Ahrefs vs SEMRush: Complete Analysis & Review (2019 Updated)

If you are in blogging or content marketing, you would understand the importance of a powerful SEO tool.

And two most popular SEO and content marketing tools available are Ahrefs and SEMRush.

Both of these tools have many overlapping features also but still, they are focused on different audiences.

So, what if you had to choose any ONE of them?

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Ahrefs and SEMRush, how both of these tools differ from each other and which tool will be best for you…

So if you’re looking for a detailed and comprehensive comparison of Ahrefs vs SEMRush, you’ll love this post.

Let’s dive right in.

Why should you use a Keyword Research Tool?

That should be a valid question especially for those of you who are new to the world of SEO.

So how can you come up with keyword ideas and start creating content around them? Well, you can use keyword research tools for the same.

But what keyword research tools assist you in is that they just ease your research process and thus save you time.

And then, give access to such an enormous amount of data that you may not otherwise be able to find.

Primary areas that keyword research tools can be helpful include-

  • They help you find the keywords you may never have come across. This is what is called keyword ideation.
  • You can research the markets or niches before you start building sites or creating content.
  • You will be able to research & find the exact keywords that your audience is searching for.
  • Perform detailed competitor analysis. This is achieved with the help of reverse engineering.

SEMRush – An Overview

SEMRush is perhaps what changed the way we looked for the keywords.

Compared to the traditional keyword research used before they came into existence, SEMRush brought ahead what is known as Reverse Engineering.

And this is important:

It involves assessing the performance of your competitor site and analyzing the keywords that are working for them.

Targeting the keywords that are working for your competitors can be a perfect strategy as you already have access to keywords that have already proved their success.

You need to create quality content – perhaps better than the one on the competitor website and hope the same magic will work for you.

Some of the critical areas that SEMRush excels include…

Keyword research

Now that you have been blogging or creating content since quite long, you already understand the essence of keyword research.

The keyword research function offered by SEMRush has been widely acknowledged. The tool lets you estimate the quality and value that the keyword carries.

SEMRush enables you to compare the keywords against a wide range of metrics like traffic, search volume, estimate of CPC, competition, the number of search results.

This should make it easy to understand and work with those keywords that have a higher probability of success.

The tool also provides you access to the most profitable keywords. You also have access to the best in class filters for efficient research.

Competitor Analysis

This is the area where SEMRush beats almost all the keyword research tools- including Ahrefs.

The first keyword research tool to introduce the concept of reverse engineering or competitor keyword comparison, it is the clear leader in this genre.

You have access to the organic search volume, best performing keywords, backlinks and practically every detail about any site across the globe.

Why use competitor analysis?

Well, simply because it eases your efforts in the keyword research. It provides you access to the right target audience.

The technique will also guide you to find the keywords that are already performing and ranking well.

What’s more, it helps you create content seamlessly as it provides you with easy access to the trending topics.

Site Audit

The site audit feature of SEMRush is yet another feature most loved by the SEO experts.

It can be a helpful option to pinpoint all the SEO related issues that may be affecting your site and take up preventive actions. This can further help improve your search results.

You can check the health of your site with the full audit functionality … this includes toxic backlinks as well as other errors.

Tracking your SEO optimization is yet another function you will find useful and interesting.

Ahrefs – The Introduction

Ahrefs also offers a complete SEO toolset just like SEMRush offers you multiple tools bundled into one package to assist you in all the SEO aspects of your site.

It is one of the strongest competitors to SEMRush and competes with most of the features offered by the latter.

The crawling rate of the tool has been estimated at a whopping 6 billion web pages per day. The major purposes served by Ahrefs lies in its ability to help you build quality backlinks.

Ahrefs has the biggest database of accurate backlinks. And the 600,000 strong user base is what makes it one of the most reliable SEO tools.

The key features offered by the tool include…

Site Explorer

This is comparable to the Site Audit function available in SEMRush.

The toolset lets you analyse the backlinks, traffic performance and keyword ranking of any website across the globe. You can gain access to all the backlinks of your desired domain.

The tool also lets you know about the backlinks by sharing information on referring domains and do follow links.

The Site Explorer provides you with the complete information of any domain in these key areas – backlink checking, organic traffic research and paid traffic research.

This should perhaps explain why Ahrefs has predominantly used for backlink analysis. The information that it provides is complete and huge.

Content Explorer

Content Explorer is yet another useful toolset that Ahrefs offers you. SEO is all about quality content. Content is the king -as they say!

The content Explorer lets you explore better content ideas. You can search for the popular and trending content on any topic of your choice.   

The section also provides you with enough information on the number of backlinks received by your chosen topic, organic traffic that it is capable of and the social value of the topic.

This can go a long way in assisting you in finding the right content which can attract better organic search traffic, quality backlinks and a fair amount of social shares.

Keyword Explorer

This is the section that would be more important from our point of discussion. Choosing just the high volume keywords may not be enough.

Highly competitive keywords may not always work. Choose those that tend to get a decent amount of traffic so that your rankings will improve.

You can perhaps check what keywords are ranking for your competitor before finalizing the keywords that you want to use in your content.

Ahrefs assists you in finding the keywords that are capable of performing well.

There are several options to filter your keyword research.

The explorer performs keyword analysis with the aid of several metrics- noteworthy among them being keyword difficulty, search volume, CPC, and the number of search results.  

Rank Tracker

You would indeed want to monitor the SERP ranking of your site in a constant manner. Rank Tracker is what can be helpful for this task.

It can help you track the ranking on Google across 170 countries. It offers you the simplest ever interface to find the ranking of your keywords.

You can import your keywords and specify the country for each of the keywords. The Rank tracker will keep monitoring your performance.

