If you want to improve your SEO content strategy, look no further than the Surfer SEO content planner. This innovative tool makes it easy for you to map out your content plan and understand the potential for organic traffic growth in specific topic clusters. With just one click, you can create your entire content plan and start seeing results!
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When to use the Surfer SEO Content Planner
- When you want to find supportive subtopics for your topic cluster
- When you want to map out a topic cluster before creating content
- Locate secondary keywords to rank for multiple keywords on a single page
- Improve your website’s authority by building topical relevance
- Discover new topics to add to a cluster that already exists
- Find keyword difficulty to measure competitiveness
How to Use the Surfer SEO Content Planner
The content planner is designed to be used in two primary ways:
1. As a content strategy tool, to help you map out your content plan and understand the potential for organic traffic growth in specific topic clusters.
2. As a keyword research tool, it helps you find new keywords and subtopics to target in your content.
The following steps will walk you through how to use the content planner in both ways.
1) Determine a Target Keyword
To launch the content planner, you’ll need to determine a keyword and location to base your map around. The target keyword is the main keyword you want to rank for in Google. This will be the starting point for your topic cluster.
You can use Surfer’s Keyword Explorer tool to find a target keyword. Simply enter a seed keyword into the search bar and hit “enter.” You’ll then see a list of related keywords, as well as their monthly search volume, SEO difficulty, and more.
Once you’ve selected a target keyword, click the “Content Planner” button at the top of the page.
Entering Your Keyword into the Content Planner
You’ll see a field to enter your target keyword on the next page. Simply
There are two things you have to define:
Choosing the right keyword
While you may have heard from SEO coaches like me to use long-tail keywords when researching content to find low-competition terms, this isn’t always the best approach for finding a target keyword for a topic cluster.
Instead, focus on finding a keyword that:
Is broad: This will give you more room to rank for a variety of subtopics and keywords with decent monthly search volume: You want people actually to be searching for this keyword!Is relevant to your business:
Is On Topic: Make sure the keyword is something that’s actually related to what you do. You could also use a category on your blog. For example, if you have an SEO services company, you might want to blog about “SEO.” A sub-topic could be “local SEO.”
The planner icon will begin to spin while the content planner is being created. It will generally take several minutes to scrape the data and build the map. After it’s completed, you can then begin exploring your topic cluster!
Exploring Your Topic Cluster
A topic cluster comprises the main topic, also called a “pillar” page, and several subtopics or “cluster” pages. The relationship between these pages helps Google to understand the hierarchy of your website’s content and how it all fits together.
Also referred to as “Silos” or “Content Hubs and Spokes,” this relationship between pages is essential for on-page SEO.
Content clusters help establish topical authority by covering an entire topic rather than just a single keyword. When done correctly, this will result in better rankings, more traffic, and higher conversion rates.
Each subtopic links back up to the pillar page in a cluster. Physical silos are easy to see in a post/category example on WordPress. Each post would be in its own category if you have a blog.
For example, imagine you had a blog about dogs. Each post would be placed in its own dog-related category. So, you might have categories like “dog breeds,” “dog food,” “dog health,” and so on.
In the category of dog breeds, you might see blog posts about specific dog breeds, like “Labradors,” “Poodles,” and “Golden Retrievers.” The dog food category might have posts about the best food for specific dog breeds or different types of organic dog food.
The point is each post links back up to the main category but is placed in a more specific subcategory. Breadcrumbs also help with this relationship by showing Google your website’s content hierarchy.
The same concept applies to a “virtual’ topic cluster but on a much larger scale. The pillar page would be all about dog breeds, and the subcategories would be things like “Labradors,” “Poodles,” and “Golden Retrievers.”
Furthermore, you could form another topic cluster from these clusters as well. For example, you might have a “Golden Retrievers” cluster that contains all your content related to this dog breed. This could include subcategories like “Golden retrievers health,” “training golden retrievers,” “grooming a golden retriever,” and so on.
As you can see, topic clusters offer an excellent way to organize your website’s content that is easy for users and search engine bots to understand.
