Surfer SEO Review - Is It the Best On-Page SEO Tool?
Surfer SEO Review Summary
Surfer SEO is a web-based software that tells you exactly what you need to update and improve on your page to rank higher for your target keyword(s). SurferSEO analyzes and compares your page against your competitors and provides a blueprint on what to do to rank higher in the SERPS.
Starting at $29/month, Surfer has affordable pricing plans fit for any business size.
Excellent SERP improvements 9/10 times we follow its recommendations.
Ease of Use
Provides SEO data in an impressive interface with a small learning curve.
SurferSEO's support has been great! They offered to get on a call with us to help.
What Is Surfer SEO?
Surfer SEO is a web-based on-page optimization tool that lets you analyze how your page(s) perform when compared to competitors in the search engine results page (SERP).
This tool analyzes over 500 ranking factors with it’s SERP Analyzer feature and provides an audit, so you know exactly what to improve on your page. Some of these on-page SEO factors include:
Whether your page is under-optimized or over-optimized for your keyword, Surfer will let you know.
Surfer SEO’s second major tool is it’s Content Editor, which lets you write your content while remaining optimized for your target keyword. You'll see what I mean soon.
How Does On-Page Analysis Work?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s address how tools like Surfer have become so popular in recent years.
Traditionally, SEOs optimize simple on-page ranking factors such as the title tag, URL slug, and H1 tags and see decent results.
These are still best 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 tell, 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 for paying attention to what Google favors in the SERP and gives you a blueprint to mirror success.
They analyze the content Google favors by scraping the top results for a given search term and runs an analysis of the top pages to see what they have in common. Then it tells you exactly how to mirror what's already working for the search term you're aiming to rank for.
Some call this "Correlation SEO."
Yet, you might be asking, "is SurferSEO enough to rank for my target queries?"
Maybe. For some terms it can hit a home run and get your 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, Surfer can get you to the 1st page and at times, in the top 5. On rare occasions, it can hit a home run and 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 search terms, this tool can get you on second half of page one and backlinks take you to the top 3 positions.
How competitive your terms are will determine the number of backlinks you have to create. Whether you create backlinks with white hat outreach or buy them is a story for another day.
That being said, the manner in which SurferSEO has you structure your content will, in theory, make your article more "linkable."
The Poker SEO Analogy
"SEO is like playing poker with Google - except, Google is showing you their hand..." said every SEO and their mom in 2019, but it's true.
The key to doing well in today's Google SEO world is to create quality content structured in the way Google favors and improving upon what's already ranking.
Before on-page tools, 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 on-page factors into account. The decision was easy for me.
It was either manually accounting for on-page ranking factors and emulating successful pages.
Or letting Surfer SEO do the heavy lifting to win the SEO poker game.
Putting Surfer SEO to the Test
I have a feeling you want to know if this on-page analysis tool is capable of delivering what it promises.
When it comes to SEO tools, I like to test them for months before I can review and recommend them here on Freedom Bound Business.
Over the past few months, I've been using Surfer SEO 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 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 optimization, 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 optimization tweaks work, but the second one did? After analyzing what happened I can only conclude that I better narrowed down the competitors on Surfer's content audit.
Basically, I got better at choosing competitors to analyze which is a skill you'll need to improve on over time with any on-page optimizing tool.
This win is similar to the pest control client because it worked the second time, but not within a day.
This one took a few days of going up and down in the SERPs before reaching the #1 position.
This 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 world is night and day.
That said, be extra careful when doing competitor analysis. You'll see below that I didn't choose my competitors 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 optimization, but it wasn't until I did optimization with Surfer that the rankings dropped and haven't recovered since.
This is not to say that Surfer SEO is bad for affiliate marketing. Not at all.
I just chose my competitors poorly.
This next screenshot is of one of my affiliate review articles that went from page 2 to page 1!
This time around I knew exactly which qualified competitor(s) I needed to include in the content audit to have it work its magic.
As you can see, 3 days after the initial optimization tweaks, this page moved from postilion 7 to 15, to 9, and it's finally stabilized in the middle of page one.
I have a lot more screenshots, but I think you're starting to see the power of this tool.
To wrap up this section, understand that I have experience using this tool for clients and my affiliate projects.
Surfer is a great SEO tool, but it can be a double-edged sword if you don't follow Surfer's best practices.
SURFER SEO BONUS (Optional)
Watch the tutorial video I sent my brother...
If you decide to get Surfer SEO through any link on this review article, I’ll send you the how-to video I sent my brother to help him get the most out of the content audit as a complimentary bonus. Once he started implementing my tutorial, his target keywords started skyrocketing on Google (no backlinks).
It doesn't matter if you're an affiliate marketer, agency, or SEO freelancer, this video shows exactly the same methods I used to rank the results you see here. Get your bonus now!
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 page. In some cases, I may require a screenshot of your receipt to confirm purchase through my link.
SurferSEO currently has three main features:
- the SERP Analyzer (Paid)
- the Content Editor (Paid)
- the Keyword Surfer Extension (Free)
SERP Analyzer Demo [Paid]
The following video breaks down the SERP Analyzer and how it can help you get to the top of Google by making simple changes.
Content Editor Demo [Paid]
Surfer's Content Editor is similar to Google Docs as it gives you an editor to write your content, but it goes one step further by checking your on-page content live while you're writing your first draft.
I use this tool in my business and I only see it improving. Watch the video below for a demo.
Keyword Surfer Extension Demo [Free]
The Keyword Surfer Extension tool is free and was released late 2019.
It couldn't have come at a better time as the once-popular browser extension Keywords Everywhere tool switched from free to a paid service.
If you haven't installed Surfer's Keyword Extension tool, make sure to do so now!
I've used another on-page tool to audit my SEO (more in the Alternatives section) in the past, but Surfer caught my attention this year.
