Let’s be honest: the world of SEO tools is pretty saturated.
I’m sure as a blogger you already have a large amount of free and paid tools at your disposal. Why would you need another tool? Ahrefs or Semrush does everything you need when doing SEO research… right?
In reality, Ahrefs or Semrush are only the first part of the equation.
Yes, you need to research and determine which keywords are worth going after, but after that’s settled how do can you effectively rank for that topic?
Surfer fills a gap in creating SEO content. After all, SEO is not about optimizing against Google, but competing against other websites. SERP leaves clues on what Google is expecting in the search results.
Previously, technical SEO audits would take hours, if not days, to manually figure out the important search result metrics. Surfer can get you this info in a matter of seconds.
In this Surfer SEO review, I’ll break down all of the features and functionality of the service. Also what’s great and not so great with this service and features you can take advantage of, pricing, and if this tool is ultimately right for you.
What is Surfer SEO?
Surfer SEO is an on-page data-based search engine optimization tool. Surfer is currently used by more than 10,000 businesses. The company was founded in 2008 by agency owner Slawek Czajkowski in an effort to empower their SEO work with data and to save time. Surfer’s operations is based in Wroclaw, Poland.
- Tests Many Ranking Metrics — Surfer SEO performs over 500 ranking factors in their analysis.
- Related Keyword Results — Uses LSI keyword analysis to tell you what related topics, keywords and content you should add to your existing article.
- Semantic Evaluation — Surfer SEO uses machine learning and AI to evaluate the most prominent words and phrases in content. Surfer uses Google’s BERT methodology.
- Flexible Pricing — Monthly plans provide a set number of query searches, so you only pay for the limit your team needs.
- Saves You Time — Instead of performing a technical audit manually that would take hours to performs, Surfer saves you time within minutes have an audit result to get your content to rank.
- Browser Extension — A Google Chrome extension which allows you to use Surfer in WordPress and Google Docs.
- Overwhelming For Beginners — While Surfer SEO is easy to use, to get the full understanding of Surfer you must have some in-depth knowledge of how SEO works.
- Results Are Only A Guide — Surfer SEO results are not gospel and shouldn't be taken literally. Analysis such as word count, keyword usage, or how many images you need, can be unreasonably high.
- Some Meaningless Results — Information like the number of headers you should have in a post or how much text should be in bold feel somewhat arbitrary.
- Limited NLP Queries — Lowest priced plan doesn't even offer NLP queries and next level is limited to 50 queries per month.
- Works Only With Google — Granted Google is 90% of the marketplace, but Surfer does not work with Bing, or other search engines like YouTube.
- Weak Keyword Research Tool — I don't recommend using Surfer for their keyword research tool, but it is available. Though definitely not Surfer's key selling point.
Personally, I mostly use Surfer SEO for their SERP Analysis tool. It saves me a lot of time when creating new content or trying to improve the ranking of an existing blog post. Though there are other parts of Surfer’s service I’ll cover in this review.
Here are the 5 features I’m going to highlight:
- SERP Analyzer
- Content Editor
- Keyword Research
- Article & Page Audit
- Content Planner
There are also several other features to Surfer SEO and quite a bit of depth to the platform.
If you’re still manually reviewing SERP results to see what the top posts are doing to rank, you’re wasting valuable time.
In a nutshell, Surfer’s SERP Analyzer tool examines the top 48 Google search results for a specific keyword and finds commonalities between them. In fact, Surfer SEO considers over 500 ranking factors such as:
- Page speed scores
- Keyword density
- Referring domains and URLs
- Meta tags
- Natural Language Processing (NLP), which essentially recognizes user intent, sentiment, and which words or phrases have the most meaning in content
- Number of headings
- Alt image text
- Character count for title and meta descriptions
- Structured data
There’s a lot of data to break down. This can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with how to use these metrics to improve your SEO.
However, right off the bat, you get a simple chart that shows you roughly how many words your post should have to compete with the top 10 SERP positions.
From there, you can dig into each specific search result title, URL, domain score, and content score. This is incredibly useful since you can gauge how strong the top SERP spots are and if there’s an opportunity to outrank them.
Surfer SEO also provides LSI keyword opportunities to beef up content writing. Specifically, reports provide:
- A list of general keywords that commonly appear in top SERP results.
- Questions surrounding your main keyword.
- Popular words and phrases that appear.
The keywords and question tabs are definitely the most valuable and can help you come up with relevant topics to include in a post.
There’s also a lot of other granular data. You can see how much content is above the fold, structured data types, and how many images posts use.
Honestly, this data depth is probably a tad overkill. However, I’d argue it’s better to have more data at your disposal and to choose what metrics you focus on most for your on-page SEO efforts. Plus, the sheer amount of time you save by getting a snapshot of SERP results can’t be overstated.
The SERP Analyzer helps improve existing content on your blog, whereas the content editor of Surfer is to help craft new content that will rank in Google.
This editor is certainly a step up from writing in a basic Word document or the WordPress backend. Surfer SEO actually creates a content score for your specific keyword and gives you tips to optimize your writing like:
- Ideal word count.
- How many heading and paragraphs you should aim for.
