Ahrefs vs SEMrush is quite possibly the biggest matchup in the SEO community. As far as SEO tools go, these are the industry leaders. So users often wonder which tool is better.
SEO experts might have figured out which works best for them. But if you’re a beginner, you’d have no clue what SEMrush and Ahrefs can do.
We’re here to help with that.
In this post, we’ll go over the features, pricing, advantages, and disadvantages of both Ahrefs and SEMrush. This should give you a better picture of which SEO tool is right for your business.
SEMrush Overview: What Is SEMrush?
SEMrush is touted as one of the best SEO research tools in the market today. It’s packed with all the features that any entrepreneur would need to launch a website or blog on top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The company started in 2008 and has enjoyed continuous growth since. And while it first focused on helping its users become more visible on search engines, it has since expanded its services to cover other online channels like social media.
As a premium SEO tool, SEMrush does more than just provide you with tools to boost your online presence. It’s committed to giving you knowledge on how you can go about doing so.
Its website is chock-full of resource materials including blog posts, ebooks, a help center, webinars, and even a podcast. There’s even an academy where you can learn useful SEO skills.
SEMrush clients include companies like Quora, Walmart, Forbes, and other heavy-hitters.
SEMrush is true to its word when it says that it’s an all-in-one SEO tool. It has keyword research features. You get a backlink analysis tool. You can perform position tracking. It comes with a link building tool as well. Basically, it has everything you’ll need to optimize your website for search engines.
Let’s go into the specifics of what SEMrush has to offer.
The keyword research tools offered by SEMrush gives you a chance to discover new words and phrases. You’ll need this if you want to rank for the same terms as your competitors.
Under Keyword Research, you’ll find different tools to help you meet your objectives.
The Keyword Overview tool is a quick way to run an analysis of your keyword list, giving you instant access to metrics, trends, and paid search performance.
With this keyword research tool, you’ll have a better understanding of a keyword’s value in search results. Metrics include keyword search volume, cost-per-click (CPC), top-ranking pages, ad copy, keyword difficulty, and competition in paid search.
So whether you’re doing research for organic or paid search, SEMrush has you covered.
The tool can also gather phrases and related keywords. It’s fantastic for users who want search term alternatives to the ones they already have.
Organic Research is a tool that tells you which keywords work best for your competitors.
It’s a competitor research tool that explores what keywords work in a given niche. It provides a breakdown of all the site rankings in Google’s top 100. It allows you to see just who your competitors are and what terms drive the most traffic to their websites.
The Overview Report section shows any domain’s keyword usage and traffic. As with Keyword Overview, there are metrics to help you assess a keyword’s value. You can then use Positions Report to see where a domain ranks for the search terms it ranks for.
The Position Changes report tells you if there are substantial changes to the ranking position of your competitors. You can check both your competitors’ pages and subdomains.
The whole idea behind this tool is for you to learn what works for your competitors and apply them to your own domain to improve your chances of ranking higher in the search results.
Keyword Magic Tool
When it comes to keyword research, the Keyword Magic Tool is no slouch. It’s a keyword discovery tool that gathers suggestions from one of the biggest databases in the world. This results in millions of search terms.
Having analysis tools like the Keyword Magic Tool lets you grow your keyword list to include words and phrases you may not have even heard of.
All you need to do is enter a seed term in the search bar. Just below the search bar, you’ll find filter options you can use to refine your search. That way, you only get the results that you need.
You get all kinds of results that SEMrush categorizes to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. Some are in the form of questions while others are filtered by relevance. You can specify which region you want SEMrush to gather data from.
Keyword Gap takes competitor analysis to another level. Here, you can compare a number of domains (up to five) and see how they stack up against each other. This is a great tool to have especially if you’re an agency that wants to show clients how their keyword profile stands against the competition.
You’ll be able to compare your keywords side-by-side with them and see organic or paid keyword opportunities you may have missed. Users can even see a competitor domain’s unique keywords.
The Keyword Overlap feature makes it easier to visualize how many target keywords you have in common with the competition.
All of these keyword research features should help you start and maintain your keyword strategy.
