Ahrefs and Semrush have been at the top of the SEO industry for years.
They have continued to improve their features and develop very loyal followings. I’ve personally been using both of them for over 8+ years.
But for most people…
You only want to use one of these SEO tools. So which one should you choose?
In this blog post, I will compare Ahrefs and Semrush’s best features and answer the famous question…
“Which tool is best overall?”
So, let’s get started!
What Will I Learn?
Ahrefs and Semrush both have some great SEO features worth taking advantage of.
Here’s a quick introduction if you don’t know much about both tools.
In the blue corner, we have Ahrefs.
Ahrefs was founded in 2010 as a website explorer tool. Since then it has grown into a fully-fledged all-in-one SEO tool.
Packed inside the easy-to-use interface are a ton of powerful SEO features.
You get everything you need to execute high-quality SEO campaigns without the complexity of most SEO tools.
Ahrefs’ top features include:
Ahrefs has a great suite of tools to execute any SEO campaign in any niche.
Don’t forget to read my full Ahrefs Review to see all of the powerful features you can take advantage of.
Access to Ahrefs best features for FREE with Ahrefs Webmaster tools.
In the red corner, we have Semrush.
Semrush is an all-in-one SEO and marketing tool.
It has changed a lot over the years, starting off as just a Firefox SEO extension called SEO digger in 2008.
It was then renamed SEOQuake and finally developed into a complete SEO tool where it was again renamed Semrush.
Semrush is an incredibly powerful market research tool with data on just about anything you need. While the bread and butter of Semrush is SEO, it has content marketing, PPC advertising and social media features as well.
Semrush’s top SEO features include:
As you can see, Semrush also has a powerful suite of SEO tools to effectively execute SEO campaigns.
On paper, both Ahrefs vs Semrush look similar.
But you need to dive beneath the surface to really get a feature vs feature comparison.
I have broken this comparison into 8x rounds:
Let’s jump in!
If you can’t find great keywords for your campaign…
It’s doomed from the beginning. Good keyword research tools let you dig in deeper to find those hidden gems that aren’t obvious.
Ahrefs’ primary keyword research tool is called Keyword Explorer.
They have a huge keyword database with 19.8 billion keywords across 10 search engines in 171+ countries. 4.4 billion of those keywords are for the US alone.
That’s a lot of keyword data.
Keyword Explorer works similarly to other keyword research tools. You type in your seed keywords and Ahrefs will provide you with data for that keyword-
You can also see a global breakdown of keyword search volumes by country.
With Ahrefs you can research up to 10,000 keywords in one go. If you are handling an enterprise SEO campaign, Ahrefs has the power to do it.
Need some more keywords for your campaign?
Keywords Explorer takes the 10 most popular keywords related to your original seed keyword to generate thousands more keyword suggestions. It does this with 6 different methods-
This will give a huge list of potential keywords to search through.
Now you’ve got a bunch of good keywords… How do you determine which ones are right for your campaign?
This is where Ahrefs makes keyword research a breeze.
Keyword Explorer uses advanced metrics and modelling to help you calculate a return when you rank for any keyword.
Here’s how it does it-
While these metrics are based on modelling, you can use this data to make better keyword decisions to get the highest ROI possible every single time.
Semrush keyword research tools are also very powerful.
You’ll get access to their massive index of 20.8 billion keywords across 141 countries.
This is bigger than Ahrefs, but the difference isn’t likely to significantly impact your keyword research overall.
Like Ahrefs, you can’t start by using some seed keywords, or you can type in a competitor’s domain to see their keyword rankings.
Semrush provides much of the same essential keyword metrics such as-
But Semrush shines with the volume of data and information that they provide.
You get TONS more in-depth keyword data on the main report and additional graphs to provide more insights.
This is especially valuable if you are interested in PPC metrics.
One of the cool metrics that Semrush does have is estimated traffic. This metric gives you an idea of how much traffic you are likely to get when ranking for a keyword.
This helps you understand which keywords are worth targeting.
What about keyword ideas?
