Semrush vs Ahrefs Comparison: Which SEO Toolkit to Choose in 2021?

SEMrush vs Ahrefs Comparison

To date, I have already published two comprehensive guides on SEMrush and Ahrefs.

So when you have a choice, which SEO toolkit to choose?

Rather comparable in terms of price and functionality, it is normal to hesitate between the two …

It’s time to confront these SEO behemoths to find out which one is the most useful.

A quick comparison between SEMrush and Ahrefs

Why do we speak of an SEO “toolbox” in connection with Ahrefs and SEMrush?

It would be reductive to consider that they are mere tools.

Their functionalities cover all aspects of SEO, distinct from each other.

Thanks to these solutions, you can carry out your SEO strategy from A to Z… or almost.

Indeed, it is always possible to work more precisely on one aspect or another of SEO.

This is why we can use other specialized tools …

… But that’s another subject!

Let’s go back to our guinea pigs of the day.

To my left you have SEMrush.

SEM like Search Engine Marketing, is therefore more than an SEO suite, it also includes SEA and therefore advertising campaigns.

It was originally known as a keyword research tool.

Over time, it has acquired features that make it an ultra-comprehensive toolbox.

SEMrush is now tackling:

  • Analysis and link building
  • Competitor traffic analysis
  • Analysis of advertising campaigns (PPC and display)
  • Content optimization
  • And even the creation of Social Media campaigns

To my right you have Ahrefs.

As the name suggests (a reference to the href attribute of a link), Ahrefs has historically been a backlink analysis tool.

But in the meantime, it has acquired many other features that make it a very serious competitor to SEMrush.

Ahrefs allows today:

  • Keyword research
  • Competitive keyword analysis
  • Technical SEO tools of the “audit” type
  • Position tracking

All this means that today the two toolkits are really similar.

Here is the price table:

Admission PriceStandardAdvancedBig Company
+ $ 200 Competitive intelligence
$ 200 Competitive intelligence
$ 200 Competitive intelligence
Ahrefs$ 99$ 179$ 399$ 999

Keep in mind that to have a maximum of features on SEMrush, $ 200 must be added to the initial budget.

So which SEO suite is best to invest in?

I will compare them by looking at each of their functionalities, and the ergonomics of these.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs: The Best Tool for Keyword Research

I start this in-depth comparison with the keyword analysis because …

As I said before, this is the basis of all SEO optimization.

It is based on keywords that you optimize your site for search engines,

And so you have to find them, combine them, place them well, etc.

SEMrush Keyword Research

It is for this functionality that SEMrush has made a name for itself.


By reputation, it has the most precise data on the market, particularly with regard to the search volume for keywords.

And its database is notoriously the most gigantic.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s in his stomach.

First, the Keyword Overview:

In this keyword report, many metrics are displayed side by side for a quick summary:

Monthly search volume, Keyword difficulty, CPC, degree of competition, number of results and appearance of SERPs, and more …

And above all, the Keyword Magic Tool:

It is with this tool that SEMrush will distinguish itself in terms of keyword research.

It is based on 142 databases and more than 20 billion keywords in total …

By entering your root keyword in its search bar, you can:

  • Find out which keywords can be easily optimized among those you already use,
  • Find many less competitive long-tail keywords to add to your posts/pages,
  • Filter the terms you want to exclude from your search to be as relevant as possible,
  • Choose specific types of keywords: questions or not, more or less close to your root,
  • Add other types of filters based on keyword performance, or get as close as possible to the terms you want.

After playing around with all these suggestions and filters,

then finding the terms that seem most relevant to you,

you can add your selection to the Keyword Manager tool.

In it, you keep an eye on those “leads” keywords and all their associated data.

SEMrush & Ahrefs: poking the keywords of competitors

SEMrush offers to pick keywords from its competitive analysis.

It is a tool that is similar to the equivalent at Ahrefs, but whose data is deemed to be more extensive.

