Moz vs Semrush (2021) — Which is Better?

Moz vs Semrush

In this in-depth Moz vs Semrush comparison, I’m going to put two industry-leading SEO tools head to head — and help you find out which one works best for your business.

I’m going to discuss how both Semrush and Moz Pro compare in terms of:

  • Domain analysis
  • Keyword research features
  • Backlink analysis and building
  • Site auditing
  • Broken link analysis
  • Ease of use
  • Pricing and value for money
  • Support

…and more!

But first: what exactly are Semrush and Moz?


What are Semrush and Moz?

Simply put, Semrush and Moz are two products that help you optimize your website for search engines. 

They do this in many different ways, but the key thing they give you is lots of information — information that you can use to:

  • create content that is likely to attract search traffic
  • identify opportunities for building links (‘backlinks’) from other websites to yours
  • tweak technical aspects of your site so that it has a better chance of performing well in search results.

Both tools:

  • can provide you with keyword suggestions that can be used as the basis for creating search-friendly content
  • tell you how difficult it will be to rank for specific search phrases
  • help you find websites that it might be approaching for a backlink
  • let you perform an “SEO audit” on your website to find out if there are any technical improvements you can make to it that will result in better search rankings
  • work with any website building tool or CMS — so regardless of whether you’re using Shopify, WordPress or Squarespace, you can still gain SEO insights with them.

That’s just scratching the surface though — there are lots of other nifty features provided by Semrush and Moz that are there to help you climb up the search rankings. You’ll find out more about these as you progress through this comparison.

Let’s start with something called domain analysis.


Domain analysis

One of the most useful things you can do with Moz and Semrush is simple domain analysis — this means getting a basic overview of how a domain is performing in search results.

Generally speaking, you perform domain analysis either on your own website — to see where SEO improvements can be made — or on a competitor’s, to establish how difficult it will be to outrank them in search results (and to find ways to do so).

Once you’ve entered a URL into Semrush or Moz’s domain overview tools, you can expect to see:

  • An ‘authority score’ which gives you an at-a-glance indication of how well a website is likely to perform in search results
  • The number of external links — backlinks — pointing to the website (the more of these the better from an SEO point of view)
  • The number of keywords the website ranks for
  • Anchor text commonly used in links to the website
  • Competing domains

Carrying out domain analysis is easy enough both tools — but on balance I prefer Semrush’s approach to it.

To perform domain analysis in Semrush, you simply go to an appropriately named — and easy to spot — ‘Domain Overview’ section.

In Moz however, you have slightly more work to do to get a domain overview — this is because the platform basically splits up the domain analysis into two different sections, ‘Keyword Research’ and ‘Link Research’, and you’ve got to flick between these two options to get the data you need.

Domain analysis in Moz
Domain analysis in Moz involves looking at two sections, ‘Keyword Research’ and ‘Link Research’ (the ‘Keyword Research’ view is shown above).

Additionally, if you want to see competing domains data, you’ve got to set up a ‘campaign’ in Moz to do so — i.e., allocate one of your project slots to a particular website. Moz limits these based on what plan you’re on — the entry level plan only lets you set up 3, for example.

All this contrasts a bit negatively with Semrush’s domain analysis option, which returns keyword data, link data and much else besides all at once — you genuinely get a full ‘domain overview’ with Semrush, rather than a partial one (and without the need to use up any precious project slots).

Domain analysis in SEMrush.
Domain analysis in SEMrush.

It’s worth noting that as part of its domain analysis tool, Semrush gives you an estimate of the monthly traffic to the domain you’re analysing — this is something that is not available in Moz.

Based on my own (small-scale) testing of this feature I didn’t always find Semrush’s traffic figures madly accurate — but to be fair to the product, it does make it very clear that we are dealing with estimates, and gives you an indication regarding the likely accuracy of each one.

The important thing to remember with Semrush’s traffic estimates is that they should be used to identify trends (i.e., is site A more popular than sites B and C?) rather than taken as gospel.

Accordingly, there is a nice feature in Semrush’s domain analysis that you won’t find a direct equivalent for in Moz — its ‘competitive positioning map.’

