Home Artificial Intelligence Lucjan Suski, Co-Founder & CEO of Surfer – Interview Series

Lucjan Suski, Co-Founder & CEO of Surfer – Interview Series

by Dimitrios Koutrotsios

Lucjan Suski is the co-founder and CEO of Surfer, an all-in-one platform for keyword research, content creation, optimization and search engine optimization (SEO) growth management.

When did you initially get interested in search engine optimization?

SEO has always fascinated me from the perspective of a product person. Most of the tools that were built in this space had inferior UX compared to what I was used to working as a Product Engineer for several product startups across different fields. I also knew that SEOs use their tools heavily, and usage is directly connected to revenue, that’s why I started to dig deeper.

Could you share the genesis story behind the launch of Surfer?

Back in 2016, after a couple of years working as a Product Engineer, I started to entertain the idea of a startup as a technical co-founder. During that time, my brother Michal was hired as an SEO Specialist in KS, a marketing agency founded by our friend Slawek Czajkowski. Michal quickly climbed the ladder and became Head of SEO, and I started to pick his brain about the problems he faced every day at work and ways to improve the performance of SEO teams. Some were obvious. For example, a not-very-innovative thing like a rank tracker crossed our minds, but we quickly settled on something really unique – an on-page optimization tool that automatically analyzed hundreds of ranking factors to see what really makes a difference when it comes to ranking. Within a few weeks, I put together a prototype that was immediately adopted by the agency, and the rest is history.

How does Surfer help with keyword research and becoming a topical leader in a niche?

Well, the way Google works now is that you could write the best piece of content on the planet on a topic, say “how to lose weight”, but your chances of ranking well would still be slim to none.

What they want to see is a sustained, continuous effort to publish content in a certain niche. So, if you’re covering weight loss, be prepared to write about all things weight loss – nutrition, exercise, health, and so on.

Think of your website as a book on a subject. Like a book, you must cover topics with examples and sources in different chapters while demonstrating why you are a credible source on the niche.

This concept has been widely adopted and is known as topical authority in SEO circles.

But just writing about different subtopics in a niche isn’t effective. You must also figure out which articles to write, how to link them, and even which to prioritize.

This is where keyword research tools come in. Unfortunately, most keyword research tools act as keyword database tools – they give you a ton of keyword information, but you are left to act upon them, to break down the information into steps that you can actually implement in a content strategy.

That’s where Surfer differs. We don’t just hand out a bunch of keywords to you. Instead, Surfer takes a scientific approach to keyword research.

We break down which pages to write about and in what order based on which cluster they belong to. Clustering related articles together helps website owners know which pages to link to, and of course, we also provide keyword metrics like search volume.

Keyword difficulty is an individual metric. For example, Forbes and I should have different metrics for a topic because we’re not the same. Unfortunately though, most SEO tools ignore this.

We don’t, so our keywords are personalized for your domain depending on the keywords you’re already ranking for and what your organic presence looks like.

Can you discuss Surfer’s content generation, and how it differs from competitive Generative AI tools such as Jasper?

Our focus is on creating content that ranks well in search engines. This is where we are different from other AI tools.

Most AI tools rely on creating well-written content based on their training data and prompts. Surfer’s purpose is to create articles that can help you attract organic traffic by ranking for your target keywords.

In order to do this, we employ a series of proprietary algorithms to analyze the top-ranking articles to determine how they got there.

We research their content, determine what heading structures they use, NLP keywords and phrases, and at what frequencies, among other things.

So if the search results show articles on “image seo best practices” when you search for “image seo”, Surfer will write an article on “image seo best practices” instead of say, “image seo tools”

We also allow users several customization features, from choosing a tone of voice, article type and to edit headers and talking points they want to be included within the articles before the content is generated.

Could you discuss how Surfer integrates with Jasper, and the benefits of this integration for the end user?

Jasper’s SEO mode allows you to use Surfer directly inside Jasper to optimize Jasper-generated content for search engines. As I mentioned before, our focus is on content that helps users rank in search engines and draw organic traffic.

