Surfer SEO Review 2020: The Best On-Page SEO Tool For Beginners?
Surfer SEO is a web app that methodically recommends edits to your content to rank higher for specific keywords by reverse-engineering the best performing content for keywords you want to rank for. With Surfer SEO, you can avoid the guesswork when it comes to optimizing your content for keyword density and more.
Surfer SEO audits your site based on over 500 ranking factors, offering nuanced suggestions that will definitely improve your content’s SEO performance.
Surfer SEO offers a great value for money at just $29/month to get access to features that will more than make up for its cost.
Surfer SEO’s interface is not only very well thought out in terms of design but is also intuitive to use.
While we haven’t been required to reach out to support yet, the reviews that mentioned Surfer SEO’s support have nothing been positive
If you’ve performed an SEO audit in the past, you’ll know that while there are some rules of thumb to stick by, such as keyword research, most of it is down to your own personal interpretation and gut feeling. After all, every content editor has their own take on how to review a page for on-page SEO. There isn’t any hard and fast rule about how often you should use a certain keyword, or how much of your content should be focused on a certain subtopic.
While seasoned SEO experts can generally trust their keyword research when it comes to optimizing their content, what if there was an analysis tool that can seamlessly crawl top performing web pages, and identify commonalities that contributed to their success?
In this Surfer SEO review, we’ll go over exactly what you need to know about it, and if it is a worthwhile investment to boost your SEO game.
Things to Consider Before Buying Surfer SEO
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘Skyscraper Content’ in the world of SEO, you’ll know the lengths that people will go to in order to fight their way to get their pages on the top 10 for a highly competitive keyword.
While that might have worked out for some time, it’s not a good use of your time and effort when you consider just how much more keywords you can rank for with the same resources if you had an analysis tool like Surfer.
This becomes apparent when you understand that content length is not the be all and end all for SEO, but also for other factors like genuine keyword density, page speed, formatting, and much more. In fact, you’re probably wasting your time trying to out-write your competitors when you could have just used Surfer to review and optimize keywords better.
This is exactly where Surfer SEO comes into play, as it analyzes the SERPs that you want to compete against, so you can reverse engineer correlating factors to emulate in your own page. This data is presented in a very actionable format, which drastically increases your productivity compared to brute forcing content in trying to produce skyscraper content.
However, any content marketer worth his or her salt knows that for the top keywords,there’s no getting around the fact that Google still uses backlinks to decide who gets crowned the #1 spot for search results.
Unless you already have a solid bank of backlinks, the hard truth is that no amount of optimizations can outperform a site that has a far more superior backlink profile than you. In fact, if you’re expecting to jump from page 5 to #1 using this tool, you should stop reading this Surfer SEO review now and look for other SEO strategies instead.
So, before you consider subscribing for Surfer SEO, you should know that if your objective is to outrank competitors on top tier keywords, know that whatever edge Surfer SEO will give you might not be effective should your site be lacking in backlinks.
What is Surfer SEO?
Think of Surfer SEO as a Yoast, but for optimizing your pages before you publish them.
Surfer uses a myriad of correlational SEO factors to build a profile of the top ranking pages on search engines and allows you to implement those factors in your content.
To put it simply, Surfer identifies what pages that rank well have in common, and then offers suggestions so that you can come up with content that is similar in those factors. These reports show you exactly how to mirror the content that already performs well for the keyword you want. These factors go far beyond keywords alone, as Surfer also takes into account word count, page speed, and so on.
With Surfer, you will know precisely how under-optimized or over-optimized your content is for specific keywords, allowing you to make data-driven decisions when producing your content.
Surfer also comes with a fully fledged Content Editor, which will intuitively let you view it’s keywords suggestions as you are typing out your content. This is a game changer in terms of content creation as you’re now fully aware of the keyword density you’re going for as you produce the content, instead of restructuring it later.
If you’re new to the game of SEO and wonder if Surfer SEO might be too advanced of a tool to pick up, we can wholeheartedly say that this is one of the easiest tools to use, even for newcomers.
Its intuitive interface and straightforward approach to reporting insights make this tool a low barrier to entry for most marketers. We believe that almost anyone can make good use of this tool to see tangible differences in their on-page SEO performance on search engines.
A Look Inside Surfer SEO
Surfer SEO has a minimal interface that contains all of its core features on the header. You’ll be using the SERP Analyzer and the Content Editor the most out of all the features listed there, so let’s go over how each of them works in this section.
The SERP Analyzer
The SERP Analyzer is one of the core functionalities of Surfer SEO, though veteran SEO experts might not find it as robust as a dedicated SEO research tool like Ahrefs.
This feature works by breaking down best-performing pages for a given keyword and identifies factors that correlate with higher rankings. Simply enter a seed keyword, and Surfer scours the search results on Google to generate a report.
Similarly to Ahrefs, the report generated will let you review the best performing pages for that keyword, and by default, measure the average word count of the top pages. You can add in a myriad of variables to be compared on the chart, such as keyword density, headings, meta descriptions, image alt text, and even page load speeds.
