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Using MarketMuse for Keyword Research

8 min read

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a list of hundreds of keywords and still not having any sense of direction. MarketMuse can help you turn keywords into content by using its advanced topic modeling to create a list of closely related topics.

How to do Keyword Research with MarketMuse

Watch the video to see how this is done using a real example. This workflow applies to all subscription levels, both free and paid. If you have a Premium subscription, one where you track managed topics, there are some advanced workflows you can employ, which are covered in this post.

This is the seventh chapter in our guide to keyword research. In it we cover the basics including the difference between keywords and topics, common misconceptions about keyword volume, and keyword difficulty. We delve further going from keywords to content, exploring keyword cannibalization fallacies, and conducting keyword research with MarketMuse.

Keyword Research Guide Index

Enhancing Keyword Research With MarketMuse

Should you use MarketMuse instead of a keyword research tool? It’s not a question of which is better.

Keyword research tools are ideal for finding large volumes of potential candidates. Some people use them to generate large pools of terms, which they then import into MarketMuse for further analysis.

Why? Because of the limitations inherent in keyword tools.

They’re great at helping you understand the language searchers use when looking for your products, services, and content. But they know nothing about your site or its contents.

As a result, they can’t answer complex questions like:

  • What existing pages have the greatest potential upside dollar-wise?
  • Which topics contribute most to that potential?
  • What’s the dollar value if I optimize a specific page for a particular topic?
  • What’s the best path towards capturing that potential value?
  • Given my existing content, what relevant topics should I cover?

Because keyword research tools don’t understand the content on your site, they can’t accurately answer questions like:

  • How hard will it be to rank for this topic?
  • How much traffic will I get if I rank for this topic?
  • What content should I create around this topic?
  • Where is my competitive edge?

The content on your website is a valuable asset with untapped potential. But how do you get the most value out of it? MarketMuse helps realize that value in an optimal way.

It provides actionable and easy-to-understand insights into critical areas such as your personalized competitive advantage, which is much more relevant than general difficulty, potential rank, and more. We present that information in a user-friendly and intuitive way.

Let’s see how it works.

Determining the Potential Value of Each Page

For every page in your inventory, we determine a realistic near-term potential value, estimate its current value and calculate its unrealized potential. You can filter and sort on these metrics to quickly isolate pages with the most significant potential.

MarketMuse Page inventory showing rows with URL, potential value, value, unrealized value, average personalized difficulty, and average topic authority.
MarketMuse Page Inventory (click to expand)

How MarketMuse Determines Value

For each page in your inventory, we determine the topics for which it ranks, estimate the traffic to your site that each topic captures, determine the value of that topic, and add them up for each page.

Cost-per-click is the default, but you can change how you determine the value per visit.

Our elaborate traffic estimation takes into account the position of your URL in the search engine results page (SERP), the non-linear distribution of clicks to organic links, the presence of SERP features that compete for organics clicks, and the existence of zero-click searches.

How MarketMuse Determines Potential Value

Using the same method of calculating value as previously discussed, MarketMuse then factors in a potential rank change from performing some basic content optimization. For example, if you’re at the top of the second page in the SERP, it’s more likely your optimization efforts will land you near the middle to bottom of page one and not in the #1 position.

Determining the Optimal Path to Capturing That Value

Drill down to examine the topics associated with each page. See which topics have the highest unrealized value along with their personalized difficulty, topic authority, and other vital content-first metrics. Drill down even further to get more information about a specific topic, including search intent breakdown and competitive analysis.

MarketMuse Page detail showing ranking topics for a specific page including unrealized value, personalized difficulty, topic authority, and rank.
MarketMuse Page Detail (click to expand)

Use this information to prioritize your approach and determine whether to optimize an existing page around a topic or create a new one.

How MarketMuse Determines Difficulty

Keyword research tools use Keyword Difficulty as a proxy for how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. Because these tools lack insight into your site or its content, it’s limited to considering off-page factors of the top-ranking pages in the SERP. And doesn’t take into account your content, topical authority, or performance.

Turning Insight Into Action

You can turn that insight into action at any point you wish. Add the page/topic to a plan, assign it to a teammate, and set a due date.

MarketMuse Planning screen showing content plan name, due date, assignee and publication date.
MarketMuse Planning (click to expand)

Get an AI-powered content brief to ensure your writer creates content that you can be confident is optimized for search. Optimize your content within the platform and use it to objectively determine if it meets requisite key performance indicators.

Finding High-Volume Keywords Isn’t Enough

In today’s environment, successful ranking requires establishing topical authority through a sufficient amount of thematically related content. MarketMuse patented systems and methods for semantic keyword analysis ensure your topics, titles, content, links, and anchor text all exhibit strong relevance.

MarketMuse’s topic model uses semantic relevance to guide writers towards sufficient topical coverage, much like an expert would. Unlike keyword research tools that rely heavily on string matching, it’s a concept-based relationship.

Keyword research informs you about terms people use when they search but doesn’t tell you what topics you need to cover when writing about a subject. Perhaps an example can help clarify.

Here is a list of the 50 most relevant keywords for the search phrase “build your own house” with a volume of 100+ monthly searches. It’s not clear how they measure relevance, but it appears to be based on string matching.

Keyword list, one phrase per line, plus any content ideas associated with each entry.
Output from a keyword research tool along with some content ideas.

Notice the similarity between nearly all the phrases. Essentially these are variations of the same term, which isn’t helpful when determining how to write about the topic. The same applies if you’re trying to build out a site around the subject.

I’ve listed a few content ideas that you could incorporate into a page on the topic or as stand-alone pages. Still, there’s not very much there.

Granted, the tool returns around 10K keyword phrases if you account for broad match, phrase match, exact match, and related. But that’s a lot of data to sift through, requiring your subject matter expertise to make those semantic connections.

Let’s take a look at the same subject on building your own house through the MarketMuse lens. The topics in this list are sorted by semantic relevance.

List of topics, one per line, plus any content ideas associated with each entry.

Notice how the list of topics that MarketMuse returns is substantially different from that found through keyword research. That, in turn, affects the type and quality of content ideas. Immediately I can identify how to create a very comprehensive piece of content addressing everything a searcher would want to know about building their own house. At the same time, I’ve got a solid direction on creating a cluster of content, even multiple clusters, to build out a site.

I already have a validated site plan tightly interwoven with thematically relevant content. That’s the key to building topical authority.

With keyword research, you still have 10,000 search phrases to review, sort, categorize, and have vetted by a subject matter expert. And that’s just for one piece of content.


Building out the content on a website is like building a house. You need the right tool for the job. And just like building a home, you need multiple tools to get the job done. But expanding your toolset doesn’t always mean your older tools have lost their utility.

Keyword Research Guide Index

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 connect with him on social or his personal blog.