I could tell they had broken down a complex action-based SEO subject, so even the average webmaster user or SEO newbie can benefit.
On-Page 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 understand how to use the tool. Not here.
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, which is the analysis screen.
This analysis screen sets Surfer apart from a lot of its competitors.
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 factors. These bars help you determine which factors should give the most weight when compared to the competition.
As you can see, SurferSEO provides SEO data in such a way that it's digestible, and you're able to take action on optimization immediately.
Competitors before Surfer 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 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 densitites are recommended to rank for that query.
Content structure includes elements such as title tags, header tags (H1-H7), word count, images, and more.
Without a tool like Surfer, 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 competitors have organized their H1-H7 tags with a click of a button.
First, determine which competitor you want to analyze and click the "A" icon:
This will bring up a new window with the breakdown of the competitor's Hx tags.
I recall only a few years ago I'd visit competitor sites and would have to check the source code to see the order of their H tags.
I'm glad this feature is included because it can be helpful when putting your article outline(s) together.
The last page structure element I look at before starting a new article is the word count of each competitor laid out on a graph.
The word count of the most successfully ranking competitors is the ballpark target number of words I aim for.
It's important that you get your word count in the range your top competitors are in because it'll make your audit analysis more effective (more on the audit soon).
Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords
Further down on the analysis 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 target search query. Google takes LSI keywords into account when determining content relevance and quality.
SurferSEO provides lists of these prominent keywords from competitors ranking for your target 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 include them in your content.
The Competitor-Based Content Audit
Surfer's content 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 competitors and ONLY select my main competitors.
Note: if you would like to see the audit process from A-Z, I'm offering my free step-by-step tutorial video on exactly how I use Surfer's content audit as a bonus. Make sure to read the instructions to get your bonus video.
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 audit feature that will give you a focused view on what you need to do to mirror your selected competitors (SEO wise).
This is where you can start honing in on target keyword density based on your competition.
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 (prior to clicking the audit button) and focuses on what's over-optimized and under-optimized (including page structure) when compared to your competitors.
Once you've applied your audit change to your content, you can run another audit round and keep chipping away at improving your content until you're on par with the competition.
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 world, is using this audit feature to benefit his rankings (and his client's rankings), it's certainly worth giving Surfer a shot.
An SEO Writing Environment
Surfer's Content Editor was released in mid-2019, and it's only got better in time.
If you outsource your content, you'll love the Content Editor because you can share the link to specific projects with anyone!
I've sent writers I work with a Content Editor link, 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 initiate a Content Editor project with your target keyword, Surfer is going to ask you to customize your project by selecting your main competitors and a lot more SEO factors.
Once your customization is finalized, the editor will appear. Your standard editor on the left-hand side and the right-hand side is the SEO guide for the writer.
The right-hand side details the following SEO principles:
Even if you write your own content, you can benefit from trying the Content Editor for your upcoming content for free.
A feature that could be added to improve the editor is a WordPress integration.
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 improve in the near future.
The Keyword Browser Extension
Although I've replaced the Keywords Everywhere extension (because it's now a paid tool), with Surfer's extension, I've found a small flaw.
Their browser extension displays global search volume and country-specific search volume.
When I was selecting my country-specific location settings, I noticed that the United States was not an option.
I reached out to support earlier this week, and Michael Suski replied, saying that adding USA to the location settings is in the works.
I'm looking forward to the new update.
To me, this communicates that they're always improving all their products and are aware of where they fall short.
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:
I'll be sending their team the bulleted list above as improvement feature requests. 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 to option of paying annual billing, which gives you 2 months free! I use the Basic plan and am planning on transitioning to annual billing soon.
I personally didn't pay attention to on-page tools until I tried out Page Optimizer Pro earlier this year, and it worked, but then I heard about the extreme popularity of Surfer SEO by top SEOs in the industry, and I gave it a shot over the summer.
I'm glad I did because this data-driven analysis tool gives me the ability to easily improve both my rankings in affiliate and client SEO campaigns across Google (and other search engines like Bing).
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 wonderful support staff answered all my questions along the way and I inevitably got better at using their tool.
Reviewing SaaS tool is no small-feat. It involves practice and lots of testing to understand 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 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 Surfer, once you get it, is selecting your competitors wisely and applying the recommended audit 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.
So, if you don't want reinvent the wheel and prefer to follow an on-page SEO 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 players in the on-page search engine optimization market.
The following table has the big players in the market.
Page Optimizer Pro
Out of the bunch, like most SEOs, I've only used Page Optimizer Pro (aka POP).
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
Let's start off with 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. Each project folder contains the pages you’re working on optimizing.
Surfer doesn't have the capability of doing this (yet).
Instead, Surfer saves your past projects in the order you created them - one after another.
This is a slight hassle because I have to search for the target query manually or use the CTR+F command to find a project I was working on a few weeks ago.
This yet another way, the developers at Surfer SEO can improve their product.
E-A-T & Google 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/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 even though Surfer is the new popular kid on the block.
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 optimization changes to your page(s) with POP and want to check your tweak progressions, you have to re-run a report costing you a monthly report credit.
Now let's cover 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 popular interface.
You've seen enough Surfer interface screenshots if you got this far in the article - their tool looks more modern from a mile away.
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 between these two competitors here is night and day.
Surfer tells me to do A, B, and C with their True 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 density, page structure, LSI keywords, schema, and it's latest features are only for Agency Plan users.
On the other hand, Surfer offers the basics, and advanced 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 Surfer SEO?
Well as with most things SEO, it depends. Both have unique bells and whistles but differ in the manner that they present their goods.
I like Surfer because I find it easier to implement on-page changes with and the interface is better in my opinion. Both have a free trial but as of today I recommend Surfer.