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min read
May 30, 2024

Clearscope vs Surfer SEO

Keelyn Hart
Content Writer at Letterdrop


  • Clearscope focuses on keyword optimization and is best for medium to large businesses and teams working with freelancers and agencies.
  • Surfer SEO offers similar features to Clearscope, but allows for deeper optimization (such as suggestions page speed improvements and better AI assistance.) It's recommended for freelancers and small to medium content teams.
  • However, both tools are becoming outdated and do not fully optimize for factors like search intent and information gain.
  • Letterdrop is a more modern alternative that prioritizes new perspectives and search intent, and offers a suite of SEO tools to optimize content for the future.

Clearscope and Surfer SEO are among the most well-known SEO tools on the market. They share similar features, so it can be difficult to figure out which would be better for you.

We'll compare the two in this guide to give you a clearer idea of which tool is best suited to which kind of team — and demonstrate the best way forward with SEO tooling as the SEO landscape continues to change.


Clearscope is a popular and easily recognizable AI-powered content optimization tool.

It works by assigning your content and top-page content a letter grade based on something called "Latent Semantic Indexing" keywords (LSI keywords) or keywords relating closely to your target keyword. The tool suggests other "LSI" terms you can add to make your content more SEO-friendly to "beat out" competing pages.

Clearscope's editor lets you paste your content for Clearscope to analyze, grade, and make suggested improvements according to top results for your chosen keyword. The tool shows you:

  • which top or relevant terms you've included
  • which top or relevant terms you've left out
  • which top or relevant terms you should include in your headings

You're then assigned a letter grade based on your inclusion of these keywords, how readable your content is, and how close your word count is to top pages.

Clearscope content editor results
Clearscope content editor results

You can also use AI to help you structure your outlines. It does so based largely on the headline and keyword structure of top pages.

Standout Feature: Content Inventory Performance Tracking

Clearscope saves the content you choose to upload in its content inventory.

You can use it to track the performance of these pages, including its position on the SERPs, its impression count, and its click count — you just need to connect with Google Search Console (GSC.)

You'll have to use this information to examine these pages and figure out why they may not be performing.

Tracking content performance in Clearscope
Tracking content performance in Clearscope

A Caveat: LSI Keywords Don't Exist

In 2019, Google's John Mueller debunked the existence of "LSI" keywords entirely.

"There's no such thing as LSI keywords — anyone who's telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry." — John Mueller, Google

John Mueller debunks LSI keywords
John Mueller debunks LSI keywords

This begs the question of whether Clearscope's recommendations are really relevant today — more on that later.

Who is Clearscope For?

In our opinion, based on its close focus on keyword density and page structure, Clearscope is best used only as a one-off tool for a sanity check on your SEO content. This makes it better catered to B2C brands hoping to drive initial traffic.

This makes it best suited for:

  • Medium to large B2C businesses looking to run basic SEO checks and scale content fast
  • Companies working with freelancers and agencies

It's important to note here that Clearscope focuses primarily on keywords. Keywords alone don't answer search intent, which is why you may need to supplement Clearscope with other tools.

Surfer SEO

Surfer creates an SEO content workflow for its users, offering keyword research, an AI outline generator, a content editor, and data-driven SEO insights.

Their keyword research tool generates results in content clusters, and you're even able to organize them by basic search intent signals.

Once you've input your chosen keyword(s) into their content editor, Surfer analyzes top pages and a real-time SEO guideline is generated for you with the following information:

  • Suggested structure, including headers and paragraphs
  • A list of relevant NLP keywords
  • Suggested word count
  • Suggested image count
  • Links to competitor articles
  • Quick looks into questions asked and backlink profiles for competitors

Standout Feature 1: Customizable SEO Targets

Surfer allows you to tweak your specific goals for the piece and assigns you a score on how well you're meeting these goals. This is something that Clearscope can't do.

For example, you can adjust:

  • the competitors you want to be valued against
  • structural goals
  • topical goals by selecting the most relevant "People Also Ask" topics

You can choose SEO competitors and structural rules
You can choose SEO competitors and structural rules

Standout Feature 2: SEO Audit

This AI-powered tool analyzes top pages and gives you real-time feedback on any SEO improvements you can make to existing pages to boost your ranking.

The tool alerts you to:

  • Related pages that you should internal link to
  • Keyword omissions, including how often you should include them
  • Incorrect content length and number of headings
  • Poor keyword density
  • Page speed suggestions
  • Missing backlinks
  • Poor meta tags structure

An SEO audit with suggestions for improvement from Surfer
An SEO audit with suggestions for improvement from Surfer

Who is Surfer SEO for?

Surfer is a little better equipped than Clearscope in terms of the scope of its tools, but it's also best suited as a one-off tool for SEO sanity checks and for B2C companies.

