Whether you’re new to the blogging world or have been publishing online content for some time, you likely know the right SEO tools can be a huge help in picking the right keywords, knowing where to get backlinks, and ranking your posts.
The challenge is in knowing which ones are best for your business.
Semrush & Ahrefs are two of the rank tracking market leaders when it comes to SEO tools. In this article, we’ll compare Semrush vs Ahrefs to determine which is best for the creative lifestyle and travel blogger.
Personally, I’m an Ahrefs fan and have been using this tool for keyword research, link-building campaigns, and loads more.
However, many top bloggers recommend Semrush for its in-depth backlink & PPC research tools.
Let’s take a closer look at both seo tools to determine which one better meets your needs.
Semrush vs Ahrefs – TL;DR
- Keyword Research: Allows Google keyword research, competitor keyword analysis, and PPC keyword research.
- Backlink Analysis: It has a larger backlink database and it finds more backlinks than Ahrefs.
- Rank Tracking: Semrush tracks keyword ranking daily and offers visibility scores for each keyword.
- PPC Toolkit: It has a PPC toolkit to perform PPC keyword research and spy on competitor ads, making it a great choice for SEO agencies.
- Local SEO: It has a local SEO tool with a listing management feature.
- Site Audit & On-Page SEO: It offers a robust site audit feature with ability to find technical errors on site such as HTTPS status code, structured data, crawlability, etc. Additionally, it also offers an on-page SEO audit that focuses on everything from content, backlink, image ALT tags, meta description, and more.
- Content Explorer: Semrush doesn’t offer this feature.
- Keyword Research: Allows keyword research for multiple search engines, and also allows competitor keyword analysis. No PPC keyword research available.
- Backlink Analysis: Its backlink database is slightly smaller, and it finds fewer backlinks than Semrush.
- Rank Tracking: It also offers an accurate rank tracker, but updates the rankings one or twice a week depending on your active plan.
- PPC Toolkit: Ahrefs doesn’t offer a PPC toolkit.
- Local SEO: Ahrefs doesn’t have this feature.
- Site Audit & On-Page SEO: Ahrefs also offers a site audit and on-page SEO audit, but the two are merged in the single Site Audit tool unlike Semrush’s two separate tools. The tool is robust and covers everything that Semrush offers.
- Content Explorer: This feature allows users to find existing content for a given keyword and analyze the type of content consumed more by users, thereby allowing to create a solid content strategy.
Pros of Semrush
- Semrush allows a lot of keyword & backlink research and you can pull a lot of reports daily. Ahrefs has quite stifling daily limits.
- Apart from SEO data, Semrush offers data about PPC. Ahrefs lacks PPC tools.
- Semrush’s Keyword Intent feature allows finding the most relevant keywords for your business. Ahrefs doesn’t have that feature.
- For toxic backlinks identification, Semrush does a much better job than Ahrefs.
- Semrush offers a robust site audit and technical SEO tool to improve site structure.
Pros of Ahrefs
- Ahrefs allows for keyword research across multiple search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Semrush restricts that only to Google.
- Ahrefs has a simple interface and offers easy-to-understand reports and information.
- The broken links analysis by Ahrefs is much easier and more powerful than Semrush.
- Ahrefs offers a metric called ‘Traffic Potential’ that makes it easy to identify high-volume organic keywords that you can rank for.
- Only Ahrefs has what is known as ‘Content Explorer,’ which finds web pages mentioning your keywords, thereby giving you a set of backlink prospects.
Semrush vs Ahrefs: Detailed Comparison
Here we’ll analyze the core features that matter the most to non-techie bloggers. The five key features I will compare include:
- Keyword research
- Backlink analysis
- Technical SEO & site audit
- Unique features
1. Keyword Research Tool
Keyword research is imperative because it helps you plan and create content that matters. It is a vital SEO writing assistant for lifestyle & travel bloggers. Both Ahrefs and Semrush offer a keyword research tool. But which one is best? Let’s find out.
For keyword research, Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool displays data such as total search volume, CPC, keyword difficulty, intent, etc., for any target keyword you search. Additionally, the SERP analysis reveals competitor data for a provided target keyword. Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool shows related keywords for any keyword you research. However, more than just the basic key metrics, Semrush also throws in search volume trends, CPC distribution data, number of results, and more.
