Surfer SEO Review - Is It the Best On-Page SEO Tool?
Surfer SEO is a web-based software that tells you exact steps to correct your page content to rank higher for your keywords. SurferSEO analyzes over 500 ranking factors and compares your content against your competitors and provides a data-driven SEO blueprint on what to do to rank higher in the SERPs.
Starting at $29/month, Surfer SEO has affordable pricing plans for any business size.
Helps with SERP improvements most of the times we follow its SEO recommendations.
Ease of Use
Easy to use & offers one of the best on page user interface.
SurferSEO's customer service has been great! They offered to get on a call to help.
What Is Surfer SEO?
Surfer SEO is a web-based on-page optimization tool that lets you analyze how your content performs when compared to the rival URLs in the search engine results page (SERP).
This tool analyzes over 500 SEO ranking factors that helps you rank better for your keywords and as you'd expect, a boost in traffic .
Some of these SEO factors include:
Whether your content is under-optimized or over-optimized for your keyword, this on-page analysis tool will let you know, based on comparison data, exactly how to fix your content and save you lots of time in this tedious SEO process.
Surfer SEO’s second major optimization tool is their Content Editor, which lets you write your content while remaining optimized for your main keyword. This is becoming a trendy way of content creation in the SEO community.
Prefer to see EXACTLY how pro SEOs use Surfer? Watch our SurferSEO review & tutorial video now.
How Does On-Page SEO Analysis Work?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s address how on-page SEO apps became so popular in the last couple of years.
Traditionally, SEOs optimize simple on-page ranking factors such as the title tag, URL slug, H1 tags, content and see decent results.
These are still onpage SEO common practices; however, Google has evolved over the years and now favors certain types of content over others - depending on the search query.
Example: When I type in the query "benefits of Google Ads," I get the following result:
As you can see, Google is favoring list post content for this query as it's ranking 5+ out of the first page results (the featured snippet is also a list post article at the time of writing this).
Tools like SurferSEO are built to pay attention to what content Google favors in the SERP for keywords and gives you an SEO actionable blueprint to start optimizing your content.
It analyzes the content Google favors by scraping the top results for a given search term and runs a data analysis of the top pages to see what they have in common. Then it reports exactly how to mirror what's already working for the search term you're aiming to rank for.
Some call this "Correlational SEO."
is SurferSEO enough to rank Me For Competitive Keywords?
Possibly. For some keywords it can be easy to hit a home run and get you ranked in the top 3, but it depends on the competitive level of said term.
SurferSEO is capable of inching you up in the SERPs.
In my experience, making content optimizations based on Surfer's onpage SEO audit tool can get you to the 1st page and at times, in the top 5.
On rare occasions, it can get me to #1 (see images in the next section).
But, for very competitive queries, you're most likely going to need Google's (still) most significant ranking factor: backlinks.
In a nutshell, for competitive keywords, this SEO tool can get you on 2nd half of page 1 and backlinks take you to the top 3 positions.
How competitive your terms are will determine the number of backlinks you have to add to your backlink profile. Whether you create backlinks with white hat outreach or buy them is a story for another day.
The Poker SEO Analogy
"SEO is like playing poker with Google - except, Google is showing you their hand..." said every SEO and their mom this year, but it's true.
The key to doing well in today's Google SEO world is creating quality posts structured in the way Google favors and improving upon what's already ranking.
Before on-page SEO software, I'd have a checklist of on-page factors I'd optimize for once my article was published, and I did okay.
But, I started learning that these tools take HUNDREDS of ranking factors into account! The decision was easy for me as I was fighting an uphill battle trying to make such SEO changes while my competitors were relying on tools like Surfer.
It was either manually accounting for hundreds of on-page factors and emulating successful pages or let a tool like Surfer SEO make it easy for me.
Putting Surfer SEO to the Test
So, is this data-driven SEO analysis tool capable of delivering what it promises?