This gives a really good at-a-glance indicator of how a site is performing against key competitors, based on how many keywords it ranks forand monthly traffic estimates.

SEMrush’s competitive positioning map.
SEMrush’s competitive positioning map feature.

Now, let’s take a look at keyword research features — a very important part of both Moz and Semrush.

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Keyword research features

Keyword research is generally about four things: 

  • Establishing how many people are searching for a particular keyword
  • Establishing how difficult it is to rank in search results for that keyword
  • Finding out who is already ranking for that keyword
  • Getting suggestions for other ones.

Both Semrush and Moz make it very easy for you to find out all the above information.

Keyword research in Moz.
Keyword research in Moz.

You just enter a keyword into their aptly named ‘keyword overview’ tools, and you’ll get the info you need immediately: search volume, keyword difficulty score, the sites that are currently ranking for it, and a list of related keywords.

Performing keyword research in SEMrush.
Performing keyword research in SEMrush.

Semrush uses a percentage score to indicate keyword difficulty — with a higher percentage indicating higher difficulty.

Moz uses a score out of one hundred, and as with Semrush, a higher score indicates higher difficulty.

When you check out the keyword suggestions section of Semrush, you’ll notice that its difficulty score differs slightly from Moz’s, in that it is provided as a decimal number (with 2 digits after the decimal point) — with Moz, this score is always provided as a whole number.

In Semrush, keyword difficulty scores are provided in percentages, with two decimal points (see ‘KD%’ column in the screengrab above).
In Semrush, keyword difficulty scores are provided in percentages, with two decimal points (see ‘KD%’ column in the screengrab above).

This means that you arguably get more ‘fine grain’ information on keyword difficulty from Semrush (although I suspect that this will only come in useful in ultra-competitive niches — if at all!).

A keyword research feature that you’ll find in Moz that’s very useful — and not present in Semrush — is a keyword ‘priority score.’ This is gives you a sense of how worthwhile it is trying to rank for a particular phrase.

Moz calculates this by looking at:

  • the traffic generated by a keyword;
  • how difficult it will be to rank for it; and
  • what percentage of organic clickthroughs it generates.
Moz’s keyword priority score - a feature that is not currently available in Semrush.
Moz’s keyword priority score – a feature that is not currently available in Semrush.

It’s a really nifty little feature and particularly useful when you’re compiling large lists of keywords — it would be good to see Semrush introduce something similar.

Semrush and Moz both allow you to create lists of keywords that you can refer to any time you like, using their ‘Keyword Manager’ and ‘Keyword List’ tools respectively.

These allow you to check in on how keyword difficulty is trending over time, or export keyword data to any SEO clients you may have.

Free trials of Moz and Semrush

Using SEO tools like Moz and Semrush can represent a significant investment, so it’s important to road test these products before committing. Fortunately, both products let you do this.

With Moz, you can avail of a free 30 day trial.

Semrush’s trial is shorter, lasting 7 days — but for a limited time they’ve made a 14-day free trial available, which you can access using this link.

One thing that’s worth noting with regard to Moz and Semrush is that all the data both tools provide for keyword research is, generally speaking, based on search results in Google — unlike competitor Ahrefs, they don’t source data from other search engines like Bing, Yahoo or YouTube.

(Check out our Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison for more information on Ahrefs).

I say ‘generally speaking’ because Moz does let you look at how your site is ranking for particular keywords on other search engines — Bing and Yahoo — if you use its ‘Rank Checker’ option. But it doesn’t provide search volumes for keywords on these.


Backlink analysis and building

How well a site performs in search results depends heavily on how many backlinks — external sites linking to it — exist for the site in question.

So how Moz and Semrush help you understand your site’s backlink profile — and build new ones to it — is important to understanding which of these two products is best.

Backlink database size

With both Moz and Semrush, you can enter a domain name and see a list of all the backlinks to it that each can find.

In order to provide this data to their users, both Moz and Semrush maintain their own indices of the web. These contain a large number of domains and keywords.

Semrush is pretty open about this data — on the ‘Stats and Facts’ section of its website, it publishes the relevant figures.