The most interesting to get straight to the point …

Namely finding the keywords that we MISS compared to our competitors.

It will be these two quite similar tools:

  • At SEMrush we will have: Competitor research> Keyword possibilities
  • For Ahrefs: Organic research> Content gap

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Like many keyword research tools, the Keyword Explorer gives you a list of ideas, and the search volume for a particular keyword.

But you obviously have access to much more in-depth data, like the number of clicks you can expect to get if you position on a keyword.

Why is this interesting?

Because sometimes the number of clicks for a keyword is not really proportional to the search volume.

Sometimes only a small percentage of visitors will actually click on a Google result.

This is mainly due to the enriched results that Google offers more and more.

Sometimes the SERP gives the answer directly to a user’s question.

It can be through Knowledge Panels or PAA (People Also Asked) for example.

So the user is not going to need to click on a link to get his answer on a particular site.

By the way, in this tool, you can find hundreds of keyword ideas …

Well sorted according to their type: containing the same terms, in the form of questions, or that the competitors use at the same time.

And even “Newly discovered”, which represent new, less competitive opportunities.

Ahrefs’ Organic Keywords report (or “Organic Keywords”)

This report is similar to the basic functionality of SEMrush.

Its new 2.0 functionality allows you to view historical data.

You then have an overview of the evolution of your competitor in terms of his positioning on keywords.

The winner on the keywords?

This is SEMrush who won the first round.


I find that at this level, we have a better user interface for Ahrefs.

But SEMrush dominates when it comes to the amount of data.

And this is the case for SEO but also in PPC …

But we will see all that SEMrush does in PPC a little later.

Ahrefs is famous for having the largest index of backlinks.

Today, if I compare quickly, my first impression is that this is no longer really the case:

Except that the difference (1.42 K for Ahrefs against 11.1 K for SEMrush) is too great to consider that we are measuring the same things …

In fact, in the Backlinks tab of SEMrush’s Backlink Analysis, if I remove all the lost links thanks to the filter above the backlinks table …

I only found 646:

And on Ahrefs, I compare the list of “inbound links” with that of “lost links”.

I copy the domain from a lost link …

And by entering this lost domain in the list of 1569 inbound links, I see that it is NOT there.

Ahrefs, therefore, has a larger backlink index!

Either way, backlink analysis is a big topic, and in this case, we ESPECIALLY appreciate a good user interface.

Because you have to be able to navigate through all these intertwined factors …

In addition to crawling over 5 million pages per minute, Ahrefs’ tools are very easy to use.

In addition to all the advanced metrics on the pages that refer to a site, accessible in the backlinks list… ( Inbound links profile> Inbound links )

Here is a list of what you can do depending on the tools you use:

  • Find the pages of a site that have the most backlinks. -> Pages> Best by links
  • Never miss the mentions of your brand, in order to add links -> More> Alerts, Mentions tab, button “+ New Alert”, and enter your name / your brand in the search field.
  • Recover All Lost Links -> Inbound Link Profile> Lost
  • Carry out competitive analyzes to discover your overlaps and your gaps in terms of backlinks -> Profile of inbound links> Link intersect
  • Analyze the distribution of anchor texts as well as referring IP addresses -> Inbound link profile> Anchors and referring IPs.
  • Spot negative SEO attacks via toxic backlink appearances -> Unusual movements in the Overview.
  • Discover backlink opportunities linked to keywords (Keywords Explorer) or entire subjects (Content Explorer). Conversely, in these same tools, we can choose the keywords and subjects DEPENDING on the number of backlinks they generate elsewhere.

The little extra: In its main report, in addition to the anchor text, you have a preview of the text that surrounds the anchor. This is useful for understanding the context of the link.

The big plus : In the Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs tells me how many backlinks I will need to appear first on a keyword.

It doesn’t look like much, it’s written in small, but it’s very, very useful.

This time around, SEMrush has recently been racing to catch up with Ahrefs, whose backlinks are the speciality.

