When Bill Gates mused that “content is king” in 1996, he had no way of knowing how true that would turn out to be. As technology continues to evolve, fighting your way up the Google page rankings has never been more challenging.
There are competing philosophies of the best approach to achieve a coveted page ranking and a plethora of content optimization tools available. Which one is the best choice for Content Marketers and SEO professionals?
This post compares two popular content optimization tools, MarketMuse and InLinks, to see how the features, functionality, and pricing of each stack up.
What is MarketMuse?
MarketMuse was founded in 2013 by Aki Balogh and Jeff Coyle. It uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze content, suggest topics to cover, and provide information to create briefs to improve your search results. Its First Draft “natural language generation engine” promises to create an original piece of long-form content designed to meet the KPIs designed in the content brief.
MarketMuse says it is designed to help Marketers:
- Use AI to find content opportunities faster.
- Filter opportunities based on key metrics.
- Build dashboards for content and editorial team members so they can find what they need.
Using AI and Machine Learning, MarketMuse crawls content on the web, storing information to provide inventory and analysis, competitor information, and search intent insights.
Once the research is completed, MarketMuse clusters the information to identify high quality topics of interest. This assists with the predictability of success and content strategy.
MarketMuse creates detailed briefs by analyzing the content landscape to create detailed, structured outlines for content brief creation with key performance indicators. Using AI, this tool generates long-form content that MarketMuse claims is of higher quality than content produced using GPT-3.
MarketMuse provides predictive content scores that compare your content to your competition, so you have a sense of how well you are covering the topic.
For each piece of content, MarketMuse generates a model containing subtopics and their relationship to the theme, then analyzes your content against it. Rather than a static score, this is a relative assessment that indicates how your content may perform against other pieces in the market.
Natural Language Generation
MarketMuse’s First Draft combines all the content information it has pulled together and creates the first draft from the corresponding content brief that is intended to hit all the markers and require minimal editing.
What is InLinks?
InLinks was created by Fred Laurent and Dixon Jones, who used their SEO expertise to develop a proprietary semantic analyzer and knowledge graph, producing the first suite of entity-based Semantic SEO tools on the market.
InLinks says it is designed to help Marketers, SEO professionals, and Content Marketers:
- Optimize blogs, articles, and webpages for Google Search, including BERT and RankBrain algorithms.
- Generate topic recommendations based not on keyword research, but Google’s semantic understanding of how entities relate to one another.
- Create content briefs informed by competitive research, semantically relevant ideas gleaned from the Knowledge Graph, and key structural considerations such as readability, topic density, linking, and more.
- Automatically generate and implement internal links and schema markup.
How Does InLinks Work?
InLinks mirror Google’s Knowledge Graph to focus on the entity that a keyword represents, rather than the keyword itself. The tool provides topic and content recommendations, schema markup, smart internal linking, and recommendations for keywords, questions, and more.
Content Marketing Strategy
InLinks assists Content Marketers and SEO professionals in semantic and keyword research, SERPs analysis, competitive research, structuring creative briefs, and content optimization scoring to inform better-optimized content.
Internal Linking and Semantic Schema
Semantic schema assists Google in understanding the content on a website and how it corresponds to their machine-readable named entities. It then automates internal linking using a .js file.
Comparing MarketMuse to InLinks
In order to do a fair comparison, we ran a test using the keywords “content optimization” and compared the results.
How MarketMuse Performed
MarketMuse breaks a search query into each of the four categories and produces results for each independently.
MarketMuse Research is intended to “Analyze the distribution of related topics on your page to ensure the right depth and comprehensiveness.” For our term, “content optimization,” the tool produced 50 related topics with anywhere from 0 to 50 variants on each term.
Clicking on a topic opens the variations, which can be checked off to add them to the content brief. The Suggested Distribution figure indicates how many times a keyword from that topic list should appear in your content.
The most highly recommended topics are highlighted in blue. There does not appear to be a way to sort these recommendations, leaving you to scroll through looking for the blue and green highlighted topics.
In our example, you can see that MarketMuse recommends that “content optimization” be included 10 times in the content, and there are no keyword term variations offered. The tool also recommended using “optimizes content” 3-10 times with no variations.
Inside the topic, you can review the Suggested Distribution for the topic as a whole in green, and for the individual keyword in yellow. Using the “search engine” example above, this suggests you would select three to five keywords from this list to meet the three to ten keyword density for this topic.
As content briefs are a premium feature, we were unable to produce one based on the keyword research using the free version. Exporting the keyword list is also a paid feature.
MarketMuse Compete compares the topic to the top-ranking pages and displays keyword distribution for the main topic and related topics.
For the purposes of this experiment, we took the top-ranking URL from Google for the term “content optimization” and used that as the basis for our comparison. Although MarketMuse calls this visual a heat map, it is more of a matrix.
MarketMuse Optimize scores your content in its editor in real-time, showing you suggestions to optimize for the best results. As you create content in the editor, the app updates your score.
The top bar contains:
- Content scores: your dynamic content score, the average content score for competitors, and your recommended content score.
- Word counts: Your current word count, the average word count for competitors, and your recommended (target) word count.
- A View toggle that opens a drop-down enabling you to turn certain on-page features on or off.