(At time of writing, there are 20 billion keywords and 818 million domains in the Semrush database.)

Semrush database size
Semrush database size (correct at time of writing).

Moz, by contrast, doesn’t publish these figures, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison as to which tool has the most comprehensive database.

The fact that Moz doesn’t publish this sort of information seems to imply that its database size may be on the smaller end of the spectrum.

That said, in my own (small-scale) testing, where I looked at linking domains identified for a mix of small, medium and large business websites, it seemed to be a draw in terms of which platform identified more links; sometimes Moz did, sometimes Semrush did. I couldn’t draw any firm conclusions.

Backlink reports

In terms of the backlink analysis itself, both Moz and Semrush give you a lots of useful information about the backlinks that point to a domain, including breakdowns of:

  • the number of ‘dofollow’ links vs ‘nofollow’ ones
  • anchor text used
  • new vs lost domains

Semrush gives you more detailed data however, including:

  • backlinks by country
  • backlinks by industry
  • an indication of how many ‘toxic’ links point to a site

I prefer the way that Semrush presents all this information — as the screenshot below shows, a series of simple but attractive graphs spell out the key stats in a way that helps you digest them easily.

Backlink analysis in Semrush.
Backlink analysis in Semrush.

Clicking on these graphs typically takes you to the data tables they are based on; with Moz, you generally just see the tables (some graphing is available, but it’s nowhere near as extensive as in Semrush).

Backlink building

Backlink analysis is great for getting an idea of how many links point to your site; how a competitor’s stacks up against it; and whether it’s worth approaching a particular website for a backlink.

But a key attraction of tools like Semrush and Moz is the facilities they provide you with to actually build links. After all, backlinks remain one of the key ingredients (probably the key ingredient) to securing a high search ranking.

So how do both products fare on that front?

Well, Moz and Semrush both provide you with ‘link intersect’ tools. Moz’s is called ‘Link Intersect’, and Semrush’s is called ‘Backlink Gap’.

Moz’s link intersect feature.
Moz’s ‘link intersect’ feature.

These allow you to compare a URL from your website against a competitor’s, and give you an exportable list of websites that are currently linking to your competitor, but not to you. You can then reach out to these website owners, asking for a backlink — thus ‘closing the gap.’

Moz’s link intersect tool is slightly better than Semrush’s, because it allows you to compare your site’s backlinks against five others, whereas Semrush limits the comparison to four other websites.

The 'backlink gap' feature in Semrush.
Semrush’s ‘backlink gap’ feature.

However, I’d argue that overall, Semrush has the edge on Moz in the backlink building department, because in addition to providing suggestions based on a ‘link intersect’ approach, its dedicated ‘link building’ feature can also automatically surface link opportunities by examining the content on your domain.

This link building feature simply outputs a list of URLs from related websites that it might be worth approaching for a backlink. Not only this, but Semrush also provides you with email addresses that are associated with those websites, which saves you from having to look them up yourself.

What’s also great about this feature is that you’re not just working with a spreadsheet of URLs — you’re dealing with a more ‘CRM’ style interface, with each domain listed as a ‘domain prospect’.

Domain prospects in Semrush.
Domain prospects in Semrush.

You can click on a button beside each domain prospect to move it into different stages of a link-building pipeline, and send outreach emails directly within the SEMRush interface (by connecting a mailbox — Gmail, Yahoo etc.).

This is a fantastic feature, and there’s nothing really comparable in Moz. 

Overall, it’s fair to say that both Moz and Semrush give you good backlink analysis functionality — but for me, Semrush comes out ahead here, because of its automated approach to link building, and its excellent CRM-style backlink building tool.

Backlink auditing — finding toxic links

Both Moz and Semrush have tools to help you identify potentially ‘toxic’ links (poor-quality links that can lead to you being penalised in search results).

You can output a list of these, and then upload them to Google in a ‘disavow’ file (this asks Google to ignore them).

I find Semrush’s approach here to be better, because it lets you go through each toxic link and decide what you want to do with it before outputting anything — you can ‘whitelist’ a link or decide to move it to a disavow list (stored on Semrush) before actually exporting your file.