When it comes to software tools, I like to test them for a while before I write a review on my blog.
Over the past few months, I've been using Surfer SEO a lot for affiliate marketing AND local client SEO. I'll tell you right off the bat that the tool works, but there is a small learning curve.
Below are a few screenshots of how Surfer SEO impacted my SEO rankings and a quick summary of what happened for each scenario.
Client SEO Results With Surfer
As you can see, I did my first content Surfer tweak, and it didn't yield significant positive results. However, the second time around I moved up 3 spots in the SERP! From position 9 to position 5 under 24 hours (I submitted the URL with Search Console).
So, why didn't the first Surfer tweak work, but the second one did? After analyzing what happened I can conclude that I narrowed down my selected competitors better and thus my Surfer tweaks moved the needle. This is a skill you'll need to refine over time.
This win is similar to the pest company client because it worked the second time, but not within a day.
This one went up and down for a bit in ranking before reaching the #1 position.
The content for this city page was definitely over-optimized and the search engines were not ranking it higher because of it.
Affiliate SEO Results With Surfer
As you may know, ranking for terms in the affiliate world versus the client SEO arena can be night and day.
A word of advice - be extra careful when selecting competitors. Below, you'll see that I didn't choose my mine wisely, and after I had done my content optimization, my rankings suffered.
As you can see, I optimized my page with Surfer's content audit, and after 7 days my rankings dropped 14 spots.
This post was doing fine with my initial tweaks, but it wasn't until I did tweaks with Surfer's keyword density check that the rankings dropped.
This is not to say that Surfer SEO is bad for affiliate marketing. Not at all.
Why did my rankings drop? After all, I updated my content based off Surfer recommendations and I lost rankings?
Once again I had poorly chose websites that were ranking for this keyword.
This next screenshot is of one of my affiliate review posts that went from page 2 to page 1!
This time around I knew exactly which specific competitor(s) I needed to select in the content audit to have it work its magic.
As you can see, 3 days after the initial content tweaks, this post moved from position 7 to 15, to 9, and it's finally stabilized in the middle of page one.
To wrap up this section, know that Surfer SEO is great, but it can be a double-edged sword if you don't follow Surfer's best practices.
A step-by-step guide on ranking for different keywords...
For those of you who get this product through a link on this review article, I’ll be sending you the competitor-based audit training I sent my brother that made it easier for his posts to rank on Google (plus additional SEO advice) as a complimentary review Surfer bonus. Once he started implementing my tutorial, his keywords started skyrocketing on Google (no backlinks) & traffic increased nicely.
Important Note: Please allow 24-72 hours to have bonuses delivered to your inbox. Also, to ensure you get your bonuses, please clear your browser's cookies before buying this product through links/buttons on this post. In some cases, I may require a screenshot of your receipt to confirm purchase through my link. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments.
SurferSEO currently has 3 main features:
- the SERP Analyzer (Paid)
- the Content Editor (Paid)
- the Keyword Extension (Free)
SERP Analyzer Demo [Paid]
Watch the following break down of the SERP Analyzer and how it can help you get to the top of Google by making simple changes. It compares your page to what's already ranking well.
Content Editor Demo [Paid]
Surfer's Content Editor (CE) is similar to Google Docs as it gives you a text editor to write your content, but it goes one step further by checking your on-page content live while you or your writing team is working on the first draft.
You can share Surfer SEO CE links without having to share login details with content writers. The CE also works with Google Docs now.
I use this tool a lot for outsourcing blog post content with sites I work on. I only see it improving. See the demo below.
Keyword Extension Demo [Free]
The Keyword Chrome Extension is free and was released late 2019. It provides search volume data and more when you perform queries on Google. It's a great Keywords Everywhere alternative. Watch Surfer's demo below.
If you haven't installed Surfer's Keyword Extension tool, make sure to install the Google Chrome extension so now!