The Optimize dashboard contains tabs at right (Right Rail Data) that enable Marketers to see different types of information and recommendations:
- Research contains suggested topics and distribution of those keywords.
- Compete shows the top ranking pages in the SERPs for your target term and your content score in comparison to theirs.
- Feed is a list of keyword-specific notifications that tell you how much closer you are to reaching your goal.
The free version allows you to copy the text to your clipboard; exports are reserved for Plus users and up.
MarketMuse Questions provides lists of questions that have been used to search for the topic you are investigating. It allows you to avoid “intent mismatch”, (“enterprise” can mean different things to a Star Trek fan and an IT person) by using AI to analyze the intent of the user.
These questions can be utilized by applying them to the content brief or using them for research with the Run In command.
MarketMuse Plus and Premium Features
Connect is a premium feature that makes recommendations for internal and external links. You can list competitor domains so they do not appear in these recommendations.
Newsroom is available to Gold members. It analyzes coverage of hot topics and suggests content ideas and optimizations.
Plans, Briefs, and First Drafts are all unlocked for paying users only.
How InLinks Performed
Unlike MarketMuse where content briefs are a premium feature, these are the basis of each new analysis within InLinks. With each one, you have the option of starting a new brief or beginning with an existing URL.
InLinks also enables you to connect directly to the website so that internal linking and schema markup can be automated.
Content Brief Recommendations
With this information, InLinks performs an initial analysis and produces key recommendations on word count, semantically related topics, and the topics and user intent in existing SERPs:
The dashboard contains 7 tabs you can explore and toggle back and forth through as you choose the recommended optimizations that will populate the Editor and inform your content brief:
InLinks returned 146 potential topics in 8 different sectors, ranging from marketing to enterprise, with each one measured in importance. The recommended usage of each topic is indicated on a sliding scale, and you can add the topic to the brief (in the Editor tab) by clicking Add.
You can filter into each topic using the controls at the top, and click the X between the Comment and Add to Brief columns to remove irrelevant results from the dashboard.
Clicking a topic on the left pops open a panel that includes:
- A quick definition of the topic.
- Semantically related synonyms.
- Competitor’s related topics, which you can click to see the specific subheadings competitors are using.
- Semantically related topics broken out by industry, which you can click to add to your brief.
- Related questions
Top 10 SERPs Analysis
The SERPs Analysis tab displays InLinks’ evaluation of the top 10 results for your keyword term in Google Search. Here, Marketers can see the topic density, number of internal and external links, readability ease, and InLinks’ proprietary search engine understanding score for each of these top ranking competitor pages.
Clicking the “Headlines” toggle opens a dropdown with the H2 subheadings from each page, enabling you to Add to your own brief for inspiration.
The Keywords tab displays keyword clusters by topic:
Frequently Asked Questions
And the Questions tab enables you to browse frequently asked questions from search, forums, and more by topic. You can then add questions directly to your brief.
The Topic Chart tab generates a visual representation of how your topics and keywords are semantically related, which can be exported as a chart to PNG or as data to CSV.
Content Brief with Dynamic Scoring
Working through these InLinks tabs, analysis, and recommendations informs your content brief so that once you reach the Editor tab, you have a robust content brief to guide the SEO content creation process. A brief overview, sources (the top 10 SERPs competitors), questions found during analysis, content ideas, subheadings, and any other recommendations you’ve clicked to Add from other tabs are here.
Finally, with the brief created, you can assign to your Content Marketing team or a writer:
As that person writes the content, they can Save Text and Update Analysis to generate new content scores and see targeted recommendations to improve.
Compare MarketMuse and InLinks Plans and Pricing
MarketMuse offers plans at four levels ranging from Optimize at $79 per month to Premium, which then contains three levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) beginning at $1499 per month.
InLinks offers Free, Pro, and Enterprise-level subscriptions based on the volume of pages analyzed/optimized per month. All features are available at every subscription level. Pro starts at $39 a month or your local equivalent.
Key Differences Between MarketMuse and InLinks
The major differentiator between these two tools is InLinks’ approach to content optimization via semantic search versus MarketMuse’s topic and keyword-based recommendations.
A second key difference is that leveling up in plan and price is necessary for unlocking features in MarketMuse. InLinks provides all features even to free users and levels are based on usage by volume of pages analyzed.
Third, and importantly, MarketMuse offers premium users the opportunity to use its Natural Language Generator for AI-powered content creation. InLinks, on the other hand, automates internal linking and schema markup.
Other ways these tools differ include:
- InLinks provides all results on one page, with information sorted into sub-tabs. MarketMuse required a new query under each feature, making a quick comparison more challenging.
- MarketMuse gives you the option of running each question in Research, Compete or Optimize to give in-depth analysis of user intent. InLinks provides lists of questions, with the option of adding it directly to your content brief.
- The Optimize App in MarketMuse is linked to both Research and Compete so that you can evaluate your content in real-time as you create it. In addition, you can upload content directly to the Optimize App to edit and score in real-time.
- InLinks Topic Graph is more detailed than the MarketMuse results, providing many more opportunities for finding gaps to improve rankings.
- MarketMuse isn’t as intuitive as InLinks to use. For example, the Compete heat map/matrix provides a great deal of information, but it is cluttered and hard to unpack quickly.