Surfer SEO is an on-page SEO tool that provides powerful data-driven insights and content suggestions based on 500+ factors to improve your rankings on Google.
Learn all about its powerful features in this review updated for 2023.
Surfer makes it easy to optimize your content to rank higher on Google for your target keywords with the help of its valuable recommendations based on a deep analysis of the top-ranking competitor pages in the search results.
The cloud-based SEO tool uses AI and natural language processing (NLP) technology to give you page optimization suggestions based on 500+ ranking factors.
|Tool Type||On-Page SEO Software|
|Price||$59 – $199 per month|
|Discount||Save 17% with annual billing|
|Promotion||7-Day Money Back Guarantee|
|My Rating||4.9 out of 5 stars ★★★★★|
Continue reading below to learn all about Surfer SEO's powerful features and functionality that can help you optimize your content to rank higher on Google.
BoostPlanner is reader-supported. If you buy through a link on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission.
What is Surfer SEO?
Surfer SEO is a data-driven on-page search engine optimization tool. The tool uses machine learning and AI to audit sites on the SERPs and provide optimization insights.
Surfer was founded in 2008 by agency owner Slawek Czajkowski. The company is based in Wroclaw, Poland. Currently, Surfer is used by more than 10,000 businesses.
Surfer SEO maintains a high rating in the SEO software category, earning positive reviews on leading product review sites like G2 and Capterra.
Based on customer reviews, many people consider Surfer SEO to be one of the best tools on the market for on-page SEO insights and optimizing content to rank.
The most commonly mentioned Surfer SEO features in reviews online are the content editor, SEO audit, and SERP analyzer.
- Excellent user interface for optimizing content.
- Quickly find out what topics and keywords to write about.
- Leading SEO software for optimizing on-page keyword usage.
- In-depth topic and keyword research for content planning.
- Create an entire content strategy with the provided ideas.
- Advanced auditing of website pages based on competition.
- Get extensive SERP and competitor on-page insights.
- Pricey for small projects or operations.
- The learning curve to understand all features.
Surfer SEO Pricing
Surfer SEO offers three primary plans as well as custom plans for larger needs.
|Feature||Basic||Pro (Top Pick)||Business|
|Content Editors||10 pages / month||30 pages / month||70 pages / month|
|SEO Audits||20 pages / month||60 pages / month||140 pages / month|
|NLP Data||Free for 1st month||Yes||Yes|
|Invite Team Members||1||3||10|
|Grow Flow||Add and track 1 website||Add and track 5 websites||Add and track 10 websites|
|Support||Email + Customer Sucess Team|
|Price||$59 per month||$119 per month||$239 per month|
Surfer SEO pricing starts at $59 per month.
The basic plan starts at a rate of $49 per month if you sign up for an annual subscription. An annual plan saves you 17% on any Surfer SEO plan.
Surfer's basic plan is suited for small site projects, freelance content writers, bloggers, or SEOs who only need to write or optimize 10 or fewer articles a month.
The Pro plan is the most popular option for many digital marketers since you can edit and audit 3 times the number of articles and pages. In addition, the Pro plan includes NLP data to better optimize your content at all times rather than just the 1st month.
You can learn more about Surfer SEO's pricing plans here.
Surfer SEO Features
Surfer SEO includes features for keyword research, content planning, SERP analysis, and on-page optimization based on data from top-ranking sites in Google SERPs.
In my opinion, Surfer SEO is worth using for its content editor, SEO audit, and SERP analysis tools, to uncover the words and phrases to use to potentially improve rankings.
In this review, we break down the following Surfer SEO features:
- Content Editor
- SEO Audit
- Content Planner
- SERP Analyzer
- Keyword Research
- Grow Flow (New Feature)
Learn more about each feature in detail below.
1. Content Editor
The content editor is Surfer's most popular, well-known feature.
The editor gives you SEO guidelines for writing an optimized piece of content based on one or more keywords you provide and data from competing pages ranking in Google.
