Surfer SEO is a great tool that provides data-driven on-page optimization of your content. In a nutshell they let you analyze the best content on a topic/keyword and guide you when creating or revising your article.
Since Google doesn’t give you a recipe to making the best content for a particular search query, Surfer will reverse-engineer it for you. Based on the actual search results that you want to dominate. So how does it all work and do I need to be a super-geek to do this?
Products: Surfer SEO and Keyword Surfer (free Chrome plugin)
Products Category: Correlation SEO and Keyword Research
Product Strength: Compares your document to competition and gives you a content recipe for improvement.
Pricing: Starts at $59/mo … $1 7-day trial
There are many other correlation and TF-IDF products in the marketplace. These include Cora and page optimizer pro. If you want to learn more about tools to determine topical relevance, check out our TF-IDF post. One of the big benefits to Surfer is the modern clean user interface
Surfer has three areas of focus …
Content Editor — Create new content with guidance from Surfer. You can select pages that you want to compete with, Surfer will analyze them, find the keyword, word-length, title length etc. and give you a correlation roadmap.
SERP Analyzer — Much like the Content editor but the data is presented to allow you to update an existing document to be more competitive with your competition.
Keyword Research — Beta version for US Google index. There are plenty of better keyword tools but if you don’t have one already it provides good basic tools with the most important features.
Most people will use Surfer for their correlation data so we will focus on that. There are two major use-cases for this type of analysis — creating new content and updating existing content. In both cases Surfer is going to find the top pages and let you select the pages to use in your comparison. You need to be selective about the content you choose. You want to skip some pages …
- Quora, Wikipedia, Reddit, etc.
- Amazon and other retailers
- Statistical outliers with 10x the word-count, or 1/10th
The goal is to find the best content with the most topical relevance for similar content forms. Beware of content that is ranking high because of their dominant authority. And avoid outliers.
If most competitive pages have 1500 words but one has 20,000 words it will throw off the Surfer results. Or at least work toward the low-end of the Surfer change recommendations.Let’s first look at how you can use Surfer to create new content.
Surfer Correlation Tools
Using Surfer to assist you in creating competitive new content is a breeze. You start with your keyword and which Google location you are targeting. Once you input that information Surfer goes off and starts gathering data about the top pages for you. Surfer will pre-select he top 5 pages for you but that is usually not the best way to go.
You want to only select pages that are topically and functionally relevant, If you are updating a review of a product find other reviews, not product catalogs or vendor descriptions.
After you select the pages you feel are competitive surfer will build you a list of metrics to guide you. Included will be …
- Content Length
- Suggested keywords and phrases
- Related questions
- Number of images
- more …
The other type of correlation analysis is to update existing content to improve its rank. For this you use SERP Analyzer
Surfer SEO wants to create a frictionless way for you to create content that is guided by their tool. To that end the have a Chrome Extension that you can use with Google docs.
You can write with Google Docs while using the Surfer SEO Chrome extension. This is so cool. Instead of writing and analyzing or using the Surfer Editor you can use the familiar Google Docs tool. Most importantly you can have your internal or external writer using the tool while creating content for you.
Updating existing content is one of the best ROI opportunities for your site. You can use a tool like AHREFS or Google Search Console to find which pages to target. If you have some solid content in positions 11-25 these are ideal candidates to get to page 1. SERP Analyzer uses the same data, just presented in a different way since you are editing not creating.
As you would with the content editor you start with a keyword. Surfer than finds the top 50 documents. You then enter the page url that you want to improve. Select audit and away goes Surfer, returning the top 50 results. I generally use only content that is already outranking mine. I am very careful to look for outliers, unrelated forms or pages, and big authority sites.
It is easiest with SERP Analyzer to just deselect all of the items Surfer found and tick off the ones you want. Once you do the repair the magic starts. Surfer will now produce a list of recommendations to your page. In this list are …
- Content Gaps — This is the major work for the editing. Surfer will give you a length list of keywords where your page deviates from the competition. You will be instructed to add or remove specific numbers of these phrases.
- Words — Surfer will give you a range of the optimum number of words to add or remove. Review the bar-chart provided and look to be sure there are no outliers.
- Keywords — The suggested number of exact match and partial keywords is provided. This is given in a range like .16 -.4 per 100 words.
- Elements — the number of images and other elements you should add or remove
- Title & Meta Description — Surfer checks your Title length and meta description for character count. A good habit at this stage is to review the title and meta description. Good titles and catchy descriptions help conversions.
- Site Performance — MTTFB and page load time are provided and compared to the selected group of pages. When you test your site in Pingdom or Google you are testing just your home page. Surfer lets you know how this page being updated is performing.
Another nice touch is you can look at related questions people are asking. These can be used as the basis of an FAQ schema entry
Surfer is very competitively priced. There are three main pricing levels. Each level provides different quotas for the same feature set. I prefer this to products that cripple the functionality of the lower end versions.
They also have a $1 7-day trial. And a nice touch is that it does not renew or turn into a monthly subscription. Surfer is very transparent and pro-consumer — nice.
Surfer SEO $1 — 7-day trial no auto charge/renew.
Finally Surfer has a free Chrome plugin, Keyword Surfer. Some clever marketing guy snuck right in when Keywords Everywhere went to a premium (albeit very cheap) product. It works very similarly to Keywords Everywhere. When you get your search results it is providing keyword search volume in the search bar and additional information in the side bar.
Surfer is not the only tool to provide page optimization and correlation tools. You should also consider …
Cora SEO — Cora views itself as an SEO Diagnostics tool. They measure up to 2040 ranking factors and suggest improvements. They automatically adapt the tool to each Google update.
Page Optimizer Pro — Page optimizer Pro comes to you from Kyle Roof who is a well known SEO expert in on-page SEO. The tool will compare your target page to competitors that you chose (or they will chose for you). The analysis will then make recommendations for you to optimize your content. The focus of the changes are …
- Keyword variations
- LSI terms
- Header tags
Surfer’s real strength is in bringing an elegant and easy to use data-driven approach to content creation and editing. Its correlation based competitive analysis will help you create better ranking content. Higher ranking content will always mean more traffic.
If you want to see how it can help with your content we offer a page optimization service that uses Ahrefs and Surfer SEO to analyze and suggest improvements to your content.
Is Surfer SEO easy to use?
This is one of the strengths of Surfer. There are other tools with similar capability that lack Surfer's modern UX.
Does Surfer SEO work for any document?
Any page or post will work. You need to be selective about the target competition content for the correlation tool.
Is Surfer SEO expensive?
Surfer has price points for everyone. From hobbyists to Enterprises. There is also a 7-day $1 trial.
Are there companies that provide Surfer SEO services?
Sure. This is often a part of a page optimization service.