy. You’ve given us proofs and I think it is a truly link magnet for one’s site. Cool!

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked the post, Venchito. Send me an email if you have any questions.

  • Andrew Blachut

    I like the way you reverse engineer the task of getting links and the skyscraper method looks very sound indeed. I would be interested if you ever turn it into a product or service because even though I love the theory I’m not certain I’m cut out to action it…even though your explanation is thorough. Running my business 12 hours a day 7 days a week leaves little time so outsourcing is critical for me these days.
    Andrew – Australia

    • Brian Dean

      Glad to hear that you like the post. But you’re right: this does take quite a bit of time to implement. It’s possible to outsource each step (finding content that’s already linked to, creating the linkable asset, and email outreach) if you’re busy.

      • Ayah

        Hi Brian,
        You’re right it does require time but I did manage to create my content. It’s in the finance field so I hired a technical finance writer after I did the draft to clean it up to meet industry standards and to make it better than my competitors.

        However, i do have a question. Do you have to manually get the emails after downloading the links or are they included in the report? I used OSE to download the inbound links and I’m stuck. Was just wondering because i assumed the emails would be included…:)

        • Brian Dean

          Ayah, you have to manually find the emails.

  • Liz Hancock

    Thanks for the information on OSE and the top linking pages technique. Just another way to perform valuable competitor research!

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked the OSE top pages tip, Liz :-)

  • Anisul @ seo-genius

    Hey Brian, Well put Man! What other tools you recommed other than topsy? I did some quick search on my niche and didn’t really find any existing quality articles . Link building is a broad niche so what do you suggest for other smaller niches where there is little scope of creating awesome contents? Especially if i am in a niche where I know very little about that niche :)

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you liked it Anisul. If you can’t find anything in Topsy, you may want to search in Google for keywords in your niche. If that work you may want to broaden your niche a bit. For example, if you were in the carpeting niche you could look for articles in the home improvement, home decor, or DIY organization niches.

  • Virgil S

    You hit the nail right on the head, I don’t have a Fortune 500 marketing budget or connections but I do have time to work on your approach, thanks. Also have been looking over your Google’s 200 Ranking Factors looks good so far, but let me get to work on these links first.

    • Brian Dean

      Sounds good, Virgil! Send me an email if you run into any problems.

  • Brianna Wills

    Hi Brian Dean, ( i am little weak in english language, so please dear with me) you have published a great stuff with case-study.. After ready your post, i feel that you are a perfect person to ask this question.. This question is related to link building method… i am doing seo for web development company and website has more than 2lac backlinks, majority of backlinks come from social bookmarking, article and press release submission.. in this recent penguin 2.0 update, i lost my ranking on majority of keywords.. Could you please tell me what strategy should i implement to recover my keywords?

    • Brian Dean

      I’d start a fresh campaign that mixes in a bunch of powerful strategies, like Funnel Links, broken link building, infographics etc.

  • Robin

    I was there at QuickSprout and found you to get valuable helps for solving my link building doubts and my goodness that latest case study is solving one of my biggest doubt that why and how people would link to a quality content.

    • Brian Dean

      Glad I could help you out, Robin. Contrary to what many SEOs say, people DO link to quality content: you just need to know who to ask and how to ask them.

  • Sita Gabriel

    Hi Brian,

    I really love your approach. I’ll try this method and hopefully I’ll get some high quality links pointing to my blog.

    • Brian Dean

      Definitely try it out, Sita. It takes work, but the payoff is huge.

  • mike schwarz

    @brian, would like to make the list in german as well the infographic for all german speaking seo people. i will refer for your to your site… would that be okey for you?

    • Brian Dean

      Sounds good to me, Mike.

  • Christopher Hofman

    Hi Brian, great article. I did something similar some weeks ago, doing a top 25 of most expensive dimain names, as the lists out there were not updated. You gave me the idea to extend it to a top 50 and contact site owners. Thanks for the inspiration,

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks, Christopher! Yup: 50 should do better than 25. In general, the longer the list the more links and shares it gets :-)

      • Louisa

        Totally agree, but have you ever thought about a way to automate all those emails?

        It takes a lot of time to send out 160+ emails, so I was wondering if you knew of a tool that could do it?


  • Ed Yang

    Once again you prove that your blog is one of the top SEO blogs around. Fabulous work Brian!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for your support (as always), Ed!

    • Dushyant

      Yeah that’s true i’m glued with each and every posts that Brian creates,Keep up the good work.

      • Bryan

        New to the site, thanks for the article Brian… I need to set my priorities straight! Been doing this for a long time but never once had any form of decent traffic on any of my website.


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