Apr 19, 2023

Head-to-Head: Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO - Who Comes Out on Top

Priya Jamba, Content Marketer
Priya Jamba
Head-to-Head: Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO - Who Comes Out on Top
Priya Jamba, Content Marketer
Priya Jamba
Apr 19, 2023

Head-to-Head: Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO - Who Comes Out on Top

Marketmuse and Surfer are two well-known SEO tools. Read on to know how they fare against each other in our extensive Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO guide.
Head-to-Head: Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO - Who Comes Out on Top

Table of contents

If you're looking for an SEO platform to help optimize your website's content, two of the many options out there in the market are MarketMuse and Surfer SEO. Both offer features to help you improve your site's search engine rankings, such as content analysis, keyword research, and competitor analysis. 

But which tool is right for you? In this blog, we'll closely look at the similarities and differences between MarketMuse and Surfer SEO to help you make an informed decision. 

We'll explore the key features of each tool, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, to help you determine which one is best suited to your specific needs. 

Let's get into it, shall we? 

MarketMuse: Complete Overview 

 Marketmuse tool logo 

MarketMuse is a software that aids businesses in their strategy and optimization requirements. Its primary advantage is its capability to automate content creation and optimization tasks through AI.

It allows its users to devise a content strategy that is consistent with their targets and objectives. By leveraging natural language processing (NLP), it generates preliminary drafts of blog posts and content briefs that writers can use.

The platform's AI-powered insights equip companies with data-driven knowledge, which they can utilize to make informed decisions about their content and improve its performance.

MarketMuse Features

The core functionalities of the tool are content planning, keyword research, content management, and competitor analysis. Here is an in-depth review of each feature in the upcoming section. 

Keyword Research 

The MarketMuse keyword research tool provides keyword insights, SERP analysis for a target keyword, a heatmap to view competitors' performance, and link suggestions. 

Generally, all SEO tools provide access to relevant keyword insights like volume and CPC. Whereas MarketMuse goes one step further and provides details about a topic’s performance over time (trends), keyword variants, and suggested keyword usage to help users make the best use of each keyword. Moreover, you can find a curated list of questions and keyword lists to create highly relevant content for a specific topic. 

MarketMuse competitor analysis

The SERP X-ray feature is one of the most useful tools in MarketMuse. It helps users get in-depth insights into competitors' content. Generally, content marketers and writers manually analyze the top-ranking pages to understand the best practices of their competitors. 

MarketMuse eliminates this time-consuming process by providing every trivial competitor detail, like H2 per page, word count, intent, images used, video attached, and link suggestions for the first 20 SERP results. 

MarketMuse heatmap

The heatmap tool lets you see how your competitors perform at the SERP and website levels. Moreover, you can get must-have content suggestions and content gap insights from your competitors. This data helps you easily outperform top-ranking pages without hours of manual research. You can also generate a heatmap analysis based on website level to spot low-hanging content opportunities that your competitors left unnoticed. 

MarketMuse's keyword planner also maps out your existing content performance to provide personalized insights like your custom keyword difficulty score topical authority score for the keywords you aim to rank for. This helps you find out how you can improve your content's performance. 

Content Planning 

With MarketMuse's content planning system, you can quickly review your existing content hub and find new topic ideas that have the potential to rank higher on the SERP

The tool helps you examine your content's performance and analyze metrics like topical authority, competitive advantage, personalized difficulty score, SERP features, and more. 

MarketMuse Content Planning

When you have an extensive content database, finding topics you have not covered might become challenging. That’s why MarketMuse facilitates managing all your content in one place. Moreover, the real-time content inventory helps you analyze content performance based on automatically updated data. This reduces the manual time spent updating new content in the inventory. 

Content Briefs 

Even though MarketMuse does not help create full-fledged AI content, it facilitates SEO-driven brief creation. 

The brief creation process is categorized into 3 steps, i.e., creating sections, processing, and reviewing. You cannot generate an automated brief with one click. However, you can find all the necessary details, like questions, subheadings, topic suggestions, and internal and external links to include in your content. 

MarketMuse Content Brief

Moreover, you will get access to questions generated by artificial intelligence to create comprehensive content. The final brief will include topics, subtopics, word count expectations, and link recommendations to add to your content. Overall, the content brief provides all the details your writer needs to create content. You can share the brief with your team with just a click of a button.  

