Surfer SEO Review – How I Used It To Rank #1

  • Matthew Woodward
  • Updated on Mar 1, 2024
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If you’re anything like me:

Then you’ve probably written a few pieces of long-form content…

Because everyone says comprehensive content ranks better right?

But you’ve also probably found that your content isn’t ranking that well.

So if you want to increase your search traffic quickly, you’ve only got two options.

You can manually optimise your on-page SEO (by following online advice and personal intuition)…which will take you at least a few hours on each blog post.

OR, you can automate this process with Surfer SEO.

Surfer reviews the current top 10 ranking websites by analyzing over 500 different signals and compares them with yours!

And then generates an easy to follow guide for optimising your content based on what’s working in the real world right now.

So in this Surfer SEO Review, I’ll show you how you can use Surfer to optimise your content’s on-page SEO including how I used it to steal the #1 position.

Why You Need To Pay Attention to Surfer SEO

I seriously suggest you watch this video (including the updated bit at the end)-

YouTube video

The other day, Surfer SEO gave me some pretty weird advice…

 That allowed me to jump to the number 1 position…

I had an extremely detailed and comprehensive SEMRush Review with 26,083 words.

Matthew SEMRush Review

Although I was pretty pleased with the post, I ran it through Surfer SEO.

And this happened.

Surfer SEO Words in Body

Surfer SEO said that I should delete 22,210 words of my content. That adds up to be 85% of the total content in that post.

That’s really weird advice. Especially if your a fan of skyscrapering or 10x’ing your content.

So I decided to take a closer look.

When I clicked on extra details, you can see my content is the most detailed and comprehensive (by far!)

SEO 26,000 words in body

But it’s actually the outlier in the group! Because everyone else sits at around 3,000 words and I’m way over that.

So I decided to put Surfer SEO to the test.

I deleted the majority of my content!

  • I deleted almost 50 of the different things you can do with SEMRush.
  • I removed the summaries of each section
  • I deleted 900+ comments from the post.
  • I deleted 21,799 words in total (85% of the content)

I then checked my article – to see that my 4,000-word count is now within the favourable range and in-line with everyone else.

Surfer SEO Words in Body 4,000

But here’s the thing…

I made these changes on October the 18th 2019.

And the next day… the post moved into 1st position in Google!

surfer seo results

And has more or less held steady in the 1st position since!

And despite it being a domain…

I’ve also seen an increase in positions on Google USA Desktop as well!

google us desktop results

So if I could get these results by simply deleting my content…

What does that mean for your content? Especially if you’ve focused on developing long form content like I have!

What Is Surfer SEO?

Surfer SEO is an SEO tool that compares and analyzes 500 different factors of your page’s content against the top 10 ranking SERPs.

It takes the guesswork out of on-page SEO optimization by using data to show you what is missing. It has three key features to help you optimise your content-

  • SERP Analyzer
  • Content Editor
  • Keyword Researcher

Surfer Key Features

Don’t Worry.

I am going to show you how to use Surfer SEO to optimise your content in a moment.

But before we do that, I want to talk a bit more about how Surfer SEO works and why it’s delivering incredible results.

Data-Driven Content Optimisation

If you’ve optimised content in the past, you know that it’s generally based on your intuition and experience.

This might have worked a few years ago.

But it takes a lot of time…and it’s also prone to human error.

With Surfer SEO’s data-driven model…

You can find common patterns from the top pages.

Because Surfer SEO will analyse 500 different factors across the top 10 results and then compare those with your page.

This gives you reliable, data driven information on what’s working right now for your specific keyword.

Surfer currently analyzes ranking factors like:

  • Text Length
  • Number of headings
  • Number of Images
  • Page Speed
  • Keyword Density

  • Partial Keyword Density
  • Referring URLs
  • Referring Domains
  • Meta Tags Structure

Surfer List

It makes it really easy to compare your page to the competition and then optimise the specific factors that influence rankings for your keywords.

Compare your page to the competition

Meaning you can discover not only the optimal keyword density.

But also learn what other words you should be including to make yourself as relevant as possible to the current top 10-

Surfer True Density

It also finds correlations between position in SERP and 500+ factors before generating a plan of attack.

ranking factors importance

And you can gain actionable data for any location-

Surfer United States

Surfer SEO’s databases work with different languages and countries so you can bring in results for many different locations.

