Skip to Content

How to Optimize Content Using MarketMuse

6 min read

The goal of content optimization is to create a better piece of content, not to achieve a specific score. MarketMuse provides metrics to help guide you in this endeavor; when used correctly, they can bring success.

While you can learn about the Optimize Application by clicking on the vertical ellipses in the right-hand corner of the page, this post looks at some practical approaches to content optimization using MarketMuse.

Screenshot of MarketMuse showing a dropdown menu.

Content Score and Word Count

First, look at Content Score and Word Count to get a sense of how close these values are to their respective targets. These scores will have a significant influence on your approach.

On one end of the spectrum lie articles with high Content Score and lower Word Count. These are typically classified as expert pages as the author can convey the most valuable information with the most precision. Naturally, you’ll want to review the content to ensure it’s not overly brief.

On the other end, you find articles that have both below-average Word Count and Content Score. Content like this may convey a great deal of information for its length, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to compete successfully in Search. These pages require additional content to address the most critical topics that are missing.

Screenshot of MarketMuse Optimize showing content score and word count.

You’ll also find articles that have an excessive Word Count, more common if you pay freelance writers by the word. Often, a certain amount of editing is going to be required. Since the author tends to be verbose, you’ll want to remove the less relevant elements. 

The question is whether or not they convey valuable information within that high Word Count. That you’ll discover from the Content Score, if it’s at or above the Target Content Score, then some simple editing can make the article more concise and easier to read. 

However, a different approach is required if the Word Count is high, yet the Content Score is far below the average. In this case, you’ll need to edit heavily to remove the fluff and then add sections that address the most important related topics. Obviously, this scenario requires the most amount of work.

Now that we’ve decided on our approach let’s look at the list of related topics and their suggested distribution.

Related Topics and Their Distribution

Let’s look at the related topic list and their suggested distribution paying attention to any outliers in our article. Optimization isn’t just discovering what you’re missing. It’s also about finding out where you’ve gone overboard. We’re looking for excessive mentions of topics that don’t fit with the norm.

Screenshot of MarketMuse Optimize showing multiple instances of term usage.

In the example above, the use of the term ‘supply chain management’ far exceeds its suggested distribution. In fact, it’s used four times within the first four paragraphs! It doesn’t read well, raises questions about the writer’s subject matter expertise, and may also be flagged by search engines.

Focus on the Most Relevant Terms

Since the Related Topic List is sorted by relevance, it makes sense to focus on those topics toward the top of the list. Looking once more at our example, notice that there is little mention of the associated costs and cost reduction, specifically:

  • Total cost
  • Packaging costs
  • Logistics costs
  • Supply chain costs
  • Freight cost
  • Carbon footprint (environmental cost) which affects 
  • Sustainability

Adding a section that addresses these topics would no doubt make the article more comprehensive. Keep in mind that every mention is worth a point up to a maximum of two points per topic. So this one section could get the article very close to hitting the Target Content Score for its focus topic. 

Look to Substitute Similar Terms

A quick win when it comes to content optimization is to substitute similar terms for those that appear on the list. In the example below, we could replace the term ‘logistics spending’ for ‘logistics costs,’ thereby increase our content score. 

Screenshot of MarketMuse Optimize showing related term usage.

We do this not to increase our Content Score but to use vernacular with which our audience is familiar. That’s good copywriting; the increase in Content Score is merely a by-product of the process. 

Sometimes, with an already good content score, this is all you need to bump it up to meet your target.

Optimizing With Compete Heat Map

The heat map found in the Compete application provides another avenue for optimizing your content. There are two ways to use the heat map:

  1. To identify the must-have topics.
  2. To determine gap topics that can differentiate your content.
Screenshot of MarketMuse Compete showing a heat map.

The must-have topics are distributed consistently among the best ranking pages in the SERP. It’s strongly recommended you include these topics in your piece if you wish it to perform well. On the heat map, you can visually identify these topics by looking across the row. You’ll see very few red squares (0 mentions); usually, they are colored either green (3 to 10 mentions) or blue (10+ mentions), and sometimes yellow (1 to 2 mentions).

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. Any topic in this list whose row is primarily colored red, with the occasional yellow square, is a candidate.


Content optimization is about improving the comprehensiveness of your content, not about achieving a target Content Score. Take time to review the topic list to see what story it tells. Terms at the top of the list are most relevant and can often form the basis for a subsection. In certain situations, terms can be substituted for more relevant ones. In other cases, the topic needs to be addressed in the article.

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.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.