White Hat SEO Case Study: 348% More Organic Traffic in 7 Days

I need to get this off my chest: Increase Traffic

Despite what you may have heard, there’s A LOT more to white hat SEO than “posting great content.”

Sure, awesome content makes link building easier…

…but it’s just the first step.

I never told you this, but my first site was in the weight loss niche. And my entire SEO strategy for that site was to post great content and let the links roll in.

Needless to say, the “post and pray” approach didn’t work out very well for me.

I learned the hard way that if you really want to rank, you need to get out there and build links.

That’s why I want to show you how one blogger used The Skyscraper Technique to build authority links to his site…and tripled his organic search engine traffic in less than a week.

“Wait…What’s the Skyscraper Technique?”

I actually posted the entire step-by-step system in this post: Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days:

Skyscraper Technique

Here’s the short and sweet version:

1. Find content with a proven track record of generating backlinks and social shares

2. Make that content better

3. Reach out to people to let them know about your new resource

You’re probably thinking: “that’s so simple.”

And you’re right: it’s not complicated (that’s the beauty of it :-) )

But it works REALLY well.

And today I’m going to show you how one Backlinko reader used this system to increase his organic search traffic by more than 300% in just 7 days.

Google Analytics Traffic

Here’s How Richard Marriot Used White Hat SEO to Skyrocket His Search Engine Traffic

Your first step is to find content that’s done well in your niche…and make something way better.

That’s exactly what Richard Marriot did with his expert roundup post, 55 SEO Experts Reveal 3 Favorite Link Building Tools:

Link Building Tools Blog Post Screenshot

As an SEO newbie, Richard wanted to know which white hat SEO tools the experts used (in other words, not automated spammy black hat SEO tools).

There was only one problem:

He couldn’t find that information anywhere.

And when he did find an article that covered SEO or link building tools, they tended to be overwhelming lists like: “100 SEO Tools You Need to Try”.

Most people would have thrown their hands in the air and given up…

But because Richard knew about the Skyscraper Technique, he realized that he had a HUGE opportunity staring him in the face.

So what did he do?

He created an outstanding resource that blew what was already out there out of the water…AND hustled hard to promote it.

And now his post is sitting pretty at #1 spot for the keyword “link building tools”, ranking above heavyweights like SEO Book and Search Engine Land:

Google First Result

But that’s not all…

As you can see from this screenshot, the post skyrocketed Richard’s traffic overnight:

Traffic Spike

To date, Richard’s guide has landed him a total of 3,600 visitors from social media, blogs, and forums:

Analytics Referral Traffic

3,600 visitors is a lot of traffic no matter who you are.

But in Richard’s case, these 3,600 visitors were more than he got to his site over the last 4 months combined!

So if you’re looking for a way to jump start your site’s sagging traffic numbers — stop posting 3 times per week — and publish an epic piece of content that really stands out.

But Wait, There’s More…

Instead of patting himself on the back about what a great job he did, Richard leveraged his linkable asset into even more high quality backlinks.

How?

He emailed hundreds of people to let them know about his new resource.

The result?

A massive increase in the number of referring domains pointing to his site:

Referring Domains

Including links from:

  • SearchEngineLand.com (DA92)
  • A PR2 resource page
  • A PR6 digital marketing firm blog

Here’s How You Can Do The Same Thing For Your Site

You’re probably thinking:

“That’s great for Richard, but how can I get the same results for my site?”

I’m glad you asked…

Because now it’s time to break this down into the exact steps you can follow to get a surge of traffic and backlinks for your site.

Step 1: Find the Content Gap In Your Niche

If you want people to link to your content, you NEED to bring something new to the table.

And no matter what niche you’re in, there’s content out there that’s lacking in some way.

If you can swoop in and fill that gap with amazing stuff, you have a linkable asset that you can leverage for high quality backlinks over and over (and over) again.

In Richard’s case, he just looked at the top 10 in Google for keywords like “SEO tools”, “white hat SEO tools” and “link building tools”:

SEO ToolsAnd he noticed that they didn’t answer the fundamental question: “Which SEO tools should I use?”

That’s when he decided to create something that did answer that question.

Step #2: Fill The Gap With Incredible Content

Finding content that could use a paint job is easy enough…

But taking that content and making it better takes a lot of work.

If you’re willing to put in the hours to publish something special, your competition won’t stand a chance.

To give his content the edge it needed to stand out, Richard decided to publish an expert roundup.

