If you’re a content writer or work in SEO, you’re probably familiar with these four words: “Just write great content.”
Forged by Google, it’s now a go-to phrase for anyone who’s trying to improve SERP rankings and create content that converts. At face value, this sounds like good advice: Write great content, rank better, get more traffic and make more money.
But in reality, it’s really vague. What does “write great content” actually mean? Longer content? Shorter content? More keywords or fewer keywords? Should the content include related topics or should it focus on one topic?
If only there were a way for you to judge what Google thinks is great content.
You actually can figure out (more or less) what great content looks like in the all-seeing eyes of Google by analyzing the top results for the keyword or topic that you’re targeting.
But with so much content out there, this can quickly become an overwhelming task if you’re working on more than one piece of content a month. As with most things in digital marketing, you’re going to need a tool in order to scale this process.
In this article, we’re going to look at two popular tools, SurferSEO and Clearscope.
What Is SurferSEO?
SurferSEO markets itself as both a SERP Analyzer and Content Editor. Its USP is that it analyzes over 500 data points based on the keyword you want to create content around and brings them into one interface so that you don’t have to collect data manually.
SurferSEO helps you work out why the top-ranking pages are, well, ranking. This means that you can focus on the right data points for the niche you’re in.
What Are the Features of SurferSEO?
Upon launch, SurferSEO was simply a SERP Analyzer, although a number of other features have been added since.
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest reasons people love this SERP Analyzer is that it gathers around 500 data points. You simply pop in your keyword and within minutes you have an analysis.
It looks at content-based ranking factors including (but not limited to):
- Text length
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- NLP entities and sentiment
In addition — and this is something that a lot of similar tools don’t do — it examines more technical ranking factors. This includes (but again, is not limited to):
- Page speed
- Structured data
- Hidden content
- Content above the fold
This is where SurferSEO stands out. Because the SERP Analyzer is not only looking at the content data points of well-ranked sites, you can also spot when it’s not the content that’s holding you back (but more likely a technical issue).
So, not only does it help you write better content, but it alerts you when other problems are affecting performance.
Content editors are usually the main selling point of these types of tools. So how does this one stand up?
Surfer uses AI to check how frequently the sites that rank well for your given keywords are using said keywords. You can then analyze these and decide which ones you want to include in your own text. This stops irrelevant keywords from showing up in the content editor.
You can then copy and paste your content into the editor, and Surfer will analyze your content for optimization. This isn’t based on an out-of-date checklist, but rather on benchmarked data from sites that already rank well, i.e. your real online competitors.
As you edit your text, you can see the content score change in real time, which is a genuinely satisfying feature.
Surfer’s Content Editor stands up to some of the more expensive tools, and it offers a seamless experience. You can even collaborate with external writers in the tool, and it works directly in Google Docs and WordPress.
In addition, Surfer has a Chrome extension that displays data in the search results. This is incredibly helpful when you’re at the research phase of creating content, since you can view and analyze data right in the SERPs.
Pros of Surfer:
- Its data collection is a massive time saver — reducing analysis by hours, if not days
- Solid content editor with collaboration features
- With the extension, you get data right there in the SERPs
Cons of Surfer:
- There’s no testing platform, which means that you have to test elsewhere (probably in Google Search Console)
- Occasionally the data can be a little off
Surfer’s pricing strategy is simple and straightforward. It also has an entry-level product that’s ideal for those just getting started with SERP analysis, content editing and SEO testing.
The Basic plan starts at $49 a month, moving up to $82 for the Pro plan, and $165 a month for the Business plan.
What Is Clearscope?
Unlike Surfer, Clearscope has a more defined product with pretty much one main feature: the Content Editor.
Using IBM Watson technology, Clearscope helps you find the language, entities and topics that ranking sites use. This allows you to benchmark yourself against your competitors and their content.
You then need to create content that’s better for users and better for search engines (which are pretty much the same thing).
What Features Does Clearscope Have?
As mentioned earlier, there are no bells and whistles when it comes to Clearscope. It’s a content editor tool, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
You simply enter the keyword you’re creating content around, sit back and let it work its magic. Clearscope will then deliver the data needed to create optimized content for your site or clients.
The data you’ll get includes:
- A grade for your own, and your competitors’ content
- Word counts
- Search volume
- Monthly search volume
- Top competitor content
- Relevant terms
You can then head over to the Content Editor and optimize your content on the fly, adding relevant terms and topics until you have content with the potential to beat your competitors.
Pros of Clearscope:
- It’s incredibly easy to use — there’s no steep learning curve
- It looks great and it’s fun to use
- It has Google Docs and WordPress integrations
Cons of Clearscope:
- No collaboration tools, which is a bit problematic if you have a content team
- It doesn’t have any data points around other aspects of SEO, which means that you could be editing content when there are other factors affecting its ability to rank
- There’s no SEO testing feature, so you have to track results yourself in Google Analytics or Google Search Console
Clearscope keeps their pricing simple.
Their plans start with an Essentials plan, at 0 per month with 20 report credits and one user.
Next up is the Professional plan, which starts at 0 a month. This offers 50 report credits and three users. After that, it’s custom pricing with the Enterprise plan.
Which Is Better: Surfer or Clearscope?
As with any tool, you need to weigh the pros and cons as they relate to your specific business and your specific needs.
That said, Surfer has more features, better collaboration and is somewhat cheaper than Clearscope. While Clearscope is easier to use and looks nicer, we’d say that Surfer narrowly beats it out.
What both are missing, however, is the functionality to not only work on content, but to test whether it works in the real world. You need to be able to show that your hard work is paying off and you need to learn what works so that you can repeat those adjustments in other areas of your site.
At the end of the day, there’s no point creating content, then just sitting back thinking the hard work’s done. You have to understand the impact of your work. You need to know whether it’s resulting in an increase in rankings, traffic and ultimately leads or revenue.