Ahrefs Vs Semrush

Ahrefs Vs Semrush
June 27, 2020

2 Min Read

So, we have all been through this debate on Ahrefs vs SEMrush but never really could come to a conclusion as to which tool is better. Both are excellent tools and prominent in the SEO and content landscape, but it would rather be unwise to label any platform as the ‘best’. Because it boils down to your requirement, and the type of project you’re dealing with. And hence, we are going to run a comparison review with a different point of view. We put ourselves at the foot of different business setups which are essentially the users or clients of these platforms and came to assorted conclusions.

Business setups can vary across verticals depending upon their revenue generation. You can be a multi-million-dollar company, an SEO/content agency in town, or a freelancer providing services of SEO and content to their network. You need to know exactly where to invest and which tool to choose so that it would provide maximum benefits to you and your team. If you are one of them, read further below to find out which tool would be best suited for you.

Contents covered:

  • Ahrefs and its history
  • Unique features of Ahrefs we love
    • Keyword Research for up to 10 search engines
    • View the ranking history of any website and keyword
    • Precise and accurate Backlink Analysis
  • SEMrush and its history
  • Unique features of SEMrush we love
    • Search Engine Marketing features
    • Social Media features
    • Content Marketing features
  • Common features shared by both the tools
    • Keyword Research
    • Backlink Analysis
    • Competitor Analysis
    • Site Auditing + Technical SEO
    • Reporting
  • Which tool would be the best for your business setup?
    • Type 1: Freelancers
    • Type 2: Small-sized organizations
    • Type 3: Medium-sized organizations
    • Type 4: Large enterprises

Ahrefs and its history

Ahrefs is strictly an SEO software that was released a little later than SEMrush, back in 2011 by Dmitry Gerasimenko. They pride themselves on providing the “largest base of Live links, huge index, and the best speed of index updates.” Ahrefs is the single best tool for literal SEO tasks like backlink analysis. They claim to provide the customers with the freshest and the most actual backlinks data, and we cannot agree more! Plus, their content and keyword index are as high as their backlink index.

According to their Big data, crawling efficiency is as high as 5 million pages per minute with the database getting updated every 15-30 minutes! Speaking of their content database, they hold an index size of 3.06 billion pages and a keyword database of at least 10 billion keywords.

Also, they have distinctive metrics like URL rating(UR), Domain Rating(DR), and Ahrefs Rank(AR) which signifies the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to your website. DR measures it for the entire domain and UR measures it on a more granular level by going to a specific page.

Unique features of Ahrefs we love

Keyword Research for up to 10 search engines

You know that every search engine is keyword targeted and one needs to optimize his content for each one of them if he intends to publish it there. This is an impressive feature that Ahrefs provides which allows you to research for up to 10 search engines – Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex(Russia), Baidu(China), Daum & Naver(South Korea), Seznam(Czech Republic). 

View the ranking history of any website & keyword

This is a smart feature where you can observe the ranking history of any website or any keyword of your choice over the years, even that of your competitors. You will find it as a trend graph when you click on any keyword or website after heading towards the Site Explorer tab. 

Precise & accurate Backlink Analysis

As we said earlier, Ahrefs stands out as the most efficient backlink analysis tool with the largest and accurate link database. They also have a Referring Domain feature which allows you to observe referring domains over time. This is very useful in analyzing your website growth, especially to identify negative SEO attacks.

SEMrush and its history

SEMrush has been around slightly longer than Ahrefs with a head start of 2 years. It was primarily started off as a software named SEO Digger that inclined fully towards keywords for better optimization of pages. They eventually established themselves globally in the year 2008 by developing a platform that provides a full SEO analysis solution. SEMrush is also the most favored tool for pulling out inquisitive data on competitors which is incredibly useful. It also provides features for social media analysis as well.

  • They have an advertising dashboard with sections of analytics, research, ad positioning, and also social media ad management.
  • PPC analysis on your competitors with features like Advertising research, Ad History, Display advertising, their ad spends and bidding, etc.
  • You also have a CPC map ie the cost per click map that shows you the average cost per click based on location

Hence, we find SEMrush just as efficient as a PPC tool as it is an SEO tool. It provides better value to companies engrossed in many marketing campaigns.