Even though he didn’t have any connections and only a few followers on Twitter, he was able to get contributions from ballers like Neil Patel, Anne Smarty, Gregory Ciotti, and Paddy Moogan:

White Hat SEO Experts

He also asked me :-)

In total, he emailed 115 influential people in the SEO space…and got 47 replies (that’s a 41% conversion rate).

How did he get so many busy people to respond?

1. His Outreach Email Was Short and Sweet: It’s almost impossible to make your outreach emails too short. The email script he sent out to the experts was only 67 words:

Email Outreach Script

As you can see, this script is straight to the point with zero fluff.

2. He Was Persistent: Richard followed up with the people that didn’t get back to him the first time around. For those that still didn’t reply, he sent them another email.

And if they still didn’t reply, he hit them up on Twitter:

Twitter Outreach

3. He Hustled to Get the Word Out: After the post went live, he emailed his list of experts again. This time, he gave them a heads up that the post was live. He also gently encouraged them to share his post with their followers.

And share they did.

The post has a ridiculous amount of social shares, including almost 2000 Facebook likes:

Social Shares

Did this take a lot more work than publishing something lame like: “5 Tips for Finding a Link Building Tool”?

Yes.

But that’s one of the main reasons that it’s performed so well:

It’s the best resource on link building tools on the internet. So it deserves to be #1.

That’s the type of content you need to publish: world class stuff that makes your competition look silly.

Because when you have content like that, link building is MUCH easier.

Which brings us to step 3…

 Step #3: Tell The World About Your Amazing Resource

You can publish amazing stuff all day long…

…but if no one reads it, you’re wasting your time.

That’s why the most important part of white hat SEO isn’t publishing great stuff…it’s promoting it.

Richard actually did a lot of outreach just to put his expert roundup together (remember, he emailed over 115 white hat SEO experts).

And that landed him a handful of decent links.

But to get the most out of his content, Richard knew that he had pound the pavement with an email outreach campaign.

At first, Richard tried straight up link begging…

…but that didn’t land him a single link.

Then he tried broken link building.

That took him from a 0% conversion rate…to more than 10%.

He went the extra mile with his first batch of emails by sending personalized images:

Image Heavy Email

This creative email got him a decent response rate (and a link on a PR2 page).

There was only one problem:

It took WAY too much time to personalize each email (more than 10 minutes per email).

That’s when he shifted gears and went with a short and sweet email instead:

Broken Link Building Outreach Email

That email had a similar response rate, but took 10x less time to personalize and send out.

I’ve personally found that with any outreach — but especially broken link building — you should start off with a VERY brief email. That first email tells you whether or not the site owner actually checks their email and updates their site.

Once you get a response, you can impress them with a very detailed and personalized follow up email :-)

And that’s exactly what Richard did with his followup script:

Broken Link Followup EmailHe was rewarded with a handful of high quality backlinks:

Broken Link Success

Here’s What to Do Next…

If you enjoyed this SEO case study, I want you do one thing:

Use it.

Whether you have a site about baking, bodybuilding, or bird cages…The Skyscraper Technique works.

And I REALLY want to see you succeed.

In fact, that’s why I created Backlinko: to give you actionable strategies that you can use to get more search engine traffic.

But for these techniques to work, you need to put them into practice.

Deal?

Cool.

Before you get started on your Skyscraper content, leave a comment below right now. Let me know how you plan on using the technique or if you have a question.

{ 374 comments }
  • Nathan @ Gotch SEO

    Dannnng Richard is PERSISTENT. But in all seriousness, I really liked that he refined his outreach technique to be more efficient and the fact that he actually saw far better results.

    Nice work Richard and thanks for the write-up Brian!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      I know, right? But that’s what it takes to grab the attention of the ballers in any industry. Thanks for reading, Nathan :-)

      Reply
    • Richard Marriott

      Thanks Nathan! It was a huge relief to discover that short, snappy emails worked better!

      Reply
  • Brian Clapp

    Brian – great article and I already have an idea I can execute this technique on… but I have one question – how do you discover broken links on other sites that are relevant to your article? If you’ve written on this in the past, can you point me toward the resource?
    all the best,
    Brian Clapp
    Director of Content
    WorkinEntertainment.com

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Glad you enjoyed it, Brian. That’s a great question. I actually use a Chrome extension called Check My Links. It finds all the broken links on a page VERY quickly. To help automate the process of finding pages and checking for broken links, I’ve also used the (paid) tool at BrokenLinkBuilding.com, which I really like.

