Overview: Semrush vs. Ahrefs
When was the last time you went an entire day without using a search engine? With roughly 3.5 billion searches on Google each day, it’s more important than ever to track how your website stacks up against the competition. There are a lot of tools that can help you do so, but two of the most popular and commonly used are Semrush and Ahrefs.
If you’re interested in utilizing one of these reporting tools, you may be unsure which one is better suited for your website and the metrics that matter to you the most. To help you decide, we asked over 30 experts to weigh in and break it all down, so you can make a smarter choice.
Let’s dive in.
What are Semrush and Ahrefs?
Before we can dive into the ins and outs of each tool, let’s break down what exactly Semrush and Ahrefs are.
Semrush is a popular SEO tool that is used to conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and Google Ad optimization. This software solution was designed with digital marketers in mind as they optimize their website to get as much organic search traffic as possible. It can also be used to see how you rank versus some of your competitors, as well as make smarter decisions around which keywords your website should be targeting.
Similarly, Ahrefs is another popular SEO research and analysis tool. While it’s most commonly used and known for its comprehensive backlink analysis feature, it has expanded over the years to help in many areas of SEO.
At the end of the day, both tools are exceptional SEO software solutions that draw a variety of users every day. Whether you use one or the other, or both, within your SEO strategy, there is a long list of features and functionality at your fingertips.
Semrush vs. Ahrefs – Direct Comparison
Semrush and Ahrefs have similar features and can be used in complementary ways. As mentioned, it all depends on which metrics are most crucial to your organization.
As Lauren Amor from Tandem Interactive explains, “Deciding on a preference between Semrush and Ahrefs depends on what you spend most of your day doing.
For example, if you spend most of your day focusing on link building, Semrush has a larger link index, offering you a wider variety of backlink options. On the other hand, Ahrefs requires a lot of digging and clicking, which can take up too much time.
Semrush offers a preview of the link’s text, which makes it easier to look through a long list of backlinks. When it comes to the more technical side of SEO, like the site’s health, Semrush offers a much more detailed audit that includes errors with broken links, HTTP status code errors, crawl errors, and issues with robots.txt.”
Interested in a certain comparison surrounding a specific feature? Jump ahead to:
1. Domain Overview
First things first — let’s talk about domain overviews.
Madeline McMaster at BluShark Digital shared how Ahrefs is her go-to tool for domain overviews, amongst other things. McMaster states, “Our agency has seen great success using Ahrefs. With Ahrefs our content team uses the content gap tool to find missing keyword opportunities, our link building team is able to pull client and competitor backlinks for comparison, and our accounts team is able to track key data points — like domain authority.”
2. Keyword Research Features
A heavy hitter in most SEO tools is features that focus on keyword research — but how do they compare?
Sam Gooch from Kinsta elaborates on keyword research by saying, “Semrush started off as a keyword research tool, which it does very well. Semrush has so many features and reports that it can sometimes feel a bit intimidating, but this isn’t a problem for someone who lives and breathes SEO and doesn’t mind getting lost in the data.”
Agreeing is Drew Estes at Massview, who shares, “I’ve found Semrush to be very useful. It has sophisticated keyword research capabilities for SEO (and PPC), has a clean user interface, and makes it easy to find the best keywords to focus on — both the ones you’ve considered and many that you haven’t. Not to mention the competitor research tools are far better for informing content strategy.”
Also on team Semrush is Ally Anderson from Akari Digital uses Semrush for developing their content strategy, “I work primarily with developing content strategy and keyword strategy most often and I find that the keyword research tool for Semrush is easier to use and provides better-related ideas and results.”
Finally, Alex Hamilton from White Chalk Road keeps it short and sweet by saying, “For keyword research and content ideas, we use Semrush.”
* Editor’s note: Get a bird’s eye view of your website’s visibility in the SERPs with the Semrush keyword audit dashboard.
And because we always need someone going against the grain, Joanna Vaiou tells us how they use Ahrefs, “I use both tools but I prefer Ahref in terms of usability and most specifically because of the Clicks per Search (CPS) metric that allows me to prioritize between a team of keywords for the same target page into main keyword and secondary ones. It helps my SEO strategy design process.”
