Battle of SEO Tools: SEMRush vs. Ahrefs

by Corey Philip
October 26, 2020

100+ Hours Using SEMrush

1 Week Monitoring MAB with Both Tools

6 Top Features Assessed and Compared

50+ User Feedback Collected

3 Similarities, 5 Differences, 1 Conclusion

20 Industry Experts Consulted

So you're in need of a tool that will help you produce better content, get higher rankings and dig up dirt on the competition?

The two most popular SEO tools are SEMrush and Ahrefs. Both can help you increase organic search traffic, improve website performance in search engine results, and provide keyword phrases suggestions. If used right, they can significantly increase the relevance of your website while furthering your online presence. There are key points that set these tools apart, though. Let’s take a quick look at how they compare.

our Pick



4 .5/ 5

SEMrush is an all-in-one online marketing and SEO tool. It has over 20 billion keywords in its database which you can use to improve your online visibility. It even has a Social Media Marketing Toolkit which can help you manage and track your online marketing campaigns on different social media platforms.

SEMrush is the best for overall performance among SEO software as it provides everything you need on different SEO and marketing channels. 

It’s great for businesses and marketers who are running PPC and SMM campaigns. Through its automations, you can improve the contents and reputation of your brand.

If you’re looking for an all-around tool that packs a punch, then SEMrush is a perfect choice.

  • Social Media Management
  • On-page SEO
  • Keyword Research
  • Link Building
  • Local SEO
  • Rank Tracking
  • Market and Competitor Analysis
  • Content Creation, Optimization and Distribution
  • Paid Advertising and PPC Keyword Research
  • Website Monetization
  • Competitor PR Monitoring
  • Easy to use
  • Free trial
  • Largest keywords database
  • Best SEO API
  • Great for researching keywords and competitors
  • Great for content marketing
  • Helpful for running paid campaigns 
  • Constantly monitors website ranking on Google Search
  • Many innovations on a continuous basis
  • Social Media Management
  • Data inaccuracy as keyword ranking is not updated real-time
  • Limited technical analysis without technical edit tool that needs to be paid for separately
  • Does not support simultaneous login
  • Tool organization and presentation is confusing



4 / 5

With over 15 trillion backlinks in its index, Ahrefs has the biggest in the world. It supports various search engines like Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, and Yahoo. It also comes with a Content Explorer that gives you the most popular content in your niche based on metrics like traffic and social shares.

Ahrefs is the best for backlink analysis as users can use it to build their backlink profile based on thousands of the best link building opportunities.

It’s a powerful tool perfect for medium-sized businesses and bloggers that want to invest in content marketing. Through the traffic it attracts, you get to gain more clients.

If you’re looking for software that could help you with backlinks and content, then Ahrefs is the one for you.

  • SEO Auditing
  • Keyword Research
  • Off-page SEO
  • Rank Tracking
  • SEO Reporting
  • Mentions Monitoring
  • Backlink Research
  • Click Distribution
  • SERP Analysis
  • User-friendly
  • Large backlinks database
  • Innovative data/metrics reporting tools
  • Constantly releases updates
  • Great customer support
  • Keeps you on track with keywords ranking
  • Shows you website's top performing pages through backlinks
  • Cannot be linked with Google Analytics
  • Limited access to features on its Lite Plan
  • Organic search traffic inaccuracy
  • Does not regularly update keyword ranking
  • No traffic analytics for competing domains
  • No free trial

Guide to Choosing an SEO Tool for You 

Using SEO tools, your business and brand can get exposed to a larger market. And as you reach your target market through organic channels, your conversion rates may also increase. Thus, business owners invest in SEO tools as the costs are more controllable compared to spending on buying ads.  

Ask yourself these questions before choosing a tool.

How much are you willing to spend on the tool? SEO tools often come with subscription rates that need to be made monthly or annually. These should be factored into your budget.

What problem or needs does your website or business have? Are you having problems reaching your market? Do you have a low conversion rate? The issues you want to address correlate with the features you need in a tool.

In answering these questions, you can figure out which tool between SEMRush and Ahrefs is better for your business. Still stuck? To help you decide, we will show you how the two SEO tools can be used for your website or business. 

How SEO Tools Work

The general SEO process involves three aspects.


Keyword research. By working on your content with its proper keywords, it’ll be easier for viewers to see it while searching. You can also use keywords tools to help you on this one!


Using title tags and meta description for your content. Using title tags and meta descriptions for your content will help the viewers know what you are talking about. You can also include some keywords to your title and meta description so it’ll be easier to search.


Off-page promotion and link building. Now that you have your content, you can now engage in link building. It means other websites can link you and you can do it for them too. It’s like a feature that makes people want to check out your website as well.

Even the most basic of SEO tools should help you cover these bases. Luckily, both SEMrush and Ahrefs can do all three and more.

