Karolina Gawron
August 21, 2019

10 Things You Can Do in Surfer To Improve Your Rankings NOW

Surfer’s versatility can be a blessing or a curse.

You get loads of data, and somehow you’re supposed to find your way around. It may take a few days, maybe weeks to discover all of the possibilities. Even some of our long-term users leave some features unnoticed.

Another fact: we release new features much more often than most of the software companies out there. Therefore the new possibilities and opportunities arise very often, and it’s easy to overlook some quick wins for your pages. 

It doesn’t matter then if you’re new to Surfer or if you’ve been with us for a while. You’ll find this article useful if you:

  • Signed up for Surfer and want to dive into actionable stuff asap
  • Use one, two or three features which you love, but you’d like to discover new hacks and possibilities
  • Have been using Surfer for a while, but you kinda lost track what new features we offer 😂

Most importantly, following those use cases is the best and easiest way to rank higher if your domain is not as strong as your organic competitors. All those tips will help you all new and existing content will become more friendly for both users and search engines. And that’s what you should pursue no matter what. 

1. Audit your page against top pages

Imagine you run this popular-to-be blog for vegans. You learned from Google’s Keyword Planner or any other tool that “vegan diet plan” might be a juicy keyword that could attract loads of new visitors to your website, and you wrote a great article.

But it was a long time ago, and you’d like to give some more love to the content you produced so it finally gets to the top search results. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see what has already worked for top-performing pages? And then take those insights and use them to rank higher?

It can be quickly done with Surfer’s Audit, aka Action Plan. 

Type a keyword in Keyword Analyzer and enter the main view of the tool. Under the graph, you can see the SERP for the keyword. If your page is there—that’s great! But it may happen you’re not in top 50 (yet), and you’ll have to add your URL manually.

Compare your website segment in Surfer

From here, you can access the Audit. It’s a clear comparison of your page vs. ten best-ranking pages. This is how the Audit it looks like for this particular URL.

The Audit gives you an overview of structural elements, density, length in comparison to organic competitors. If, for example, your content length is way off, you’ll see that immediately. After all, if top pages have more than 3k words in their body and your article is just around a thousand, you may consider some changes.

Many of our users export the Audit to impress clients with a list of quick wins. Many of them use it also as a checklist of low hanging fruits for better rankings.

2. Optimize relevant phrases with True Density

Speaking of the audit… You may have spotted a tab called True Density which is basically a list of important terms and phrases to place in your content.

True Density is an ultra SEO hack that will make or break your content, and you should pay a lot of attention to this section. I especially love it because it’s a unique feature in Surfer and you won’t be able to get this kind of data anywhere else. That gives you an insane advantage over competitors who don’t use our product (crazy, right?).

Okay, but let’s get to the point. You know how important it is to deliver rich content for readers. And how essential it is to provide them with content semantically close to their main keyword? And that your readers want to see some specific words and phrases that will assure them your content is what they are looking for?

That’s what True Density will help you with. It is a list of phrases and their saturation in the context of an analyzed keyword. For our vegan blog from the previous example, it will look something like this:

True Density in the Surfer's Audit

You may think: Okay Karolina, I know that including the right words and phrases in my content IS important. But True Density says there’s like 136 terms that require my attention…

I hear you! It’s a real challenge to achieve the perfect density of each term. It won’t take ten or fifteen minutes to optimize your content with True Density and make it sound natural and user-friendly at the same time. But let me tell you this: if you rank for difficult keywords and you compete with some strong domains in SERP, True Density will help beat them like nothing else. Okay, to be completely fair, backlinks will probably bring you awesome results… But speaking of on-page, True Density should be your go-to section.

3. Add your keywords to the right places

This one may feel much more like a quick win than True Density. Actually, before you jump into hardcore optimization with popular words and phrases, make sure you do this. 