Performing technical SEO without the right SEO tool borders on the impossible. But it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using SEMrush.
With SEMrush’s technical SEO tools, you can perform site audits, check your on-page SEO, analyze your log files, and more.
With the Site Audit tool, you can create an SEO checklist that breaks down all the issues that your domain faces.
Through this tool, you can not only see the number of problems you have to fix, but you’ll also learn how to fix them. You can address crawlability concerns, slow page load times, incorrect internal linking among other SEO concerns.
On-Page SEO Checker
The On-Page SEO Check dives into page-specific errors that prevent a page from ranking higher on a search engine.
But this tool goes beyond technical SEO problems. It can also give you strategy and backlink ideas to improve your page.
You’ll see if your site has any issues regarding broken links, HTTP status code errors, crawling issues, and problems with the robots.txt file.
Our suggestion is to start working on critical issues as soon as you get them. Any problem that’s not labeled as urgent can wait.
Also, don’t forget to check out the SEMrush Internal Link Distribution report. This will let you know if your internal linking strategy is still optimal. The ideal setup is for high-value pages to link to lower-value pages. It shouldn’t be the other way around. That way, Google’s link equity will always flow in the right direction.
Log File Analyzer
The Log File Analyzer is one of those unique features that add more value to an SEO tool. It helps users understand how Google crawls your pages and checks for status codes.
This feature might not be for everyone but it’s nice to know that it’s there should you need it.
SEMrush includes backlink analysis to its list of SEO features. This makes it easier to come up with an effective link building strategy for your business.
Backlink Audit Tool
When you get backlinks from suspicious websites, it will do you more harm than good. It will result in search engines penalizing your domain. But with the SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool, you will see which backlink sources you should disavow and which ones you should retain.
This tool also allows you to find new and lost backlinks. If you notice high-authority referring domains remove backlinks pointing to your website, you can get in touch with them and ask that they reconsider.
If you really want to perform backlink analysis, then the Backlink Analytics tool is what you need. SEMrush provides useful metrics that give you all the backlink information you’ll need.
You get to filter out the results that don’t meet your requirements and measure just how powerful the linking domains are. And if you find new domains with potential, you can add them to your list of link building opportunities.
Backlink Gap Analysis
This tool works the same way as Keyword Gap. Only this time, you can look up new link building prospects.
And if you need a huge number of backlink opportunities, you can use the Bulk Backlink Analysis feature.
Link Building Tool
This tool combines most of the features above and lets you start a campaign from scratch.
But one of its neatest features is that you can get information about any prospect you add to the list including their contact details. This makes it easier to reach out to all your link building leads and track your progress.
SEMrush is also full of optimization tools for local SEO. The Listing Management tool, for example, submits your business information to local directories so you rank on search engines for localized queries.
The Position Tracking tool compares your search rankings to your local competitors. It tells you where your pages are in the SERPs and if you’ve gone up or down the rankings.
Position Tracking also informs you of your rankings in the paid results from Google Ads. And if you don’t know who your local competitors are, SEMrush will do a great job of giving you an idea.
SEMrush competitor analysis tools are there to warn you of domains that want to outrank you on search engines. This section combines tools that we’ve mentioned earlier like the Backlink and Keyword Gap, Organic Research, and Backlink Analytics.
In a way, Competitor Analysis is a one-stop-shop for competitor research.
If you’re running an agency, you’d appreciate the My Reports Tool. Here you can create reports from scratch to present to your clients.
And if you opt to include white label reporting in your SEMrush plan, you can customize reports to remove SEMrush branding and replace it with your own.
The Market Explorer tool is also worth checking out. When you enter a competitor domain, SEMrush will reveal a list of related domains. It tells you who your competitors are and tracks their movement.
All your online marketing efforts will amount to nothing if you don’t have rank tracking tools. And yes, SEMrush does come with a rank tracker. In fact, SEMrush’s rank tracker is one of the better ones out there.
The Position Tracking feature lets you follow your progress on search engines. It checks if your pages rank for the keywords that you’re targeting. It’s the same rank tracker feature mentioned earlier for local SEO. Only this time, you’re covering a lot more ground.
