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Ranking in search hasn’t been simple for a while now, and keeping up in 2024 demands operating on the cutting edge. Those relying on old-school SEO techniques and ignoring AI development risk being wiped out by the next algorithm update.
If you prefer to work smarter and are seeking a proven way to boost SEO results and befriend Google’s algorithm, you’ll likely find this honest MarketMuse review helpful.
I’ll give you a peek inside the tool so you can decide if it makes sense for your business or if you’d do better focusing your energy elsewhere.
Quick summary of this MarketMuse review
After spending many long hours exploring MarketMuse’s SEO suite, I can say their tools truly step up the content game.
Features like X-Ray and Heatmap give so much visibility into competitor coverage that you can’t help but find new angles and polish your existing content to almost perfection. The Optimize feature with color-coded keywords is a great tool for smart, non-spammy SEO.
Overall, MarketMuse is a very intuitive AI tool for SEO that can give you an impressive competitive advantage even in a saturated market.
I’m pretty confident that if you actually leverage all the data MarketMuse provides and publish good content based on a data-driven strategy, you’ll build a solid, future-proofed content website that is hard to beat.
What is MarketMuse?
MarketMuse is an AI-powered SEO tool that helps digital businesses develop strategic content plans to rank higher in search.
Using advanced natural language processing, it analyzes topics, keywords, and trends to identify untapped opportunities in your industry.
It also analyzes your website to provide personalized insights and a clear picture of where your content stands against top-ranking competitors.
Then, MarketMuse identifies target topic clusters for your niche and generates detailed article briefs to guide an effective content strategy that aligns with how search algorithms work.
I first signed up for MarketMuse about a year ago, and the functionality changed quite a lot since then. They also changed their pricing structure, and I’m happy to say that it’s much, much more affordable than it was before (see the pricing section below for comparison)!
I noticed that most of the top MarketMuse reviews haven’t been updated in years and might confuse you with feature details and prices that are no longer relevant. This is a fresh 2024 review where I break down the best features of MarketMuse with multiple examples from my tests.
Benefits of MarketMuse
Who is MarketMuse for?
MarketMuse used to be a top-tier content strategy tool that only made sense for big SEO agencies. But since they revamped their app and pricing structure, it’s not just for the big players anymore!
Now it’s an incredible resource for anyone who cares about SEO, including solopreneurs and small bloggers.
This shift means that even those running smaller operations can take advantage of MarketMuse’s powerful features to enhance their SEO and content strategies, making it a valuable asset for any content website.
Key MarketMuse features
1. Topic Navigator
When you click on the Research tab in the left menu, the first thing you see is Topic Navigator.
This is the place for finding new keywords, exploring new topics, getting insight on user questions that make sense to cover your articles, and even evaluating your website against a particular topic.
To start the research process, type any keyword at the top and click Run.
MarketMuse’s innovative (even patented!) Topic Model analysis identifies the most impactful topics to demonstrate your topical authority. Understanding each keyword’s search volume, trend, and value, allows you to strategically prioritize new content to publish.
Similar to other keyword research tools you might be familiar with, MarketMuse lets you filter the keywords by volume and CPC, as well as include or exclude some search terms.
Most keywords are supplemented with a list of Variants – closely related keyword variations that you can use instead of repetitive exact matches. MarketMuse even suggests how many times you should mention each keyword on a page to have the best chance to rank.
You can export selected (or all) keywords into a spreadsheet in one click.
If you are sick of spreadsheets and have the budget for a Premium plan, there is this thing called Inventory inside the MarketMuse app. You can add all the topics/keywords during the research phase to your inventory and then use them in other areas of the app for planning your content strategy.
For keywords in the inventory, you can get personalized difficulty scores for your website, cluster them together for building topical authority, and generate content briefs with AI.
While the Topic Model gives you ideas on topics and concepts you should talk about in your content, the Keywords tab is the more familiar keyword research we are all used to.
It outputs thousands of keyword variations you should keep in mind and naturally weave those that make sense when writing the article.
We know that Google highly values resources that leave users satisfied and answer all their questions.
The Questions tab in MarketMuse Topic Navigator suggests a list of questions to include in your content.
I think it’s great for surfacing basic beginner questions you wouldn’t naturally think of if you are an expert on a subject and have been in the industry for years.
The last tab in the Topic Navigator is Reflect. This feature pulls all your site’s existing content related to the subject you’re focusing on, complete with performance data and personalized metrics, such as a personalized difficulty score based on your website’s authority.
This means you get a much clearer picture of your content’s ranking potential.
This sounds really cool 🔥 and helpful, but predictably, it is only available for Premium users (custom annual commitment plan for large teams).
