Most website owners and agencies know just how vital proper SEO (search engine optimization) is to get right. Many are still overwhelmed when given the task to choose the tools to do the work.
There are so many different SEO tools available for purchase today that it seems like an impossible task deciding what you’ll use.
Heads up! Readers of Two Hour Blogger can get a 7-day free trial to SEMrush by using this link.
Things get even more complicated when you only have the budget for a few or even one single tool to do SEO work with. When that happens, what do you do?
We decided to take a look at the two most popular and capable SEO tools on the market today, Ahrefs and SEMrush, and put them face-to-face in a direct comparison.
We’ll admit that even when making such a specific comparison, it’s tough coming up with a definite winner and a sure loser. We’re going to try and make selecting one of these tools a bit easier.
Whether you’re a long-term marketer looking for your next tool or a business owner learning SEO, keep reading to learn the key features of each software.
After all, if you’re going to pay for a monthly SEO tool, it should be the one that’s going to help you the most!
SEMrush is often regarded as the most powerful SEO tool for webmasters and marketing companies overall.
We love the software for its ability to dig into the competition and turn up pure gold in terms of keyword ideas.
Let’s dig into what this tool is capable of a bit more, so you know just what you can do with it.
SEMRush lets you do the following:
- Domain comparison
- Organic research
- Paid search research
- Site audit
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
- Web traffic research
- Link analysis
- Social media tracking
- Business listings tool
Exploring the Capabilities
SEMrush is a vast SEO and analysis tool, which makes it tough to understand. Below is an overview of some of the features we believe are most valuable overall.
It’s easy to compare your website to other competing sites using SEMrush. You can easily set up a domain vs. domain comparison in the software.
Quickly see all the keywords each of you rank for, how your rankings differ, and get visual charts to help you understand the data presented.
It’s a quick snapshot to let you know what you can change to rank more effectively.
SEMrush has an excellent organic traffic research tool that gives you a peek into the organic traffic being generated by a given website.
You can use the tool to see the most valuable keywords on a competitor’s website in realtime.
You can also see different keyword position changes and learn about how a website is trending organically over time.
This tool is impressive for getting new keyword ideas for yourself, and you can use it to monitor your own website success and progress over time.
When putting together a paid advertisement campaign, it’s helpful to have a look at what your competitors are doing right now.
A quick domain search gives you insight into the company’s total ad spend, the keywords they are targeting, and more.
You can use this feature to quickly find out whether or not your competitors are outspending you.
Another feature under the domain analytics header allows you to see the display advertising setups, giving you an idea of how your competitors are structuring their ads.
If you plan to use paid advertising for marketing, SEMrush can give you some detailed insights to work with.
Quickly check your site for SEO issues that you can resolve to improve your rankings in search engines like Google.
Find out about everyday problems like internal and external links, meta descriptions, broken links, missing image tags, and much more.
Get a priority list of SEO issues to follow through with and fix, and you can rapidly improve the quality of your website.
Quickly generate keyword ideas using the Keyword Magic Tool. Keyword Magic creates up to 2 million keyword ideas and helps you filter ones you don’t want so you can create useful keyword reports.
It comes with a nice keyword grouping feature, making it simple to segment potential keywords by topic type.
Web Traffic Research
Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking web traffic, but not so great for watching keywords. Link your account with SEMrush, and you can instantly find out about a bunch of additional keywords that Analytics doesn’t mention.
Effectively find out which keywords you are closest to ranking for, and get ideas for additional keyword opportunities using SEMrush.
SEMrush is very good at doing backlink analysis on single websites. You can use it to examine your own website and learn what keywords you rank best for.
You can also use it on a competitor’s website, and this is when things get very interesting. Examine the competition to learn what they are trying to rank for, and use this information to formulate your own winning strategy.
Just imagine what you could do with competitor information from ten different lead competitors!
SEMrush also offers a backlink audit tool so you can monitor the quality of your backlinks and get rid of the potentially hazardous links.
Use the tool to scan all your backlinks throughout your website and remove any potentially toxic backlinks using Goggle Disavow to keep your backlink profile clean.
Social Media Mastery
SEMrush has a robust social media module that will help you enhance your social campaigns. You can track and analyze all your social media accounts in one place to see how what you’ve been doing is working for you.
SEMrush is capable of tracking changes to all your accounts, and it will also compare your results with the competition that you enter in for analysis.
That’s just one of the Social Media features provided by SEMrush though. The tool also offers social media posting.
SEMrush can link your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts and post to all of them at the same time.
It’s a powerful utility that makes growing on social platforms quick and easy to do.
You can even set up posting queues and schedule content to go up later on and also set different schedules for the same posts to various social media profiles.
Business Listing Tools
One of the most essential tasks that you must complete as a small business owner is getting your business listed in as many local directories as possible.