Semrush keyword ideas tool is called Keyword Magic. You get thousands of keyword ideas in seconds using-
And more. This is similar to Ahrefs in the way that it works.
Semrush also has tons of filters to process lots of keywords quickly to find the hidden gems that aren’t as obvious.
One of the biggest benefits of using Semrush is SERP analysis. Semrush has done a great job at providing a wealth of information about the SERPs.
Not only that but you can also see the title and meta description being featured by each website in the SERPs.
Ahrefs keyword research tool-suite is:
You can get the important metrics easily and dive deeper whenever you want. You also get an extensive keyword database across 10 search engines, not just Google.
There’s no doubt that Semrush does provide more data overall. But it’s overwhelming and at times unnecessary – most people just won’t use half the features.
The only significant benefit of Semrush is they include solid PPC data, which might benefit specific users.
Truthfully both keyword research features are pretty similar.
But Ahrefs data is more usable as they provide better metrics that helps determine whether a keyword is worth targeting.
Doing keyword research on budget? Check out my list of free keyword research tools.
One of the great features that both tools offer is domain analysis. This simply means getting a general snapshot of how good any website is from an SEO perspective.
Good domain analysis tools make it easy to research a competitor and quickly see the overall SEO performance.
Ahrefs domain analysis tool is called Site Explorer.
It gives you a high-level view of any website’s organic traffic and backlink profile.
Within seconds you can see:
Ahrefs also estimates how much traffic a website is getting.
These key metrics give you a quick overview of any website and how it’s performing organically.
Want to measure the authority of a website?
Ahrefs’ core authority metric is called “Domain Rating” (DR) and it’s one of the most popular authority metrics used by SEOs.
Overall, DR measures the relative authority of a website based on its backlink profile and the ability of that website to rank in the SERPs.
Want to see if a competitor’s search traffic is growing?
The Organic Search tab in Site Explorer shows two important graphs:
This makes it easy to visualise any website’s organic performance.
When reviewing any website…
You need to check out the backlink profile. If your competitors are acquiring high-quality backlinks, it won’t be long before they are breathing down your neck in the SERPs.
In the Backlink profile within Site Explorer, Ahrefs provides all the data you need to see any website’s backlink growth.
There is a ton of information here. You can see-
And even the top-level domain distribution and the location of each backlink.
Ahrefs has done a great job making all of this information accessible in an easy-to-use interface. They have even added a Paid search tab where you can see:
Semrush has a comprehensive domain analysis tool.
While the report might initially look overwhelming, it contains a ton of valuable information that you can leverage.
Right at the top of the domain analysis report, you’ll see the websites:
Semrush’s authority score metric is comparable to Ahrefs’ domain rating metric. It is a reliable indicator out of 100 that estimates the ability of the website to rank in the SERPs.
The organic overview in the Semrush Domain analysis tools has a lot of information.
Like Ahrefs you can see organic traffic and organic keywords growth with visually appealing graphs. But Semrush has a couple of unique data points in the organic section of the domain analysis.
Firstly you can see any website’s ranking keywords broken down by search intent:
This cool feature lets you see the keyword distribution to get an idea of what types of keywords they are targeting.
Want to see how a website stacks up against key competitors?
Semrush adds two widgets that feature the main organic competitors and a competitive positioning map.
This gives you a good ‘at-a-glance’ indication of:
Semrush has everything you would expect to find when it comes to the backlink overview.
You can see the sites:
…And so much more!
While this section doesn’t contain as much information as Ahrefs, it does a thorough job to get a good overview of the site’s backlink profile and strengths.
Paid search is another place that Semrush shines in Domain Analysis.
Like Ahrefs you see a sample of text ads the site is running.
The top paid keywords section tells you which keywords perform best in the campaign.
You could potentially take these keywords and immediately apply them to your own campaign to start generating similar results.
Overall, Semrush has a comprehensive domain analysis tool that provides in-depth and usable data for any site.
It provides the most in-depth analysis while providing important data upfront.
The one thing that Ahrefs does get over Semrush is the ease of use. You get a clear overview of any domain and the data is usable.
