Search engine optimization isn’t as easy as it used to be, but technology has evolved to meet the demands of marketers who need a scalable content strategy that reliably produces high-ranking posts.
Don’t worry – this isn’t another SEO tool roundup. In this post, we’re going beyond tools and apps to talk about content optimization software that can be used by enterprise content marketers and agencies that need more than just keyword suggestions.
Here, we’ll explain what content optimization software is (and isn’t), how it can benefit different types of content marketers, where it fits into your workflow, and some of the most popular platforms currently on the market. If you’re ready to start thinking big with your SEO and content strategy, read on:
What is Content Optimization Software?
Content optimization software is a solution that supports a full-scale SEO and content strategy, from conception to results measurement. MarketMuse, for instance, is a machine learning platform that provides insights on which topics and subtopics you need to cover with your content to gain authority in your industry. The software uses two patented topic models to automate recommendations on what you should be writing, and how to write it.
Additionally, all subscriptions include help desk support. Depending on your subscription level, you may also have access to an onboarding specialist, customer success manager, strategic planning, and a content strategist consultant.
MarketMuse was built as a direct response to the Google Hummingbird algorithm, which gives the search engine semantic analysis capability. This change, which occurred in 2013, shifted SEOs’ focus from keywords to writing quality content. Now, we know that Google uses topic modeling to rank content based on relevancy to a query, so the focus has again shifted to user intent and topical authority.
Bottom line: If your content isn’t answering user intent, it’s not going to rank in SERPs. Content optimization software sheds light on what it means to cover a topic comprehensively by producing a list of related topics. It can also point to gaps in your existing content so you can update it for topical authority.
In optimizing content for user intent, the platform also assists conversion rate optimization efforts by allowing you to create content that qualifies visitors and brings them through the customer journey.
It’s difficult to replicate the results of content optimization software (if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be a market for it) so a truly robust system won’t just enhance your content creation process, it should revolutionize the way you think about your SEO strategy and give you a clear competitive edge. Think of it as a whole new member of your content creation team.
Content Optimization Tool Choices
There’s a great deal of variety when it comes to choosing a content optimization tool, with pricing to suit every budget. These tools range anywhere from free to 5-figures for a yearly subscription.
In this ultra-competitive landscape, you get what you pay for. There’s a reason companies are willing to pay good money. You can either power your business with a Ferrari or a Yugo, the choice is yours. As we’ll soon see, a tool may not even be the best solution for your organization.
How Does a Solution Differ From a Tool?
A tool – such as Moz, SEMrush, or Google’s Keyword Planner – usually has a narrow scope of functions, including keyword research, backlink profiling, and competitive insights.
Many tools offer free or “freemium” models that give you basic functionality, with the ultimate goal of getting you to upgrade to a paid account. Companies can afford to let people use tools free of charge because the technology behind them is simple and scalable. (It’s also much less robust and doesn’t always pull accurate results, but we digress.)
Typically, optimization or keyword tools use TF-IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency) to measure the frequency of a term within a corpus. This can give you a quick-and-dirty list of keywords to mention in your content, but it can’t measure co-occurrences of a term across several pages. In other words, a tool can’t tell you how important a term is, nor can it tell you which topics the competition isn’t mentioning.
Keyword tools that use TF-IDF used to successfully provide marketers with lists of terms to use in their content, but now that Google can understand semantic meaning, the focus has shifted from keywords to topics. By writing content that covers a topic extremely well, you signal to search engines that your page is the authority in that focus topic. Keywords become irrelevant when you see the value in writing content that is broad and deep.
This post by Zapier sums up the difference between a tool and a solution nicely: If you need a shed in your backyard, you can either hire a solution that will plan, design, and install it, or you can buy a tool that will give you the resources for the job but leave execution up to you.
That said, content optimization software isn’t for everyone. Next, we’ll talk about the SEO and content teams best suited to this kind of solution and how they can benefit.
Who Needs Content Optimization Software?
Some software solutions are specifically designed for massive corporations, but we realize there’s a real need for software tailored to mid-size companies and agencies that produce a lot of content but don’t have the budget to support a six-figure solution.
MarketMuse is ideal for companies that have teams of content creators and SEOs who produce multiple pieces per week, and need a scalable solution that produces predictably high-ranking content – without adding another major line item to the budget.
In-House Teams. You may know your business inside and out, but it’s likely there are questions you’re not answering with your content. MarketMuse provides that perspective and much more, including strategic plans, detailed content briefs, and the ability to measure your content against the competition at a granular level. Content optimization software saves your team time and removes the guesswork.