Unique features of SEMrush we love

Search engine marketing features

Just as much it is well known and used for SEO, it is also quite widely used as a PPC tool. A lot of its advertising features stand out which is unlikely to be seen in Ahrefs which are:

  • They have an advertising dashboard with sections of analytics, research, ad positioning, and also social media ad management.
  • PPC analysis on your competitors with features like Advertising research, Ad History, Display advertising, their ad spends and bidding, etc.
  • You also have a CPC map ie the cost per click map that shows you the average cost per click based on location
  • Edit and schedule posts for all the social media platforms including Pinterest and Google My Business.
  • Get insights on what content best performs for your audience. You can get every information on your target audience including their age and country.
  • Competitor analysis by comparing with their positioning and content creation. Also, create, post, and track your ad performance.

Hence, we find SEMrush just as efficient as a PPC tool as it is an SEO tool. It provides better value to companies engrossed in many marketing campaigns.

Social media features

The social media toolkit in SEMrush is exhaustive and covers every feature which is included in similar software used for social media exclusively such as Buffer or Hootsuite. You can:

  • Edit and schedule posts for all the social media platforms including Pinterest and Google My Business.
  • Get insights on what content best performs for your audience. You can get every information on your target audience including their age and country.
  • Competitor analysis by comparing with their positioning and content creation. Also, create, post, and track your ad performance.

Content Marketing features

This is a feature that we are absolutely a fan of. There are certain peculiar features that Ahrefs doesn’t have like:

  • Brand monitoring

This feature allows you to track your brand mentions as well as your competitors with additional add-ons like sentiment analysis, checking estimated reach, and referral traffic.

  • Post tracking 

You can seamlessly track the performance and SERP ranking of your content posted on blogs outside of your website. Up to 50 external articles along with that of your competitors can be tracked effortlessly.

  • Content Audit

This feature is basically an on-page SEO checker which collects complex data from various sources. It serves the main purpose of optimizing your content by acting as a content writing assistant so that you could include LSI keywords and provide better readability. Linking Google Search Console and Google Analytics can provide you with additional benefits.

Common features shared by both the tools

Ahrefs and SEMrush are essentially SEO tools working as software as a service(SaaS) companies. While as we saw, both the tools bring something unique to the table, there are common features that they have which can be considered for comparison. These features are the most widely used features by SEO professionals irrespective of the size of the campaign or project.

  1. Keyword Research
  2. Backlink Analysis
  3. Competitor Analysis
  4. Site Auditing + Technical SEO 
  5. Reporting

Keyword research

Keyword research is the most important task of SEO. It’s nothing new that choosing the right keywords can get you qualified leads and boost traffic. Both the platforms perform in a similar manner, yet there are some key differences to note.

The primary purpose of Keyword Research is to identify a few key things which are – 

1) Search volume of the keyword (Geographic level)

2) keyword difficulty (Ranking based)

3) CPC or the cost per click of that keyword 

4) Current & Geographical ranking.

Let’s do a keyword research in – Ahrefs

Every SEO expert has come across Ahrefs for performing efficient and effective keyword research which is also renowned for its backlink analysis capabilities. The feature for keyword research is called Keyword Explorer. You can simply access it from the top menu bar which looks like this:

keyword research in ahrefs

As you can see, you can perform keyword research for a total of 10 search engines. To get started, let’s use a keyword like “SEO tools” in the search bar. After that, you enter a new page where you find all the comprehensive data related to that keyword. You get to see metrics such as –  

Keyword difficulty – which indicates the level of difficulty to rank the keyword in the top 10 search results, on a scale from 0-100 with difficulty rising in ascending order. 

Clicks & CPC – where you can find out the average monthly number of clicks and the price that advertisers pay for a click in the paid search results.

Search volume & Global volume – Search volume gives you the volume for the selected country and Global volume gives you the volume for various countries worldwide.

Return Rate – it’s a unique metric they claim to have which shows how frequently a given keyword is being searched for by the same person over a 30-day duration.

SERP Features – this metric shows you all the other features on the results page for that particular keyword other than the traditional organic results. You also have options for filtering by including and excluding the ones of your choice.