Surfer also has a new keyword research tool, but it's not my favorite. For keyword research I use Ahrefs.
These guys have broken down a complex action-based SEO subject, so even the average webmaster user or SEO newbie can benefit.
OnPage SEO tools went through an evolution.
In the beginning... they were for the utmost technically-attuned SEOs who were very familiar with analyzing spreadsheet data.
Other tools required watching a full hour long training video to fully learn how to use the tool. That's not an SEO experience Surfer puts you through.
Enter Surfer SEO.
Once the SERP Analyzer has finished compiling data for a given query you can click on the result and get to the next page.
This detailed screen is unlike other on-page tools.
The graph lets you filter for average or exact values (see the toggle button to the right of "Filter by URL" in the image above) based on the ranking factors checkbox(es) you have selected on the left-hand sidebar.
Notice the colored bar metrics on the left next to the list of factors. These bars help you determine which factors give the most weight when compared to the selected comparison websites.
As you can see, SurferSEO provides metrics in such a way that it's digestible, and you're able to take action on updating your content immediately.
Tools before Surfer SEO came around would provide a data dump on their analysis screen (mainly in a nice spreadsheet format).
I've seen some tools forced to evolve since Surfer SEO burst into the on page analysis SaaS market and set a new standard for ease of use.
Content Structure Analysis
Let's recall that Surfer's job is to analyze what's working for a target search query and provide insights on how your page should be structured and what keyword densities are recommended to rank for that query.
Structure includes elements such as title tags, Hx tags (H1-H7), content length, images, and more.
Without an on-page tool, you'd have to spend a bit of time analyzing these elements. With a tool like this, these elements are accounted for by bar meters on the left-hand side of the analysis dashboard under "Structure."
Next, you can check how competing sites have organized their H1-H7 tags with a quick click of a button.
First, determine which post you want to analyze and click the "A" icon:
This will bring up a new window with a detailed break down of the competitor's Hx tags.
I recall only a few years ago I'd visit competing sites and would have to check the source code to see the order of their H tags.
This is extremely helpful when putting your article outline(s) together.
The last page structure element I look at before starting a new article is the content length (word count) of each competitor laid out on a chart.
The word count of the most successfully ranked pages is the ballpark number of words I aim for.
It's important that you get your word count in the range the top ranking pages have because it'll make your Surfer audit analysis more effective (more on this soon).
Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords
Further down on the screen are the Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keyword recommendations provided by Surfer.
Although there are free LSI tools on the internet, a lot of them scrape related searches from Google, which are not LSI keywords.
LSI keywords are terms and phrases with an important degree of correlation to the main search query. Google takes LSI keywords into account when determining content relevance and quality.
SurferSEO provides lists of these prominent keywords from the SERP results for your main query. The lists are broken down into Popular words, Popular phrases, Common Words, Common Phrases, and Prominent words and phrases.
To implement LSI keyword optimization to your page, compile the keywords found on your competitors' page(s) that are currently not on your page, from the tabs above, and add them in your content.
Surfer makes it easy by highlighting the partial keywords so you know exactly what terms to add to your content.
The Competitor-Based Content Audit (This Moves the "SEO Needle")
Surfer's audit is by far my favorite feature and has moved dozens of pages in the SERPs for me.
When I do SurferSEO audits, I exclude all pages and ONLY add carefully selected pages.
Note: if you would like to see this process from A-Z, I'm offering my free step-by-step tutorial video on exactly how I use Surfer's audit as a bonus: read these instructions to get your bonus.
Only then do I input my page's URL and click "Compare." Once that's finished loading (Surfer will crawl my page and compare it to the competitors), I'll click on "Audit."
Which will bring up the Surfer audit that gives a focused view on what you need to do to mirror the top search results.
This is where you can start honing in on target keyword density based on your selected comparison URLs.
Click on either image to zoom in.