For in-house SEO teams and digital marketing agencies, this additional keyword research data is useful. For individual bloggers who don’t need to analyze so many keywords or see competitor ads (yes, Semrush shows that, too), the interface can be overwhelming.
Ahrefs has two main, very useful, keyword research features – Keyword Explorer and Organic Keywords. The Keyword Explorer is like other keyword research tools in that it provides the total search volume for the desired keywords you research along with other metrics such as keyword difficulty, CPC, etc.
What’s unique is that it also shows the total clicks you could receive for the keywords if you rank for them.
You will notice that the total clicks are less than the total search volume. That’s because some of the clicks are taken away by Google’s featured snippets and the PAA (people also ask) box.
Ahrefs also suggests new keyword ideas you can use to improve your search engine rankings.
The Organic Keywords feature is for spying on your competitors. Add the competitor’s domain or URL and Ahrefs will display the keywords your competitor is ranking for with some useful data such as total search volume, traffic numbers, SERP position, keyword difficulty, and more.
This Organic Keywords feature is similar to the core Semrush Keyword Overview feature of competitor analysis.
Semrush vs Ahrefs Keyword Research Winner: When it comes to SEO keyword research, Semrush comes out slightly ahead of Ahrefs because of the additional data it provides. However, the cluttered interface and excess data may be overwhelming for lifestyle or travel bloggers who don’t need as much information.
2. Backlink Analysis
Google uses a site’s backlink data to determine its authority and trustworthiness. You must analyze your site backlinks and build authority links to rank better in SERPs. Both Semrush and Ahrefs offer backlink analysis. Let’s find out which one is better.
In a quick analysis of a particular domain, Semrush discovered 38k+ backlinks using its backlink analytics feature.
It also reveals your competitors’ referring domains, monthly visits, keywords, and the anchor text and target URL (the URL of the website page) where the backlink landed.
This is a nifty feature because it gives you an understanding of why people are linking to specific pages on the website.
Analyzing the same domain using Ahrefs shows 19k+ backlinks, nearly half of what’s revealed on Semrush.
As with Semrush, Ahrefs also gives additional data such as organic keywords, organic traffic, referring domains, and more. However, the number of referring domains revealed by Semrush is higher than the number displayed by Ahrefs.
Similar to Semrush, Ahrefs shows the anchor text and the target URL.
Essentially, the features offered by the two tools for analyzing backlinks are very similar, but Ahrefs gives some additional information. The most important is the “Ext.” feature. It reveals the number of external links from the referring page. If the referring page has way too many external links (that is, it links to too many sites), it is a spam flag and could be a toxic link.
Semrush vs Ahrefs Backlink Research Winner: Semrush comes out on top in terms of the backlink database, however the simple user interface and the ease of identifying potentially toxic links using the ‘ext’ feature is a definite plus for Ahrefs. Of course, Semrush does have a separate feature for identifying toxic links, so overall Semrush has more features and information to help your backlinking strategy.
3. Technical SEO and Site Audit
Keyword research and backlink analysis are important to improve your SEO performance and organic search traffic with content marketing and keyword optimization. But it’s important to also focus on site structure and technical SEO.
A site audit tool performs an SEO site audit or simply an SEO audit to find out the technical SEO problems on your site. Both Semrush and Ahrefs offer this tool.
Semrush’s site audit and technical SEO tool is robust and it displays an overall health score, warnings, notices, and various thematic reports such as:
- Site crawlability
- Broken links
- HTTPS status
- Internal linking
- Issues with robots.txt file
One of the best features of Semrush’s site audit tool is that it shows the internal link distribution.
The general rule of thumb is that you will want to link from your high authority pages to those with low authority.
Semrush provides explanations for all issues and suggests solutions that you can implement. It also displays the URLs that have problems.
Ahrefs also offers a solid site audit tool that gives you all the information you need to ensure your on page and technical SEO is optimized.
It provides a list of all issues such as indexability (crawlability), HTTPS status code, broken links status, internal linking, and more.
Similar to Semrush, you can drill down and resolve the issues highlighted by Ahrefs using the explanations provided by the tool.