With the SEMrush Listing Management tool, you can quickly check to see how your business appears on Google, Facebook, and other major search engines and online tools.
Once you’ve done the check, you can go back through and fill in the proper information using the tool. The data gets updated rapidly, and you can go back through and check to see that everything is displaying correctly later.
Click here to get a 7-day free trial to SEMrush.
Ahrefs is a popular backlink analysis tool that’s used by hundreds of thousands around the world. It’s one of the best tools that’s helped Nick increase his Amazon affiliate earnings over the last year.
We’ll break down just what tools and capabilities this leading software has to offer down below.
- Site Explorer
- Content Explorer
- Crawling Reports
- Positions Explorer
- Position Tracker
- Ahrefs Alerts
- Domain Comparison
The main reason most people make use of Ahrefs is for its backlink analysis capabilities.
The tool has one of the most comprehensive databases of live backlinks. You can use it to analyze how to get more backlinks and use it to help you improve your own link strategy.
Ahrefs is a powerful SEO software that crawls more than 6 billion websites daily. This is precisely what makes the tool so powerful and useful for backlink analysis.
If you want to learn more about backlinking and to find potential backlink opportunities for any website, Ahrefs is the best in the business.
Overviewing the Tools
Let’s take a minute to talk about each tool that Ahrefs offers.
Quickly view a snapshot of a websites backlink profile and organic traffic sources with Ahrefs. You can dig into the report further, or just use Site Explorer to check how your competitors are doing compared to your own site.
Easily use this feature to find trending content topics within any niche. Content Explorer delivers information on social shares, backlinks, and organic traffic. Use this to increase your organic traffic from Google.
Content Explorer works well for finding topics that work for large websites. You can search through content based on domain authority as well as the amount of traffic that a particular post is getting.
This feature gives you a real-world picture of what content is driving traffic and what isn’t. You can use this tool to find potential sites to get links from as well.
There’s also a tool that checks websites with similar content to see if any currently link to your site. Finding backlink opportunities is made more manageable.
Keyword Explorer allows you to quickly turn up thousands of different queries in mere moments using Ahrefs.
Ahrefs has one of the most comprehensive databases of keywords helping you to grab all those longtail keywords before they slip away.
The tool supports more than 100 different countries so you can optimize with varying locations in mind.
It offers a pretty accurate keyword difficulty score, making it easy to evaluate which terms are easiest to rank for.
Another very cool feature of this tool is the “Clicks” metric. You can find out approximately how often searchers click results for a specific term for more accurate volume information.
Keyword Tracker does what its name says, tracking a list of queries for your website and tracks as you move up to better positions.
This is a powerful tool to use for reporting purposes when working on client projects, or when sending reports to your company executives.
SERP Checker lets you instantly look through the search engine results page for a given keyword and get information from the different sites listed on that page.
This is a powerful keyword research tool, informing you of what you’ll have to do to rank for a particular keyword.
With Ahrefs alerts, you can see when new backlinks are added, and when backlinks are lost in realtime.
Find out when your competitors are building links or monitor the success of your own strategies.
Compare backlink profiles between your site and a competitor’s easily with Ahrefs.
Domain Comparison gives you a fast snapshot of backlink profiles, total pages produced, and link growth over a period of time. You can compare up to 5 domains at one time with this tool.
Link Intersect is one of my favorite tools. It checks to see when multiple competitors of yours are getting links from the same source. When that’s the case, you are more likely to be able to obtain a link from that source as well.
Not only can you look for shared link sources by several of your competitors, but you can check which sources are providing frequent links.
Link Explorer allows you to target the most valuable backlink sources so you can really start building those backlinks.
A Full Comparison
Now that we’ve overviewed what each tool is capable of, it’s time to put them head-to-head and find out which software is the best option for you.
I’ll be transparent with you now — we don’t have a specific winner in this comparison. You may be able to pick an option that is best for your needs, though based on our comparison.
In terms of pricing, both services are very close in cost.
Expect to spend about the same amount for both services, though SEMrush Pro is more capable than the Ahrefs Lite, which is something budget users need to think about.
- Pro – $99.95 per month
- Guru – $199.95 per month
- Business – $399.95 per month
- Lite – $99 per month
- Standard – $179 per month
- Advanced – $399 per month
- Agency – $999 per month
There’s a reason SEMrush is continually voted the top SEO software tool available today. Below we’ll outline a few ways the solution stands out from Ahrefs.
Competition Keyword Analysis
Semrush is the best in the business when it comes to looking at competitor keyword profiles and helping to generate keywords through competitive analysis.
You can efficiently see what keyword strategies are working best for your competitors in mere minutes.
