Welcome to our Ahrefs review.
Ahrefs is a popular SEO tool but is it worth the cost?
That’s the question that I aim to answer in this review.
I will talk about what the tool is about, its different features, and how users can use it to develop and run their SEO campaign.
I’ll also talk about the pros and cons.
Also, this Ahrefs review is going to be a long one, so buckle up, folks!
Important note: Ahrefs now bill users automatically for going over reporting limits. And they’ve reduced report quotas significantly. This means you can burn through reports fast and spend far more money than you expected. Due to this change in billing practices, we do not recommend them for new users. If you want to avoid these questionable billing practices, I’d recommend trying Semrush or SE Ranking instead.
What is Ahrefs?
Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO tool that started off 100% focused on backlink analysis.
In recent years it has added more tools to its feature-set. This includes keyword research, site auditing, rank tracking and more.
Let’s started off this review by looking at the backlink analysis feature within Ahrefs – the Site Explorer. Then we’ll move onto its other features.
Ahrefs Site Explorer
Ahrefs’ Site Explorer allows you to dig through data on any website.
This data includes backlinks, organic keywords, traffic estimations, and other useful metrics.
You can also use the tool to find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for.
To start, click on the “Site Explorer” link on the menu and enter the URL of your competitor on the search bar.
Here’s what you will see next:
Let’s first talk about the following: Ahrefs Rank, UR, and DR.
Domain Rating or DR estimates the authority of a domain based on its backlink profile.
Similar to DR, URL Rating or UR computes for the quality of backlinks pointing to a page or URL.
Ahrefs Rank (AR) is a figure that shows the strength and authority of a website based on its DR or Domain Rating.
Running through the other metrics, you will see a domain’s current links, keywords, and traffic.
Backlinks count the total of inbound links a URL or domain currently has. Keep in mind that it counts all of the backlinks – no matter how many they are – on a page.
Referring Domain shows you the number of websites linking to yours. So, even if your site has 2-0 links from a single domain, Ahrefs only counts it as one here.
Also, it filters out links from domains that have the rel=”nofollow”, rel=”ugc”, and rel=”sponsored” attributes.
From here, you also need to understand the recent and historical links.
Recent backlinks refer to backlinks that were live during the last re-crawl by Ahrefs spiders.
Historical backlinks are the total number of backlinks of the site that were live starting August of 2015.
Depending on your plan, you should be able to toggle the type of links you can analyze from the drop-down menu on the side.
Next, Organic Keywords lists down the number of search terms the domain is ranking for and its current position.
Using the organic keywords the site is ranking for, Ahrefs then computes for the Organic Traffic. It is an estimate number of visits the domain generates in a month.
Using the information above gives you a general understanding of a site’s SEO performance.
Scrolling down the page, you will see information about a site’s backlink profile in graph view.
As you can see on the screenshot above, you will see the site’s AR and referring domains throughout the months or years.
From here, you can see how much the site has improved or suffered over time. Later on, you will be able to find out why they perform that they using the tool’s other metrics.
Other factors available in graph format are as follows:
- Referring pages
- New & lost referring domains
- New & lost backlinks
You will also see the distribution of CTLDs across the globe.
Below it, you will see the top anchor texts used to link back to your site and the number of referring domains using those anchor texts.
On the side, you will see additional information about the site’s collection of links.
The information here will give you a better idea of how a site’s backlinks are distributed across different TLDs, attributes, and distribution on SERPs.
Ahrefs boasts having the largest link database index compared to other tools.
To date, the Ahrefs database has almost 163 million domains with almost 296 billion pages.
While numbers are impressive, it ultimately boils down to a single question:
How does Ahrefs put the database to use?
If you click “Backlinks” under Backlink profile, you will see something similar to this:
As mentioned earlier, Domain Rating and UR determine the quality of a website. To help increase your site’s organic ranking, you need to secure inbound links from sites with high DR and UR.
But referring to the other features on the page helps you identify referring pages that are driving the most traffic, ranking for the most phrases on Google search, and others.
So even if the referring domain has a low UR/DR, the other metrics should prove that the linking page/domain still has some value.
Now, by accessing this section of Ahrefs, you are looking at the site’s current link profile.
If the site you entered on Site Explorer is your own, then you’re looking at your current list of inbound links.