Sam Richards at Trivia Games Inc, elaborates on why he prefers Ahrefs: “Ahrefs is more robust and can give instant visibility into what keywords a page is ranking for and what keywords are earning featured snippets. We can also easily see visual trend lines showing how keyword rankings have changed over time. And it’s important to note the initial configuration of Ahrefs is much less time-consuming.
3. Backlink Analysis
Another popular feature for both tools is backlink analysis. Starting off the comparison is Buzz Carter from DotcomBlinds. Carter explains, “When it comes to links stats, Semrush just has Ahrefs beat, as it literally has billions of indexed URLs in their system. While both tools are great, this is simply just flat out a bigger and better sample size than what Ahrefs is working with.”
Sam Gooch from Kinsta is back to elaborate on how he uses Semrush for backlink analysis. He continues, “This isn’t an easy choice – I use both tools every day for different reasons and find both have excellent features and have continued to release new useful tools over the years.
Semrush started out as a link tool, which, in my opinion, it does a great job. It’s easy to navigate and the tools are intuitive and easy to use. This makes it perfect for those with less time to dive into the data, but want to surface those low hanging fruits, and I especially love the broken links report!”
Also on the Ahrefs train is Filip Silobod at China by Teaching, so shares, “While both tools are great, I prefer Ahrefs because of it’s more focus on backlinks. Both tools are very similar, but according to some tests, the crawler that Ahrefs uses captures more URLs.”
4. Site Audits and Technical SEO
Many people use Semrush and Ahrefs to conduct site audits and take a deep dive into metrics surrounding technical SEO. But how do they compare?
Joe Balestrino starts things off by sharing, “Semrush is a great all-in-one tool. I can run audits, track keywords, keyword research, find content ideas, and so much more. I use these features on a daily basis and it makes my job more enjoyable and easier.”
* Editor’s note: Stay on top of any errors, warnings and notices that are slowing down your site with the Semrush site audit dashboard.
On the other hand, there’s Storm McManus from Storm Marketing Consultancy, who leans more towards Ahrefs. McManus states, “I’ve been using Ahrefs for over 12 months in my content marketing and SEO support business. I absolutely love their site audits that provide detailed areas for both on-page and technical SEO improvements. Being able to see all the audits and how the site has improved over time with fixes allows us to show clients exactly how their site is performing.”
5. Rank Tracking
Rounding out the comparison is rank tracking, where Bruce Hogan from Software Pundit believes Semrush reigns supreme. Hogan shares, “Ahrefs and Semrush are both outstanding. However, Semrush is slightly more versatile – it includes a wider range of tools that support a greater percentage of our marketing efforts. For example, Semrush’s keyword rank tracking is above and beyond anything we could ever need. It’s truly changed the game.”
*Editor’s note: Make the most of the Semrush position tracking dashboard that displays the change in your online presence based on your keyword rankings over time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Semrush & Ahrefs:
Which Tool Is Best for SEO Keyword Research?
If conducting keyword research is front and center in your SEO strategy, which tool should you add to your tech stack? The survey says… the winner here is Semrush.
Agreeing is Tony Mastri from MARION Inbound Marketing. Mastri shares, “I prefer Semrush because of its competitive keyword discovery functionality. This one feature makes Semrush more valuable than any other SEO tool I have used in the last six years.”
Samuel Hurley from Novos also believes that Semrush is the winner here. Hurley states, “Being an eCommerce SEO agency, we use both the tools but from purely an SEO perspective, I would say Semrush is more preferable for keyword research. It offers the features to enable detailed keyword research which is one of the most important parts of any SEO strategy.
Which Tool Is Best for Analyzing Backlinks?
Moving along to analyzing backlinks, you may already know who is going to win this round, based on what was shared above. At the end of the day, the SEO tool that is an absolute must-have for taking a deep look into backlinks… is Semrush.
Starting off sharing the love for Semrush and the power it brings to backlinks is Kerry Sherin from Lifetime Value Company. Sherin says, “I prefer Semrush over Ahrefs when it comes to building links and strategizing content. In my opinion, Ahrefs has a more comprehensive database of live links and the metrics associated with them.”
Another fan of Semrush is Gerald Lombardo from The Word Counter. Lombardo states, “I prefer Semrush which provides keyword research, traffic estimation, and an overall timeline of backlink growth. A huge benefit of Ahrefs is its massive backlink index. In my opinion, it is the most comprehensive solution for backlinks, and also the best for checking competitors’ search traffic and identifying which pieces of content creates the most income.”