This tool is so good, it can even track your rankings based on the device used and user location.
And the best part about it is that SEMrush updates the rankings daily. So you’re always working with the most recent data. Ahrefs updates their tracked keywords regularly as well but they only do so once or twice a week. That’s not the ideal scenario.
One of the other unique features that SEMrush offers is content optimization. While there are other tools out there that can do most of the same tasks, it’s not that common to see content optimization tools come bundled with all-in-one SEO tools.
SEMrush Content Marketing Tools have a number of features that let you improve your writing and optimize it for search engines.
It covers topic research, content planning, and brand monitoring. There’s even a writing assistant that scores your content based on originality, readability, and tone.
The Content Audit Tool can scan your website to find content under certain criteria. This effectively automates your content audit, eliminating the need for manual quality checks.
You can analyze up to 20,000 pages at once and see which of your live pages are not cutting it.
So far, we’ve looked at SEMrush as an SEO research tool. But it’s still capable of so much more.
We haven’t even mentioned its social media marketing features. And there are also tools for market research and advertising.
SEMrush covers every need that might come up as you tweak your marketing campaign. That’s why many marketers consider SEMrush to be one of the best tools for its price.
SEMrush is a bargain when you consider what comes included with every subscription.
The base plan, which is Pro, is $99.95 per month and is a great option for freelancers and small businesses. Next up is Guru at $199.95 per month. And for large companies and agencies, you have the Business plan which is $399.95 per month.
You can sign up for a custom plan (Enterprise) if you have very specific needs.
There is a 7-day free trial option even though it’s not explicitly mentioned on the site. Once your 7 days are up, your free trial will convert automatically into a paid subscription.
That about covers SEMrush. But what about Ahrefs? Can it compete with everything SEMrush has got going on?
Is this Ahrefs vs SEMrush battle as good as over?
Not quite. Now, let’s take a look at how Ahrefs compares.
Ahrefs Overview: What Is Ahrefs?
Ahrefs, just like SEMrush, is an all-in-one SEO tool. While it’s known for many features, its crowning achievement is Site Explorer which we’ll talk about in detail later.
The site is famous for its link database. Its backlink index alone is in the trillions (internal and external backlinks). There are over 11 billion keywords waiting for you as well — and that number continues to grow over time.
So it’s no surprise that big brands trust Ahrefs with their marketing. Its clients include Facebook, Netflix, eBay, Adobe, and LinkedIn.
Like SEMrush, Ahrefs also has resources available for its users. You have the SEO blog, Ahrefs Help Center, Ahrefs Academy, and the Ahrefs YouTube channel.
You can split Ahrefs’ research tools into five categories: Site Explorer, Keywords Explorer, Site Audit, Rank Tracker, and Content Explorer.
Combined, all of these should help you reach the very top of any search engine.
Let’s explore what each tool does and how it can help your website.
Note: If you’re in the Ahrefs dashboard area and something isn’t clear, there’s a tooltip helper tool available. Just hover your cursor over the item in question and you’ll get a brief explanation of what the item is for.
Site Explorer is Ahrefs’ tool for looking at organic search traffic as well as the backlink profile of any website, whether yours or your competition.
When you research organic traffic, you’ll see what keywords a website ranks for and an estimate of how much traffic those keywords generate.
Ahrefs has over 150 million keywords in the US alone. That number is more than enough to give you an idea of how well a site performs in the search results.
But more than that, this tool has its own version of SEMrush’s Position Tracking Tool. Ahrefs lets you monitor keywords in the search results and lets you know if your ranking pages have gone up or down the SERPs.
It also lets you know what your top pages, subfolders, and subdomains are. You get to see a list of competing domains and pages too.
The Backlink Profile section shows you the number of backlinks that point to your website.
We’ve mentioned before that Ahrefs’ link database is in the trillions. So no matter what your niche is, you’re bound to find new words and phrases to target. It’s one of the best keyword analysis tools in the SEO market.