- A list of LSI keywords and the frequency they should appear.
I’ll admit, the tool is sometimes buggy. It also includes some vanity metrics.
For example, see the screenshot above for “making money blogging”.
I manually checked the top SERP positions for this keyword. Most content is in the 3,000 to 4,000 range, if that. Plus, 42 to 150 images clearly seems excessive.
However, this is still a useful tool if you apply some common sense because of the keyword tracking functionality. If you hire a team of content writers, I’d experiment with having them write content using Surfer SEO’s content editor to see if it yields better on-page SEO.
Plus, the Google Chrome Surfer SEO extension integrates the content editor of WordPress or Google Docs. Which this can be a timesaver in itself.
Like most SEO tools, Surfer SEO has a built-in keyword research tool.
Admittedly, there’s quite a bit of overlap with the keyword research tool and the SERP Analyzer. With this tool, you can:
- Find search volume for single or multiple keywords simultaneously.
- View similar keyword volume to your main search term.
- Filter to show question-based keywords
- Get country-specific search volume and suggestions
- Support for 20+ languages
This is pretty much like any keyword research tool you’d use.
However, one nice metric is a SERP similarity score which highlights LSI keywords that best match your main search term.
This isn’t a main selling point for Surfer SEO, but it helps speed up keyword research slightly.
Competition scores are also missing but are planned for the future, but that’s a major weakness for this tool currently.
Personally, I recommend using other tools to do your keyword research: Ahrefs, Semrush, or my new recent favorite tools KWFinder. Surfer SEO keyword research does appear to be functional but I prefer other tools. The only reason to use this part of their service is you wish to save some money in monthly fees by using one tool. Though Surfer lacks some of the interlinkings and cross-referencing available with other tools.
Article & Page Audit
If you’re curious how optimized an existing piece of content is for a specific keyword, Surfer SEO’s audit tool is going to interest you.
With this tool, you enter a keyword and URL to see how well an article or page is optimized for that keyword. Surfer SEO then performs a similar analysis to their SERP Analyzer report and breaks down:
- Common backlinks you’re missing that competitors have.
- LSI keywords you’re missing.
- Word count, heading word count, and bolded word count plus suggested ranges.
- If you have enough headers and images.
- Page load time and time to first byte.
- Title and meta description length suggestions.
Again, it’s a little buggy sometimes, and getting a suggested word count of 4,000 to 10,000 words or image count of 45 to 75 isn’t very useful.
However, I like this tool for checking existing articles that are already ranking. You can check if you’re missing some easy backlinks, LSI keywords, and find ways to optimize your content to improve rankings.
This new feature is currently in beta and aims to “streamline your content strategy by creating topic clusters related to your head keyword.”
It’s a neat premise. Essentially, you enter a content topic, like affiliate marketing. The tool then provides dozens of cluster ideas for your topic, like “affiliate network” or “influencers affiliate marketing.”
If you click a cluster, you get a detailed view of keyword volume per term. Surfer SEO states a difficulty score is also coming. Though this feature still feels like an afterthought and not the reason why you purchase Surfer.
Other Surfer SEO Features
- User-Friendly Interface — Reports are complex, but using Surfer SEO to input keywords and dig into data is intuitive.
- Keyword Surfer Extension — Research monthly keyword volume and related keyword ideas with this free Google Chrome extension.
- Backlink & Visibility Analysis — These features are still in beta for the SERP Analyzer but it’s nice to see more backlink information is getting added.
Surfer SEO Pricing
SEO tools are typically quite pricey. Surfer SEO is slightly on the cheaper side, and there’s also a variety of plans for hobby bloggers and agencies alike.
Each plan has a different number of daily queries you can call. I actually prefer this to completely unlimited tools because you know exactly what you pay for and how much use you’re getting.
|SERP Analyzer (daily)||5||15||50||100||300|
|Content Editor (monthly)||5||25||100||300||1,000|
|Backlink & Visibility (daily)||0||25||100||300||600|
There are some other differences between plans. For example, the Hobby plan only considers 250 ranking factors with the SERP Analyzer tool and doesn’t include metrics like domain score. However, as soon as you upgrade to Basic, you essentially unlock every feature.
Finding the right plan really boils down to your daily query limits. Again, simple, and you know what you’re paying for.
Note that you get up to a 20% discount for paying annually depending on your plan. you also have available a 7-day free trial for $1.
Surfer SEO Alternatives
The SEO tools niche is a crowded space with many alternatives to Surfer. Though in reality, Surfer is somewhat unique in comparison to the keyword research and link tracking services.
If you’re brand new to using SEO tools, Surfer SEO’s 500+ ranking factor analysis and in-depth audit tool are going to take some getting used to. You unlock a lot of data with this platform, which is a good thing in my eyes. Yes, some of it is excessive. However, when it comes to in-depth technical SEO analysis that also saves time, it’s hard to beat Surfer SEO.
Though their content planner and editor aren’t as impressive, so I’d focus your attention on the SERP Analyzer which is in my opinion the reason why you are purchasing their service.
Either way, Surfer is a must-have SEO tool and is something I use regularly.