Table of Contents
- What is the best content optimization software?
- Video: MarketMuse vs. SurferSEO vs. Clearscope vs. Frase.io
- How I conducted this comparison analysis
- Target Word Count Suggestions (no content added)
- Sample Analysis for #1 Ranked Article
- Winner by Feature
- Important Caveats About the Above Analysis
- One thing to watch out for
What is the best content optimization software?
I’ve been using content optimization software for a few years. I really committed to it big time in late 2020.
In 2020 I signed up for Frase.io, MarketMuse and SurferSEO.
In 2019 I used Clearscope extensively.
At this point, I’m very familiar with these content improvement tools.
I get emails from readers regularly asking me which is the best content optimization software.
My response is whichever software I’m using at the time. I’ve jumped around over the years.
But I’ve been meaning to sit down and carefully compare all four of these platforms.
Here’s my analysis.
Video: MarketMuse vs. SurferSEO vs. Clearscope vs. Frase.io
How I conducted this comparison analysis
In order to compare them, I signed up to all 4 platforms and ran multiple keyword queries through each for various content ranking at different positions in Google.
In addition to sharing the scoring results for each below, I add some insights about each platform as well.
In order to show you a decent analysis, I use a variety of keywords. Some are seed while others are long tail.
Please note that all data set out below was obtained on January 20, 2021. Data may change over time. What I mean by this is that in one month, optimization suggestions for each software may change as the new content is added to the Web.
Let’s dive in.
Keywords used in this analysis:
|Keyword||Monthly Search Volume (Ahrefs)||Keyword Difficulty (Ahrefs)
|How to start a blog||48,000||85|
|iWriter vs. Textbroker||40||2|
|How to connect airpods to mac||49,000||22|
|How to restring a guitar||6,900||3|
|How to get gas smell off your hands||500||0|
|How old to skydive||200||0|
|Best baseball bats||500||14|
|Blendtec vs Vitamix||3,100||16|
Target Word Count Suggestions (no content added)
One part of the analysis is the suggested word count each tool offers. I have not added any content at this point.
I often input keywords before ordering articles (without any content) to get a sense of how many words to order for a particular topic.
Here are the suggested word counts for a variety of keywords from each tool.
|Keyword||MarketMuse Target Word Count||SurferSEO Target Word Count||Clearscope Typical Top 10 Word Count||Frase.io Top Results Word Count|
|How to start a blog||17,022||10,616 to 12,208||8,990||5,397|
|Niche ideas||6,466||4,725 to 5,434||4,460||2,606|
|iWriter vs. Textbroker||5,731||2,425 to 2,789||2,380||1,757|
|How to connect airpods to mac||1,646||1,031 to 1,186||1,010||598|
|How to restring a guitar||2,089||1,616 to 1,858||1,610||811|
|How to get gas smell off your hands||1,498||1,371 to 1,577||1,170||950|
|How old to skydive||898||719 to 827||700||468|
|Best baseball bats||5,074||3,589 to 4,127||2,160||910|
|Blendtec vs Vitamix||5,900||7,661 to 8,811||3,500||2,111|
Here are the screenshots you get from the various tools when you run an analysis with no content added:
Sample Analysis for #1 Ranked Article
Please note, and this applies to this entire analysis, that showcasing one article is hardly representative of how effective each software is. I’m including this one sample article to show you what each tool offers in a real-life situation.
Keyword: Best Baseball Bats
Sample article (ranks #1): The 10 Best BBCOR Bats of 2020
Below are screenshots of the optimization results for the article “The 10 Best BBCOR Bats of 2020”. Please note the screenshots do not include every term suggested to include generated by the software. These screenshots are to give you a sense of what it does. The best way to get a full sense of what each software does is to try it yourself.
SurferSEO also has a terrific keyword cluster feature called “Content Planner”. Check it out for the keyword “Best Baseball Bats”
This is an example where the #1 ranked article is not fully optimized per all of the software which goes to show there’s more to ranking than optimized content. However, the main takeaway is not that the above software is bad or that you don’t need to optimize. Instead, this sample article could be improved to further strengthen its position. One simple way to optimize it would be to include questions and answers.
