As SEOs, we all understand the importance of good on-page optimisation and how essential it is to achieve the best possible keyword rankings for a website.
The problem, however, is that on-page optimisation is often a cumbersome process that takes a lot of time, something most of us don’t have. Plus, content writing and editing isn’t exactly the best use of an SEO’s time.
Most of us go through a process of optimising a website’s existing pages, adding new content, running the usual on-page SEO checklist etc. But how great would it be if this work was automated?
And better yet, what if all the keyword research and competitor analysis that goes into on-page optimisation could also be automated? This is where Surfer SEO comes in.
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Surfer SEO is an on-page SEO tool that takes the guesswork out of optimisation. Surfer will test your chosen page against hundreds of different on-page SEO factors and compare the results against the page one competitors for your chosen keyword.
Essentially, you write a new piece of content, analyse your content via Surfer SEO and implement the detailed on-page recommendations provided by the tool.
Surfer’s recommendations are based on the top ranking competition. There’s a reason these sites have reached the first page and they can be used as a blueprint to improve your own content and rankings.
Surfer SEO has four key features:
Planner: Use keyword research tools and a SERP Analyzer to plan your new content
Brief: Allow Surfer’s powerful AI tools to create an optimised outline for your new page
Content Editor: Get on-page recommendations for your content based on high ranking competitors and keyword trends
Audit: Apply Surfer SEO’s competitor research, analysis and recommendations to existing pages of your site
Surfer SEO Features & Use Cases
This is arguably the most useful feature within Surfer SEO. The SERP Analyzer provides a detailed breakdown of the current page one rankings for your selected keyword.
When developing new content, we often check out the top ranking competitors and use this to help inform our content formats, topics, word count, keywords and so on.
Well Surfer SEO completes all this work for you and provides more data points than you’ve probably ever considered before.
The tool will provide data on:
Average content length (word count)
Keyword density and frequency
Number of headings
Use of ‘hidden content’
Use of related and LSI keywords
Average page speeds
Image alt texts
And many, many more on-page factors
There are lots of other on-page SEO tools available, many of which include similar features. Surfer SEO, however, combines all of these data points into a user-friendly interface and usually goes the extra mile when it comes to detail.
For example, Surfer will also provide the average number of backlinks a current page one result has. This allows you to weigh up the competition and better predict the short-term success of a page or if any extra SEO input will be needed.
Keyword Optimization (LSI Keywords)
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are words that are related to a main keyword and are seen as semantically relevant. Essentially, Google’s goal is to figure out a page’s overall topic and LSI keywords help to achieve this.
Surfer SEO will audit page one competitors, identify LSI keywords that are regularly used across these pages and help you to add them into your content. It can even recommend how many times to include each keyword within your content for the most ideal optimisation.
Beyond individual keywords, Surfer can also help you structure your new page. By analysing the content structure of page one competitors, the tool will provide average word counts, number of images, headings and many more comparative metrics.
One point to note is that you can select individual competitors to compare your content against. By default this is the top 5 sites currently ranking for your selected keyword, but you can manually select sites from the list of results.
This comes in handy if there is a hugely authoritative site ranking on page one that is able to compete with less optimised content. (For example, if Amazon is ranking for a specific product query). You can eliminate certain sites for more accurate results.
Also, if you’re working with writers but don’t want to provide them with full access to Surfer SEO, you can export/share these recommendations really easily.
Surfer’s built-in keyword research tool feels pretty standard to use. If you’ve used any SEO tools for keyword research previously, there will be no surprises here.
Enter your seed keyword to generate a list of relevant keywords recommended by the tool. The standard keyword metrics are here, alongside a unique feature called ‘SERP similarity’.
If you’re tired of SEO tools that bring back hundreds of keyword recommendations but so few that are truly relevant, you’ll enjoy this.
SERP similarity is a measure of a keyword’s relevance to the seed keyword you originally entered. So, if competing pages are ranking for your seed keyword as well as this particular recommended keyword, it will have a higher similarity score.
A lot of the recommendations provided by standard research tools are often keywords that aren’t relevant enough to be included in your current content and therefore warrant a unique page of their own.
Surfer SEO tries to eliminate this by allowing you to easily filter and focus on the highest relevance keyword recommendations.
Surfer SEO uses a metric called ‘True Density’. This is a metric designed to locate keyword gaps within your content. It will identify any words your content mentions too often or too little.
“True Density is the easiest way to optimise existing content”.
Simply plugging your existing content into Surfer and checking for keywords to add or remove can be a quick way to upgrade your content and improve ranking potential. Most of Surfer’s recommendations will allow you to expand your keyword targeting and rank for a wider keyword set.
These recommendations are colour coded:
Green = No action required, your content is adequately optimised.
Yellow = A warning to show there is a slight deviation in your keyword targeting when compared against page one results.
Red = A high priority warning to indicate a large deviation in your keyword targeting when compared against page one results.
As SEOs we know on-page optimisation isn’t the only requirement for strong rankings. Backlinks and authority are just as important and good content can often be restricted by a lack of authority.
With this in mind, Surfer SEO will provide a list of competitors’ common backlinks. This is a list of websites that are linking to your current page one competition. If a website is linking to multiple competitors, this will be a higher priority.