Today, SEMrush’s database makes it possible to analyze competitor backlinks, find easy opportunities, and hunt for toxic backlinks.

A rather nice thing is that you don’t have to create a project to have a complete audit of a site’s link profile.

Here is a small list of what you can do with SEMrush’s backlink tools:

  • Find the pages of a site that have the most backlinks to inspire you with their content -> SEO> Domain overview
  • Find out which mentions of your brand are not accompanied by a backlink on various online content -> Content Marketing> Brand Monitoring
  • Find backlinks that point to 404 errors and recover them -> SEO> Link building> Backlinks analysis , “Referenced pages” tab, check “Target URL error”
  • Find sites that link to your competition and might point to you too-> SEO> Link Building> Backlinks Analysis, enter a competitor’s site in the main search bar.
  • Conduct competitive analyzes to discover your overlaps and your gaps in terms of backlink sources -> SEO> Competitor research> Backlink possibilities
  • Manage netlinking campaigns, particularly in terms of contact and communication with sources -> SEO> Link building> Link Building Tool
  • Find prospects for your backlink sources, assess their potential and know their contact information -> SEO> Link building> Link Building Tool
  • Find and disown all your toxic backlinks (listed in order of toxicity) -> SEO> Link Building> Backlink Audit

This time, Ahrefs wins the round, for its specialized database,

And its hyper exhaustive side,

in addition to logically integrating backlink data in all relevant optimization areas.

In addition, its navigation according to the incoming links “New”, “Lost” and “Broken”, Referral Domains and Anchors, remains in my opinion simple and extremely consistent.

Competitor analysis with Ahrefs or SEMrush

It is in this sector that we will find the biggest SEO difference between Ahrefs and SEMrush.

Indeed, with Traffic Analytics (among others), SEMrush stands out from the competition through its intelligent analysis of data from clickstreams and the use of machine learning software.

SEMrush has therefore developed a tool that brings together all the competitive analysis of traffic, whether from an SEO or SEA point of view.

On the Ahrefs side, we will certainly find points of view on the competition, but not in a dedicated tool and limited to an SEO point of view.

SEMrush Traffic Analytics

Since my article on competitive analysis by SEMrush, its features have evolved a lot.

The principle of traffic analysis is the observation of user behavior, from their channel of arrival on a site to the visit they make on it.

The main interest of this analysis is to understand where prospects come from, what they are looking for, what interests them, where they are going, etc.

You can analyze 1 competitor:

Or your site compared to several competitors:

And in these reports, you can:

  • See where visitors are going after visiting your competitor’s site, and get to know their areas of interest a little better or find partnerships -> Competitor research> Traffic analysis> Traffic path, “Destination sites”
  • Find out what attracts the most traffic among keywords, content types, but also subdomains, subfolders, URLs, etc. -> Competitor research> Traffic analysis> Main pages / Subdomains

OR Competitor research> Keyword possibilities

  • Find out which paid keywords to attract the most traffic and how this evolves over time -> Competitor research> Keyword possibilities, “Paid” filter OR Competitor research> Advertising research> Positions, “Filter by the word” filter key “, graph” Traffic estimate “
  • Compare the performance of your site to that of your competitors, and analyze competing sites in batches to get an overall strategic idea, -> Competitor research> Traffic analysis> Overview, OR Competitor research> Traffic analysis > Batch analysis
  • Discover the channels (sites, devices, etc.) that your competitors choose for their Display ads: -> Competitor research> Display ads> Overview

And so on !

