Surfer SEO beginner's guide

Demystifying Surfer SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

When it comes to creating content, your goal should be to reach people. You could have the best content in your niche, but it hardly holds any value if there aren’t any eyes on it.

One way to attract attention to your online content is through search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing content to appear higher in Google’s rankings. For scoring new clicks, Google is king. In order to optimize your content for search engines, you’ll need to target specific keywords related to your niche and rank highly in the search results for those keywords.

This is where SEO tools such as Surfer SEO come in handy.

As digital marketers, it’s crucial to stay up to date on all the latest tools in this ever-evolving landscape. We’ve taken an in-depth look at Surfer SEO to make it a bit easier to digest for beginners. 

With Surfer SEO, you’ll be gaining organic traffic in no time!

Introduction to the Surfer SEO Dashboard

Surfer SEO offers multiple subscription tiers to fit you and your organization’s budget and needs. Once you select a tier and subscribe, you’ll be greeted with Surfer SEO’s dashboard.

Here, you will find Surfer SEO’s main tools laid out in an easy-to-follow format. Let’s take a closer look at all that Surfer SEO has to offer.

Our surfer SEO review will hopefully make this tool a bit easier to understand
Surfer SEO Dashboard

On-page SEO can seem complicated, but SEO tools such as Surfer SEO are here to aid in your content creation process.

Here, we’re going to break down the main components of Surfer SEO and how they can help you create awesome content that’s bound to attract attention and save you the stress of developing an SEO strategy on your own.

Surfer SEO’s Keyword Research Tool

The first step to creating highly optimized content is to find a specific keyword to target. This keyword will vary heavily based on who you’re writing for and what your content is all about.

Performing a few simple Google searches before you even open Surfer SEO can give you an idea of what keyword you’d like to target.

Once you have settled on a keyword idea, you can conduct your keyword research in Surfer SEO! Click on “Create” within the keyword research tool in Surfer SEO, enter your keyword, and then hit “Create Keyword Research.”

It may take a few minutes, but you’ll notice your keyword appear above your previous searches if you have any. A purple bar below your keyword will indicate Surfer SEO is “thinking”. Once this bar goes away, you can click on your keyword.

Here you can target a particular keyword, or target keyword, in surfer's keyword research tool
Past searches in the keyword research tool

Breaking Down Your Keyword Research

Once you’ve reached this step, you’ll notice you’re no longer on the main Surfer SEO dashboard. You’ve fully entered the “Keyword Research” tool. Here, you’ll see clusters related to your main keyword. 

These clusters will show you related keywords. You can filter these keyword clusters by search intent, search volume, and number of keywords included in the cluster.

Our surfer SEO review will hopefully make this tool a bit easier to understand
This screen will show your topic clusters

You’ll also be able to view some useful metrics within these clusters, such as:

  • Keyword difficulty: How hard it is to rank on the first page of the search engine results for a specific keyword. Generally, you’ll want to avoid targeting keywords with a high keyword difficulty.
  • Monthly search volume (MSV): The number of times a keyword is searched per month – if something has a low MSV, it shouldn’t be your priority for targeting.
  • Total traffic: This is an estimate of how much traffic would be brought to your page if you ranked for all the keywords in that specific cluster.

If you see a keyword cluster you’d like to target here, you can “create” it to open the content editor.  

Make sure your chosen keyword aligns with your search intent. What information are you providing to the searcher? What are they looking for?

Breaking Down Search Intent

There are several different types of searches that can be performed in search engines depending on the searcher’s needs. They are informational, navigational, commercial investigation, or transactional.

  • Informational: The searcher is looking for information. Maybe this is an answer to a specific question, but it could also be more general.
  • Navigational: The searcher is looking for a specific page.
  • Commercial investigation: The searcher is looking for information before making a purchase, such as product reviews and demos.
  • Transactional: The searcher is looking to make a purchase. Unlike commercial investigation, they’ve likely already decided on a specific product or brand.

Now that we’ve broken down search intent, you can decide which category your content might best fit under. This is useful when selecting keywords and analyzing competitors. You’ll want to focus on keywords and analyzing competitors that align with your chosen search intent.

SERP Analyzer

Another way to conduct keyword research is through the SERP Analyzer tool. This tool will go a bit more in-depth than the competitors tool in the content editor (more on that in a bit), so it’s a great starting point.

Enter your main keyword, and this tool will generate a SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, with some great insights for you to dig into. 

The generated SERP will show you the top results on Google for your chosen search. You can try entering your search in Google yourself and comparing the real SERP to Surfer’s – you might find some minor differences, but they should be almost the same.

What’s so valuable about being able to view the SERP and these insights? The SERP analyzer shows you what’s already ranking highly and what those websites are doing. With this information, you can tweak your own website to rank higher.