Keyword ideas – it gives you ideas surrounding your keyword in four forms ie keywords having the same terms, question formats of the keyword, other keywords that your root keyword also ranks for, and newly discovered keywords 

SERP position history – rank positioning history the top 5 pages for that keyword has ranked for. You get a timeline graph like this – 

SERP position history

SERP overview – it shows the first page of the search results for that particular keyword on the selected search engine. 

Traffic Share – this report allows you to view the distribution of estimated traffic from the keywords among the ranking domains and pages. It’s very useful especially for viewing the clicks distribution.

There is a sidebar showing additional metrics such as Phrase Match keyword ideas and search suggestions. You can also make a keyword list, view the traffic shared by domains or by pages, and analyze the ad history. 

Overall, it seems to be quite effective and efficient with diverse features that help you detect some crucial issues such as keyword cannibalization which happens when you target a single keyword for multiple pages on your website.

Keyword research on SEMrush 

SEMrush has more comprehensive and broad coverage of metrics when you compare it with the former. The foundation of this tool has always revolved around competitive research which undoubtedly takes over every other SEO tool. It is a counterpart to the traditional approach wherein you search by using seed keywords. As a pro tip, if you want to perform competitor-based keyword research, then instead of seed keywords you can use seed websites to get the best results.

There are 3 modules on SEMrush which you can use for your keyword research i.e. the keyword overview, the keyword magic tool, and the keyword manager.

Keyword overview – This allows you to have a quick and detailed analysis of your keyword. It has much more comprehensiveness and covers way more elements than the Ahrefs dashboard. It starts with a simple search bar wherein you type in a keyword of your choice after which it takes you to an elaborate dashboard named ‘Overview’. Some peculiar metrics which got our attention is that it can analyze the keywords for different devices and currencies as well. Also, you can analyze up to 100 keywords in bulk using bulk analysis. Plus, most importantly, it allows you to track keywords according to the date of your choice; it can go back in time of more than 5 years and get you the insights you need. These are very helpful and attractive metrics that are not present in Ahrefs. 

Keyword Magic Tool – you can simply put in the keyword of your choice and view each and every metric with ease on this dashboard. There are certain features that are no match to Ahrefs like segregation by number and volume of keywords, the different match types, and certain advanced filters wherein you can include, exclude keywords and other metrics, and fine-tune your analysis accordingly which makes the task so much easier. The Keyword Groups on the left menu helps you explore subtopics around your target keywords which comes very handy in identifying niche topics. With match modifiers, you can obtain more specific results according to the different keyword matches. SEMrush also has the feature of filtering your results with SERP features with an even bigger list of types including Knowledge Graph, Carousel, News, Site Links, etc. The Related keywords filter is ideal for generating content ideas and of course, targeting them for building greater website authority. You can club your keyword list and send it to the keyword manager or export it as a CSV, however, multiple seed lists can only be exported from the keyword manager.

Keyword Manager – is the equivalent of Keyword List in Ahrefs but portrays a better version by being able to build as many lists you want, whereas in Ahrefs you can create only up to 5 lists. You can add up to 1000 keywords per list(for the paid subscription) and explore a vast list of metrics, one of which is distinct from Ahrefs and also very useful is Click Potential which shows you the chances of your website getting clicked by the searchers. It actually depends on the presence of SERP features which form an obstacle in getting clicks for top organic results.

Overall, we are getting access to a beast dashboard which is deeply insightful and helpful for all our fellow marketers. We ran our analysis on both the tools and found out that SEMrush provided an all-inclusive, detailed dashboard with everything accessible in one place. The job took lesser effort and time with more insights.++

Back link Analysis

Backlink Analysis has been one of the top 3 ranking factors by most search engines which determines authority and trustworthiness. It is the most challenging yet the most rewarding aspect of SEO. And if you go to compare the two tools for backlink analysis, Ahrefs would definitely win the battle. But SEMrush has pushed its limits by building a more expanded link database in the last few years. So is reality different? Let’s take a closer look at what both the tools have to offer. 

Backlink Analysis on Ahrefs

The backlink checker on Ahrefs has been known to have the best link data in the industry for the past few years. They claim to be the second-fastest after Google with a total backlink database of 212 billion pages!