For more context, here's a quick video guide on how to use Surfer's content editor:
Setting Up the Content Editor
Below is the page used to set up the content editor.
To create a new content editor, you simply enter one or more keywords that you want to optimize your next piece of content around.
Then, you choose a location to search from and select desktop or mobile search results. These settings define the type of search results that Surfer SEO will use to search your keywords and gather the most relevant insights to improve rankings.
As you create more content editors for different keywords, Surfer will save your content editor history. You can search by keyword or tags to quickly find a previous editor.
Your plan's content editor monthly limit is also displayed, informing you of how many remaining unique queries (keywords) and content editors are available to use.
Inside the Content Editor
Once you enter your desired keywords and select “Create Content Editor”, you're presented with the content editor view and a side panel that includes the SEO content guidelines, additional insights, and customization options.
This is where Surfer shines as a content optimization tool for SEO.
Surfer's content guidelines show you potential terms to use based on the content of the top-ranking competing pages for your search query or queries.
This includes terms found in the body, headings, and words based on LSI keyword analysis, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP analysis).
Surfer uses Google's NLP API to extract data about entities and sentiment. This process is used to better understand the main keywords or phrases on a page by looking at the content surrounding them.
Surfer then processes the data further based on what's called True Density, or the saturation of each important word and phrase in the context of a given keyword.
Filter the Visibility of Specific Terms
Oftentimes, Surfer will show you hundreds of possible terms to incorporate into your content creation. This includes both suggested LSI keywords and phrases.
To make it easier to focus and optimize your content for specific terms, you can filter terms with the given search bar found in the side panel.
Filter terms based on if they're optimized, partially optimized, or not optimized.
You can also show ranges next to each term, which suggests the minimum and maximum times to use a term in your piece of content and existing occurrences.
As you write and incorporate suggested terms, the SEO score is updated in real-time.
The Content Editor's Brief Section
The Brief section of the content editor includes an outline builder, a notes section, competitor page links based on the search query targeted, and topics & questions pulled from the “People Also Ask” section of Google's search results.
This information is helpful for creating more comprehensive content with a higher potential of showing up as featured snippets in Google Search results.
You can also use the insights from the content editor's brief section as a way to find ideas and inspiration for either editing, expanding, or creating new content.
The Outline Builder in the Content Editor Brief
The outline builder feature surfaces headings and paragraphs that are uniquely generated based on the content of the top 10 ranking competitors.
You can click on the displayed clipboard icons to quickly copy and paste the content right into the editor to help boost your content score and topic relevancy.
Surfer's outline builder works well with the AI writing tool known as Jasper (previously Jarvis AI) to quickly generate and then optimize content in one place.
Check out my Jasper AI review to learn about its features, pricing, and more.
Jasper provides an integration with Surfer which gives you the ability to output AI-generated content and then get Surfer's guidelines for optimizing content like articles and blog posts inside the same document editor.
Organic Competitor Options for Content Editor Guidelines
In the upper-left corner of the SEO guidelines side panel, there's a gear icon you can click on to navigate to options where you can review and adjust the guideline results.
Clicking the icon first opens up the organic competitors that are currently being tracked for use in the SEO content guidelines analysis.
Toggling on a different set of competitors will update the content structure and terms to use in your content, which affects the content guidelines and content score.
In the Organic Competitors table, you can choose to display the following for a quick snapshot of competitor content insights and estimated traffic.
- Domain Authority
- Content Score
- Total Words
- Domain Traffic
- URL Traffic
Content Structure Options for Adjusting Content Score
The second section of the content editor options interface lets you adjust the content structure that affects your content score.
Adjusting the content structure values could be useful if you end up noticing some discrepancies between Surfer's guidelines and the live content in search results.
As a regular user of Surfer, the software tends to be pretty accurate. So far, I have only noticed minor issues with detecting page images, which can affect the content score.
You can change the number of words, headings, paragraphs, and images.
Terms to Use Settings for Content Editor Guidelines
The next section of the options side panel lets you adjust the terms to use and focus on while optimizing your content.
