Did the December ’22 SpamBrain update revive the Skyscraper method?

The Google SpamBrain update was rolled out in December 2022 and has a significant impact on SEO strategies. Also on the popular Skyscraper method of link building. The update provided an increased focus on content quality, organic link building and user experience(1).

To continue using the Skyscraper method effectively after the update, it is important to create high-quality content that delves deeper into the topic at hand. In addition, it is essential to build relationships with relevant websites and influencers and provide your visitors with an optimal user experience. This keeps you competitive in the constantly changing SEO landscape and allows you to reap the benefits of this proven link-building strategy.

What is the Skyscraper method?

Before I delve a little deeper into this development, I’ll briefly tell you what the Skyscraper method is all about. This popular link-building strategy was originally devised by Brian Dean of Backlinko. The idea behind the Skyscraper method is to create high-quality content that is better than the content that has previously existed around a particular topic. Then contact websites that have linked to similar content. You ask them to link to your content instead of the competition’s.

The Skyscraper method consists of three steps:

  1. Find the best-performing content in your niche and then create an even better version of this content. This could mean adding more information, offering better visuals or more in-depth insights.
  1. Identify and contact the websites that currently link to the best-performing content in your niche. You tell them you’ve created an even better version of the content. In addition, ask them to link to your content instead of the competition’s.
  1. Promote your content to increase reach. For example, you can do this by using social media, approaching influencers or using paid advertisements.

With the Skyscraper method, you create high-quality content with the goal of increasing your authority in your niche and earning valuable backlinks.

How does the Skyscraper method work?

The steps described above are a very succinct summary of how to work on your link building using the Skyscraper method.

Step 1: do research on content that performs

The first thing you do is research what types of content perform well in your niche. An efficient way to do this is through keyword research. Next, analyze which content is currently ranking well in search engines such as Google. You can use tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush or Moz for this purpose(2).

Once you have identified content that performs, thoroughly analyze why this is so. What makes this content unique and valuable to readers? By understanding which elements are responsible for this, you gain insight into how to improve your own content.

Step 2: create high-quality content

Using the information you gathered in Step 1, you’re going to create high-quality content. You get to work creating content that is better than what is currently available. This could mean, for example, providing more in-depth information. More attractive designs and visuals can also contribute to this. The goal is to outperform existing content and create a version that develops into the best resource in your niche(3).

Step 3: identify websites that link to similar content

When you have new, high-quality content, look for websites that link to such content. Backlink analysis tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush or Moz can help you with this. Have you identified the websites? Then, in the next step, you check if they are willing to link to your content.

Step 4: contact website owners

Contact the owners of the websites you identified in step 3. Introduce yourself to them and tell them you have created a better version of the content they are currently linking to. Then ask them if they would be willing to link to your content instead of your competitors’.

Step 5: promote your content

Finally, promote your new high-quality content. You do this by sharing it on social media, approaching influencers, email marketing or using paid ads. When you promote your content the right way, you reach the right audience. That gives you even more opportunities to earn high-quality backlinks.

The Skyscraper method is an effective link building strategy that earns you high-quality backlinks by creating high-quality content. Implementing this strategy takes time and effort, but proper execution can make a big difference in the visibility of your website.

Continue reading about backlinks and link building outsourcing

What did the December ’22 SpamBrain update entail?

Now that you know what the Skyscraper method entails, I’ll go into Google’s SpamBrain update. The search engine rolled it out in December 2022, marking a major change to its algorithm(4). The primary goal of this update was to more effectively combat spam, manipulative SEO techniques and low-quality content. Although Google constantly updates its algorithms to address spam and other quality issues, the SpamBrain update focused on a few specific aspects:

