Product Review

MarketMuse Review: The Best or Overpriced?

Danielle Antosz
April 29, 2020

Are you looking for a powerful content marketing and SEO tool that helps you create better content in less time?

MarketMuse takes care of keyword research, performs competitor research, suggests topics,  — and more.

What is MarketMuse — and is it worth the hefty price tag? That’s what we’re going to cover in this MarketMuse review.

MarketMuse is an AI-powered content marketing and keyword planner tool created by founders Aki Balogh and Jeff Coyle in 2013. It uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze content, suggest topics to cover, and develop briefs to help your brand or agency create better content.

It works best for medium to larger agencies or brands with SEO writers that are looking to create a highly effective content marketing strategy based on hard data, not just gut instinct.

In the past years, it has collected a variety of industry awards from the US Search Awards, Content Marketing Institute, Red Herring, and G2 Crowd.

So, it does a lot, but is MarketMuse worth the cost? Let’s dig into the details, shall we?

Our Verdict

When it comes to performing keyword research and getting the most out of content marketing, I have to say MarketMuse is worth it.

What Are the Most Popular Features of MarketMuse?

MarketMuse has two main types of features: Inventory, which tracks all the content and reports on the current content on your website, and Applications, which are tools you can use to research and plan your content.

This is MarketMuse's Inventory feature.
This is MarketMuse’s Inventory feature.

Inventory includes:

  • Pages, which stores the content on your current site and provides insights into how you could improve that content.
  • Topics stores the most common topics your website covers, including areas you could improve.
  • Plans are used for content planning.
  • Reports allows you to filter and sort data about your content.
This is MarketMuse's Applications.
This is MarketMuse’s Applications.

Applications, however, is where the real fun happens. Here’s what all those nifty tools do.

This is MarketMuse's research application.
This is MarketMuse’s research application.
  • Research: Type in a topic and MarketMuse will give you a complete list of terms to include in your content — and how many times to cover each term or phrase.
This is MarketMuse's compete application.
This is MarketMuse’s compete application.
  • Compete: What content are you going up against? MarketMuse shows you the top-ranking content for your main keyword and highlights content gaps you can leverage. For example, for “MarketMuse review”, it suggests including topics like social media and content marketing — which many competitors aren’t mentioning or aren’t mentioning enough.
  • Questions: Looking to rank for voice search and related topics? Questions provides a list of questions users are searching for related to your keyword. These are similar to Google’s “People also ask” question, but the list is far more robust. Not all questions are relevant, so you will have to do a bit of sorting.
  • Connect: If you are using MarketMuse for sites you own, it will suggest internal links to help connect your current content to related content you’ve already published.
This is MarketMuse's optimize application.
This is MarketMuse’s optimize application.
  • Optimize: This is my favorite MarketMuse feature — simply drop your content in and MarketMuse ranks it against your competitors. It creates a content score that lets you know how your content compares and suggests additional topics to cover. (Don’t judge my content score, this screenshot only includes about a third of this final post!)

How to Use MarketMuse

The first thing you’ll notice when you sign into MarketMuse is that there are a ton of options in the dashboard, which can be a bit overwhelming.

I’ve found these features aren’t too hard to figure out — and they can save you a ton of time on content creation by taking care of the topic and keyword research for you.

Here’s a screenshot of the dashboard in MarketMuse. All the options are on the left-hand sidebar. In the screenshot below, I have the Inventory tab open, which lists all of the content on our site Grammar Gang, including content scores and opportunities to improve that content.

This is a screenshot of the dashboard in MarketMuse.
This is a screenshot of the dashboard in MarketMuse.

The opportunities suggest keywords and topics that we aren’t currently covering. Notice the color-coded numbers under Top Related Content — the red indicates there are a lot of topics we could add, while green means we are already covering most of their suggested topics.

What does the content score in MarketMuse mean?

MarketMuse’s Content Score provides an indication of the overall quality of your content, and its ability to rank well for the keywords you’ve indicated are important.

In the Optimize application, you’ll see three scores: Content Score, Average, and Target.

This is a sample content score from MarketMuse.
This is a sample content score from MarketMuse.

Content Score is how your content rates overall, Average is how all your competitors’ content ranks compared, and Target is the score you should shoot for to rank well for your target keyword.

Here’s the process I use for creating new content using MarketMuse.