      Reply
      • Joe

        I’m sure you’ve heard of it Brian, but the Domain Hunter Chrome extension is another great tool.

        Reply
        • Brian Dean

          Thanks Joe. I have tried their tool and REALLY like it. I just prefer Check My Links because I found that it works a bit faster. But you’re right: that’s another great tool to use.

          Reply
          • Brian Clapp

            thanks for the responses guys, i will look into these tools – appreciate the help

          • Kendal

            Hi! Can’t wait to try out Check My Links, thanks for that. :-) But I’m also wondering how to find dead websites or pages that had something to do with your website or page? For me… I’ve been trying to get traffic from people looking for employment in the UK or information on the JobCentre but I haven’t had luck yet finding broken links on pages that I think would want to link to my site. But I like the idea, and will keep trying! Could use some suggestions though.

          • Brian Dean

            Kendal, if a page is relevant to your sites, so are the outbound links. So I’d just keep plugging away at UK career info pages.

  • Insia Quotesworth

    This is really inspiring to see. That extra effort is nothing but the time it takes to write 2 unsuccessful posts. Might as well take that extra time and make a superb post. It definitely is well worth the investment in terms of time and effort. Nice write up and pictures.

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Insia. That’s really well said: it actually takes less time to make one epic post than 2 mediocre ones. Great comment!

      Reply
      • Chris Huntley

        Hey Brian,
        LOL, did you see the url for the commenter above “Insia Quotesworth”. That’s a clever way to sort of get your keywords into your name, pointing to inspirationalquotes dot ca. LOL

        Reply
        • Brian Dean

          Wow, that totally went under my radar. Props to Insia :-)

          Reply
  • Adam Roseland

    Great post. Looking forward to SEO That Works!! Tried to sign up and find out when it launched and the realized I was already on the list! NICE!!!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Adam! I can’t wait to get the course out to everyone. And I’ll definitely have to stop by for another podcast session in a few weeks :-)

      Reply
  • Kathy Long

    Great stuff as usual, Brian, but he missed my favorite SEO tool. It’s called Brian Dean.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Kathy! That means a lot to hear :-)

      Reply
  • Peter Kanayo

    Damn Brian, You rock like mad, this is simple to implement though it requires a huge amount of energy. But it’s worth the effort. Signing up for your article is really worth it. I give you a thumbs up.

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Peter! You’re 100% right: it’s simple but not easy. Let me know if you give it a try.

      Reply
  • Richard Marriott

    Hey Brian, thank you so much for doing this case study and for all your guidance over the last couple of weeks :) The Skyscraper technique is earth shatteringly powerful! I can’t recommend it enough and will continue using it for many future posts.

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure, Richard. Glad to see that the technique worked out so well for your site.

      Reply
  • Brad

    Very detailed article. I especially like the sample emails. I’d be interested to see the email which ‘gently encourages them to share’.

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for reading, Brad. I’ll see if Richard will send me that email template (even though it didn’t work especially well in his case).

      Reply
      • Brad

        In that case, I’d be interested in knowing what you’d suggest for copy to get the best possible success rate.

        Reply
        • Brian Dean

          For straight up link begging, I’ve found that something simple and straightforward works. My script is something like: “I found your list of resources. I also have a good one. It’d be great if you could add mine to the list”. There are a few tricks to make it more effective, but that’s the basic gist.

          Reply
  • Rob Jenkins

    I was wondering how you could apply the same type of method with local businesses. For instance a hotel, most have a corporate face where you cannot exactly email the web guy or whatever seo firm is in charge of their social marketing

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Good question, Rob. This can definitely work for local businesses. But you’re right: it takes a slightly different approach. One of the hardest parts of doing outreach for brick and mortar business or large sites is finding the right person to get in touch with. If you dig deep you can usually find the right email address somewhere on the site. If not, I recommend using the general “contact us” page and asking them to forward your message to the right person.

      Reply
  • Adam Dukes

    Excellent case study, Brian/Richard. I have bee blogging for a few years and just recently found out how important promotion really is. Like Derek Halpern says, “20% of your time should be focused on writing and 80% should be focused on promotion”.

    Richard obviously spent a ton of time on this one post, but it should work FOR him for the long time. Well done, Richard! Way to take action and as always, thanks for the tips, Brian!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for reading, Adam. I 100% agree with Derek’s take on blog growth. I’d even go as far to say — especially when you’re first starting out — that you may even want to spend 90%+ of your time promoting the content you already have.