Just enter a website in the search field and watch Ahrefs do its magic.
And it doesn’t stop there. You can use this tool to find new and lost backlinks, review all the referring domains, see broken backlinks, look at the anchor texts used, and more.
Ahrefs has a number of unique features too. Its filter options are widely praised as you can really narrow down the results. You can filter by link type, platform, language, and traffic. And you can enter words or phrases to include or exclude from the results. Not all SEO platforms have these options.
And just like organic keywords, you can also review paid keywords. This reveals keywords with the highest keyword volume, keyword density, CPC, traffic, and other metrics that are useful for research.
Not only does it tell you the best paid keywords, but you also get to see the top ads and landing pages.
The Pages section of Site Explorer documents pages with the most backlinks for the website you entered.
Use this information to see what kind of content your competition publishes to rank in the SERPs. These analysis tools are what you need if you want to revamp your website to reflect what your shared audience expects to find when they enter queries on Google.
Of course, you can use the same information to research outbound links.
If you want to improve your keyword rankings, you can rely on the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer to guide you toward success.
Keyword Explorer is a keyword research tool that gives you plenty of ideas to rank for. Keyword research tools like this one are vital for site optimization.
Does this have any sort of unique features that you won’t find elsewhere? Sort of.
When you take into account that Ahrefs has billions of keywords in its database, supports results for 171 countries, and provides keywords for specific search platforms including Amazon, YouTube, and even Baidu, then it’s hard to leave unimpressed.
That last point is important. At some point, you’re going to want to launch campaigns for search platforms other than Google. If you’re going to expand to publishing videos on YouTube, for example, then you’d want to know what keywords you should use over there so that your videos rank.
And for those who have Amazon listings, then you know how rough the competition can be. This is especially true for those who are in a competitive niche. But having access to the right keywords can push you to the top.
Ahrefs also displays the keyword difficulty score of suggested keywords. This makes it easier to identify terms that are not as easy to rank for on the SERPs. You’ll also see the search volume of the keywords.
Both keyword difficulty and search volume are important. It will dictate which keywords are worth pursuing. Without search volume, you might end up prioritizing words and phrases that people barely search for.
The Clicks metric is also special. Ahrefs claims to be the only SEO tool that tells you the estimated clicks that a keyword generates.
You can save your keywords on a list. From there, you can access the SERP overview and position history of your selected keywords.
And just like SEMrush, Ahrefs also categorizes its keyword suggestions. You have Phrase Match, Having Same Terms, Also Rank For, Search Suggestions, Newly Discovered, and Questions.
Don’t forget about Ahrefs’ powerful filtering system which you can also enjoy while using Keyword Explorer. For example, you can set the tool to only display keywords that have a specific keyword difficulty.
Site Audit is Ahrefs’ on-page SEO checker feature. It has tools to help you optimize your pages and outrank your competitors on Google.
Ahrefs Site Audit handles technical SEO pretty well. SEMrush and Ahrefs aren’t so different in this department. For starters, Ahrefs also has a crawl log (called Log File Analyzer in SEMrush).
Ahrefs gives you an overview of your site and tells you if there are problems that you need to address. And yes, it too will tell you how to fix these errors.
There are over 100 items in Ahrefs’ checklist. So Ahrefs covers a lot of ground when it looks for potential problems in your site. These include slow load times, missing or duplicate meta tags, poor content quality, and problematic inbound and outbound links. It makes sure that there’s nothing wrong with your site structure.
Ahrefs can even crawl a mobile website.
The Site Structure feature is also neat. It will tell you just how deep all of your pages are from the homepage. The idea is for you to make your pages to be as close to your homepage as possible. The deeper they are, the less they contribute to your overall SEO health.
Site Structure simplifies the process. With it, you have a visual aid that demonstrates where your pages are and where they need to be.
With Ahrefs rank tracking tools, you can monitor your page performance on Google. So if you try to rank for terms with low keyword difficulty, you can immediately see if you’ve outranked your competitors. The same goes if you’ve targeted keywords with high keyword difficulty.
Rank tracking can also do other things for you.