This is MarketMuse's process for creating new content.
This is a sample content score from MarketMuse.

1. Start with research: Before writing a single word, I head over to the Research application and type in the term I am planning to target. For this article, I am targeting MarketMuse Review.

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2. MarketMuse returns a list of around 50 terms and topics that are related to the original query. I copy and paste those into a spreadsheet.

3. Next, I head over to the Compete tab and search MarketMuse Review again. This gives me a list of the top 20 articles my piece will be competing against — as well as terms and topics those competitors aren’t targeting. Those red boxes? Those are topics the top competitors aren’t covering — which means I’ll want to include those to create a more in-depth piece.

A sample result from the Compete App on MarketMuse.
A sample result from the Compete App on MarketMuse.

4. Next, I head over to the Questions tab and look for popular topics and questions. I add these to my spreadsheet of key phrases. I do have to sort them, not all of them are relevant. “How should you choose a writing service.,” for example, doesn’t quite fit.

This is the Questions App from MarketMuse.
This is the Questions App from MarketMuse.

5. I use this information to create an outline, though MarketMuse can generate a limited number of briefs each month.

6. Once I’ve written the piece, I use the Optimize application to see how my content does against the competition. If my content is below the average or target score, I add more topics from their “Related Topics” list and look for areas that I can make more useful.

The Optimize App on MarketMuse.
The Optimize App on MarketMuse.

There are a few other features that we don’t use as often — such as the brief creation and the internal linking tools. If you work on a single site, those features may be more useful.

MarketMuse Pros

The above are the pros of using MarketMuse.
The above are the pros of using MarketMuse.

As you can see, MarketMuse does a ton — it can create briefs for content, analyze the content you’ve already published, give you a list of keywords to include in new content, help you locate relevant internal links, and provide direction for creating more competitive content.

Here are a few things I love about MarketMuse.

Drastically Reduces Time Spent on Research & Content Optimization

Instead of spending hours researching topics, performing keyword research, locating competitors, and looking for content opportunities, you can get all that information at the click of a button in MarketMuse.

Using their artificial-intelligence-driven suggestions, you can easily optimize your content and ensure your content will rank well in Google and other search engines.

 Helps Your Content Rank Better Than Your Competitors

The internet is a loud, busy place. In fact, 4.4 million blog posts were published every day in 2019. It’s getting harder by the day to create content that actually stands out. We all want to create better content — but what does that actually mean in practice?

MarketMuse gives actionable steps to improve your content. The Optimize and Compete features, for example, provide a wealth of information about topics and keywords to help you create relevant, useful content.

Here’s what you’ll see in the Optimize tab:

This is the Optimize tab.
This is the Optimize tab.

When I analyzed this post early on, I found it was already ranking above the average competitor (who earns an average content score of just 20) but still not quite at the target of 40. To improve my score, I’ll need to add additional topics suggested by MarketMuse and increase the length of the post.

Makes Content Audits a Breeze

Doing a content audit on your site helps protect your site from search engine algorithm changes, but is also incredibly time-consuming. You have to pull all your URLs, sort through them, and look for opportunities for improvement.

Using the Optimize function in MarketMuse, however, you can plug in the URL and see exactly where your content is lacking. Do you need to add keywords? Address another topic you didn’t cover in the first piece?

The Pages feature actually stores your content so you can easily see research opportunities, the most valuable topics you’ve covered, and page authority.  If performing a site audit is on your annual content strategy list, I strongly recommend giving MarketMuse a try.

Streamlines Content Brief Creation

Great content starts with a detailed brief that outlines the topics the post should cover, keywords to target, and a general word count. An effective brief can be the difference between getting back a killer piece of content from a writer — or a lackluster piece that needs to be edited to death.

Content briefs are powerful — but also time-consuming to create. MarketMuse can create AI-powered briefs that detail topics, keywords to include, and even suggest internal links.

Is MarketMuse good for creative writing?

Not really, no. Its main function is SEO and keyword research, not grammar or clarity. If you want to write creative writing that also ranks well in the search engines, though, then give MarketMuse a try.

If you want to improve the flow and grammar of your writing, try one of the popular grammar tools such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid.

MarketMuse Cons

These are MarketMuse cons.
These are MarketMuse cons.

Now we’ve covered the features, how to use the platform, and all the things I love about the platform.