Content Optimizer

MarketMuse integrates with ChatGPT to evaluate your content based on SEO and readability. You can get custom keyword suggestions, content feedback, content score, and competitor ranking criteria. 

You can use ChatGPT to reframe your sentences or develop content for a new section by providing relevant prompts within the content optimizer. This helps you fine-tune your content for better performance and provides a rich reading experience for your readers. 

Pros of using MarketMuse 

  • The heat map and SERP-X-ray features provide in-depth competitor analysis to help users understand your competitor’s performance. 
  • Content topic and planning tools allow users to maintain and track content in one place
  • ChatGPT integration provides AI-assitance help users create highly engaging content and optimize it for better performance. 
  • Saves manual time spent on research by providing details about competitors' content insights under one tab in a visually appealing manner.  
  • Personalized keyword difficulty and topical authority scores are highly beneficial for finding profitable content topics and predicting content performance. 
  • With raw competitor data, it is easier for users to find the weak spot and outcompete their competitors
  • MarketMuse planning tool helps users build a content hub to easily analyze, manage, and optimize content for better performance. 
  • The free plans with 10 monthly queries help users take advantage of the basic functions of the tool without spending. 
  • Users can easily export content to Word, Excel, and Google Docs with just a click. However, this facility is not available for free users. 

Cons of MarketMuse 

  • Even though the tool provides advanced features, the pricing plans are out of budget for some growing brands and individual service providers. 
  • Their standard and team plans do not provide access to domain-level analysis, unlimited brief credits, or team training. This limits the user's ability to access the tool to its full potential. 
  • The tool can be quite advanced for new users with limited SEO knowledge. 
  • The absence of AI-powered content writers is a major disadvantage that limits the user's ability to increase content production efficiency. 
  • The lack of plugins and Chrome extensions is another significant drawback. 
  • The competitor data and other SEO information can be quite overwhelming to new users. 

These are the top factors you should weigh side by side before opting for MarketMuse's paid plans.

MarketMuse Cost 

Plans Monthly pricing Yearly Pricing
Free $0 $0
Standard $149 $1500
Team $399 $3900
Custom Custom Custom

Surfer SEO: Complete Overview 

Surfer Home

Surfer SEO is an on-page SEO optimization tool that can help you with keyword clusters, site content audits, SERP analysis, and AI writing.  

Surfer is popularly known for its content editor, popularly known as optimizer. It recommends accurate NLP (natural language processing) terms and heading suggestions that can increase the ranking potential of your content. 

The tool analyses the top-ranking pages of the target keyword to find similarities and provide suggestions like average word count, headings, paragraphs, and images.  

Surfer sources content suggestions like key terms and content structure from the top-ranking pages. Hence, it allows you to customize the competitors lists. You can add and remove pages according to your preference to outcompete specific competitors. 

As for the content creation part, Surfer integrates with Jasper AI to generate AI content. If you already have a Jasper subscription, you can access the Surfer editor from there. However, if you don’t, Surfer charges extra for AI articles and has not included this function in their standard plans. 

Besides Surfer's content editor, it also helps you with keyword planning. The auto-clustering feature gives you access to multiple sets of keyword clusters in a few minutes as soon as you enter the seed keywords. Moreover, it only provides individual keyword research insights with the Chrome Extension; you cannot access it within the tool. So, it is best to pair up Surfer SEO with keyword research tools. 

Surfer SEO Key Features

SERP Analysis Tool

Surfer SEO's SERP Analyzer is another add-on feature that provides valuable insights into top-ranking pages for your target keywords. It lets you identify keyword opportunities, analyze search intent, and optimize your own content accordingly. 

One of the key features of Surfer SEO's SERP Analyzer is the ability to compare your page against top-ranking competitors. This helps you identify areas for improvement and refine your optimization strategy. 

The tool also provides data on important on-page factors such as word count, headings, and meta tags, allowing you to optimize your content for better rankings. 

All in all, Surfer’s SERP Analyzer can prove to be a useful tool for insightful SEO metrics. However, this feature can be overwhelming for new users, as the data is sometimes unnecessarily too detailed and even irrelevant. It also comes at an additional cost of $29/day.

