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Conducting Competitive Content Analysis With MarketMuse and SimilarWeb

16 min read

Competitive content research is one of the core pillars of search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing. In every industry, vertical, and topic, dozens, if not hundreds, of sites are all trying to outdo one another to see who can capture the coveted first-page organic rankings on Google’s search results pages.

Trying to build and execute an SEO or content strategy without understanding the competitive landscape is like playing dodgeball blindfolded. Your competitors are coming for you, but you have no idea what direction they’re coming from or how hard they’re going to throw the ball at you. 

With the stakes so high, you need the right toolset to do a content marketing analysis.   You need to find what your target audience is searching for, what your competitors are winning, where the content gaps are, and how you can produce higher ranking content that drives searchers to your pipeline – not your competitor’s.

In this article, we’re going to look at how you can use two competitive content analysis tools, MarketMuse and SimilarWeb, to do deep competitive content research, find trend opportunities, and learn how to create competitive content that is as good or better than anyone else going after the same topics. 

How SimilarWeb Looks at Competitive Data

Competitive data is the cornerstone of any strong marketing strategy. This is true whether you focus on PPC campaigns, affiliate marketing, or SEO strategy. It allows you to see traffic trends in your industry and gives you an inside look at how your competitors are driving that traffic so you can identify weaknesses and turn them into your advantages.

When using competitive data from SimilarWeb to craft an SEO strategy, you are able to see which keywords are driving traffic, and the market share for each keyword. Not only do you see where you are successful already, but where you have gaps. By using SimilarWeb’s Category Level Keyword Analysis you can discover new and trending keywords in your industry so you can find new content opportunities and ensure you are the go-to domain for everything related to the topics you want to own. 

SimilarWeb helps you understand which keywords are driving real clicks, as well as the landing pages those clicks lead to. 

Moreover, you can conduct all of this research and then save your projects in centralized dashboards so you can monitor changes in real-time as SimilarWeb provides keyword data from as recently as the last 7-days. Understanding how you perform against your competition and what your overall organic search traffic share is in near real-time is crucial to evaluating the impact of your SEO strategy and making on-the-fly adjustments.

Understanding the Competitive Landscape with MarketMuse

MarketMuse is an AI platform that makes it possible for content strategists and SEOs to understand content quality at scale. At the core lies a topic modeling technology that analyzes tens of thousands of documents for any topic or keyword.

MarketMuse generates a knowledge graph that shows what related topics, concepts, and entities a piece of content should include if it is truly covering the core topic comprehensively.  

MarketMuse has the capability to measure content quality across competitor content to see what topics they are ranking for and how well they have covered those topics. You can even look at a specific competitor to see the top 20 pages on their site — by topic.

This competitor content analysis makes it possible for you to identify gaps in your competitors’ topic coverage as well as their weak and strong pages. MarketMuse is a valuable SEO tool as well. You can use this to ensure your content is more comprehensive, giving you a competitive advantage when it comes to ranking well and driving organic traffic on competitive topics. 

How to Use SimilarWeb and MarketMuse for Competitive Insights

Let’s look at how you can layer SimilarWeb and MarketMuse data together to find high-value topics and do competitive analysis to understand what we need to do to win on those topics from an organic search perspective. 

For this example, we’re looking into the opportunity for a large bank that wants to expand its content inventory on topics related to its key offerings. 

As it happens, we’re in luck – SimilarWeb is showing that since February 2020, the Finance category has grown more than 7% during the last 12 months, with the majority of growth coming post-February 2020. It’s clear that consumers are searching for finance-related topics.

SimilarWeb graph showing monthly visits, visit duration, pages per visit, and bounce rate.
SimilarWeb traffic graph.

So, we know that finance-related searches are increasing, which is a great start. But we need to drill deeper to see how that will impact our bank. One question we have to ask is: Where are people doing their searching? 

SimilarWeb has some answers.

SimilarWeb graph of traffic volumes by source (direct, email, referrals, social organic search, paid search, display ads).
SimilarWeb Traffic Volumes by Source

We can see here that Organic, Direct, and Referral channels are the most responsible for the increase in finance-related searches. In fact, organic search overtook Direct traffic to become the most important marketing channel for finance publishers during the last 3 months. 

