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With so many SEO apps on the market, it can be really hard to work out which one is right for your projects. Ahrefs is one of the best-known options available — but is it actually the best SEO tool for you? Well, in this in-depth Ahrefs review, I’m going to help you find out.
The quick verdict
Ahrefs is one of the most fully-featured SEO tools available. Unlike its key competitors it works with multiple search engines, and the data it gives you for backlink building and keyword research is comprehensive and easy to understand. On the downside, there’s no free trial for the product, its pricing model is confusing and its reporting limits are ungenerous.
In this post, I’m going to look at how Ahrefs stacks up in terms of:
- Domain analysis
- Keyword research tools
- Rank tracking
- Backlink analysis
- Link building features
- Site auditing
- Ease of use
- Pricing and value for money
…and more! I’ll also discuss some key alternatives to the platform.
But let’s start with an important question…
What is Ahrefs?
In short, Ahrefs is a suite of tools that help you optimize your website for search engines.
Founded in 2010 by Dmitry Gerasimenko, it is now one of the best-known SEO solutions available — and used by millions of companies around the world, including big brands like Shopify, eBay, LinkedIn, Uber, Adobe, Zoom and Facebook.
Ahrefs works by crawling search engines and websites for data, and giving you tools that you can use to:
- find out what people are searching for on Google and other search engines
- create web content that is likely to generate traffic
- identify link-building opportunities
- tweak technical aspects of your site content so that it achieves a higher search ranking.
For example, based on phrases that you give it, Ahrefs can provide keyword suggestions that can be used as the basis for writing copy that is likely to perform well in search results.
It can also tell you how difficult it will be to rank for specific search queries.
It can suggest websites that it could be worth approaching for backlinks.
And it allows you to perform a technical SEO audit on your website to see if there are any technical improvements you can make to it that will help you get better search results.
That’s just scratching the surface of the tool though — there are many other features provided by Ahrefs that are designed to help you improve your search rankings.
Let’s go through these now, starting with a look at domain analysis.
The starting point for many SEO projects is domain analysis.
This simply means getting a basic overview of the SEO ‘quality’ of a website — how highly it ranks for certain phrases, roughly how much search traffic it gets and so on.
Generally speaking, you perform domain analysis either on your own website — to see where SEO improvements could be made to it — or on a competitor’s, to see how hard it will be to outrank them in search results (and identify ways to do so).
You might also perform domain analysis on a website in order to see if it’s worth approaching its owner for a link from that site to yours (a ‘backlink’).
This is because attaining backlinks from high-quality websites can bring significant improvements to your rankings — Google and other search engines view inbound links as a sign of trustworthiness, and can treat sites with a lot of good backlinks preferentially in search results.
It’s very easy to perform domain analysis in Ahrefs — just enter a domain into its ‘Site Explorer’ tool, and you’ll get an immediate overview of that site’s backlink profile and how it’s performing in search results.
(You can do this for whole domains or individual pages on a domain).
Now, the results page you see after entering a URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer contains a lot of information.
Key metrics provided include:
- A ‘domain rating‘ (DR) score
- An estimate of the total number of visitors to the website per month
- The total number of external links / domains (‘backlinks’) pointing to the URL entered
- The total number of keywords the URL ranks for
- Anchor text commonly used in links to the URL
- The ‘traffic value‘ of the URL — the equivalent sum of money you’d have to invest in pay-per-click advertising to show links to your site at the top of Google search results
- Historical information about the number of referring domains and the website’s domain rating over time.
(Clicking on most of these metrics will take you to detailed breakdowns of the statistics provided, which you can use to really drill down into the data.)
Of the above metrics, the one that gives you the quickest understanding of site quality is the ‘domain rating’ (or ‘Ahrefs DR’ for short). Ahrefs calculates this score based on the number of domains that point to a website (and their quality).
The higher this score, the more likely a website is to rank for competitive search terms — and the more valuable a ‘backlink’ from it to your site will be.
Now, what’s important to remember about Ahref’s Site Explorer statistics is that while they are based on hard data, they are ultimately estimates based on that data.
In most cases, this is totally fine. Since nobody really knows the inner secrets of search engines’ algorithms (other than the software engineers working for the relevant companies!), search engine optimization is always a process that involves working off best guesses.
In my experience, the only area where you might need to treat the Ahrefs’ results with a bit of extra caution is traffic statistics.
Based on reviewing Google Analytics data that I have access to for various websites, I’ve found that the ‘organic traffic’ figures provided by Ahrefs can sometimes be quite bit inaccurate, especially where sites with lower levels of monthly organic traffic are concerned.