Getting to Know SEMrush and Ahrefs, and How You can Benefit From Them

SEMrush is a program that content creators use to maximize the use of their websites and improve the website experience of their customers or viewers. It is a popular SEO tool that highlights what keywords you should use when trying to rank in organic results. It also can provide traffic analytics, which can give you more “meat” compared to what you get on Google Analytics. This tool specializes in keyword research, rank tracking, and PPC analysis.

Ahrefs is another popular SEO tool famous for having the most comprehensible index of live backlinks. It can provide solid data on links from other websites that lead to your domain, what kind of volume your website content is attracting, how high your social shares are, and more. This tool specializes in usability, live backlink index, keyword research, and backlink analysis. 

Using both these tools, you can speed up your website’s growth by:

Increasing Your Customer Base

Businesses with SEO grow the numbers of their potential clients faster than other companies.

Increasing Visibility

SEO guarantees that your products or services are easily found through organic research.

Building Trust and Brand Credibility

Because your website ranks high in search results, people trust your business more.

Marketing in a Cost-Effective Manner

By utilizing SEO, you can minimize your costs in advertising as more people see your website without paying too much.

Did you know?

You can use page rank analysis to help you prioritize the content that you want to ranker higher for your audience. 

Best of SEMrush: Features I Like and What I Think Can Improve

In this section, we will reveal three top features that SEMrush has which makes it an innovative tool for your growing business.

Domain Overview 

The Domain Overview Tool provides a comprehensive look at your website’s performance. At a glance, you can see how much traffic your site gets from paid ads or SEO. It breaks data up into different sections that include organic search, paid search, backlinks, and display advertising.

Two notable sections are under organic research. In Top Organic Keywords, I get to find out what my best performing keywords are, the percentage of organic traffic it's driving to my website, and how much advertisers are paying for a user's click on an ad from that keyword. I can create more content around what generates more interest, but the last info is pretty interesting. I can use it in two ways: 1) if I decide to run ads to my website using these keywords, and 2) if I decide to run AdSense, since it will match ads based on my content. The higher the CPC, the higher I will earn from advertisers.

The second notable section is Main Organic Competitors. Once I find out who they are and how I'm performing against them, I can then dig up data on them using the Domain Overview Tool. It will help me reverse engineer their keywords so I can kick their butts with better content that target those.

Keyword Overview and Keyword Magic  Tool

The Keyword Overview tool quickly provides an analysis of your provided keywords using data from Google based on:

  • Volume of Searches

  • Keyword Difficulty

  • Related Keywords

  • Competition

  • Organic Search

  • Paid Search 

  • And more

Using this tool, you can search specific keywords to figure out how valuable they are to your domain. This way, you know which ones to target and how these can affect your website traffic.

I searched "SEMrush review" to see how this would perform as a keyword. You can see it gets a decent number of traffic monthly (720) but targeting it to rank on the first page of Google would be slightly difficult (67%). On the other hand, CPC is high and competition density is low, which is good if I'll run Adsense on my blog.

If the keyword proves to be too difficult to rank for, I can always checkout another section of Keyword Overview that contains variations, questions, and related keywords. Clicking one will then lead to the Keyword Magic Tool.

The Keyword Magic Tool will then give me a comparison of what I selected, in this case related keywords. I can see 1) which keywords get a fairly decent amount of traffic, 2) how they're performing on Google Trends, 3) how difficult it would be to rank, and 5) how many results I'd have to compete against. Based on this info, I can choose other keywords to try or keywords that can supplement the other one.

Through the data you can get from both tools, you can determine the most competitive and profitable keywords for your business.

Site Audit

SEMrush has one of the most legit audit tools out there. It quickly generates your website’s overall SEO health by scanning all your website pages. By utilizing SEMrush’s ability to do an intense website audit, you can determine the factors that adversely affect your ranking. These could include duplicate content, SSL issues, and crawl errors. SEMrush even provides recommendations on how to fix and avoid these problems.

All you need to do is select the domain you want to audit, set the number of web pages to crawl, and it will do its magic.

In less than 30 minutes, I get my results, with a breakdown of what they are and how I can resolve them.

Best of Ahrefs: Features I Like and What I Think Can Improve

Now let’s get into the distinct features Ahrefs has which worked for me that you can use, too.

Keywords Explorer

Similar to SEMrush, Ahrefs has an excellent keyword research tool in Keywords Explorer. You can get different helpful information like CTR, CPC, volume among other data. 

But unlike how SEMrush is limited to Google, Ahrefs has more supported search engines. These include:

  • Google
  • YouTube
  • Amazon
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Yandex (Russia)
  • Baidu (China)
  • Daum & Naver (South Korea)
  • Seznam (Czech Republic)

It's awesome how there are tips on how many backlinks you would need to rank for a particular keyword, which eliminates a lot of guesswork. There's even the "newly discovered" section, which are keywords that were added only recently to the Ahrefs database. Be careful though, because search engine result pages and keyword density aren't updated in real-time. You would need to click the Update button that pops up at the top.

