How I Use Surfer SEO: A Surfer SEO Tutorial for Writers
Before we get started, let’s address the elephant in the room: SEO isn’t dead. And neither are the ever-evolving algorithms of search engines. So, we need reliable tools for SEO to speed up writing and updating content that can rank higher than your competitors and generate more organic traffic. Surfer SEO is one of them — fast, reliable, and accurate.
An SEO Software that Provides Quick Results
We tested the tool’s Content Editor to revamp several blog posts, and the results were remarkable. Within a few weeks, we witnessed significant improvements in our SERP rankings. And yes, you can use the tool to rewrite your entire website and increase organic search traffic.
What sets SurferSEO apart is its ability to enhance your content without limiting creativity. Armed with all the necessary keywords and related terms, you can focus on crafting an exceptional piece. Moreover, a dedicated feature (albeit still in Beta) will guide you if you need assistance integrating additional keywords. While it may not be 100% accurate at this stage, accepting even a portion of its keyword suggestions can elevate your content score and ignite the inspiration needed to complete your masterpiece.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SurferSEO’s arsenal of features. And we’re here to help you understand the full potential of this excellent SEO tool.
The Keyword Research Tool
Writing a blog post or article without knowing what keywords to target is a wasted opportunity. So, first stop — keyword research.
Surfer SEO’s keyword tool is pretty thorough, and to really support SEO efforts, it groups keywords around topic clusters. The information you get about each keyword is pretty standard, covering monthly search volume and keyword difficulty — similar to other SEO tools.
Things get interesting when you analyze clusters, as you also get details about the search intent — local, customer investigation, informational, or shopping. It’s exactly what content marketing strategists need to identify and fill content gaps to best support the buyer’s journey.
For instance, a broad search for “Surfer SEO” yields nearly 300 keywords neatly grouped into 39 clusters. While not all may seem a good match at first glance, a closer examination of each cluster unveils potential topics for your blog. It’s a game of connecting the dots to uncover fresh content ideas — and deleting any groups that distract you instead of adding value. No one needs 300 search terms to write a blog post.
If the visual approach isn’t your cup of tea, you can export the data and navigate through the suggested keywords in the comfort of a familiar spreadsheet.
Now, let’s say you love a good adventure down the rabbit hole, so you want to narrow your research and find long-tail keywords. A more targeted query like “how to use Surfer SEO” generates additional results in 44 clusters. You’ll see some overlap with your initial research, but there’s still a substantial array of new keyword ideas to guide your SEO strategy.
The SERP Analyzer
Before planning an outline for my blog post, I like to check what’s already ranking for my target keyword. Nope, it’s not so I can rewrite the top-performing content — that’s most likely to have the opposite effect on blog performance. Yet, knowing what web pages you compete against will help you create something valuable for readers and friendly to search engines.
The SERP Analyzer is a handy tool that spills all the beans about the top-ranking posts for any keyword. But here’s the catch: this competitive analysis provides exhaustive SEO data, which can be overwhelming, especially when you’re not so much into technical SEO.
The trick is to focus on what matters most for your writing — like how blog posts are organized, organic keywords, headings, keyword density, meta descriptions, and links. Keep it simple, and you’ll get the most helpful insights without getting lost in the details.
The Topical Map
In its beta phase, Surfer SEO’s Topical Map bridges the gap between keyword research and content writing. It’ll assist you in conceptualizing optimal content based on targeted keywords and competitor analysis. So, you have an extensive array of titles, allowing you to select the most fitting options for your content strategy.
Choose the topics for which you seek ideas and ask the tool to generate numerous titles for each. Some generated titles may not quite hit the mark. Others may not align with your brand or audience. Still, the sheer volume of quality suggestions ensures that you’ll have an ample supply to fuel your creative process — enough valuable content ideas to sustain your efforts and keep the creative wheels turning as you continually expand your title concepts.
The Content Editor
The Content Editor helps you build content around targeted keywords, enhancing your chances of ranking well. Leveraging top-ranking pages and Surfer’s proprietary algorithms, it generates a curated list of words and phrases that you should incorporate into your content to make it attractive to search engines. And, if you don’t like working in the built-in text editor, the tool integrates with Google Docs and WordPress, allowing you to work on your content wherever it suits you best.