We would recommend it for generating outlines and guidelines for:

  • Freelancers
  • Small to medium content teams

Clearscope vs Surfer SEO

Clearscope Surfer SEO
Keyword Research Built into editor and offers a report Offers downloadable spreadsheet with relevant keyword data
Structural optimization None Creates a guideline that includes structural tips like link building
Topical Research Mainly keyword and headline-oriented (even competitive research is based on this) Mainly keyword and headline-oriented; does include backlink analysis in competitor analysis, Featured Snippets, and questions asked
Customizable SEO Targets No Yes
Automation A basic outline generator (headlines and keywords) AI-powered outline builder (headlines, keywords, and subtopics); AI assistance for expanding on talking points and following basic content formats
Page Monitoring Pages uploaded to the content inventory can be tracked in terms of impression and click count None

Our Recommendation

Both Clearscope and Surfer focus heavily on keywords as a primary ranking factor, which is simply not a strategy that can get you ranking in the changing search climate. Google's PaLM2 is smart enough to crawl pages semantically.

Therefore both tools are fast becoming outdated, encourage keyword stuffing, and can't properly optimize content for factors like search intent and information gain.

They also don't help you add new perspectives to rank with Google's Perspectives and SGE, which leaves you at a competitive advantage.

None of them are suited to a business that's serious about SEO in 2024. You need a tool that actually helps you optimize for the future of SEO.


We're putting Letterdrop forward as a more modern and full-service alternative to both Surfer and Clearscope that's gotten companies like Scribe to 11x their traffic and paid signups within a year.

Founded by former PMs on the Google Search team, Letterdrop is one of the first SEO assistants built to put people first, prioritizing new perspectives and search intent.

Our suite of SEO tooling can identify and auto-fix SEO issues both on-page and across your site, taking SEO off your hands.

In a nutshell, Letterdrop's SEO tool semantically understands your content and can:

  1. Identify Search Intent and let you know you whether the search is informational, navigational, commercial or transactional. It analyzes top pages and suggests the best format you should use to get ranking
  2. Provide insight into what exactly has been covered on the SERPs so that you know what needs to be addressed. You can even auto-generate original sections into your content and choose your competitors
  3. Provide a fully-fledged draft or "research dump" depending on top page information of your choice and custom instructions
  4. Suggest topics and new angles that haven't been covered yet so that you optimize for Information Gain
  5. Give you an EEAT guide specific to your content to make sure all your bases are covered
  6. Automatically fix over 60 on-page technical SEO rules, such as internal links, keyword placement, alt text, and more
  7. Auto-fix links and publish them across your site
  8. Granular content refresh monitoring that tells you why your pages aren't performing and how exactly to fix them

<Letterdrop Overview>

We're not here to tell you to repeat X keyword 30 times, but to help you create content that:

a) Ranks better

b) Your customers actually want to read

Want to see the SEO tools that helped Scribe 11x qualified traffic?

Watch a quick video demo of our SEO Optimizer in action.

‎Who is Letterdrop For?

Letterdrop is best suited to companies with:

  • A full-time Content Marketing Manager
  • A dedicated operation around content marketing

It's also for content teams who hope to optimize content no matter the search changes that get thrown their way in the coming years. The tooling is consistently updated to reflect changes in the search climate, including making sure you optimize for Google's SGE and Perspectives.

Related FAQs
What Is the Equivalent of Surfer SEO?

Frase is a strong alternative to Surfer SEO. It stands out with its Optimize tool, which shows you which keywords you're missing from top pages, offers you more context for these suggestions, and can auto-generate these into your writing.

You can check out our article on Frase vs Surfer SEO for more information.

Is Surfer SEO worth it?

  • Surfer SEO and Clearscope offer similar features like content optimization, NLP, and TF-IDF analysis.
  • Surfer SEO is often considered the better choice due to its ease of use and integrations.
  • Surfer is fast becoming outdated, encourages keyword stuffing, and can't properly optimize content for factors like search intent and information gain.

Is Surfer SEO better than Semrush?

  • Semrush provides a wide range of reports and features to assist marketers in improving their search engine rankings.
  • Surfer SEO focuses on providing organic keywords to enhance the quality of content and improve competitiveness with rivals.
  • Both tools are fast becoming outdated when it comes to SEO optimization features, encourage keyword stuffing, and can't properly optimize content for factors like search intent and information gain.

What Is the Difference Between Outranking and Surfer SEO?

  • Outranking does not provide a recommended keyword density for blog posts to avoid keyword stuffing, while Surfer does — this is the primary difference between them.

Your SEO Tool Should Help You Optimize for the Future of SEO

SEO is changing, and while Clearscope and Surfer are capable of helping you with basic topical optimization, they're fast becoming outdated.

Putting the user first has never been more important in SEO, especially with Google's SGE.

We're constantly developing our tooling to optimize for the future. Reach out to us if you want to find out more.

Ready to optimize for the future of SEO?

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