Content Editor

Surfer SEO's Content Editor works by analyzing your content in real-time, providing optimization suggestions to improve its performance. It focuses on key aspects such as keyword density, headings, word count insights, paragraph length and overall readability to ensure that your content is well-optimized for search engines. 

One standout feature of Surfer SEO's Content Editor is its ability to evaluate your content against top-ranking pages for your target keywords. This allows you to make data-backed decisions to optimize your content and boost organic website traffic.

Surfer AI Editor also features Natural Language Processing (NLP), which enables the software to understand, process and generate language as it is spoken and written naturally by humans. This in turn enables you to improve the content score, and ultimately increase its visibility in search results. 

Keyword Research Tool

Surfer SEO's AI keyword research tool provides comprehensive data on search volume, competition, and keyword difficulty. It also presents you with a list of keywords for each page you optimize. 

This tool helps uncover relevant long-tail keywords to optimize your content and also target your preferred locations. 

Additionally, it offers valuable insights into competitor keywords, giving you a competitive edge in the game. With Surfer SEO's keyword research feature, you have the power to optimize your content effectively and drive organic traffic to your website.

AI Writing Tool

One of the most loved features of Surfer SEO is its new add-on AI Writing Tool. This feature utilizes advanced AI and NLP algorithms to effortlessly generate SEO-optimized content based on target keywords or topics. 

The content generated on Surfer’s AI Writer is 100% plagiarism-free. It ensures proper keyword usage, headings, and grammar, resulting in engaging articles that rank well in search results. You can customize content length, structure, tone and keyword density after the content has been generated. 

The AI Writing Tool streamlines content creation with its intuitive interface and NLP capabilities. It saves time, eliminates writer's block, and helps deliver valuable content to both readers and search engines.

However, it comes at a hefty cost of $29 per article.

SEO Audit

Another one of the add-on features, Surfer SEO's Content Audit Tool, is a valuable asset for identifying gaps in your already existing content pieces and revamping them. It can be added to your Surfer Essential or Advanced plan at a cost of $49/month. 

The Content Audit Tool goes beyond just analyzing content quality. It also evaluates keyword usage and provides recommendations - such as improving keyword density, adding more backlinks, adjusting meta tag structure, content length, structure and more. 

One of the key features of the Content Audit Tool is its ability to compare your content with top-ranking pages. So you can see how your content stacks up against the competition and make adjustments accordingly. 

Pros of Using Surfer 

  • Powerful content editor that provides accurate suggestions.  
  • Competitor customization is beneficial for users who are aiming to outcompete particular top-ranking pages. 
  • Auto-keyword cluster saves the manual time spent on grouping keywords. 
  • SERP Analyzer summarizes similarities and differences between top-ranking pages. 
  • Content audit helps optimize old content for better performance. 
  • Intuitive interface that both novice and seasoned professionals can use. 
  • Integrates with Jasper AI to create content 
  • The Chrome Extension helps in finding individual keyword insights. 

Cons of Using Surfer

  • Does not have auto-optimization features.
  • Doesn’t provide you insights about where competitors are using the NLP or key terms in their content.  
  • Limited keyword insights as it does not provide extensive keyword data. 
  • Wears a higher price tag; hence, individuals and small content teams may find it unaffordable.  
  • Add-ons quickly increase the overall price you pay every month to access the full potential of the tool.  
  • AI articles are expensive and charged separately.
  • Overlapping features that provide the same information as others. 


Plan Monthly Monthly charge if paid Yearly
Essential $89 $69
Advanced $129 $99
Max $219 $179
Enterprise $399 $399

Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO: In-Depth Feature Comparison

Now that you have a fair idea about both tools, let's move on to compare the two. 

Surfer SEO vs Marketmuse: Keyword Planning/ Keyword Suggestions 

Both Surfer SEO and Marketmuse provide relevant keywords for your content using SERP analysis. In practice, MarketMuse seems to excel in providing relevant keywords and insights. Unlike Surfer SEO which only provides CTC and search volume of keywords, Marketmuse also offers keyword difficulty scores to its users. 