With Moz, you have to export the links first and then organise them in Excel (or another spreadsheet application).

SEMrush’s toxic link report.
SEMrush’s toxic link report.

One negative aspect of this functionality in both Semrush and Moz is that to use it, you will be required to set up a ‘campaign’ (or in Semrush speak, ‘project’) — and, as mentioned earlier, limits apply to the number of these that you can run at once.

(These limits depend on plan type — more on this shortly).


Site auditing

Both Moz and Semrush provide ‘site auditing’ features that allow you to evaluate how well your site is performing from a technical SEO and on-page SEO perspective.

During a site audit, both tools will look out for issues which might be having a negative effect on your search ranking, including:

  • Duplicate content
  • Crawl errors
  • Missing headings
  • Overuse of keywords

Both products provide you with a wealth of really useful suggestions, but I’d argue that Semrush comes out top in the auditing department. Its site audit tool is considerably easier to use than the Moz equivalent, giving you all the information you need in one place.

In Moz, as with its domain analysis tools, it feels as though there’s more clicking around the place to do — you have to flick between a few different sections in the navigation to get at the info (a ‘crawl’ section, a ‘redirects issues’ section, a ‘page grader’ etc.).

You can definitely surface some really useful technical SEO data with Moz too, however — I particularly like its page grader tool, which allows you to enter in a page’s URL and a keyword and then view a very clear list of things you need to do to improve its on-page SEO.

Moz’s page grader tool.
Moz’s page grader tool.

It’s not quite as good as Semrush’s on-page SEO checker however, which goes through your whole site (not just one page) and gives you one list of actionable tips for improvement for each page, in order of priority.

These can include suggestions on: 

  • which keywords to add
  • steps you can take to make a page appear as a Google ‘featured snippet’
  • how to improve your body copy and meta descriptions
  • which websites to approach for backlinks
  • length of content
  • internal linking strategies…

…and much more.

And, when an issue is identified, you have the option to send it to project management software Trello (or, using Zapier, another content management tool), so that your team can work on resolving it.

SEMrush on-page SEO suggestions.
Semrush’s on-page SEO suggestions.

The Semrush SEO checker is extremely easy to use, and a really great tool to have in your SEO arsenal.

The bottom line on site auditing is that both Moz and Semrush will both give you the data you need to make significant improvements to your site’s technical SEO and on-page SEO.

I would argue however that Semrush — as is the case with a lot of the other SEO information it provides — puts it all in one place, displays things more coherently and gives you a quicker understanding of the changes you need to make.


Broken link building

Broken link building is a pretty important SEO tactic.

It involves finding a broken link (i.e., one that no longer leads anywhere), recreating the ‘dead’ content that it used to point to, then asking anybody who used to link to this dead content to link to yours instead.

This approach helps you to build up new backlinks to your content — and the more backlinks that point to your website (generally speaking) the better your content performs in search.

Oddly, broken link building is not something that’s particularly easy to do in Moz — you have to create a campaign for the site you want to examine for broken links, go through a list of status codes (a 404 status code indicates a broken link), export the data you need into a spreadsheet, search for a relevant site owner’s contact details online, and finally, send an outreach message from your email client.

By contrast, you can do broken link building in Semrush without using up a project slot, by running a backlink analysis report and exporting 404 errors.

As with Moz, the broken link building process could be a bit easier in Semrush — there’s still a fair bit of clicking around, filtering and exporting to do in order to get a list of broken inbound or outbound links. (The situation is better if you’re using a project slot however — Semrush will output a list of all external broken links in its ‘site audit’ report).

Ultimately, because you don’t have to use any of your project slots to access broken link building functionality, and because its site audit feature identifies them easily, it’s a win for Semrush in the broken link building department.

Interface and ease of use

As you’ve probably guessed by now, my view is that in general, Semrush is the easier of the two products to use.

Its menus are laid out in a more logical fashion, and its dashboards seem to group pieces of information together in a more coherent way. And if you like data visualisation, the Semrush approach will definitely appeal.