Agencies. Content marketing agencies often struggle to provide expertly written content or tailored insights because they usually have clients across a range of industries. (And you know what they say about Jacks of all trades.) A content optimization solution like MarketMuse lets you provide specific content recommendations and competitive advantages – even if it’s just for a sales call. For your clients, we’ll also produce content briefs that identify questions to answer in your post, inbound and outbound links to include, subheadings, and more.
Freelancers. If you employ freelance content writers, a solution like MarketMuse is irreplaceable. The solution and content brief can bridge the gap between your internal team and their expertise, allowing you to provide detailed, data-based instructions at scale, a process that would otherwise be time-consuming for you or your team. Getting predictable outcomes from a contractor is possible, after all.
If you’re only writing a post or two per week, MarketMuse may not be the right fit for you. We’d still love to chat about your needs, though, so feel free to schedule a call to get insights from our team and see what they might recommend for you.
Where Does Content Optimization Software Fit into an Existing Workflow?
Using MarketMuse or another platform requires a tweak in your process, not an overhaul. Each client’s content creation workflow will differ, depending on your team and volume of work, but here’s an example of a typical process, from conception to measurement.
- Determine the focus topic of your next post, and enter it in the Research section of the platform.
- Without our managed services, you can create your own Content Brief based on the data that Research produces. We’ll show you how.
- With managed services, you just sit back and wait for your completed Content Brief(s).
- Hand content brief to your writer(s) and set the deadline. If you’re the writer, get to work building that post.
- When you have a completed draft, enter the copy into Optimizer, and see what topics you still need to mention to ensure the post answers all your users’ questions.
- Revise and repeat as needed.
- Post your content and promote it through your usual channels – social, email, ads, etc.
- Measure the performance* of your post, and run it through the Content Optimizer every month or quarter, depending on its timeliness or competition for the focus term, to see if there’s room to update.
- Update your content regularly. All your posts should be revisited periodically to see where there’s room to improve and don’t be surprised when even your strongest pillar piece needs an overhaul. Content can quickly become outdated, but it’s never too late to save it – and your rankings.
*Measuring content performance requires a sophisticated knowledge of Google Analytics. The MarketMuse Customer Success team can show you ROI (based on your traffic and the value of your customers) but it never hurts for a content marketer to know what they’re doing in GA. Luckily, Google offers a ton of educational material to help you learn.
Even if your content optimization platform offers an analytics section, you still should use Google Analytics in order to validate data or catch issues with any tracking you have set up. Also, you can pull much more robust data from GA, and as you become a more sophisticated user, your ability to cull insights grows exponentially. Knowledge of Google Analytics is a must in every SEO’s toolkit.
The MarketMuse process has been proven to create content that earns better rankings, but optimization of historic posts is just as valuable to our clients. Conducting a content inventory and audit is made simple with content optimization software, and it can remove the guesswork and reduce the research phase of updating old posts.
Enterprise SEO Software: Not Just About Brightedge vs Conductor Anymore
Take a quick look at the G2 Landscape for best SEO software and you’ll find numerous options. As of this writing, there are over 270 results. All products in this category focus on helping improve a site’s performance in organic search. But their approach to improving search engine rankings varies.
Some products are particularly suited for link building, offering backlink analysis and tracking of inbound links. Others are oriented towards on-page optimization, offering competitor analysis and insight into improving content performance. Still, others focus on keyword research and analysis, providing metrics such as keyword difficulty to help determine what search terms to target. Nearly all software in this category provides some kind of rank tracking or position monitoring capability so that improvements can be measured.
What Are Some Other Content Optimization Platforms on the Market?
Of course, we’re not the only show in town. While our patented artificial intelligence does give us an edge on the competition, we’re not the only ones who realize content marketers’ need for scalable, data-driven solutions.
Here are some other versions of content optimization software and a brief summary of what they do:
Acrolinx is another AI platform that analyzes content and automates recommendations for improvement. It’s not as marketing and SEO-focused as MarketMuse, but it is capable of understanding multiple languages.
BrightEdge is a suite of products that includes ContentIQ and Data Cube and is great for keeping tabs of keywords and has a comprehensive dashboard.
Atomic Reach is a machine learning platform that lets you create, share, and engage with your content. Its focus on distribution and workflow make it a major contender.
Conductor is an organic marketing solution that focuses on intent mapping and has strong ROI tracking. However, it can’t analyze existing content.
Many of these platforms can scan your content and look for things like content headers, broken links, social share buttons, title tags, and other on-page elements. They’re mostly stack solutions that solve one or two of your content marketing pain points, whereas MarketMuse is an end-to-end content optimization platform.
Our data-based content outlines ensure that you have the knowledge to write high-ranking content, predictably and efficiently. MarketMuse even helped Neil Patel double his traffic and rankings, proving that there’s always room to improve. See how Neil’s team did it by checking our in-depth case study.
Written by Rebecca Bakken