It’s very helpful in analyzing specific search terms, but it isn’t the best in generating new keyword ideas as most suggestions were... Eh, you be the judge.

Content Explorer

Another tool with a fun name, Content Explorer helps you get a list of well-performing website content based on backlinks and social shares in any niche. You can filter them based on language, the number of shares, word count, publish date, and more. 

After searching for the keyword "ahrefs", I can figure out what specific content based on what attracts the most traffic, what's getting the most social shares, and how valuable the traffic is.

It’s also great in identifying low-hanging outreach opportunities such as Twitter posts relevant to your business.

Other filters like authors, websites, and languages can be a bit buggy so you'd have to refresh a few times to get what you need.

Site Explorer

Similar to the Domain Overview Tool of SEMrush, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer summarizes any website in just one click. It provides data and charts that cover important metrics such as organic traffic and URL ratings.

With Ahrefs rank, it compares you to the other websites found in their database, similar to SEMrush's authority score. Data is easily digestible as it is organized into three tabs: backlinks, organic search and paid search. You can see info like referred domains right away, which you would have to open in a separate page in SEMrush. Plus, you can even export individual charts for your reporting needs. 

You get a more thorough backlink profile compared to SEMrush that lets you monitor live links coming from other domains, web pages, as well as new and lost backlinks. Below, you can even see the anchor that's being used, and the ranking of the domain that's referring to my website.

Using the data from Site Explorer, I can get an insight into my backlinks as well as how certain websites gain traffic to create a more robust SEO strategy for my own domain.

Did you know?

In Ahrefs, you can find broken links quickly through Broken Link Building.

Similarities and Differences Between SEMrush and Ahrefs

SEMrush and Ahrefs have a lot of differences, but they also have similar primary goals.


  • Both tools help you create content that entices your target market
  • Using data from the two tools, you can determine opportunities that will help you build links from other sites.
  • Both enables you to transform your website to improve user experience


  • Ahrefs support nine search engines, while SEMrush is limited only to Google.
  • SEMrush provides better organic and PPC data than Ahrefs.
  • SEMrush has a larger keyword database compared to Ahrefs, while Ahrefs has a larger backlink database.
  • There is a slight difference in the way they present information.
  • Ahrefs provide an easier way to find broken links.

Side-by-side Comparison

Now let's see how they perform side by side.




Keyword Research

20 Billion Keywords in the Database

6.3 Billion Keywords in the Database

Rank Tracking

Updates Daily

Updates Weekly

Site Audits

Side-by-side Comparative Audits

Robust Site Audit Tool

Backlink Analysis

Improved Link Building Tools

Largest Index of Live Backlinks

PPC Analysis

Better PPC Analysis

Not a Lot of Information on PPC

Campaign Reporting

Robust Built-In Reporting Toolset

Easy-to-read Data Presentation

And the pricing...


Starting Price



  • Pro: $99.95/month
  • Guru: $199.95/month
  • Business: $399.95/month
  • Custom plans: Available


Starting Price


for 7 days (Standard/Advanced only)

  • Lite: $99/month
  • Standard: $179/month
  • Advanced: $399/month
  • Agency: $999/month

SEMrush provides a free trial, so you can test it out before purchasing. You have the option of annual payment to get the 16% discount. Moreover, you can customize your plan according to your needs and budget.

On the contrary, Ahrefs does not provide a free trial. You need to pay $7 for the trial version. On a positive note, the savings on the annual plan is a lot higher at 20%.

The Final Verdict: Should You Choose SEMrush or Ahrefs?

Both SEO tools have their strengths and weaknesses. There are a lot we haven't even covered in this blog post, but we were able to cover enough of the basics for you to make a sound decision. If you want to prioritize link building, Ahrefs may be the better choice. But if your strategies will involve SEO and PPC, SEMrush is the best fit for your needs. It all depends on what you work on the most in your business. If you are not quite sure, you may opt to try the free trial of SEMrush. On the other hand, Ahrefs have charges if you want to try their tool.

However, after checking all the features they have to offer, I honestly prefer SEMrush. In terms of keyword research, SEMrush provides a vast number you can analyze and build content around. Based on the numbers shown by both platforms, SEMrush’s domain database is bigger than Ahrefs. Even if Ahrefs offers more supported search engines, the world is still mostly using Google as its primary search engine. It also updates rank tracking daily, while Ahrefs updates weekly.

Although Ahrefs has a better backlink analysis, SEMrush offers better visualization of information that you can use to produce excellent content for your blog. SEMrush offers excellent data representation features that are not provided in Ahrefs. Through this, content bloggers can analyze their data better. 

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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