  1. Advanced spam detection: Google has further improved its spam detection algorithms. The search engine did this to better identify spam and manipulative content. In doing so, Google is more successful in purging its search results of websites that attempt to manipulate the rankings with non-ethical (black-hat) methods(5).
  1. Improved techniques for recognizing purchased links: purchased links are a common black-hat SEO technique. In doing so, websites pay for backlinks to improve their search rankings. As a result, backlinks occur unnaturally. Google has refined its detection methods for unnatural links and is now better able to minimize the impact of these practices on rankings.
  1. Faster and more effective action against spam: the SpamBrain update enabled Google to take faster and more effective action against spam websites and pages. This means that search results are continually optimized. As a result, low-quality websites are becoming less and less visible.
  1. Better protection against negative SEO: Sometimes competitors try to sabotage a website by using spammy or unethical techniques. The SpamBrain update improved protection against such negative SEO activity. This has made it harder for malicious actors to harm the rankings of other websites.
  1. Stricter adherence to Google’s webmaster guidelines: the SpamBrain update emphasized the importance of following Google’s webmaster guidelines. Websites that do not follow these guidelines are at greater risk of being penalized or downgraded in organic search results.

As a result of the SpamBrain update, website owners and SEO professionals had to rethink their strategies. From now on, they should focus even more on creating high-quality content and building natural backlinks. The SpamBrain update emphasized the importance of following white-hat SEO practices and adhering to Google’s guidelines. Website owners who comply know how to achieve a sustainable online presence.

Some white hat link building methods and the feasibility for an SME company

Link Building MethodFeasibility for an SME
Content creation and promotionHigh – Creating valuable, unique content (such as blog posts, infographics and videos) that are naturally shared and linked to by others.
Guest bloggingHigh – Writing articles for other websites or blogs in exchange for a link to your own website.
PR and media relationsResource – Building relationships with journalists and influencers can provide natural links in news articles and blogs.
Social media marketingHigh – Actively promoting your content on social media channels increases your visibility and can generate more links.
Directory and citation entriesHigh – Submitting your company information to relevant online directories and citation websites can lead to backlinks.
Partnerships and collaborationsResource – In collaborations with other companies, non-profits, or influencers, you may decide on link exchange.
Community engagementHigh – Participation in relevant online communities (forums, LinkedIn groups, Quora, Reddit) can also provide backlinks.
Testimonials and reviewsResource – Writing testimonials or reviews for products or services you use can provide a link back to your own Web site.

The impact of the SpamBrain update on the Skyscraper method

Google’s SpamBrain update in December 2022 affected the Skyscraper method of link building. As the criteria for judging the quality of content and backlinks became more stringent, some adjustments had to be made to Skycraper methods to keep them effective. What adjustments those were, you’ll read below:

  1. Improved content quality: after the update, content created under the Skyscraper method should be even stronger than before. That makes it even more important to go deeper into a topic to provide more value to readers. It is also essential that your information be relevant and up-to-date.
  1. Focus on organic and contextual links: the SpamBrain update emphasized the importance of obtaining natural, organic and contextual links. When using the Skyscraper method, it is important to target relevant and reputable websites for backlinks. This is how you ensure that your links are placed naturally in the content.
  1. Attention to user experience: with the SpamBrain update, the importance of an optimal user experience on your Web site also became even more important. This means that in addition to providing high-quality content, you also need to ensure fast load times, mobile-friendly designs and intuitive navigation.
  1. Diversification of link profile: it is important to build a diverse and balanced link profile. That way, you will be affected to a lesser extent by future algorithm updates. In practice, this means getting backlinks from various sources, such as blogs, news websites, social media, forums and other relevant platforms.
  1. Relationship building: after the SpamBrain update, building relationships with other websites, influencers and professionals in your industry has become even more important. That way, you can expand your network and get more organic and valuable backlinks.

In short, Google’s SpamBrain update has not rendered the Skyscraper method useless. However, it did stress the need to improve the quality of content and link building. It has also become more important for website owners to focus on an optimal user experience. By adapting your strategy to these changes, you can still be successful in today’s SEO landscape using the Skyscraper method.


The Google SpamBrain update has made it more important to improve the quality of content, link building and user experience. This is especially true regarding the Skyscraper method. By both tweaking your strategies and focusing on rock-solid content, you can still achieve SEO success with the Skyscraper method. In addition, building relationships and ensuring an optimal user experience also play a key role. By keeping up with these changes, you will stay one step ahead of your competitors and achieve sustainable results.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.