1 Click On Page SEO Audits

If you’ve written a lot of content.

And you want to boost its current ranking, you can use Surfer’s 1-Click Content Audit.

Just generate a report and enter your URL-

1 Click Content Audits

Click on the word ‘Compare’.

Surfer Compare

And you should see your website appear below.

Surfer Matthew Website

On the left is your rank.

While to the right is the 1-click audit button.

audit website

To begin, click on ‘Audit’ and you’ll see something like this-

Surfer audit Website

This is an audit for my article for the search phrase SEMRush Review.

The audit gives you detailed information on:

  • Missing Common Backlinks
  • True Density
  • Number of words
  • Exact keywords
  • Partial Keywords

  • Number of Elements
  • Characters
  • Time to First Byte
  • Load time (ms)

If you want to find out further information on a key factor, you can click on the ‘show details’ button to your right.

Surfer Words - Show details

You should see a bar graph that compares your content with the other top-ranking pages.

Surfer SEO 4,000 words

Not only can you audit your own content.

But you can also audit your competitors as well!

Matthew Audit

Surfer Audit Matthew

Finding Quick Wins

When you combine data and audits together, you can see which small fixes can make a massive difference to your ranks!

Going back to my SEMRush Review example earlier.

I had a few things I should reconsider. The biggest being the word count.

Surfer SEO Words caution

Surfer SEO suggested I remove 22,000 words from my body, so it would match with the other top-ranking pages on Google.

And when I removed those extra words…

I saw this.

Surfer SEO Words - green

And I looked at how my word count compared with everyone else’s.

Surfer SEO Words comparison

That simple action took me only 30 minutes.

 But it boosted my rank to 1st position!

Instead of trying to fix everything, you can discover quick wins which can help you rank higher without spending a lot of time and money!

Just focus on those keywords that are sat in the number 3 to 10 positons first.

Super User-Friendly

If there’s one thing I know about SEO tools, some can be ridiculously hard to use.

Just have a look at Cora for example-

Cora Graph

Cora is well known in the SEO industry as a great on-page analysis tool.

But the image you see right there…

That’s an actual datasheet. Not the most user-friendly at all!

On the other hand, Surfer SEO has a super user-friendly interface that makes optimization easy…

How to Optimise Existing Content With Surfer SEO

Surfer SEO allows you to optimize your existing content with its SERP Analyzer tool.

You can see what’s working NOW for YOUR keyword in search results.

It will analyze your URLs, audit and make suggestions of what you can do to improve.

SERP Analyzer 2

To begin, you can enter a:

  • Keyword: If you want to gain insights or correlations between position in SERP and that Keyword.
  • Domain or URL: If you want to gain insights on backlink profile, keywords, and anchor profile.

Choose whether you want to search for mobile or desktop results.

Whether you want quick or full results and in which location.

You also have a history log at the bottom (which you can go back and access as many times as you want).


Once you hit enter, you will see a graph.

Surfer SEO Graph SEMRush Review

The graph is the correlation between the page’s SERP position on the x-axis and the ranking factor (words will be automatically selected by default.)

For example:

Above, you can see that pages 1-10 had an average of just below 3,500 words for their SEMRush Review.

SEMRUSH Review Graph

Whereas, the next group of pages had significantly higher word counts. Only to fall again after the 32nd position.

On the left, there is a list of different factors you can choose.

Surfer List and Graph

These include:

  • Number of referring domains
  • Number of words in body
  • Exact keyword density in body
  • Partial keywords density in body
  • Number of characters in title

  • Exact keywords in alt descriptions
  • Number of paragraphs
  • Page loading times
  • Structured data
  • Number of images

Below, you can also find search results from Google’s SERP.

Surfer Comparison

Does all of that sound like information overload?

Well don’t worry because Surfer SEO makes it easy to generate a report that tells you exactly what you need to do.

Just paste your URL here-

Surfer - Website

And hit ‘Compare’.

Surfer Compare Button

Click on the ‘Audit’ button.

Surfer Audit Button

And you should see a detailed list of recommendations to optimise your content.

Surfer Audit Matthew

Let me show you how you can implement those recommendations to increase your rankings.