You can use rank tracking to compare your keyword performance on desktop and mobile devices. There’s also a section that lets you see if your site ranks for Google SERP features like the Featured Snippet, Knowledge Panel, and People Also Ask.
Rank Tracking is also one of Ahrefs’ competitor analysis tools. You can check how your site performs against competitors. Not only that, but you’ll also receive automatic reports on your ranking progress, search traffic, and SERP features.
This type of competitor research tells you if there’s a need to pivot to another marketing strategy to outrank your competitors.
Keyword research and backlinks aren’t the only SEO factors you should concern yourself with. You also need to focus on content marketing for your site.
Lucky for you, Ahrefs has tools that are specifically designed for content marketing.
Content Explorer is one of those SEO tools that are simply underrated. It lets users research over a billion pages to discover the most popular content for a given niche.
All you need is to enter a topic. When you do, Ahrefs will return the top pages related to it. It will also display metrics including domain rating, referring domains, organic traffic, and social media shares (Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest).
If your competitor research shows that your rivals’ content outperforms you in the SERPs, you can use Content Explorer to tweak your SEO content marketing strategy so you can get right back on track.
Again, we have to mention that Ahrefs offers lots of filter options to help you refine the results. You can display pages based on their publication date, if they’re republished or not, the language, social shares, referring domains, organic traffic, and more.
You can even use these tools to find broken link building opportunities.
Ahrefs offers more pricing tiers but roughly costs the same as SEMrush. The Lite plan is $99 per month. The Standard plan is $179 per month. The Advanced plan is $399 per month and the Agency plan is $999 per month.
Unfortunately, there is no free trial available. If you want to give Ahrefs a go, you can pay $7 for a 7-day run (renews at $99 or $179 per month depending on what plan you chose).
The closest you could come to a free trial is through the free tools that Ahrefs offers on their site. These tools work just like the paid version but they can only be used for your own sites. So at least you’ll get a feel for what using Ahrefs is like.
Ahrefs vs SEMrush: How Are They Similar?
Whether you’re thinking about subscribing to Ahrefs or SEMrush, there’s no denying that these two tools have a lot of similarities. So if you’re only after the tools and features mentioned below, the decision shouldn’t be that difficult.
Similarity #1: Ahrefs and SEMrush Cover All the SEO Basics
The whole SEMrush vs Ahrefs debate is kinda moot if all you need are tools for keyword research, link assessment, local SEO, on-page SEO, and content management. Both Ahrefs and SEMrush excel at these things.
Similarity #2: Ahrefs and SEMrush Are Available at Around the Same Price
As far as pricing goes, Ahrefs and SEMrush aren’t that far apart. Of course, that doesn’t mean you get the same features and perks. Ahrefs and SEMrush both have a habit of introducing add-ons to unlock certain tools. So not everything is available right out the gate.
But out of these two tools, only SEMrush has a customizable plan. So if you’re a company with specific requirements, SEMrush is your best bet.
Similarity #3: Ahrefs and SEMrush Have Large Databases
Sure, these two tools don’t produce equal numbers. When you look up keyword suggestions, for example, one of them will come up with a higher number than the other. But when you compare Ahrefs or SEMrush to other SEO tools, you’ll learn just how extensive their respective databases are.
SEMrush vs Ahrefs: How Are They Different?
Seeing how different Ahrefs and SEMrush are from each other might convince you of which tool is better for your needs.
So let’s go right ahead and list down all the strengths and weaknesses of Ahrefs and SEMrush.
