Ahrefs vs SEMrush: Best SEO Platform in 2021?

SEO blows up the internet. Nobody can escape it.

Every blogger has at least some interest in understanding it, and we’re all afflicted by constant search queries like “Ahrefs vs. Semrush.”

When you think about it, doing something well and getting high traffic is a pretty good business model.

But the question is, which SEO tool is best for you and your business website or blog?

Both Ahrefs and Semrush are two of the best SEO tools on the market.

I’ll break down the differences between these two popular SEO tools for you and show you exactly how they stack against each other.

Let’s get started:

Ahrefs vs. SEMrush: Overview.

Ahrefs:

Ahrefs provides an effective way to get a large number of backlinks. It is considered the most thorough and comprehensive search engine optimization tool for any online business, especially beginners.

And if you are one of those who think that this tool is only for backlinks, then there are many other practical benefits that this software has to offer.

Ahrefs offers the following core tools:

  • Site Explorer – To research your competitors’ backlinks and keyword rankings.
  • Keyword Explorer – Keyword suggestions from industry-leading databases.
  • Site Audit – It scans your website for potential SEO issues.
  • Rank Tracker – Track your ranking and SERP progress.
  • Content Explorer – Monitor high-ranking content and content ideas and discover link-building opportunities.

Ahrefs is one of the best tools for link-building and content marketing. And I can vouch for it personally since it’s even used extensively at Omniscient Digital, Alex Birkett’s digital content marketing firm.

Semrush:

If you want to monitor and dive deep into your pages’ rankings, backlinks, and PPC performance metrics simultaneously, then you can’t go wrong with Semrush.

Semrush provides an extensive suite of SEO tools for:

  • Keyword research
  • On-page SEO
  • Competitor analysis
  • SEO audit
  • Link building
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • PPC keyword research
  • Website monetization
  • And more…

Ahrefs vs. SEMrush: Comparison Table.

Ahrefs Semrush
G2 Score 4.6 4.5
Keyword Database A database of more than 7 billion keywords. A database of more than 20 billion keywords.
What I Liked
  • Simple user interface
  • Good for link analysis and building backlinks
  • Best for SEO features and audits
  • Numerous core features like SMM, PPC analysis, etc.
  • Free plan available
  • Performs traffic analysis
Cons:
  • No freemium plan
  • Not sufficient for PPC advertising
  • Steep learning curve
  • A bit technical
Free Plan No; 7-day trial at $7 Yes
Search Engine Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Baidu, etc. Google specifically.
PPC Advertising Minimal features Full-fledged PPC ads toolkit
Social Media Marketing Tools No Yes

Ahrefs vs. SEMrush: Detailed Comparison.

1. Keyword Research Tools.

Content is not king. But it’s the next best thing. It’s where your business flourishes, grows, and breaths life.

What’s the best thing then, you’d ask?

Keywords, what else?

Of course, you are going to need some keywords to attract organic search traffic.

And Ahrefs and Semrush are, without a doubt, two of the best keyword research tools that you can use to find new keywords. The two of them are equally powerful when it comes to finding keywords, analyzing organic search traffic, and tracking their rankings in search engines.

Both the tools offer virtually similar features. However, there are some essential differences between the two, which I will highlight in this section.

Let’s start with Ahrefs first.

Ahrefs:

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of keywords to use as part of your content marketing strategy, the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool is a great place to start.

Their Keywords Explorer tool is actually one of the five tools in their SEO toolset.

With the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool, you can:

  • Get detailed data for any search query.
  • Generate keyword ideas within minutes.

It provides rapid access to large amounts of data for keyword research and even tells you their search volume.

Aside from search volume, it also tells you:

  • Keywords lists
  • Keyword difficulty score
  • Return rate
  • The number of clicks you’re likely to get for your keyword.
  • Data for about 171 countries
  • “Parent topic” for your target keyword
  • SERP overview and position history
  • Estimate keyword volumes for about ten keywords, including YouTube, Bing, Baidu, etc.
  • SEO metrics like clicks per search, percentage of paid clicks, percentage of organic clicks, and more.

Think Google’s Keyword Planner on steroids.

