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Building an SEO Content Strategy: Skyscraper Content

Building an SEO content strategy and optimizing for SEO is no easy feat.

And as DigitalMarketer’s SEO Manager, I should know. 🙂

It’s a rapidly changing world, so you have to stay on your toes when it comes to SEO best practices. From Google updates to organic traffic and rankings, there’s a lot for a marketer to think about.

Keyword research is useful, but your content should also be based around keyword topics that resonate with your audience.

But one of the more problematic trends lately has been the superficial attention to SEO. Keyword research is useful, but your content should also be based around keyword topics that resonate with your audience.

For example, our blog post about Customer Value Optimization is a staple for the DigitalMarketer community, yet the keyword “customer value optimization” doesn’t have much search volume…

Screenshot of the Customer Value Optimization blog post

The idea wasn’t necessarily to capture traffic, the idea was to build a piece of content around a topic that we knew would be beneficial to our customers.

We focused on audience intent instead of building content strictly around a keyword of high search volume, and we got a post that really fills a need for our audience.

Which is what this post is all about. We’re going to dive into “skyscraper content,” an SEO content strategy that will help you improve your search rankings. Let’s get right to it!

Building Your SEO Content Strategy

Before you begin building out your SEO content strategy, think to yourself:

  • Are the search results and competition relevant to my industry?
  • Have my customers been asking questions about this specific subject matter?

Questions like these help determine intent and will help you build content that is useful to your customer base, therefore generating more traffic and leads.

When you find a keyword you want to rank for and you’ve done the research around your ideal audience—the next step is to build SEO-friendly content.

That’s where skyscraper content comes in.

This strategy will allow you to determine intent (or need) using search competition. It will also help you determine what you need to do to rank better than your competitors in the search results.

What is Skyscraper Content?

Skyscraper content is a fairly simple concept.

You pick out what keyword you want to rank for and then analyze the search results and find a piece of content that you deem valuable: to your business, to your customer, and to yourself!

Study this piece of content and figure out what’s so great about it, in other words, why is it ranking on the first page of Google? Is it the imagery? Is it the informative content?

Our Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing is a perfect example. Many of our competitors in the search results have “ultimate guides,” but, at the time of writing it, we noticed they weren’t breaking out the content to explore different marketing strategies in depth, and that’s where we saw an opportunity.

Having entire chapters on content marketing, email marketing, and many others is just 1 of the ways that our guide stands out from the pack (not to mention we released it for free).

You build upon your competition… hence the term “skyscraper.”

Whatever content you find, start thinking about ways you can create an even better version of your own. And once you’ve spent the time to create it, you’ll reach out to sites that have linked to your competition and ask for them to link to your content.

You build upon your competition… hence the term “skyscraper.”

The important thing to remember about this model is that you’re NOT stealing a competitor’s content. You’re changing it, improving upon it, and coming up with your own unique ideas that you believe will be even more valuable to your customer.

Let’s walk through the 5-step process of exactly how we can build an SEO content strategy.

SEO Content Strategy Step 1: Determine Your Competition

First thing’s first: Identify your competitors.

If you don’t know who your direct competitors are, there are some really cool tools that will show you which sites show up in your space:

  • SpyFu: This is a useful tool where you can check competitor backlinks, PPC campaigns, and organic rankings all in one place
  • Ahrefs: This is a leading tool for SEO content analysis
  • SEMrush: A fantastic tool for reporting on every aspect of SEO, and it’s also our rank-tracking tool here at DigitalMarketer

These 3 (and many other unlisted options) are on a paid subscription. So test them out and see which one you like best—most of them will provide you with free or discounted trial periods, but in order to dive into the nitty-gritty of your competition, most products will require a budget.

For the purpose of this strategy, we’ll be using SEMrush to determine who your competition is, which keywords to target, and what content to create.

When you enter SEMRush, click on Domain Analytics.

SRMRush menu bar

Using the Domain Overview search bar, enter your own website. I left off “www.” from my second-level domain name specifically so the search would include DigitalMarketer subdomains.

DigitalMarketer domain

Once your page loads, scroll down and click on Competitive Positioning Map.

Competitive positioning map with competitors

This will generate a map and a list of competitors who are ranking for similar terms in Google search results.

From here you will go deeper into your competitors’ content to find what their content is missing.

SEO Content Strategy Step 2: Find Common Keywords

Start clicking through the Common Keywords column.

Common Keywords column in SRMRush

This will provide you with your Keyword Gap analysis. It’s here you’ll be able to see the keywords and determine whether the suggested competitors are relevant to your business or not.

Keyword Gap in SRMRush

As with most SEO tools, you need to keep in mind that this feature is showing rankings for ANY similar keyword in the search results, not necessarily your tracked or relevant keywords. The point is that you should take a comprehensive overview of this competitor data.

Once you feel like you have a good idea of who your competition is in SEMRush, pop over to Google and identify the competitors manually. It’s a great way to double check that what you’re seeing in the search results is the same as what the tool is showing you. Plus, if you’re not ranking for a particular keyword, it’s always good to see who is.

