This post originally appeared in the February 20, 2020 issue with the email subject line "Somewhere along the continuum between Twitter and Shakespeare" and an essay that examines how three language processing algorithms work.

Arguably the most visible contextual keyword competitor in the SEO/content intelligence space (or at least the most visible to me), MarketMuse is a content intelligence tool that identifies contextual key phrases, competitive comparison, and textual analysis for a particular topic.

I’ve covered content intelligence tools before: Ceralytics and Clearscope, both of which are very good and slightly different. Ceralytics gives the most holistic view of content performance of any of these tools, taking into account social signals and journey stage when scoring content performance and making strategic recommendations. Clearscope identifies commonly associated phrases that one could potentially use for a particular piece of content, scoring content as you write.

MarketMuse also provides a wide variety of services, with content scoring and contextual analysis as you write. The UI is more sophisticated than ClearScope’s, and it’s easier to use for someone who is not as familiar with natural language processing or SEO in general. More importantly, MarketMuse provides understaffed writing or SEO teams with clearly defined guidance in the form of SEO-focused briefs.

MarketMuse at a glance

Visual review of MarketMuse features: cutting-edge technology; provides a new level of analytics; uses machine learning; offers a partner program; at the monthly preice of an FTE (full-time employee). This tool is finely tuned, single-user and with a learning curve.

The data generated from any content intelligence tool requires a trained eye, several grains of salt and lots of context. MarketMuse is no different — because it scrapes content data from existing high-ranking search results on a particular topic, you’ll get a set of keywords that could potentially help you compete with existing search results. (If you haven’t considered the intent of a specific query and the audience’s state of mind when searching for it, you’re S.O.L., no matter what tool you use.)

MarketMuse’s greatest value is in its writer-specific briefs for large amounts of content. These briefs are based on machine-generated data, but they’re written by humans, for humans. They’re good briefs! Not wholly different from what your in-house SEO or content strategist would produce.

If you have already prioritized your content, want to produce a lot of content with a large set of writers, and want that content to be algorithmically optimized for SEO: MarketMuse might be for you. If you’re having trouble hiring a content-oriented SEO specialist, MarketMuse is probably a good fit for your team.

Here’s how I break down these three similar-but-not-the-same tools:

  • Ceralytics: Best for agencies or in-house teams with an awareness of how content works along a user journey and how content performs across different channels, but that may not have an in-house content analyst. Fantastic for generating longer-term content strategies. Also great for teams with an in-house analyst who is not necessarily familiar with how to interpret content data into actionable results. Ceralytics also provides human-supported interpretation of data, which is crucial to creating good content.
  • ClearScope: Best for brands with a down-n-dirty content-focused SEO specialist who knows how to interpret data and communicate that to content teams. Amazing for optimizing existing content. The learning curve is high, but the data is great.
  • MarketMuse: Best for in-house brands that want to rapidly scale content production with many writers but don’t have an in-house SEO or content analysts to create briefs. MarketMuse is a great tool once you already have a defined strategy and want to dive deep into writing and creation.