The backlink checker is nested under ‘Site Explorer’ in the menu bar. It claims to provide an in-depth view of the backlink profile and search traffic to any website. You get a view like this when you open it:

Ahrefs site explorer

It gives you 4 options to track your website ie, via the exact URL, domains with & without subdomains, and domain with its path. It also allows you to choose between the two different protocols ie HTTP and HTTPS. 

Let’s take an example of a website like Flipkart.com for better understanding. You head towards an overview page where you’ll find metrics such as Ahrefs rank, URL and domain rating, the total number of unique backlinks and referring domains, organic and paid keyword data, organic traffic, and its traffic value. The UI seems to be compact and loaded with data which can be considered a bummer for some, and for those who are used to it may not have navigating problems. 

Coming back to the overview, we found 27.1 million backlinks and 54.3K referring domains to the said website. There are some interesting features that came to our notice which provides makes it much easier to analyze.

  • A peculiar feature that appears on the right side is the option for indexing the pages i.e. by live links, historical and recent links. A backlink is considered ‘live’ until we recrawl the linking page. ‘Recent’ ones are those with ‘live’ and ‘lost’ backlinks(lost backlinks are those which had a live status for the past 3-4 months but won’t find it on the referring page while recrawling now). ‘Historical’ ones are those which used to be live but aren’t anymore.
  • You can view backlink growth or decline with more detail, going down to the daily granular vision. You can conveniently view it with the trends graph which is also proven to be very beneficial to identify negative SEO attacks when there is a sudden spike of backlinks in a short period of time.
  • The Top subfolders report section is designed to show the ranks of different subfolders or paths of the main URL according to the amount of organic search traffic they receive.
  • It does not require you to integrate Google Search Console for gaining insights such as broken backlinks, internal backlinks, and monitoring outbound links.
  • Also, there is a metric named ‘URL rating distribution’ wherein you can check the distribution of outbound links pointing to your site according to its URL rating. ++
  • The backlinks bifurcation helps you identify the various types of sources from which the links point to the target website like “dofollow”, “nofollow” and “UGC” attributes, sponsored, text, and redirects, even educational and governmental domains.
  • The CTLD distribution(country code top-level domains) helps you identify the referring domains used in different countries.
  • Right below, the anchor metric gives you info about the exact anchor texts which are used to point towards your target website. 
  • ++Batch analysis is a bulk SEO analysis tool that helps you check crucial metrics for up to 200 URLs in bulk which can also be exported as a CSV. All you need to do is type in your target URLs linewise and click Analyse. 
  • The Link Intersect Report allows you to view backlinking opportunities by analyzing the backlinks of your competitors. For more granular results, you can intersect up to 3 targets and view the most linked-to URLs.
  • Ahrefs API is a tool that allows external uses of their huge database. You need approval to use it for your own project. 

Backlink Analysis in SEMrush

We can undoubtedly say noticing the differences in the interface between the former and latter that SEMrush provides a better and uncluttered one. Backlink Analysis has been a weak point for SEMrush for a long time but has made progress and major improvements in the backlink database; a little more than 16 trillion backlinks back in 2019. 

Let’s look at the same website example to compare the two tools i.e. Flipkart.com. The total number of backlinks that it shows is 66 million which is considerably higher than the number given by Ahrefs but the referring domains are 45.1K which is lesser than the number given by Ahrefs. 

backlinks checker semrush

For more clarity, we chose a different website like Semrush.com and observed that the number of backlinks was lesser(15.7M) than Ahrefs(37.6M), and referring domains were almost the same(60.6K and 61.2K respectively). Also, there is no option to track your website via the path, unlike Ahrefs which we pointed out earlier, and no hypertext transfer protocol bifurcations as well.

backlinks overview semrush

Speaking of their dashboard, they have a comprehensive dashboard with more or less the same features as that of Ahrefs. Here, you also get features such as the categories or the industrial distribution of the referring domains, similar domains that show you a list of domains with a similar backlink profile, etc. However, one distinct feature from Ahrefs is missing here ie the trends graph of your backlink growth/decline by daywise distribution. 

However, we did notice a few highlights that the tool offers which can be quite time-saving and seamless.