Now for the fun part (even though everything about SEO is fun)!

SEO Content Strategy Step 3: Scope Out the Competition

The third step in your skyscraper strategy is digging into your competitors’ keywords so you can discover topics of interest within your community.

When you have a comprehensive list of competitors (3–10 is a good place to start) you can begin putting individual domains into SEMrush. Head back to Domain Analytics and type in the full domain of your first competitor.

Domain overview

Your report will load and then you want to click over to Organic Position Distribution. It’s here that you’re able to see your competitor’s keywords, and I’d suggest filtering by search volume.

Filter by volume

By filtering, you can build your skyscraper strategy around topics that people are currently searching for.

TIP: Like I said earlier, that’s not to say the lower volume keywords aren’t important, but you also don’t want to invest a large amount of time into a lengthy piece of SEO-friendly content that’s not relevant and only has a few views each month. For this strategy, focusing on pieces with a few more searches means you are in a more competitive space.

I’d aim for at least 100 monthly searches. But it’ll vary based on keywords in your niche.

Once your keywords are filtered, export the list and find a keyword that’s relevant and has decent search volume. Then scan over to the right and see which competitor’s URL is ranking for that keyword. That is how you begin to identify the base of your skyscraper.

Repeat this process with different competitors until you feel that you have a comprehensive list. You should start seeing a trend for the content that’s being created around specific subject areas.

For the Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing, we saw “guides” in bulk, but we also knew that “digital marketing” was an important term for us to rank for. Russ Henneberry discusses this process in even more depth when describing how to build a “Pillar Blog Post.”

SEO Content Strategy Step 4: Identify Gaps in Competitor Content

Ideally, you’ll be able to group together your high-volume, high-value competitor content and get a good picture of what is missing and the gaps that your content can fill.

What exactly could you do to make it better?

This will determine what’s on the docket for your new SEO content strategy.

Look at where your competitors are ranking for this content. Are they below the fold on Page 1 of Google? Are they on Page 2? If they are, it makes your job easy. Look for reasons that they’re not in the first 5 positions.

You can do that using the quick checklist below. These are some ranking factors to look for:

  • Is the target keyword in the title tag, URL, headline, and used freely (and logically) throughout the body content?
  • Are there internal links throughout the content that relate to the subject matter?
  • What does the backlink profile look like?
    • Use Majestic and find out if relevant sites are linking to this content.
  • What do the backend tags look like?
    • Do they have a meta description, language parameters, and canonical tags in place?
  • Is the page load speed slow?
  • Is the page visually appealing or is it dull with no breaks in content?
  • Is there any call to action or tripwire within the content?
  • If video is incorporated, is a transcript included?
  • How long is the content? Is it too long? Too short? Not enough information?
  • Is the content engaging? Does it hold your interest throughout the entire piece?

Document these weak areas and record them for each piece of content that you’re hoping to recreate.

This will allow you to better understand what needs to change and how you need to structure your own version of this content. It may also clue you in on what format you want to use for your content: podcast, video, blog post, case study, whitepaper, etc.

SEO Content Strategy Step 5: Build Your Sturdy Skyscraper

From here, you just need to dig in and start building super amazing content.

You can outsource the creation or build it in-house, but once it’s complete, you’ll want to give it a full overview and go through the list of ranking factors above before publishing it on your site.

(RELATED: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy)

Now What? Keep Going!

But, even then, your work isn’t done!

While you’re waiting for it to start ranking, there are still things you can be working on:

  • Start on outreach to build backlinks. Part of this strategy is to reach out to the relevant backlinks that are linking to your competitors and ask them to link to you. The idea is that if they liked your competition, then they’re going to love what you have to say, especially since you just improved upon the concept.
  • Share your content! Through email campaigns, social media, and links within your blog, you can start driving traffic from different channels while you wait for organic traffic to ramp up.
  • Track your ranking. Pick a tool where you can monitor important keywords. Having a dedicated report or platform where you can see progress is extremely important when measuring success.
  • And most importantly, keep building fresh content! More than likely, one piece of content can’t support the integrity and reputation of your entire brand. Building authority (especially within Google) takes time, and it also takes a constant stream of fresh content. Reading a news story from 6 months ago usually isn’t relevant, and most of the time, marketing content isn’t relevant after a few months either. Be sure to keep your content fresh and updated.

Overall, building SEO-friendly content will be extremely beneficial to your business if you have a proper strategy behind it.

One final tip, don’t skip the research.

If you don’t do the research, you could be targeting an audience that’s disinterested, and if that’s the case, there will be no organic traffic benefits. Conduct your research thoroughly and find competitors in your industry that are ranking (relevantly) in the search results.

From there, decide how the build it better and start stacking your skyscraper!

Amanda Powell

Amanda Powell

Amanda is the Director of Marketing at DigitalMarketer, where she helps drive the mission to double the size of 10,000 businesses. She’s lived and worked in Austin for the last six years, implementing marketing and content strategies for local businesses and large software companies alike. With a background in journalism, she's focused on helping professionals grow themselves and their businesses by asking the right questions and launching the right campaigns.

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