But, is it all roses and butterflies? Not quite. There are a few cons to consider when deciding if MarketMuse is the right SEO tool for you.

It’s Expensive

There are dozens of keyword research tools and content marketing platforms on the market, and MarketMuse is definitely one of the best — but it is pricey. Plans start at $399 per month, which may be out of reach for smaller businesses.

Who is MarketMuse best suited for?

Though they claim to be suited for teams of all sizes, the truth is very small agencies and sites may not be able to justify investing in MarketMuse. It is best suited for fast-growing sites and marketing agencies that heavily rely on content marketing for growth

Not Super User-Friendly At First

The first time I logged into MarketMuse, I was a bit overwhelmed. The tools in the left sidebar are labeled, but it isn’t completely clear what each one does. It would be nice if they had a short description in a hovering window to make it clear what each feature does.

Overall, however it is pretty easy to figure out. Additionally, MarketMuse offers a free demo and a robust help center with FAQs and a search function.

This is MarketMuse's FAQ page.
This is MarketMuse’s FAQ page.

Source

No Free Trial

If you think MarketMuse is a good fit, you just have to dive in. They do not appear to offer a free trial, which is a bit off-putting due to the high cost. It would be easier to justify the price tag if they let you try the platform first. However, there is currently no free trial offer on their official website.

Note: A few reviews mention that MarketMuse will offer free trials for ‘serious injuries,’ so it may be worth asking after a demo to see if they will let you try the platform before buying!

Long Load Times

In a world of same-day delivery and instant messaging, waiting even a few seconds for something to load online is nearly unheard of. But, ‘ve noticed the Reports and Optimize applications can take several moments to load.

It makes sense — the program is sorting through a ton of information — but it can still be frustrating when the program takes three or four minutes to load a list of keywords.

Maybe not a deal-breaker, but definitely worth being aware of. I usually just focus on another task for a few minutes; but I have had to reload a few times.

Does MarketMuse offer support?

Yes, MarketMuse offers support via helpdesk features and by email tickets. To submit a support request, head to their ZenDesk page and click “Submit a Request” in the upper right corner of the page.

Not as Detailed as a Dedicated Keyword Research Tool

MarketMuse tells you which keywords to include and how often to include them — but it doesn’t provide details like search volume or competition. This isn’t a huge con, but it is information I’m used to seeing in most keyword tools. If you were planning to use this in place of an Adwords keyword planner tool, it won’t work.

Keyword Recommendations Are Occasionally Random

In addition to longer than normal load times, it’s also important to pay close attention to the keywords MarketMuse returns. They aren’t always accurate.

For example, when I researched topics for this article, I got a few random suggestions like best selling author and creative writing degree, which don’t really fit with the topic. Not including these random suggestions impacts your content score, which is a bit disconcerting.

The random suggestions do seem to be decreasing over time, but don’t blindly add recommendations without considering if they are appropriate.

Does MarketMuse Help with Building Backlinks?

No, they don’t. The Connect feature helps you find internal links to include in your content, but it doesn’t touch on link building otherwise.

MarketMuse Plans & Pricing

The question you’ve been waiting for: how much does MarketMuse actually cost? It is a powerful content marketing tool  — but it isn’t cheap. Luckily, they offer a range of packages, so you won’t have to pay for more features than you use.

Their lowest-cost plan starts at $399 a month, which includes one brief a month, up to 50 queries, and access to their Optimize, Research, and Compete features.

These are the available plans and pricing offered by MarketMuse.
These are the available plans and pricing offered by MarketMuse.

Source

The pricing for higher-level plans varies based on your needs.

In general, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 a month for MarketMuse’s artificial intelligence-powered content and keyword tool.

On Reddit, several customers reported paying around $500 a month, but some features may not be limited at that rate.

Final Thoughts: Is MarketMuse Worth It?

MarketMuse lets marketers focus business growth and writers focus on the creative aspect of writing, rather than wasting time digging into technical keyword planner tools and competitive research.

When it comes to performing keyword research and getting the most out of content marketing, I have to say MarketMuse is worth it. However, smaller businesses may not be able to justify the cost.

When comparing costs, however, consider that MarketMuse may replace several other search engine optimization and keyword tools.

If you have a fast-growing website or run an agency, MarketMuse is an ideal tool to add to your content marketing arsenal. There are a few cons, but they are quickly outweighed by this tool’s powerful keyword research and optimize features.