  • For a start, they have a quite efficient and user-friendly interface which is a delight, especially for beginners.
  • The Backlink Audit feature is a major highlight when it comes to identifying and disavowing potentially dangerous backlinks. It helps you recover from penalties such as Penguin 4.0. It goes down to the subpath level to analyze links to the typed website.
  • They have different industry categorizations such as IT, telecommunications, etc. for the referring domains of the typed website.
  • Features like Backlink gap and Bulk analysis is a major plus point for a flawless and ordered vision for analyzing your competitors. The backlink gap can be found on the ‘Backlink Analytics’ page as well wherein you can add up to 3 competitors and compare. Bulk Analysis lets you analyze and compare as high as 200 URLs at the same time. Its the equivalent of ‘Batch Analysis’ in Ahrefs.
  • The integration of Google Data Studio in SEMrush is a big respite for web developers to create and send data reports smoothly.
  • You can include more data from Google Search Console and Majestic. This feature is however not available in Ahrefs, which is a minus point from an SEO perspective.
  • The Disavow list helps manage all the toxic backlinks in one place and you can simply upload the file on Google’s Disavow tool.
  • The toxic score indicator provided by SEMrush simplifies things to remove potentially toxic backlinks. When we click on Advanced Filters, there is an option of Toxic markers that allows you to whitelist, remove, or disavow them. With over 50 different toxic markers used in determining the toxic score on a scale from 0-100, it helps you eliminate the backlinks which can cause potential harm to your website.
semrush backlink audit checks

Overall, we can conclude that Ahrefs experience and expertise in the backlink analysis domain has made it superior to other tools by providing a comprehensive and huge link database. However, the interface is pretty much crowded with information not well segregated and SEMrush wins it in this area.

Competitor Analysis

More importantly, SEO competitor analysis is what we are going to focus on to help you skyrocket your website’s organic traffic. The comparison is conducted on the basis of three factors ie 

  1. The time investment
  2. The efforts 
  3. Approach and hacks 

Competitor Analysis on Ahrefs

Competitor analysis requires two main steps of identifying your competitors and gathering data for analysis. There is no specific section for competitor analysis in Ahrefs; you can simply type in the desired keyword into Keyword Explorer or your website name into Site Explorer. However, we recommend you go by the keywords you target to get a better understanding of your competitors.

The first step is to identify your primary competitors. For that, let’s take the same example as in Keyword Research ie. ‘seo tools’. You get an overview like this.

Ahrefs keyword overview

Here, you find the #1 result for the parent topic. Parent topic is basically the generic topic related to your target keyword for which you can rank. In this case, the general topic is itself our target keyword, hence it is going to remain the same. Moz ranks first for this topic with total traffic of 13K. When you scroll down more, you will find elements such as SERP position history and SERP overview. The SERP overview gives us insights on our competitors by metrics such as – 

AR(Ahrefs Rank) – this is a ranking given according to the backlink profile of the website. Basically, the more and better-quality of backlinks you acquire, your ranking is prone to go higher. The highest rank you can have for your website is, of course, #1.

DR(Domain Rating) – this determines the strength of the website by its backlink profile as well, but Ahrefs claims it to be a lesser granular version than the AR. This is defined on a 100-point scale and the bigger the number is, the better is the strength of your domain backlink profile.

UR(URL Rating) – just like how DR is a domain level metric, UR is a URL level metric that determines the strength of the page’s link profile on a 100-point scale. 

Backlinks – the number of backlinks pointing to the given competitor URL.

Domains – the number of unique domains that have at least one link pointing to the given competitor  URL.

Traffic – the monthly organic traffic estimate from search.

Keywords – the number of keywords the page ranks for in the top 100 organic search results.

Top Keyword – the topmost keyword that brings maximum traffic to the given competitor URL

Volume – the monthly search volume of the Top Keyword.

All of the above metrics are extremely useful in analyzing your competitors. Each of them except for the rating metrics, traffic, and top keyword volume are clickable and an in-depth overview could be found. 

After you have your competitors identified, the next step is to collect valuable information about their authority, link growth, organic traffic, keywords, etc. The Domain Comparison Tool gives a deep-dive into the authority section of the comparison which looks something like this:

The site with the highest metric is bolded and you need to pay attention specifically to Domain Rating and Ref Domain. The Referring Domain Graph on the Site Explorer page gives a clear and apt view of the link growth of your competitors. The graph below shows the growth of the referring domains of Moz.com

With respect to keywords, the keyword difficulty which is the first metric on the overview page of Keyword Explorer is very useful as it gives an idea on the difficulty of the keyword to rank them without building lots of links.