When done correctly, topic clusters will help improve your website’s SEO by:
- Helping Google understand the relationship between your website’s content
- Increasing the chances of ranking for long-tail keywords
- Improving click-through rates from SERPs
- Reducing the bounce rate
- Improving the user experience
- Building topical authority
While SEO tools label search intent a bit differently, the concept is the same. Search intent is what someone is looking to do when they search for something online.
For example, when someone searches for “pizza,” they might be looking to find a pizza place near them, learn how to make pizza at home, or find out the history of pizza.
Each of these searches has a different intent, and when writing content that should rank on Google, it’s your job to match the content on your website to that intent.
If you don’t, you might get traffic to your website, but those visitors will quickly leave because they couldn’t find what they were looking for.
There are four categories that Surfer uses for searcher intent. These are:
- Customer Investigation
Using the content map filters, you can sort by intent.
For example, if you want to find all the “Informational” searches related to your main keyword, you can select that filter. Informational content is excellent for getting those top-of-the-funnel searchers who might not be ready to buy but are still interested in your product or service.
It’s also great to build up your website’s authority on a given topic. The more informative content you have, the more likely people are to see you as an expert on that topic, which can lead to more sales down the road.
Some niche website builders create websites entirely built on informational content to monetize with display ads.
Local content is perfect for businesses that rely on foot traffic or that have a specific geographic target. For example, if you own a pizza place, you’ll want to ensure you have content optimized for local searches.
This could include things like “pizza near me,” “best pizza in town,” or “pizza delivery.”
Local content is also great for building up your business’s reviews and ratings, which can positively impact SEO.
If you sell products online, then you’ll want to make sure you have shopping content on your website. This type of content is designed to get searchers further down the sales funnel who are interested in buying a product.
Some examples of shopping content include “buy pizza online,” “pizza delivery,” or “pizza coupons.”
Customer Investigation Content
This type of content is designed to help searchers who are already familiar with your product or service and are just looking for more information. For example, if someone searches for “pizza recipes,” they might already know about pizza and want to find a new recipe to try.
If you have a blog, customer investigation content is a great way to get people to your website and keep them coming back for more.
Now that you understand the different types of content let’s take a
Search Volume (MSV)
Surfer also shows you the average monthly search volume for each keyword. This is the number of times people search for a keyword on Google monthly, hence the acronym MSV (monthly search volume).
The higher the monthly search volume, the more traffic you can expect to your website if you rank for that keyword.
Of course, you don’t want to go after the highest search volume keywords right away. You want to start with low-competition keywords that you can easily rank for.
For now, know that Surfer shows you the monthly search volume for each keyword to get an idea of how much traffic you can expect to your website.
The KD difficulty score is in the 1-10 range, with 1 being the easiest to rank for and 10 being the hardest.
A KD score of 1-3 is considered easy to rank for, 4-7 is medium, and 8-10 is hard.
To get started with keyword research, you want to look for keywords with a KD score of 7 or below. These are keywords that you have a good chance of ranking for.
Remember, after using your original broad keyword, once you have the cluster map, your goal is to find low-competition keywords for which you can easily rank. The higher the KD score, the more difficult it will be to rank for that keyword.
Filters and Sorting
You can filter your topic cluster map by intent, keywords in a cluster, and by the search volume. Filters will help you quickly narrow down your options and find the best keywords for your website.
You can also sort your topic clusters by the most relevant, search volume (low to high or high to low), and keyword difficulty.
Selecting a Topic
When you hover over one of the clusters in the topic cluster map, you can click to get more details.
This will give you a list of all the keywords in that cluster and the monthly search volume and KD score for each keyword.
You can use the arrows to scroll to the cluster.
Once you have chosen the content you want to create, you can choose the keyword or keywords you want to target.
Use the checkbox next to a keyword to select it.
Once you are ready to open the content editor, click create content editor. This will open up a new window with the Surfer SEO content editor.
Pro Tip: I use Jasper AI to help write compelling content. It integrates with Surfer SEO and allows you to write SEO-friendly content quickly.