True Density

True Density is a metric you can use to assess the gaps in your content.

Surfer True Density - Content

It’s a great way to see if you’re using specific words too often or too rarely.

According to Surfer SEO…

Relying on True Density is the easiest way to optimise existing content.

So if you want to up your on-page SEO, you can check to see how many extra keywords you need to add and how many you may need to remove.

  • Anything with the green “all good” sign means you don’t need to take any action
  • The yellow warning sign means there is a slight deviation that should be corrected
  • Red indicates a large deviation from the suggested range

You can prioritize this list by clicking on relevance-

true density relevance


Overall, my word in body paragraphs and bolded text are doing well.

Surfer Words SEO

But I have 168 words in H2 to H6. I should also consider removing 12 – 75.4 words from the H2 and H6 headers.

If I click on Show details…

You can see here that I’m clearly over the suggested range and have more words in H2 and H6 in comparison to other high ranking articles on Google.

Surfer SEO Word Count

I’ll remove a few extra words from the headers.

And I’ll continue this editing process until I fulfil the requirements and ensure no further action is required.

Optimizing Content Surfer SEO

Optimising your existing content with Surfer SEO is extremely easy.

Especially since they give you a clear guide on what to do…

…and what not to do!

Missing Common Backlinks

After you have optimised your content, you should re-index it via Google Search Console and then wait to see how it reacts.

If you need to give things an extra push, you can create a link building plan based on competitors’ common backlinks.

Here, Surfer SEO will give you a prioritized list of websites to build links from based on how many of them link to your competitors.

Surfer Audit - Missing Common Backlinks

As you can see, 7 of my competitors have a link from that I am missing which are pretty easy to acquire.

So just work your way through this list or use my intelligent spreadsheets to steal your competitors best backlinks.

How to Create New Content With Surfer SEO

If you want to create an optimised blog post with Surfer SEO from scratch, you can use their content editor.

The content editor will give you a clear guideline on content creation.

You can also send the guidelines to a copywriter or content writer to ensure that the blog content aligns with on-page SEO recommendations like:

  • Keyword usage
  • Length
  • Number of structural elements
  • …and much more

It really takes the hardwork out of creating SEO-friendly content and I am using it as a basis for my niche sites at the moment.

Start by clicking on the Content Editor.

Content Editor Surfer SEO

Enter your keyword and select your location. Then click ‘Create’.

Surfer SEO will analyze your top 10 competitors and their content.

Once the analysis is complete, you should see this.

content editor

On the right, you gain a clear guideline regarding:

  • Content structure
  • Words
  • Headings
  • Paragraphs
  • Bold Words
  • Images
  • Important terms to use
  • Other relevant terms
  • Questions you should include

And on the left, you can begin writing right away in the text field.

If you want to make some adjustments, click on ‘Customize’.

And you should see something like this.

content editor overview

Adjust Content Length

The suggested number of words is the average length of text in the analysed pages.

Try to create your content with a similar length.

Surfer Content Structure

The length of text directly impacts the density of every phrase you use in the text.

Review Keywords

The keywords Surfer SEO suggests are semantically related to the main keyword based on what is ranking right now.

So it’s critical you use these keywords in your content.

You can see that the keywords are split up into:

  • Primary Keywords
  • Secondary Keywords
  • Prominent Terms
  • Other Terms

terms to use

If there are a few keywords that don’t meet your expectations…

You can click on them, which will remove them from the list.

Choose Questions To Include

I’m sure you know that positioning isn’t just about the keywords and their density.

 Good SEO is about providing value to the reader.

Here, you can select relevant questions to include in your writing-


This also helps to increase your chances of showing up in featured snippet or people also ask boxes.

Add Notes

And finally, if you need to add any additional information about the content…

…you can do so in the notes.

surfer seo notes

Once you’re done, hit ‘Final Customization’.

If you work with external content creators, you can simply share the unique link so they can create content based on the guidelines!

Your content editor doesn’t need their own Surfer SEO account either, just share the private link with them and voila.

Google Docs

For anyone who uses Google Docs, you’d be happy to hear that Surfer SEO released a Google Chrome Extension (in beta).

This lets you integrate Surfer’s Content Editor in Google Docs.

Google Docs SEO

This makes optimising content super straightforward.

