As a content writing agency, we use Surfer SEO everyday to help optimise the content we create for clients.
In this Surfer SEO review I'll share exactly what I like and dislike about the software. I'll also show you some of the cool features we use and who I think this software is perfect for.
Let's get started
Overall Surfer SEO Review
I give Surfer SEO 4 stars out of 5.
Surfer SEO is a great all-in-one solution for planning and optimizing your content. It comes with many different features, which can be a little overwhelming for newbies. However, everything is very easy to use and you can figure it all out pretty quickly. You just need to play around a little.
The Content Editor can be really helpful and valuable for guiding your content. But, just don’t get too concerned with the Content Score. I think it’s easy to get a bit carried away and try to force terms into your content just to get the score up. However, in my experience, it’s usually pretty easy to hit the 70 mark just by writing naturally and keeping your content on topic.
Surfer’s pricing plans are reasonable for what you’re getting. Altogether, Surfer’s tools help you plan out your content strategy, find content gaps to fill, help optimize your existing content, and more. This makes it a great option if you’re looking for a holistic tool that does a bit of everything.
Surfer SEO (3rd Party Reviews)
Surfer SEO is very highly rated on G2 (see here). At the time of writing, there are a total of 310 reviews with 90% of reviewers giving it 5 stars! And no one has given it less than 4 stars, which says a lot.
Most people seem to absolutely swear by this tool - their only gripes being about the pricing being a bit too expensive.
On Capterra, Surfer SEO scores an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars (see here). There are 224 reviews in total - only one of them giving Surfer less than four stars.
People really love the Content Editor and how it shows what topics to cover and gives keyword density guidelines.
Most of the negative feedback is about the pricing again as people feel you get too few Content Editor credits on the cheapest plan. The one other thing that users note is that the keyword research tool isn’t great.
You may also like: How to do keyword research
My Experience with Surfer SEO
I’ve been using Surfer SEO for about two years now. Here is my honest review of its different features and whether I think it’s worth the monthly cost or not.
Surfer SEO Features
When you sign up for Surfer SEO, you get access to their suite of tools. Keep reading to find out what I think of each of them.
Let’s start off with the Content Editor. After going through a bunch of third-party reviews, it seems like this is the tool that most people are after when they sign up for Surfer SEO and it’s easy to understand why.
Surfer’s Content Editor helps you optimize your content as you write it and gives you a real-time Content Score.
You give Surfer a target keyword and it shows you what terms it expects to see in content about that specific topic. It does this by analyzing the top ranking pages for that keyword and calculating the prominence of certain terms on those pages.
Unfortunately, this means that you can sometimes end up with competitor site/product names in the suggested terms list. Then you’ll need to unselect that competing page from the list that Surfer analyzes or else it can impact your Content Score.
In addition to providing terms to include in your content, Surfer gives guidelines for:
- how long the content should be (see our guide on blog post length)
- how many headings to include
- the number of paragraphs
- and how many images to include
You can adjust all of these to suit your needs and preferences though.
The Content Editor also features an Outline Builder. This tool provides unique titles, headings, subheadings, and content that you can add directly into the editor and use to supplement your own writing.
Surfer’s Content Editor gives your content a score out of 100 based on the terms you use, the headings, and the structure of the content. A good content score is anything above 70.
The score essentially gamifies the content writing process. You basically want to get all the terms to turn green so that you can watch your score increase. While it might be satisfying to get everything in the green, I find that it can be quite time-consuming and difficult to squeeze all the terms in as many times as Surfer wants.
But other than that, I think that Surfer’s Content Editor is very useful for keeping your content on topic. It helps you cover all the bases so that you have the best chance of competing for the top spots in the SERPs.
Surfer SEO’s Audit tool lets you analyze the content on your existing pages and posts.
It’s a great tool if you have an already-established website with a lot of content and are now looking to optimize what you already have. But, if you’re just starting out and are using Surfer’s Content Editor, then you probably won’t use the Audit that much.
The Audit analyzes your page and gives you a report outlining what you could improve.
Here is what it covers:
- Content Score
- Missing common backlinks
- Internal links
- Terms to Use
- Word count
- Exact and partial keywords
- Page structure
- Title and meta description length
- Page speed (Time to first byte and Load time)
It gives you action items for each of these categories so you can see exactly how to improve your content.
Surfer’s Content Planner helps you to uncover a topic keyword clusters for an entire niche.
Say you want to become an authority in a specific niche. The Content Planner will help you find supporting keyword groups relevant to your niche so that you can write more as extensively on the topic and rank higher.
To give you an example, I typed in ‘SEO’ as my main keyword into the Content Planner. It then gave me a whole bunch of different clusters (112 to be exact) - each with a list of keywords that I could create content on.
This tool can be helpful if you’re about to explore a new niche or topic area on your site or if your website is fairly new. It can help you plan out your content strategy for a specific niche and give you a good starting point.If you’re already using other keyword research tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, then a tool like KeyClusters may make more sense to use as it gives you more control over your keyword grouping.
The SERP Analyzer gives you an in-depth look into a specific keyword and the pages that currently rank on page one of the SERPs for it.
It gives you a ton of information so that you can really plan out your content and on-page SEO. You’ll get data on:
- Average content length
- Keyword density and frequency
- Number of headings
- Above the fold content
- Use of ‘hidden content’
- URL structure
- Average page speeds
- Image alt texts
- And much more
You can select the data you want to look at and it will plot it on a graph so that you can easily see it.
While the SERP Analyzer might be great for SEO experts, I think it can be really overwhelming for anyone else.
Personally, I just use the Content Editor to see guidelines on how to structure my content for a specific keyword so I don’t find this tool very helpful.
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Surfer SEO has a keyword research tool that you can use to find similar keywords for your main term. Like with other keyword research tools, it also shows you question-based keywords that have similar terms as the one you’re targeting.
Using this tool, you can analyze the search volume and SERP similarity of your target keyword and similar ones you want to use.
After using a tool like Ahrefs, I find Surfer’s keyword research tool a bit basic. But it does the job fine if you’re just looking to find some new, related keywords to target.
Surfer SEO has three pricing plans:
- Basic - $59 per mont
- Pro - $119 per month
- Business - $239 per month
If you choose to pay annually instead of monthly, you get 17% off, making the plans a little more affordable.
The pricing plans basically differ in how many editor and audit queries you can do per month. No matter which you sign up for though, you get access to the SERP Analyzer and Content Planner tools.
If you’re a small business just starting out or are a writer just wanting to use the Content Editor then it is quite pricey.
It would be nice if you could just pay for the Content Editor as that’s the tool that most people seem to use Surfer for (including me).
But, if you use all the tools and make the most of what Surfer has to offer then the pricing tiers are very reasonable for what you’re getting.
Surfer SEO Alternatives
There are a number of Surfer SEO alternatives, including MarketMuse, Clearscope and Frase. We use Frase a lot for creating briefs, and on the outline and brief front we think Frase is better. See our Frase review or compare Frase vs Surfer SEO.