Competitor Analysis on SEMrush 

Unlike Ahrefs, competitor research on SEMrush is much orderly and has a dedicated toolkit for competitive research with conveniently designed sections for organic, advertising, content, and social media. Let’s get into the details of SEO by taking an example like Moz.com. There are four sub-sections of SEO ie. Organic Research, Keyword Gap, Backlink Analytics, and Backlink Gap. 

Organic Research – For a start, we can visibly notice the difference between the insights of Ahrefs and SEMrush in Organic Research. You can discover a number of features here such as – 

  • Target website’s total number of keywords with organic positions in Google Top 100.
  • Monthly organic traffic expected from those keywords. 
  • Most successful keywords
  • Consumer behaviour based on search frequency
  • Most popular pages for the target website
  • SERP features help us gain insights on the special results which your competitors have triggered by keywords. They have two types of them ie. which are linked to the domain and which are not.
  • The Competitive Positioning Map gives a clear view of the presence of the competitive domain in the organic search results.

Keyword gap – this section is meant for a side-by-side comparison of all the similarities and differences between keyword portfolios. You could compare for organic, paid, or PLA for up to five domains. You can filter the keyword details into six categories i.e. shared, missing, weak, strong, untapped, and unique. Also, not forget the advanced filters wherein you can tune and tweak your comparison accordingly.

Let’s take the website Moz.com as an example. You get a view like this.

semrush keyword gap tool example

Backlink Analytics – this has already been explained in the Backlink analysis section. Scroll up to feature comparison number 2.

Backlink Gap – which is similar to the keyword gap, wherein you can check for root domains, subdomains, or URLs and up to 5 of them.

semrush backlink gap tool snapshot

Overall, when we ran a close check with both the tools for competitor analysis, we can’t deny the already known fact that SEMrush is the best tool to get things done in a smoother way with way more insights than Ahrefs. Even, if we strictly analyze it for SEO, we find that SEMrush can bring everything to the table in an orderly and seamless manner.

Site Auditing + Technical SEO

Site Audit on both the tools needs a paid subscription. On Ahrefs, you have 4 different plan scales you can opt for and the number of projects increases up to 100 with an increase in pricing of the plans. Whereas on SEMrush, the number of projects you can add is 200 for their highest-paid ‘Business’ plan. Let’s look at the site audit and technical SEO audit features that both tools offer.

Site Auditing in Ahrefs

Website diagnosis on Ahrefs is pretty much simple and crawls each & every on-site issue which needs to be checked for without you having to put extra effort. Well, it has been mentioned earlier in this post that Ahrefs is the second-best crawler after Google. It also has the backlink and traffic metrics integrated with them. The data is easy to grasp and you can schedule crawls as well.

All you need is to start a new project and customize your crawl settings accordingly. Here are some settings you can configure:

  • You can crawl from homepages, sitemaps, list of URLs having backlinks, or your own custom list of URLs.
  • You have the option to specify crawl depth and also any extra files or resources which are required to be included.
  • You can include and exclude URLs and mention URL rewrite rules.
  •  It saves data each time you crawl so that you can analyze growth/decline in your website performance on every crawl. 
  • They have an incredible dashboard that gives you information about the total URLs crawled, issues and error distribution in pie charts, health score, the top issues found which require fixing, http status codes of internal URLs, etc. Especially, the health score is a powerful metric that shows the proportion of URLs that have serious issues. It depends on the internal URLs of the website which have issues. If there are 100 pages on your website and 30 of them have at least one issue, then your site has a score of 70. 

