In the past, I’ve written on how to get the most out of Ahrefs by using MarketMuse. Today we’re conducting a head-to-head comparison of the two platforms.
Be forewarned, these platforms are radically different with distinct objectives. So, in some ways, this isn’t a fair comparison.
Ahrefs was born during a time in Search when backlinks were big, metadata ruled Rank, the SERP was simply a list, and domain authority was King. But times have changed. While Google has been assessing content quality for years, tools from this era struggle to adapt to the fundamental changes in the search engine.
MarketMuse Pro was born in the age of content, where Google’s primary new ranking factors are content-specific. Using AI and machine learning, MarketMuse Pro understands a site’s content and can offer intelligent recommendations.
In this post, we look at MarketMuse Pro vs. Ahrefs to see how the two offerings compare in the following areas:
- Content Strategy
- Content Research
- Content Creation
- Content Optimization
- Natural Language Generation
A major responsibility of a content strategist is determining the best opportunities for creating content with high predictability of success. Plus, they need to decide whether new content should be created or existing pages updated.
MarketMuse Pro uses state-of-the-art clustering technology to determine high-opportunity pages within topics of interest. Advanced personalized metrics bring greater predictability to content assessment and strategic planning.
MarketMuse Pro knows your site’s content and the topics surrounding those pages. Page and topic inventory keep track of the content, its performance, and various actionable content-specific metrics.
Opportunity Score is the ultimate power metric that takes your entire set of live pages and topics and runs them against all evaluation metrics to then classify their potential growth. This is a personalized metric ranking your pages in order of opportunity available.
Custom filters can be set to quickly identify the pages and topics in which you are most interested.
As its name implies, the Personalized Difficulty metric is one that’s personalized to your site and its contents. This metric reveals how hard it is for YOU specifically to rank for a given topic.
MarketMuse offers several workflows designed specifically for content strategists. When you’ve decided on a page to update or a topic for new content, immediately add it to a plan.
Plans help keep your content strategy organized and on track. A full-fledged note editor lets you add detail to these plans. Order content briefs and topic reports directly from within any plan.
Ahrefs is incapable of analyzing content, so it can’t offer any suitable suggestions. The best it can do is provide some generic tools.
Keywords Explorer is a keyword tool that helps Ahref users discover search term ideas, analyze their ranking difficulty, and determine their traffic potential. There are many flaws to this approach, some of which we’ve discussed here:
- Keyword Research as We Know It Is Dead
- Why Keyword Research Doesn’t Help Create Better Content
- Keyword Research and The Search Volume Illusion
Many content marketers rely on keyword difficulty when making content decisions. This is also an unsound approach. The metric, as calculated by Ahrefs, is not personalized and relies solely on links. While that may have worked when links ruled the SERP, those days are long gone.
Site Audit offers a content quality report, but this is a misnomer. The report does reveal duplicate pages and those with low word counts, grouped into buckets.
But that’s it. Don’t expect to find any in-depth analysis of the content and its topical coverage.
Content Explorer sounds like it could fit the bill, but it doesn’t. Enter a search phrase, and it returns a list of relevant pages targeting that term. A bar graph at the top of the list shows pages published and republished over time, giving you a sense of a topic’s popularity.
Unfortunately, you can’t see how these pages are ranking for the particular search phrase. Not that it matters much since there’s no content data to compare, just link metrics, traffic, and social. Although you can drill down to see keywords for which a particular page ranks.
The Content Gap report isn’t necessarily what you think it is. It only identifies gaps in content at a site level. Provide a list of competitors, and it will identify keywords for which those sites rank, and you don’t.
However, it can’t determine which of those phrases, if any, offer the best opportunity for you to target. Plus, since it doesn’t identify gaps in content at the page level, you can’t use it to improve your content.
Rank Tracker, as its name suggests, is for rank tracking of keyword phrases you’ve determined to be essential to your site. You can quickly identify low-hanging fruit, those URLs that are ranking on the second page or lower. Sometimes, but not always, they should be prioritized in your content strategy.
Also, keyword tracking offers zero predictive value. It’s not forward-looking and can’t help you figure out the best path to your destination.
Crafting a topically-rich article comprehensively covering a subject requires significant research. We need to know what topics to include if we are to create expert-level content.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to see how both offerings compare.
Our first subject is “how to build a koi pond in northern climates.” MarketMuse Pro Research goes out to the web and analyzes all the competitive content on the subject. Very quickly, it returns a list of 50 related topics sorted by relevance.