A more SEO-centric competitive analysis at Ahrefs

The competition analysis takes place according to the SEO themes offered by Ahrefs:

  • Find out which pages, keywords or subfolders attract the most visitors -> Site Explorer> Organic Search> Top Pages / Organic Keywords / Top subfolders / Top subdomains
  • See which keywords are missing from your strategy compared to competitors -> Site Explorer> Organic search> Content Gap
  • Discover the pages – and therefore the content – that attract the most traffic on a specific subject. -> Content Explorer> filter “Sort by Page traffic” (here on the topic “SEO tools”)
  • Determine which topics and types of content are getting the most backlinks from the ranking of the most linked pages. -> Site Explorer> Profile of inbound links, “Inbound links”
  • Find out which domains have links to (several) competitors (at the same time) but not to us. -> Site Explorer> Link Intersect

The winner on the competitive analysis ?

There is a lot to do with Ahrefs already!

But clearly, SEMrush is the master of the matter.

Special mention for all the possibilities to compare sites with each other,

And of course, to bring together all the functionalities (INCLUDING the SEA analysis) in a single competitor search menu.

Technical SEO audit with SEMrush or Ahrefs

Which tool is the best for tracking and finding technical SEO loopholes?

  • And find optimization opportunities, possibly… –

Let’s see who will help us best identify our problems of speed, structure, code, etc.

Ahrefs Audit Site

On the one hand, we have the Ahrefs Site Audit tool.

To use it, you have to choose one of our projects …

And start a crawl.

It may take a while, so you might as well wait for an email notification.

Once the crawl is finished, the first interface presents you with a history of the audits of your project.

To access the latest audit to date, it must be selected in the table of crawls (All crawls).

This is where you will have an overview of your audit with a number of statistics concerning the technical performance of your site or the crawl itself.

You can access the list of problems by clicking on “View all issues” in the table of errors.

These are then classified by themes (Internal pages, links, On page, etc.)

It’s pretty clear, but maybe it mixes up the priorities a bit.

In any case, remember to set the Importance filter to “Error” to see the most important problems first.

-In fact, the Site Audit home page allows you to customize the importance given to problems: each can be set to Error, Warning or Notice. –

Also worth noting is a serious feature which is the ability to schedule audits automatically.

This option is accessible in the Dashboard, by clicking on the ellipsis and the Settings of a project.

Site Audit in SEMrush SEO Analysis

On the other hand, we have the SEMrush Site Audit function.

It is found in the SEO tool as well as in Local SEO (it’s the same report).

The SEMrush site audit analyzes around 130 technical factors to find possible flaws.

To launch it, you must also select a project.

Once the scan is complete (it’s a bit faster, but nothing drastic), you have access to an overview of the health of your site.

In UI terms, it’s very straightforward and meaningful.

Your eye is directly drawn to the Errors to be resolved (in red), before seeing the Warnings (orange) and various Opinions (blue) on things that may need to be changed.

To take action, simply click on “View issues”.

And you roll up your sleeves to attack the list that appears in order of priority.

It should be noted that in addition to the Site Audit, SEMrush offers an On Page optimization function.

As for an audit, the On Page SEO Checker analyzes already existing pages …

But presents opportunities for improvement as “ideas” rather than problems.

We are no longer in the technique but really in a global improvement strategy, which takes into account backlinks, content optimization, adaptation to the enriched features of SERPs, etc.

All the audit / monitoring / watch tools can be found in the Project management menu, in the Dashboard:

The winner on the site audit ?

For the pure and hard technical audit, the tools are very similar this time around.

But for a matter of UI even more than speed, I will go for SEMrush.

I really appreciate the clarity of the presentation of errors and the 1-click access to the to-do list of problems to be solved.

And when you take into account its On Page Checker and all of its monitoring options, SEMrush really stands out.

Position tracking with Ahrefs and SEMrush

Position tracking tools (Rank or Position tracking) allow you to see your positions and their evolution on the SERPs for lots of predefined keywords.

This allows you to target keywords more precisely and know your performance against them.

Rather satisfactory for measuring the effects of a campaign …

The two tools of Ahrefs and SEMrush therefore allow you to predefine the keywords you want to associate with your projects.

You can also compare them to the positions of competitors themselves preselected, on these same keywords.