Your objective now is to audit your backlinks and see which ones are the most valuable.
Clicking on the DR will reorder the list of backlinks from ascending or descending order. Ideally, you want to see the highest DR first and work your way down to identify the best domains first.
Depending on your goal, you can use the other features to help determine links you want to prioritize.
Now, you might be asking yourself:
What if I want to filter the results using multiple SEO factors?
See this part right here?
You can use this to narrow down the results to what you believe are the most crucial SEO factors to consider for your backlinks.
This is how the filters will look like:
From the previous results of 312,000 links or more, we have narrowed the results to just 892.
Filtering the results this way allows you to focus on the links that matter. You don’t have to find your way through the thousands of inbound links your site has. Instead, filter the backlinks so you only see links that you deem important.
Under links, there are three additional options you can check to break down the list:
Clicking on this will show you the links that were acquired by the site on which date.
Using this option will help you analyze their latest backlinks and the amount they generated for each day.
If you’re analyzing your competitors, you can use this to understand their current link building process.
You can analyze the inbound links by day or days. For example, if you want to check the links f your competitors for that week, first click on the first day then click on the last day.
Then scroll down the page and click the Show New Backlinks button to load the inbound links acquired by the website during that period.
You can then filter the results similar to what we did above to help you find the most important backlinks of the site or at least narrow down the list.
By entering your domain on the Site Explorer bar, click on Backlinks > Lost to see the inbound links that no longer exist.
In the screenshot below, I clicked on Referring domains > Lost to show the domains you lost and not backlinks.
You can change the date range to see the lost referring domains during your specified period.
To see the backlink, click on the Backlink drop-down menu.
Check out the box in red in the image above. It shows that the original link redirects to the link below it. So, while the initial link is lost in place of the new one from the same domain.
However, there are instances when the old link is replaced with or redirected to a new link from a different domain.
Let’s assume that you own the initial link and it’s working. You can use this information to reach out to website owners and ask them why they dropped your link in favor of another one.
From here, you might learn new information on how you improve a piece of content and get more people to link to it instead of your competitors.
Ahrefs helps you cut down the time identifying broken links on your site.
Instead of just looking at the broken links of a page, you can check the broken links in a domain.
Click on Backlinks > Broken to see broken links in a domain.
In the screenshot above, you can see that the page is linking to a 404 page about the keyword research tool.
If you have content about the same topic, you can use this as leverage to email the author or website owner to get a link to your site.
Internal linking is one of the most underrated on-page SEO tactics. By structuring your internal links the right way, you can boost the performance of your landing pages on SERPs.
If you have time, I highly suggest you watch this SEO Fight Club about link structure.
Once you’re done watching it, Ahrefs’ Internal Backlinks would make much more sense to you.
Click Backlink Profile > Internal Backlinks to see pages in your domain and the pages that link to it.
You can filter the results to show you the best pages on your site. Worry about those first and see if they have getting lots of internal links to further increase their exposure and visibility.
Another good way to find link building opportunities is by finding out your competitor backlinks. List them down and identify how to get an inbound link from each one.
To do that, click on Backlink profile > Link intersect.
You will then need to fill out the other entries with your competitor URL.
If you’re not sure who your competitors are, click on Competing domains to see sites that share similar search terms as yours.
Take whichever sites from the list you feel are your closest competitors.
For the sake of this example, I’ll enter the top three from the list.
After clicking on “Show link opportunities,” you will see this:
To see your competitor backlinks from a domain, click on the number on your competitor site’s column.
You will see which page your competitor got a backlink from the domain under Referring Domain. And on the Anchor and backlink column, you will see how and where on the page they got the inbound link.
Again, this is a great way to find link opportunities so you don’t have to start from scratch. Use the competition to help you find sites where you can place your inbound links.
You can determine the SEO performance of a website based on how high it’s ranking on SERPs.
Ranking on top of Google search, for instance, means that the content is top-notch and your website wields authority.
Therefore, the more keywords a site is ranking on the first page of search engines, the more authoritative it is.
Using Ahrefs, you can find out how searchable a website is using its feature.
Once you’ve entered the domain on Site Explorer, click on Organic keywords.
You will see all of the keywords the website is ranking for on Google.
