When it comes to finding the best SEO tools out there, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the two fan favourites of SEMrush and Ahrefs.
Both of these SEO website trackers offer some of the most in-depth insights into your website’s performance, competitor analysis and much more. Whether you’re looking to gauge how well your site’s doing in your specific region, on a global scale or in relation to a competitors website, these tools have you covered.
To add, they even offer a suite of specific features that will allow you to improve your existing keyword performance and marketing campaigns to improve website traffic, audience retention and more.
In this article we’ll take a look at SEMrush vs Ahrefs and go over some of the best features on offer by the two. We’ll also take a look at some of the standout unique features you can use on these SEO tools and why one might be better for you.
What We’ll Take a Look At
We’ll be comparing SEMrush and Ahrefs by going over the following:
- Primary Keyword Features
- Backlink Analysis Tools
- Key SEO Tools or Technical Tools
- Value and Cost
- Essential Features
- General Feature Comparisons
All that said, let’s take a look below at SEMrush vs Ahrefs.
Introducing SEMrush and Ahrefs
To kick off our comparison, we’ll first take a quick look at what both of these SEO tools are and a little about what they offer.
As you may already know, SEMrush is one of the most popular SEO tools in the world today down to the fact it offers just about more indexed data than anything else.
The platform also comes with a myriad of features that allows users to take a deep look into rival website metrics, develop campaigns and adjust content to better compete on search engines.
To add, if you’re looking to improve rankings for a specific keyword, or you’re not too sure which keywords to use to beat our your competitors, SEMrush will simply tell you front and centre what these terms are.
Keep in mind that SEMrush did start out as a keyword research toolset, which means that this is the company’s strong point, however, a lot has changed over the past few years and we’re happy to say there’s a tonne more on offer.
You’ll find everything from;
- Content optimisation tools and suggestions
- Competitor PPC analysis
- Traffic source detection
- Log file analysis
- And a tonne more.
You’ll also find that SEMrush now features a link analysis feature, which helps the tool stand out a little more. Ahrefs does offer this, though SEMrush’s feature is a lot better at the moment.
When it comes to Ahrefs, the feature set is quite similar, though it is primarily developed to be a backlink analysis service.
Over the past couple of years, however, the tool has been majorly overhauled to offer just about everything SEMrush does, which means you’re going to find it quite tough to choose between the two.
To add, Ahrefs was only a link-focused tool. That said, the service is outstanding when it comes to link-related insights and analysis.
You’ll find a few features such as:
- Technical SEO features
- The ability to track ranks
- Analysis of competitor keywords
- Analysis and research of keywords
- A website audit feature
All that said, it can be a little tricky to choose between SEMrush and Ahrefs if you’re new to the SEO game or aren’t too sure about what you’ll be using these tools for.
That out of the way, let’s take a look at our comparison between the two and whether you should choose SEMrush vs Ahrefs.
Primary Keyword Features
Of course, one of the biggest features you’ll be looking for is the ability to research and analyse keywords for your website.
When it comes to keyword research, we dove into both of the features and tools available on each of these platforms and determined which gave us the best insights.
On the Ahrefs platform, you can rely on two specific tools for your keyword research, the Organic Keywords tool, and the Keyword Explorer.
Both of these are great toolsets and will offer up some pretty integral information when it comes to getting your hands on some essential keywords for campaigns and content development.
Let’s take a look at how these tools are used.
To keep things simple, the Keyword Explorer is just a simple keyword tool which will give you the power to choose a keyword, and have a list or a catalogue of different ideas thrown at you relating to this keyword.
You’ll also see a few metrics on search volume here, but also some insights on the clicks you could garner if you do turn out to rank for that specific keyword or phrase on your website.
A second great perk of the Keyword Explorer is that you’ll have the chance to tap the ‘Expand’ button on your results and see a tonne of different ideas for your keywords which will assist in making your life a lot easier when it comes to getting your hands on some organic keywords to boost web traffic.
