Surfer SEO Review – Is It the Best On-Page SEO Tool?

Surfer SEO featured image

Surfer SEO is a web-based software that tells you the 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.

  • Effectiveness: Helps with SERP improvements most of the time; we follow its SEO recommendations.
  • Pricing: Starting at $89/month, Surfer SEO has affordable pricing plans for any business size.
  • Ease of Use: Easy to use & offers one of the best on-page user interfaces.
  • Support: 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 compared to the rival URLs in the search engine results page (SERP).

The Surfer SEO tool analyzes over 500 SEO ranking factors that help you rank better for your keywords and as you’d expect, a boost in traffic. A few of them are:

  • Competitive content word counts
  • Header tags
  •  Keyword usage & true density
  • LSI & partial keywords
  • Better TF-IDF keyword analysis
  • Meta titles
  • Site speed comparisons
  • Alt tags
  • Page speed
  • And hundreds more SERP similarity factors!

Whether your content is under-optimized or over-optimized for your keyword, this on-page analysis tool will tell you, based on comparison data, exactly how to fix it, saving you lots of time in this tedious SEO process.

Their second major on-page optimization tool is the Surfer 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.

Would you prefer to see EXACTLY how pro SEOs use Surfer SEO? Watch our SurferSEO review & tutorial video now.

How Does On-Page SEO Analysis Work?

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 and search intent.

Example: When I type in the query “benefits of Google Ads,” I get the following result:

Google Favoring List Articles for This Query

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 analyze what content Google favors in the SERPs for keywords and give you an actionable SEO blueprint for 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 on-page SEO audit tool can get you to the 1st page (top 10 positions) and, at times, to the top 5.

On rare occasions, it can get me to #1 (see images in the next section).

But for very competitive queries, you’ll most likely need Google’s (still) top ranking factor: backlinks.

In a nutshell, for competitive keywords, this SEO tool can get you on the second half of page 1, and backlinks can take you to the top 3 positions.

How competitive your terms are will determine the number of backlinks you must add to your profile. Whether you create backlinks with white hat outreach or buy them is a story for another day.

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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 SEO changes while my competitors relied on tools like Surfer SEO.

I could either manually account for hundreds of on-page factors and emulate successful pages or use a tool like Surfer SEO to make it easy for me.

Putting Surfer SEO to the Test

So, can this data-driven SEO analysis tool deliver what it promises?

When it comes to software tools, I like to test them for a while before writing a review blog post.

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 slight learning curve.

Below are screenshots of how the Surfer SEO software impacted my SEO rankings and a quick summary of what happened for each scenario.

Client SEO Results With Surfer

Surfer SEO Pest Control Rankings Proof
Pest Control Client

As you can see, I did my first content Surfer SEO tweak, which didn’t yield significant positive results. However, I moved up 3 spots in the SERP the second time around! From position 9 to position 5, under 24 hours (I submitted the URL with Search Console).

As you can see, I did my first content Surfer SEO tweak, which didn’t yield significant positive results. However, I moved up 3 spots in the SERP the second time around! From position 9 to position 5, under 24 hours (I submitted the URL with Search Console).

So, why didn’t the first Surfer SEO 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.

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.

Surfer SEO Computer Repair Rankings Proof
Computer Repair Client

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.

This city page’s content was definitely overoptimized, and the search engines did not rank 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 mine wisely, and after I had done my content optimization, my rankings suffered.

Surfer SEO Optimization Gone Wrong
Newbie Surfer SEO Mistake Made My Blog Post Drop 🙁

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 the rankings dropped when I tweaked Surfer’s keyword density check.

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 on Surfer SEO recommendations and lost rankings?

Once again, I had poorly chosen websites ranking for this keyword.

Surfer SEO Affiliate Review Proof
Affiliate Marketing Review Article Proof

This next screenshot is one of my affiliate review posts that went from page 2 to page 1!

This time, I knew exactly which competitor(s) I needed to select in the content audit to have it work its magic.

As you can see, three days after the initial content tweaks, this post moved from position 7 to 15 to 9 and 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.

SurferSEO Demos

SurferSEO currently has 3 main features:

  1. the SERP Analyzer (Paid)
  2. the Content Editor (Paid)
  3. the Keyword Extension (Free)

SERP Analyzer Demo [Paid]

Watch the following breakdown of the SERP Analyzer tool and see 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 tool (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 sharing login details with content writers. The CE also works with Google Docs now.

I use this tool a lot to outsource blog post content for the sites I work on. See the demo below.

You can check out their Content Editor here for only $1.

Keyword Extension Demo [Free]

The Keyword Chrome Extension is free and was released in 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, install the Google Chrome extension to see insights on the search terms you enter in Google.