Domain Level Clusters
While using the keyword cluster map is ideal when searching a specific topic, Surfer SEO also provides a topic cluster map by domain level. Here, you can enter your website’s domain (or one of a competitor), and it will show you the main topic, subtopics, and related keywords for that domain.
This is a great way to get an overview of all the content on your website (or a competitor’s website) and how it fits together. It can also help you identify gaps in your content and find new ideas for blog posts or articles.
To use the domain-level topic cluster map, enter your domain into the “Domain” field and click “Search.”
The results will show you the main topic for that domain, as well as any subtopics and related keywords.
You can filter the content by:
What is Low-Hanging Fruit?
Low-hanging fruit is a keyword that you have a good chance of ranking for. These are keywords with lower keyword difficulty.
What is a Featured snippet?
Featured Snippet: A featured snippet is a block of text that appears at the top of the search results. It includes the title of the page and a brief description of the answer to the user’s query.
The content planner will also show you if a featured snippet is available for that keyword and if the domain you researched has won the snippet.
What are Impressions?
Impressions are the number of times your website appears in the search results
What is Position 10-20?
Position 10-20 shows keywords that rank on page two of Google. Another indicator of low-hanging fruit, it’s often easy to get more traffic by moving a 10-20 position ranking page for a keyword up to page one, position 1-9.
Pro Tip: Open the advanced view to learn more about each of the top 100 pages for a keyword, including the main target keyword and other ranking keywords for that page, the average position, average search traffic for that keyword, and featured snippet information for additional keywords.
Connecting Google Search Console
Surfer also lets you connect your Google Search Console account to get more data. Sorting the topics by relevance to your domain, Surfer will suggest critical clusters for which you currently don’t have keywords ranking.
Using the Missing tab, you can quickly add these topics to your editorial calendar and start ranking for them. Doing so will help you surface more long-tail keywords, get more traffic to your website, and improve your overall SEO.
To use Surfer for competitive research, the content planner is the best place to start.
You can use the content planner to quickly see what your competitors rank for and how much traffic they get from each keyword.
This data can help you determine which keywords you should target and what content you need to create to rank higher than your competitors.
Use Surfer SEO’s Content Planner to enter a competitor’s domain and view their top 100 pages, including keywords they rank for, featured snippets they have won, and more.
1. Open the Google search engine
2. Enter your target keyword
3. Find the top ranking page for that term that is not an ad.
4. Right-click on the domain name and click copy.
5. In Surfer SEO, open the Content Planner. Click on the Domain Tab. Enter the competitor’s domain with the https:// and delete everything after the top-level domain name to search the entire domain.
6. Click Create Content Planner
To run a competitive analysis using the content planner, use the domain-level topic cluster tab instead of the keyword tab.
For example, on Google, perform a search for your target keyword and find the first organic result (not an ad or people also ask questions). Copy that domain name and paste it into the content planner.
Then, use the filters and advanced mode to analyze the page, target keyword, supporting keywords, and featured snippet information.
You now know which keywords are likely to rank on one article and can focus your article on the same keywords—using the content editor for a target keyword will also show you the NLP keywords and how to optimize an article for ranking on Google.
Why does Surfer SEO’s Content Planner show similar topics in a topic cluster map?
The topic cluster map shows you the relationship between different topics and keywords. The more similar the topics are, the closer they will be together on the map.
This is because Surfer SEO uses Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) to group together similar topics. LDA is a statistical model that groups together words that tend to occur together.
By understanding the relationship between different topics, you can better plan your content and target the right keywords.
How often should I use Surfer SEO’s content planner?
The frequency with which you use the topic cluster map will depend on your needs. If you are starting out with content marketing, you may want to use it more frequently to help you develop ideas and plan your content.
As you get more comfortable with content marketing, you may only need to use it when looking for new ideas or expanding your reach.
What is the best way to use the Surfer content planer?
You can create content maps by keyword targeting, domain, or URL. By connecting Surfer to the Google search console, you can also get data on the topics you are not currently ranking for.