The Suggested Dist. recommends how often a topic should (or shouldn’t) be mentioned. When discussing pond building, the term “water” is used frequently, just like the list shows. It would be odd not to.
However, while a topic like “beneficial bacteria” is important, expert writers don’t mention it frequently, maybe one or two times at most. Use it any more than suggested, and your article could appear over-optimized.
That’s where variants come in handy. Click on a topic to see a list of associated options. Where appropriate, they can be used in place of the topic. This provides variety and interest in your writing while avoiding excessive repetition.
Take a close look at this list. These are the topics that experts address when writing about this subject.
These aren’t lists of phrase matches or same terms. These are the topics semantically related to the subject about which we are going to write.
This is a huge difference.
Here’s another example using the topic “why go solar.”
Once more, we get a list of 50 related topics sorted by relevance.
Ahrefs doesn’t have a dedicated tool or report to help with content research. As we learned in the previous section, Content Explorer has little to do with the actual content itself.
The most likely to help is Keywords Explorer. Let’s see how it fares with our first topic “how to build a koi pond in northern climates.”
Unfortunately, it returned no data whatsoever. Why? Because Ahrefs can only provide data on entries that exist in its keyword database.
Let’s try something easier. How about “why go solar”?
This time it returned a lot of data, but sadly, it’s not very helpful. We need a list of semantically related concepts. Unfortunately, Ahrefs fails to deliver.
Knowing the most important issues to discuss when making a case for going solar will help us create high-quality content. A list of keyword suggestions having the same terms “why,” “go,” and “solar” doesn’t tell us what topics to cover.
The questions also offer little value. They lack the detail and relevance to make them truly useful.
It’s a similar situation with the “Also rank for” list. There’s lots of data to sift through, but little of it is actionable.
Creating expert-level at scale is much more feasible when using content briefs. A content brief empowers writers with reliable guidance and repeatable KPIs. Specifically, it provides them with an article title, subheading titles, topics to cover, plus internal and outbound links to include. Let’s see how Ahrefs and MarketMuse Pro compare in this regard.
MarketMuse Pro Content Briefs are designed to give writers the direction they need to quickly craft expert-level and SEO-friendly content. Each brief contains::
- Information about the audience and search intent
- Suggested post and subheading titles
- Related topics to cover
- Internal and non-competitive outbound links to include
Ahrefs doesn’t offer content briefs. Those who are up to the task will have to assemble their own. Just know that it takes hours to accomplish this manually,
Plus, you’ll be missing out on much of the necessary data. Ahrefs can’t:
- Recommend an article title
- Offer subheading suggestions
- Suggest topics to cover (keyword research isn’t very useful here)
- Provide internal linking ideas and anchor text
- Propose external linking suggestions and anchor text
You can use the Anchors tool to come up with some external linking ideas. But it’s convoluted, and the anchor text data shows what people use, which isn’t always the best.
Optimizing your content to be the best content on the web requires some sophisticated competitor analysis. You want to see how comprehensively you’ve covered the subject of your article, including all its related topics, as compared to the competition.
MarketMuse Pro Optimize is used to optimize a page to optimum topic coverage. It creates a topic model for any given subject and compares the model against a page.
Content can be edited within Optimize. Content score, word count, and term usage update automatically as you type.
Optimize Content Briefs can be created, as well. These content briefs take into account the existing content on a page and help guide writers in improving it.
While Ahrefs offers several tools and reports, content optimization isn’t one of them. There is no way to optimize your content beyond title tags, meta descriptions, and H1 tags.
Natural Language Generation
Natural language generation (NLG) is the process of creating content using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Only MarketMuse offers the ability to create long-form content using NLG.
MarketMuse First Draft natural language generation offers scalable content through NLG. The content is 100% original content written to your site’s standards, tone, and voice.
A validated MarketMuse Content Brief forms the basis for MarketMuse’s NLG engine to create an initial draft of topically-rich content. Some light editing of the draft, and you’ve got yourself a piece (or 10 or 100) of content read to publish.
Ahrefs has no natural language generation capabilities.
As I stated in the beginning of this post, because these two tools serve different purposes, a direct comparison isn’t necessarily valid.
While Ahrefs has its strengths, content strategy, research, creation, optimization, and natural language generation aren’t on that list. To benefit in those areas, try MarketMuse Pro!