And much more convenient!

How to Find Awesome Keywords With Surfer SEO

In addition to optimising on-page content, Surfer SEO has another useful tool. They now have a new keyword research tool.

This way, you can keep the whole optimisation process in one place.

  • You can find your best keywords
  • Jump into analyzing SERPS and optimisation
  • And plan your content

All-in-one app!

So how does it work?

Click on ‘Keyword Research’.

And enter any keyword (or multiple keywords) and choose a location.

Keyword Research Surfer SEO

After entering your keyword, you should see this.

Surfer Keyword Research 2

Here, you will see information about:

  • The provided keywords
  • Related keywords
  • Their SERP similarity
  • Average monthly search volume in a particular country

If you’re wondering what SERP similarity means…

It’s Surfer SEO using reverse engineering tactics to check the similarity between SERPs.

For example:

If there is an 85% SERP similarity between ‘DSLR’ and ‘DSLR Camera,’ it means that 85% of pages from the top 20 are shared between those two SERPs.

You can also save the best keywords in your clipboard.

Clipboard Surfer SEO

And use the list to undergo additional research and extend your keywords list.

You can also check relevant questions and terms that contain search queries, as well.

Surfer SEO Similar Keywords

Having Same Terms

Here, you can get an idea of which keywords contain your main phrase.

Surfer SEO Having SAme Terms

And what their search volume is.


Questions work in a similar way.

Surfer suggests common questions people tend to enter into Google that are related to your keywords.

You may want to include these in your content to both help your visitors and increase your chances of showing up in the people also ask boxes.

Don’t forget to add FAQ Schema as well for some extra oomph.

Want to do some keyword research but Surfer SEO is out of your budget? Check out my list of free keyword research tools.

Surfer SEO vs Page Optimiser Pro vs Cora

Surfer has amazing features.

It’s a data-driven SEO content optimisation tool.

That makes optimising existing content and creating new optimised content.

Super easy!

But there are other on-page SEO tools on the market as well.

I’ve briefly mentioned Cora above.

Cora Graph

There’s also Page optimiser Pro as well.

Page Optimizer Pro

Below, I’ve put together a table that summarises Surfer SEO’s offer in comparison to Page optimiser Pro and Cora.

Surfer SEO Page optimiser Pro Cora
Data-Driven Content optimisation Tool
No. of On-Site Ranking Factors 500+ 29 800+
User-Friendly X X
Analyzes a large number of metrics X
High-Quality Keyword Analysis X
Project-based organization X
Active Social Community X X
Pricing From $29/month From $10/month $250 per month

While Surfer has many advantages, Page optimiser Pro and Cora win out on a few different aspects.

For a budget-friendly option, try Page optimiser Pro and if you have the time and budget to dive deep into on-page analysis, trial Cora.

But…if you prefer an easy and cost-effective way to improve content quickly, reach for Surfer SEO.

Want to write product reviews like this one? Use my product review template!

Surfer SEO Review Conclusion

Surfer SEO is ideal for anyone looking for a data driven analysis tool with an user-friendly interface and an affordable price starting from only $29 per month.

I like it because it helps me with my SEO daily tasks in a way no other tool in that price range does.

It has quickly become a key tool in my SEO process and we are seeing more and more Surfer SEO success stories by the day.

In fact, I used Surfer SEO to build out a new niche site that we launched in July-

site progress

And as you can see, we have been more than happy with the results so far.

All I have to do is share the Surfer SEO content editor URL with my writing team, and they do the rest.

So if you’re serious about:

  • Increasing blog traffic
  • Getting more website views
  • Creating higher ranking content
  • Bumping up your existing ranks

…and keen to achieve quick wins without spending loads of time and money…

Start your Surfer SEO trial now.

Because it’s not often a new SEO tool causes this much disruption.

Frequently Asked Questions

Surfer SEO is an online tool that uses A.I. to help you write perfectly optimized SEO content that will rank well in Google's search results. It is a great tool for content creators to create better content efficiently.
Yes! Surfer SEO is the best on-page SEO optimization tool on the market. It helps you to optimize any page or piece of content along with a suite of tools for keyword research, content planning, content writing, SEO audits and analyzing SERPs.
Yes you can use Surfer SEO for free to a degree by using their Keyword Surfer Chrome Extension. This will allow you to see search volume and a complete list of keyword ideas without juggling 2-3 tools at the same time.
Surfer SEO is quite expensive compared to a lot of tools and doesn't really offer a proper free trial for you to get used to it. There are some minor bugs but they are always adding new features.