To end, there’s also the competitor-focused tools which allow you to choose a competitor and reverse engineer their own keywords and download an organic keywords sheet. Fantastic for those looking to get the edge on their rivals.
Moving on to SEMrush now, and you’ll find that their feature is quite similar, though SEMrush might have a tool that’s a bit more comprehensive than Ahrefs.
We’re happy to say that SEMrush keeps their keyword features simple and easy to use even though there’s a tonne of data being shown here, which means it’s all glanceable and easy to understand — there’s no time wasted trying to decipher what’s going on here.
It’s also good to note that SEMrush will offer up a tonne more information on keyword data in the downloadable report, which is the better option for marketers who really need the most out of their search.
Ahrefs isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not able to match the detail offered in the SEMrush report.
Where Ahrefs offers up search volume and competitor terms, SEMrush gives you all of this data per-term, and you’re also getting trend lines, result counts and more. That said, if you’re interested in deep insights, SEMrush is our winner here.
One thing to note is that SEMrush’s level of detail can be its downfall in that there can be a little too much clutter in the user interface when you do go down the rabbit hole looking for keyword data — there’s a lot going on here.
In all, SEMrush is our top choice when it comes to keyword analysis as you’re going to be getting a lot more insight here, all in one window. The visual clutter may be an issue, however, we’d say it’s more efficient to have everything in one area rather than spread across a few pages.
SEMrush’s Standard Keyword Tools
With the more technical tool out of the way, there is also a standard keyword research tool on offer too, for those times you don’t need an ultra-complicated and data-rich analysis.
This tool is essentially going to offer up information on volume and competition based on that keyword. You’ll be shown a quick, simple list based upon the keywords you’ve input into the search bar and that’s about it.
In all, we’re going to place SEMrush above Ahrefs in the keyword research topic in that you’re going to have a lot more insight here and going to be able to make more educated and calculated decisions when it comes to marketing and Google Ad campaigns.
For the agencies out there, SEMrush gives you the power to see PPC and SEO insights at the same time, which is going to help tremendously.
Ahrefs does come quite close here, though SEMrush takes the crown by a few points.
Backlink Analysis Tools
Following on from keyword research, backlink analysis tools were another essential feature that we took a look at.
The good news is that both of these SEO tools offer excellent backlink analysis tools and we’re hard pressed to find one better than the other. From the outset you’re able to get data on just about everything related to backlinks, and the index sizes were quite similar, give or take a few thousand.
SEMrush vs Ahrefs Backlink Tests
When we tested the SEMrush and Ahrefs backlink tools, there wasn’t too much difference in the power of the tools and the results offered up, however, when it came to total backlinks SEMrush did often come out on top.
As an example, Ahrefs came up with around 17,000 backlinks from testing, where SEMrush coughed up 19,000 from the same domain. Not too big of a difference, though there still certainly was one.
As for total backlinks, things were a little different. Ahrefs provided information on 54,000 backlinks whereas SEMrush came back with more than 714,000.
These results tell us that SEMrush’s index is a load larger than Ahrefs, which might make this tool a little more of a standout for you depending on how important your back linking operations are.
The User Interface
As we’re sure you’ll agree, there’s more to just backlink information when it comes to the backlink search. And on the SEMrush vs Ahrefs platforms, you’re going to notice one potentially big difference — the UX.
On SEMrush, we’re routinely noticing that there’s a downfall when it comes to what the interface looks like.
On Ahrefs, you’re able to simply click on your backlink and get a tonne of data, of course, though you can also simply see a preview of all the insights around the backlink itself without needing to click, and click, and click to find it — a massive plus for us.
That in mind, if you’re looking for a good pairing between time saving and data insights, Ahrefs might take the cake for you.
On top of this, Ahrefs is our top choice if you’re wanting to find out why websites are linking to specific pages, rather than just the fact that they are. SEMrush is a little too cluttered to find this information easily, and so Ahrefs is a winner here.
