Revisiting 10x Content and the Skyscraper Technique in 2020
Everyone wants to know how to create great content. You want the secrets that will push you from publishing things that are good enough to developing 10x content that drives results.
But marketers have stretched the concept of 10x content thin over the years.
Since Rand Fishkin coined the term in 2015, 10x content has become another marketing buzzword. One that sounds great in theory but seems more like an idealistic myth.
Whether you’re talking about creating 10x content (or its close cousin, skyscraper content) the goal is simple—to write something your audience can’t resist.
The problem is that a lot has changed in the four or five years since 10x content and skyscraper content came into our lives. How do you break through and create truly great content in 2020?
Will Skyscraper and 10x Content Work?
It’s never been more difficult to create great content that cuts through all the digital noise. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s bound to be a glut of content available to your prospects and customers.
But it’s not as if that wasn’t the case back in 2015 and 2016 when Rand Fishkin and Brian Dean came up with 10x content and the skyscraper technique, respectively.
At the time, those two saw the writing on the wall. They knew that “good enough” was no longer sufficient for content marketers.
Both saw that the average blog post had little to no chance of overtaking high-ranking content from some of the world’s most authoritative websites. Both saw that the only way to earn those rankings was to create content that earned more backlinks and social shares than those existing pages.
The only way to do that? Write your own content that’s even better than what’s out there now.
Does the advice still hold up in 2020? Let’s look at each approach separately.
Revisiting the Criteria for 10x Content
If the buzz around the 10x content idea has clouded your understanding at all, here’s a refresher on what it really means:
“Because of content saturation, content overload, the idea that there’s just so much in our streams and standing out is so hard, we can’t just say, ‘Hey, I want to be as good as the top 10 people in the search results for this particular keyword term or phrase.’ We have to say, ‘How can I create something 10 times better than what any of these folks are currently doing?’ That’s how we stand out.”
Easy, right? Just create content that’s a 10x improvement over the competition.
One reason that 10x content has become a buzzword is that this is a fairly arbitrary benchmark. How exactly do you know the content is 10x better than those high-ranking articles?
The process can seem entirely subjective until weeks or months later if you climb to that Page 1 ranking.
To help guide you along the way, Rand offered up a list of criteria for creating 10x content. True 10x content should:
- Have great UI and UX across all devices.
- Deliver some combination of high quality, trustworthy, useful, interesting, and/or remarkable.
- Be significantly different in scope and detail from similar work covering the topic.
- Evoke an emotional response, whether that’s awe, surprise, joy, admiration, or anything else.
- Solve a problem with comprehensive, accurate, and exceptional information/insights/data.
- Package content in a unique, remarkable, and unexpected style.
For the most part, these are timeless goals for any piece of content. (Having a great UI and UX across devices has become table stakes of any digital content.)
But notice that nothing here says to make the content longer. Or to include more keywords. Or that you must incorporate video.
There’s so much flexibility in what qualifies as 10x content. This isn’t a framework or a template. It’s a concept that tells you your content needs to be both different and deeply valuable if you want to capture attention and achieve SEO goals.
If you need something more tactical, you might turn to the skyscraper technique and take advantage of a classic Backlinko guide.
The Practicality of the Skyscraper Technique
The skyscraper technique is all about creating the best possible content about a specific topic. With a focus on taking the necessary steps to use this content to build backlinks, it’s naturally a more tactical approach to the 10x content concept.
But why do marketers hold this technique in such high regard? Brian explains by saying:
“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.”
Let’s assume that you’ve already done the work of identifying your topic. Now, how do you actually create skyscraper content? Brian digs into a few keys to making something better than the competition:
- Making the Content Longer: There’s a reason long-form content ranks highly in search. Expanding on current high-ranking content could give you an edge.
- Updating Information: Content often climbs the SERP ranks because it is a long-standing, authoritative resource. But the world changes quickly. If you can provide more current insights, your content could stand out.
- Innovating the Design: Even if written content is your specialty, design plays a crucial role. Additional visual appeal could attract readers and boost backlinks.
- Going Deeper: You aren’t just making a pillar page that provides a high-level overview and links out to smaller blog posts. You can differentiate content by providing the most comprehensive information possible about a single topic.
It’s tough to look at this list and disagree with any of it.
The advice more than holds up. But if that’s true, then why do so many marketing teams that try to make 10x content or use the skyscraper technique fall short?
Where 10x Content and the Skyscraper Technique Go Wrong
There’s nothing particularly complicated about creating 10x content or using the skyscraper technique.
All it takes is a quick search to find all the how-to articles and ultimate guides you need to start down this path to content success.
When you search for 10x content, you get 142,000,000 results.
And searching for skyscraper content gives you 131,000,000 pages to look at.
With so much information at your disposal, why can’t you just follow the steps and watch your organic traffic skyrocket?
That small detail of “making the content unique” is easier said than done. And more often than not, marketing teams end up with Frankenstein versions of whatever content they’re trying to beat out.
Your goal isn’t to regurgitate information from high-ranking pages with a new structure. But if your team has limited resources, that’s often what happens.
When you don’t have the skills or resources to stand out with an interactive design or commission an original research report, you have to differentiate your content through writing.
As your competitors continue to up the ante with their content, reach the 10x level by:
- Having an Opinion: There’s rarely just one answer to customer pain points. Don’t just write an article that shares definitions and industry stats. Share a strong opinion about a topic. Whether you’re providing a how-to guide or explaining an emerging trend, your voice and opinion will be the first points of differentiation for any 10x content.
- Doing More Research: Give yourself time to reach out to subject matter experts for comments about your topic. The more insight and social proof you can pack into your content, the more likely you’ll hit the 10x level.
- Getting More Tactical: Does the world need another ultimate guide to your topic? Most likely not. Addressing pain points isn’t just about awareness-level concepts. Write for prospects who are further down the funnel and deliver more tactical advice on solving specific issues.
If you want these techniques to work for your business, you have to invest the time it takes to produce 10x content or follow the skyscraper technique.
That’s not easy when you have 100 other marketing tasks to work on every day.
No matter what guide you’re following, research and writing are going to be the most time-consuming parts of creating 10x content.
Who says the entire process has to fall on your shoulders? Don’t be afraid to hire freelance writers to give yourself a better chance at producing content that stands tall against competitors.