SEMrush vs Ahrefs: Who Finishes on Top in 2021?

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Do you want to skip the read and get right to our pick? SEMrush is our choice in this Ahrefs vs SEMrush battle of SEO Tools.


Introduction:

Two tools dominate the SEO landscape: SEMrush vs Ahrefs. These two SEO titans are the go-to software for digital marketers who want to frontline the search engine results pages (SERPs). We’ve had the chance to use both Ahrefs SEMrush to help clients launch their digital marketing campaigns.

The first thing you need to know: these tools aren’t cheap. If you have the means, either of the two should be the first on your potential SEO software shopping list. However, you can choose only one. So, which is better in a SEMrush vs Ahrefs derby?

In this Ahrefs vs SEMrush comparison article, we’re evaluating each contender in terms of ease of use, features, support, and overall value for money.


Pros and Cons of Ahrefs vs Semrush:

Before we dive into this SEMrush vs Ahrefs showdown, you can get a more up close and personal look at each with these articles:


Overview:

Ahrefs or SEMRush are easily the two most recognisable names in SEO. Here's a short background of each.

SEMrush:

SEMrush is two years younger than its rival. It started when a group of IT and SEO experts decided to set up a competitive research firm focused on online marketing in 2008. More than a decade later, SEMrush has become a staple in every digital marketer’s toolkit, with 7 million users.

semrush-home
semrush-home

Ahrefs:

Meanwhile, Ahrefs announced itself to the industry in 2010 initially as a backlink tool. Within years, the platform transitioned to become a full-featured SEO tool with capabilities beyond backlinks. Ahrefs now has keyword research, site audit, content marketing, and others.

ahrefs-home
ahrefs-home

Ease of Use:

Our first comparison category is for ease of use. How does either SEMrush or Ahrefs stack up in terms of general user experience?

Between these two SEO tools, we consider Ahrefs to be a tad more user-friendly than SEMrush. The difference isn't that significant, but it's there.

Firstly, we already love SEMrush's clean interface, but Ahrefs beats that by a hairline. In addition, the Ahrefs interface is slightly more intuitive, and its dashboard is more laid out logically than SEMrush.

Secondly, Ahrefs' snapshot of SEO data really helps digital marketers get hold of information fast. With this visual, you have SEO data served to you on a silver platter. On the other hand, with SEMrush, you'd have to look around.

Certainly, this doesn't mean that SEMrush is a pain to use. On the contrary, it's still one of the most user-friendly SEO tools out there. However, we believe that SEMrush appears to be a bit more complex than Ahrefs due to the volume of data it generates.

What SEMrush has the edge over its rival in this SEMrush vs Ahrefs is its visualisation feature. SEMrush generates stunning reports, complete with PPC data, graphs, and pipelines.

So, all these considered, who wins in this Ahrefs vs SEMrush ‘ease of use' showdown?

Winner – Ahrefs! By a hairline, Ahrefs emerges on top in this SEMrush vs Ahrefs ‘ease of use' category.


Features:

In this Features comparison category, we focus on four key areas:

  • Keyword Research
  • Domain Analysis
  • Site Audit
  • Backlinks

That said, how does SEMrush or Ahrefs deliver in these critical SEO areas?

Keyword Research:

An SEO campaign usually begins with keyword research. If we look at the data, using the right keywords matter. Unfortunately, not many websites seem to get it. More than 90 per cent (92.42%) of keywords get only 10 searches or fewer. When done effectively, keyword research can tell you what people search for and help guide your campaigns so you can rank for those keywords.

When it comes to keyword research, what does Ahrefs vs SEMrush offer?

SEMrush:

Like Ahrefs SEMrush boasts a robust keyword research tool, however, SEMrush started a little early in the game and is generally more developed than its rival.

SEMrush offers two primary tools for keyword research:

  • Topic Research
  • Keyword Magic Tool

An especially nifty feature of SEMrush is its Keyword Overview report. It summarises relevant keyword metrics for your convenience, including keyword difficulty, search volume, pay-per-click (PPC) competition, cost-per-click (CPC), and others. Having this data within immediate reach provides a quick overview and makes topic or keyword planning easier.

