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How to Conduct Competitive Content Analysis Using MarketMuse

6 min read

Having a Content Score for which to aim is an admirable goal. It’s even better when you can rapidly determine how well the competition is addressing the topic in which you are interested. MarketMuse Compete gives you this ability.

List View

List view provides a list of the top 20 pages for the focus topic along with their respective Content Score and Word Count. While Optimize provides an average and target values for these scores, the list view enables you to understand how the scores are distributed across the pages. 

MarketMuse Compete showing top raking pages, their content score and word count.

List view also provides better insight into the relationship each page has between its Content Score and word count. You can quickly determine if a competitor has a high Content Score.

  • Is it because the article has a high word count?
  • Are they a true expert who is able to explain the topic in a concise manner?

MarketMuse Heat Map Basics

The MarketMuse heat map packs a great deal of information into a compact space. You’ll get the most out of it by spending a little time understanding how it works.

MarketMuse heat map.

At a minimum, you’ll need to enter a focus topic for MarketMuse to run a competitive analysis. Optionally, you can supply it with a URL. If you do, its results will be displayed along with the other pages in the heat map.

MarketMuse Compete showing focus topic field.

Based on the focus topic, MarketMuse analyzes all the competitive content on the web, from which it builds a topic model. It returns the 50 most-related topics and presents them in a list of descending relevance, which you can see on the left-hand side, just like you see in Research.

MarketMuse Compete showing close up of related topics list.

MarketMuse applies the topic model to the top-20 results in Google for the focus topic. It calculates a Content Score and determines the usage of those related topics within each page.

The heat map shows term usage through the use of colored squares.

Four squares showing the color coded banding of topic mentions.
  • Red = 0 mentions
  • Yellow = 1 or 2 mentions
  • Green = 3 to 10 mentions
  • Blue = 10+ mentions

Here is how that looks on the heat map.

MarketMuse Compete closeup showing related topic distribution.

How to Interpret the MarketMuse Heat Map

Now that you understand the mechanics of the heat map, let’s see what insights we can discover. The beauty of this method of presentation is that it allows you to quickly identify:

  • Must-have topics
  • Gap topics (differentiation opportunities)
  • Important topics

Reading a column from top to bottom gives you an idea of related topic usage on a particular page.

Reading a row in the heat map from left to right, you can see how a specific topic is used in each ranking page.

MarketMuse Compete showing one row of data.

Must-have Topics 

Must-have topics are consistently distributed among the best ranking pages in the SERP. To perform well, include these topics in your content. The row of must-have topics typically contains many blue and green squares, suggesting intense usage.

MarketMuse Compete showing topic distribution for one topic.

Gaps (Differentiation Opportunities)

Gap topics are a prime opportunity to optimize your content by including the term or elaborating on the subject. Competitors are missing something that’s contextually quite important in the SERP. Gaps are signified by the abundance of red squares, indicating no mentions of the topic on the respective pages.

MarketMuse Compete showing one row of topic data with no mentions.

Here are some more content gap analysis examples.

Important Topics

These topics are not only relevant but see consistent usage in high ranking pages. Note the importance of these topics and their suggested distributions. Usually, you’ll see the majority of squares in the row colored yellow or green.

MarketMuse Compete showing topic distribution data for one topic.

Advanced Settings

Advanced settings can be accessed by clicking on the gear icon on the right-hand side of the screen.

This opens up an area near the top of the page where you can adjust the following:

  • Inclusion of brands and/or people in the analysis.
  • Analysis of just the article or the full page.
  • The country from which search results are pulled (United States, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).
MarketMuse Advanced setting showing options to include people and brands, text to analyze, and country.


The MarketMuse heatmap informs us of many essential aspects of topical distribution within the SERP. It goes beyond the content score to show how related topics are or aren’t used. Without it, these characteristics would remain undetected. 

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.