If you are analyzing your website, you can find out which keywords you’re ranking for that you’re not initially aware of. This should help you re-optimize your content so you can give your current keyword rankings an extra boost.
If you’re analyzing your competitors, you will see which content are generating the most visitors from Google.
You can even break down the ranking page by clicking on the drop-down button and referring to other data.
You can click on any of the links there to analyze the page further and find out what makes it perform great on Google search.
You can also check out the top 10 pages ranking for the keyword by clicking on the SERP drop-down menu.
You can see metrics such as AR, DR, and UR to give you an overview of each page ranking for the keyword. You can also see the backlinks, domains, and estimated search traffic of each.
More importantly, you can see how many keywords that the content is ranking for.
Clicking on the number will show you what other keywords it’s ranking for.
You can use the keywords here as LSI keywords to amp up content similar to the page you’re analyzing here.
If one of the pages in your domain starts ranking for a new keyword, you will see it in Organic keywords > New.
You will first see the position distribution history for the domain’s keywords. Scrolling down will show you the new keywords the domain or page is ranking for.
The keywords are in descending order. You will see the keyword with the highest search volume on top.
If you want to view a more specific keyword, filter the results according to searches, keyword difficulty score, and other factors.
It also helps to analyze new keywords of each page (not domain).
If you want to see the keyword movement across all the pages of your site, then head on to Organic search > Organic keywords > Movements.
Scrolling the page below, you will see the changes per day.
The goal here is to see the keyword movement of your most important pages.
Since Google changes it algorithm regularly, it’s best to stay on top of your pages and monitor the movement of their keywords so you don’t use organic traffic.
From the page, what immediately catches the attention is the estimated visitors you earned and lost because of the movement.
On the screenshot above, losing the third position for “neil patel” will lose the website an estimated 2.4 million a month.
Of course, it’s possible that the lost ranking is temporary for a variety of reasons. So it’s best to stay vigilant and keep track of the ranking changes. We’ll go in detail about this feature of Ahrefs later.
Also, you will see all ranking changes of a domain or page by default. You can isolate the view to only see new, lost, up, or down keywords.
Again, you can filter the results according to search volume, KD, and others if you want to get a more precise list of keywords.
If you want to identify pages that are ranking for the most keywords, go to Organic search > Top pages.
If you’re analyzing a competitor, you will see the pages generating the most traffic thanks to the number of keywords they are ranking for.
By doing this, you can see how they’re generating organic traffic and what you can do to replicate the results, if not do a better job.
Again, the most interesting metrics you can see from the page are the Traffic and Value columns.
Traffic shows you an estimated monthly visitors the page attracts, while Value computes for you how much the organic traffic the pages generates is in dollars.
To unveil the other keywords the page is ranking for, click on the drop-down menu to show all of them.
If you have content similar to one of your competitors, use some of the keywords to optimize your page and get it to rank for it as well.
This feature allows you to identify keywords that your competitors are ranking for but your website isn’t.
It’s similar to the previous feature. But instead of links, you’re looking for keywords to optimize and rank for your site.
When you click on Organic search > Content gap, you need to enter at least one competitor URL to conduct the search.
Now, I explained how you can determine your competitor domains. And you can do the same here.
But if you want to find keywords of competitor pages that you’re not optimized for, then click on Organic search > Competing pages.
In here, you will see pages that share the similar keywords as yours for your URL.
I boxed in red competitors for the URL.
Let’s enter the top three competitors in this case.
After clicking “Show keywords,” you will see this:
The keywords your website is not ranking for is in descending order for keyword volume.
On the right, you will see which domain ranks for which keyword and its current ranking on SERPs.
You can also see the SERPs for the keyword to get a better idea of competing pages for the keyword.
Ahrefs lets you analyze a page or URL according to its links. As if we haven’t covered that above!
But using the Pages feature, you can easily identify pages of a domain with the most links.
Click on Pages > Best by links and see for yourself.
The results are organized from most to least referring domains.
The External links columns shows you the total backlinks the page has from the referring domains. It also breaks down the links from dofollow, nofollow, and redirects.
You can break down the results using the filters above the page.
By default, the results will show you inbound links from different domains. But you can also see links from within its domain by clicking on the Internal button.
