The best content ever written means absolutely nothing if it’s never seen. Search engine optimization (SEO) tools are designed to ensure your hard work gets seen your target audience in the most efficient manner possible.
Our blog and SEO team atTrustRadius went through our own buying process for content SEO. We originally used Topic, but they’ve since joined the CafeMedia family. We needed a replacement and realized our buying experience can help other content creators find their best SEO tool.
Each of the tools we looked at occupies a different niche and could be right for you depending on what you need in an SEO tool. We will also cover two tools that fall somewhat short, and explain why they may not be ideal for content marketing and production use cases.
There’s a wide array of tools out there for blog and marketing content optimization. Some offer simple optimization guides and keyword suggestions and checking, while others can generate content for you. Understanding exactly what you are looking for, your budget, and what your limitations are are key for choosing the right tool.
The SEO tools covered in this piece are:
The Best SEO Tools Overview
Easy to use
|Less Comprehensive Features
Worse Keyword Research Tool
|Budget, Volume Content Production at Less Competitive Terms
|Strong Keyword Scoring
Good Brief Creation
AI Writer Add-On
|Add-on is expensive
Less Intuitive Scoring
|Balanced SEO functions at a good price
|Premium SEO tools
Lacking Brief Creation tools
|Higher Quality- Lower Volume Content
|Premium SEO tools
Search Intent System
Okay, not Great UI
|Gold-Standard for Assigning to Freelancers, High-Quality Content, Intent-Informed Content
GrowthBar SEO: Strong Optimization for Lower Budgets
GrowthBar SEO is a very competitively priced tool for organizations looking to produce content quickly, but don’t need more advanced SEO tools.
This software is a browser-based tool that has its biggest strengths in the speed at which content briefs can be produced. The keyword search function is easy to use if a bit basic compared to some of the more expensive competition. It does a strong job once your topic has been decided. The system moves into the “Create Content” stage.
From here, the tool will use existing content to generate the start of a post. GrowthBar uses natural language tools to try and write the first components of the piece for you. The tool suggests a length and outlines keyword difficulty, like most tools on this list. Interestingly GrowthBar suggests a number of images for the piece. It will also measure suggested backlinks based on other successful web pages.
Users can then use the drag and drop tool to pull in suggested headings to create outlines at a pace that threatens the land speed record. This early stage is where the tool shines. The user experience is extremely easy and requires little technical SEO experience to get good results. The keyword checker is not nearly as strong as others on this list. There is a chrome plugin that will track SEO performance over time, which would be useful for measuring the performance of your content.
In terms of price, this is one of the cheaper options TrustRadius explored. The tool starts at $29/ month when billed annually, $48 monthly, for 15 outlines and 25 keywords tracked. The next plan is $79/month if paid annually, or $99/month on a month-by-month basis. This tier offers 50 Outlines and 75 keywords tracked. Finally, this scales to $129/month yearly, $199 monthly for 150 outlines and 150 keywords.
Users have access to a free trial for up to 5 days. You will need to remember to cancel the trial to not be charged.
Who is GrowthBar SEO Right for?
Overall, this tool is best for those producing content rapidly, with less time between posts. It could be useful for those creating briefs and then handing them to freelancers as well. It is less well-suited to those looking for more in-depth SEO tools. If you are looking to break into very competitive search terms, more advanced scoring and features are be recommended.
Frase: Comprehensive SEO Features at a Fair Price
Frase is slightly more expensive than GrowthBar SEO, and offers more SEO tools to back up the bigger price tag. With strong keyword scoring, great brief creation, and an AI writer tool, this is a strong competitor for SEO analysis and content creation tools.
The UI of Frase is a little less basic than GrowthBar SEO, and may require a little more training for your team members to get used to. The first step is very similar, with specific keywords informing the creation of a content brief. Frase gives you a word count, number of headers, and suggested image number like most other tools.
The content brief system starts life as something similar to a table, with heading titles on the left and bullet points of potential information on the right. Users can click on the subheadings of competing articles to move these topics directly into the fledgling brief.
Once you have given Frase this rough outline, you can use the AI tool to write sections for you, one at a time. These will likely not be perfect, but are a great way to fight writer’s block, generate ideas, or simply lighten the load for your writers. If you are unhappy, you can make the system try again by asking it to rewrite. The tool will expand on what you have already written into the brief and is a really interesting insight into the state of AI writers. While this is not going to replace your writers, it can help them out.