These are the prominent words and phrases that Surfer extracts based on the main keyword you selected when starting a new editor and competitor analysis.
You can exclude terms, mark terms as heading, or select all terms.
Depending on your main search query, you can keep scrolling down this list to discover more terms to add to the SEO guidelines panel and incorporate into your content.
Topics & Questions for the Content Editor Outline
The topics and questions section of the content editor options surfaces relevant topics and questions you might want to answer in your content.
When you toggle these on, they will appear in the side panel of the content editor under the Outline section.
These topics and questions are extracted by Surfer from both top-ranking pages and the “People Also Ask” box that appears in Google's search results.
Content Editor Extension
Surfer provides a Google Chrome extension that gives you the optional ability to integrate the Surfer content editor with WordPress and Google Docs.
While I have had no issues copy-pasting between WordPress and Surfer's editor, this Chrome extension ensures there are no formatting problems when doing so.
2. Content Planner
The second major feature to review in Surfer is the Content Planner.
Surfer's content planner is a super helpful tool for supporting keyword research and creating a complete SEO content strategy for your website.
The content planner can help you map out future primary and supporting pages including the topics and keywords they should include for an effective SEO strategy.
Setting Up the Content Planner
Based on a keyword or website domain, Surfer will map out relevant keyword clusters.
Content Planner Summary Page
On the content planner summary page, Surfer displays hundreds of keywords grouped into topics or keyword clusters that are related to the main topic.
The total estimated search volume is conveniently displayed in the upper-right corner of each topic cluster. You can sort topic clusters by relevance or search volume.
Depending on the main topic, you can also filter topic clusters by:
- Content Score – Available if you created a content editor for the main topic.
- Intent – Local, customer investigation, informational, or shopping.
- Keywords – Select a specific keyword cluster range.
- Search volume – Choose a specific search volume range
You can click on the down arrow icon to export all the content planner data to a CSV file to view topic clusters, keywords, and their search volumes in a spreadsheet.
Keyword Cluster in Content Planner
Clicking on a specific keyword cluster opens a detailed view that shows the monthly search volume and total traffic of the groups of keywords that make up the cluster. The search volume of each individual keyword is also displayed.
3. SERP Analyzer
Next up in this Surfer SEO review is the SERP Analyzer tool. This tool lets you compare and analyze top ranking site pages in the Google SERPs for a variety of ranking factors. You can also export nearly all of the data for use in custom SEO reports.
Alongside the content editor and SEO guidelines, the SERP Analyzer makes Surfer SEO a pretty valuable tool for on-page competitor analysis and auditing.
With the help of the SERP analysis tool, you can quickly get correlational SEO insights that help you figure out exactly what type of content Google prefers to rank at the top.
Setting Up the SERP Analyzer
SERP Analyzer Chart View
After entering one or more keywords and selecting “Run Serp Analyzer”, the SERP Analyzer interface will appear, loaded with a ton of data to compare and contrast.
Let's take a look at the SERP Analyzer in more detail.
Search Results in SERP Analyzer
The first SERP Analyzer tab below the chart view displays a list of top competitor sites based on your submitted keyword.
Additional metrics and options are shown to the right of each competitor page snippet:
- The content score of the competitor page for the keyword.
- Domain score which reflects the strength of the page's backlink profile.
- Toggle competitor pages on or off in the above chart to compare ranking factor metrics.
- Exclude competitor pages from showing in the chart.
- Option to send a competitor page over to Surfer's page audit tool.
- Get a screenshot of a competitor page.
- View a content outline based on a competitor page's content.
And this is just the first tab of Surfer's SERP Analyzer! 🤯
Content Outline in SERP Analyzer
Here's an example content outline based on the content of a competitor shown in the SERP Analyzer.
Keywords in SERP Analyzer
The next tab shows the common ranked keywords that the competitor page URLs rank for with keyword metrics that include:
- The top 10 similar keywords for each keyword.
- Overlapping pages or the number of competitor pages ranking for each keyword.
- Monthly search volume estimates of each keyword.