SEMrush's Topic Research Tool is one of our favourite tools to use. Over time, content ideation can become tedious. Most digital marketers spend their nights tossing and turning on what topics to pursue. This tool can give you plenty of trending topic ideas for your content.

The platform's primary keyword research tool is named ‘Keyword Magic.' From its name, the tool's purpose is to help you come up with keywords that will help you land the top spot in the search engines. In addition, it generates the following metrics:

  • Keyword difficulty (KD) score
  • Monthly search volume per keyword
  • CPC for Google ads

Combined, these measures assist you in deciding which keyword to prioritise for your marketing campaign. The only significant downside we can think of is that among Ahrefs vs SEMrush vs Moz, SEMrush only provides data for Google exclusively.

Ahrefs:

The platform also sports a robust keyword research tool – the ‘Keyword Explorer.' As with SEMrush, this tool coughs up keyword suggestions and helps you decide which keywords to target.

Ahrefs' Keyword Explore provides useful metrics such as keyword difficulty, CPC PPC, search volume, as well as more fine-grain data like similar keywords, new keywords, and questions.

What's impressive with Ahrefs is that, unlike the Google-exclusive searches that SEMrush performs, Ahrefs conducts searches in 10 different search engines.

Domain Analysis:

What both Ahrefs SEMrush also shine on is domain analysis. So how does domain analysis help in SEO and where does SEMrush vs Ahrefs stand?

Basically, domain analysis lets you know a site's overall SEO health. You can benefit from this feature since its lets you gauge your own website's SEO performance or your competitors'. From this insight, you can decide which competitors you can outrank and which cannot.

With SEMrush or Ahrefs, domain analysis would only require you to type in a domain name, and thereafter, SEO metrics are returned via dashboard layout.

Both Ahrefs SEMrush domain analysis tools generate the following information:

  • Authority score
  • Total number of keywords the site is currently ranking for
  • Total number of backlinks
  • Anchor text used 
  • Competitor domains

Where does either SEMrush or Ahrefs have the upper hand?

With Ahrefs, the domain analysis feature is easier to access and more straightforward. SEMrush would take a couple more clicks to get what you want.

However, SEMrush has a more nuanced take on competitive research than its competitor. Its ‘Competitive research' section is subdivided into five more, giving you more comprehensive data. Also, in SEMrush vs Ahrefs, the former has a unique ‘Competitive positioning map' feature that provides a useful and attractive visual to represent how a site measures up against the competition in terms of ranking keywords and monthly traffic volume.

Site Audit:

Several technical issues can negatively impact your search engine ranking. Both Ahrefs SEMrush offers site auditing features to give you the power to discover which issues are hurting your SERPs performance.

If you're not familiar yet, a site audit diagnoses issues such as duplicate content, slow loading pages, missing headers, keyword overuse, SSL issues, crawl errors, and others.

There doesn't seem much of a difference between SEMrush vs Ahrefs in site auditing when compared individually.

However, SEMrush has the upper hand with its innovative on-page SEO checker. The tool crawls through your site and presents a report complete with actionable suggestions on how you can improve each page, SEO-wise.

Specifically, you can expect both Ahrefs SEMrush to give suggestions on:

  • Adding keywords
  • Improving metadata and copy
  • Websites to collaborate for backlinks
  • Content length
  • Strategies for internal linking

Nevertheless, SEMrush stands out from Ahref with its integration to project management software Trello.

When it comes to fixing broken links, Ahrefs SEMrush also gives you information on finding where and how to fix them.

Backlinks:

Between Ahrefs vs SEMrush, Ahrefs has the first-mover advantage in backlinks, since it originates as a backlink analysis tool. However, SEMrush has developed a powerful backlink tool that can match or even surpass Ahrefs.

So which is better Ahrefs vs SEMrush, in backlinks analysis?

SEMrush:

The verdict is out on backlinks: it's an indispensable SEO strategy. However, great content can only get you so far, and with the dense competition out there, getting good backlinks should be a priority.

Plus – Google loves backlinks! The more backlinks a webpage has, the better organic traffic rewarded by Google.