Unlike GrowthBar SEO, Frase grades your content based on its keywords. The tool uses a percentage system, where many others use a letter grade one. The system grades your competition and allows you to see what keywords they may be missing with a topic heatmap. Related keywords are based on search engine results to ensure content ideas are as targeted as possible.
Frase offers strong research tools to help your writers learn about the topics they have been assigned. Wikipedia is always one click away on the sidebar, with the topic you are working on automatically researched for you using this common tool.
Much like the AI writing tool, this will not replace the research skills of your writers. This is a great way to get started or gain background knowledge on a topic. Document sharing allows you to quickly share briefs with assigned writers or freelancers, and at higher tiers integrates with google docs.
Frase costs $44.99/mo for one user with 30 credits, which most companies will find insufficient. This plan is clearly targeted at freelance writers. For $114.99 per month, you will have access to unlimited credits and the ability to share briefs, including to freelancers. For $25/mo extra, you can have 3 user seats at this level, and this tier includes google docs integration. An additional $35 per month gets you the SEO add on, and is required for the AI writer and keyword search volume features.
Who is Frase Right for?
This tool is best for those with more advanced SEO needs than GrowthBar, and who can take advantage of the document sharing keyword scoring. The SEO features being an add-on can be seen as a positive or a negative. On one hand, the base software feels like it should have keyword scoring. The AI writing tool is strong, and if you will use it is probably worth the price. If you are not going to take advantage of it, then it may feel a bit harsh to pay an extra $35 just for keyword scoring that is in the base package of other tools.
Clearscope: Research, Optimization, and Briefs in a Great UI
Clearscope offers many similar features to those in other tools and at a similar price. Where it shines is in its slight differences, user-friendly interface, and helpful tools. Clearscope is a fantastic option for those who produce a moderate amount of content with plenty of competition.
Like the others on this list, Clearscope starts by having users create reports based on their keyword discovery journey. From here, the tool will create a comparison from your prospective content to the top 30 search results. This is 10 more than Frase, which scans the top 20.
Before a brief is made, you see the content grade, word count, and readability of the top 10 and 11-30 results. The dashboard also directly links the top competitor content, relevant terms, and search volume. This dashboard is extremely user-friendly, and subjectively the best on this list.
The process of creating a brief from Clearscope is a little more hands-on than the others. This tool is focused more on informing and scoring your content than in assisting in the creation of content brief briefs. There is no drag-and-drop system like in GrowthBar SEO.
In summary, this is not the tool for handing briefs with pre written content to contract workers. The focus is much more on optimizing what they come up with. Users are still able to see the headings of the competition, and could easily copy and paste them over, there is just less focus from the tool on content briefs. If you are a Topic user (or former, now), this is probably the most direct replacement.
This is not to say Clearscope does not help before the piece is written. Users could easily write directly in the tool. Once in the “optimize” tab, users can access research directly from popular sites like Reddit, Wikipedia, and Quora. The most common sources your competition uses will also be listed. One useful tool for writers is the “Questions” section, which outlines some of the topics and queries you may want to answer with your piece, based on what users are searching.
Once your piece is written, Clearscope shines. The keyword scoring uses a letter grade system that is intuitive and very user-friendly. It will highlight missing terms, while also scoring readability. This system is done in a manner that is extremely easy for writers to use, and requires very little training.
Once a post is scored, Clearscope offers their beta service of page monitoring. While the optimize section generates a snapshot of the SEO landscape, page monitoring goes beyond this. This tool allows you to track not only the position but the letter grade of the piece you have written over time.
Clearscope is more expensive than the previous two on this list for the services it offers. For 3 users and 20 reports per month, it will cost $170/month. This can be scaled up to 10 users at 50, 100, and 200 reports for $350, $600, and $950/month respectively. Reports can be purchased individually, which is handy for unexpected high volume when you may not want to reach the next tier.
Who is ClearScope Right for?
With its higher pricing and more comprehensive features, Clearscope is for a very different type of content workflow. The number of reports is relatively low for the price, though the SEO and monitoring features are more advanced.
This tool is best for organizations looking to produce content to compete at a higher level, while producing fewer pieces per writer. This is not the tool for those looking to churn sheer volume. The user interface is fantastic, and there is a clear focus on optimization rather than speed.
Content Harmony: Intent Grading and Strong Optimization Tools
This tool offers many of the same features to Clearscope, which is its closest equivalent on this list. There are a few key differences and benefits to each which warrant its separate discussion and inclusion.