      Reply
    • Richard Marriott

      Cheers Adam! It was indeed an incredibly time consuming process and I lost a lot of sleep over it, but in the end it was totally worth it :)

      Reply
  • Jay

    Old school beating the pavement and finding content holes! Great read. I plan on trying to do the same for my niche which is selling niche websites based on Adsense monetization. I can see the hardest part is going to be the initial outreach, luckily I can use the short and sweet approach you posted with a little modification to suit my topic. This will be interesting to see how it goes. As always, great post bro, keep em coming.
    -Jay

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Absolutely, Jay: this is the type of SEO people were doing back in the 90s. And as you can see, it still works well today! Let me know how the technique works out for your site.

      Reply
  • Ryan Cote

    Another great post Brian – thanks for pointing me to Richard’s post which is also very insightful. The lesson is simple – write epic content and then tell people about it. Good luck with your SEO That Works course – I’ll be buying it!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Ryan! That’s a great takeaway message from this case study: write epic content and tell people about it.

      Reply
    • J.G.

      I agree, good content will practically share itself, with a little nudge.

      Reply
  • Lilia

    Hi Brian, I typically love your advice and posts, but there were 2 things about this post that didn’t thrill me:
    1. All those 100-300% improvements look good in a headline, but they are quite dependent on working with super low traffic to begin with – a few hundred visits! Of course the technique works, but it will not produce the same % lift for sites with traffic in 5-6 digits. Need to set realistic expectations.
    2. I read about the skyscraper technique on QuickSprout blog by Neil Patel about a month ago – you and him applied the same technique while writing about it and the outcome is – the content isn’t unique!

    Thank you for all the advice. If you think getting 200% traffic lift in less than 6 months is possible for a content rich (200K indexed pages in Google) site with 100K+ visits a month, please contact me for a lucrative consulting gig :-)

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for your feedback, Lilia.

      You’re totally right: that kind of dramatic change isn’t possible for a site already getting traffic. But as you said, it can still give them a significant boost.

      Yes, Neil and I covered The Skyscraper Technique in our Advanced Guide to Link Building. But I thought it’d be cool to show people a real life example of the strategy in action :-)

      Reply
  • SEOnutshell

    Subbed to your newsletter :P This is pretty awesome thanks for it. Im probably going to try it but il need to spend a few days creating some wonder content :) Can you answer me this? hen emailing the people to share your stuff, whats the line between harassment and persistence :P) hahaha

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Glad to hear that! It’s definitely a fine line. I usually just send one email and then (occasionally) send a follow-up if I don’t hear from them.

      Reply
  • Gabriel

    I think it work because is about seo – so everyone want to know more info. Hmm how about surveillance camera niche? Will this tehnique work? Let me think… No? I guess!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for your comment, Gabriel. You’re right: this works really well in the SEO niche. But it can work in almost every niche. Every niche has content that’s performed well and could use an update or improvement.

      Reply
  • Nathan

    Extremely smart way of generating compelling content, obtaining high quality links and helping to establish both yourself and your website as an authority source!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Nathan!

      Reply
  • James

    Thanks for this. Please could you explain how to use “Check My Links” more. Just say for instance that I have a great article that I want to promote and I am looking to do this by suggesting it as a replacement for a broken link (as described in your article above.) How do I find relevant web pages that might have relevant (but broken) links? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Glen

      Have a read of the broken link building bible on the Moz blog James, it’s awesome!
      http://moz.com/blog/the-broken-link-building-bible

      Reply
    • Brian Dean

      Sure thing, James. That’s actually the hardest part of broken link building. One way is to find resource pages in your niche (because they tend to have a lot of links and therefore are more likely to have a few broken ones). When you find one, run Check My Links on it.
      Another strategy is to take a site in your niche and run it through brokenlinkcheck.com. That will show you all of the broken links on a site without having to use Check My Links.

      Reply
      • James

        Cheers, Glen & Brian. Very, very helpful

        Reply
  • Robert

    Fantastic results with such a simple technique. Thanks for the post Brian!

    Reply
    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure, Robert! Thanks for reading.

      Reply

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Brian Dean is the founder of Backlinko, the training hub for digital marketing professionals with over 60,000 monthly readers and a popular email newsletter. Continue reading