But what exactly does all this information mean? It can be a lot to take in, so let’s break it down.

On page optimization becomes easier with the SERP analyzer tool
Here is a generated SERP in Surfer

Metrics in the SERP Analyzer

  • Content length: As the name suggests, this will show you how long each result shown on the SERP is.
  • Keywords density: You can see the density of the focus keyword and other relevant keywords on each page.
  • Backlinks: The number of backlinks pointing to each page on the top search results.
  • Search volume: The monthly search volume for the focus keyword.
  • SERP features: The SERP features present in the SERP, such as featured snippets, knowledge panels, image carousels, etc.
  • Domain authority: Comprised of several different metrics itself, the domain authority essentially tells you how reputable a website is.
  • Page speed: The page speed score of each website appearing in the SERP.
  • On-page optimization: The SERP Analyzer will evaluate how well each page is optimized and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • Common terms: The SERP Analyzer will identify common terms that appear in the content on the top-ranking pages.

Content Editor

Surfer SEO’s content editor is arguably the most valuable Surfer SEO tool and is packed with some awesome features. This is where you’ll be able to create highly optimized content. 

However, we’re not quite ready to start writing yet. You can select keywords using the keyword research tool, but you can also select them here.

In the search bar, you can type a keyword. As you’re typing, you’ll see a bar indicating how difficult it is to rank on that keyword and a number indicating search volume. 

Once you enter a keyword here (or multiple) you can hit “create” to proceed into the content editor. Give Surfer SEO a moment to think, and then you’ll be able to open the editor itself. 

Organic traffic will be brought to your site after following the recommendations made in the content editor
This shows the content score you’ll want to aim for

Once inside the content editor, you’ll see a pretty standard-looking word processor. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see the content guidelines, outline, and brief.

Below the three toggles, you’ll see a bar and a number indicating how optimized your content is and a number you should be aiming for. This is called a content score and is how Surfer SEO analyzes your content against competitors.

Prefer using a different word processor? Surfer SEO offers a Google Docs plugin if you’d rather get started there.

So, are we ready to start writing?

Not quite. 

Let’s examine “The Customizer” first and do some structural optimization.


On the upper right-hand side of the dashboard, you’ll see a gear icon. Click the gear icon to start optimizing your article’s metrics. Once inside, Surfer SEO will show you a search engine results page, or SERP, for your chosen keyword.

By default, Surfer will set predetermined competitor and keyword suggestions based on your keyword. We recommend carefully adjusting those metrics according to your goals and needs.


First, let’s take a look at our competitors. This is the content Surfer SEO analyzes in order to establish guidelines based on your keyword.

We have to select competitors for Surfer SEO to compare our content to as we write.

You can toggle specific competitors on and off to narrow down these results to better suit your specific needs and goals. You’ll also see your competitor’s content scores to gauge how optimized their web page is for the target keyword.

Similar to the SERP analyzer, here you will see search engine results pages
This screen is where you can view and toggle through your competitors

One important thing to consider when filtering through your competitors is search intent. Is it informational? Transactional? Competitors that align with your search intent are ones that you’ll want to include and focus on.

It’s important to note that any changes you make on this page will impact the content score Surfer SEO will tell you to aim for, unlike the SERP analyzer tool, which is more for general research. Aside from that, this page is very similar to the SERP analyzer tool.

Content Structure

On this screen, on the left hand side, you’ll also see a button that says “Content Structure.” You can click on this to open a panel.

This will show you how many words, paragraphs, headings, and images Surfer SEO thinks your content should have based on the competitors you toggled on the previous screen. You’ll also see a list of recommended keywords to target.

You can manually adjust your content structure and included keywords here to impact your content score goal.


Here, you can toggle keywords on an off depending on how relevant they are to the content you wish to create. Doing this will impact your content score goal.

Topics and Questions

These are questions that people are asking in search engines related to your chosen keywords. If you include and answer these questions in your content, your score will be boosted.


This is just a space for you and your team – nothing written here will affect your overall document. Leave notes for yourself or other team members to keep everybody on track.

Now that we’ve reviewed how to get your document set up, it’s time to start writing. Let’s take a look at an AI tool that might help streamline the process.

AI Integration

To use the AI writing tools, you’ll need to make sure they’re included in your plan. Not all the Surfer SEO subscription tiers include AI writing tools. 

Surfer SEO is integrated into Jasper AI to help with your writing process. If you’re unfamiliar with Jasper, we’ve created a “Beginner’s Guide to Using Jasper AI” to aid you in your content journey.

Using AI writing tools, you can generate an article outline or even an entire article for an additional fee. Jasper uses Natural Language Processing, or NLP, to make its AI-written content sound authentic and genuine. This can help you get a solid starting point for your content.

