Of all the SEO tools available, Surfer SEO is one of those that I find the most useful.
Surfer SEO is an application that analyzes over 500 ranking factors, compares your content against your competitors, and provides a data-driven SEO blueprint on improving your website’s ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
This is my review of the Hobby Plan for Surfer SEO, which is the most affordable plan available at about 25 quid per month. The limits are lower than the other plans and some features are not available but it can still pack quite a punch.
Before we get into the details of this Surfer SEO review, first let’s take a look at what you get in the Hobby Plan.
Hobby Plan Details
Surfer SEO Hobby includes:
- 5 Content Editor queries per month
- 5 Serp Analyzer queries per day
- 20 Content Planner queries per month
- Keyword Research Tool
- Audit Tool
Compared to other packages, the Hobby Plan has lower query limits – however, it should be plenty for occasional users. In addition, the Hobby Plan does not analyse NLP, provide domain score or page speed metrics like the more expensive plans. These are cool features but not essential.
Surfer SEO’s Content Planner Tool can be used to help you plan the content structure and hierarchy for both your website’s pages and your website as a whole.
For example, if you had a website about ‘baby cribs’, typing this keyword into Content Planner will return a list of ‘topic clusters’. Each ‘topic cluster’ contains a primary keyword, which can be thought of a topic for discussion, and a list of secondary keywords that relate to the primary keyword. There is also a total search volume (how many times this topic gets searched each month) for all the keywords shown – individual search volumes can be viewed by clicking on the ‘topic cluster’. This information can be used to plan the articles/blog posts that you write.
Another way to use Content Planner is to type in a domain name rather than a keyword. This can be the domain name for either your own site or that of a competitor (if you want to examine your own site, you may wish to connect Google Search Console so that Surfer SEO has access to more accurate data). The results will give you a list of ‘topic clusters’ found on this domain as well as practical recommendations for improvement (NOTE: you must click the ‘advanced’ button to see the ‘topic cluster’ layout).
Topic clusters can be used to plan the content structure of your website (e.g. a page per topic cluster) and the structure of each article or blog post (e.g. main keyword used in the title and secondary keywords used for subheadings).
Keywords from topic clusters can then be linked directly to the Surfer Content Editor (see below).
From the list of topics generated in the Surfer SEO Content Planner, you can create a Content Editor. Surfer’s Content Editor can also be accessed as a standalone tool, for which you provide the keyword you wish to write about manually.
The Surfer SEO Content Editor screen is split into two panels; a document editor panel and an optimization panel.
The document editor panel looks a lot like Google Docs or WordPress and it is where you will write out your article.
The optimization panel consists of two sections; brief and guidelines.
The ‘brief’ section gives you sample headings and paragraphs of text to structure your article based on the top-performing websites in the SERPs. You can copy and paste these into the document editor to provide a comprehensive for your writer. You can also find a list of the top ranking pages, related questions (based on the People Also Ask… feature of Google) and other notes.
The ‘guidelines’ section of the optimization panel provides a ‘content score’, which is the way that Surfer SEO grades content. It will start off at zero and increase as write your article – you will be aiming for a content score of 70+ to compete well in the SERPs.
The ‘content score’ is based on a myriad of of on-page search engine optimization factors that Surfer SEO deem important including number of words, words and phrases used, heading, number of paragraphs, number of images etc.
These factors are also displayed in the ‘guidelines’ so that you can tailor your article to include the information that give it the best chances of ranking on the first page of Google.
The next Surfer SEO tool is the Audit tool.
Unlike other SEO audit tools, Surfer SEO does not scan your site looking for technical SEO issues. Instead, it scans your content.
The content audit tool is used to analyze existing content and obtain recommendations about how it could be optimized. You simply input the URL of your webpage and the primary keyword and wait for Surfer SEO to return its report.
The page analysis report is very similar to what we have already seen in the Content Editor. The content score is shown and there are recommendations relating to word count, headings, words and phrases, images etc that compare your page to the top ranking pages. There is also an option to select which of the top search results you want to compare against. This is useful for removing any outliers or unrelated pages that may skew the recommendations.
With the more expensive plans, you can also get information about competitors backlinks and page speed, however these are not available with the Hobby Plan. This is not really a big deal to me because I can get this information using other tools. I get backlink reports from SE Ranking and Google’s Pagespeed Insights gives me speed metrics.
Surfer SEO’s SERP Analyzer tool is used to pull data from the top results in the search engines for a given keyword.
This information can then be used to identify common themes and patterns, that you can use when you come to optimize your own content.
The analysis tool takes several factors into account, including those listed above in the other on-page SEO tools (content length, keywords, keyword density etc.) Additional ranking factor data is available with the premium plans, including backlinks and page speed factors.
The Keyword Research tool that Surfer SEO provides keywords ideas based on a seed keyword that you provide.
Unlink other SEO tools (e.g. SE Ranking), the Surfer SEO team have designed this tool to generate keyword ideas based on SERP similarity. In essence, this means keywords are found by looking at other keywords that the top-ranking webpages for the original keyword also rank for. This can provide additional insights that other keyword analysis tools may not pick up.
Search volume and question data are also provided by the keyword research tool.
Surfer SEO Google Chrome Extension
Keyword ideas and SERP analysis can also be accessed by using the Google Chrome extension, available from Surfer SEO. This extension has additional data pop up on your screen when you perform a Google search. Some people keep this on all the time but I find it a bit annoying so only turn it on when I am doing dedicated research.
Surfer SEO vs the Alternatives
There are two main competitors to Surfer SEO; Page Optimizer Pro (POP) and Cora.
Cora is perhaps the most advanced page optimizer software available but it comes at a cost of about $250 per month.
POP is similarly priced to Surfer SEO but lacks features and the interface is a little clunky.
At present, I believe that Surfer SEO offers the best value for money, however it is worth checking out these two other tools and seeing how they work for you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Surfer SEO review. I’ve gone over what each of Surfer’s tools is used and how you may integrate them into your workflow. The Hobby Plan presents excellent value for casual users, however, the bigger plans are great value, too, if you will use the software enough. I should also mention that the bigger plans provide additional information using Natural Language Processing (NLP). This can help you to structure your articles to perform better in the SERPs.