Winner: Marketmuse

Surfer SEO vs Marketmuse: Content Cluster 

When it comes to creating content clusters, both tools are quite effective. Surfer SEO allows you to create a content brief for your cluster, which includes information on the target keyword, subtopics, and related keywords. It also provides you with a content score for each article in the cluster, which can help you identify areas where you need to improve.

Marketmuse, on the other hand, provides you with a content strategy that includes a list of related topics and keywords to include in your content cluster. It also provides you with a score for each article in the cluster, which reflects how well it matches the user intent for your target keyword.

Winner: It’s a tie. 

Surfer SEO vs Marketmuse: Content Monitoring 

MarketMuse provides SEO content audit tools that enable you to monitor the SEO performance of your posts consistently. With MarketMuse's inventory feature, you can keep track of your website's posts, including authority scores based on backlinks, content quality, and a personalized difficulty score.

On the other hand, Surfer lacks an inventory feature, but the platform offers an SEO audit tool that lets you analyze your previously published pages. This feature is particularly helpful in identifying which of your older posts require the most SEO assistance.

Winner: Both are unique in their own way. So, it depends upon your monitoring needs and requirements. 

Surfer SEO vs Marketmuse: User Interface 

Although MarketMuse's functionality has been acknowledged by reviewers, there have been critiques regarding the user experience, citing it as "clunky" and "slow." 

In particular, some search queries have been reported to take several minutes before showing any results. Conversely, Surfer comes with an easy-to-navigate interface you can get a hang of. 

Winner: Surfer SEO 

Marketmuse vs Surfer SEO: Which is Better? 

Both of these content planning and strategizing tools have their own unique features and benefits, depending on your specific needs.

MarketMuse stands out for its advanced keyword research and planning capabilities that help authors produce high-quality content with minimal effort. It provides a comprehensive blueprint that guides writers on the ideal structure and format to follow for better SEO performance. 

The software's keyword research tool is particularly powerful and provides a clear understanding of which terms to focus on to drive organic traffic to your website. Additionally, MarketMuse is known for producing fewer irrelevant or poorly written terms, resulting in content that is more accurate, valuable, and engaging to readers.

On the other hand, Surfer is an ideal option for agencies, SEOs, and content creators who are looking to enhance their keyword research and optimization process. 

The tool has an intuitive user interface that makes it easy for users to navigate. While it may not be as advanced as MarketMuse, Surfer's limited yet essential functions and simplicity make it an attractive option for smaller businesses or startups. 

All in all, both MarketMuse and Surfer are powerful software tools that can help you produce high-quality content that ranks well on search engines. 

MarketMuse is a more advanced option for those looking for a comprehensive blueprint to follow, while Surfer is a user-friendly option that may be more suitable for smaller businesses or those just starting with SEO. 

That said, if you’re looking for comprehensive options that can help you build a content strategy, scale content and rank higher in the SERP, check out Scalenut. Here’s everything you need to know about the tool. 

Scalenut: A Better Alternative

Scalenut is an AI-powered content optimization platform designed to streamline your content creation process and improve your search engine rankings. 

With real-time content analysis, optimization recommendations and keyword research features, Scalenut offers advanced functions to enhance your content's performance. 

Here’s how Scalenut helped a leading Pharmaceutical brand add 100K traffic to their website. 

Scalenut offers 

  • Keyword Planner and Cluster Creator 
  • Outline Generator 
  • Cruise Mode (Article Writer) 
  • Content Optimizer 
  • SEO Content Editor

Keyword Planner

The Scalenut Keyword Planner helps you achieve topical authority in your industry and specific niche. You can insert your niche topic in Scalenut’s Keyword Planner to generate a report that groups relevant keywords together. 

Scalenut Keyword Planner  

This report lets you view metrics like relevance, CPC, and search volume under one tab. You do not need to juggle between multiple columns or tabs as you do in SEO tools like Ahrefs or Ubersuggest to find relevant metrics that matter to you.

Scalenut Keyword Optimizer 

If you are a content writer, sometimes you might just have one seed keyword to target. In that case, you will need a list of relevant keywords to target. That’s why the Scalenut content editor suggests relevant key terms that your competitors’ content is currently ranking. This allows you to easily outcompete your competitors without doing hours of manual research. 