So, it’s best to treat the traffic stats in Ahrefs as something that gives you an indication of site popularity. You can use these figures to help you put your site into context against those of your competitors — or identify websites that clearly generate enough traffic to make it worth approaching them for backlinks (or other marketing collaborations).
You can access some of the Ahrefs data on a per-country basis — by using the ‘countries’ dropdown provided, you can view organic traffic, keywords and traffic value for your chosen country.
Overall, the domain analysis features of Ahrefs are strong — no complaints here.
Now, let’s take a look at Ahrefs’ keyword research features.
Ahrefs video review
Keyword research using Ahrefs
Keyword research generally involves four main aspects:
- finding out how many people are searching for a given keyword
- determining how difficult it is to rank for that keyword
- identifying who is already ranking for that keyword
- getting suggestions for other ones.
Let’s take a look at these key aspects of keyword research with Ahrefs.
Getting keyword data in Ahrefs
To get keyword data in Ahrefs, you need to use its ‘Keywords Explorer’ tool. This is accessible via the main navigation.
Before conducting your research, you’ll need to choose a search engine to get the data from — Ahrefs provides keyword information from nine different search engines, namely:
It’s worth pointing out that the availability of data from such a wide range of search engines is one of Ahrefs’ strongest selling points.
This is because many other well-known SEO tools, including Semrush and Moz, only really give you data from one search engine: Google.
Now in most cases, given its huge share of the search engine market (92% of all search queries worldwide, at time of writing), Google search data is what you’ll be most interested in — but there are times when getting an understanding of what’s happening on other search engines will come in useful.
For example, having access to YouTube search data is obviously valuable to anyone who is interested in generating more views for their video content; online merchants will potentially find the Amazon data useful and so on.
And, with the recent integration of ChatGPT into Bing — and a potential increase in usage of that particular search engine — having access to Bing data might soon become more important.
It should be said, however, that the most comprehensive data in Ahrefs is reserved for Google searches — the sort of reports and data available to you for other search engines aren’t remotely as extensive.
Once you’ve entered a keyword into Ahrefs’ keyword explorer tool, you’ll see:
- its ‘keyword difficulty’ score
- the number of searches per month for that keyword
- some suggestions for alternative keywords to target
- a list of the sites that are ranking for it.
This information is presented in a simple dashboard format, but clicking on individual items will let you drill down into the data in more depth.
As with domain analysis, Ahrefs lets you perform this research on a per-country basis, with a dropdown menu letting you view keyword research data for individual territories.
One of the things I like most about this section of Ahrefs is the data it gives you on the pages that are already ranking highly for a particular search phrase (a ‘SERP overview’).
Not only does this give you things you’d expect — like the domain rating of the sites at the top of the rankings, and the number of backlinks to the pages involved, it also gives you a bunch of other useful SEO metrics, like the value of the top ranking pages (based on what it would cost to use PPC to drive an equivalent amount of traffic) and an estimate of the traffic to top ranking pages.
Interestingly — and somewhat uniquely amongst the leading SEO tools we’ve reviewed — this feature also gives you a word count metric (pictured above).
Now, debate rages over whether word count is technically a ranking factor in SEO — but personally, I find word count data helpful, because it give you an idea of how ‘in-depth’ the top ranking content on a given topic typically is. Google may not count words when ranking content, but it does look at how helpful it is, and my view is that there is a relationship between content length and helpfulness (which varies by topic).
So a thumbs up for this particular feature.
Keyword difficulty scores
The most important metric returned by Ahrefs’ keyword explorer is probably its keyword difficulty score.
Ahrefs uses a score out of 100 to indicate this — with a higher score letting you know that it’s going to be harder to rank for a keyword.
As you can see from the below screenshot, Ahrefs can also give you an indication of the number of backlinks (i.e., links from other sites’ content to yours) that you will need to source in order to start ranking in the top 10 results for a particular phrase.
This is a great feature, and one of my favourite things about Ahrefs’ keyword research tool.
However, you should note that this ‘backlink target’ is only provided for Google keyword research — you won’t get a similar link estimate for YouTube, Bing, Yahoo etc. (or indeed any keyword difficulty data at all).
Another key metric returned by Ahrefs’ domain analysis feature is the search volume for a particular phrase — the number of people searching for a keyword per month.
Knowing this is vital, as there is generally not a huge amount of point in trying to rank for a keyword that nobody is searching for!