You can also put a few of your competitors, and your performance will be compared to the performance shown by your competitors.

An interesting fact is that the Rank Tracker sends you regular updates so that you can apply corrective measures at the right time if needed.

Comparison between Ahrefs and SEMRush

Having understood the salient features offered by both the SEO tools, let us now move to a comparative analysis of each of the features provided by the tools.

We will compare them on a few key parameters…

The Dashboard and User Interface

SEMRush comes with a great looking dashboard with almost all the information arranged in a visually attractive way. There is a complete assortment of all the features arranged in a sidebar for backlinks, domain overview and competitor analysis.

The Backlink analysis options offered by SEMRush needs a special mention. It offers you complete freedom in disavowing the bad backlinks and exploring the new opportunities available.

However, the interface does look a little flashy and comes with a lot of not so needed information. This can sometimes make it cumbersome- especially for new users.

Check the below example. There is practically no need for multiple locations for beginning a new project.

The software will need a steeper learning curve to get used to it.

However, if you are an advanced user, you can make the best use of the shortcuts and links that SEMRush provides you.

The footer area of the interface can be another pointer to a flashy interface. I love the simple interface and dashboard that would have made using the software an easy option.

Ahrefs, on the other hand, provides you with an easy to use dashboard. It does not pour in all the information right away, and thus is less intimidating for new users.

One of the features I loved the most with the Ahrefs dashboard and interface is the liberal use of intuitive graphs and charts.

This can help you have a clear and better view of the site performance in terms of average keyword position, backlinks, and search visibility.  

Keyword Research

Both the tools provide you with a fair deal of equal performance when it comes to keyword research.

However, if you are into competitor analysis and depend on reverse engineering for finding the best ranking keywords, SEMRush can a better option.

But, the traditional keyword research may not be up to the mark on SEMRush.

Ahrefs can research keywords based on the channels like Google, Amazon, YouTube, Bing, and Yahoo to name a few.

It has recently launched the Keyword Magic Tool for an enhanced experience in keyword research.


SEMRush offers four different pricing plans. The basic plan starts at $ 99.95 per month. You can choose between Pro, Guru, Business and Enterprise.

The pricing ranges from $ 99.95 to $ 399. You also have access to a limited use free plan for the beginners and those who may not yet afford the recurring charges.

The free plan provides you access to 10 searches per day. If you are paying annually, you will receive discounted prices.

Ahrefs provides access to four different plans. You can choose between Lite, Standard, Advanced and Agency. Each of the plans offers you benefits of all the services available on the platform, but with varying degrees as per the plan.

The price range of plans is similar to SEMRush and is covered from $ 99 to $ 399. However, Ahrefs does not offer any free plans.

Even the free trial option available on the service is chargeable at $7 for seven days. Annual billing can help you save more money.


The reporting feature on SEMRush is quite good. The Site Audit option provides you with a comprehensive report of your site within a short time.

Moreover, the report also sheds light on all the aspects of your SEO performance making it the best option to take control of your SEO performance. The reports are quite robust.

In the case of Ahrefs, the reporting section still needs a lot of development. It is a comparatively new tool, and I expect it to develop a robust reporting system quite soon. The pace of releasing updates can be indicative of this fact.

In sharp contrast to the comprehensive reports observed in SEMRush, you need to pull individual PDF or Excel files in the form of a report.

Finally, there is no option for customising the report as in the case of SEMRush.

Competitor research

Competitor research is quite comprehensive on SEMRush. The tool was developed with this concept and later moved ahead to include traditional keyword research options. You can analyze everything that a competitor is doing.

A complete overview of their domains, their organic traffic and the source from which they are getting it, and the keywords that are ranking the most on the competitor site are a few features that make it a complete solution for competitor analysis. It even provides you access to a social media tracker for your competitors.

Ahrefs offers you a good deal of competitor analysis but falls short of the functionality when compared to SEMRush. It can provide you with domain analysis and keyword research into competitor performance.

However, the reverse engineering technique employed by SEMRush is more polished and effective than that on Ahrefs.

Site Audits

SEMRush provides you access to over 120 different checks to find the errors and issues with your site if any. These include SEO and on-page checks. The feature can check the site for the certificate errors, issues with site architecture, server problems and other severe issues that may be affecting your site. It also lets you track the problems fixed and find if there are any new issues.

The Site Audit feature on Ahrefs too lives up to expectations with cool features. You can fix a good number of issues like security certificates, servers, content mix and other similar problems that may be affecting your system. The functionality is as expansive as that on SEMRush, but still, you get a good deal to fixes to the issues you may be suffering from.

So, which among them should you go with?

There cannot be a clear leader when it comes to choosing the right SEO tool among those top two players.

As is evident from the comparison that we carried out above, each of them has a specific upper hand in terms of a few specific feature areas.

Ideally, we would reach the following conclusion. If you are more into online marketing, SEMRush can be your best bet. It can help you work with most of the web channels without the need for opting for any specialized tool.

The reporting and competitor analysis features on SEMRush makes it more robust. Add to it a more comprehensive site audit feature that lets you take your site towards a more profitable venture.

Alternatively, if you are only looking at the organic search traffic, Ahrefs should be a better alternative. This is after assuming that you are using other tools for your SEM requirements.

Ultimately, your choice should depend upon the exact requirements that you are eyeing. Both of those tools are robust in their way, and you can choose the one that best meets your specific needs.

In Conclusion

So, that was a complete review and comparison of Ahrefs vs SEMRush.

Which among them did you find impressive? They are both all-rounder tools and have features that come in handy under varied conditions.

And now that you have a comparison, the choice should be easy to make. And if this helps you, my efforts are paid off.

Have Questions? Ask Me Anything About Ahrefs vs SEMRush in the comments or contact me directly.

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