Surfer SEO also has a new keyword research tool, but it’s not my favorite. I use Ahrefs for keyword research.

SurferSEO Pros

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.

Initially, they were for the most technically attuned SEOs familiar with analyzing spreadsheet data.

Other tools required watching a full hour-long training video to use the tool fully. That’s not an SEO experience Surfer puts you through.

Enter Surfer SEO.

SurferSEO Ease of Use
On-page SEO analysis can be done by typing a keyword search term, choosing mobile or desktop results, and hitting the enter button.

Once the SERP Analyzer has finished compiling data for a given query, you can click on the result and get to the next page.

SurferSEO Keyword Graph Analysis

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 a digestible format, so you can take action on updating your content immediately.

Before Surfer SEO came around, tools 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 title tags, Hx tags (H1-H7), content length, images, etc.

SurferSEO Correlational list - columns

The small bar graph shows correlation factors.

Without an on-page tool, you’d have to spend some time analyzing these elements. A tool like this accounts for these elements by bar meters on the left-hand side of the analysis dashboard under “Structure.” Bars: Correlation Factors[/caption]

Next, you can check how competing sites have organized their H1-H7 tags with a quick button click.

First, determine which post you want to analyze and click the “A” icon:

SurferSEO Explore Content Structure Button

This will bring up a new window with a detailed breakdown of the competitor’s Hx tags.

SurferSEO Competitor Header Tag Structure

I recall only a few years ago when I visited competing sites and had 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 examine before starting a new article is the content length (word count) of each competitor, which I display on a chart.

The word count of the most successfully ranked pages is the ballpark number of words I aim for.

It’s important to keep your word count within the range of the top-ranking pages because this will 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 by Surfer SEO.

Although there are free LSI tools on the internet, many of them scrape related searches from Google that 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.

Surfer SEO Prominent Keyword Tabs
Keyword Variations Based on Correlation Data in List Format: Popular Keywords, Common Keywords, Common Queries, Prominent Keywords and Phrases

To implement LSI keyword optimization on your page, compile the keywords found on your competitors’ pages (s) that are currently not on your page from the tabs above and add them to 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 my favorite feature by far 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. You can exclude URLs with the eye icon (filtering out product pages and non-related blog posts improves your success rate).

Note: If you would like to see this process from A to 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 the Audit button.

Surfer Audit Tool Button
Surfer will compare your page to your selected SEO rivals in Google search right away with a tech audit.

This will bring up the Surfer audit, which gives a focused view on what you need to do with your existing content to mirror the top search results.

This is where you can start honing in on target keyword density based on your selected comparison URLs.

True Keyword Density Suggestions (Words/Phrases):

Surfer SEO Audit Tool Image 1

Here, you’ll see how many times your target keywords should appear on your page and their keyword density.

All Correlation SEO Factors Broken Down In Audit:

Surfer SEO Audit Tool Image 2

The audit breaks down all the correlation meter SEO factors initially seen on 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, submit your landing page URL to Google Search Console. A few weeks later, you can do another round and continue chipping away at +/- exact keywords and improving your content until you’re on par with the competition.

NLP Post

NLP Entities Is Here!

Surfer SEO now includes 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 true density and content audit.

If Matt, one of the leading SEO experts in the SEO community like Matthew Woodward, uses this Surfer SEO analyzer tool to benefit his rankings, it’s certainly worth trying Surfer SEO.

There are plenty of other case studies and success stories, too.

->Try Surfer for 7 Days!

An SEO Writing Environment for Writing or Outsourcing Content

Surfer’s Content Editor was released in mid-2019 and only got better in time.

SurferSEO Content Editor Screen

Note: the Content Editor now works in Google Docs

If you outsource your content, you’ll 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 it by selecting your main competitors and many other SEO factors.

Surfer SEO Content Editor Customization

Once your customization is finalized, you can share it. You have your standard editor on the left-hand side, and on the right is the writer’s SEO guide.

The right-hand side details the following:

  • Content organization (headings, paragraphs, bold words, images)
  • Important terms to use
  • Topics and questions to answer (customizable)
  • Other relevant terms to include

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 SEO includes in all its pricing plans.

SurferSEO Cons

This con section used to be bigger, but since I first wrote this article, they’ve improved features and improved their product.

Kudos to the Surfer team for listening to user feedback.

I still have minor gripes with the editor. Specifically, the following:

  • there’s currently no toggle for the editor’s right side (this would be helpful at times, but until it’s updated, I’ll zoom in towards the left-hand editor section)
  • Surfer’s keyword research tool is yet to replace Ahrefs as a keyword research tool.