Compare that to Social, Paid Search, Display Ads, and Mail, which have been flat since June 2019. 

What we know now is that the increase in Organic search volume suggests a great opportunity for brands in the finance industry to increase their market share by investing in content creation. Content that speaks to new and trending topics that people are going to Google to learn about should increase our bank’s web traffic and get users into our funnel.

Now that we know people are searching for finance topics, SimilarWeb can show us where the best opportunities reside. By filtering for non-branded search queries, we can find high-search-volume topics that are trending upward.

SimilarWeb lists of organic search terms.
SimilarWeb Organic Search Terms

As we can see here, searches for “mortgage calculator” are up 29.19%, with an estimated search volume of 3.5 million. For a bank that offers mortgages, a calculator that helps people who are moving beyond the Awareness phase of their decision journey would be a key piece of content. These are searchers who are actively searching for the best options for a mortgage. We want to capture their interest and attention in our mortgage products. 

How Good Are the Top Competitors?

Before we start executing on our mortgage calculator, let’s do some competitive intelligence to understand the quality of the competition — and the indirect competitors — on the topic. To determine which pages on each domain were related to our core topic, MarketMuse generates a topic model for that topic, analyzes the domains, and uses a similarity scoring methodology to find pages that cover the topic model to some extent. Let’s type “mortgage calculator” into MarketMuse’s Research tool to get a lay of the land. 

Select Heatmap. It will default to showing all the top 20 SERPs for this term. But first. let’s look deeper at a variety of competitors and publishers you are competing with.

Select “A Website” tab, and type in the url of one of your competitors.

Screenshot from MarketMuse Heatmap April 2024

MarketMuse uses machine learning to create a map around a given topic. Its analysis looks at how many pages on that domain are related to the topic and also pulls specific pages that are especially strong in their relationship to the topic model. 

The different colors represent occurrences of a given word – with red at zero, yellow 1-2, green 3-10, and blue more than 10 occurrences. The red and yellow indicates a good opportunity to create content around topics not covered by others. 

Not only is MarketMuse telling you what each competitor has done – but what they have not!


Bank Rate content cluster for the term mortgage calculator

Three strongly related pages for “mortgage calculator”

Bank of America

Bank of America content cluster for the term mortgage calculator

Strongly related page:


NerdWallet content cluster for the term mortgage calculator

Two pages ranking in the top 50 for mortgage calculator


Zillow content cluster for the term mortgage calculator

Strongly related page:


As expected, these domains not only have great pages specifically targeting “mortgage calculators,” they also have strong content surrounding those pages. By looking at those pages MarketMuse explicitly associated with our main topic, we can get a sense of what we might need to cover to have a comprehensive content cluster around mortgages. 

For example, most of these competitors have pages defining what a mortgage is, explaining how to apply for one, what escrow means, etc. That’s important when it comes to building a mortgage-focused content cluster.

Predicting the Likelihood of Success on a Mortgage Calculator Page

If we were to create a page targeting the term “mortgage calculator,” how likely is it that we would see positive results soon after publication? 

MarketMuse’s Difficulty and Personalized Difficulty metrics can give us some clues. Most content strategists are familiar with the concept of keyword difficulty. It tells you how difficult it would be to gain a page one ranking on a keyword-based on the other domains and pages ranking there. The higher the difficulty, the harder it is to rank. 

MarketMuse takes this a step further with Personalized Difficulty. The problem with the traditional measures of keyword difficulty is that they don’t take into account how well you’ve covered similar topics. Those scores treat every domain the same. But we know that search engines take more than just one single page into consideration when ranking pages for a given query.

They also look at the rest of the domain’s topic coverage. A domain that has multiple authoritative, comprehensive articles on a topic is more likely to succeed on a difficult keyword than a domain that has no coverage. 

We added this topic to a bank’s MarketMuse Inventory to see how difficult it would be to get this page to start gaining rankings and organic success. As we said, this is a fairly large bank with some coverage of mortgage-related topics. It’s not, however, a top competitor in the mortgage space.