There is no doubt that both tools have comprehensive domain analysis tools that will work well for any SEO campaign.
Semrush just packs in more info and a couple of unique metrics to take the cake here.
Backlink analysis is an interesting round for both SEO tools.
But Semrush has invested a lot of money and resources into their backlink tool suite.
Here is the backlink breakdown for Semrush vs Ahrefs.
The size of a backlink database matters.
The more links you have indexed in your database, the more accurate your analysis and link building features will be.
Backlink database size forms the foundation of link building and backlink tools.
Ahrefs has long been the trophy holder of backlink databases.
They boast the largest world’s largest index of live backlinks – second only to Google.
Ahrefs has 26.9 trillion internal backlinks and 3.4 trillion external backlinks. That’s a massive database of links.
How do they collect all that link data?
Every minute they crawl over 5 pages!
This is what allows Ahrefs to keep such a fresh live backlink database. As a user, this is good news for you. You can be confident that their authority metrics such as:
…are good measurements of your website’s overall authority.
Historically backlink analysis tools were the weakest point of Semrush.
To say their backlink database was lacking was an understatement.
But in 2019, they completely redid their link building and backlink tool suite and have improved significantly.
Today, Semrush claims to have a backlink database of over 43 trillion backlinks.
That’s a lot…
You might be thinking – “that’s way more than Ahrefs”.
That’s true, but…
You have to realise there are two different types of backlink databases:
Historic indexes serve as records of the backlinks that have existed in the past but aren’t necessarily live today.
Semrush doesn’t say whether their 43 trillion backlinks are live backlinks or just a historical record.
Ahrefs only counts live backlinks in their backlink index numbers. But if we just take each tool by the numbers they publish, Semrush does have more.
Both Ahrefs and Semrush allow you to enter any domain to view all of it’s backlinks. Ahrefs is great for analyzing backlinks but Semrush outperforms it in terms of backlink database size, reporting tools, auditing and building new links make SEMrush a better option.
Link building and backlink analysis are crucial for SEO. Backlink tools should help you find quality backlink opportunities and build links more efficiently.
Ahrefs allows you to quickly see any website’s:
This makes it really easy to compare websites quickly.
Ahrefs has a nice backlink gap tool that allows you to see backlinks your core competitors have but you don’t.
This is one of the easiest ways to see how you stack up against competitors quickly.
The backlink tools inside Ahrefs allow you to:
What about link building?
Ahrefs makes backlink research easier.
In minutes, you can find thousands of potential link-building opportunities using any of the top link building strategies.
One of my favourite backlink tools that Ahrefs has is web monitoring. Any time you get mentioned online, you get an email from Ahrefs and can reach out to secure the link.
The Ahrefs intuitive interface makes link building efficient and effective.
Semrush has been investing in its backlink tools.
Research any website’s backlink profile to get all of the important backlink information.
Semrush provides a ton of backlink filters so you can get specific on the types of links a website has. They even go as far to categorise each link by industry so you can see how you stack up against your competitors.
This tool also lets you know what kinds of sites you should be trying to get more links from. But when it comes to turning that research into link building opportunities, Semrush isn’t as fluent…
You’ll need to dig around more to find those quality links.
One unique tool that Semrush does have is its outreach link building tool.
You can find and reach out to prospects from within Semrush. While in theory this sounds good, the tool itself feels a little clunky.
But it could be a nice feature to have!
Backlink audits are an important feature.
You need to protect your backlink profile and ensure that it remains strong to increase your domain authority.
Backlink auditing is Ahrefs’ speciality.
You get a comprehensive list of your entire backlink profile.
Ahrefs referring domains and backlink graphs make it easy to quickly identify negative SEO attacks by showing spikes in your link acquisition rate.
An important part of backlink auditing is identifying links from irrelevant top-level domains (TLD). Ahrefs has a tool suite that lets you see:
It’s easy to see spammy links from dodgy sites.
You can check for spammy anchor text with the Ahrefs anchor test map tool.