Also a fan of using Semrush for backlinking is Josh Imhoff at Always Relevant Digital. Imhoff shares, “I’ve used many SEO tools, and hands-down I prefer Semrush. Semrush’s backlinks report is more useful than anything similar offered by any other SEO tool. It lets me easily research my own pages and competitors to find new linking opportunities.”
Finishing out explaining backlinks is Quincy Smith from TEFL Hero, who shares, “Semrush is invaluable to our marketing. I appreciate the user interface of Semrush plus its link-building functionality. There really is no better option for us and we use the tool daily.”
Which Tool Has the Best Technical SEO Site Audit Feature?
If you’re looking for a tool that can take your SEO site audit to the next level, Elizabeth Weatherby from CSI Financial Group believes that Semrush is the clear winner.
Weatherby shares, “I prefer to use Semrush. I think the data presented is just generally more accurate and Semrush tools seem to be a bit more helpful for the advanced level of SEO I perform. The site audit functionality gives you such good insight as to what your issues are, and how you can fix them.”
Which Tool Is Best for Rank Tracking?
In regards to rank tracking, Semrush wins this round.
As Ronan Rohan Kadam from Vital Feedz shares, “I am a huge fan of Semrush. The tool covers every metric that should be measured for an effective SEO campaign. It has a good backlink analyzer, keywords generator, and an exceptional rank tracker. It can be pricey but I think the investment is worth it.”
Which Tool Has Best Unique Features?
While the above features are the tried-and-true functional dashboards that most SEO tools have, what about features that set them apart from each other? According to our contributors, it seems like Semrush has more unique features than Ahrefs.
Milosz Krasinski starts off by believing that both tools offer unique features, “While both tools are great you can’t have everything in one place. Semrush will show you the total number of outgoing links from a given domain while Ahrefs can’t do that. In addition, Semrush traffic analytics module helps you to fully evaluate a given domain by showing you how much traffic is being delivered by different channels, from which countries – something that Ahrefs struggles to deliver.”
For others, it’s all about the level of reporting and ease of use. Carley Hanna at Supplement Warehouse states, “Our team prefers to use Semrush. Semrush’s reports are very extensive and are extremely easy to read and comprehend. I think the overall user-friendliness is, ultimately, what made us stick with Semrush.”
Agreeing in regards to the user interface is Josien Galama at Salted.pro. Galama shares, “I prefer Semrush above Ahrefs mainly because of the user interface. It’s much easier to navigate and work with.”
Sam Bretzmann from BretzMedia thinks a little differently and believes it’s all about what you’re using the tool for. Bretzmann explained, “I think for strictly SEO use Ahrefs is slightly better, but I end up using Semrush because it has additional features that I use for client work (like social media post scheduling). Semrush also seems to be innovating more, trying and adding new features.”
Since most of our contributors have paid for both tools before (a whopping 93%), we can say that both Ahrefs and Semrush have unique features that are worthy of your investment.
The Overall Winner: Semrush
Now that you know that Semrush is the best tool to carry out your SEO in-depth, let’s see what the experts say about it:
Starting things off for Semrush is Sam Thomas at Embryo. Thomas shares, “Overall for me, it’s Semrush because it’s a better all-rounder in terms of campaign and client management.”
Agreeing is Enric Batalla from Robert Silicon Valley HS. Batalla states, “As the marketing manager of a fully digital company I always need the most powerful tools to be able to perform my work. In my company, I choose to have Semrush. I feel that it is a more intuitive and accurate tool than Ahrefs. During these last years, I found that Semrush is easier to use for my novice employees, as a result increasing their efficiency. I also find that the information displayed in Semrush has a higher grade of accuracy.”
Another big fan of Semrush is Kevin Miller from GR0. Miller adds, “Semrush is a great tool and is best for their ‘traffic value’ metric and their position tracking. I use this to go and choose my top 25 keywords per brand and monitor their fluctuation day over day, week over week, and month over month. This is fantastic to keep track of where we are for our most valuable keywords to the business.”
Finishing things off is Mark Robinson from Albion Forest who shares, “I use Semrush as I prefer how it interacts. The level of information I get from it is great and it perfectly suits my needs. As a novice in the world of SEO, it is really user-friendly and gives me regular updates on everything I need to know as well as fixing problems that I have.”
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