The crawling takes very little time, just a few seconds on average and you don’t need to wait for the entire crawl to finish; they have a real-time crawl log with the status of each item shown immediately. As soon as the crawling is completed, you will get a dashboard like this:

site auditing in ahrefs

We conducted a site audit on a sample website. Many of the issues are grouped into reports on the left-hand menu. The Performance report shows the slow loading pages to you. 

ahrefs site audit snapshot

At first glance, it seems to be a cluster of pie charts, but that’s not the case. It shows sections that have loading times of all pages. They are clickable and the red and orange ones need fixing because they are slow to load. There are other features that give you more insights into your website’s health such as:

  • HTML tags – you can find out the HTML tag issues like if the meta description is too short or missing, issues in the titles, etc.
  • Incoming & Outgoing Link Issues – broken external links, “nofollow” internal links, https pages linking to http page, and so on can be found in this section of the reports. These are clickable and you can exactly find out where they reside.
  • Backlinks and Referring Domains – you can watch out for dodgy links. To make the job easy, there are filters like languages and platform which can help you get rid of spammy backlinks eg. Russian sites.
  • Segmentation – here you can isolate the issues related to a specific section of a site like blogs or e-commerce or even subdomains
  • Structure Explorer – this report shows you the distribution of HTTP status codes, link depth, estimated organic traffic, referring domains, and more for each subsection of your target website. 

Site Audit on SEMrush

Performing an SEO audit with SEMrush is pretty much straightforward and easy as well. Let’s get into the details and features that SEMrush has to offer for site audits compared to Ahrefs. 

Setting up a project is just as easy as it is with Ahrefs. Depending upon the package you select, the tool can crawl a minimum of 100,000 pages per month and 20,000 pages per audit.

site audit semrush
  • The list of all issues is segregated into 3 main categories: errors that need immediate fixing, warnings which are of medium severity, notices which are even less severe. You would get an interface like above:
  • You can click on any issue from the list and it will give you a detailed report. You also have an option to hide issues or specific pages with issues so that you can exclude every occurrence of the same problem.
  • Trello integration is quite intelligent for issue management. After opening an issue, you can select “Send to Trello” which creates a card specific to that issue on one of your Trello boards. 
  • The Thematic reports section gives details such as crawlability, HTTPS implementation, International SEO, Performance, and Internal Linking. 
  • The crawled pages report is pretty much detailed and comprehensive which analyzes the status of your website on a site-to-site basis. One peculiar feature is canonical tags that check for different versions of a page to point search engines to the preferred one.
  • You can get a clubbed view for your URLs and their issues with their subdomains and subfolders in the Site Structure view. You can directly view the issues that need work without having to toggle around.
  • The Site Audit Statistics tab is very useful in viewing all the important metrics required in a list or graphical manner. You can view markups, crawl depths, http status codes, AMP links(mobile device compatibility), internal links, canonical tags, and hreflang tags.
  • You can compare crawls and monitor the progress of your website’s health. This is a feature we noticed that is not present in Ahrefs. You can choose date wise from the drop-down menu and view a side-by-side comparison on how the errors, warnings, and notices have changed over time. 
  • The progress tab is also very useful wherein you can view line graphs for every issue or metric which has changed over time. You can also add multiple metrics and deselect them. This graph makes it easy to monitor the top issues on your site and direct you on where they occurred.
site audit semrush

Technical SEO audit in Ahrefs

Most of the elements of technical SEO are spoken about in the Site Audit itself. JavaScript SEO is a part of technical SEO which we are going to be covering here in detail. It helps in crawling and indexing JavaScript-heavy websites as well as making them search-friendly. You can execute JavaScript SEO in the crawl settings of the site audit. The toolbar also supports JavaScript which allows you to compare the rendered versions of tags. The crawler can see JavaScript-powered websites in the same way it is rendered in a visitor’s browser. Here’s how it’s done.

  • The Document Object Model(DOM) of the page is loaded. It’s the foundation of the dynamically generated page.
  • The scripts and resources are loaded which are needed to render a page.
  • Changes are made forming the HTML code of the page.
  • The crawler takes a few seconds to load and takes a snapshot of the HTML code generated.

One must also note that crawling JavaScript takes much longer than crawling the static HTML. However, you can boost the overall crawling speed by increasing the number of parallel requests. Also, the crawler will not execute tracker codes like Google Analytics.

Technical SEO audit in SEMrush

When it comes to technical SEO, SEMrush has pretty much the same offerings as any other tool wherein they will regularly crawl your website and email you the suggestions. First, you need to add a project. Depending on the number of pages of your website, you can adjust the number of pages they crawl. If it’s under 10,000 pages then it is recommended to do a full crawl every week to check for the trends over time. 