But in addition to the main monthly search figure (highlighted above), Ahrefs also gives you an indication of the number of times per month that people click on organic results for that keyword.
In the screenshot below, you can see that of the 395,000 searches that are made for ‘hot chocolate’ each month in the USA, 83,000 lead to clicks on the organic results.
You also get to see how much it would cost to generate a clickthrough using PPC advertising ($1.40 in the example above), and a ‘clicks per search’ ratio (the proportion of people who search for a phrase then click an organic result — 0.21 in the example).
And finally, you get a quick at-a-glance view of trend data — the graph accompanying the keyword volume metric shows you when there were particular spikes or declines in searches for the phrase in question.
This information is all laid out in a very digestible way, and makes it easy to see if a keyword is worth your time.
In terms of how accurate the information provided is however, this is ultimately quite hard to say, as each SEO tool uses its own data sources and algorithms to surface the data.
Although a few keyword suggestions will be surfaced when you enter a keyword into Ahrefs’ keyword explorer tool, to get detailed suggestions based on a phrase you’ve entered, you need to use the platform’s ‘Keyword Ideas’ section, which is located to the left of the main keyword overview dashboard.
Within this, there are three types of keyword suggestion reports to choose from: matching terms, related terms and search suggestions.
The ‘matching terms‘ report gives you a list of keyword suggestions that include your target keyword; the ‘related terms‘ report shows you a list of keywords that might not include it, but which Ahrefs thinks might be relevant anyway; and the ‘search suggestions‘ report gives you a list of relevant Google ‘autocomplete’ suggestions.
Which set of suggestions is right for you will depend on the type of keyword research you’re doing — but all will give a comprehensive range of keyword suggestions that you can drill down into.
The trick here is to identify phrases that have
- reasonably high search volumes
- a relatively low keyword difficulty score.
A ‘traffic potential’ score (pictured below) helps you further evaluate the merits of a particular keyword — this figure includes traffic generated by searches for a keyword which involve variations of that phrase, and lets you know roughly how much traffic you’d get if you ranked number one for a given term.
Below is an example of Ahrefs’ ‘traffic potential’ metric in action. You can see that although the ‘online store builder’ keyword has a search volume of 1,000 per month, when phrase variations are factored in, the term actually has the potential to generate 4,000 visits per month to a site that ranks number one in Google for it.
As things stand, this sort of data isn’t available from leading competitors Moz and Semrush — it’s a really useful metric and something of a USP for Ahrefs.
(I’d go so far as to say it’s possibly my Ahrefs favourite feature).
In each type of keyword suggestion report, you’ll find useful filters that let you spot the ‘juicy’ or ‘untapped’ organic keywords that it might be possible for your site to rank for.
While not particularly hard to use, one thing that could make these filters slightly more user-friendly would be a more straightforward keyword difficulty score filter — the one provided requires you to enter in numerical ranges.
This is good from a granularity point of view, but some users — novices, perhaps — might prefer a simple ‘very easy / easy / hard / very hard’ style dropdown, like you get in Semrush:
Another omission — and a pretty significant one — in Ahrefs is search intent data.
Search intent data gives you the context about a keyword — for example, a particular phrase might be being entered into Google for ‘navigational’, ‘informational’, ‘commercial’ or ‘transactional’ purposes — and you can use this information to decide whether or not to try to rank for that phrase.
- “Gmail” is navigational (the user is looking for the Gmail login page)
- “What is a brownie?” is informational (the user wants to know what a brownie is)
- “Ahrefs vs Semrush” is commercial (the user is researching a product before committing to a transaction)
- “Ahrefs pricing” is transactional (the user is probably ready to buy an Ahrefs subscription).
These omissions aside, Ahrefs gives you a wealth of keyword data to use when planning an SEO campaign or creating an inbound marketing strategy (and from a wide range of search engines too).
Peforming keyword research using Ahrefs — quick video demonstration
When conducting keyword research, you obviously have to keep an eye on the domains that already rank for the phrases you’re targeting — if a bunch of really high-authority websites are already ranking for your chosen keyword, it will obviously be much harder to rank for that phrase.
Domains that are already performing well for a particular search phrase are really easy to identify in Ahrefs. You just scroll down to the bottom of the Keyword Explorer > Overview screen, where you’ll see a list of them in the ‘SERP overview’ panel, along with their domain rating scores, the URLs of pages that are ranking, the number of backlinks they have pointing to them and more.
It’s worth pointing out here that Ahrefs gives you a related feature for spotting keywords that only lower authority sites are ranking highly for.