You know that keyword density is still an essential ranking factor. It feels natural to use it in the title, first paragraph, some headings… All to achieve some decent density. 3% sounds good, right? Sure, if you follow the so-called good practices about keyword density and placement, you’ll do just that.

But how about we do this more like 2019 style…

That means we check what works specifically for YOUR keyword. 

Again, we will use Keyword Analyzer, but this time we’ll focus on the graph and ranking factors listed in the sidebar. Surfer allows you to check an exact keyword usage and keyword density in any structural element of the page. That is body, title, bolds, paragraphs, meta, alt descriptions, headings, and above the fold section.

Look what I got when I checked the number of keywords for “seo services” in the UK. Note that I also turned on averages for five pages to spot some trends. You can turn them on and off at any time.

Graph in Surfer's Keyword Analyzer

Analyze your keyword count and density, check their placement in top-performing pages, and avoid the same mistakes those guys from positions 20-50 made.

4. Analyze partials for long-term keywords

It doesn’t always feel natural to place long-term keywords more than once… and that’s okay. Because instead of doing that, you can optimize the density and count of your partial keywords.

As you can see below, even though the exact keyword “vegan diet plan” is not used too many times in the body of top-performing pages, partial keywords are added dozens of times. This time you can see a graph view with averages turned off, but of course, I recommend you to switch them on to look for some useful correlations.

Partial keyword density presented on a graph in Surfer

When I have turned on averages for three pages, I learned that the first three pages used partial keywords quite a lot in their text:

  • Vegan: 33
  • Diet: 11
  • Plan: 11

At the same time, the keyword “vegan diet plan” was used zero to three times… How interesting!

5. Create a link building plan based on competitors’ common backlinks

You know how quality links can improve your rankings. And you know how time-consuming it is to analyze all organic competitors looking for link opportunities (that’s a great strategy though!).

Your competitor’s common backlinks is a great start to create an action plan for any link building efforts. Instead of analyzing a single competitor, you get a prioritized list of websites right away. Some of them may be obvious ones; others will be your low hanging fruits.

There are two ways you can check common backlinks in Surfer:

  1. Click on “common backlinks” tab over the search results in Keyword Analyzer.
  2. Check “missing common backlinks” section in Audit. In a glimpse, you’ll learn which links you already have and which you should work on.
missing common backlinks tab

The list consists of domains that at least five from top twenty pages have a link from. You can unfold the list of URLs to learn where the link is placed exactly.

6. Create new pages with Content Editor

Many Surfers decide to stick with our product because of our Content Editor. While there are some similar options on the market, Surfer’s tool is the only editor that bases on True Density. Therefore it takes into consideration the length of your content when suggesting how frequently some words and phrases one should use.

Content Editor is easy to use and allows you to write perfectly optimized content from scratch. And when you write inside it, it gives you instant feedback on your optimization level. 

It saves hours of work for SEOs and copywriters every day. You can use it for:

  • Writing blog posts
  • Efficient collaboration with an external writer
  • Optimizing existing landing pages for best keywords (just copy-paste your content to the editor)
  • Optimizing category descriptions 
  • Reviewing copywriter’s work
  • Generating guidelines for content

Using Content Editor comes down to three steps: enter the keyword and location -> customize guidelines for writing -> write.

Let’s say I’m writing an article targeting “how to learn JavaScript” keyword. Surfer will autogenerate some guidelines which you can adjust to your liking (and user intent). Once you start writing, in a sidebar you’ll see something like this:

Instant feedback from Surfer's Content Editor during writing

That’s just your good friend, Surfer, giving you real-time feedback on your writing. Once you use some particular words the suggested number of times, it will turn green. Or when the content achieves the optimal length.

Looks like this article explaining how to learn JavaScript still needs some love from the author 😉

7. Discover new keyword opportunities

You probably know by now, that Surfer is not a tool that will generate a massive table of keywords you can browse and analyze for long hours… This is not the kind of software we’re building.