Semrush vs Ahrefs Technical SEO & Site Audit Winner: Both platforms offer a robust audit of your site and give you the opportunity to ensure your site health is optimized at all times. Neither Ahrefs nor Semrush is the stand-out winner here.
4. Unique Features
Both Semrush and Ahrefs have some interesting unique features which may sway you to choose one over the other, depending on your needs.
Semrush offers a PPC advertising toolkit that helps you to run effective PPC campaigns by analyzing competitors.
Additionally, it also has a separate tool for local SEO and local listing management.
Ahrefs doesn’t offer any PPC analytics.
Instead, Ahrefs focuses more on content creation and offers “Content Explorer” that displays a list of existing content on the web for a target keyword you provide along with additional data like domain ranking, social shares, organic traffic, etc.
This gives an idea about the type of content related to the topic (keyword) that people are consuming.
Another cool feature is its ability to show broken backlinks. You can quickly use the data to fix broken backlinks or within your backlink strategy.
Semrush vs Ahrefs Unique Features Winner: Semrush’s offerings are an advantage for digital marketing and SEO agencies who use PPC advertising to generate traffic. Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, on the other hand, is best suited for solopreneurs such as lifestyle & travel bloggers who rely on content marketing to improve search rankings.
Semrush offers three pricing plans which are:
- Pro: $119.95 a month
- Guru: $229.95 a month
- Business: $449.95 a month
There are additional paid modules available for local SEO, Semrush trends, agency growth kit, and ImpactHero (AI tool for content analysis). The Pro plan will not give you access to the content marketing module. If you need that, you must upgrade at least to the Guru plan. Also, the Pro plan will allow you to add and analyze only 5 projects.
Ahrefs is slightly cheaper than Semrush.
Ahrefs offers four pricing plans which are:
- Lite: $99 a month
- Standard: $199 a month
- Advanced: $399 a month
- Enterprise: $999 a month
With Ahrefs’ Lite plan you can add unlimited projects provided you verify ownership and add up to 5 unverified projects. Also, the Lite plan will not give you access to the Content Explorer feature, for which you will need the Standard plan or above.
Semrush vs Ahrefs Pricing Winner: Starting at only $99 a month, Ahrefs is better for lower budgets. However, as the price plans increase, SEMrush is more affordable for big agencies and enterprises.
Semrush vs Ahrefs FAQs
Is Semrush Better than Ahrefs?
Semrush is probably a preferred choice for digital marketing and SEO agencies because it offers a complete suite of PPC, local SEO & listing management, advertising, and other tools that allow professionals to run effective SEO and PPC campaigns. However, such enormous data is often overwhelming and unnecessary for a smaller online business relying mostly on content marketing.
Is Ahrefs the best SEO tool?
Ahrefs SEO toolkit is best suited for solopreneurs and lifestyle & travel bloggers who are heavily dependent on keyword research and content marketing. Ahrefs has a huge keyword database, which displays keyword suggestions that you can use along with its Content Explorer to devise a robust content strategy and identify link prospects.
What is better than Ahrefs?
If your daily backlink analysis and keyword research requirements are high, Semrush is a better choice because of its generous limits compared to Ahrefs. Also, Ahrefs doesn’t have a PPC module. If you want something for both PPC and SEO, Semrush is a better deal.
But if you don’t need PPC research and depend mostly on content to boost your organic search positions, Ahrefs’ simple user interface and more SEO-focused tools make it a perfect SEO toolkit.
What Are the Best SEO Tools on the Market?
SEMrush, Ahrefs & Moz are undoubtedly the market leaders for SEO tools. However, if you’re looking for a simple rank tracking tool, see my post on the 7 Best Rank Tracking Software Tools.
Semrush vs Ahrefs – Summary
Both Semrush and Ahrefs are powerful SEO software tools that can help you to improve your search engine rankings. They both offer keyword analytics, a position tracking tool, and a backlink analysis tool among other features, making them both incredibly competent.
However, Semrush is designed with SEO agencies and digital marketers in mind and offers additional features like a PPC toolkit, local SEO, social media management, and more.
Ahrefs, on the other hand, offers a simpler user interface, a good keyword research tool, the ability to easily spot link-building opportunities, and monitor keyword rankings. This makes Ahrefs ideal for lifestyle businesses & travel bloggers.