Best Content Optimization Tools: MarketMuse vs Frase vs Surfer SEO

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Content optimization tools

Content optimization is like tightrope walking; you must walk the fine line of optimizing your content for the search engines without disrupting the user experience.

My recommendation: Marketmuse vs. Frase vs. Surfer SEO

MarketMuse is an end-to-end content optimization platform with a higher price tag compared to other tools in the market. However, the price is well worth it if you’re a content agency or a business already making a good profit.

Frase is my tool of choice for small to medium-scale companies to drive their content creation effort. You can create high-quality content covering your focus topic in its entirety.

Do you love diving into data and fine-tuning your content? Go with surfer SEO. Surfer also offers keyword research, which the other content optimization tools in this list don’t provide.

If you prefer desktop tools over cloud-based ones, Website Auditor might work for you. Although it doesn’t offer all the advanced algorithms and data points the other tools in this list offer, it’s a decent budget tool.

Which is the best content optimization software?

In comparison to MarketMuse and Surfer, Frase is better for content creation and has a better workflow. MarketMuse has the best topic modelling algorithm because it analyzes thousands of pages to build their model. Among these three tools, Surfer gives you the most amount of data.

If I had to pick one, I would pick Frase for content creation because that’s where I create the best content. I’d choose Surfer SEO or MarketMuse for the next round of optimization.

Note: The ratings are based on company size and product fit. Click this box if you want to jump to the Surfer SEO vs. Frase vs. MarketMuse section for a head-to-head feature comparison.

Depending on the company size and turnover, you’ll need different tools. Find my recommendations below:

Market Muse

Product fit based on company size.

For enterprise
For medium-scale business
For solopreneur
For small business

3.3

Frase

Product fit based on company size.

For enterprise
For medium-scale business
For solopreneur
For small business

5

Website Auditor

Product fit based on company size.

For enterprise
For medium-scale business
For solopreneur
For small business

3.3

Surfer SEO

Product fit based on company size.

For enterprise
For medium-scale business
For solopreneur
For small business

4.3

In an ideal world, you’d write for your customer avatar and wait for them to find your brilliant piece of content, but that rarely ever happens. High authority domains can rank even without content optimization, but smaller businesses do not have this luxury.

So how do you optimize your content to make it to the big leagues, aka the 1st page of Google?

The easiest way to optimize your content is to replicate what’s already working for the pages that rank.

Easy Peasy, right?

Ehh… not really.

You won’t have time to run a business if you’re manually analyzing every search result.

That’s where content optimization tools come in handy. Most content optimization software will analyze the top-ranking pages for your focus keyword and make the topic or keyword suggestions. You can read my post on SEO copy editing to see how these tools fit in my workflow.

What is Content Optimization Software?

The content optimization software is a tool that helps you to create content that matches user intent. Additionally, it helps your website and blog post rank in search engine results by suggesting relevant topics you need to cover in your content.

Best content optimization tool choices

With all the content optimization tools out there, people are spoiled for choice. On the surface, they all look the same, making one wonder why the price difference is so big. If you look closer you’ll see some offer more information, better competitor analysis, and work on completely different algorithms.

Relationship between search engines and content optimization

There is no big reveal about a naughty relationship, like in Telenovela. The relationship between search engines and content is much simpler than that. Content optimization helps you cover all the topics associated with a search query. This lets the search engines know that your content can provide the searcher with the information he is looking for.

Changing Google landscape and topic modeling

In 2018, Google confirmed they use topic modeling to drive a better search experience. This led to a rise in content optimization tools.

Google confirming topic layer in their blog
Source: Google Blog

Let’s get right to the comparison.

Website Auditor

Website Auditor lets you add your focus keyword and recommends related keywords based on your target keyword. You can use these recommendations when writing content to improve your chances of ranking in organic search.

Website Auditor content optimization tool keyword suggestions


Miss your school days? Website Auditor gives you a content score based on your optimization rate. It flags any overused keywords and gives you an option to deep-dive into the density of single and multi-word keywords. The algorithm is based on the TF-IDF model. It provides broad recommendations, e.g., the website auditor suggests that I use the keyword optimization 1-15 times. The keyword turns green if I use it twice, which differs significantly from the recommended range’s lower end.

Website Auditor content optimization tool TF-IDF suggestions
  • They have a free version
  • Recommends relevant terms and keyword density using the TF-IDF technique
  • It doesn’t use any advanced topic modeling algorithms
  • They don’t have a cloud version of the tool

Market Muse

MarketMuse is the best content optimization solution available in the market. MarketMuse algorithm relies on the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) model, which understands the connection between words in a collection of documents. This gives you a better semantic analysis compared to TF-IDF modeling. MarketMuse is the best content optimization solution available in the market in terms of topic modeling.