When you’re reviewing keyword suggestions, you can use Ahrefs’ ‘lowest DR’ filter — pictured above — to only show keywords that are ‘owned’ by low authority domains. If you have a high-authority site, these domains should be easy to outrank (so long as the quality of your content is high).
‘Rank tracking’ — also known as ‘position tracking’ — is the process of monitoring how your content (or that of a competitor’s) performs in search engines for particular keywords over time.
It’s easy to set this up in Ahrefs — you go to its suitably-named ‘Rank Tracker’ section, enter a domain name and the keywords you’d like to track, and you see a report showing you how that site is currently ranking for those keywords.
You can also track keywords on a per-country or even a town/city basis — an option that you won’t find in key competing platforms, and one that could prove helpful for local SEO efforts.
As time goes by — and more data about the keywords you’re tracking flows into Ahrefs — you’ll be able to monitor the progress of your attempts to rank a site higher for your chosen keywords.
If you like, you can set up email notifications about your current ranking status — and schedule these to be sent out automatically to you (or your SEO clients) on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
(Note however that the daily updates are only available if you upgrade to Ahrefs’ ‘Rank Tracker Pro‘ service — more on this later).
All in all, the rank tracking features in Ahrefs are strong. However, one thing that you should note about them is that they are only available when you assign a domain to one of your Ahrefs ‘project slots.’
I’ll come back to project slots in more depth shortly, but basically you only get a limited number of them as part of your Ahrefs subscription (with the number available depending on how much you pay per month).
So, particularly if you’re on an entry-level Ahrefs plan, you may find yourself unable to perform quite as much rank tracking as you might like.
How strongly a piece of content performs in search results usually depends on how many ‘backlinks‘ — links from other sites to it — point to it.
To perform backlink analysis in Ahrefs, you enter a URL into its ‘Site Explorer’ tool. This gives you access to detailed ‘backlink profile’ data that lets you see:
- who is linking to that URL
- what anchor text is being used in those links
- what sort of domains (.edu, .com, org etc.) link to it
- if any links pointing that URL are broken.
The point of having this data is usually so that you can ‘reverse engineer’ the SEO success of a competitor — by knowing who’s linking to their site, you can approach the same websites, asking for a link to yours.
Ahrefs’ backlink data provided is laid out clearly, and lets you see when a particular domain has gained or lost links, along with the value of the links in question (i.e., the ‘domain rating’ and ‘URL rating’ scores for each linking URL).
How accurate this backlink analysis is, of course, depends on the size and quality of the Ahrefs link database.
At time of writing, Ahrefs claims to have 35 trillion backlinks in its database — slightly less than those of key competitors Semrush and Moz, which claim to have 43 trillion and 40.7 trillion respectivley in theirs.
(Ahrefs argues that size isn’t everything and that each tool counts links differently — you can learn more about Ahrefs’ approach here).
I was curious however to see how this played out in some real-world tests, so I performed some backlink analysis on some well-known sites (domains for the ecommerce platforms and design tools we typically work with) to see how Ahrefs fared against leading competitors Semrush and Moz.
Here are the number of referring domains for these sites that I found with each tool:
As you can see from my test results above, if there was a trend to be discerned, it wasn’t that the smaller link database always led to a smaller number of backlinks being surfaced: in fact, the SEO tool with the largest domain database (Semrush) didn’t win the contest.
Now, it should be said that this piece of backlink research involved a small number of domains.
But the results do hint at the fact that Ahrefs’ smaller link database won’t always translate to ‘smaller’ data. It will depend on the domains and research involved.
Next, let’s take a look at link building with Ahrefs. But just before that, a quick note about one of the key competing products…
A key alternative to Ahrefs: Semrush
It’s worth dwelling for a moment on a key alternative to Ahrefs — Semrush. Aside from Ahrefs, this is probably the best-known SEO tool on the market and comes with a similar set of features.
The main advantage that Ahrefs has over Semrush is the fact that it gives you data from a LOT more search engines than just Google; additionally, there isn’t an equivalent of Ahrefs’ fantastic traffic potential score metric available in Semrush, and its broken link building features are easier to use.
But Semrush wins handsomely when it comes to pricing — you get a lot more reports for your monthly fee. Additionally its ‘search intent’ metrics and CRM-style approach to link building and site auditing are superb, and features that are not present in Ahrefs.
Significantly, while Ahrefs doesn’t let you try the platform out for free, Semrush does — you can access an extended, 14-day trial of the platform here.