Let’s see it in action.

To get started, select your search engine and keyword.

You’ll then immediately see a complete overview of your keyword (with all the data mentioned above).

Notice the four major sections with insightful data.

First is the Keyword difficulty score. It estimates how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 organic Google search results for your target keyword.

Next, you have the Search Volume and a section that gives you deeper insights into the CPC and click data. You can even peruse this data in different months.

Finally, there’s a section that gives you access to click rate and other metrics from different countries.

And this isn’t it.

It determines the parent topic as well that tells you whether you can rank for your keyword while targeting a more general topic.

Below that, you’ll see a SERP position history graph that shows the historical ranking position of the top 5 pages on the search engine.

It’s a great metric that even helps you analyze your competitors in a way.

Finally, the holy grail of the tool: SERP overview.

It shows you the top 10 ranking pages for your targeted keyword and numerous SEO metrics that help you identify how they reached there.

You’ll get access to metrics like the number of backlinks on each page, the organic search traffic each page gets, the total number of keywords they rank for, and more.

Metrics like traffic numbers, analyzing keyword ranking difficulty, and more help you identify whether your keyword is even worth targeting or not.

You’ll have access to nine other reports for each keyword, including:

  • All keyword ideas (it gives you different keyword ideas)
  • Phrase match
  • Having same terms
  • Also rank for
  • Search suggestions
  • Newly discovered
  • Questions (keywords phrased as a question)

Take the phrase match report, for instance:

The report uncovered 115,544 keywords that contain your target keyword.

Another selling point is their extensive filter options.

For example, you can set a minimum or maximum keyword difficulty score to identify and sort suitable keywords. Aside from keyword difficulty, you can also set filters for the search volume, word count, SERP features, and more.

You can also save and segment your keyword lists for future reference.

Then they have a bunch of free keyword tools, including:

  • YouTube keyword tool
  • Amazon keyword tool
  • Bing keyword tool
  • Keyword rank checker
  • Keyword difficulty checker

Semrush:

Semrush has a research database of over 20 Billion keywords (which is more than any other keyword tool on the market).

Plus, they come with a bunch of different keyword research tools, including:

  • Keyword overview
  • Keyword magic tool
  • Keyword manager
  • Position tracking
  • PPC keyword tool
  • Keyword gap
  • Organic traffic insights

The first tool – the Keyword overview tool – helps you run a full analysis of your keyword and determine whether you should target it or not.

Just like Ahrefs, Semrush’s keyword overview tool gives you a complete overview and insights into different metrics like:

  • Search volumes at the global and local levels
  • Ad insights
  • Keyword ad history
  • Keyword difficulty
  • CPC data
  • Global volume
  • SERP analysis
  • Keyword variation

It’s pretty detailed, and the dashboard contains almost everything you might need for your keyword research.

While it’s mainly similar to Ahrefs’ keyword research tool, Semrush does outshine Ahrefs in some aspects – especially when it comes to gaining insights into ad copies.

Semrush provides inspiration from real ad copies and PLA copies based on your keywords. Their keyword ad history helps you find ads that brought the maximum ROI so that you can replicate their strategy.

So, it works as an all-in-one SEO and Ad campaign tool, which can be convenient for ad agencies or if you’re running your ads on your own.

Semrush also gives you a more detailed SERP breakdown – with up-to-date data on your top 100 ranking competitors, their backlinks, and organic metrics for their positions on the SERP.

And the keyword research features don’t end here. There are multiple other tools to aid your keyword research journey.

Keyword Magic Tool

With this magic keyword tool, you can find long-tail keywords and their search volume, CPC, competition, and more by simply inputting a keyword.

To put it simply, you add a “seed keyword” and make thousands of combinations using filters and a database of over 20 billion keywords.

There are also tons of filter options that can help you narrow down your search and find high-ranking and low competition keywords with high click potential.

You can click on each keyword combination generated by Semrush to get redirected to the “Keyword Overview” page. Here, you can proceed to peruse them in more detail.

Keyword Manager.

The keyword manager helps you curate and manage your favorite keywords from across SEMrush.