If we're judging solely on backlink database size, SEMrush takes the trophy home. SEMrush boasts of 651 million referring domains. This is significantly larger than Ahrefs' 168 million domains but lower than 22.3 trillion backlinks (as of writing).

It would appear that SEMrush wins in an Ahrefs vs SEMrush comparison of backlink database size alone.

Ahrefs:

What we like about Ahrefs' backlinks tool is that it's easier to use compared to SEMrush. However, both Ahrefs SEMrush are capable of generating relevant backlink data such as:

  • how many ‘dofollow' links compared to ‘nofollow' links
  • backlinks and their country of origin
  • new and lost domains
  • type of domains
  • anchor text used

Both platforms also sport a ‘Link Intersect' tool. This backlink gap feature gives you an exportable report of the websites that link to competitors but not to you.

However, the difference between SEMrush and Ahrefs is that Ahrefs can let you compare a URL to 10 websites, while SEMrush only allows a modest 4 others.

Yet what's unique with SEMrush is its backlink auditing feature that flags and identifies ‘toxic links' that can hurt your rankings. What you can do is upload this report as a disavow file to Google.

From the above, it's not easy to decide which wins in the ‘Features' comparison. Both Ahrefs SEMrush offer robust and thorough SEO features. That said, we yield to SEMrush due to its unique add-ons and its more nuanced SEO insights.

Winner – SEMrush! in the ‘Features' category of this SEMrush vs Ahrefs showdown.


Support and Resources:

Concerning customer support, who wins between SEMrush vs Ahrefs?

SEMrush has the upper hand in this category because it provides more diverse support channels than Ahrefs.

If you have issues with the software, billing, and others, SEMrush support is accessible through chat, phone, and email. In contrast, Ahrefs has no phone support for its customers.

In terms of resources, either SEMrush or Ahrefs has a wealth of information and tutorials on conducting SEO campaigns and all things SEO.

Winner – SEMrush! in the ‘Support' round of this SEMrush or Ahrefs battle of SEO tools.


Pricing:

Which between SEMrush or Ahrefs is the more affordable option? What value for money can you expect from Ahrefs and SEMrush?

SEMrush:

SEMrush offers three pricing plans, suited various types of users. Its cheapest plan will set you back $119.95 per month, while its enterprise plan costs $449.95 per month when billed monthly. When choosing to be billed annually you will receive a 16% discount.

semrush-pricing
semrush-pricing

Ahrefs:

Pricing plans for Ahrefs are slightly more flexible but more expensive. If you choose annual billing, you can get two months free. Its cheapest Lite plan costs $82 per month, while its Enterprise plan Agency costs $832 per month.

ahrefs-pricing
ahrefs-pricing

Between SEMrush or Ahrefs, only SEMrush offers a 7-day free trial for users. Ahrefs requires payment for a test run of its platform.

Winner – SEMrush! While both SEMrush or Ahrefs are expensive, SEMrush delights with its free trial.


Comparison Winner: SEMrush vs Ahrefs

To wrap up this Ahrefs vs SEMrush battle of SEO tools, who wins?

By our set criteria, it isn't easy to decide between the two platforms. However, we are more impressed with SEMrush and therefore declare with SEMrush as Comparison Winner.

>> Try SEMrush for Free <<


Conclusion and Recommendation:

What is SEMrush best for?

SEMrush works best for digital marketers or agencies that require tools for both SEO and PPC. SEMrush has a more diverse collection of tools than SEMrush but is limited only to Google. If you want to rank for other search engines as well, consider Ahrefs.

What is Ahrefs best for?

Ahrefs works best for beginners and those who want to rank for search engines beyond Google. It also has better ease of use than SEMrush.

Final Word:

However, please don't take our word as gospel. There is a universe of SEO options out there that can be more suited to your needs.  Be sure to compare these two tools with other SEO biggies, as in Moz vs Ahrefs vs SEMrush. Also, don't forget always to take advantage of the free trial to get a sense of how the tool works and feels.


That’s all for now:

If you've read our SEMrush vs Ahrefs comparison up to here, we are grateful. Remember always to keep abreast of the latest developments on Best SEO Tools, website builders, eCommerce, and other alternative SEMrush vs Ahrefs comparison articles, such as the ones below;

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