Lastly, Ahrefs uses “Domain Rating” (DR) to measure the overall authority of any backlink. This is a reliable metric you should be taking advantage of.
You can identify websites with a low DR and remove them quickly.
Semrush has a similar suite of backlink auditing features to Ahrefs.
It’s just not as comprehensive.
You can get a complete list of your backlinks and see each link’s “Authority Score” (AS).
Basically, Authority Score is Semrush’s version of Domain Rating.
It’s easy to spot low AS backlinks that need to be removed.
Semrush also provides a toxicity score for each link.
The higher the number, the more damage this link could do to your SEO.
This feature allows you to:
Like Ahrefs, Semrush allows you to see your backlink profile anchor text to identify spammy anchor text that needs to be removed.
There’s no doubt that Semrush will allow you to perform comprehensive backlink audits on any website.
Why highlight broken link building specifically?
It’s one of the best link building strategies that many people use. It’s also important that a backlink tool should be able to identify:
Straight off the bat, Ahrefs actually has a broken link building tool built into the platform.
And it’s really powerful.
Simply add your target websites to Ahrefs and click on the broken links tool.
This shows you any web pages that have broken links.
Now it’s just about finding a substitute and doing outreach. Easy, right?
Semrush also finds broken links quickly, but it’s not as straightforward.
You can add a competitor’s website to the backlink analytics tool. After gathering all of the website’s backlinks, you’ll need to tick the “Target URL” error box.
This gives you a list of dead links to review and see if they are fit for broken link building.
Despite Semrush investing a lot into its backlink features, Ahrefs is far better for:
While Semrush claims to have the biggest backlink database, tons of independent tests show that Ahrefs can find more links most of the time – including my own.
Ahrefs backlink analysis tools are better and far easier to use.
They speed up backlink audits and link building – helping you be more efficient. It doesn’t get much better than that.
If your website has technical issues… It just won’t rank well.
So now, let’s look at which tool is better at identifying technical SEO issues and turning them into opportunities.
Ahrefs has recently upgraded its site audit tool.
It’s quickly gone from relatively basic to quite advanced.
From the get-go, Ahrefs will give you 3 core site audit metrics:
This gives you a quick look at where your website is at in terms of technical SEO health. Ahrefs provides you with a complete list of things you need to fix.
This is broken down into three categories:
It’s easy to prioritise which tasks you need to focus on first and get to work. You can click on any of the issues to reveal a complete list of affected URLs.
What kinds of issues does Ahrefs detect?
Ahrefs identifies all of the major technical issues including:
You can also get a good look at your site structure to ensure that it’s friendly for users and search engines.
Ahrefs Site Audit is robust and will help any website identify and fix its SEO issues.
Semrush is known for their site audit tool.
It’s long been held as one of the best site audit tools available and they have continued to improve and update it.
As soon as you run a site audit, Semrush will give you an overall health score and key metrics for each technical part of your website.
This gives you way more information upfront and allows you to dive into certain aspects of your website immediately.
Similarly to Ahrefs, Semrush breaks SEO issues into three categories:
Semrush conveniently provides a “Top Issues” list so you can get to work fixing all of your important website issues first.
Ahrefs does this too… But Semrush does it better.
It’s easier to get on top of the most important problems quickly.
One of the unique things I love about Semrush is their internal link distribution report.
The report breaks down how your internal links are set up. Ideally, you want high authority pages linking to newer pages that need more authority.
The internal link distribution report lets you know if your website’s authority is flowing in the right direction.
These kinds of site audit features are what make Semrush so good. It goes above and beyond the standard auditing features.
You get real suggestions that provide opportunities for you to improve your SEO – not just fix the problems.
Check out my 4 step SEO audit case study to see how regular SEO audits can help your website grows.
While both tools have similar features and do an excellent job identifying technical issues, Semrush makes the information more usable.
Semrush’s site audit tool has a few more unique features that help you take your technical and on-page SEO to another level.
Staying on top of the progress of your campaign is essential. That’s why you need a solid rank tracking tool.