The tool helps you:

  • Save your findings
  • Get fresh metrics
  • And export your findings into an XLSX or CSV file or other SEMrush tools.

It’s a convenient tool to ease your task and increase your productivity when working with a large number of keywords.

The Keyword Manager is instrumental if you’re managing SEO campaigns for clients or running an affiliate program with many products to promote.

Organic Traffic Insights.

Now you can learn everything about your competitors in the organic and social media traffic field thanks to Semrush Organic Traffic Insights. This solution from Semrush allows you to find out how much organic traffic any domain gets and how well it converts.

All you have to do is paste the URL of any website or YouTube channel, and Semrush will do the rest.

You’ll get insights into your site’s performance with metrics like:

  • Total users
  • New users
  • Pages/sessions
  • Average session duration
  • Bounce rate
  • Goal completions for your website’s top 50 pages by traffic

The best part? It combines data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Semrush.

That’s a lot to take in, I know.

Semrush clearly packs a punch when it comes to its SEO keyword research features. I doubt you’re going to need any other tool for your keyword research needs.

Winner: Semrush!

Semrush is the clear winner when it comes to keyword research and search volume data. That said, you might just find all of these features redundant and even tedious in some cases. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, then Ahrefs is an excellent option as well.

So, it all depends on your requirements.

2. Backlink Analysis.

It’s not uncommon for people to look for a better backlink analysis tool – one that will give them a deeper dive into their competitor’s link profile or bring out more metrics in general.

So what’s the difference between Ahrefs and Semrush, and which one should you be using?

Let’s find out!

Ahrefs:

Backlink Analysis is one of the strong points of Ahrefs, which provides a comprehensive set of SEO-related information on the sites which are already indexed in their database.

Their backlink analysis and competitive research tool called “Site Explorer” is one of five core tools in Ahrefs’ SEO toolset.

Site Explorer helps you:

  • View and analyze how your competitors are performing in organic and paid searches.
  • Identify how they managed to get there.
  • Identify who is linking to different web pages of your competitor’s site.
  • Reverse engineer their strategies to overtake them.

Also, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer database contains over 475 million keywords in an index of 1.9 external backlinks.

And since Ahrefs is an incredibly easy-to-use tool, it makes both competitor research and backlink analysis a breeze.

Start by entering the domain name or the page URL you want to analyze.

Once the overview page loads, you’ll get access to metrics like:

  • Target’s organic search traffic
  • The number of keywords they rank for
  • Referring domains
  • Domain rating

And much more!

Next, under the organic search tab (below the above metrics), you’ll see a dynamic graph depicting the growth and decline of your target’s organic traffic over time and the number of keyword rankings.

There’s also a separate backlink profile tab and a paid search tab that gives you insights into the PPC ads your competitors are using, the keywords they’re betting on, and more.

You can also navigate to the “Top Pages” from the rightmost tab to generate the most searched pages for any website.

You can then click on the keyword drop-down to research the keywords a particular page is ranking for. The “Volume” data here tells you how popular these keywords are.

Next, you can also analyze the websites that are linking to your competitor’s page or site. This will give you an idea about which websites you need to reach out to.

To do that, click on the “RD” (referring domains) tab.

You will then get redirected to all the referring domains, that is, all websites linking to that specific page.

You’ll also get access to metrics like Domain Rating (DR), Ahrefs Rank, linked domains (followed), links to target (total & followed), and more.

And if you want to dig deeper, you can just hit the “Backlinks” button from the leftmost tab.

This will take you to exact pages that are linking to your target and give you details like where backlinks are coming from, metrics on the linking page, where the link is pointing to, and more.

You can even filter out the links based on your requirements. This is way easier than doing it manually, which takes a lot of time.

Semrush:

Semrush is great for analyzing a competitor’s backlink profile and finding out which backlinks they are using to get more referrals and traffic. Plus, with over 43+ trillion links in its database, it outperforms nearly all backlink analysis tools.

Semrush has multiple tools for backlink analysis as well.