Market muse content optimization software
Market muse algorithm, Source: Market Muse blog

MarketMuse is a content optimization platform that stands apart from other tools because it offers personalized recommendations. It has a great workflow, perfect for a content team or content agency.

MarketMuse has 3 phases in the workflow: research, compete and optimize applications.

  • The research phase analyzes thousands of web pages and suggests related topics and variants.
  • The compete phase analyzes the top 20 pages and gives you a heat map so you can identify topic gaps and update your content to fill the gaps.
  • Optimize gives you the content editor where you write the actual content based on suggestions from the research phase. MarketMuse is a content intelligence platform with an inventory and dashboard that helps with your content planning and content strategy.
  • MarketMuse also offers Connect, which crawls your site and suggests relevant content that you can link to. This makes internal linking really easy.
Market muse content optimization software heatmap

It gives you a sleek and easy-to-read dashboard that gives you quick insights about what’s working and what’s not in your content strategy. The dashboard makes content audit a breeze and helps you prioritize your efforts. MarketMuse has a lot more to offer. You can read my full MarketMuse review here.

  • Tailored insights based on your domain
  • It uses an advanced algorithm, including natural language processing
  • Access to a lot of advanced content strategists
  • Full content inventory and optimization suggestions
  • The higher price tag makes it out of reach for many small businesses
  • No keyword analysis option for this price tag
  • The editor was slow at times
  • You can run checks (query) only for single keywords at a time 

Frase

Frase is another artificial intelligence (AI) powered content optimization tool. It does more than content optimization, but we’ll focus on the optimization feature in this post. They have an AI-trained answer bot that converts your content into brief answers for your website visitors. You can also analyze the search terms and questions in the back-end to fine-tune your search engine optimization.

Frase is a new tool in the market, but it quickly became my favorite. Frase offers actionable insights at a glance, along with the options to drill down as needed.

It has a well-placed sidebar next to the editor that gives you a snapshot of all the details you need to optimize your focus topic. You can click over to the summaries, topics, questions, links, stats, and news tab to get further information. Another helpful feature is the user intent analysis. Frase analyzes the top organic traffic results and groups them into different buckets; this makes it easy to understand which format is already ranking on the search engine results page (SERP). The best part is you can get summarized text, making search engine optimization easy.

Frase content optimization tool sidebar view

Frase gives you a co-occurrences report, which is the number of times a topically relevant keyword was used across several websites. The latest Frase update lets you use Natural Language Processing (NLG) to create FAQs and headers for your blog posts automatically. The basic plan starts at $44.99/month. I’ve seen significant improvement in search engine rankings using Frase. Writing in Frase makes my research and content creation process more efficient.

Frase content optimization tool co-occurence

Frase recently came out with their version of a keyword research tool staying true to its conversational SEO model. You can add the seed keyword to get relevant questions around that topic. It gives you the search volume and lets you filter by various keyword modifiers. The modifiers are great to filter search terms with buyer intent. A lot of these question keywords might have low search volume but will be easy to rank.

Frase keyword research tool


There are a lot more features, you can read my Frase review for a full overview.

  • It uses topic modeling and co-occurrences
  • Easy to create and share a content brief
  • Excellent support and development team
  • You can optimize your pages for multiple keywords in a single run
  • The editor is a bit clunky
  • No chrome extension or Google doc add-in
  • Fewer tutorials and documentation since it’s a new product
  • No keyword research
  • Only single page optimization

Surfer SEO

Surfer SEO is a full-blown on-page optimization tool. The tool and interface could have a polarizing reaction depending on your preference to analyze reports. The data heads will love it, but you might feel overwhelmed if you prefer quick, actionable data. Surfer uses LSI and TF-IDF techniques to make suggestions, and they have natural language processing (NLP) on higher tiers. Surfer also came out with a content planner recently, making it easier to plan topic clusters and create your content strategy.

You can compare how factors like headline, title tags, content headers, word count, and so on vary across search results in a beautiful interactive graph. The SEO Audit tool in Surfer is a great way to get an overview of your page’s SEO metrics.

Surfer SEO content optimization tool graph view

In contrast to the other tools on this list, Surfer SEO also has keyword research as part of their offering. This might make your content creation workflow easier.

Surfer SEO content optimization tool keyword suggestion view

They have a nifty feature that shows the domain score and content score for all the sources you’re benchmarking against. This helps to understand if your competitor is ranking based on domain authority or the quality of content.

Surfer SEO content optimization tool serp analysis view

Surfer SEO has a free chrome extension that gives you the average word count, keyword search volume for your search phrase, and similar search terms. The chrome extension also shows you the traffic, number of words, and the number of times you used the exact keyword in the top-ranking pages.