By building links on the same domains as your competitors, you can begin to eliminate any competitive advantages from the rankings.
Surfer SEO Support
Surfer SEO has a built-in live chat feature for its users. We’ve found this to be very useful for quick answers to simple questions. You can type a manual question related to the tool and you’ll generally receive a very fast custom response.
If you have a more complex question or you’re experiencing a complicated issue, however, the live chat system will quickly fail and you’ll need some manual support. This can understandably take a little longer to be delivered.
Surfer SEO Pricing
Here is Surfer’s current annual billing options:
And if you prefer to pay monthly:
An upgrade from basic to pro will be a price increase of just over 100% with a 200% increase in your number of allocated audits. This is probably the best bet for most small agencies or freelancers. (Based on monthly billing).
This means you’ll have the added benefit of additional team members, allowing you to add writers directly to Surfer SEO which can help you streamline the outsourcing or briefing of your content.
Is Surfer SEO affordable? It really depends on what you’re looking for.
For $99 you can get a basic Ahrefs subscription that will provide you not only with a SERP analyser but also with competitor analysis, backlink analysis, SEO audits and rank tracking.
If you’re just starting out or don’t have any existing SEO tools, an all-in-one system like Ahrefs or SEMrush may be a better choice.
Surfer SEO is a specialist tool for content production and on-page optimisation. If you’re producing lots of content or you’re regularly conducting on-page improvements for clients, Surfer will be one of your best options.
Clearscope is a similar tool that’s focused on content and on-page. You’ll see Surfer SEO is actually much more affordable, with Clearscope opening at $170/month for a total of 20 content reports.
Surfer SEO Pros
Comprehensive comparative data - We haven’t found any other on-page optimisation tools that include this level of data. You can analyse just about every on-page factor that’s important and even if you don't agree with all of Surfer’s recommendations, it will definitely provide some new data points that will improve your content.
Makes content briefs easy - All of the research that would usually take an SEO 30-60 minutes to gather and even longer to brief out is presented within a few clicks. A writer can handle the research phase with little SEO knowledge directly within Surfer or you can generate quick reports to share externally.
Pricing - Surfer SEO seems to be the most affordable tool of its kind (considering the number of features it has available). Also, the tool is constantly receiving updates, the user interface has improved drastically over the last 12 months or so.
Quick insights - If you choose to analyse existing content, you’ll find some immediate improvements that will help to improve rankings. Surfer will provide small actions such as reducing word count or including new subheadings that will be backed by detailed competitor analysis. Quick wins like this will provide instant SEO value.
Chrome extension - A browser extension that allows you to use Surfer in WordPress and Google Docs. Really handy for on-the-go optimisations!
Surfer SEO Cons
Information overload - Surfer’s SERP Analyzer is incredibly detailed. All the different data points and metrics may be overwhelming for a beginner SEO, it can be hard to know where to start! That said, I’d much rather have too many options that too little.
Specialist toolset - Surfer SEO is very much a specialist tool that’s purely for on-page optimisation. You can’t really mark it down on this because this is exactly how the tool is marketed. But new users shouldn’t expect a range of features similar to Moz or Ahrefs.
Limited keyword research - This could be seen as both a positive and negative. Other SEO tools will be able to provide you with many more keyword recommendations and many more keyword metrics such as difficulty, CPC etc. While Surfer doesn't provide this, we found the recommendations it does provide to be spot on and very relevant, helping to cut down on manual filtering.
Surfer SEO Vs. Page Optimizer Pro
Page Optimizer Pro is another SEO tool focused on content improvements and on-page. You may find yourself torn between both options when researching tools.
When it comes to overall interface, display and data, Surfer SEO tends to win. Surfer’s interface is modern and intuitive whereas Page Optimizer Pro can quickly become cumbersome with large amounts of data that’s hard to prioritise.
When it comes to metrics, Page Optimizer Pro will analyse page structure, keyword density (including LSI keywords) and structured data.
Surfer SEO, however, includes all of the above and much more. Keyword research, discovery, site structure, page speed, and basic backlink analysis are all catered for.
Where Page Optimizer Pro does come out on top is pricing. A basic account will set you back just $20 per month and if you’d like unlimited reports, the price will only rise to $39. It’s pretty incredible value actually!
This is where it depends on what you’re looking for from an SEO setup. Surfer SEO is the advanced option for anyone that’s serious about on-page, operating on competitive markets or produces a lot of content.
Page Optimizer Pro could be a great add-on for someone that’s just getting started with an all-in-one SEO tool like Ahrefs but would also like a standalone tool for on-page recommendations. That could be a pretty solid combination while maintaining affordability.
Surfer SEO will save you time and upgrade content performance across your site(s). It’s even more useful if you spend a lot of time researching competitor content or briefing content into writers.
Surfer should be able to quickly pay for itself once you’ve implemented its recommendations. It is, however, a premium option and best kept for marketers that are serious about content. If you’re just getting started, Surfer SEO may be something to invest in once you have the basics of keyword research, rank tracking and backlink analysis covered elsewhere.
Surfer SEO is constantly improving and it’s already had a huge impact on the SEO industry, we can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
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