On-page SEO is one of the most powerful tools to help your page climb to the top of Google search results. Unlike other types of SEO, you don’t need a big budget for optimisation to have a good chance of climbing the results page.
However, performing on-page optimisation without help can be challenging. Fortunately, an SEO tool called Surfer can do just that!
Learn all you need to know about Surfer in this guide. We’ll take you through the basics of this powerful tool and show you how to make the most out of your pages with Surfer.
Surfer SEO Basics
Before we get into the application, you need to first understand the basics of Surfer. Here are the three things you need to know before starting your on-page optimisation journey.
What Is Surfer?
Surfer is a tool that examines why the top pages rank well for any given keyword. By knowing why those pages top the search results, it then figures out a way for you to create content that can compete with the top contenders for the highest-ranked results.
Surfer helps you optimise both new and existing content. It does so by comparing your content structure, keywords, and other factors with the top results for a given keyword. From this comparison, the Surfer Content Editor then gives you a guideline on how to write content that’s likely to top the search results.
At its core, Surfer doesn’t try to “beat” or figure out Google’s search engine algorithm. Instead, Surfer simply takes a look at what works for other pages so your page can follow their lead and rank higher.
How Surfer Works
It’s common knowledge that Google isn’t very transparent about how its search engines work. Moreover, the company is known to update its algorithm very frequently. In 2020 alone, Google changed its search engine algorithm over 4,500 times. So even if you figure it out, there’s no guarantee what works today will still work tomorrow.
That’s why Surfer uses a method called correlational SEO. This method works by analyzing other content and articles and finding out why they’re on top of the search engine results page (SERP). In short, Surfer tells you what your competitors are doing right and guides you on how to do the same things right.
Whereas most tools give you vague guidance on how to rank higher like “include 1,000-2,000 words in your article”, Surfer provides you solid and detailed advice. It provides you information on how many keywords you should include, the exact word count you need to go for, and even how many paragraphs are ideal for this article.
However, correlation doesn’t equal causation. There’s always a chance that doing everything exactly the same as a top-ranking competitor won’t let you take the top spot. While Surfer doesn’t guarantee success, it can still give your page a better fighting chance to take the top results.
How To Choose Competitor Sites
In SEO, you’re competing with many pages for the top SERPs. It might look like a good idea to choose a top-ten website as a comparison, but we don’t recommend this. If you choose the wrong competitors, you’re likely to hurt your standings and make your page slide down the ranks.
As a rule of thumb, here are some things you can do to ensure you have the right competitors:
- Exclude major authority sites like Wikipedia from your list of competitors.
- Choose competitors that are in the same niche or formats as your page. For example, choose review pages if you review things, a product page if you sell products, and so on.
- Avoid choosing listings and directories as competitors if you’re aiming to rank in local SERPs.
Surfer In Practice
Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to learn how to optimise your page with Surfer. Here, we present five examples of Surfer usage that you’re likely to encounter when improving your on-page SEO.
Creating High-Quality Content
Creating content briefs the old-fashioned way takes a lot of time and effort. You need to build your keyword list and research competitors manually, which won’t be effective if you’re planning to optimise a lot of articles.
Fortunately, Surfer can do a lot of that legwork for you in seven simple steps:
1. Enter Your Keyword And Location
The first step to creating a brief with Surfer is to choose a keyword and location. Enter your chosen keyword and the location you’re looking to rank well in. You can optionally activate NLP (Natural Language Processing) Analysis to get more keyword suggestions from Google.
2. Choose Your Competitors
Surfer will analyze your top competitors for the keyword and list them out. The tool chooses the top five pages by default, but you can customise this list further by picking and choosing which pages are your true competitors.
In this phase, it’s important to choose pages that directly compete with yours. Be sure to avoid major authority sites and pages that serve different niches. Pay attention to the word count of your competitors and exclude ones that are overly short or long.
3. Determine The Word Count
Surfer calculates the ideal word count based on your competitors by default. However, you can modify the content’s word count if you want to.
4. Incorporate Keywords
The tool also examines the top pages for relevant words and phrases that need to be in your content. If you choose to activate the NLP option in the first step, you’ll get even more keywords to work with. Surfer also offers the option to add secondary keywords if you’re planning to rank for several keywords at once.
5. Answer Questions
Another useful feature that Surfer has is the “people also ask” question. You can use these questions to help create your brief. Even if there aren’t any questions for your exact target keyword, Surfer can look for closely related questions from similar keywords.
6. Create The Content
Once the brief is made, you can then share it with your writer. Use the share link button so they can get the Content Editor without having to log into your Surfer account. Surfer also provides a notes section where you can put in additional information without spreading it across too many communication channels.