My experience with keyword research in MarketMuse
Having used multiple keyword research apps over the years, I can clearly see the difference that MarketMuse’s patented AI-powered model brings to the picture.
You can tell that it’s thinking in concepts and not just similar keywords. For example, for the “accountability partner” keyword, it suggested topics like “positive reinforcement,” “peer pressure,” and “constructive criticism,” which all make total sense, but you probably won’t see it in other tools.
On multiple occasions, MarketMuse suggested relevant (but not obvious) keyword ideas or topics that I had overlooked while doing my manual research before. This includes some untapped topics that didn’t have good coverage in SERPs (yet).
This is part of the value this tool brings to a content-based business.
2. Serp X-Ray
The SERP X-Ray feature gives you a snapshot of what the top 20 search results are doing right. It’s like having a guide on how to write or revamp your content so you can hang out at the top with the “cool guys.”
At the top, there is an overview and average metrics, and then you can view each of the top twenty results in more detail.
Here are the main metrics you’ll see in Serp X-Ray:
- Number of images and videos
- Number of internal and external links
- Content score
- Word count
- Number of H2 headings
- Type of search intent (informational as “Know” or “Comparison,” “Transactional,” “Local,” or branded “Website query”)
If some sites, such as Amazon or YouTube, skew the averages, you can exclude them from search results.
There is also an indicator in the top right corner of whether or not there is a featured snippet for a given search query.
Unless your page is already in the top 20 (which means you’ll see its metrics on the list anyway), you can enter the URL to your published page at the very top before running the search.
This will give you a bunch of data-driven ideas to see how your content compares to the current top results. (Note that this will replace the top summary block with your page data in relation to averages.)
If all the top-5 results have informational “Know” intent and you are trying to rank a transactional piece, it’s unlikely for you to succeed.
There are, of course, exceptions to this (such as when search intent is not 100% clear or if there aren’t enough great search results for Google to show), but generally, Google aims to match user intent, and you should, too.
The Heatmap is arguably one of the most impressive features of MarketMuse.
It does a semantic analysis of each of the top 20 results, giving you a beautiful, easy-to-comprehend breakdown of how often each term is used on each page.
Each colored square shows how often a particular topic is mentioned:
- Red = no mentions
- Yellow = 1-2 mentions
- Green = 3-10 mentions
- Blue = 10+ mentions
If you hover over a specific row, you’ll see an isolated view of which search results have that specific keyword on the page, and which don’t.
Interestingly, in this example, MarketMuse shows the #1 result all in red – even though I checked, and it actually has all the terms. I think this is because that’s a featured snippet as opposed to a normal search result, and it simply failed to pull any data.
If your page is already in the top 20, the Heatmap feature gives you another dimension to compare your page to the pages that outrank you and see where you are missing out.
For example, in this example, I rank at position 6, and there is clearly room for improvement and a bunch of missing terms.
You might have also noticed that almost nobody mentioned “good accountability partner,” which might be another missed opportunity to take advantage of.
Even if your published content isn’t in top 20 yet, you can add the URL before running the search, and MarketMuse will add an additional column in front for your page analysis. This way, you’ll see all the missing important keywords that may be holding you back from ranking.
Additionally, you can click on any page (click on the rank circle, not the link itself) to see a “head to head” comparison, i.e. your content score and word count versus theirs, as well as all their color boxes.
Gaps & Must Haves
There is more than one useful way to view a Heatmap in MarketMuse.
For example, you can sort it by Gaps (Red to Blue), and it will bring up the most untapped terms, starting with those that nobody included, which might give you an opportunity to stand out.
Obviously, you should use your own judgment and only include terms that are relevant to the article. It’s not about keyword spamming your content but covering more ground and unique angles.
Alternatively, you can sort your Heatmap by Must Haves (Blue to Read), and it will bring up topics that most pages cover, so you can instantly see what’s missing in yours.
I just love MarketMuse’s way of presenting data! All this color coding is great for quickly grasping the information (especially for people with ADD), recognizing patterns, and referencing the key points at a glance. And it’s fun to play with and see a better picture over time as you improve your content!
I think the only thing I haven’t mentioned yet about Heatmaps is that you can go all-in and explore a specific competitor by inputting their website, or a particular section/folder of the website.
This will generate a similar map, but all the 20 pages in comparison will be the most relevant pages from the domain you specified. You will see how deeply they cover the topic and which terms they tend to include.
As you can see, this is a relatively easy keyword that doesn’t have a lot of competition. With highly covered topics like content marketing or fitness, be prepared to see mostly blue-green here instead of orange-red.
In 2024, building a topical authority is one of the key parts of having a successful website that brings decent organic traffic.
The Connect feature in MarketMuse is designed to help you organize your content into closely related clusters that give a signal to search engines that you are indeed an authority on a particular topic.