Questions generated by each optimization software for “best baseball bats”
The last part of the analysis is looking at the “Questions” feature for each software.
For this I’ll also use the sample keyword “Best Baseball Bats”.
Generally, the questions generated by MarketMuse are very good. It’s one of my favorite features.
Click here for a Google Sheet listing MarketMuse questions for keyword “best baseball bats’.
On the face of it, SurferSEO’s questions isn’t very good. However, if you also run a Content Planner analysis, the clusters often include many questions or keywords that could be rephrased as questions. Here’s a portion of the sample Content Planner results again:
Click here to see all the clusters and keywords/questions generated for “best baseball bats”
Clearscope does not suggest questions.
Frase.io’s questions feature is very, very powerful. It’s also nicely organized in tabs by SERP, People Also Ask, Quora and Reddit. Check it out:
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick synopsis of what I like and don’t like about each software platform.
Winner by Feature
The following is purely my my opinion. There are many unknowns. For example, while I may consider MarketMuse’s target score a preferable optimization scoring analysis, I don’t know for sure. It may well be that SurferSEO’s or Clearscope’s are better.
- Word count suggestions: MarketMuse
- Scoring: MarketMuse
- Questions: MarketMuse & Frase.io
- Additional Tools: SurferSEO (the Keyword Cluster tool is fantastic)
- Ease of Use: Clearscope (I love the fast, simple UI and scoring by grade).
- Pricing: MarketMuse
Important Caveats About the Above Analysis
There are many more factors that go into ranking than a content analysis performed by software.
There’s website authority and inbound links to the URL to name two of many.
This means achieving high content optimization scores is NOT a guarantee that you will rank #1 in Google.
These content optimization tools are merely another ranking arrow in your quiver. I believe they help. I believe they give improve your odds but they are not a guarantee.
The way I see it in this business is that anything you can do that improves your odds is worth doing (within reason). It’s a numbers game so the more you improve your odds, the chances are in the long run you will do better.
One thing to watch out for
Below is an email I sent to Fat Stacks readers after this comparison was published. It’s very important if you go with MarketMuse.
What I set out below goes to show you that those of us doing this for many years can still make the most idiotic mistakes. This is total amateur hour.
Some of you will probably wonder how I ever launched a website, let alone grew one in the first place. It’s an appropriate question.
My writers AND I have been selecting all the content in the MM visual editor, then copying and pasting it into the WordPress classic editor.
You can’t tell anything is askew with the content in visual editor mode. But when you click the Text tab to see the actual code, here’s just a bit of the blood and guts code sits lurking behind the scenes:
You know that mess isn’t going to do any site any favors.
When I first spotted that in a blog post yesterday morning, I didn’t know what was causing it.
I checked more posts and it was there.
I thought I had a disaster on my hands that would take months to clean up.
I emailed my writers and they both immediately thought it was MarketMuse.
I did a test and sure enough, it was.
I gotta hand it to the writers – they saved the day coming up with that quick conclusion.
Okay, so while still bad it wasn’t a site-wide mess.
My first question was how to extract content from MM properly. Turns out there’s a “Copy for Publishing” button. Duh. I missed that for months. Here it is:
If you’re not using that button, start now.
The second question was how to fix all the existing content with unnecessary MM code.
Fortunately, I tracked every article that in-house writers used MarketMuse on.
But the problem remained… how do I quickly extract all that unnecessary code from existing live articles?
And then it dawned on me. I’ll just put all the content back into MM and extract it properly and then paste it back into the blog post.
Bingo! It worked.
So that was my day yesterday. Definitely not one of my better days but I’ve endured far bigger problems over the years. It’s par for the course in this biz or any biz.
If you haven’t been using that “Copy for Publishing” button in MM, I strongly recommend you start and go back and fix any content that has blood and guts code.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.