Link building in Ahrefs
Many prospective users of Ahrefs will be interested in using it for backlink building. After all, the more high-quality links that point to a website, the better it typically performs in search results.
There are three main features provided by Ahrefs that can help you with your link building strategies:
- its Site Explorer tool, which gives you a list of backlinks to any domain you specify
- its Content Explorer, which lets you identify sites or authors that are authorities about particular topics
- its Alerts feature, which can let you know when one of your competitors has acquired a new backlink.
Let’s discuss each briefly in turn.
Using the Site Explorer to identify link building opportunities
Using Ahrefs’ ‘Site Explorer’ feature is the simplest way to identify link building opportunities.
To do this you enter a URL into it — typically a competitor’s — and then click on the ‘Backlinks’ option in the ‘Backlink profile’ section.
You’ll then see a list of all the backlinks that Ahrefs can find which point to that URL (see screenshot below).
You can then try to find contact details for those domains, and approach their owners for a backlink.
Now, while this Ahrefs feature definitely gives you valuable data for backlink outreach purposes, what you won’t get here — and which you do get from key competitor Semrush — is a way to manage the outreach process.
In Semrush, you are given a CRM-style tool to keep tabs on any link building campaign; this gives you a ‘sales pipeline’ style approach that you can use during outreach. Not only that, but Semrush lets you connect your email account to it, and actually surfaces contact details for the websites you identify as targets.
With Ahrefs, you end up exporting a list of links to Excel, researching contact details yourself, and making notes on a spreadsheet regarding who you’ve contacted or not. You might also end up using an email marketing app to send out your pitches.
It all amounts to a more manual process than you might like, and one which involves more a lot more tools / apps.
So the data provided is great — but you’re going to have to be prepared to do stuff with it!
Using the Content Explorer for link building purposes
Ahref’s ‘Content Explorer’ feature gives you a really nice, simple way to identify websites that are worth approaching for a backlink.
You simply enter a topic into the tool, and it provides you with a list of high-authority pages and websites about that topic.
You’ll also get a list of ‘top authors’ that are particular experts on the topic, and where available, their Twitter details, which can help you contact them.
Again, it would be better if a bit more contact surfacing was available — in the form of some author email addresses being provided — but this is nonetheless a useful way to identify good backlink outreach targets.
Using Ahrefs Alerts to spot backlink building opportunities
Finally, there’s ‘Ahrefs Alerts’ to consider as part of your backlink building toolkit.
This lets you enter a competitor’s URL into it (or indeed your own); once this is done, you’ll start to receive regular email alerts containing a list of all the latest sites linking to that URL.
This gives you the opportunity to contact the owner of the linking websites, asking that person to link to your website too.
Broken link building
Broken link building is an important SEO strategy.
It involves finding a broken link (i.e., one that no longer leads to a live page), recreating the ‘dead’ content that it used to point to, then asking anybody who used to link to the dead content to link to your new content instead.
This approach allows you to build up new backlinks to your content — and, because of the emphasis that Google places on backlinks to your site, this can bring improved rankings.
In order to make the strategy work, you obviously need to be able to identify broken links, and Ahrefs makes it really easy to do this.
You just enter a domain name into Ahrefs’ ‘Site Explorer’ section and click the Broken backlinks option (in the ‘Backlink profile’ section).
This then outputs a list of all that domain’s broken inbound links, and the sites where these links feature.
Additionally, Ahrefs makes it very easy to spot broken outbound links too — i.e., links from your site to other URLs that don’t work any more.
It’s important to ensure that your web pages don’t contain any of these, as they can be interpreted as a sign of poor quality content by Google and other search engines (with negative implications for rankings).
To find these in Ahrefs, you just enter a domain into the ‘Site Explorer’ tool, go to the ‘outgoing links’ section and hit the ‘broken links’ option to view results.
It should be noted that the way that Ahrefs surfaces broken backlinks (both inbound and outbound) is superb — the process for doing this is much easier in Ahrefs than in competing tools Moz and Semrush.
Site auditing and technical SEO
One of the key reasons that SEO professionals use tools like Ahrefs is to stay on top of the technical side of SEO.
This is because Google and other search engines are increasingly placing a higher emphasis on the technical performance of websites — things like site speed, security, and mobile-friendliness.
Ahrefs helps you improve your technical SEO via its ‘Site Audit’ feature. During a site audit, Ahrefs crawls your site for issues that might be having a negative effect on your search ranking, including:
- Slow-loading content
- Missing alt text
- SSL problems
- Crawl errors
- Missing headers
- Duplicate content
- Broken links
Overall, you’ll get a very useful report from this process and a good picture of your site’s health. And it doesn’t matter what platform or CMS you’ve built your site on — regardless of whether you use Wix or Shopify, WordPress or Squarespace etc., you can use the insights provided via an Ahrefs audit to make technical improvements to your site’s technical SEO setup.