The tool is easy to use — insert the primary keyword and the geographical location of your audience, and the content editor is ready with guidelines, a brief, and even an outline to get you started.
Alternatively, you can import content from a web page and mention the target keyword. Surfer SEO will provide guidelines for improving your content score using the same algorithm shaped by the competition and adhering to Google’s standards.
What I use for effective search engine optimization:
- Tens of specific keywords and relevant phrases to include in the text. BONUS: A manual addition option for any specific keyword or branded term ensures a tailored approach to your content strategy.
- Suggestions for headings. This SEO tool provides insights into the structural nuances of other content targeting the same keyword so you can cover your chosen topic from A to Z.
- The content score. This content editor is also an SEO analysis tool that tells you how well your blog post will likely perform as you write it. The content score and contextual information compare your work to others, showcasing the average score for web pages and the top score on page 1.
- Guidelines on how to improve your score. Besides the score, you also get actionable insights with a breakdown of the SEO score into four categories: structure, headings, terms, and NLP (Natural Language Processing). It helps writers understand where to make changes, increasing chances of securing a higher rank on Google’s search results.
- Easy customization. Writers can manually tailor the guidelines and personalize the framework for every new draft by selectively choosing additional web pages for SEO analysis, incorporating relevant keywords and brand terms, and excluding phrases that may not align with your content goals.
- Content structure suggestions. Those precise recommendations for content structuring, including the optimal number of headings, paragraphs, and images, can be helpful when you have a low score and don’t know where to start improving it.
- Version history. You can compare different versions of your draft, recover any paragraphs you’ve deleted by mistake, and review content scores as you make changes in your draft. It’s a key feature when more writers and editors work on the same draft.
- A plagiarism checker
- A friendly knowledge base
- Topics & questions (all the information from “People Also Ask” in one place)
- The possibility to add notes for your collaborators to streamline the content creation process
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? That’s entirely normal, especially in the beginning. The urge to monitor the terms that should appear in your text can be distracting. However, as you get used to this SEO tool, you’ll discover that many of these suggested words align seamlessly with your topic—they’re inherently relevant.
What’s even more interesting is the “Insert terms” feature. It’s available only after you’ve surpassed the halfway point in your target word count. It’s almost as if the tool understands the inner workings of a writer’s brain, preventing us from becoming our own stumbling block.
SurferSEO Best Practices and Actionable Tips
- Always check the default settings. Surfer SEO is pretty accurate with keyword rankings and overall rank tracking, but it’s still a tool. You want to double-check the web pages it uses for competitor analysis and use your common sense to decide what terms to include in your content.
- Customize the word count to match the type of content you create. If you write a landing page and the tool has decided that your target keyword needs a 3,000-word web page, you’ll receive inaccurate suggestions. Adjusting the number of words will automatically change the number of headings, paragraphs, images, and keywords you need for a good content score.
- Don’t forget about high-quality internal and external links. You can get more insights on line quality from the SERP Analyzer, the Domain Planner, and Audit tools. However, there’s no metric in the content editor to help you keep track of the number of links in your text, so you have to do it manually.
- Choose your target keywords wisely BEFORE you open the content editor. Depending on your subscription plan, you may have limited drafts/month. Once you generate guidelines for a particular keyword, you spend the credit regardless of whether you write the draft.
- Use the Audit feature after publishing the content to see what’s working and what you need to improve to ensure your older content keeps up with the competition.
Despite not being a free SEO tool, I find SurferSEO delivers exceptional value for money — the tool has other advanced features besides what I mentioned above, but I don’t use them regularly.
What makes Surfer SEO the best SEO tool for me is its adaptability. Achieving a perfect score isn’t a prerequisite for entering the “green” zone, where your content can compete for top positions. Better yet, the editor allows for a human touch with numerous customizable fields — a feature that persists even as Surfer SEO evolves to integrate more AI-powered functionalities.
A quick disclaimer: I’m using the “Basic” legacy plan, which seems to have been phased out. The Surfer team consistently upgrades the tool, introducing more AI-powered features and adjusting prices accordingly. From what I’ve seen, the AI upgrade streamlines the writing process, acting as a catalyst for creativity rather than constraining with rigid algorithms and generic suggestions.