Audit Already Existing Content

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to create some highly optimized content in Surfer SEO, this begs the question: What if you already have content? Is Surfer SEO still useful in this case?

The answer is yes – Surfer SEO has several innovative tools for helping you optimize existing content. You can find these tools by exiting the content editor and returning to your main dashboard. Let’s break them down. 


Probably the most straightforward tool for analyzing your existing content is the “Audit” tool. If you input a URL into this tool and your target keywords, it will analyze your website and suggest things that should be fixed specific to that keyword.

An important thing to note about this tool is that it examines HTML. The content editor only examines written content. 

The audit tool is a key on page optimization tool for creating SEO optimized content and improving your content strategy
You can audit your content for specific keywords using this tool

After the audit tool examines your content, you’ll be given a list of things that you can improve, such as word count and linking.

Items that need extra attention will be highlighted in red, items that could use a little bit of improvement will be highlighted in orange, and items that you’re doing particularly well on will be highlighted in green.

Domain Planner

Similar to the “Audit” tool, the “Domain Planner” will review your existing content and provide suggestions. However, unlike the “Audit” tool, the “Domain Planner” examines the entire website, not just a specific page.

As such, it will provide a more in-depth analysis of your overall SEO strategy and help guide you in the right direction.  

This is a key content optimization tool for improving your content strategy
Here, you can audit your entire domain

Grow Flow

We reviewed Surfer SEO’s AI tools a bit earlier, but there’s one you won’t find in the Content Editor that can help elevate your overall SEO strategy. On the main dashboard, you can navigate to “Grow Flow.”

Surfer SEO’s blog states that Grow Flow is an AI growth management platform – it automates your SEO process.

So, how exactly does it work?

Surfer SEO alternatives do not have this key content optimization feature
Here, Surfer will give you tasks

Grow Flow gives you a list of tasks that refresh on a weekly basis. It could tell you to write an article that targets certain keywords related to your niche, or it could tell you to review some information. Once you complete a task, Surfer SEO analyzes the impact of these changes and generates a report for you.

Over time, these small tasks will have a measurable positive impact on your domain. This is great for larger websites – you might feel overwhelmed trying to run everything through the audit tool or domain planner and making all the suggested changes.

Is Surfer SEO Right For You?

Creating highly optimized content is the key to finding new eyes and growing your brand organically online. However, developing an SEO strategy on your own can be overwhelming. That’s where Surfer SEO comes in – it does the research and makes suggestions for you.

Although it can take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout of Surfer SEO and the data it gathers and presents to you, hopefully you now have enough background knowledge to get started!

You’ll be creating content bound to generate organic traffic in no time. Although it can be a lot of information for beginners to take in, Surfer SEO is definitely worth familiarizing yourself with if you’re looking to streamline your SEO process.

This is not a sponsored review – we’re just that passionate about keeping up to date with and sharing all the latest digital marketing tools and trends.

Want to go beyond Surfer and take your SEO game to the next level? Learn more about the best free Chrome extensions for enhancing your local SEO.


We covered the basics of Surfer SEO and general layout, but here are just a few more terms that will help you on your SEO journey!

  • Search queries: These are the searches themselves. By understanding how searchers phrase their questions to search engines, you can optimize your content to answer those questions.
  • Keyword suggestions: These are keywords that are provided to you by Surfer SEO (or whichever SEO tool you use) to include in your content.
  • Keyword density: This is the number of times a given keyword appears on a webpage – it is most commonly expressed as a percentage.
  • Meta description: This is a short summary of a webpage that appears in SERPs. They are very important because they directly impact the number of clicks a page will recieve.
  • SERP Analysis: This is the analysis of top ranking pages in search engine results – by seeing what top ranking pages are doing, you can optimize your own content.

Frequently Asked Questions

Surfer SEO is an SEO cloud platform for comparing and ranking your sites in search results and in search results. This software does data analysis to determine the missing content from the website and how it will be displayed.

Surfer SEO, like any other SEO tool, works as a guide. How well it works for you depends on how closely you’d like to follow it. If you follow the suggestions it gives you, over time, you will optimize your website for search engines.

You can’t use Surfer SEO for free. Surfer SEO is a paid tool that offers three different pricing plans – Basic, Pro, and Business. Each plan comes with different features and functionality, with prices ranging from $59/month to $650/month.

However, Surfer SEO does offer a 7-day money-back guarantee, allowing users to try the tool risk-free before committing to a subscription. Additionally, they do offer discounts on annual subscriptions for each of their plans.

So, while you cannot use Surfer SEO for free, you can still try it out and see if it’s the right fit for your SEO needs during the 7-day trial period.

Surfer SEO helps in targeting the right keywords and provides SERP Similarities. Although Clearscope offers support for SEO, the tool doesn’t have a feature to compare SERPs. Surfer provides great data collection tools.

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