Here are some of the backlink analysis tools you’ll get:

  • Backlink Analytics
  • Backlink Audit
  • Link Building Tool
  • Bulk Analysis

Backlink Analytics

The backlink analytics tool by Semrush gives you a complete overview of your competitors’ backline profiles. You can even sort the backlinks by different attributes, inspect referring domains and their authority, check backlink types, and a lot more.

To get a more detailed overview of the backlinks, navigate to the “Backlinks” tab right beside the “Overview” section.

Backlink Audit

One of my favorite features is the backlink audit tool, which allows you to quickly see the quality of your backlinks. This simple-to-use free tool can help you move forward with an SEO strategy that will help you gain more authority, get more traffic, and rank higher on Google’s SERPs.

The tool makes it easy for you to do a complete backlinks check and keep track of it in one place.

Once you enter the domain, it will take a few minutes for the overview page to appear.

As you scroll down, you’ll see details like:

  • Top referring domain categories
  • Referring domains by authority score
  • Top 100 anchors
  • Top target pages
  • Backlinks by link attributes and type, and more…

You can further perform the following actions:

  • Audit your backlinks
  • Remove potentially harmful backlinks
  • Disavow backlinks
  • Find new and lost domains
  • Run regular recrawls to spot toxic links

Backlink Gap

Semrush backlink gap tool is one of a kind, especially since it provides you with a really detailed snapshot of your competitors.

It lets you see at a glance the link profile of a domain, make adjustments and compare it with another domain. This way, you can get more information about how good or bad your site’s link profile looks when compared to someone else.

Start with adding the domain of your main competitor and select the source from which you want to collect backlinks. You can add up to five root domains (including your own).

Then, you can choose different parameters like the number of links, search volume, etc.

Semrush’s backlink gap tool will help you:

  • Get a quick look at the websites in your niche with maximum backlinks.
  • Analyze domains linking to your competitors, along with their backlink profile expansion.
  • Use filters to narrow down your search and see what backlinks you’re missing compared to your competitors.

Link Building Tool

Semrush offers one of the most powerful link-building tools out there. You can see where your competitors are getting their backlinks from and see which domains are providing the most link juice.

The tool provides:

  • 2,000 prospects for each domain
  • 10 outreach strategies pre-defined
  • 4 parameters for tracking outreach

Once you build backlinks, it helps you track and keep an eye on your backlink profile. It also keeps an eye on backlinks and keeps you updated on the status of your backlinks.

Bulk Backlink Analysis

Semrush is an outstanding tool for doing bulk backlink analysis.

The tool lets you enter up to 200 URLs/domains simultaneously. It enables you to analyze your competitors, find link-building opportunities, and export results to XLSX or CSV.

Winner: Semrush!

Semrush is undoubtedly one of the best tools for building backlinks and analyzing your backlink profile. It also has the edge over Ahrefs when it comes to comparison charts, which are convenient for beginners and experts alike.

3. SEO Site Audit Tools.

Now that you have the best tools for keyword research, website analysis, and backlink analysis, it’s time to talk about technical SEO site audit features.

Both Ahrefs and Semrush offer stellar tools to discern and solve technical SEO issues with your site.

Ahrefs:

Ahrefs Site Audit Tool helps you easily find broken links, trace URLs and visualize how links are spreading throughout your website. The tool offers you the opportunity to check all links from the root folder of your site, specific subfolder, or selected pages.

It provides an SEO health score to your site, flags issues, and provides recommendations on fixing SEO issues.

It also provides a checklist of 119 pre-defined SEO issues with your domain, along with recommendations on how to fix each one.

Semrush:

Semrush Site Audit is a tool used to analyze a website from an SEO perspective. It allows you to see what’s working well for your website and what needs to be improved in order to maximize your organic search potential.

The site audit tool gives you in-depth reports on:

  • Site crawlability
  • Site performance
  • Internal linking
  • HTTPS
  • International SEO

Plus, you’ll get access to intuitive charts, instructions, and directions based on loading speed, meta tags, content issues, AMP implementation, and more.

Let’s see it in action.

You’ll just have to enter your site’s domain and wait for a minute or two to get the complete overview and detailed reports.

The “Site Health” here is similar to Ahrefs’ “SEO score.”

If you want a more detailed checklist and reports on these issues, just hit on the “View Details” option.