Surfer SEO Review

  • Review Of: Surfer SEO
  • Reviewed By: Matthew Woodward
  • Rating:
  • Updated On: Mar 1, 2024

Surfer SEO takes a scientific approach to on page SEO and makes optimising your content a painless process regardless of previous experience. I’ve had nothing but consistent results and they continue to innovate with new tools and features that I’m quickly adopting into my personal standard operation processes – there’s not many tools I can say that about!

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What Are Your Thoughts?

80 Responses

  1. Great post! Curious about your thoughts about the Semrush Writing Assist Vs Surfer? I get a huge amount of recommendations with Surfer. Comparably, Semrush I feel can be way off with the word count being too small compared to ranking pages.

    1. Hey Danny, I suggest you follow the recommendations Surfer SEO gave you. Much more accurate than the Semrush Writing Assist.

  2. Thanks for the guide Matthew! I’ve signed up with your link, so I can give you something back for all I’ve learned from you 🙂

  3. This is exactly why I left Surfer, it suggesting factors based on my comments. They had no fix for that.Still was able to pull the page to position 1 from 30 without their suggestions (based on comments).Neat tool though, a lot of people seem to like it.

  4. Deleting content to improve your ranking is old news. I’m shocked you didn’t know this.I’ve been using this technique for nearly 5 years now.If you write content there is an “upper limit” to write and stop, it does not produce any valuable extra by continuing.

    1. It might be obvious to you… but might not be for newbies! I am just trying to help by sharing my experience!

  5. This is really a great post again 🙂 Thank you for sharing your great and really helpful experiments Keep going the great workCheers,

  6. I have studied this SEO TOOL with much intensity and from what I see, its a newbie SEO TOOL with a unique approach of reverse-engineering the top-ten in the SERPS, to estimate what the algorithm from google is looking for for that particular keyword. I would venture to say “great content” does not always rank at the top, however “great content with even good “on page seo” boosts your ranking potential noticeably. Its a no brainer how good this tool is and Im sure improvements are on the horizon. I cannot believe somebody in your comments is actually questioning the validity of your positive review of SURFERSEO. I’m ready to fork up the $29 monthly or $59 monthly after doing the 7 day trial. Gee I think Ill save myself hours of work that it would take in manually researching on-page seo of my competitors. Great job Matthew.

  7. I am really happy to say it’s an interesting post to read. I learn new information from your blog, you are doing a great job. Keep it up 🙂

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong Matt but a flaw in this approach is that the top X articles for any given keyword could be down to their strong back link profile – using Surfer to ‘copy’ their content characteristics would be useless, and even detrimental to your existing content approach…?

  9. For keywords found on true density portion, do you recommend adding/removing all of the keywords found there or focus on those that are over 50%, 60%, or something else for relevancy? Thanks.

    1. We have been focusing on 90-100% so far but I would probably need to do some more testing to make a solid recommendation.

  10. Too bad Surfer SEO only offer Stripe as payment offer. I tried several times to sign up with my VISA verified card. have a valid card, sufficient balance and have triple checked the data is correctly filled.- Stripe keeps showing error occurred.That is too bad, it is such a great service, too bad they dont have PayPal or any other payment processor option for payment solutions

  11. I have tried on 3 separate browsers to get into this. I have a log in to the trial. However, the screen is white with a purple spinning circle. I can’t even seem to try this out.

    1. Hey James I had the same issue earlier but I think they were just doing some maintenance and all seems to be working fine now.

  12. I think more and more this level of content data insight is needed to rank and rank well. Cora I’ve seen as the benchmark (but pricy!). Surfer SEO looks like a strong alternative!

  13. Ah, I worked it out and it looks great. However, can you explain why the number one ranking position has errors and warnings? If you are ranking at number one, why would you make the suggested changes?

    1. Because every page sits in different range of the various averages of the top 10. I don’t think I would be making any changes if I was number 1.