- Relevance of each keyword based on competitors' traffic and search volume.
You can select which competitors you want to enable or disable, which will alter the keyword data.
Questions in SERP Analyzer
The third tab includes questions that at least 2 of the top 20 ranking pages also rank for alongside the originally submitted keyword. Search volume and the number of overlapping pages are shown for each question.
Popular Words in SERP Analyzer
The fourth tab displays popular words, which are defined by Surfer as 30 words that are used on each competitor page at least twice. The words are sorted by the number of occurrences and keyword density.
Popular Phrases in SERP Analyzer
The fifth tab shows popular phrases, which are 30 phrases up to 4 words long that are used on each competitor page at least twice. The phrases are sorted by the number of occurrences and keyword density.
Common Words in SERP Analyzer
The sixth tab lists out words that are common among the top 10 ranking pages.
Common Phrases in SERP Analyzer
The seventh tab lists out phrases up to 4 words long that are common among the top 10 ranking competitor pages.
Prominent Words & Phrases in SERP Analyzer
The eighth tab displays words and phrases that appeared more than once on at least two competitor pages with related metrics including:
- Page frequency of each keyword.
- The keyword density based on the number of keywords per 100 words.
- The number of phrases.
Common Backlinks in SERP Analyzer
While Surfer's features primarily focus on competitor analysis and optimization related to content writing, the ninth tab surprisingly offers off-site SEO data!
This tab shows the common referring domains for the top 20 ranking pages including:
- The number of competitor domains from the top 20 that have acquired the backlink including the specific referring page linking to the competitor and its estimated traffic.
- The total number of referring domains that the backlinking sites have acquired provides insight into the strength of the common referring domains.
- Estimated traffic the common domains are generating.
4. SEO Audit
The next major feature to discuss in this Surfer review is the powerful SEO Audit tool. This tool gives you a quick and convenient way to audit a page of content and compare it to competitor pages for the following factors:
- Content Score
- Missing Common Backlinks
- Internal Links
- Terms to Use
- Word Count
- Exact Keywords
- Partial Keywords
- Page Structure
- Title & Meta Description Length
- Page Speed
- Time to First Byte
- Load time (ms)
Content Score in SEO Audit
The content score chart displays your page's content score to your competitors' pages for a target keyword phrase, including a score range to aim for.
Missing Common Backlinks in SEO Audit
Similar to the backlinks data in Surfer's SERP Analyzer, a list of missing common backlinks based on competitor pages is shown, which are potential link-building opportunities you might want to look into for your site.
Internal Links in SEO Audit
The internal links section of the Surfer SEO audit checks to see if topically relevant pages on your site contain internal links or provide an opportunity to add an internal link to your audited page.
You can hover over the checkbox to the right of each linking page to see a potential snippet of content where you can add an internal link on that page.
Terms to Use in SEO Audit
Similar to the terms to use found in the content editor's SEO guidelines, this section of the Surfer audit lists important terms (including terms based on NLP analysis) and suggestions for their use in the page being audited.
Additional term metrics shown include:
- Example sentences containing the given term on competing sites.
- Number of times the term is used on your site.
- A suggested usage range based on your current content length.
- The average sentiment of the given term.
- Relevance of the term.
- Suggested action to take such as adding or removing the term.
Word Count in SEO Audit
The word count section of the Surfer SEO website auditor provides suggestions for adding or removing words in the audited page's content, including the body, header tags, paragraphs, and strong tags based on competitor usage.
Exact Keywords in SEO Audit
This section of the Surfer SEO audit shares suggestions for adding or removing the exact keyword in different sections of the audited page's content based on how top-ranking competitors are using the keyword.
Partial Keywords in SEO Audit
The next section of the Surfer Audit shares suggestions for adding or removing terms based on partial keyword density in various sections of the audited page's content based on usage in competitor pages.
Page Structure in SEO Audit
The page structure section of the SEO Audit gives suggestions for adding or removing HTML elements based on competing pages, such as header tags, paragraphs, images, and strong tags.