Depending on your positions in relation to them, you can refine your optimization on a particular keyword with high potential.

Be careful, the metrics obtained in the two tools have similar names but are different.

Ahrefs: the Rank Tracker

The Rank Tracker is set up as soon as a project is created on Ahrefs.

Thus, you can receive email notifications to follow your positions, and their evolution according to your SEO campaigns.

With this tool, you can track your keyword list based on various countries and devices.

This happens at the level of the filters for a quick comparative glance between the results.

Generally, the reports are fairly easy to follow, and the curves are easy to read:

at SEMrush in comparison, there are a lot of features separated by tabs …

We get lost a bit.

So you can see, averaged over your keyword list:

  • Visibility: Your visibility (the percentage of clicks for those keywords that land on your site).
  • Average position: Your average position (for keywords positioned in the first 100 results).
  • Traffic: The average number of visitors obtained thanks to these keywords (for those positioned in the top 100).
  • SERP features The number of SERP features associated with your appearances.
  • Positions: The number of keywords that have climbed in the SERPs and the number of keywords that have gone down.

SEMrush: Position Tracking

SEMrush is not left out in terms of functionality with its Position Tracking.

As with Ahrefs, it works by project.

Once in the report, a tab is dedicated to the analysis according to devices and locations, which completes the table of your visibility on keywords, especially at the local level.

From a comparison point of view, however, I find it less practical than on Ahrefs.

Here are the metrics that can be read, to distinguish a little from those of Ahrefs:

  • Visibility: an index that takes into account the click-through rate (CTR) as well as the average position of the site in the first 100 results on all the keywords analyzed.
  • Estimated traffic: Number of estimated visits in a month for all these keywords.
  • Average Position: Your average position (with underperforming keywords automatically ranked 100th) – almost similar to the Ahrefs metric.

The filter system allows you to include the Local Pack in your reports.

Something new to note: the “Cannibalization” tab, which has just arrived, allows you to see if you have several pages competing for the same keyword, and which consequently lose positions.

Indeed Google limits the number of appearances of the same domain on a SERP.

The winner on position tracking ?

Even though SEMrush has some additional features …

Visually, Ahrefs allows you to quickly read important information, so to operate a really effective follow-up.

PPC analysis with SEMrush and Ahrefs

As fun (and “free”) SEO is, paid search is an important aspect of any digital marketing strategy.

Gaining notoriety, at least while waiting for SEO efforts to pay off, can be vital for a business.

This is why it is completely relevant that an SEO suite supports SEA analyzes.

As for natural referencing, it will help to work other than just intuition for the research of keywords, subjects, landing pages, etc.

Let’s see what our two toolboxes offer at this level.

Advertising with SEMrush

As the name suggests, SEMrush does Search Engine Marketing.

PPC (Pay Per Click) analysis , which seeks to get visitors to click on paid results or advertisements, is therefore an integral part of the suite.

So much so that SEMrush does better than a lot of PPC-only tools.

The Advertising tool provides a lot of information on the advertising strategy of competitors and their performance, whether it is:

The keywords they buy on Google’s paid search results, and for how long,
-> Advertising search> Positions, “Keywords”
AND -> Advertising search> Ad history
The budget they allocate to them,
-> Advertising research> Positions, “Cost of traffic”
The targets / destinations of their keywords,
-> Advertising research> Pages / Subdomains
The content they create to attract clicks,
-> Advertising research> Ad texts
Cross-referencing / existing competition with automatically found competitors, -> Search Advertising> Competitors
That’s not all, the Display Ads menu analyzes image ads published on sites,

so you can see:

Which audiences are targeted by your competitors, in terms of gender and age, areas of interest,
-> Display ads> Overview
What types of ads are used (Image, HTML or Text),
-> Display ads> Ads
Which sites (any opportunities) publish these ads,
-> Display ads> Publishers
What their landing pages look like, created with a view to conversion,
-> Display ads> Landing pages
On the other hand…

The functionality that made it possible to find out which Youtube channels were video ads seems for the moment to have disappeared.