As your writer works, Surfer will automatically update and let them know when they’ve reached optimal optimisation. If your writer overuses a certain keyword or writes over the ideal word count, Surfer will also let them know.
7. Publish The Content
With Surfer’s help, you can quickly review your content’s optimisation. Once you’re satisfied with the results, then all you need to do is publish the content!
After you’ve published the content, you can check its progress with rank tracking pages or the Google Search Console.
How To Optimise Existing Content
Surfer also helps you audit and optimise existing content so it can improve its rank in the SERPs. You can do this with eight steps:
1. Choose Your Benchmark
As with other instances of correlational SEO, you need to find competitor pages to benchmark your content.
Surfer compares your page to the top five results by default, but you can (and should) be more precise by picking the most relevant pages. Find pages that cater to similar niches and serve high-quality content.
2. Re-Check Word Count
Your chosen keyword usually has a word count “sweet spot” that you should aim for. If your content’s word count is over or under that ideal word count range, then consider adjusting the article’s length.
3. Close The Content Gap
A “content gap” constitutes topics or keywords that a competitor uses but you don’t. With Surfer’s True Density tool, you can check whether or not there are important keywords that your content is missing. Once the missing keywords are found, you can work on incorporating them into your content.
The True Density feature also allows you to see which keywords need the most attention. This way, you’ll know which keywords are most important to add as part of your auditing.
4. Place Keywords Properly
Keyword placement also matters in SEO. Surfer helps you identify how many of a certain keyword that you need to put in your H1s or meta-titles. Make sure you take these keyword suggestions into account to ensure maximum optimisation.
5. Properly Structure Your Content
While it’s an indirect factor in your optimisation, it still pays to structure your content properly. A confusing page structure increases the likelihood of your visitors bouncing and hurting your page ranking.
However, these suggestions can be subjective at times. In the end, you have the final say on whether or not you need to restructure the content.
6. Examine Page Speed Insights
Similar to page structure, page load speed is also a key factor in visitor satisfaction. If your page loads too slow, visitors may get turned off and bounce off your site, hurting your rankings.
7. Examine The Results
Once your optimisation is done, be sure to check your page rankings. Compare your page rank before and after your SEO audit to see whether your optimisation works or not. If your page ranking doesn’t improve as much as it should, go back and see what else you can improve.
8. Re-Optimise Regularly
SEO auditing doesn’t end after the first one. On-page SEO is never “finished”, so you should always re-examine your key pages regularly. Most people do it quarterly, but you can also do it monthly to stay on top of algorithm changes.
Using The SERP Analyzer
Surfer offers you a feature called the SERP Analyzer. This tool helps you examine more than 500 ranking signals and provides you insight for in-depth SEO research.
You use this tool by looking at what factors are in common among highly-ranked pages. For instance, if you see a strong correlation between high word count and high page rankings, then a higher word count may give you a better spot on the SERPs.
With practice, you can figure out patterns and conclude what factors create high-ranking content.
Optimising Multiple Keywords
Surfer’s Keyword Research Tool can help you find certain keywords that have similar SERPs. In these cases, you may have a chance to rank high on two or more keywords with the same piece of content. For instance, if the Keyword Research Tool finds a high similarity between “stock market” and “stock market trading”, you can capitalize on both keywords on one page.
The Keyword Research Tool also lists questions that you can use as extra keyword inspiration. For example, starting from the main keyword “stock market” you can find other secondary keywords like “how to trade in the stock market”. Optimising for these keywords may give you extra ways to build traffic.
However, you should be careful when optimising for multiple keywords. Aiming for too many keywords at once may make your page unfocused and under-optimised. If you’re planning to get multiple keywords at once, consider building a network of pages instead of having one page contain all the keywords you want.
Finding Common Backlinks
While Surfer is primarily an on-page SEO tool, you can also use it to improve your off-page SEO. It offers a common backlink analyzer that compiles a list of the top pages that your competitors have a link from.
Because these backlinks come from top-performing pages, they’re more likely to be quality backlinks. This can be a good start to your link-building strategy.
Surfer is a powerful tool that can give your pages a much-needed SEO boost. As you learn, you’ll start figuring out the best SEO practices that you can use in conjunction with Surfer’s many features.
In short, Surfer can be used to:
- Create powerful content from scratch
- Strengthen the SEO of existing pages
- Find patterns and best SEO practices of other pages
- Optimise multiple keywords on one page
- Start building your linking strategy
While Surfer isn’t a magic wand that can turn bad content into gold, it’s still a very useful tool to have in your SEO optimisation belt. With its help, you can optimise your on-page SEO with minimal legwork and research compared to doing it traditionally.