Here are the results of Semrush vs Ahrefs in rank tracking.
Ahrefs’ rank tracking tool is called Rank Tracker.
It lets you monitor your keyword rankings on both desktop and mobile in 170+ countries.
Setting it up is super easy:
Ahrefs will start tracking your ranking positions in each country for each keyword.
To go with their position tracking features, Ahrefs have built-in a bunch of graphs and charts to help you visualise your results:
This makes it really easy to see how your SEO campaign performs and whether your website is improving.
What about featured snippets and rich results?
Ahrefs shows you if your URLs get featured results in the SERPs. You can also see if the top 10 ranking websites have any features in general.
I love this feature because:
But one of the best things about Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker is competitor analysis.
It’s one thing to keep an eye on your own website, but what about your competitors?
You can monitor your top 10 competitors and see their-
It’s easy to keep your finger on the pulse of any keyword you target.
Ahrefs shows you all of the data you need to make good decisions and monitor your entire campaign.
But there’s one massive downside to Ahrefs Rank Tracker…
Ahrefs only updates your rankings once per week. Yuck!
While most ranking tracking tools update data daily, you’ll have to wait for an entire week to see your rankings progress.
Note that it is possible to pay extra to get daily updates, but I consider daily tracking a standard feature.
This is a huge drawback to using Ahrefs as your sole rank tracking tool.
Semrush has 3 different tools for rank tracking.
The goal is to give you more than just a standard rank tracker for your campaigns.
Position tracking is a breeze with Semrush. Similarly to Ahrefs, you get the standard ranking tracking tools like:
But one of the unique features that Semrush has is competitor discovery.
Semrush will identify similar domains competing for your target keywords.
You can then:
The Competitor Map shows you to what extent each website competes for your keywords and traffic. The bigger the circle, the higher the level of competition.
This is a great feature that allows you to grasp who your main competitors are and which websites are growing.
But Semrush doesn’t stop there…
You get many more features that allow you to deep dive into the SERPs.
With Semrush, you can track the volatility of the SERPs over the last 30 days.
This means you can see:
Semrush even goes as far as to give hints on why they think the search results are changing with messages in your dashboard.
Most SEOs fear Google algorithm updates. With Semrush, updates become an opportunity to take advantage of:
It’s worth noting that Semrush allows for super targeted ranking tracking at city and even zip code levels. Ahrefs can do major cities but won’t let you go as far as zip code.
Need to keep up with SERP data for Google ads?
Semrush uncovers your competitor’s PPC strategy.
You’ll be able to see important metrics like:
You’ll also be able to estimate how much traffic they get and how much it costs them each month. If you need to see PPC data for Google, Semrush has you covered!
There is no doubt that Semrush has developed a complete rank tracking tool suite that helps you take advantage of the SERP data and improve your own campaign.
It’s powerful and gives you all the information you need to make informed decisions.
Semrush is a more robust rank tracker and has a ton more features to take advantage of. You’ll also get your keyword positions updated daily – even on the entry-level “pro” plan.
Want to focus on mobile tracking? Check out the best mobile rank tracking tools.
All SEO campaigns are built around data.
But when you are processing large amounts of data, you need a good user interface to make it manageable.
Bad user interfaces make it harder to get the insights you need to continuously improve your campaign. Which tool is easier to use?
Let’s find out.
From the moment you log in, Ahrefs feels intuitive and easy to use.
Even though there are tons of features built-in, you never feel overwhelmed.
Ahrefs have developed an interface that is clean and simple to navigate. Dashboards and data are laid out logically and information is grouped together in a relevant way.
Getting more done is faster with Ahrefs.
Ahrefs have also done an excellent job at providing you with enough important data without too much.
Want to dive deeper?
When you are ready to look deeper into specific metrics you can do it.
This creates a nice flow between accessing important information quickly while still having the ability to jump down the rabbit hole when needed.
Semrush has also done a good job to make its user interface appealing and usable.
But there is no doubt that Semrush takes a minute to adjust to.
This is partly due to the amount of data available and also how the platform is designed.
