While Ahrefs and Semrush are both superb all-in-one SEO suites, there’s a reason why some top agencies use both. Though they have significant overlap, they also have some unique features defined by each tool’s original purpose.

Ahrefs began primarily as a backlinks tool, which makes sense, as Google started as a backlinks-powered search engine. Meanwhile, Semrush started as a keyword research tool, which is a tool for discovery and competitor analysis. Let’s take a deeper look into why you might prefer one of these SEO tools over the other.

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What is Ahrefs?

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

What is Semrush?

Semrush is a software-as-a-service suite built for keyword research, online ranking data and marketing performance analytics. Semrush contains a wide breadth 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 search marketing discovery and research process.

Ahrefs vs Semrush: Comparison table

FeaturesAhrefsSemrush
Google rank trackingYesYes
Domain authority tracking    YesYes
Competitor analysis  YesYes
Backlink analysis YesYes
Keyword researchYesYes
Site audits YesYes
Keyword click analysis YesNo
PPC analysisNoTes
Content explorer YesNo
Listings managementNoYes
Learn moreVisit AhrefsVisit Semrush

Ahrefs and Semrush pricing

Ahrefs

Ahrefs offers four pricing plans which include:

  • Lite: $99 per month when billed monthly and $83 per month when billed annually.
  • Standard: $199 per month when billed monthly and $166 per month when billed annually.
  • Advanced: $399 per month when billed monthly and $333 per month when billed annually.
  • Enterprise: $999 per month when billed monthly and $833 per month when billed annually.

Customers who pay annually get two months of free access.

Semrush

Semrush lets customers choose from three pricing plans:

  • Pro: $129.95 when billed monthly or $108.33 per month when billed annually.
  • Guru: $249.95 when billed monthly or $208.33 per month when billed annually.
  • Business: $499.95 when billed monthly or $416.66 per month when billed annually.

Feature comparison: Ahrefs vs Semrush

Backlink Analysis

Ahrefs is built for backlink analysis (Figure A). It has an easy to navigate UI and functional reporting. 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.

Figure A

The Ahrefs Backlink Checker tool.
The Ahrefs Backlink Checker tool. Image: Ahrefs.

That being said, Semrush recently increased its link building data to include 43 trillion backlinks. In 2021, it performed a massive push to build the biggest backlink database in the world. Until then, Ahrefs was firmly in the lead.

While Semrush may currently have the most accurate and comprehensive backlink database, Ahrefs still has a slight edge in terms of usability. Most who use the tools for business would likely find the interface of Ahrefs more comfortable to use. On the other hand, SEO professionals, technical marketers and some data-focused users may prefer Semrush’s advantages in speed and breadth of knowledge.

Keyword research

In both Ahrefs and Semrush, you can perform rigorous keyword research. Type in any keyword, and Ahrefs and Semrush will return a dense list of related and long-tail keywords. These results are all scored by traffic and whether your site can potentially rank well for each keyword according to several factors.

Ahrefs provides click data in addition to search data — it estimates how many clicks you might get for a given keyword in addition to the number of searches performed. This data is extraordinarily useful to marketers when deciding whether the page you build to target that keyword is likely to produce the desired number of conversions.

Semrush doesn’t provide click data, but it does provide information for PPC campaigns (Figure B). During keyword research, you can see both the organic search results and the paid search results. This information isn’t as directly useful for purely organic campaigns, but it is helpful for search engine marketers looking to boost performance through paid search campaigns.

Figure B

The PPC keyword discovery tool on Semrush.
The PPC keyword discovery tool on Semrush. Image: Semrush.

Rank tracking

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

Both Ahrefs and Semrush are actually evenly matched in terms of accuracy, but Semrush has a slight edge because it refreshes more frequently. Ahref and Semrush’s data generally match and even out, but Semrush will give you visibility into virtually real-time changes (Figure C).

Figure C

Rank tracking tool on Semrush.
Rank tracking tool on Semrush. Image: Semrush.

Competitor analysis

Ahrefs has an extremely compelling tool called the Content Explorer (Figure D). After you’ve selected a keyword, Ahrefs will show you all the high-performing content that targets that specific keyword. The information will include domain authority, referring domains, social media shares and meta tags.

Figure D

Competitor dashboard on Ahrefs.
Competitor dashboard on Ahrefs. Image: Ahrefs.

Semrush does have a competitor analysis section, which provides key insights into what competitors are doing with their keywords. However, it isn’t as content-based as Ahrefs’, as it’s designed mostly for keyword discovery.

Technical SEO and site auditing

Both Ahrefs and Semrush have robust site auditing 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 hard to read for those unfamiliar with technical SEO or the tool itself.

Semrush’s platform is designed to be a little more user-friendly. Reports in Semrush will both highlight technical SEO issues and suggest how to fix them. This is ideal for business users who are just learning SEO or small teams where content marketers also moonlight as the SEO pro (Figure E).

Figure E

Site auditing dashboard on Semrush.
Site auditing dashboard on Semrush. Image: Semrush.

Ahrefs pros and cons

Pros of Ahrefs

  • Impressive keyword analysis capabilities.
  • Provides Click Per Search metrics.
  • Contains helpful broken link location tools.

Cons of Ahrefs

  • No PPC analysis capabilities.
  • Lacks listings management features.

Semrush pros and cons

Pros of Semrush

  • Contains link building capabilities to strengthen backlink profiles.
  • Provides insightful SEO ratings and authority scores.
  • User-friendly and intuitive platform.

Cons of Semrush

  • Does not provide keyword click analysis.
  • Lacks content explorer tools.

Review methodology

This is a technical review using compiled literature researched from relevant databases. The information provided in this article is gathered from vendor websites or based on an aggregate of user feedback to ensure a high-quality review.

Should your organization use Ahrefs or Semrush?

Now that you have had the opportunity to compare Ahrefs and Semrush, you can see that they are both impressive SEO solutions. You really can’t go wrong with either Ahrefs or Semrush, as both are excellent suites that are improving and adding new features all the time. However, in the world of marketing, you need every advantage.

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 are interested in having robust performance data delivered quickly.
  • You want more guidance on how you can improve your site technically.
  • You want to develop a PPC campaign alongside an organic campaign.

For many companies, the determining factor will likely be whether they want to manage a PPC campaign. Otherwise, the two products are fairly evenly matched.

No need to search for more information on SEO: We’ve got that covered with these articles on the best SEO tools of 2022 and how to overhaul your SEO with this automation tool.

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