In this example, the position in search results is charted against the number of words in the body and the exact keyword density.
There are also numerous options to adjust the chart, too, such as filtering results by URL, adjusting the averages, or excluding outliers that you think are not relevant.
This report allows you to get the exact type of data you want; you can opt for a very granular view by turning off the averages, or have an overview on the general landscape of a particular keyword.
With Surfer SEO’s SERP Analyzer, the report is holistic as it takes into account ranking factors that are outside of the typical one that everyone looks into. For example, it even places schema markup as a factor, which may give you an edge when it comes to optimizing your content.
With that said, outliers can severely skew the data presented here, which is why you need to make sure that outliers such as Amazon product pages, Trustpilot reviews, or any other website that isn’t a direct competitor to yours are removed right away.
When you compare your page against top tanking competitors, you should also see if the context of the page is the same, and remove irrelevant pages from the list. For example, a product review and a blog post are totally different pages, even though they might both appear to be top ranking results in search engines.
Thankfully, it is very easy to remove these outliers by selecting them in the results page.
On top of that, you can even compare your page against other results. If your page is already ranking on Google’s search results, you should be able to locate your page in the list and click on the ‘show on chart’ icon, which is the 3rd icon from the left.
Alternatively, you can always just copy and paste your URL on the top bar and hit on the ‘Compare’ button.
By doing this, you’ll be able to see exactly how your content fares against the competition for any factor that you want to choose.
This way, you have hard data on whether your page is overly optimized for a certain keyword or vice versa. You can also overlay the chart with multiple factors to pick up any patterns that might not be immediately obvious at first glance.
Overall, the SERP Analyzer has one of the most intuitive presentations of any SEO tools out there and is a godsend for those of you who prefer a more visual approach to review such nuanced data.
The Content Editor
For those of you who are creating the content, the Content Editor feature in Surfer SEO allows you to optimize your content as you are producing it. This saves you so much time in the long run as you don’t have to go back and forth to optimize your content after you’re done writing.
While Surfer isn’t the only tool that offers this functionality, we think their offering stands out as it works cohesively with the SERP Analyzer. This means you’re getting up-to-date data of important correlating factors that can be used to optimize your writing in real-time.
Just like the SERP Analyzer, you’ll need to seed a keyword for it to get started, and if you’re already doing your keyword research before you produce your content, you should have this in mind already.
Enter your seed keyword and the Content Editor will present data of top pages for that keyword, and an empty space where you can enter your content to have it analyzed in real-time. This works with any form of text that you want to publish, even if it’s a blog post.
On the left, there’s a robust text editor where you can write your page just like in Google Docs. You get the usual formatting functionalities such as bullets, headings, links, and so on.
On the right pane is where Surfer SEO’s suggestions lie. Here, you’ll be able to get a live count on the optimal terms to use, headings, paragraphs, bold words, and more. There’s even suggestions on what topics or answers to cover to better structure your content.
These content suggestions will be updated as you type, with the numeric counter and color of the ‘important terms’ changing in real time so that you have a better sense of what impact each word makes.
If you want to tweak some settings on how Surfer SEO formulates it’s content suggestions, this can be done just like in the SERP Analyzer. Simply click on the ‘Customize’ button in the top right corner of the sidebar, and you can choose which pages to include or exclude in Surfer SEO’s analysis.
Surfer SEO defaults to the top 5 pages, but you would obviously want to exclude websites that aren’t relevant to your page, or include more pages if you think you’re looking for a larger sample size to base your findings on.
The Content Editor allows almost anyone to quickly pick up the requirements of content structure, word count, formatting, and other quick wins for on-page SEO even if they don’t have a full understanding of how it works.
If you find yourself regularly outsourcing writing to freelancers, Surfer essentially acts as a live audit tool that anyone on your team can use for on-page analysis on their own as they are producing the content.
Simply put, anyone producing content can now do so like an SEO expert without being one themselves, thanks to this simple SEO tool that anyone can get started with.
Another icing on the cake is that Surfer has native integration with Google Docs, in the form of a Chrome extension. If you often write your content in Google Docs, this integration will save you even more time from moving your content across Surfer and Google Docs. This is one of the most well thought out features Surfer has recently implemented, and it shows that they are constantly trying to make sure it’s one of the best tools out there.
This is also immensely helpful if you want to collaborate with other writers in your article, though anyone looking to do so must have the Surfer SEO Chrome Extension installed.
Surfer SEO Pricing
For most people, we think the lowest plan that costs $29 per month would suffice. We think this price is very fair as essential tools like the Content Editor and SERP Analyzer are available with all plans.
This plan gets you 5 queries a day, and uses 250 factors in the analysis for both the SERP Analyzer and Content Editor. For context, the other plans use 500 factors in the analysis.
If you’re serious about SEO and are making a decent income from it, the Basic Plan would serve you well, as it increases the queries to 15 a day for the SERP Analyzer and 25 per day for the Content Editor. This plan costs $59 and goes a long way to increasing your queries and ranking factors without costing an arm and a leg.