However, it can still give you diverse ideas for keywords similar to your first query, which you can use as secondary keywords. Or if it’s valuable enough, you can dedicate a whole page to rank for a phrase you discovered with Surfer. 

Ever since we added almost 20 databases for new languages to our product, you can do just that.

Go to the Content Editor, enter the primary keyword, and go to the customization panel. “Terms to use in the content” and “Topics and questions to answer” are a goldmine of ideas for keywords and content in general. 

Customization panel in Content Editor and keyword suggestions

In this example, I’m still working with “how to learn javascript” keyword.

Once I click “Add term” button, I access dozens of ideas for this or another article! Each term is enriched with two numbers. First, is an estimated monthly search volume for a given location. Second, is a similarity to your main keyword represented by percentage value. The higher the value, the more similar the keyword is to your primary one.

Ideas for secondary keywords in Surfer

I see some great opportunities for additional traffic! 

It works pretty much the same for the “Topics and questions to answer” section. Again, lots of ideas for new content or at least a few paragraphs in the article you’re writing.

Ideas for topics and questions in Surfer

8. Find out what structural data your competitors use

Structural data, also known as schema markup, makes it easier for Google to understand and organize content. You can, for example, tell search engines that the address and phone number at the end of your page are contact information. Or that this name and surname is an author of an article.

Since schema markup facilitates crawling pages, it may be an impactful factor that can improve your SEO. And I recommend you to find out on your own what works for your keywords, obviously. 

Go to Keyword Analyzer, look for “structured data” section in the sidebar and dig into it.

Structured data in Surfer

Markup types are organized by the number of times they appear in SERP. That’s the number you can see in the brackets. Once again, look for correlations and see how your page performs against the ones from tops.

This is a chance to go beyond “typical” ranking factors that everyone else is looking into. So don’t neglect it and don’t underestimate the power it can give to your pages!

9. Check if Google renders your page correctly

If you put much effort in your page, you want to be sure Google sees it looking as awesome as you and your team made it. It’s a disaster for any SEO when Google cannot see content on your site for some reason.

Make sure this is not your case and conduct a full analysis in Keyword Analyzer.

Starting view of Surfer's Keyword Analyzer with Full analysis checked

It will take a bit longer because Surfer makes screenshots of pages from SERP. But once it’s done, you’ll be able to see all of them through, let’s say, Google Glass. (hmm… do they still sell those??)

Right next to each search result, you’ll see an icon representing the screenshot. You can immediately see if you or your competitors have some rendering problems.

Placement of Google bots screenshots

If you discover that something’s off in how Google sees your page, you should investigate and fix that asap. Maybe some resources, like fonts or images, are blocked in robots.txt? Maybe the page uses JavaScript, and there’s some rendering issue connected to it? Sometimes even wrong CSS settings can be a problem.

10. Check if page speed is an important ranking factor

A long, long time ago, Google confirmed that site speed is an important ranking factor. It’s not a surprise that you should always pay attention to page speed and overall performance. After all, improving the experience of your readers is an essential part of any optimization process.

Not to mention that faster pages have lower bounce rates and better conversion rates.

And yet it happens that top pages from some particular SERP may have poor performance. For other keywords, loading time and TTFB (time to first byte) may be a significant ranking signal.

There’s a chance your page is not ranking as well as you wish because it’s so freakin’ slow. And if that’s the case, Surfer will let you know.

Type page URL in “Compare your website” field, and make it visible on the chart. And if you see something like this, you know there’s some field for improvement…

Time to first byte presented on Surfer's chart

As you can see, URLs from the top ten are much better optimized than their competitors from the next pages. You can find the same insights in the Audit. 

To sum up

I hope those 10 actionable tips give you a good sense of what’s possible with Surfer! Worry not, we will expand this article once new features arrive so you can always stay up-to-date with SEO tactics and strategies that will help you outrank your organic competitors.

Do you have any Surfer tips and tricks you’d like to share and add to this list? 

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