Other than that, it’s great! 😉

Surfer SEO Pricing

Surfer SEO Pricing

The Surfer SEO cost starts at $89/month. For higher-tiered plans, it increases to $129+/month, depending on how frequently you’ll need to use Surfer’s features.

The following are the monthly pricing options:

  • $89/month for the Essential plan
  • $129/month for the Scale plan
  • $219/month for the Scale AI plan
  • $399+/month for the Enterprise plan

You can pay annual billing for your Surfer account, which can save you close to $500 per year!

=> Compare the features each plan offers in Surfer’s pricing table here.

Surfer SEO Review Conclusion

Surfer SEO is the best choice for data-driven SEOs who are searching for an on-page tool with great usability and affordability, starting at $89/m.

I personally ignored 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 allows me to easily boost my rankings in affiliate and client SEO campaigns across Google (and other search engines like Bing), increasing my traffic.

However, it took some time to understand the power of their content audit and other features.

With the help of support articles and their customer service support team, I got all my questions answered, and I inevitably got better at using their tool.

Reviewing a SaaS tool is no small feat. It involves practice and lots of testing to determine if it can help you — the end user.

This is especially true for on-page SEO tools, which are complicated by nature. However, Surfer managed to create a product with such a great interface that past on-page tools are now struggling to compete on the “user-friendliness level.”

Once you get this product, the most challenging part is selecting your competitor URLs wisely and applying the recommended changes to your pages accordingly.

But once you get the hang of Surfer, your website traffic will grow exponentially.

If you don’t want to 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.

SurferSEO Alternatives

As you may know, other tools exist in the on-page search engine optimization arena.

The following table has the big players in the market and some of the top Surfer SEO alternatives.

Product NameStarting priceUser-Friendly Rating

Surfer SEO
$0-59/m5 out of 5
Page Optimizer Pro$10/m4 out of 5
Cora$250/m3 out of 5
Cognitive SEO$129.99/m4 out of 5

Like most SEOs, I’ve only used POP out of the tools above. So, I’ll only compare and review these two tools below.

Surfer SEO Vs Page Optimizer Pro

The following are some wins and losses I noticed when putting each product in a head-to-head battle.

Where POP Wins

  • Organization
  • E-A-T & Google Machine Learning
  • Report History Log
  • Competitive Price

Where POP Loses

  • Lackluster UX
  • Keyword Analysis
  • Less SEO Data Metrics

Where POP Triumphs Over SurferSEO


As a POP user, I was used to organizing my audits with projects.

Every keyword or domain analyzed in POP must be assigned to a “project” folder to start optimizing. Each project folder contains the pages you’re working on optimizing.

Page Optimizer Pro Project Dashboard

Surfer is unable to do 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.

SurferSEO Past Projects

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 make it more competitive; however, they’re both only for Agency Plan users ($78 per month).

Page Optimizer Pro Project Agency User Features

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 Google Entities, which boosts your on-page with AI (artificial intelligence). By integrating with Google’s NLP API, they can provide machine learning insights.

This is great as it shows that POP is determined to advance its product for the future.

POP Has a Lower Starting Cost

I barely put pricing in the win column for Page Optimizer Pro.

Although POP starts at $10/month, you only get 5 reports per month. Once you’ve reached the quota, each additional “report ” will cost $2 extra.

Remember that every time you make on-page changes to your content according to POP’s suggestions and want to check your content tweak progressions, you have to re-run a report, which costs you a monthly credit.

Where SurferSEO Triumphs Over POP

Better User Experience

Since switching, Page Optimizer Pro improved its UX to match Surfer’s wildly prominent interface.

If you got this far, you’ve seen enough Surfer SEO interface screenshots – 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:

Page Optimizer Pro Recommendations Interface
As you can see, the data is presented much differently than in SSEO!

As you can see, it’s old-school with a fresh look. Excuse me for being a bit blunt; 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 between keyword analysis & data between these two competitors here is night and day.

Surfer SEO 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.

POP Keyword Variation Analysis
Keyword variation data is more complex to implement

More SEO Metrics

Page Optimizer Pro covers the basics: keyword densities, page structure, LSI keywords, and schema. Its latest features are only for heavy users (SEO companies that need many reports).

On the other hand, Surfer SEO 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 use for your SEO strategy, Page Optimizer Pro or SurferSEO?

Both have unique bells and whistles and can increase your website views, but differ in how they present their goods.

The decision is easy for me. I like Surfer SEO because it is easier to implement on-page content changes with it, and its interface is better. Both have a free trial, but I recommend Surfer SEO as of today.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started with all the features Surfer has to offer here.

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