Here’s the “Internal Linking” report, for instance:

With the “Internal Link Distribution” tab, you can view how links are distributed across different types of your website’s pages.

Click on any of the provided types to see more details. It will help you identify pages that may not be receiving enough link juice or pages that you may use to distribute link equity to other pages within your website.

Semrush has two more technical SEO tools, including:

  • On-Page SEO Checker – It will analyze your website’s pages and show you valuable information, such as the keywords used in the page title, meta description, H1 heading tags, the number of links to the page, the backlinks status (can it be improved), duplicate content, etc.
  • Log File Analyzer – It helps you search through your crawl errors and crawl rate reports efficiently, suggesting some quick fixes for your site if needed.

Winner: It’s a Draw!

Both Ahrefs and Semrush have robust site audit tools that come with a checklist and recommendations for resolving issues. They really help you get into the details of what’s happening behind the scenes, allowing for a holistic approach to content marketing and SEO.

4. Rank Tracking.

There are many reasons why you might want to monitor your website rankings, from checking how much visibility you have gained (or lost) after a recent algorithm update to seeing if there are any issues with Google indexing your content.

But which tool should you use for rank tracking? The two top contenders are undoubtedly Ahrefs and Semrush.

Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

Ahrefs:

Rank Tracker tool is one of Ahrehfs’ five core tools that allows you to monitor your keyword rankings from about 170 countries.

It’s a nifty tool that also helps you compare your ranking progress against competitors.

Here’s what the overview page would look like:

At the top, you’ll see some valuable charts that will instantly visualize your site’s keyword ranking progress over time.

One of the unique features is the SERP report that shows you the percentage of the SERP features you own across all of your tracked keywords. What’s more, it will break it down by feature type.

Just below these charts, there will be insights into your tracked keywords, their most recent position, and metrics like search volume, traffic, etc. You can also see the individual SERP features that exist for your keyword.

Another significant part of this table is that you can see the ranking history for each keyword.

After an overview, you can see how you stack up against your top ten competitors and give insights into three key areas: ranking progress, search traffic, and SERP features.

Besides, the rank tracker sends you regular in-depth reports via email specifying changes in your keyword rankings and performance data.

Semrush:

Semrush Rank Tracking is a popular tracking tool for checking your site’s rankings in search engines. It shows you an overview of your site’s visibility and positions on the most important search engines out there.

Semrush Rank tracker is pretty much similar to Ahrefs’ tracker. That said, it tracks Google’s and Baidu’s SERP based on daily changes in rankings, while Ahrefs does it once or twice a week.

Winner: It’s a Draw.

5. Content Marketing Tools.

Content marketing is one of the most valuable ways of reaching out to new (and old) customers. It can be difficult and time-consuming to come up with fresh ideas. Luckily, both Semrush and Ahrefs have tools aimed at improving your content creation process.

Ahrefs:

Ahrefs’ content explorer helps you:

  • Research topics
  • Find link opportunities
  • Get social and SEO metrics

To get started, you just have to enter the topic you want to research. And you’ll see at least half a million pages that mention the keyword and general trends of the topic.

As you scroll down, you’ll see all the articles against the number of referral domains.

This helps you identify topics worth writing about.

You’ll also see other metrics for each page, including domain rating, organic traffic, traffic value, number of social shares, and more.

You can also see why the page is performing the way it is under the “Details” section.

In addition, Content Explorer helps you find broken links in seconds and even identify sites that have yet to link to you.

Semrush:

Semrush offers a bunch of amazing tools for copywriting and content marketing to help you create high-ranking content.

Let’s talk about them briefly.

  • Topic Research – to find popular topics, most popular questions people ask, headlines, and more to create successful content.

  • Marketing Calendar – Built-in content calendar that helps you keep track of deadlines, manage strategies, and collaborate with your team.
  • SEO Content Template – It generates a brief for SEO content and provides recommendations based on the keywords targeted by your top 10 competitors.
  • SEO Writing Assistant – Specifies and improves your readability score, checks your SEO score and adjusts the tone of the content.
  • Brand Monitoring – Track your competitors’ online mentions and find relevant influencers in your niche and platforms to distribute your content.
  • Post Tracking – Track the performance of your publications, along with your competitors’ performance. It also tracks metrics like backlink count, social engagement, keyword rankings, referral traffic, etc.
  • Content Audit – This tool helps you evaluate both the quality and quantity of content on your site. It curates effective metrics from Google Analytics and Semrush to help you customize your content.