In all, Ahrefs was the stand out down to the user interface experience whereas SEMrush did have a much larger index and offered up just a tad more data on backlinks than Ahrefs did.
We can’t really choose a winner here when comparing the two as both offer a great backlink experience. What we will say though, is that SEMrush is a little more complicated and Ahrefs just makes your life easier.
Key SEO Tools or Technical Tools
Another integral tool we needed to take a look into were the technical analysis tools for SEO. These were the tools we found imperative to finding issues with a website or SEO problems in particular.
It’s good to note that both of these SEO tools did excellent here, though one was better at identifying areas of opportunity than the other.
If you’ve ever used an SEO tool before, these technical tools are generally the ones that will give you a ‘Site Health’ or ‘SEO Health’ indicator and guide you to fixing the issues that give you this score.
A great SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs should offer up this score accurately, but also give you plenty of information on how to improve your score.
Technical Tools on Ahrefs
To start things off, Ahrefs outlined the website we used in testing to have a score of around 80 per cent with regards to SEO health.
This was a great start as it offered up what we’d say is a rather accurate assessment, though where Ahrefs went a little beyond was outlining the issues that could or were causing these score issues.
It outlined that there were hundreds of pages on the website which weren’t being indexed.
Typically this is a great feature to have, and a good insight for website owners and marketers, however, we’d like to point out that these pages were intentionally left not indexed.
That in mind, these pages may skew the actual SEO health result unless they can be manually removed from the SEO score assessment.
When it came to issues that were true issues, we were given information on slow load times, issues such as meta descriptions lacking keywords and other general SEO problems. This was a welcomed insight.
As you’ll agree, these are good issues to be made aware of, and Ahrefs did do a good job of finding these.
A New Feature
Added recently is a new feature Ahrefs is touting as a Site Structure metric, which is also being baked into the technical SEO tools.
This tool is designed to give you some insight into the architecture of your website, which also affects how Google and other search engines rank your site.
If Ahrefs notices that your website is rather ‘deep’ or doesn’t have a simple-to-analyse structure, you’re going to have a poor ranking.
To keep things simple, all websites should do their best to keep their architecture as ‘flat’ as possible and you’ll be on the way to a better SEO ranking.
That said, Ahrefs offers points in your current site structure and how to improve it.
Technical Tools on SEMrush
To SEMrush now, and the website auditing and assessment features here are fantastic when compared to Ahrefs.
You’re getting a health score as is also provided with Ahrefs and you’re going to see plenty of insights on how SEO-strong your website is and whether there are any major avenues that need to be dealt with.
Unlike Ahrefs, which only shows a few problematic SEO issues, SEMrush offers up much more, that includes everything from link issues, crawling problems and even robots.txt problems. A few of the SEO assessment issues you’ll find are:
- Crawl Errors
- Link Errors or Broken Links
- Status Code Errors relating to HTTP
- txt Issues
On the SEMrush platform you’ll also be given an outline of all the issues that you should look to work on immediately to get your website ranking improved. Ahrefs doesn’t offer this feature either.
In all, SEMrush does offer the tools needed to feel confident and guided into improving your SEO, whereas Ahrefs is more on the DIY side of things when it comes to knowing where to start.
The Internal Link Distribution Tool
One key tool we’d like to highlight is the special internal link distribution insight that SEMrush provides.
You’ll be given a report or an insight sheet into your internal website links and how well they’re performing from an SEO standpoint. This will mean you have the chance to see which of your high-authority pages are linked to lower authority pages and so on. With this data you can work to improve page authority across your website.
To add, sometimes a website’s authority flow is off which can affect how optimised a site is, and SEMrush gives you the tools to rectify this, something that almost no other tool offers.
In all, we’re going to put SEMrush at the top of the ladder in the SEO assessment category simply because of the more in-depth tool sets the platform offers. Ahrefs, again, is in no way a poor performer, though SEMrush just offers a suite of tools that are incredibly useful and can guide you to pulling a website’s rankings out of the gutter without too much trouble.
