Ahrefs vs Semrush: Comparison of the Best SEO Tools

Ironically, the main difference between these two organic marketing suites can come down to pay-per-click features.

Picture: Adobe

Whereas >Ahrefs and >Semrush are two great all-in-one SEO suites, there’s a reason why some big agencies use both. Although they overlap considerably, they also have unique characteristics defined by the original purpose of each tool.

Ahrefs started life primarily as a backlinks tool, which makes sense – Google started out as a backlink-powered search engine. Meanwhile, Semrush started out as a keyword research tool – a competitor discovery and analysis tool.

Let’s take a closer look at why you might prefer one over the other.

What is Ahrefs?

Originally a backlink builder, >Ahrefs has expanded to include keyword research, competitor analysis, link building, rank tracking, and site audits. With Ahrefs, SEO marketers get the insights they need to produce better-optimized content that appears higher in search results. Across the industry, Ahrefs is praised for its keyword research and technical SEO tools.

What is Semrush?

>Semrush is a SaaS software suite designed for keyword research, online ranking data, and marketing performance analysis. Semrush contains a wide range of tools including a site health checker, backlink checker, analytics system, and more. Semrush is frequently used not only for technical analysis of websites and their content, but throughout the research and discovery process of search marketing.

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Ahref vs. Semrush: A Direct Comparison

Ahrefs Semrush
Google Rank Tracking
Domain Authority Tracking
Competition analysis
Backlink analysis
Keyword research
Site audits
Keyword click analysis 🚫
CPAP analysis 🚫
Content Explorer 🚫
Registration management 🚫

Backlink analysis

Ahrefs Backlink Checker
Ahrefs Backlink Checker Tool.

Ahrefs is designed for backlink analysis. It has an easy to navigate user interface and functional reports. These two features set it apart from many of its competitors, as backlink analysis often produces large volumes of barely human-readable data; Ahrefs makes this data easy to read and accessible.

That being said, Semrush recently increased its link building data to include 43 trillion backlinks. In 2021, he made a massive effort to create the largest database of backlinks in the world. Until then, Ahrefs was firmly in the lead.

It’s very likely that Semrush has the most accurate and comprehensive database of backlinks right now, but Ahrefs still has a slight edge when it comes to usability. Most professional users of the tools would probably find Ahrefs’ interface more comfortable to use, while SEO professionals, technical marketers, and some data-driven users might prefer Semrush’s advantages in terms of speed and breadth of knowledge.

Keyword research

Semrush PPC Keyword Tool.
PPC Keyword Discovery Tool on Semrush.

In Ahrefs and Semrush, you can do rigorous keyword research. Type in any keyword, and Ahrefs and Semrush will return a dense list of related and long-tail keywords, all rated by traffic and whether your site is within range of ranking well for that keyword according to several factors.

Ahrefs provides click data in addition to search data – it estimates the number of clicks you might get for a given keyword in addition to the number of searches performed. This data is extremely useful for marketers when deciding if the page you create to target this keyword is likely to produce the number of conversions you want.

Semrush does not provide click data, but provides information for PPC campaigns. When researching keywords, you can see both organic search results and paid search results. This information is not as directly useful for purely organic campaigns, but is useful for search engine marketers looking to improve their performance through paid search campaigns.

Rank Tracking

For many companies, ranking is the most important performance metric. Where are you on Google?

Ahrefs and Semrush are actually on par in terms of accuracy, but Semrush has a slight advantage as it refreshes more frequently. Data from Ahref and Semrush generally match and balance each other, but Semrush will give you near real-time visibility into changes.

Competition analysis

Ahrefs has an extremely compelling tool called Content Explorer. After you select a keyword, Ahrefs will show you all of the high performing content targeted to that keyword. Information will include domain authority, referring domains, social media shares, and meta tags.

Semrush has a competitor analysis section, which provides key insights into what competitors are doing with their keywords. But it’s not as content-based as Ahrefs because it’s primarily designed for keyword discovery.

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Technical referencing and site audit

Both Ahrefs and Semrush have robust site audit tools, which highlight technical SEO issues such as missing meta tags or missing pages.

Ahrefs provides visually dense information that is extremely useful but can be difficult to read for those unfamiliar with technical SEO and the tool itself. Semrush’s platform is designed to be a bit more user-friendly. Reports in Semrush will both highlight technical SEO issues and suggest how to fix them, which is ideal for business users who are just learning SEO or very small teams where content marketers are also SEO professionals.

Should you use Ahrefs or Semrush?

You really can’t go wrong with Ahrefs or Semrush. These are two excellent suites that are improving and adding new features all the time. But in the world of marketing, you often need all the perks.

Use Ahrefs if:

  • You are more interested in keyword click data than keyword volume.
  • You need to dig deeper into competitor content and content analysis.
  • You don’t need to develop a PPC campaign.

Use Semrush if:

  • You want reliable performance data delivered quickly.
  • You want more advice on how you can technically improve your site.
  • You want to develop a PPC campaign alongside an organic campaign.

For many businesses, the deciding factor will likely be whether they want to run a PPC campaign. Otherwise, the two products are quite well matched.

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