MarketMuse is one of the most famous content optimization tools. If you’re considering it for content strategy or SEO, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
My Verdict: MarketMuse is a fantastic tool for content optimization, content planning, and SEO. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.
What Is MarketMuse Used For?
MarketMuse is a content marketing tool that helps writers, content managers, and SEO professionals plan, optimize, and write content.
It’s used for:
- Keyword research
- Content gap analysis
- Copy brief creation
- Identifying existing content to improve
- Managing the content creation process
MarketMuse is the market leader and granddaddy of the content optimization tool market. It was founded way back in 2013 and has been awarded a patent for semantic keyword analysis.
Basically, their engineers figured out a way to re-engineer Google’s understanding of how different words relate to each other. They call this “topical modeling”, and it’s essential for effective search engine optimization.
Let’s start with how you can use MarketMuse’s topical modeling technology to take your sitewide analysis to the next level.
Also Read: Clearscope Alternatives
Google and Bing use topical modeling to figure out what your website is about. They only want to rank your individual web pages for topics that they think your entire website is related to.
Also Read: Frase Review
How do you figure out which topics are related to each other in Google’s eyes?
The MarketMuse Inventory features help you out there.
You can see which pages are easy for your website to rank for based on your own topical authority.
They create a “personalized difficulty” score for you.
Find low-difficulty keywords to write about using the “search intent mismatch” feature:
Find which pages need to be revamped based on “potential traffic gain”:
See where your easiest topic gaps are, based on search volume and personalized difficulty:
And so much more.
Once you unlock the ability to assess your site through the lens of topical authority, you can find easy new keywords and page optimization opportunities that you never knew existed.
Content Production Management
Some of the newer features that MarketMuse created over the past few years involve managing the content creation process.
Also Read: Clearscope Review
If you’re like most content teams, you have a content manager, content editor, and multiple writers involved in the process.
Somebody has to:
- Create and manage the content calendar
- Create copy briefs for every article
- Make sure that the brief was implemented correctly
MarketMuse created features for each of these steps.
Manage your content calendar by listing each article as a “project”:
You can assign each copy brief to a content writer within the tool. Then verify where it is in the process:
You can use the data from the tool to make a customized copy brief:
See the full copy brief here that I generated for this article. Click on the “Outline Brief” tab to see the screenshot above.
The writer then proceeds to write the first draft directly in the tool.
If your writer doesn’t have a seat in your MarketMuse account, they can still use this tool to write the article while logged out.
They can also sign up for their own account under a free plan, which works perfectly well for this use case. (I’ll include more info about pricing below.)
Personally, I like MarketMuse’s content processing features. But I can understand why a content team with an established process wouldn’t want to deviate from it.
If you’re still wedded to your Google Sheets and Google Docs/Microsoft Word process, you can easily implement data from the tool to enhance the copy briefs that you’re already making.
Copy Brief Applications
MarketMuse’s flagship features have been their Research, Compete, and Optimize applications. These are included in even the Free and Standard Plans.
The Research application includes a list of words and phrases, called Topics, that your writer needs to include to optimize their article for search engine optimization.
(See the exported list here of MarketMuse Topics that I used to create this article.)
There is a list of 50 topics with recommendations on how many times to use each one under the “Suggested” column. The more topics you use, the higher your “Content Score” will get.
As seen above, there is a “Target Content Score” that they recommend. I don’t like using it. In my mind, the point is to use every relevant topic in every article.
Want to dominate your SEO competitors? Get the highest score that you can on every article, every time.
Every once in a while, it gives bad suggestions. In my experience, it’s less than 1% of the time. In that case, you’ll want to skip those topics.
Other than that, get the maximum score if you want maximum results.
(If you look at these content scores, you’ll see that they’re all yellow or red. It’s funny how most of the sites writing a MarketMuse review didn’t actually use the tool for the article!)
Compete shows you the content score and word counts of every competitor for that particular keyword.
They also visualize this with a heatmap.
(See the exported compete data that I used for this article.)
I don’t find the heatmap feature very useful, but some people like it. Conversely, the Compete SERP data is absolutely wonderful for competitor analysis.
I love to combine this data with Ahref’s keyword difficulty score, which is based solely on backlink data. If Ahref’s keyword difficulty and MarketMuse’s average competitor score are low, then you know you have an easy keyword to target.
The Optimize feature is MarketMuse’s most popular. It’s designed to help you optimize the content that you already have.
(See the optimize export here.)
Once you paste in your existing content, it automatically tallies up your content score based on how many topics you used.
Since Optimize uses data from Research and Compete, it basically combines those two tools into one.
When I export data for new content, I actually use Optimize since it has the same data as Research and Compete at the same time.
The Questions application appears to pull in data from the Google search engine API. You’ll see similar questions in the “People Also Ask” box on a Google search results page.
I don’t find that the questions are super useful here, but it’s a nice convenience if you already use “People Also Ask” for your copy briefs.
Connect makes suggestions around which pages to link to. Since internal linking is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to boost your SEO, this is a must-use feature.
Connect uses MarketMuse’s proprietary topical authority technology to recommend which pages you should link to internally and externally. The types of sites that you link to from your articles is a little-known SEO ranking factor, and one worth optimizing for.
The Topical Modeling Technology is Unreal
There are a lot of tools in this space. I’ve tried almost all of them.
None of them have built their own in-house artificial intelligence to re-engineer Google’s topical modeling capacities.
Except for MarketMuse.
Many people working in SEO-related content marketing know that topical authority matters. That’s why you have to write a ton of articles related to a particular topic that you want to rank for.
But besides Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR, I’ve never met or even heard of anyone who actually has a process for building out topical authority.