But worth a particular mention is the fact that Ahrefs now includes detailed Core Web Vitals data in its site audit reports.
Core Web Vitals are an important (and evolving) set of targets from Google relating to the speed, responsiveness and stability of a website, and sites that meet them can receive higher rankings in search results.
In Ahrefs you get two different types of Core Web Vitals stats: ‘field data‘ which is based on real user experience of your website (this comes from Chrome users) and ‘lab data,’ which is performance data collected within a controlled environment.
(Note: to get the Chrome data, you’ll need to connect your Ahrefs account to Google’s PageSpeed Insights API — see screenshot below.)
The availability of both field data and lab data means that Ahrefs has an edge over key competitor Semrush here, because Semrush only provides Core Web Vitals metrics based on Lighthouse lab data.
Interface and ease-of-use
Ahrefs’ interface consists of a horizontal menu of options at the top of the screen; when you click an item, a sub-menu giving you access to more features appears on the left.
This is a fairly traditional-style approach to navigation, and one that should feel familiar to most users.
The menu options on the left are grouped together in useful and intuitive categories — backlink profile, organic search, paid search etc.
There is a lot of data to contend with — this may feel a bit overwhelming at first, but you soon get used to it (and the whole point of tools like Ahrefs is, of course, to provide you with a lot of data!).
Increasingly, Ahrefs is taking more of a ‘data visualization’ approach to presenting data than it used to — and its clear graphs and other graphical presentation of SEO data do help make all the metrics provided more digestible.
As with other leading SEO tools, it would be good if the Ahrefs’ interface could be made to work better with smartphones however — it’s not fully ‘responsive’, meaning that if you log into Ahrefs on a mobile device, you see the standard desktop interface.
The means having to read very small text and doing a lot of pinching and zooming, as the screenshot below highlights.
To be fair to Ahrefs however, it’s unlikely you’d want to do an awful lot of SEO research on a phone!
However, it would be good if a mobile version of Ahrefs was available that let you access some core data easily on a mobile device — position tracking perhaps, or new backlink notifications.
As things stand, there are no Android or iOS apps available for Ahrefs at all, which puts it at a slight disadvantage to Semrush, which does provide a mobile app (for position tracking only, though).
Finally, the Ahrefs interface, while easy to use, could return data a bit faster. Depending on the type of report you’re pulling, you may find yourself looking at a spinning wheel slightly longer than you might like — competing platforms like Semrush and Moz seem to return their metrics more quickly.
How to get an extended free trial of Semrush
Pricing and value for money
There’s no way round it: SEO tools like Ahrefs are, by comparison to a lot of other digital tools, very expensive!
That’s understandable however, as with these sorts of solutions you’re not just paying for functionality, you’re paying for access to huge quantities of data, including a lot of competitor intelligence.
Ahrefs provides four main pricing plans:
- Lite — $99 per month
- Standard — $199 per month
- Advanced — $399 per month
- Enterprise — starting at $999 per month.
These fees are broadly comparable to those charged by key competitors Moz, Semrush and Majestic (that said, Majestic offers a lower monthly plan for $49.99 per month, but it is considerably less functional than the entry level plans provided by most of its competitors).
The key differences between the Ahrefs plans involve:
- access to core features
- the number of projects you can work with
- the number of reports you can pull
- the number of keywords you can track.
Access to core features
Probably the most significant downside of the Ahrefs pricing structure is that its most affordable plan — ‘Lite’ — is very restrictive when it comes to core features.
Significant functionality is not bundled with it, including:
- Content gap analytics
- Link intersect analytics
- Broken backlink identification
- Broken outgoing links identification
- Broken internal links identification
- Historical data.
The keyword research data is not refreshed as regularly in the Lite Plan as others either, but for me this is probably less of an issue than the missing features listed above.
The main upshot here is that if you are serious about SEO, you will be nudged firmly in the direction of the ‘Standard’ plan — the ‘Lite’ plan will usually be too restrictive for professional SEO applications.
Number of projects
It’s important to be aware that if you want to use Ahrefs’ site audit or rank tracking features, you can only do so on domains that have been added as ‘projects.’
And how many projects you can add depends on the Ahrefs plan you’re on — you get 5 projects on its $99 plan; 20 on its $199 plan; 50 on its $399 plan; and 100 on its $999 plan.