Semrush clearly has a lot to offer when it comes to making your content marketing process easy.

Winner: Semrush is the clear winner here!

6. PPC Advertising.

Ahrefs:

Ahrefs doesn’t really have a separate tool for PPC advertising.

That said, you’ll get access to a detailed PPC report by Ahrefs’ site explorer tool. It gives you insights into details like whether your competitors are doing paid advertising.

You’ll also get a list of keywords that competitors are advertising for in search.

Semrush:

As compared to Ahrefs, Semrush has a full-fledged paid advertising toolkit in place.

It helps you:

  • Analyze your competitors’ PPC strategy
  • Find keywords for your PPC campaign
  • Polish your PPC keyword list
  • Create ads for your campaign
  • Analyze ads for any keyword
  • Track display ads from any domain

With its detailed competitor analysis and cool features like listing management, Semrush is the clear winner in this department.

Winner: Semrush.

Ahrefs Vs. Semrush: Pricing Plans.

Ahrefs vs. Semrush, the eternal question among SEO professionals and Internet Marketers.

And pricing plans can be a deciding factor while choosing which one to go for.

Ahrefs:

Ahrefs offers four paid plans:

  • Lite ($99 per month) – 10,000 crawl credits/mo, 500 tracked keywords, 175 domains per week, top 20 keyword positions, etc.
  • Standard ($179 per month) – 500,000 crawl credits/mo, 1,500 tracked keywords, 700 domains per week, top 100 keyword positions, etc.
  • Advanced ($399 per month) – 1.25 million crawl credits/mo, 5,000 tracked keywords, 1750 domains per week, top 100 keyword positions, etc.
  • Agency ($999 per month) – 2.5 million crawl credits/mo, 10,000 tracked keywords, 7000 domains per week, top 100 keyword positions, etc.

While Ahrefs doesn’t offer a free plan, you can get initial two months free if you choose to pay annually.

Semrush:

Semrush offers three paid plans:

  • Pro ($119.95 per month) – track 500 keywords daily, 10,000 results per report, 3,000 reports daily, 250 keyword metrics, etc.
  • Guru ($229 per month) – track 1500 keywords daily, 30,000 results per report, 5,000 reports daily, 1000 keyword metrics, etc.
  • Business ($449 per month) – track 5000 keywords daily, 50,000 results per report, 10,000 reports daily, 5000 keyword metrics, etc.

You can also save up to 17% of the plan price if you pay annually.

Semrush even offers a freemium plan – which is great since you still utilize a lot of tools. That said, it will still limit your ability to pull specific data and reports. For example, you can only make up to 10 requests for Analytics reports per day.

Ahrefs vs. Semrush: Final Verdict!

We have come to the end of this long, long, long (did I say long?) guide on choosing between the two competing SEO and keyword research tools, Ahrefs and Semrush.

Spoiler: Both tools are awesome, but they both have their place, and depending on your needs, you better choose one.

That said, with its diverse range of tools, Semrush is the clear winner. Aside from backlinking and keyword research, Semrush even offers other core tools for social media marketing, PPC ads, tracking mobile SERP rankings, and more.

Choose Ahrefs if:

  • Your primary aim is to build a winning backlink profile.
  • You need a tool solely for SEO growth
  • You’re a complete beginner
  • You want to monitor outbound links

If you plan to go with Ahrefs and want to learn its ins and outs, you would definitely like this content marketing course that helps you build a winning content strategy with Ahrefs.

Choose Semrush if:

  • You need to run paid ads
  • You require global keyword and ranking data
  • You need a tool for list management for local SEO
  • You’re looking to run social media campaigns

It all boils down to your requirement. Review both these tools carefully, and then go with the option that aligns the best with your requirements.

Deepti Jain

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