But that’s not all, you also have:

Lots of information on PLA (Product Listing Ads) campaigns , appearing in Google Shopping: images, texts used, product prices…
-> PLA search>
ET positions -> PLA search> PLA texts for more visuals

SEA data on Ahrefs

PPC on Ahrefs is far from a priority for the sequel for now.

They still ended up creating a dedicated tool.

You have three options in the Paid Search tool:

PPC keywords: with their CPC (Cost Per Click), their placement, an overview of their content …
The data is significantly different from that of SEMrush for a similar research.

This may be due to the slightly lower number of keywords, or the dates on which the updates are made.

Here I have classified them by CPC:

Ads: similar data but classified according to the ads to know the performance of each

Best landing pages: the destination URLs are classified here according to the traffic they generate, which allows, among other things, to see the keyword that put them forward.

The winner on PPC analysis ?

This time, there is no photo.

Clearly, SEMrush is a complete suite that lives up to its name by integrating as much PPC, display, and even PLA data as possible.

Ahrefs just adds useful PPC data into a truly dedicated SEO tool.

Features unique to SEMrush and Ahrefs

The two suites certainly have very similar and comparable tools,

but they have also developed services that are unique to them.

This is happening on the content creation side, but also local SEO for SEMrush.

Ahrefs Content Explorer

In the Content Explorer tool, type the subject that interests you,

and find out which content is already performing well based on all of the metrics associated with it.

If for example you want to see what content has allowed the creation of a lot of backlinks.

You can sort the results by the number of referring domains.

In the foreground, you will always have a nice preview of the page title and part of the content (with word count shown below).

In this feature, authors are highlighted so that you can follow those whose content stands out.

You will also find which websites seem to be the most specialized in the subject you are looking for,

and will be able to search ALL the pages that address this subject.


Content marketing according to SEMrush

The SEMrush Topic Research presents the topics to you in the form of fact sheets.

Each card corresponds to a long tail keyword associated with your subject.

It’s not bad to find questions!

More complicated in terms of interface… but more straightforward to start writing content.

But it is especially at the level of the assistant type SEO On-Page / Content Editor that we make a leap into the world of cool features.

Indeed, the SEO Content Template will give you lots of LSI keywords, goals to achieve (in terms of backlinks, content length, readability score),

and even On-Page recommendations on your H1s, meta-descriptions etc.

It’s a bit of a catch-all, but still clever.

And most importantly the SEO Writing Assistant allows you to paste or write your content live, and gives you an optimization score.

It is not exactly at the level of Surfer SEO yet (especially in terms of the terms to use, and there is no possibility of customization),

but frankly it’s a good start!

And a solution if you don’t have room for two big SEO tools in your budget.

SEMrush for Local SEO

SEMrush has a basic (but unique!) The function of managing your local SEO:

It finds the places where you could be listed and offers to directly manage your NAP quotes,

your Google My Business listing,

as well as some of your reviews.

Which makes the difference on special functions ?

Both tools have their little extra stuff.

But SEMrush has more!

It must be said that it has evolved enormously lately.

The moment of truth: who wins between Ahrefs and SEMrush?

? SEMrush ?

It is true that Ahrefs is comparable in a lot of ways and that it wins the prize when it comes to user interface.

And when it comes to backlink analysis, that’s always what he does best… and better than everyone else.

And since it is cheaper… it wins 1 more point.

But SEMrush stays ahead of the curve in terms of overall value, not just because:

  • He is more precise in some of his analyzes
  • It has more SUPER useful features!

In particular, if you are programming a PPC campaign, it is without hesitation to SEMrush that you will have to turn.

SEMrush goes Ahrefs: your review

And you, which SEO suite do you prefer between SEMrush and Ahrefs?

Did you discover any features that you did not know?

Join the battle in the comments ?

Scroll to Top