As you can see in the screenshot below, in the Internal tab, MarketMuse groups my existing content into clusters. If you have a cluster-based approach to your content strategy (which I do), you probably can anticipate most of what you’ll see here.
Still, it’s interesting to see how an AI-powered robot sees your website and topical mapping. (Guess who else is a robot? Google’s crawler!)
MarketMuse’s Connect feature gives you a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your content clusters.
All you need to do is go through the list of articles in one cluster and make sure they have internal links to other articles in that cluster (where it makes sense).
I would recommend spending a day or two doing just this, or getting your VA to do this. This change alone has a high chance of giving you a boost in rankings. Try it!
Personally, I use the External tab much more often because it gives me content cluster ideas with a bunch of good topics to cover. It also shows articles from other websites that cover a particular topic.
If you have more than one website in the same niche, you can let MarketMuse know, and it will show the content cluster data across all your sites in the Network tab.
Similarly, you can give MarketMuse a list of your competitors, and it will analyze what they are doing with their topical clusters (Competition tab).
With so many levels of data-driven research, there is no way you won’t rank if you put all this information to good use!
5. AI-powered content optimization
Research is amazing, but finding a good keyword is just the first step to ranking on Google. Another part of the process where MarketMuse can help is strengthening your on-page SEO with the Optimize feature.
If you’ve used a dedicated content optimization tool before, such as SurferSEO or NeuronWriter (my all-time favorite), you’ll appreciate how neatly this process is organized in MarketMuse with bright color coding and highlights.
When you click on the Optimize tab in the left menu, you’ll see either a clean slate or the last article you’ve been working on.
- If you are starting from scratch and are going to write a new article, simply input your target keyword and click Run.
- If you already have a published article you want to optimize, add its link next to the keyword and click Run and Fetch.
Here is a breakdown of this functionality, which you can also see on the screen:
- Your article’s Content Score and how it compares to average and target scores
- Current Word Count, together with average and target word count
- The Content Editor with familiar markdown features for writing, editing, and optimizing your article
- The Research tab with recommended keywords and color-coded frequencies
- Used keywords are highlighted in the text with the same colors (something I would love to see in other SEO tools!)
- The scores get updated in real time as you edit the article
- Copy for publishing button (next to the title) that copies your whole content (with headings and formatting) to be pasted in WordPress, for example
- The Export function to download your article in Word or Excel format or create a Google Doc
Then there is the Compete tab which shows you the top-20 search results with their word count and content scores.
Interestingly, my article clearly has the best score in top-10, but it’s currently at position 6, likely because I don’t have enough domain authority (links).
But that’s a topic for another day. Just wanted to point out that on-page SEO, though important, is not everything.
6. Detailed content briefs
Last but not least, MarketMuse offers further help with content planning with Plans and Briefs functionality.
Personally, I prefer doing this key part manually, so I don’t really use this part of MarketMuse. But if you hate planning and outlining or have a team of writers, this feature can really make your life easier.
In MarketMuse, briefs are nothing like you might have seen in AI generators. This tool analyzes a lot of data and gives you a full content brief, which includes:
- the outline
- current ranking titles
- related topics
- competition-based heatmap
- target content score
- suggested word count
- sections to include in the article, and for each section:
- suggested title
- questions to answer
- topics to mention and how often
- suggested internal links with anchor texts
- suggested external links with anchor texts
- and more…
I haven’t seen briefs as comprehensive as this in any SEO tool before MarketMuse, so this definitely adds to the list of things where it stands out.
Note that briefs come with a cost – ordering one brief takes 1 credit, and one credit costs $25 (at the time of writing this review in 2024).
As I mentioned already, MarketMuse is now much cheaper than it used to be since they introduced their new reasonable monthly plans as opposed to exclusive annual-paid subscriptions that only huge websites and agencies could afford.
I’m including snapshots of the prices from previous years so you can see for yourself how drastically they changed (and maybe get excited if you couldn’t afford it before).
So here is the current pricing structure of MarketMuse:
- Free Plan: $0 per month. Suitable for 1 user, it offers limited insights and only allows 10 queries per month. (You can use it for slow months when you focus on something else.)
- Standard Plan: $149 per month, or $1500 per year if you pay upfront. Gives one user access to almost all features and insights, limited to 100 queries per month.
- Team Plan: $399 per month, or $3900 per year with annual payment. Allows up to 3 users, and basically gives you unlimited use of the app, including Content Briefs which require additional payments in other plans (more on this below).
There is also a custom Premium Plan with annual commitment and personalized pricing – which has the most delicious features like inventory, topic tracking, personalized metrics for your site, and more.