(His process, by the way, requires creating a Python-powered SEO tool to reconfigure entity-based data directly obtained from the Google API. So good luck with that if you’re trying to build your own tool.)
That’s why I’ve been using MarketMuse ever since I heard about it back in 2017. It gives you a step-by-step process for building topical authority—and it works.
Identifies Topical Gaps
Want to rank for an insanely hard keyword? I did, when I was working for Nav. My team and I ranked our site #1 for “business credit cards”.
My understanding of topical authority was essential for accomplishing this.
What does Google think is a related topic to “business credit cards”? Here is what the MarketMuse AI says:
Nothing too surprising there, I suppose. It’s natural for credit card sites to write about annual fees, rewards, and net purchases.
But does your business content plan include articles about personal credit and how to boost your credit score? How about “eligible purchases”?
If you have the full plan, it gives you a list of topical gaps to write about on a silver platter:
Makes Copy-Brief Creation Easy
Creating copy briefs can be a slog. I know because I’ve created thousands of them. I’ve also trained other people on how to make them.
MarketMuse arms you with the data to make your briefs more effective and a software interface to speed up the work considerably.
Creating comprehensive content at scale poses its own challenges. I find that marketing software is most helpful when you’re looking to expand volume while still maintaining content quality.
I believe that content creation will always require human effort because human creativity is irreplaceable.
But the wise content marketer uses computers to create efficiencies.
Empowers Better Content Audits
Which pages need to be rewritten? What changes should you make to them? Does article length matter?
MarketMuse answers all of these questions. If you’re looking for pages to boost up in the rankings, simply look at all of the ones with content scores below 30.
Use the “Potential Traffic Gain” feature:
Or simply run pages that you want to update through the Optimize application.
Writing high-quality content obviously requires more than an SEO review, but this is an easy way to do productive content research that gets you a digital marketing return on your time.
Huge SEO Advantage
When I first tried MarketMuse back in 2017, I needed to test it. So I used it to optimize five pages that were written for SEO purposes.
Within two days of publishing the page edits, three of them went up in rankings by 5-10 positions.
What was even more interesting was what happened to other pages on the website.
Immediately after the changes were indexed in Google, one of my product pages that I wasn’t even linking to went up 10 positions in the Google rankings.
I knew that I was on to something, and I’ve been using it to outrank tough competitors ever since.
Long Load Times
The applications take a long time to load. As in, a really long time: around 30-60 seconds usually.
The content planning and site analysis features work quickly, so it’s mainly the applications that are slow.
Writers that I used to work with would complain about having to manually count topics for the article. A few years ago this was a problem for product users that didn’t have a seat.
Fortunately, MarketMuse has pretty much done away with these issues. The free plan allows writers who you don’t have seats for to check their work automatically, and the content brief links (as shown above) allow the same features without even signing in.
Topics and Questions Can Be Random
As I mentioned earlier, 99%+ of the recommended topics are great.
But sometimes, you get the odd recommendation or misspelling. Just ignore it and you’re fine.
I counsel my content creators to always write the grammatically correct version of a word or phrase if the topic recommendation presents an incorrect version. (Eg, “market muse” instead of “MarketMuse”.)
I don’t want to complain about this too much because MarketMuse is head and shoulders above their competitors in this regard. I have used tools that had the weirdest recommended phrases. You really don’t get much of that here.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: it ain’t cheap.
At the time of this writing, they don’t like monthly plans. So you have to pay a minimum of $7,200 per year. This is equivalent to $600 per month, except that you have to pay for the full year upfront.
Compare that to MarketMuse competitors, Clearscope and Surfer SEO, who charge $170 and $49 per month, respectively.
The MarketMuse Suite is the most expensive SEO content optimization tool in the industry.
Here is the cheapest pricing for more MarketMuse alternatives:
- Content Harmony: $99/month
- Topic: $99/month
- Frase: $44.99/month
We all know that you get what you pay for. But does that apply here?
Here is what I recommend to clients: it’s worth it if you’re doing SEO and have at least one full-time, in-house writer at your organization.
The salary of a full-time writer is anywhere between $40,000 – $80,000 per year, depending on their experience, industry, and location. It’s worth paying a small fraction of that for an SEO software that will more than double their content marketing ROI.
In many cases, companies are publishing 20+ articles per month, have an in-house content manager, hired an expensive SEO agency, and they still don’t have a content optimization tool. In my mind, it’s a complete miss.
Is MarketMuse Worth It?
Yes, it’s more than worth it. If you’re producing SEO content, it’s an absolute must.
MarketMuse is the content optimization tool to rule them all. It’s like the One Ring, except it doesn’t corrupt you and turn you into Gollum.
I’ll finish with the following anecdote.
Like the cobbler whose children have no shoes, I published an article recently without optimizing it with MarketMuse.
I initially wrote it for LinkedIn, published it there, and then forgot about it. Later on, I realized it would be great to publish on this site, so I did.
The article targeted an easy keyword, “fintech seo”. (I specialize in this.) As it aged, it climbed in the rankings until it got to position 15, which is page 2.
We all know that page 2 of Google is where you hide your dead bodie. Because nobody sees it there. And there is languished.
I smartened up and decided to rewrite the article using MarketMuse. After running it through the Optimize application, it was clear to me that most of the missing topics revolved around two themes: other marketing channels and business in general.
I wrote two additional sections to add in the extra topics: “Working With Other Marketing Channels” and “A Note on Execution.”
Within a day of the article getting indexed, it immediately went from position 15 to position 5. Within a few more weeks, it went to position 1, where it’s been ever since.
I love this example because bigger SEO agencies haven’t been able to replicate my success:
I absolutely love outranking these guys with way higher domain authority than me.
If you want these types of results, MarketMuse is for you.