This isn’t to say that it’s terrible…
But compared to Ahrefs, it’s just not as intuitive.
From rank tracking to backlink analysis, every major tool doesn’t feel as slick. Even though I have been using Semrush for years, I still find myself getting lost at times.
If you plan to use Semrush, you’ll have to spend a good chunk of time learning the platform before you can start to take advantage of it.
All of their tools provide information that is digestible and easier to understand.
They have done a great job at delivering powerful features that are easy to use.
Ahrefs will help you complete SEO tasks quicker and with a lot less clicking around.
Ever sat on the phone for ages waiting for a customer service representative?
For premium SEO tools – That’s not an option.
So, this is how customer support compares for Ahrefs vs Semrush.
Ahrefs offers support by:
Live chat is really responsive and you’ll almost always get a response within 3-5 minutes, which is…pretty impressive I must say.
Ahrefs also has live support 24/5, so you can contact them anytime on weekdays.
Ahrefs also has a huge amount of:
…to help you with all of their tools and to guide you through the SEO world in general.
On topf of that, the Ahrefs customer support team is friendly and knowledgeable, so you can get issues sorted quickly.
Semrush offers support by:
Semrush does operate 7 days a week but with limited hours. This can be tricky if you contact them in a different time zone, but it isn’t a big issue.
When they are online Semrush replies within 3-5 minutes.
Like Ahrefs, Semrush has many blog posts, tutorials and videos. You will be able to learn everything about Semrush from these, including learning SEO in general.
Semrush has also created free SEO courses where you’ll learn the fundamentals of SEO using the Semrush tool suite.
Both tools offer great support that is efficient and helpful.
There are several ways to get in contact and the hours of operation of customer service agents will suit the majority of people regardless of what tool you go with.
Finally, we are at the last round. This is a big question that’s probably on your mind…
“Which tool offers the best value for money?”
Here’s the answer.
Ahrefs pricing starts at $99 per month for the lite plan and goes up to $999 per month for the enterprise plan.
For $99, you’ll get access to all of the main features like backlink analysis, domain analysis, keyword research etc…
But you don’t get Ahrefs unique Content Explorer tool or their historical index.
For most website owners and even SEO freelancers, you’ll find that the lite plan will probably suit your needs.
If you run an SEO agency or have an SEO team, you’ll probably need to look at the Standard plan and above.
I have the Ahrefs Advanced plan because I take advantage of Ahrefs features every week.
I recommend taking the Ahrefs trial to see which plan is best for you.
Semrush is slightly more expensive than Ahrefs.
Semrush pricing starts at $119.95 per month for the Pro plan and goes up to $449 per month for the Business plan.
You can get a custom enterprise plan if you want it. Semrush will put it together based on your needs.
The Semrush Pro plan for $119.95 per month will give you access to most Semrush features. You won’t get any of their content marketing features and historical data index.
Like Ahrefs, the Pro plan will suit most business owners and SEO freelancers.
Agencies and larger companies will likely need to upgrade to the bigger plans.
My blog readers get an exclusive 14-day free trial, so you can see which Semrush features you need before choosing a plan.
It’s 20% cheaper than Semrush and you get access to all the tools you need.
Even as you upgrade to higher plans, Ahrefs offers better value for money, offering better features overall.
I can confidently say that Ahrefs is better than Semrush. But not by a huge margin.
Here are the results of each round for Ahrefs vs Semrush:
|Technical SEO Audit||✅|
|Pricing & Value For Money||✅|
The Backlink analysis features and keyword research tool make Ahrefs a clear winner.
Their web crawler is also more active than Semrush, which means their data should be more accurate.
The Ahrefs user interface does make a big difference and my SEO team at Search Logistics prefers using Ahrefs when they are executing campaigns for clients.
There you have it!
That was a long review with some interesting results.
If you have made it this far, I want to thank you for sticking around. I am sure you have a much better idea of the differences between Ahrefs vs Semrush.
Hopefully, you have been able to work out which tool will suit you better.
Now I want to hear from you…
Which tool do you like best?