Data-driven 10X Digital Marketing

SEMRush vs. Ahrefs: it’s a Goliath vs. Goliath comparison. These two powerful analytics platforms dominate the SEO landscape. Their software identifies keywords, optimizes copy, shows where your website ranks on search engines and offers endless data.

So which should you choose? It depends on what you need to know. Below, we break down the ins and outs of SEMRush vs. Ahrefs and explain three typical situations where each would be useful.

The Basics

These two SEO powerhouse platforms offer very similar features. On each tool, you’ll find things like:

  • Competitor research, so you can see what keywords your competitors are ranking for and what they can improve;
  • A keyword database;
  • Domain comparison;
  • Position tracking for search engines;
  • A content explorer and analyzer.

Though these features are very similar, there are subtle differences in the ways their algorithms operate and present information. There are also distinct ways in which they can help your business, depending on your needs. We’ve broken down some common business scenarios and explained how each platform can help that situation, plus which is the better option.

Business Scenario 1: Understanding Your Target Audience 

My business was doing well, but we’ve seen a decrease in our customer base over the past few months. We’re looking for new ways to stand out from the crowd and get more information about our target market. 

Competitor Analysis Features: if standing out from the crowd is your goal, your best bet is to try a competitor analysis feature. This shows how your competitor’s website performs and where they are ranking—powerful information to help adjust your strategy. 

Both Ahrefs and SEMRush have a competitor analysis feature that works very similarly. Ahrefs allows users to plug in up to five different domains or URLs and compare the information such as number of backlinks, domain ratings and keyword rankings. Users can also find out more data about competitors’ websites by navigating to Ahrefs’ main page and analyzing the websites individually.  

SEMRush’s tool works similarly but offers more information. Using SEMRush, you’ll be able to see where your competitors’ site traffic comes from and how customers interact with their site, as well as additional data about customers and keywords. 

The Verdict: If you’re looking for ways to stand out from the crowd or just need more information about your target market, SEMRush is the more robust tool. 

Business Scenario 2: Lackluster Keyword Results 

I have a basic understanding of content marketing, keyword strategy and search engines, but my website still isn’t ranking for the keywords I need it to. What should I do?

Keyword Features: When you need in-depth data about your target keywords, Ahrefs and SEMRush are the places to go. They both have exhaustive keyword libraries, but work slightly different. 

Ahrefs’ keyword features tool offers metrics like monthly search volume, click volume, global search volume, keyword ideas, ranking difficulty, average cost per click and user return rate. It also has a separate organic keyword feature, which allows you to work backward. You can search a specific URL to find out what that website ranks for and its keyword profile. Ahrefs is also the only tool that allows you to search on up to ten search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Seznam and others. 

SEMRush’s keyword tool dashboard looks slightly different (they prioritize additional data) but gives the similar information as Ahrefs. SEMRush offers more metrics about PPC (pay per click) ads—the tool provides an example of the ad and a chart of previous ads that ran using that keyword.

The Verdict: If you’re looking for a straight-forward keyword tool, you can’t go wrong with either Ahrefs or SEMRush. However, if you’re running multiple PPC ads to drive sales, SEMRush definitely has the edge. 

Alternatively, if most of your website searches come from another search engine (not Google), Ahrefs is the only tool with the capability to analyze their results.

Business Scenario 3: High Traffic, Low Conversions

My website gets tons of traffic, but all that traffic isn’t reflected in sales. I need to figure out where I’m losing those customers and how to refine my e-commerce strategy. 

SEO Features: Website analysis is something that Ahrefs and SEMRush do best and it’s the perfect place to start to find out where prospects drop off in your sales funnel or customer journey.

The experts at Backlinko took a hard look at both tools’ SEO features. They found that Ahrefs effectively identifies SEO problems like pages with no-index tags, slow-loading pages and short meta-descriptions. (These issues make it harder for your customers to find and use your website). Ahrefs also recently introduced a ‘site structure’ feature that offers vital info about keeping your customer engaged–and on your page.  

SEMRush’s tool is very similar. It explains site performance and flags issues like broken links, status code errors and crawl errors. (Again, fixing those problems help to refine your site’s usability). What sets SEMRush apart, though, is that it gives users an action list to immediately get to work. While you may come away from the audit slightly overwhelmed, you’ll have a clear picture of what to do to see improvements. SEMRush also offers an ‘internal link distribution report,’ which shows if your site is gaining or losing authority.  

The Verdict: Ahrefs’ site structure feature is great if you feel like you’re getting traffic but not making sales. SEMRush is perfect if you think you’re doing the right thing in terms of SEO but aren’t sure. Though SEMRush and Ahrefs’ SEO capabilities are very similar, SEMrush does a better job explaining what is not working and how to fix it.

Final Notes: Semrush vs. Ahrefs 

Both SEMRush and Ahrefs are fantastic tools. To summarize, SEMRush has more features than Ahrefs, but Ahrefs is known for its user-friendly interface.

As you decide between these two tools, consider who will use the platforms. If you have a team of SEO experts parsing through every detail of your website, SEMRush might be worth the investment. However, if you’re not an expert or an SEO newbie, Ahrefs’ user-friendly interface will help your team quickly understand the software and start analyzing.

No matter what you choose, you’ll have a powerful resource to help you refine your site performance, understand SEO best practices and improve conversions.

Need help with your SEO pursuits? Get in touch with one of our SEO analysts for a free site audit.