If you are on the hunt for the perfect SEO tool, SEMrush and Ahrefs are two great options to consider. But which one is right for you will depend on your own specific needs so take a look at our SEMrush vs. Ahrefs comparison to find which one is perfect for you.
I will start off saying I personally use both as they each offer some unique features that make them a bit different. This post is not meant to be a “review” to push you to pick one or the other, but a side by side comparison so you can decide which will serve your needs the best!
Semrush vs. Ahrefs Overview
Don’t want to read everything below?
I hear you!
This table will show you each tools features and which one does it better in my opinion – you can click the feature name to be taken to the section to get more details.
|Technical SEO Audit||Tie||Tie|
|On Page SEO Checker||N/A||Preferred|
General Thoughts: SEMrush vs. Ahrefs
While I do use both tools – I prefer the aesthetic of Ahrefs but am drawn to many of the features in SEMrush.
I typically only use Ahrefs a few times of year to do my backlink research, so I do not have an annual subscription.
I do have an annual subscription to SEMrush and do use that more on a day to day basis. While it is not as well organized as Ahrefs and I still sometimes get overwhelmed finding things – there is a lot more opportunities for me to improve SEO for any website I am working on with their selection of tools.
I highly recommend you test out each tool to see which one appeals to you more visually if you are still torn between choosing SEMrush or Ahrefs.
Keyword research is EVERYTHING! Without proper research and a solid list of keywords that you can rank for – you will never win the search game.
Both of these tools will help you win the game.
The only reason I prefer Ahrefs is for the aesthetic and Clickstream data – but that is a personal thing and not related to performance!
Below are the results for a keyword search for “best seo tool”.
SEMrush gives us 577 ideas for keywords while Ahrefs gives us 340. We do like that Ahrefs has a big bold graphic for the keyword difficulty – it is on the SEMrush overview as well but it is just a percentage at the top of the table labeled Average KD.
I love how SEMrush gives me “clusters” of related topics that can help me refine my search or inspire me for related content ideas to build off of.
Both tools feature:
- Estimate search volume
- Search trends
- Cost per click
- Competitive density
- SERP features (FAQ, snippets etc.)
- Keyword difficulty
- Top competitors
- Click potential
SEMrush offers their Keyword Magic Tool that results in a keyword overview page as shown below for the keyword you enter where you can further refine your search for broad, related and exact match terms as well as related terms and questions. There is a lot of opportunity to find keywords you can easily rank for.
There is also a Keyword Overview page as well that delivers even more data about a specific keyword. View the SERP feature opportunities, related keywords, questions and more about a specific keyword.
The Ahrefs overview page for our input term offers a lot of general data about the keyword like keyword difficulty, search volume and additional keyword ideas.
The selling point for me is the ability to easily see search volume along with the potential opportunity for clicks. In the image below you can see that the search volume is about 56K searches a month with 25% of the results being clicked – and 62% of those clicks are from organic.
This is super helpful in determine the value of a keyword.
Clicking on all keyword ideas then brings you to a page with relevant keywords to the one you entered. You can then use a variety of filters to find keywords that you have a chance of ranking for.
Another bonus point for Ahrefs is that you can do keyword research not only on Google but Youtube, Amazon, Bing etc.
If you are interested in better understanding how different tools get their keyword data, this is a great guide! Every tool is different and no tools will be perfect or deliver the same data – all keyword tools are meant to be guides and not exact metrics!
Understanding where you rank for the keywords that matter the most is important to help you understand how you are doing and where you need to improve.
Both tools have a pretty good rank tracker tool but I prefer SEMrush because of the daily updates as opposed to weekly.
They do limit how many keywords you track, so I can only track 500 keywords and for this reason I also use RankTracker which allows me to track as many keywords as I would like.
Analyzing backlinks for your own website or competitors is a crucial part to finding bad backlinks or for backlink opportunities.
It is important to note that no tool can get every backlink your website has and every tool you use will bring different results!
SEMrush shows us with 11K+ backlinks from 604 referring domains while Ahrefs shows 422 referring domains for 6K+ backlinks.
But wait – if SEMrush is picking up more referring domains why would I not recommend that one as the winner?
The reason is that while SEMrush picks up more domains – it does miss a lot of high authority websites for some reason. Below are the top ranking domains as per each tool so you can see the comparison between what Ahref finds versus SEMrush.
The quality of domains is important – especially if you are using this feature to look for backlink opportunities!
In the Ahrefs list you can see youtube, wordpress, behance and more that do not show up in the SEMrush list.
Technical SEO Audit
Both tools have a technical SEO audit tool and while I typically use a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to do technical audits as they are much more comprehensive – both of these tools do a great job as well.
The screenshots below are the overview pages for each audit tool – both give you a wide variety of tools, but we do like how SEMrush has errors, warnings and notices front and center.
Both audit tools offer the following and more:
- Number of pages crawled
- Errors, warnings and notices
- Crawl issues
- Redirect issues
- Missing title tags or meta descriptions
- Broken links – internal and external
- Orphan pages
Both audit tools get the job done – but from a usability perspective I just find SEMrush a bit more intuitive to be able to see the data easier and they do a good job with giving you some helper tips to solving the issues you have.