Doing so can help you improve your internal linking structure so you know where you can funnel the link juice in your domain.
You can then narrow down the results according to platform, language, and HTTP code (404, 301,302, etc.).
You can also check pages that are currently getting the most links.
Click on Pages > Pages by links’ growth to see pages getting the most links in the last 30 days.
Click on the numbers to see what the domains are in the New Referring Domains page.
If you’re analyzing your competitors, this is important because you can secure links from the same domains if possible.
If you’re analyzing your website using this feature, you get a better understand where the links are coming from. You can then reach out to the site owner of these domains and build relationships with them that you can leverage later on.
Finally, the Top Content feature lets you see the most shared pages on social media.
Go to Pages > Top Content and check out the Total and Social power (SP) columns.
The Total column shows the combined number of shares across all social media platforms.
However, the list of pages are ordered from highest to lowest SP.
Social power refers to median score of social media shares across all platforms.
It’s possible that likes, tweets, and the like can be manipulated.
Therefore, Ahrefs takes the platform with the second highest social shares to minimize risk of fraudulent social activity.
From here, you can click on the Details drop-down menu to view its backlinks and other information regarding the page.
The Top content feature is useful if you want to see a site’s most viral content.
If you’re planning to employ the Skyscraper Technique for your site, then you can refer to the domain’s most shared content and get ideas on how to write your piece.
You can also use this feature to analyze the content and see what’s getting the most shares on social media. You can update the post and promote it again to receive another round of likes and retweets.
Ahrefs allows you to see and analyze the outbound links of the site.
In here, you will see domains that the website keeps linking to and breaks down the domains using Ahrefs data.
Click on Outgoing Links > Linked Domains to see what I mean.
To specify which pages the domain got links from, click on the Links from target drop-down menu to see all of them.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
Ahrefs has arguably the best keyword research tool in the industry, and I’ll show you why.
Upon entering your keyword, you can check which search database you want to check for the data. You can also flip which country you want to see. This is useful if you’re doing local SEO.
You can also enter as many keywords as you want. Personally, I prefer researching for a single keyword every query because it loads faster.
Once you’ve searched for your search query, you will see something like this:
As with most keyword research tools, you can see its keyword difficulty and search volume to help you assess which keywords to target for your campaign.
However, Ahrefs takes it a step further by including click data for pages from SERPs results. You can see how many searches led to clicked and unclicked pages.
Scrolling down the page, you will see keyword suggestions and ideas from your seed keyword.
You can dig deeper in your keyword analysis from these options.
My personal favorite is the Questions feature. It lists down phrases related to your seed keywords that start with the 5 Ws (who, what, why, where, when) and 1 H (how).
If you’re creating content for your site, make sure to optimize for the relevant questions for your topic to increase your chances of ranking on Google.
Another thing that separates Ahrefs from the rest is its excellent filtering options.
You can easily find low-hanging keywords by targeting those with high search volume and low difficulty.
You can set that by finding keywords with a keyword difficulty between 1-29 and search volume from 100 onwards.
You can change the settings as you see fit to produce more keyword and content ideas. You can even set different filters such as word count, clicks, and even include or exclude keywords from the list.
Going back to the Keywords Explorer, you can also see the SERP results for the keyword at the bottom of the page.
You can drill down the pages according to different metrics to fully understand how these pages stack up to the one of your site.
Or if you’re planning to create a page for these keywords, use this information to decide if you want to optimize for this keyword or not.
Ahrefs Content Explorer
It helps you find content that’s the most shared and popular about your search query.
If you search for your keyword on Content Explorer, the first thing you will see is a graph that shows pages published about the topic over time.
It’s a good indicator of the popularity of content topics and whether or not you should create another one for it. The more articles published, the higher the demand for the topic!
Next, you will see the post about the topic ranked according to Relevance.
There’s a wealth of data available for you for each post. You can filter them according to the traffic they receive or the number of shares they have for which social platform.
The best thing about this feature for me is the ability to see how many people tweeted the post.
You can also see which keywords the page is ranking for.
Use the best ones to optimize your piece of content once you start producing it.
And in true Ahrefs fashion, you can also check the link profile of the pages that appear here.
Another handy feature of Content Explorer is the ability to track broken pages about the topic.