Title & Meta Description Length in SEO Audit
This audit section gives suggestions for adding or removing characters in the title and meta description of the audited page based on competing pages.
Time to First Byte & Load Time in SEO Audit
The final section of Surfer's SEO Audit tool provides insight into how fast the audited page loads based on competitor pages.
5. Keyword Research
Surfer's keyword research feature is the final major feature to review that makes up the Surfer SEO tools, excluding Surfer's free Chrome browser extension shared below.
Setting Up the Keyword Research Tool
Keyword Research Table
Upon submitting one or several keywords, a keyword research table is displayed.
While not the most advanced of the keyword research software out there, it's still pretty useful in combination with the rest of Surfer SEO's features and helps evolve Surfer into a top all-in-one SEO software.
Surfer's keyword research tool includes the following types of keywords alongside SERP similarity and the estimated monthly search volume of each keyword:
- Similar keywords that at least 2 of the top 20 pages are ranking for that also rank for the target keyword.
- Keywords that include the same terms as the target keyword.
- Questions that at least 2 of the top 20 pages are ranking for that also rank for the target keyword.
You can click on any keyword in the table to set it as the target keyword to research. You can also click on a given keywords' folder icon to add the keyword to the clipboard section in the left sidebar for research at a later time.
6. Keyword Surfer
Keyword Surfer is a 100% free Chrome extension provided by Surfer SEO. With Keyword Surfer, you get free keyword data like search volume data, keyword ideas, and more.
When you enter a search query in Google, the tool will show you the estimated monthly search volume for your query and estimated CPC (cost-per-click) if you were to run Google Ads targeting the query.
This search data helps to quickly check if a keyword phrase is worth creating content around based on search demand and bidding competition.
Below each title link in the search result snippets, Keyword Surfer shows you:
- Estimated monthly traffic to the domain in the United States.
- Number of words on the page.
- The number of exact keywords used on the page.
- If Google changed the title for the search results. You can hover over “Title changed” to see the original title of the page in a tooltip.
Keyword Ideas & Correlation Charts in Keyword Surfer
Along with the above features, Keyword Surfer gives you related keyword ideas and correlation charts in a panel on the right-hand side of the search results.
The correlation charts are useful for gaining a quick glimpse of domain traffic, page word count, and exact keywords used across the top 10 ranking websites.
Clicking on “Create free Content Editor” will let you try out the Content Editor with a limited set of suggested terms to use based on the search query entered.
If you click on the Generate Article Outline button, Surfer provides a free AI (artificial intelligence) article outline generator.
With a Surfer Pro account, Surfer generates optional unique paragraphs you can copy and paste into your content in the Content Editor.
6. Grow Flow
Grow Flow is a new AI growth management platform included in all Surfer SEO plans. The AI growth tool offers task ideas that can help you create better topic clusters and fill content gaps across your site pages.
Currently, Grow Flow is free for all Surfer SEO subscribers and gives you AI-powered weekly tasks and insights to optimize your website content. Non-subscribers only get one flow of tasks for their domain.
Grow Flow gives you AI-generated tasks designed to enhance your SEO strategy and improve your results. After connecting to Google Search Console, you'll receive personalized tasks and insights from Grow Flow on a weekly basis.
The AI tool provides new tasks every week with suggestions like potential keywords to add to your content, relevant internal links, and fresh article ideas.
Surfer SEO Alternatives
Here are three popular Surfer SEO alternatives for SEO content writing software that can help with content optimization to improve rankings and search engine visibility:
Semrush is a reputable complete SEO platform and popular alternative to Surfer SEO.
Semrush includes a comprehensive on-page SEO checker that detects semantic keyword ideas, and other suggestions to improve your website content, SEO strategy, backlinks, technical issues, and user experience.
Surfer SEO vs. Semrush
Compared to Surfer, Semrush provides a more complete SaaS platform with tools and features for digital marketing, content marketing, SEO, PPC, and social media.
Examples include more extensive keyword research tools, deep competitor insights with backlink analytics, a daily rank tracker, and a report builder with many templates.