Content Outline Generator

In Scalenut, you can create an AI-generated outline automatically or build a custom version by comparing top-ranking web pages under a single tab. With this information in one place, you can easily find content gaps, add frequently asked questions, and restructure your outline with the drag-and-drop option within minutes.  

Scalenut Outline Analyser 

Moreover, Scalenut provides additional features like writing points and social listening tools to generate questions from forums like Quora, Reddit, and search results. This ultimately reduces the time taken to search and create an outline manually.  

Cruise mode

Scalenut has an in-built AI writer to help you create quality long-form content at scale. The cruise mode function allows users to generate the first draft of their outline in less than 5 minutes. Once you have the first draft, compare it with your competitor's content. This helps you see what points and subheadings you have missed. Instead of juggling multiple tabs, you can find all your competitor's content under the research tab. 

 Scalenut Competitor Content Research tool   

Moreover, you can fine-tune the AI-generated copy in Cruise mode using the rephrase, shorten, or expand options. You can generate additional information for each section using the write and instruct tools in the editor tab. Altogether, this gives you complete control over AI and allows you to generate brand-relevant content within minutes. 

Content Optimizer

One of the biggest obstacles for content writers and bloggers is producing rank-ready content. You might be spending hours and hours ensuring every piece of content you publish is optimized to rank on Google or other search engines. 

Scalenut Content Optimizer

However, manually checking the keyword density and finding relevant keywords to target can be a hassle. In situations like this, a reliable content report can boost your confidence that a piece of content is optimized for search. That's why Scalenut's Content Optimizer grades your content to generate a score and necessary suggestions to help you find a place at the top of the SERP. 

Moreover, you can use the fix-it button to auto-optimize your content based on the suggestion list. This eliminates manual editing time and acts as a supporting tool to fine-tune your content. 

SEO Content Editor 

Scalenut has advanced NLP and machine learning technologies to help you create content that ranks on the first page of the SERP for target keywords. You can see real-time NLP scores and custom SEO suggestions to improve your content. 

Scalenut Content Optimizer

Scalenut's SEO editor evaluates your content from different angles, like keyword density, links, content depth, key terms, and more. 

Pros Cons
Provides automatic AI suggestions to write titles, outlines, and content briefs in seconds. The existing features can be quite overwhelming for first-time users.
The custom tone of voice allows you to adapt quickly to different niches and brand voices.
Easily view all the top-ranking blogs for your target keywords under one tab. This allows you to find the content gaps and manually add them to the outline with a click.
AI-generated writing points for each blog subhead allow you to preview and customize the prompts based on your content goals.
Additional features like NLP terms, competitor content analysis, questions, and statistics can help you drastically improve the first draft without manually conducting basic-level research.
You can create supporting social media copy and short-form content using the AIDA, PAS, BAB, and other 45+ ready-to-use templates.


Plan Monthly Yearly
Essential Plan $39 $20
Growth Plan $79 $40
Pro Plan $149 $75

Who can benefit from Scalenut?

  • SEO strategists are managing a team of writers. 
  • Content heads who are responsible for creating content briefs 
  • Writers who run a small team 
  • Writers who create SEO-based long-form blogs and articles 
  • Marketers who manage social media channels and content editing activities 

What do users think about Scalenut? 

  • G2 review - 4.7/5 stars
  • Product hunt review - 5/5 stars 
  • Capterra review - 4.8/5 stars


MarketMuse and Surfer offers a handful of SEO and content tools to help you boost your content's performance. However, their basic plan starts at $149 and $89, respectively. 

Hence, your investment should be based on your SEO goals. If you’re looking for beginner-level SEO functions, Surfer SEO is an ideal option; however, if you need advanced features, Marketmuse can help you. If you’re concerned about your budget and wish to find a budget-friendly SEO tool, it's best to explore Scalenut. Access your 7-day free trial here

Priya Jamba
Content Marketer
ABout the AUTHOR
Priya Jamba
Content Marketer

Priya Jamba is a Content Marketer at Scalenut. She loves marketing technologies and believes that with the right combination of tools and creativity, every organization can build sustainable brands. She is on a mission to help marketing teams across the globe produce tangible results from their marketing campaigns. Currently, she is working along with the Product team to enhance the AI content quality through prompt engineering.

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