  14. Hi Matthew, I’ve been using Surfer for a year and the results are surprisingly good. They need a lot of work but they are worth it. Of course, as long, as other competitors won’t use it. We will see what will happen next. It’s my number on to for content optimisation. And thanks for sharing your researchesKind regards

    1. SEMRush don’t do the analysis like this and SEMRush is a jack of all trades, where as Surfer is purely focused with onpage seo

  15. Hm, I tried it and I’m not that impressed. The audit presents like 100 potential improvements (for each post) and fixing all of them would take days.I have a very successful site and I’ll just keep doing what I did up until now – without any fancy tools (well, I use only one and that’s it).

    1. If you didn’t integrate any of the advice, you haven’t tried it. Pick 3x pages that are ranking in positions 3-10 and run through the advice that is shared.

  16. Hey teacher! Who lets the dogs out?Because the tool bites me!Yes, I am a new user, thanks for sharing the tool daddy! because you are the PAPA of SEOs

  17. That’s really weird. But updating contents always work. Either you reduce it or increase it. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Great post and increible. So if i does not understand wrong we need to delette content to increase or ranking SEO wooohh.

    1. In this case yes, my page was the outlier because of the extreme word count. People use strategies like “skyscrapering” or “10xing” content all the time, but this shows that isn’t always the right thing to do and could be a waste of business resource.Run your keywords/pages through Surfer SEO to see where they are the outliers and act accordingly

  19. I considered his work one of the most serious on the internet until this post.You’re just a liar fooling people into buying this tool that does nothing of the kind you described.I just got fooled by you, less bad that the scam was only $ 1, but I consider myself robbed.Review your concepts, I think cheating people with these useless tools is not a good deal in the long run.

    1. Myself and many other people are having great success with Surfer SEO and if you were in touch with the SEO community, you would know that they are currently walking around the Chiang Mai SEO conference like royalty because of how much success it has delivered for people.The tool does exactly as I have described, there is both a video and a step by step breakdown of how to use it to optimise existing content and create new content.Perhaps you need to review your concepts of conclusion, let me guide you a little on how to do that-1) Find 3 pages that are currently ranking in positions 3-102) Enter the target keyword into Surfer SEO for a full analysis for your target country3) Find or enter your URL and click the “Audit” button4) Implement the advice that is given (ignore the missing common backlinks advice for now)5) Once you’ve made the changes, run the report again to double check6) Enter your URL’s into Google search console and reindex them7) Wait a couple days and monitor changesNo vuelvas hablando como un idioto antes de intentarlo, que tonto mae!

  20. Just tried the $1 7-day trial of Surfer SEO and it shows me nothing. Useless. What version did you use for your analysis?

    1. We have a $9 unlimited month trial! Semantic Density is simpler, and is much closer to the “SEO truth”

  21. I am in NY and when I search semrush review,you are ranked 7th.There is more to this than deleting content.I am familiar with Kyle Roof, on-page.

    1. This is a UK domain and yes of course, it’s because the content is algorithmically more relevant against the current top 10 than it was previously.

  22. Hi Matthew,Great post. I have used Website Auditor before, but Surfer SEO seems as a better tool. Do you know if ‘Denmark’ is listed as a location in their keyword research and serp analysis?Best regardsMorten

    1. Find something that is currently ranking rank 3-10 and run it through the audit, follow the advice – rinse and repeat.

  23. Absolutely fascinating Matthew. I came across a service called Page Optimizer Pro a few weeks ago. What I really liked about was the easy to understand comparison with the top ranking sites for my keywords and what action to take to improve my rankings.While I’d been using Textmetrics up to that time to SEO my content, it did not tell me what the competition was doing. Surfer SEO seems to be a +++ version of page Optimizer Pro. I’m sticking with POP for the time being but can see that down the line Surfer SEO could be a tool for me.Thanks for the post and bringing it to our attention.

  24. Great post Matthew, I use powersuite website auditor for this , it does very much the same thing, compares page content, word count etc basically competitor research. I guess the lesson being – be in the same ball park as your competitors rather than 20,000 plus words ahead

  25. Very interesting!I am curious as to what you thought are in regards to link building. Would you not have been just as effective by building high quality links to that article or letting it mature and attract links naturally over time?

    1. I mean the post in question was first published in July 2016 and has been updated a number of times since then

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