If you are comfortable with paying outright for the annual plan, you can get 2 months off any plan, which makes Surfer SEO just that bit more affordable.
Also, there is a 7-day Basic plan trial for $1 where you can have enough time to get a good feel of Surfer SEO before paying for a full subscription.
Surfer SEO Alternatives
While we’ve been impressed by Surfer SEO, it’s important to note that it’s not the only software that offers such features, and there are other web apps out there that might be worth considering.
We’ll go over how Surfer SEO fares against these other options, and the factors you’ll want to consider when choosing one over the other.
Namely, the competitors to Surfer SEO are Page Optimizer Pro, Cora, and Website Auditor.
• Surfer SEO vs Page Optimizer Pro
While both of the tools are great in their own right, you’ll want to pick one to pay for every month, so which one should it be?
In terms of design and intuitiveness, Surfer SEO wins by a mile. Page Optimizer Pro does a great job of compiling a ton of data, but unfortunately falls flat when it comes to presentation. Page Optimizer Pro simply just shoves data in your throat without taking the effort to present them in a more digestible format, and we think this factor alone will push most people over to Surfer SEO.
With that said, Page Optimizer Pro is competent in its core purpose of analyzing page content, structure, LSIs, and so on.
While we found Page Optimizer Pro to be on par with Surfer SEO in terms of performance, there’s no getting around the winner in terms of pricing. Surfer SEO costs $29 per month while Page Optimizer Pro costs just $10.
Overall, we found the price difference between Page Optimizer Pro and Surfer well worth the upgrade when you consider you’ll be spending a lot of time using Surfer or another audit tool.
A far superior UX can lead to improved productivity, and we think ponying up extra for Surfer SEO’s more sleek design is worth it. In fact, when most users who review Surfer have also shared this sentiment, and most people have said this is one of the most polished audit tool they’ve had a chance to use.
• Surfer SEO vs Cora
Before Surfer SEO came about, Cora was the ultimate on-page SEO analysis tool that has built its reputation over the years of being the best.
With that said, we’ll cut this comparison short as Cora costs a whopping $250 a month.
We honestly think 99% of people who are considering such a tool will find Surfer SEO to be the more sensible choice on pricing alone.
While some SEO marketers have stood by Cora’s super in-depth data, we just can’t see how it can be $220 per month better than Surfer SEO in any sense.
There isn’t a conceivable way that we justify that steep price point, even if you’re potentially getting more data with Cora. Paying 10x the price just doesn’t make sense, unless you’re making a ton of money already from your SEO efforts and just want to splurge on tools.
• Surfer SEO vs Website Auditor
Think of Website Auditor as a movie you can buy outright and watch it for the rest of your life, while Surfer SEO is like paying for Netflix every month but being able to access far more content than you could possibly imagine.
This analogy perfectly sums up what Website Auditor is like, as it’s a software you have to download and install on your computer instead of running it from a web browser.
Moreover, it’s just a part of a suite of software (SEOPowersuite), but where it competes with Surfer SEO is obviously on the on-page analysis front.
While Website Auditor is a jack-of-all-trades, it simply can’t compete with Surfer SEO when it comes to properly analyzing correlational SEO factors. In fact, Website Auditor only pull data from the first page of search results, which can contain outliers that severely skew the data. To make things worse, Website Auditor also lacks detailed presentation on keywords data, as it doesn’t provide nuanced information on the count of the keyword, which pages use it, and so on.
With that in mind, we have to mention that Website Auditor only costs a one time fee of $130, while you have to pay $29 or more for Surfer SEO forever. Going back to our analogy of buying a movie compared to subscribing for Netflix, we think most people would find more value in Netflix, and that comparison applies here as well for Surfer SEO.
When it comes to optimizing your content for SEO, it’s often done without any methodical approach and comes down to intuition.
While this might work out just fine if you are a SEO veteran, optimizing for SEO can be frustratingly challenging for those that are new to it, especially if they don’t have anyone readily available to review their content.
The great thing about Surfer SEO is that it removes so much of the guesswork when it comes to audit content.
This tool provides access to actionable suggestions from a content audit to a new content editor without years of experience.
That is the value proposition of Surfer SEO, and if you want to see a difference in how your content ranks in Google, this is one of the best SEO tools that will get the job done.
The ability to have a real time audit and get instant feedback make this a must-have tool for any content editor out there that is even remotely concerned with on-page SEO.
Moreover, the accessibility of Surfer as a web app also makes it one of the easiest SEO tools to collaborate with; you can easily get your entire team to use Surfer to make even better use of it.
DISCLOSURE: The HUSTLR goal is to help readers navigate around the digital economy by learning digital skills to achieve their life goals. This blog post may contain affiliate link(s) and any purchase(s) made through such links will result in a small commission to HUSTLR (at no cost to you). However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair in order to help you make the best choice.
Bernard currently works full-time as a growth hacker and content researcher for HUSTLR. When he was studying in the US 2 years ago, he flipped Yeezys on eBay as a side hustle to fund his degree and living expenses. He’s currently working on his Amazon FBA business & dropshipping on the side.