These limits won’t necessarily be a showstopper for every business — but if you have a lot of sites that you need to manage SEO for at the same time, or if you do quite a lot of competitor analysis, they might cause problems.
However, the good news is that if you can ‘verify’ a domain with Ahrefs, it doesn’t count towards your project limit at all!
Verification simply means proving that you have editorial rights to or ownership of a website; you can do this by:
- connecting your Ahrefs account to Google Search Console
- adding a TXT record to the website’s DNS settings
- uploading an HTML file to the website’s homepage
- adding a HTML tag to the website’s homepage.
The ability to work with an unlimited number of verified domains means that it’s possible to analyze a lot of websites in Ahrefs at a comparatively low cost — and for me, the this represents the best-value aspect of Ahrefs’ pricing structure.
Number of reports
Although Ahrefs is fairly generous when it comes to project limits, it is much less so when it comes to the number of reports you can pull per day.
Each Ahrefs plan — regardless of cost — limits you to one ‘power user,’ who can only pull only a few hundred reports per month.
These reports are pulled via ‘credits,’ with the number of these varying by plan and user type.
On the Lite plan, a power user gets 500 of these, with a credit being used up every time a report is pulled (note: this doesn’t apply to the rank tracker or site audit features — reports generated using these features won’t count towards this limit).
The situation is slightly better on the ‘Standard’ and ‘Advanced’ plans, which increase this limit to 600 and 750 respectively.
That’s not quite the full story though: you can have as many ‘inactive users’ as you like associated with your account, an inactive user being somebody who pulls five or less reports per month.
If you need more Ahrefs seats, you can either pay $20 per month to add a ‘casual user’ to your account (who can run 5-100 reports per month) or $50 per month to add another ‘power user.’
But overall, this is pretty ungenerous by comparison to the reporting limits provided by Ahrefs’ key competitors.
(And more than a little confusing too).
For example, on the Moz entry level plan, you can pull 150 keyword reports and 5,000 backlink reports per month.
Ahrefs is also ungenerous when it comes to the number of rows it outputs in its reports. For example, while the entry-level Semrush and Moz plans both give you keyword research reports featuring 10,000 results, Ahrefs’ equivalent limit on its $99 plan is 2,500.
(As you go up the pricing ladder, the Ahrefs row export limits become more consistent with those of competing tools, however.)
Number of keywords you can track
Another key difference between Ahrefs pricing plans involves the number of keywords you can track. On the ‘Lite’ entry level plan the limit is 750; this rises to 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 on the Standard, Advanced and Enterprise plans respectively.
(These limits are fairly consistent with those of competing SEO tools).
If you need more flexibility on this front however, you can buy a ‘Rank Tracker Pro’ add-on. This lets you track up to 100,000 keywords (and also lets you get daily email updates on position tracking — the standard Ahrefs plans only gives you updates every 3-7 days).
This upgrade is expensive though — every additional 500 keywords you want to track costs brings with it an additional $50 monthly fee.
Is there a free trial of Ahrefs available?
Given the that the monthly costs of Ahrefs are not insignificant, you might be wondering if there’s a free trial to avail of.
Well, unfortunately, there isn’t! There is a cut-down version of the product available, however, called ‘Ahrefs Webmaster Tools‘, which gives you limited access to its ‘Site Explorer’ and ‘Site Audit’ features.
But that said, this contrasts negatively with other tools, especially Moz, which offers users a 30-day fully free trial.
And, although Semrush’s trial is normally only available for 7 days, occasionally the company provides a more generous 14-day one too. This is the case at the moment — for a limited time you can access the longer Semrush trial here.
SEO tools like Ahrefs can be complex and quite hard to understand, so the availability and format of customer support is often a key consideration for users.
You get live chat and email support with Ahrefs, which is better than competing products (Moz and Majestic), which only offer email support. However the lack of phone support contrasts negatively with Semrush, which provides it.
On the plus side, Ahrefs makes its contact details very easy to spot — a live chat box is visible at the corner of each page, with estimated wait times provided on it, too.
It’s worth noting that Ahrefs support is currently available in English only, however. This is a shame, because the platform is actually available in 13 languages (you can use a language switcher at the bottom of the interface to switch to your preferred one).
Ahrefs review: conclusion
It’s not the cheapest tool of its kind available, but overall Ahrefs will be a very good solution for many SEO campaigns. It gives you access to a wealth of information that, used carefully, can help significantly increase the levels of organic traffic to a website. It’s easy to use, works with more search engines than key competing products, and, thanks to its ‘domain verification’ system, can let you work on a large number of projects simultaneously.