The first major difference between this and Clearscope is its return to focus on content briefs and its inclusion of search intent. The tool divides its features into a Keyword report, Content Brief, and Grader section.
The keyword search function offers many of the same functions as the other tools on this list, with one notable exception. The tool allows users to see what classification of user intent that those looking at their keywords have. These include qualifications like Research, Video, Fresh/News, and Local. If a term sees strong intent in news, it may not rank for long durations of time. This is a fantastic tool that is not seen in many of its competitors. Content departments can use this to plan their writing schedules and inform the content they write.
From here, the tool offers keyword discovery and common questions in much the same way Clearscope does. Content harmony has a brief layout system that prefills fields with suggestions. The brief is more of a form than the others, with fields such as “what is this content about,” allowing the creator to create something of an assignment document. This would be fantastic for those with freelancers and would offer more comprehensive guidance than anything else on this list.
The content grader user scoring system is different from Clearscope, though it offers many of the same features. Content is labeled as “good,” or some other term, based on its keyword usage. The UI is not quite as friendly, and this is not as clear as the letter grade system others have used. This may come down to personal preference.
Content Harmony Pricing:
Another more expensive option, the Standard plan costs $99/month and allows unlimited users up to 12 briefs and 50 intent reports per month. The Agency plan scales this to 50 briefs and 500 intent reports for $299/month.
Who is Content Harmony Right for?
This is a tool that is well suited to those who have a huge number of potential users, and a limited amount of content produced. Logically, this would suit those who use freelancers. The guidance provided by the briefs is unrivaled, and the intent system is fantastic. This tool is inappropriate for the sheer volume of content, much like Clearscope.
Popular SEO Tools That Fall Short:
In your search for content SEO tools, Surfer and MarketMuse are absolutely going to come up. While these tools are not bad and will get the job done, they fall short of being strong recommendations. They both offer a strong set of features, but in a way that is either done better, easier, or more cost-effective by the competition.
Surfer: Budget Content SEO that needs Polish
Surfer, on the surface, seems like a strong product. It offers strong SERP analysis and keyword research, as well as content editing tools. Its basic plan starts at $49 per month and allows 10 editors 20 audits per month. This is limited to 1 user.
From there, the pricing scales to $99 for 60 audits. NLP is only offered at this tier and above and allows for 3 team members.
At this price tier, it is simply a worse version of GrowthBar SEO. The user interface of Surfer is lacking comparatively, and the competition offers better features. The free tools of Surfer are worth exploring, but at its current price point, it is simply outdone by a more polished, stronger product.
MarketMuse: AI-Powered, Expensive for Teams
While MarketMuse is a powerful tool, it is somewhat let down by its pricing, and falling victim to something of a “who needs this” complex.
MarketMuse’s Standard plan costs $149/month for 1 user, and adds $99 per user. Its closest competitors in features are ClearsScope and Content Harmony. To get to the same users, MarketMuse simply costs more. Premium pricing does not start until $999 per month, and so the lack of pricing tiers causes this tool to only be the clear option for tools of rather specific sizes. This is something of a strange choice, and seems an easy fix to make the tool more competitive.
The software seems to be focused on higher volume than Clearscope and Content Harmony, allowing for up to 100 queries and unlimited projects at this standard tier. Unfortunately for MarketMuse, human writers simply can’t write quality pieces at the speed to take advantage of this pricing model. It seems to be stuck between content volume and the quality niche.
MarketMuse offers strong AI writing tools, and seems to be placing a lot of eggs in the basket of using this to generate content volume. Unfortunately, this AI is not perfect, and is not yet good enough to replace writers. If there is an uncanny valley equivalent for writing, most AI content falls into it. This means your writers will still need to spend time working, and at a pace where the pricing model falls short again.
In summary, MarketMuse is a great tool stuck in the middle of use cases. It also suffers from a weird pricing model.
More SEO Resources
While these tools are fantastic, there is plenty more you can do to manage your website’s SEO goals. Click below to check out more SEO tools for better analytics, higher organic search rankings, and more successful digital marketing.
These tools can focus on higher organic traffic, and is often done through individual page SEO, link building, and long-tail keyword management. Additionally, using Google Analytics, Google search console, and popular tools like SEMrush can help evaluate SEO metrics.
Additionally, check out the video below for some tips on SEO content marketing strategy.
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