Surfer offers data-driven analysis and optimization for on-page SEO to improve your content written inside Jasper.

The integration is quite straightforward once you log in to Jasper and doesn’t require any great setup on the user’s part.

The main benefit for the user is enhanced content optimization for SEO. The integration ensures that the content not only reads well but is also optimized for search engines right from the drafting phase. This can save time and resources by reducing the need for extensive revisions and SEO adjustments after the content is created.

Since users are guided by SEO insights from Surfer while writing, this allows for a more streamlined workflow.

Most writers are not SEOs and don’t want to spend a lot of time optimizing their content. The integration allows non-SEO familiar writers to focus on what they do best while aligning with SEO best practices.

Especially for agencies and in-house content teams, this integration allows for scaling content production. Teams can produce more content in less time, while maintaining high standards.

After an article is published there’s an option to continue to audit the articles, for post-publishing optimization. Can you discuss what this is, and how it works?

Well, SEO is a long-term and continual process. Unlike social media or videos, you can’t publish content once and forget about it.

But of course, SEO also continues to bring in visitors long after you have written an article, unlike those platforms.

The reason is that user behavior changes, as do trends and preferences. And so people look for different things and want to accomplish tasks that weren’t previously done. In the world of search, that means that publishers must adapt to these changes to stay relevant.

Besides users, search engine algorithms are also continually evolving. In fact, in 2016, Google announced that it ran 130,336 search quality tests.

This is a mind-boggling number that is impossible for users to keep up with.

This is where auditing or post-publishing optimization comes in. Surfer allows users to keep up with these changes by continually updating for results in the search engine pages.

So while one year, we may see ecommerce websites in the search results, we may see guides the next year for the same search term. Surfer ensures that you can adapt your existing content in line with these changes.

Often, it takes weeks, if not months, for Google to find a ranking for your keyword. But instead of accepting what Google decides for you, it’s prudent to continually optimize your articles for incremental gains that can help you rank higher in search results.

Surfer’s audit tools look at other pages that are ranking and will make recommendations for missing keywords and their density in your content, besides other details.

Our approach is to highlight the low hanging opportunities that you can take to maximize your search performance.

I’m a personal believer that human writers should augment themselves with AI, versus replacing human writers with AI. How would Surfer fit in this world view?

Surfer will help here in two ways. First, even though you want to write the most valuable and unique content by hand, you still need to support it with articles that are less exciting. For those, you should consider hiring high-quality AI writing tools such as Surfer or Content at Scale. On top of that, we aim to augment human content writing with a toolset that automates all the research that people currently do manually, so they can focus on providing a unique point of view. This is something that we have in our roadmap for the future.

Between 2019 and 2023 Surfer has grown its revenue by 15x, what do you attribute this success to?

I think it’s all about focusing on things that can really make a difference. When you are a small startup without many customers, you can’t spend time on things like conversion rate optimization, which has the potential to boost your growth by maybe 20%. At that stage, you need 10x or even 100x improvements. Those improvements are mainly coming from focusing on product innovation. We were always thinking, “how can we blow the minds of our customers”, and such a mindset was quite easy to achieve given that over half of the co-founding team consisted of SEO experts. We had a very quick feedback loop back in the day between myself and Slawek, Michal and Tomek, that led to delivering mind-blowing features fast.

What is your vision for the future of SEO and Surfer?

With the evolution of AI, SEO will continue to evolve. Search engines will continue to adopt the technology, but I don’t think we will see a rapid disruption event where search will change overnight. Remember that we are talking about a couple of billion users that are used to the search working the way it works today. ChatGPT got massive traction and was adopted by 100 million users, but most of them are not resigning from searching in the traditional way, they rather augment it.

At Surfer, we will keep evolving our AI capabilities to help people understand what makes good content and, in effect, rank higher. No matter what AI or non-AI way you prefer to write your content, Surfer AI will be there to help make it better suited for SEO.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Surfer.

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