A feature worth singling out for particular praise is its ‘traffic potential’ score, which is much better than a straightforward ‘search volume’ metric at telling you how much traffic you can expect from a particular keyword.
Ahrefs is not without its flaws, however. There’s no free trial, its reporting limits are ungenerous; there is only one user account included regardless of plan; and its rank-tracking add-on is expensive.
Because of the quality of data it gives you, it’s definitely worth serious consideration as an SEO tool, though — and I’ll leave you with a summary of the key pros and cons of Ahrefs below.
Pros and cons of Ahrefs
Pros of Ahrefs
- It’s easy to use.
- You can use Ahrefs to perform keyword research for a wide variety of different search engines including, significantly, YouTube and Amazon — key competitors generally only provide search data for Google.
- It gives you access to all the key tools typically needed for a SEO project: keyword research, backlink analysis and site auditing.
- Carrying out broken link analysis (both internal and external) is extremely easy in Ahrefs.
- You can use Ahrefs to track keywords by at a very local level (right down to town or city).
- It lets you know how many words are in top-ranking pieces of content — which lets you gauge how ‘in-depth’ high-ranking content on a particular topic is.
- It lets you audit Core Web Vitals performance easily, and gives you access to both field and lab data in one place.
- Its generous ‘domain verification system’ lets you use Ahrefs with multiple sites relatively cheaply.
- Adding additional ‘seats’ for Ahrefs is fairly inexpensive, especially by comparison to its competitors.
- Its ‘traffic potential’ metric provides a truly great way to spot ‘juicy’ or untapped keywords – and you won’t find a similar feature available from its key competitors.
- The interface is available in 13 languages.
Cons of Ahrefs
- Although some free tools are available from Ahrefs, there’s no free trial.
- The pricing model is confusing.
- The reporting limits are ungenerous.
- All plans, even the most expensive ‘Enterprise’ plan, only come with one ‘power user’ seat.
- There’s no search intent data provided.
- There’s no phone support.
- There are no built-in contact surfacing or project management tools available to help you with backlink building.
- There’s no mobile app for on-the-go SEO work.
- The interface can be a bit sluggish.
- Support is English-only.
Our overall rating: 4/5
Alternatives to Ahrefs
Ahrefs is one of the best-known SEO tools available — but not the only one! Alternative options for SEO analysis include:
If you’re interested in checking out Semrush — the most obvious alternative to Ahrefs — you’ll find our full Semrush review here, our Ahrefs vs Semrush shootout here, and our Semrush pricing guide here. We have also recently published a comparison of Moz, Ahrefs and Semrush.
Video guide: how to perform keyword research with Semrush
For a limited time, you can access a double-length free trial of Semrush here.
Ahrefs review FAQ
What is Ahrefs?
Ahrefs is a tool that helps you optimize your website for search engines. It does this by giving you information that lets you establish what people are searching for in your niche, identify opportunities for building links from other sites to yours and improve the technical SEO of your website.
Is Ahrefs free?
Ahrefs is not a free tool. However, the company does have a free product called ‘Webmaster Tools’ available that gives you access to cut-down versions of Ahrefs’ ‘Site Explorer’ and ‘Site Audit’ tools.
Is Ahrefs worth the money?
Ahrefs is expensive — it costs a minimum of $99 per month to use it — but it gives you an incredible amount of data and competitive intelligence that can prove transformative to a business in the right hands. So whether or not this cost is ‘worth it’ really depends on how you use the product and the data it provides — it definitely helps to have a good understanding of SEO principles before investing in it.
What’s the best alternative to Ahrefs?
Based on the tests we’ve done and SEO products we’ve reviewed to date, we’ve found that Semrush is probably the best alternative to Ahrefs. It beats Ahrefs when it comes to providing project management tools and keyword intent data; but Ahrefs is stronger when it comes to the number of search engines that data is provided for (Ahrefs provides data from 10 search engines, whereas Semrush only provides data from Google).
How we tested this product — and why you can trust this review
We tested this product via independent research and, more importantly, hands-on experience of it.
We regularly work on SEO projects — both for our own site and client ones — and have used Ahrefs extensively to do so. So this Ahrefs review is based on first-hand experience of its keyword research, link building and domain analysis features.
And finally, we have a strict honesty policy — while we do make use of affiliate links to fund our research and testing, we strive to be 100% impartial in all our conclusions.