MarketMuse topic inventory for topics around the subject of mortgage calculator.
MarketMuse Topic Inventory

The difficulty of the topic “mortgage calculator” is 75, and MarketMuse has calculated our Personalized Difficulty at 80. Thus, it’s going to be comparatively harder for this bank to rank well for this topic compared to the other domains ranking in the top 20. 

We shouldn’t be discouraged by this. It just means that we can’t only produce one page targeting “mortgage calculator” and expect to rank on page one right off the bat. We need to expand our coverage of mortgage-related topics and link these pages together to form a powerful content cluster.

Creating the Best Page for Our Mortgage Calculator

Once we’ve validated that we want to move forward with the topic of “mortgage calculator,” the next step is to understand what is necessary to produce the best page on the topic. 

Let’s type “mortgage calculator” into MarketMuse’s Compete Application to get a lay of the land:

Content quality analysis of the top 20 Results for mortgage calculator.

Let’s go back to our heat map, so we can see the top 20 results at the time of our search for “mortgage calculator.” We can also see the MarketMuse Content Score for each page ranking from 1-20.

Let’s back up for a second and define what a MarketMuse Content Score is and why it’s important. MarketMuse Content Score is a quality score based on the usage of relevant concepts and entities for a specific focus topic. For any given topic, MarketMuse’s machine learning analyzes thousands of pages of content to create a topic model of relevant keywords and their usage. 

With the topic model created, MarketMuse goes back to the top 20 search results in Google to determine how well those pages covered the topic – relative to the model.

But it doesn’t end there. As we mentioned, the Competitive Heatmap shows you which related topics the best pages are covering, and where their gaps are.

MarketMuse heatmap analysis of the term mortgage calculator

The Heatmap makes it easy to determine the content depth of individual pages, as well as content breadth across the topic landscape.

If we read the Heatmap from left to right, we can look at content breadth to figure out what related topics are must-haves based on the fact that every other page has included them. These are the “table stakes.” A quick way to find them is to look for where the Heatmap is overwhelmingly blue and green as you read horizontally. What topics fit these criteria? For the most part, the ones at the top:

  • Mortgage calculator 
  • Guaranteed Rate
  • Mortgage
  • Monthly payment
  • Loan term
  • Property Tax

Competitive analysis reveals that our page must cover these topics to even have a chance at being as comprehensive as the others.

The Heatmap doesn’t just show you how to do what everyone else is doing though. It also shows you gaps in the competitive landscape you can use to create differentiated content on the same topic. What can we talk about on our page that is related to “mortgage calculator” according to the MarketMuse topic model that no one else is?

The trick here is to again look horizontally across the Heatmap and look for rows that are mostly yellow or red. This indicates little to no coverage of that related topic. In this case, adding these topics would allow us to expand coverage beyond what our competitors are covering:

  • Credit card
  • Mortgage Rate
  • Mortgage lenders
  • Extra payment
  • Closing costs
  • Total monthly payments

Not only should we create a page that explains those concepts in relation to mortgage calculations, but the topic model also gives us a sense of what we can include in a robust calculator that can serve this user intent, as well as other more niche intents like “total monthly payments.”

What to Do Next

When it comes to the most competitive high-volume topics, one page isn’t enough, even if it’s the best of the bunch. 

What’s needed is to create a content cluster to support that page. This is how you grow your authority on a topic and put yourself in a position to outrank your competitors. Forget about the old advice that says you should conduct keyword research looking for high-volume, low keyword difficulty topics, and avoiding the most competitive ones. The most competitive ones are that way for a reason and the others may not even align with your business goals. You can be an authority and win high rankings on competitive topics, it’s just a matter of finding which content you should produce to fill out your cluster.

It requires some smart research and creativity, along with strong execution. Using platforms like MarketMuse and SimilarWeb together, however, can give you a powerful stack of research and planning tools that make you more efficient in finding topics that will bring in qualified traffic and execute against them. 

Learn more about how data from both platforms can be used to do deep competitive research, what the competitive landscape looks like in the finance industry, and how to use competitive research to build SEO and content strategies that drive business results.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Camden is the Content Marketing Manager at MarketMuse. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Diane Burley has three decades experience creating high-impact content at scale. As a published author and seasoned technologist, she translates complex concepts into clear, engaging messaging that connects with audiences. She can help you build a content factory that drives results.