Rank Tracking Tools
To start, we’re glad to say both of these platforms offer rank tracking features, which means you’re able to keep a close eye on how your website is performing on the search engines.
It’s also good to note that these rank tracking tools make it easy to see how your site is performing following changes you’ve made based on SEMrush of Ahrefs suggestions.
That said, let’s have a look at which platform offers the best rank tracking solutions.
Ahrefs Rank Tracking
On the Ahrefs tool you’re going to have a regularly refreshed look at where your website ranks on Google based on the keywords you’re looking to rank for.
You’re able to input the keywords to spot check which are going to work best for you, and Ahrefs results typically matched with what Google was giving back when we ran a search, though that was about all we could find.
In all, Ahrefs does offer some simple rank tracking, and unless you’re on the lookout for an ultra-specific rank tracking tool, Ahrefs will have you covered.
SEMrush Rank Tracking
On the SEMrush platform, you’ll find one of the industry’s most in-depth and accurate trackers.
You’ll see a few tools on offer here, which Ahrefs can’t boast. Which means if you’re after a rank tracking that gives you insights such as the visibility of a website and other metrics, then you’re in better hands on SEMrush than Ahrefs.
One good point to note is that SEMrush does update their keyword tracking backend typically on an everyday basis, which means you’re always getting the most accurate report. This is, again, ideal if you’re looking to make changes and go with trending topics or content, and need a good look at near real-time changes on search engines.
Ahrefs, for example, is a weekly or biweekly updater of keywords.
Those points in mind, SEMrush does take the win here for us as you’re generally getting a better experience when it comes to rank tracking and visibility metrics. For our marketer and agency readers, you’re going to be far better off with SEMrush for these tools.
A routinely updated keyword set is imperative to keeping on top of search engine movements as well as general changes in keyword popularity and importance, and SEMrush ensures you’re getting these.
To end, SEMrush also offers more intriguing and essential features than Ahrefs does.
Customer Support Features
Before we round out our comparison of SEMrush vs Ahrefs, we need to take a look at customer support features and whether you’re in good hands with one of these tools above the other.
Of course, you’re only likely to use these when you have an issue, which means the tool that you find easiest to use could mitigate your reliance on support, though customer support that is responsive is still essential to us.
As you’ll agree, both SEO itself and SEO tools aren’t typically easy to get the hang of — so support is integral.
To test out our support response, we offered up the same questions to both platform’s support teams and reviewed our experience on both. For transparency, our question was related to an SEO-specific question on how data set information was calculated and whether it was from a specific search volume.
Here’s what we found.
Ahrefs Customer Support
The support button on Ahrefs is always located in the bottom right, so we hit that and began asking our question.
Although the button seemingly brought a live chat box, it was just a general query box, however, we did have a response in around 10 minutes. Great news.
We had our question answered quite quickly and were even provided with a link to Ahrefs website to clarify our question further.
A pass with flying colours.
SEMrush Customer Support
On to SEMrush now and we had to do some searching here.
The customer support box is relatively hidden behind a few links and tabs, where you’ll need to search for the Contact Us button. It’s either in a tab, or you’ll find it in the web map at the bottom of the page, in the footer — not ideal.
After you fill out this form, check the box and answer a few queries about the question you want to ask, you can then begin to ask your question.
Our question was answered within 30 minutes and we’re happy to say that it also passed with flying colours. However, the experience to ask the question was certainly not ideal.
To end, we’re going to give the win to Ahrefs here simply down to the fact that the response was quicker and the experience to actually ask the question was a tonne easier, and required just a single click, rather than a trek to find the customer support button.
Our Favourite Unique SEO Feature
With all of the most important and integral SEO features out of the way, we’ll take a look at a few of our favourite secondary or non-essential features of each SEO tool.