While both services offer support for 5 projects at the lowest price point, SEMrush pulls ahead dramatically by providing support for 50 projects compared to just 10 from Ahrefs.
Social Media Management
If you value social media, SEMrush stands out in a big way thanks to all the different social tools it offers users.
There are tools for monitoring social media accounts, scheduling and posting content to multiple accounts, and getting valuable metrics about your own social media accounts and your competitors.
If you want to conquer social media, SEMrush is the clear winner.
SEMrush has a lot going for it, but Ahrefs is an industry-leading software solution as well. Below we’ll break down just why that is and what you can get out of Ahrefs.
When it’s time to look at your own backlinks or a competitor’s link profile, there is no better tool to do it with than Ahrefs.
If building backlinks is a large part of your ranking strategy, you’ll be able to do it more efficiently using Ahrefs.
Get regular alerts letting you know when you’ve generated new backlinks or when one of your competitors has created new backlinks.
This is an excellent tool that Ahrefs offers when you’re working specifically on building out backlinks. It will help you decide which backlink building strategies are working best for you.
Paid Search Analysis
Building a paid search campaign is scary. You’re putting your money on the line and taking a risk while trying to bring in new paying customers.
SEMrush helps you analyze the paid search campaigns of your competitors, giving you ideas for your own projects.
You can target paid search terms that work, and find out about specific ad units that are performing best.
Massive Keyword Potential
Ahrefs is one of the best tools out there for coming up with original keyword ideas when you aren’t pulling them from competitors.
The keyword research tool built into the Ahrefs software suite offers compelling global keyword generation capabilities.
You can literally get millions of keyword ideas for specific keywords which is something that SEMrush can’t match in terms of volume.
The service also adds on tons of new keywords to its database monthly.
These keywords can be searched separately. Ahrefs includes a particular “Click” metric on keyword search results as well. It lets you know approximately how often searchers click when searching for this term.
It will even break down percent clicks based on clicks and paid clicks to give you an even more accurate picture of what you can expect. The tool can do all this thanks to advanced clickstream data.
Bulk Keyword Research
Even though Ahrefs suggests more keywords, SEMrush lets you look at a larger volume of keywords daily, no matter which plan you opt for.
At the lowest level, you can look at up to 3 million keywords a day, while you’re limited to around 250,000 per day with Ahrefs.
Both options offer excellent keyword research capabilities, but when you want to really dig in and find all the keywords, it’s hard to argue against SEMrush.
Link Intersect Feature
The link intersect feature is unique to Ahrefs and helps with turning up new backlinking opportunities.
You can use this tool to find websites that are likely to link to your website and also to evaluate how valuable of a backlink resource the sites can be.
There isn’t a comparable feature in SEMrush, which makes Ahrefs superior for generating new backlinks.
Multi-User Management – SEMrush and Ahrefs are slightly different from how they manage multiple user permissions.
Ahrefs only allows a single user on the Lite and Standard plans but offers 3 user access accounts at the Advanced level.
SEMrush starts subscribers with 1 user access at all levels but will allow additional access for an additional fee. This fee is $70 per user for the Pro level and $140 per user for the higher levels.
If you are paying for the Advanced plan from Ahrefs, you’ll get more users without the added cost of $140 each that SEMrush charges.
Page Crawl Limit – SEMrush also has a more generous page crawl limit, allowing users to crawl up to 100,000 at the lowest level compared to only 10,000 from Ahrefs.
If you’ll be using the 2nd tier plan, Ahrefs is the more generous option though, with a 500,000 limit to SEMrush’s 300,000.
I did my best to summarize all the capabilities of the two SEO tools, but there’s a pretty good chance you’re still wondering which is best for you — and we get it.
SEMrush is best in our opinion for keyword research, competitive keyword analysis, keyword tracking, Social Media tracking, and for direct domain comparisons.
Ahrefs is by far the best tool for backlink analysis, and it can handle many of the other tasks that SEMrush does, just not as well.
If your SEO focus is mostly on backlink generation, Ahrefs is the best tool for you. Otherwise, SEMrush can probably do it better.
If you just skimmed ahead, I advise you read through the review of both before making a decision. Give the free trials a test if you can’t make up your mind.
Readers of Two Hour Blogger can get a 7-day free trial to SEMrush at this link.
While we’re on the topic of SEO, I wanted to mention Ahrefs. Ahrefs is a tool that allows you to do keyword research to ensure you’re targeting the best keywords with the highest traffic and lowest difficulty to rank for.
While this tool isn’t free or cheap, they do offer a free two-week trial. Alternatively, you can use their competitors like Moz or SEMrush (who also have free trials, hint hint). Whichever one you choose, if you’re serious about ranking on Google, I highly recommend a keyword research tool. Without them, you only have access to Google Keyword Planner, which doesn’t really help you find the right keywords.