The audit breaks down all of the correlation meter SEO factors originally seen in the left-hand side of the analysis screen of the SERP Analyzer and focuses on what's over-optimized and under-optimized (including page structure) when compared to your competitors.
Once you've applied your audit changes to your content, you can run another round and keep chipping away at improving your content until you're on par with the competition.
NLP Entities Is Here!
Surfer will now be including Natural Language Processing (NLP) entities in their Audit feature and Content Editor!
Matt Diggity recently created a video showing how he recovered his lost rankings with Surfer's content audit.
If Matt, one of the leading SEO experts in the SEO community, is using this Surfer SEO feature to benefit his rankings, it's certainly worth giving Surfer a shot.
An SEO Writing Environment for Writing or Outsourcing Content
Surfer's Content Editor was released in mid-2019, and it's only got better in time.
If you outsource your content, you're going to love the Content Editor because you can create SEO tailored writing briefs and share the link with your writing team!
I've sent writers Surfer links, and it's saved me so much time because they're writing with SEO in mind without having to be an SEO expert.
When you create a Content Editor project with your keyword, Surfer will ask you to customize your project by selecting your main competitors and a lot more SEO factors.
Once your customization is finalized, you can share it. You have your standard editor on the left-hand side and the right is the SEO guide for the writer.
The right-hand side details the following:
Even if you write your own content, it helps. You can benefit from trying the Content Editor for your upcoming content (click to learn more).
This is a fantastic tool Surfer includes in all its pricing plans.
So far, you've only read positive things about Surfer, but no software is flawless, and there is always room for improvement.
The following are not crucial flaws or weaknesses of the product, but just me nit-picking what I think could progress in the near future.
Note: I used to have Surfer's Keyword Extension as a con because it initially didn't include the USA for location settings, but they updated the extension quickly & it now supports the US!
The Content Editor Is Getting There
So, I've been using their editor for a few articles now, and I can tell you it's getting better!
For instance, when I first started using it, the editor only had the capability of adding H1, H2, and H3 tags.
I didn't complain at the time, but when I used the editor to write a recent article, I realized they added the remaining H4, H5, and H6 header tags.
Kudos to them for listening to their users who I'm sure requested the more header tag selection.
However, I still have minor gripes with the editor. Specifically, the following:
Other than that, it's great! 😉
Surfer SEO Pricing
Surfer SEO is a great on-page analysis tool that starts at a monthly cost of $29/month. It increases to $59+/month for higher-tiered plans, all depending on how frequently you'll need to use Surfer's features.
The following are the monthly pricing options:
You have the option of paying annual billing for your Surfer account, which gives you 2 months free! And as you can see, there is no shortage of price range. I use the Basic plan and am transitioning to annual billing soon.
Surfer SEO Review Conclusion
Surfer SEO is the best choice for data-driven SEOs searching for a on-page tool with great usability and affordable starting at $29/m.
I personally didn't pay attention to on-page tools until I tried out Page Optimizer Pro, by Kyle Roof, earlier this year, and it worked, but then I heard a lot about the extreme popularity of Surfer SEO by top experts in the SEO industry, and I gave it a shot over the summer.
I'm glad I did because this data driven SEO web-based app gives me the ability to easily boost both my rankings in affiliate and client SEO campaigns across Google (and other search engines like Bing) and as a result increasing my traffic.
However, it took some time (at least for me) to start understanding the power of their content audit and other features.
Surfer's support articles and their customer service support team answered all my questions along the way plus gave valuable advice. And I inevitably got better at using their tool.
Reviewing SaaS tool is no small-feat. It involves practice and lots of testing to figure out if it can help you — the end-user.
This is especially true for on-page SEO tools as they are complicated by nature, but Surfer has managed to create their product with such a great interface that past on-page tools are now struggling to compete on the "user-friendliness level."
Surfer SEO followed Albert Einstein's advice when developing their on-page analysis tool (at least I like to think so).