With Semrush, you get a really quick ‘at-a-glance’ understanding of SEO information — whereas with Moz, you often have to do more digging, or clicking about the place, to get at the data you need.

That’s not to say that Moz is particularly hard to use; it’s just not as intuitive.

Semrush places a big emphasis on data visualisation.
Semrush places a big emphasis on data visualisation.

The area where Semrush definitely wins hands down in the ease-of-use stakes however is its site auditing feature. It’s very simple to use and outputs a really-easy-to follow set of instructions for improving your performance in search results.

And, if the idea of carrying out link building without exporting a lot of Excel spreadsheets appeals to you, then Semrush is definitely a better option. Its CRM-style approach to outreach means that you can work ‘in the box,’ keeping all your data within the product and emailing site owners directly from it.


Pricing and value for money

Compared to a lot of other business apps, Moz and Semrush are expensive.

That’s understandable however, as you’re not just paying for functionality, you’re paying for access to an awful lot of data, including intelligence on your competitors. 

There are four SEMrush pricing plans:

  • Pro: $119.95 per month
  • Guru: $229.95 per month
  • Business: $449.95 per month
  • Custom: negotiable

A 16% discount is available if you pay upfront for a year, and there’s also a free trial. Normally speaking this is only valid for 7 days, but for a limited time you can avail of a 14-day extended trial via this link.

Moz comes in 5 varieties:

  • Standard: $99 per month
  • Medium: $149 per month
  • Large: $249 per month
  • Premium: $599 per month
  • Enterprise: negotiable

A 20% discount is available if you pay upfront for a year, and a free 30 day trial is available (this trial length is pretty generous by comparison to similar SEO tools, some of which don’t provide free trials at all).

There are a few key things to zoom in on when trying to out which offers the most bang for the buck for your business.

Number of users

By default, all Semrush plans only come with one user account or ‘seat’. You have to pay an additional monthly fee to add additional users to a plan ($45 per month per ‘Pro’ user, $80 per ‘Guru’ user and $100 per ‘Business’ user).

Moz is more generous when it comes to users: although like Semrush its cheapest two plans only provide one seat, its ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’ plans come with more (3 and 5 respectively), and the monthly fee for an additional user is more reasonable ($49 per user per month, irrespective of plan type).

Projects

Both Moz and Semrush place limits on the number of projects (or ‘campaigns’) you can create.

This matters because some important functionality on both products is ONLY available if you are working within a project — for example site auditing and broken link analysis (both products) and identifying competing domains (Moz).

So, for users needing to perform these tasks on a bunch of different websites, this could become a headache — although the project limit doesn’t render this impossible, it makes things more fiddly than you’d like, and you’d effectively have to keep a project slot free for any ‘ad hoc’ work.

With Moz, projects are capped at 3 on the $99 plan; 10 on the $149 plan; 25 on the $249 plan and 50 on the $599 premium plan.

Semrush’s equivalent limits are 5 on its $119.95 plan; 15 on its $229.95 plan and 40 on its $449.95 plan.

Semrush add-ons

There are quite a few Semrush features that are not available without purchasing an add-on.

These are:

  • Trends’ — an analysis add-on that gives you access to more detailed competitive intelligence on your competitors (market share, extended traffic analysis, benchmarking data and more).
  • Local SEO’ — this lets you monitor and manage local directory submissions, track local rankings and manage entries on Google My Business and Facebook.
  • The ‘Agency Growth Kit’ — aimed primarily at SEO agencies, this allows you to white label Semrush data and provide custom branded reports to your clients.

These add-ons are not particularly cheap — ‘Trends’ will set you back an additional $200 per month; the local SEO add-on costs $20-$40 extra per month; and the growth kit costs $100 extra per month.

The Semrush 'Local SEO' add-on
The Semrush ‘Local SEO’ add-on

Reports per day

Semrush is much more generous when it comes to the number of reporting requests you can make each day: even on its entry-level plan, you can pull 3,000 domain analysis reports per day.

Moz by contrast places stricter limits on reporting — on its starter plan you can only run 150 keyword queries a month, for example, or 5,000 backlink queries per month.