However, Surfer offers the most advanced capabilities for on-page optimization and being aware of the most relevant and impactful terms to add to your content.
The two SEO software tools actually complement each other well if you utilize Semrush for deep research, rank tracking, and reporting, and Surfer for content optimization.
Check out my in-depth Semrush review and the latest pricing plans to learn more.
2. SE Ranking
SE Ranking is a popular all-in-one SEO software that includes an effective on-page SEO checker as part of their affordable pricing plans.
Check out this SE Ranking review and pricing plans for more details.
Surfer SEO vs. SE Ranking
SE ranking is an excellent all-in-one SEO tool that provides some of the lowest plan costs for the feature set on the market.
Also a Semrush alternative, SE Ranking includes all the major keyword and competitor research tools common in SEO platforms as well an on-page SEO tool.
However, Surfer provides much more comprehensive on-page audits and suggestions for improving your content.
Frase is a content optimization software that provides features for researching, writing content and briefs with AI, and optimizing written content.
Surfer SEO vs. Frase
While not as robust as Surfer in terms of content analysis features and data, Frase has helpful content generation features and continues to improve and expand.
Surfer SEO FAQs
What is Surfer SEO Content Editor?
The Surfer Content Editor provides guidelines to comprehensively cover the topic you're writing on.
The content editor generates a list of words, phrases, headlines, and questions to optimize your content based on analyzing the top-ranking pages for your main keyword phrase.
How Does Surfer SEO Work?
In regards to the content editor guidelines and audit tools, Surfer SEO works by analyzing the content of a page (for a given keyword or set of keywords) against 500+ on-page signals.
Alongside this main functionality, Surfer SEO also includes content planning and keyword research tools.
What is a Good Surfer SEO Score?
The Surfer SEO team recommends aiming for a score of 70 or greater. A high score between 67 and 100 indicates optimum quality and relevance in relation to the main keyword you are targeting.
Is Surfer SEO Free?
Surfer is not free. However, if after using Surfer for 7 days you're not satisfied, you can contact their support team via chat or email to process a refund request.
You can extend the money-back guarantee to 30 days by sharing feedback on how Surfer can be improved.
The team at Surfer offers a free browser extension tool though, called Keyword Surfer for getting keyword ideas with search volume data. The extension is described above in more detail.
How Much Does Surfer SEO Cost?
Surfer SEO pricing plans start at $59 per month.
With an annual subscription, you can get the Basic plan at a rate of $49 per month (save 17%).
The mid-tier Pro plan costs $119 per month.
Does Surfer SEO Offer a Discount?
Surfer offers a discount if you sign up for an annual plan, which is 17% off the monthly plan rate.
Does Surfer SEO Offer a Free Trial?
Surfer does not currently offer a free trial. However, a 7-day money-back guarantee is provided.
Surfer SEO Review Conclusion
Surfer is an impressive content optimization tool for SEO worth checking out for access to the valuable data-driven insights and time savings it provides for site owners, businesses, and digital marketers alike.
The SEO tool makes it easy to uncover the most relevant words and phrases to use in your content. You also save hours of time by not having to manually find these terms.
Surfer's guidelines can help you craft content with a higher potential to rank on Google in a much shorter period of time than attempting to seek out terms to add manually.
With its advanced content analysis and guidelines for any target keyword based on 500+ on-page factors, Surfer SEO is a top tool to help you achieve better rankings.
SEO Software Guides:
- SEO Content Software
- All-In-One SEO Software
- SEO Site Audit Software
- On-Page SEO Checkers
- SEO Reporting Software
- Local SEO Software
- Rank Tracking Software
- Daily Rank Tracking Software
- SEO Automation Software
- Keyword Research Software
- Small Business SEO Software
- Jasper AI Review
- SE Ranking Review
- Semrush Review
- SE Ranking vs Semrush
- SE Ranking vs SEO PowerSuite
- Semrush Alternatives
- SE Ranking Alternatives
- Ahrefs Alternatives