SurfeSEO chrome extension
  • A lot of on-page data, including page speed analysis report
  • Includes keyword analysis
  • Nice UI
  • Reports might overwhelm a new user
  • NLP is available only on higher plans

Frase vs Surfer SEO vs Marketmuse

Below is a comparison table of MarketMuse vs Frase vs Surfer.

Highlights from the table are given below.

  • AI-powered NLP analysis is available only on the higher plans with surfer SEO
  • MarketMuse doesn’t allow you to share the editor’s experience with external writers on most plans. You can share content briefs ($100) and first drafts ($200).
  • SERP-based backlink suggestions and keyword research options are available only in Surfer.
  • Automated content briefs and content templates are possible only in Frase and not in MarketMuse and Surfer. 
  • MarketMuse has content inventory, personalized difficulty scores, which are not available in Surfer or Frase.
  • MarketMuse connect application suggests internal linking opportunities and content gap recommendations.

Features

Surfer SEO

Frase

MarketMuse

Additional comments

Content Editor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Automatic content import in the editor 

No

Yes

Yes

This is useful for optimizing existing content

Support

Yes

Yes

Yes

They all have great support teams

Realtime topic usage suggestions

Yes

Yes

Yes

The frequency of your usage drives the suggestion

Content scoring

Yes

Yes

Yes

Each competitor is graded by their content quality

SERP Analyzer

Yes

Yes

Yes

Surfer checks backlinks besides topic coverage.

Question ideas

Yes

Yes

Yes

I believe Marketmuse is the most comprehensive

External linking suggestions

Yes

Yes

Yes

Topic gap analysis

Yes

Yes

Yes

Page level topic gap

AI-powered NLP analysis

Only on higher plans

Yes

Yes

Geo-Targeting

Yes

Yes

Yes

Frase offers the most options

Multiple Users

Yes

Yes

Yes

Shareable editor link

Yes

Yes

No

Content briefs (outlines) can be shared on MarketMuse

Image suggestion, heading suggestion

Yes

Yes

No

Surfer and Frase suggest the number of images and headers based on SERP analysis

Topic cluster

Yes

No

Yes

WordPress Integration

Yes

No

No

You need the Surfer SEO Chrome extension to get suggestions in Wordpress 

SERP based backlinks suggestions

Yes

No

No

Content planning

Yes

No

No

TF-IDF

Yes

No

No

Automated content Briefs

No

Yes

100$ credit required

Content outline generator

Outline Builder

Yes

Yes

No

Google search console integration

No

Yes

No

You can see searches on your website

Content templates

No

Yes

No

Frase has pre-built templates and gives you the option to create your own

Vistor search tracking

No

Yes

No

Frase has an answer bot which tracks questions.

Site level content gaps

No

No

Yes

Topic gap on your domain

Content inventory

No

No

Yes

Content audit

No

No

Yes

Personalized metrics and suggestions

No

No

Yes

MarketMuse makes recommendations based on your domain authority and topic authority

Access to content strategists

No

No

Yes

Internal linking suggestions

No

No

Yes

MarketMuse It makes smart linking suggestions by avoiding your competitor's domain and including your network domain

User Experience

Frase has occasional glitches because the product is still young.

Free content optimization tools

Rankmath

Rankmath is not a SAAS content optimization software like the other ones on this list. It’s a WordPress plugin that took the market by a storm. Yoast was the market leader — still is, in terms of market share — with no actual competition until RankMath came along and offered a ton of value and innovative features. In their free version, they offer most of the premium Yoast SEO features. Even SEO veterans like Matthew Woodward switched to RankMath because of the sheer value they provided.

Rank-Math-Focus-Keyword

They help in optimizing your blog posts with features like:

  • image SEO
  • schema markup
  • internal linking
  • focus keyword
  • content score and analysis

Basic SEO features like title, meta description, and so on are highlighted. Social previews and meta information help in social media optimization.

RankMath is more of an SEO optimization plugin than a dedicated content optimization software. It should be considered as an add-on to the other tools and not a replacement.

  • They have a free version.
  • Helps in on-page optimization
  • Internal linking suggestions make it easy to create content clusters
  • The tool does not use topic modeling or SERP analysis like the other tools in this list
  • you might end with keyword stuffing if you blindly follow the recommendations — treat them as guidelines and not rules.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these content optimization software will incorporate content performance tracking into the workflow to make content tracking and measurement easier. These content optimizer tools will help you create better content, but link building remains a crucial ranking aspect and should be given weightage in your content marketing strategy.

Most importantly, don’t forget the human element when working with all these tools.