Crawl limits

Both Semrush and Moz place limits on the number of web pages you can crawl for technical SEO errors (as part of your campaigns’ site audits).

In Moz, the limits are much more generous than the Semrush equivalents. For example, on the Moz entry level plan, you can crawl 400,000 pages per month; the equivalent Semrush limit is 100,000.

This disparity in crawl limits continues across all plans. So if you are dealing with a lot of very large websites, Moz may be a better fit for you.

PPC

If you’re working on a mix of SEO and PPC projects, you may find that Semrush represents better value. This is simply because it includes PPC data, whereas Moz doesn’t.

Semrush includes detailed CPC competition and distribution data, live ads and PPC campaign planning tools.


Customer support

When it comes to customer support for Moz and Semrush, I’ll have to admit to not having much direct experience of either company’s support teams.

(I guess this is basically a good sign, as it indicates that the products are both relatively easy to use!)

Semrush wins when it comes to the kind of support on offer though — it provides 3 channels of support: phone, chat, and email. Moz by contrast, only offers email support. Semrush also makes it a bit easier to access support, by providing a help icon on every screen and displaying a phone number clearly in the footer.


Free trials

Both Moz and Semrush allow you to try out the product before committing to their monthly plans.

Moz’s free trial is longer — it lasts for 30 days. The length of this trial is very generous given how much data you can theoretically access during it.

Normally speaking, Semrush’s trial lasts 7 days —but for a limited time they’ve made a 14-day free trial, available using this link.


Moz vs Semrush: conclusion

So which is better, Moz or Semrush? Overall, whilst I’d be happy to use either of these tools for an SEO-related project, I have to come down in favour of Semrush. It is easier to use than Moz, provides more features, gives you more generous reporting limits and offers CRM-style project management tools that allow you to manage link building campaigns in a sophisticated way (and without ever leaving the platform).

There’s lots to like about Moz, but for me Semrush is the better product. I’ll leave you with a summary regarding the relative pros and cons of each.

Reasons to use Semrush over Moz

  • It is, generally speaking, more user-friendly.
  • Its CRM-style approach to link outreach means that you can create really great link building (and broken link building) campaigns without ever leaving the app. With Moz, you’ll need to resort to spreadsheets and email programs more often.
  • Its site auditing features are more comprehensive.
  • Semrush provides a lot of data relating not just to SEO, but PPC too — if you want a tool that covers both areas, it’s a much better option than Moz.
  • It’s easier to identify and output toxic links with Semrush.
  • Broken backlink building is considerably easier in Semrush (so long as you’re using one of your project slots to do it).
  • Semrush provides a lot of nice data visualisation features that aren’t present in Moz.
  • It’s more generous when it comes to the number of reports you can pull per day. If you envisage doing a lot of backlink or keyword research every day, then Semrush is considerably better value than Moz.
  • Phone and live chat support are available for Semrush — this is not the case with Moz, which limits support to email only.

You can try Semrush free for 14 days here.

Reasons to use Moz over Semrush

  • Its crawl limits are considerably more generous — and more suitable for users needing to work on very large websites.
  • Its link intersect tool lets you compare backlinks for 5 sites at once (SEMrush lets you compare 4).
  • It gives you ranking data not based just on Google search results but on Bing and Yahoo’s too.
  • Its priority score feature is good for working out which keywords to focus on first in an SEO campaign.
  • Its free trial is considerably longer than Semrush’s.
  • Its entry-level plan is a bit cheaper than the Semrush equivalent.
  • Additional users are included on the more expensive Moz plans; Semrush by default only provides on user per plan, irrespective of tier.

You can try Moz for free for 30 days here.


Alternatives to Semrush and Moz

Semrush and Moz are by no means the only options when it comes to SEO platforms! Alternatives include:

  • Growthbar
  • Ahrefs
  • Serpstat
  • Mangools
  • SEO Power Suite
  • Majestic

We’ve yet to review all of these, but we do have an Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison and a GrowthBar review available.

Got any thoughts or questions about Moz or Semrush?

Now: over to you! If you’ve got any questions about Moz, SEMrush or keyword research in general, do let us know by adding a comment below. We do our best to answer every query.

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