By finding popular content about the topic that shows a 404 error, you can recreate and acquire its backlinks!
You need to confirm if the page shows a 404 page. If yes, enter the link on Wayback Machine and see its latest version when it was live. Rewrite the content and update the information.
Next, find the sites linking to it on Ahrefs and reach out to them so they’ll to yours instead! Easy, right?
Ahrefs Rank Checker
Ahrefs can do more than serving as a link building tool. Ahrefs also offers rank tracking capabilities to help you stay on top of your SEO campaigns.
Once you’ve added a project to track, you can manually enter them on the text bar (just separate each keyword with a comma). Or you can upload a CSV file with all your keywords.
If you don’t have a keyword list yet, you can choose from the keywords you’re already ranking for as suggested by Ahrefs.
After entering the keywords, the tool will process data to show you additional information such as visibility and estimated traffic.
You can also enter your competitors who are targeting the same search phrases as you do. This allows you to properly scale your campaigns based on your ranking vis-a-vis your competitors.
You can isolate the terms and analyze their metrics. From here, you can filter the keywords according to your variable of choice and see which ones you should target for your next campaign.
You can also use this information to possibly find new key phrases to target if you’re already ranking high for the words in this list.
Finally, you can track the keyword movement over time to see how much your website has improved or regressed for certain keywords.
As you can see, the Rank Tracker is as straightforward as you can get. You can track your keyword ranking over time and compare it with similar sites to help you scale your efforts better.
However, there are significant issues with this tool and how it is priced..
Firstly, it’s extremely expensive compared to other rank tracking software. This is partly due to the fact they rely on a third-party (Accuranker) to power their rank tracking capabilities.
And regardless of which plan you are on, you only get rankings updated on a weekly basis.
That’s right – even if you’re paying Ahrefs $999/month, they’ll only update your rankings on a weekly basis.
You can upgrade to daily rank tracking and increase your keyword allowance but that will cost an extra $50/month per 500 keywords.
Ahrefs Site Audit
As part of your on-page optimization campaign, you want to identify bottlenecks in your website that’s keeping it from ranking high.
Using this feature, you can identify areas that need improvements or errors you must fix on your site.
After running an audit, you will see a report summary organized into different graphs:
To learn more about why your website got this grade for its health score, you need to scroll down the page to see the different issues according to importance.
The issues are segregated into the following categories:
- Internal pages – Deals with pages that are broken, tagged as noindex, 3xx redirects, HTTP to HTTPS redirect, and others
- Performance – Lists down slow-loading pages
- HTML tags – Determines missing meta descriptions, title tags, and missing or multiple H1 tags from indexable and non-indexable pages
- Social tags – Shows issues with Open Graph and Twitter card
- Content quality – Identifies pages with duplicate content and low word count
- Localization – Checks pages with missing HTML lang attribute
- Incoming links – Reveals nofollow, dofollow, and redirect links from indexable and non-indexable pages
- Outgoing links – Counts links to redirect and broken pages from indexable and non-indexable pages
- Images – Shows images that are broken, large, or have missing alt tags
- CSS – Deals with broken CSS on pages
Expanding any of the errors you see from the overview shows you what the problem is about and how you can fix it.
If you view the affected URLs, you will see something like this:
Depending on the issue you’re dealing with, Ahrefs provides you with a wealth of data and information about the issue so you can swiftly address it.
Thought it may seem like your usual online audit tool, this feature leverages on Ahrefs’ powerful crawler that helped build its large database index. So, you can expect it to detect more problems that you can fix to further optimize your site.
Ahrefs SEO Toolbar
If you want to conduct your SEO research as you browse the web, then the Ahrefs SEO Toolbar is for you!
You can install it on Chrome or Firefox.
Once installed, you need to sign up to your account to make it appear on your browser.
If done successfully, you will see a floating bar on top of the window:
The initial data shows you information about its link profile. It tells you how many links and referring domains the site/page has, the number of keywords it is ranking for, its Domain and Page Rating, and more.
Clicking on any of the metrics will bring you to the Ahrefs dashboard for further analysis on your part.
To show the on-page information about the page, click on the clipboard icon on the upper-right part.
How much does Ahrefs cost?