|Tools||While most of the tools available on Ahrefs are also on SEMrush, this product offers Content Explorer.||SEMrush has PPC tools that can help users with their SEM campaigns. Ahrefs focuses more on SEO.|
|Users||Depending on the plan you go with, you can have anywhere between 1 to 5 users. Additional user access will cost you $30 per user.||All SEMrush plans only come with access for 1 user. Depending on the plan, additional users will cost you $70 or $140 per user.|
|Projects||You can work on unlimited verified projects. Depending on the plan, you can have anywhere between 1 to 100 non-verified projects. If you need to add additional non-verified projects, that’ll cost you $10 per project.||Depending on the plan, you can have anywhere between 1 to 25 projects. This is considerably lower than what Ahrefs offers.|
|White Label Reports||Ahrefs does not allow users to white label their reports.||SEMrush does have white label reporting features. However, you’ll have to pay an additional $100 per month to use it.|
|Historical Data||Ahrefs’ historical data goes all the way back to 2013.||SEMrush’s historical data goes all the way back to 2012.|
|Content||Ahrefs does not have tools that detect content quality.||SEMrush can check your content to see if it meets SEO best practices. For example, it can check if your content is plagiarized or not.|
|Pages Crawled per Month||Depending on the plan, the maximum amount of pages you can crawl per month is anywhere between 10,000 and 2.5 million.|
Additional crawl credits are available at $50 per 500,000.
|Depending on the plan, the maximum amount of pages you can crawl per month is anywhere between 100,000 and 1 million.|
|Pricing||Appears cheaper until you look at the number of reports. 100 monthly reports on all accounts, even their $999/month plans. It’s easy to burn through all these reports quickly. And they now bill for overages without warning.||Their lowest plan is slightly more expensive but offers 3,000 daily reports. So you can get 90x more searches each month compared to Ahrefs.|
What’s Better About Ahrefs?
Given everything we’ve learned so far, let’s talk about what makes Ahrefs a great option.
- Keyword Research — If your main (or only) goal is to do keyword research and you’re stuck between Ahrefs and SEMrush, you might want to pick Ahrefs. With its big database, you’re bound to find lots and lots of suggestions for your next campaign.
- Collaboration — Ahrefs doesn’t give you a lot of user access. But it’s a whole lot better than SEMrush’s one-user-per-plan approach. Plus, additional users on Ahrefs only cost $30 per user. Adding more users on SEMrush will cost $70 or $140 per month depending on what plan you chose.
- User Interface — Ahrefs gets a slight edge as far as user interface goes. It’s really slick and intuitive. Even beginners won’t have any trouble figuring things out. After a few minutes, they shouldn’t have any trouble navigating through the site.
- Filter Options — Anyone who’s experienced Ahrefs’ filter options knows just how easy it is to find the exact information that they’re looking for. If you’re the kind of person who really likes going over the numbers, Ahrefs is a great fit for you.
What’s Better About SEMrush?
- Backlink Research — SEMrush’s backlink research tool delivers excellent results. However, Ahrefs isn’t that far behind. When you’re comparing two of the best SEO tools, you can’t help but hesitate. They’re both good, to be honest.
- Content Publishing — Not only can you check if your content does great on Google, but can you also check the quality of your content before it even goes live. This is a nice feature to have especially if you’re working with a content team.
- Social Media — SEMrush is also great for those of you who have to track your presence on social media. There are many SEMrush features that make it so easy to gauge how popular your brand is on social platforms.
- White Label — As mentioned earlier, Ahrefs does not support white label reporting. SEMrush at least offers this feature as an add-on. Agencies need this feature because they have to regularly update all their clients. White label reporting makes it more convenient.
- Pricing — At first glance, Ahrefs looks cheaper but it’s actually far more expensive. All Ahrefs plans get 100 monthly reports and there’s not much clarity as to how these reports work. SEMrush offers 3,000 daily reports on the lowest plan.
Who Should Get Ahrefs?
While Ahrefs has a solid tool from a functionality perspective, their are significant issues with their pricing.
You should only get Ahrefs if you don’t mind low resource limits and getting billed for overages without warning.
In 2022 they changed their pricing plan so new customers get 100 monthly reports (SEMrush offers 3,000 per day), and they started charging for overages without warning.
Due to these shady business practices, we no longer recommend Ahrefs.
Who Should Get SEMrush?
SEMrush is great for any organization that has plans on expanding its SEO team to include content creators, social media experts, search engine marketers, and public relations.
This product has everything you’ll need to develop a full marketing campaign.
And because you can do white label reports on SEMrush, it’s a natural fit for SEO agencies that have a lot of clients.