Topic research is a great way to find keyword opportunities as well as content ideas. Both tools have this option – in Ahrefs it is called Content Explorer and in SEMrush it is called Topic Research.
I used “seo tools” as my test keyword to see what happens!
SEMrush gives you a dashboard which features “cards” that can offer inspiration with headlines and questions. You can also click the explorer, overview and mind map filters to get more ideas in different formats.
I particularly love the mind map – but this is a comprehensive tool that will definitely give you a ton of ideas.
Ahrefs has their Content Explorer which visually is a bit more appealing and also offers a variety of ways to dissect the opportunities for topics and keywords.
One feature I really like in the Ahrefs content tool is the ability to see pages that no longer exist – then finding the domains linking to that page to see if I can grab backlinks! I have not seen anything like that in SEMrush.
Pay Per Click Research (PPC)
Both tools feature a PPC research area where you can see what competitors are doing with Google ads.
SEMrush definitely out performs Ahrefs with this feature so if PPC is your thing, hands down SEMrush is the tool to purchase.
In SEMrush you will find the ads along with ad copy, audience targeting metrics, keywords being targeted and the estimated cost of their ad campaign.
In Ahrefs you can see the ads a competitor is running as well as the ad copy, percentage of traffic each ad brings, keywords being targeted and CPC.
Both tools feature a brand or keyword monitoring tool so that you can see when there are mentions of your brand name or keywords that are specific to your niche.
Ahrefs notifies you via email of any mentions of the keywords your brands you input. SEMrush has a dashboard that will allow you to see the mentions and other details about the mention.
I personally have not used either of these tools yet so I have no personal experience with them, but I would have to say at first glance I like that SEMrush offers a dashboard to be able to keep everything cohesive in my account.
SEMRush Exclusive Features
Below are some features that are exclusive to SEMRush!
Social Media Tracker
SEMRush is a total social media tool as well as a SEO tool which in the long run can save you money if you are using a separate social media tool.
I personally have not used their social media suite of tools – I personally love and use SmarterQueue and do not see me leaving them any time soon but I am loving what I see in SEMRush!
Some of the social media features in SEMRush include:
- Posting to your social media accounts
- Social media analytics to see how you are doing with followers and engagement
- Social media ad management
- Social media tracker lets you see competitor data to improve your own social media presence
Below is the social media poster area which shows all of the posts in a Facebook account and the stats for that post. The statistics are probably one of the best parts of the tool.
On Page SEO Checker
SEMrush has a feature called the On Page SEO Checker which I think is a selling point for their tool. It offers a number of ideas to help you improve your onsite optimization to improve rank performance including:
- Backlink ideas – provides backlink ideas that competitors may have that you do not
- Technical optimization – guides you on any technical issues you have like duplicate content or pages being blocked
- User experience ideas – lets you know if you have page load issues and if visitors spend enough time on page
- Content ideas – offers insights into everything from H1 tags to text content and meta descriptions
- Semantic optimization – provides related words that your page may not have but your competitors do
- Strategy inspiration – helps you see if you have cannibalization issues
Below is a screenshot of the tool and if I click on any of the TOP pages to optimize I can get specific details about each page and where I can improve.
Another fantastic and useful feature from SEMrush is their Content Analyzer. Find out how well your content is doing by viewing important metrics and get some insight into how you can improve it.
There are several pieces within SEMrush to help you improve your content based on what the top competitors are doing – and they have a WordPress plugin as well so you can see these suggestions while you are creating your content.
Below is the SEO writing assistant which has a great visual for what I need to do to improve my page against my top competitors. Right away I can see my content is longer than my top competitors and there are terms they are using that I am not.
This area also features the SEO Content Template where you can enter a keyword to get ideas of the type of content you need create and backlink recommendation.
Overall SEMrush offers more for the money.
From the extra features not found in Ahrefs to the allowances of data – it is the choice I would make if money were a factor.
Prices are all per month – 16% discount will apply if you buy an annual subscription.
I use the Pro plan and it definitely gives me plenty of what I need to succeed. There are some limitations – but nothing has affected me yet.
Prices are all per month – if you subscribe to an annual plan you get 2 months free:
I use the Standard plan for Ahrefs and it gives me plenty of information. I did try the Lite plan, but it only lets you see rank position up to 20 which was a big issue in my opinion.
Some may still find these prices a but much – especially if you are a solo business owners. A great much more affordable option we have recently found is Keysearch.io. I tested it out and was pretty impressed with it and highly recommend it as a much more affordable option.
You will not go wrong with either of these tools!
If I had to simplify it to help you make a choice, here is how I would break it down!
- SEMrush would be my suggested option if you are looking a tool to help you improve your content, manage social media, do keyword analysis and if you are interested in PPC.
- Ahrefs would be my recommendation if you are largely focused on backlink research and building and keyword research.
SEMrush is like swiss army knife that has a lot of different features to accomplish different things and may save you money in the long run since you can replace your social media tool or content editing tool if you have those.
Ahrefs is much more SEO focused and well known for the backlink database and keyword research tools.
If you have specific questions – please feel free to ask and I will do my best to get you the answers you need!
Have comments about this comparison – or want to share your experiences with either of these tools? I am all ears!