Below are screenshots of the current prices for its paid plans:
While Ahrefs’ pricing plans may seem simple on the surface, they really aren’t.
All SEO tools like this will have different limits for the tools they offer but Ahrefs has some of the most restrictive plans we’ve encountered.
So, I would highly recommend that you have a read over their pricing page to get a clear understanding of exactly what is offered.
But it’s important that we mention how their pricing works.
Ahrefs plan limits are soft limits only. This means that if you go over them, you will be billed more money and will have no warning. You’ll just find out in your bank/credit card statement.
Their old pricing was far less confusing so it’s a shame they changed it in 2022. And it’s a shame they handled customer complaints on Facebook so badly.
Their new pricing structure is not very clear. And even on the $999/month plan you are limited to 500 reports across their tools.
How does this compare to Semrush? Well, Semrush will give you 3,000 reports per day on the lowest plan. And that limit increases on higher plans.
This means you get far more value. In fact, you get around 180x more searches from Semrush each month. Yes, that’s insane!
Ahrefs review: pros and cons
At this point, you already know what Ahrefs can and can’t do as we went through each of its features. But to break it down for you, below are the pros and cons of this SEO tool.
Pros of Ahrefs
- Large databases of backlinks and keywords.
- Site Explorer feature makes competitive research easy.
- All-in-one SEO tool.
- Responsive support team.
- Proprietary search metrics such as Domain Rating (DR).
- Keyword research tool shows traffic potential
- Keyword research tool supports Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, and more.
- Content Explorer tool offers a wealth of content research opportunities
- You can use some parts of the tool for free if you verify your sites (note: if you verify sites via Google Search Console, it’s unclear whether Ahrefs will use your data within their tool).
Cons of Ahrefs
- Extremely limited report allowance. You could be on the $999/month plan and only get 500 reports per month. Lowest Semrush plan offers 3000 daily reports.
- If you use up your report credits, you will be billed more money automatically and without warning.
- Reports are used up quickly and it’s not entirely obvious when you’re using them up. Combined with their approach of billing overages without warning, this can make for some nasty surprises.
- No free trial is offered for their paid plans.
- Rank tracking is only weekly by default. You can check rankings quicker but you’ll need to pay extra.
- Site auditor can only be used for sites added as projects.
- We have experienced issues with the app crashing, sluggish performance, and issues with old links being reported as new links.
- Ahrefs generally don’t seem too concerned about customer feedback when they make changes people don’t like.
- The new version of Ahrefs’ toolbar causes sluggish browser performance in Google Chrome. Some users may not notice this but for others, it will be quite noticeable.
Ahrefs review verdict
On features alone, Ahrefs is one of the leading SEO tools on the market.
But you’ll pay a lot more for when compared to other platforms.
The quality of data is good. They have a huge backlink and keyword database. However, the restrictions on their plans make the tool extremely expensive. Particularly when compared to Semrush.
Ahrefs offers 500 monthly reports across all accounts. The lowest Semrush plan offers 3000 daily reports.
And if you use your monthly reports, Ahrefs will bill you overages automatically.
While larger businesses can absorb the costs, these changes don’t make sense for freelancers, solopreneurs, content creators, and small businesses.
And it’s worth noting that if you have a team using Ahrefs, it’s now quite difficult to manage cost overrun.
Due to Ahrefs change in billing practices, I cannot recommend the tool.
As you can see in this Ahrefs review, the platform has a lot to offer but its pricing makes it extremely expensive.
We’ve written an article on the best Ahrefs alternatives. But here are some of our favorite options:
When people leave Ahrefs, this is the tool most users consider first. While the lowest Semrush plan may appear to be more expensive than Ahrefs, you get a lot more reports. And a lot more clarity into their billing practices.
SE Ranking is the best Ahrefs alternative for those who are on a budget. While most people think of SE Ranking as a rank tracking tool, it’s actually a full-featured SEO tool.
It includes a substantial database of backlinks and keywords. There’s a site auditor, on-page checker, keyword research tools, and more. There’s also a report builder.
SE Ranking is also affordable for agencies and those with large numbers of projects.
Serpstat is an all-in-one SEO tool that has made significant improvements to their platform.
It includes a large number of features. It has a solid database of backlinks and keywords that have grown significantly in recent years. And you get a lot for your money.