One great thing to mention is that when you sign up for the Free Plan, it gives you a 7-day free trial of the Standard Plan. (That’s a smart move on their side – once I realized the full potential of the app, I didn’t want to go back to the limited Free Plan.)
Even with reduced pricing, I know from experience that for many solo creators and smaller blogs, this price point is not always realistic. But since this tool provides incredible value, if you are not leveraging this kind of data-driven information, you are probably missing out on traffic and potentially earnings.
What I would recommend is investing in MarketMuse for 1-2 months once or twice a year and making the most out of it. Update and optimize all your articles that don’t rank well enough, go through the clusters and interlink everything, and do enough keyword research to last you for several months. (At least do it once, go all in, and see if you get a boost.)
It is also important to differentiate between credits and queries.
Research and Optimization features use queries, and each plan has a different amount included per month. Content briefs use credits, which are unlimited for Team and Premium plans, but if you use a Free or Standard plan, each credit costs $25.
Does MarketMuse actually help you rank on Google?
I personally haven’t done an isolated case study on MarketMuse – I like to use a combination of things, and my overall SEO strategy seems to be working pretty well.
However, I’ve heard a lot of good things about MarketMuse in the past, which prompted me to sign up myself and see if I could get a competitive advantage over big publications as a solopreneur.
If you are interested in data-driven results, here are a couple of case studies:
- Monday (a popular project management tool) increased organic Google traffic to their blog by 1,570% in 3 months after bringing MarketMuse on board. They also went up in search results, on average, 25 positions for the keywords they are targeting.
- Kasasa (an award-winning fintech company) was surprised to see a 92% increase in quarterly organic traffic compared to the previous year. Since onboarding with MarketMuse, they were able to position 83% more keywords on golden 1, 2, and 3 spots in Google SERPs.
Other things I like about MarketMuse
The onboarding process with MarketMuse is a high point of the experience.
Unlike many complex software tools I’ve tested that lack intuitiveness and require you to search for tutorials or click around a lot to figure things out, MarketMuse pleasantly surprised me with its structured approach.
If you click on the question mark in the top right corner, you’ll see the Onboarding modules item.
These quick tutorials walk you through all the key functionalities, combining informational hints with actionable steps that involve actual clicking and trying out various workflows.
By the end of the onboarding tutorials, you have a pretty good grasp of what MarketMuse can do for you and how well it performs.
Going through all the lessons might feel like a bit of a chore initially, but the tutorials are designed to actually flatten the learning curve and direct you to the tool’s most valuable features, ultimately saving you time.
Built-in sample videos
Even if you choose to skip onboarding, MarketMuse has got your back every step of the way. In almost every place you go, there are little hints you can click on to read more about a particular feature or see a short video tutorial on how to use it.
This made the initial experience really pleasant for me and not stressful at all – it’s very clear what each feature does and how to make the best out of it.
Room for improvement
While my overall impression of MarketMuse is quite positive, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
👎 Keyword research is really slow.
It takes a full minute for the algorithm to show any data on the screen after I press Run, and almost two full minutes to fully load all the additional information, such as questions. (I timed it to make sure it didsn’t just feel long – and Questions showed up at 1:57.)
Is it worth the wait? Probably. Is it a turn-off for some people? Most likely. If it was me, I would try to output the list of keywords as fast as possible (so a user has something to look at) and keep loading the additional info, such as Trend, in the background, and then calculate suggested mentions asynchronously.
👎 Some keywords are off.
Since MarketMuse markets itself as an AI tool, I expect it to be able to differentiate simple concepts, and it’s definitely not perfect at this. As I was researching the motivational topic of having an accountability partner, I got a lot of “related” keywords about accounting, which clearly has nothing to do with it.
Best MarketMuse alternatives
There are enough SEO tools and otherwise content-related AI tools on the market, but I don’t think there is a direct competitor to MarketMuse at this point.
They have a unique combination of features sprinkled with impressive personalized insights and an easy-to-use interface.
However, depending on your processes, maybe you don’t need a full SEO suite.
Feature-based MarketMuse alternatives in 2024:
- All-in-one: SERanking or Frase
- For keyword research: Semrush or Keysearch (budget-friendly)
- For content optimization: Neuronwriter
- For content briefs and AI writing: Surfer SEO and Koala
Final verdict: Is MarketMuse worth it?
I think MarketMuse is way ahead of its competitors and a really good investment for any content-focused business.
When you consider how deeply it dives into analysis and how much a data-driven content strategy can affect your position in SERPs, the insights it provides are priceless.
(Sure, you’ve got to put in the work, too.) I would say that for professional bloggers serious about long-term SEO wins, MarketMuse absolutely deserves its place in your toolkit.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap. But compared to their historical prices and keeping in mind all the value it provides, checking out the Free Plan with a 7-day free full-featured trial should be a no-brainer.