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
I'd say the most challenging part of using this product, once you get it, is selecting your competitor URLs wisely and applying the recommended changes to your pages accordingly.
Selecting your competition and applying changes willy-nilly can hurt your rankings (as you saw in one of my ranking screenshots in the beginning). Which is why I offer my Surfer SEO review bonus.
But, once you get the hang of Surfer, you can expect your blog traffic to grow almost exponentially.
So, if you don't want reinvent the wheel and prefer to follow an on-page blueprint to better rankings, I recommend you give Surfer a test-run with their free trial today!
Click the button below to sign up and get access to your bonus as well.
As you may know, there are other tools in the on-page search engine optimization arena.
The following table has the big players in the market.
Page Optimizer Pro
Out of the tools above, like most SEOs, I've only used Page Optimizer Pro (aka POP). So, I'll only compare and review these two tools below.
Surfer SEO Vs Page Optimizer Pro
The following are some of the wins and losses I noticed when putting each product in a head-to-head battle.
Where POP Wins
Where POP Loses
Where POP triumphs over SurferSEO
As a POP user, I was used to organizing my audits by projects.
In POP, every keyword or domain analyzed must be assigned to a "project" folder to start optimizing. Each project folder contains the pages you’re working on optimizing.
Surfer doesn't have the capability of doing this (yet - they're working on it).
Instead, it saves your past projects in a list. In the order you created them - one after another.
This is a slight hassle because I have to search for the query manually or use the CTR+F command to find a project I was working on a few weeks ago.
E-A-T & Entities (Beta)
Page Optimizer Pro has recently added two new features to its tool to be more competitive; however, they're both only for Agency Plan users ($78 per month users).
The new EAT feature allows you to optimize for one of Google's latest updates. EAT stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust.
POP analyzes EAT signals so that you can stay competitive in the SERPs.
Their second new tool is called Google Entities, which is basically boosting your on-page with AI (artificial intelligence). They're able to provide machine learning insights by integrating with Google's NLP API.
This is great as it shows that POP is determined to advancing its product for the future.
POP Has a Lower Starting Cost
I put pricing in the win column for Page Optimizer Pro, but barely.
Although POP starts at $10/month, you only get 5 reports per month. For each additional "report," it'll cost $2 extra once you're past the 5 reports per month quota.
Keep in mind that every time you make on-page changes to your content according to POP's suggestions, and you want to check your content tweak progressions, you have to re-run a report costing you a monthly credit.
Where SurferSEO triumphs over POP
Better User Experience
Ever since switching, I've seen Page Optimizer Pro improving their UX to match Surfer's wildly prominent interface.
You've seen enough Surfer interface screenshots if you got this far - their tool looks more modern from a mile away.
The content suggestions come in a list - columns & rows. This is what POP's interface looks like when running an audit report against the competition:
As you can see, it's old-school with a fresh look. Excuse me for being a bit blunt, but it looks like spreadsheets with fancy font colors, and most of the work area is compact if you ask me.
Better Keyword Data
The difference with keyword analysis & data between these two competitors here is night and day.
Surfer tells me to do A, B, and C with their density tool while POP tells me to take certain keyword variations and add them to certain elements of the page based on a weight (importance) score.
More SEO Metrics
Page Optimizer Pro covers the basics: keyword densities, page structure, LSI keywords, schema, and its latest features are only for heavy users (SEO companies who need lots of reports).
On the other hand, Surfer offers the basics, and advanced for optimizing content, plus page speed, page file size, backlink analysis and more as the tool keeps improving.
... So which one should you get when it comes to Page Optimizer Pro versus SurferSEO?
Well as with most things, it depends. Both have unique bells and whistles but differ in the manner they present their goods.
For me the decision is easy, I like Surfer because I find it easier to implement on-page content changes with and their interface is better in my opinion. Both have a free trial but as of today I recommend Surfer SEO.
If you have any questions about my review article, leave them in the comments below!