Both offer some small tools here that will make your life just a little bit easier and get you on your way to a high SEO ranking a little sooner. Both Ahrefs and SEMrush do offer some nifty little tools, so be sure to make use of these if you do invest in one of these tools.
Ahrefs Unique Tools
Off the top Ahrefs best unique feature is the Content Explorer.
We’d stand by saying that this tool is the best in that you’re going to know a lot more about the content you’re planning on putting out. The tool will give you some insight into what type of content has already been created and whether it performed well in terms of sharing to social media, etc.
There’s also some insight on backlinks and other metrics which will let you know how best to connect this content in order for it to perform ideally on your website.
Ahrefs also boasts plenty of little unique tools that we really enjoy using, such as the link building tools which helps users focus on broken link repair.
Without a doubt, this tool will save you hours and hours when it comes to finding your links that are broken, both internally and externally facing.
SEMrush Unique Tools
When we look at SEMrush, there are a few exciting tools here too.
Of course, there are more features overall here, though the PPC analysis features remain our favourites. You’re able to dive right into your competitor’s websites and see what’s going on and whether you need to adjust or alter your own Google Ads to better succeed in your marketing plan.
There are also SEO features for local businesses looking to capitalise on a specific small region in a city, rather than globally. Again, this is fantastic for businesses looking to beat out the rivals locally, rather than on a far-reaching scale.
To end, we’re going to have to give the win here to SEMrush for the added extra features that truly help with business and growth, above just link building and content creation.
You’re going to have a lot more data and insights here that are actionable and give you the chance to beef up your website and move your pages up the ranks on Google, without doing a whole lot of hard work.
Value and Cost of SEMrush vs Ahrefs
What would a great tool be without a great price?
Of course, the biggest deciding factor is typically the price above the feature set, and so we’re taking a final look at price before we end our review and comparison.
Although we can’t say which of these tools is going to give you the biggest return on investment, however, we can outline which one that we think offers the best value for the tools offered.
For our readers who spend a tonne of time on building links, then the cost of Ahrefs will certainly be a secondary thought when it comes to the amount of time you’ll save.
However, for our agency readers who need plenty of insight for PPC and SEO for clients, then SEMrush is going to be a winner here.
Ahrefs runs from $99 through to $999 per month depending on the plans you choose, which may or may not fall right into the green zone for your business or website.
The Ahrefs $99 plan gives you all of the essentials you’ll need, such as the backlink analysis tools as well as the keyword research tools, which are fantastic. However, you won’t have access to anything like their historical index, which means the features you do get access to are rather cut back.
Our ideal plan for Ahrefs is the $399 per month plan given that you’ll be able to use essentially all of Ahrefs tools here and get a lot of insight with them. The $99 plan is rather reserved with keyword limitations and data restrictions.
SEMrush’s plan is priced from $99 to $399 as well, though there is a customisable option for the larger users out there who need a bit more insight and tools based on their needs.
You’ll find all basic tools on the SEMrush $99 plan, though like with Ahrefs, you’re going to be quite limited on the $99 plan. Almost all tools are useable, though they’re somewhat stunted until you climb up to that $399 tier.
In all, we’re going to place SEMrush as our best for value given that SEMrush gives you access to all of their tools in their plan as well as the Google Ads support tools too. Ahrefs is a little less feature-packed for the price, and because of this we’re going to place it second.
The Final Verdict
With all of the above out of the way, it’s clear to see that both Ahrefs and SEMrush are some of the best SEO tools out there, however, you’re going to find just that little more in the SEMrush feature set.
Pair the SEMrush experience with a price that’s effectively the same as Ahrefs and you might find that you’re paying more for less if you choose Ahrefs.
Our top choice SEO tool for the PPC readers of ours is absolutely SEMrush given that there are so many Google Ads-friendly tools baked in here.
However, Ahrefs is our winner if you’re heavily focused on working with backlinks and also looking for a user interface that’s as data-rich and simple to understand as possible.