  • In the crawler setup, you have the option of crawling your website with GoogleBot or SEMrushBot. But it’s better to choose SEMrushBot as GoogleBot can cause issues in the site crawl statistics if you’re monitoring server logs.
  • The Trello integration(of which we spoke about earlier) is a major bonus through which we can send issues to the Trello board where you can prioritize and act upon them.

Overall, site auditing on both tools is great with respect to the user interface, efforts taken, and time management. However, there are certain extra features that both the tools hold which are not present in their opponent tool. Like, you have the progress tab and can compare crawls more conveniently on SEMrush whereas Ahrefs gets points for technical SEO auditing features like JavaScript SEO. 

Speaking specifically about technical SEO audit, both the tools offer pretty much the same for a normal technical SEO audit. However, we need to admit that, neither of them is as good as tools like Screaming Frog and DeepCrawl.


Reporting is an important function of SEO tools and an important task for marketers to view and demonstrate their progress to their clients and bosses. A good SEO report summarises every data & provides actionable insights on the fluctuations and improvements to be made. Let’s look at the convenience with which the reporting feature works in both tools.

SEO reports on Ahrefs are more like build-on-your-own and customizable rather than automated. They provide a free sample SEO template. Almost every element required to be included in an SEO report like SEO health, backlink health, ranking, and traffic progress, sales/leads are provided in the form of individual reports which you can grab a screenshot, tune and tweak according to your suitability and present in the form of slides, etc. Let’s look at the individual reports they provide

Reporting in Ahrefs

  • Website Health – on the Site Audit tool itself, you can get a glimpse of the website health on the overview itself. You’ll get a health score & URLs crawled. You can also view the content quality of your website by heading to Reports > Content Quality. Similarly, broken links, images and HTML issues can be found nested under the same tab.
  • Backlink Profile – everything you need to know about your backlink profile can be found in Site Explorer like Ahrefs Rank, new and lost referring domains, traffic gained, top anchor texts etc. in the form of visual graphs.
  • Ranking Visibility – you can simply hover and click on the Rank Tracker tool. Click on overview and you’ll find every metric for analyzing your website rankings with daily granular vision.
  • Keyword Data – not only the organic traffic flow to your website but also its distribution among keywords can be viewed from position distribution history graphs. You can access it in the Organic Search tab in Site Explorer. Also, every other metric showing keyword performance can be viewed in the same tab. 

Ahrefs believes in not just providing a data dump to your clients but in helping them make sense of the data. So this do-it-yourself model of Ahrefs can be time-consuming but they also provide report templates to make the job easier. Also, they have options of exporting data in the form of CSV/PDF on every tool.

Reporting in SEMrush 

SEMrush helps you build PDF reports with a dedicated Management toolkit. You can head to My Reports and develop reports with their templates or use fresh ones, also, integrate Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business and import crucial data and insights for your reports. Here’s a list of impressive things you can do with SEMrush – 

  • Scheduling your reports conveniently via email delivery.
  • You can find the previous reports created in the same tab where you’ll see your Reports list with all the past reports that were created. This is handy when your downloaded copies are missing or misplaced.
  • Just like Ahrefs, SEMrush provides various types of templates to build reports like if you want to curate a monthly report, you can choose Monthly SEO report; Domain Comparison, full Site Audit report etc. You can also create custom templates for your templates by choosing the ‘Create template’ option from the dropdown menu. 
  • Adding data from the tool is seamless and you have various widgets which lets you access and import every form of data right from Site Audit, Backlink Audit, Social Media to data from Google like GA, GSC, GMB and Google Ads.
  • Listing Management is a convenient feature in which you can view the details of a business listing and also its status which tells whether its correct, unavailable or processing.

Overall, we can definitely give some extra points for report generation on SEMrush owing to the features and ease of report creation and exporting with a dedicated section for creating & storing reports. Plus, you can individually add screenshots and images to your reports if you have anything missing. Here, SEMrush wins in every aspect i.e. time consumption, convenience, and efficiency.

Which tool would be the best for your business setup?

SEO tools like these are fundamentally created for professionals who do business with SEO, PPC, and content. Well, our main aim in this article is to compare and discern the best tool across different business setups. Let’s get right into it!

We did our research and found out that there are 4 fundamental types of tool-users which are:

Type 1:Freelancers

Type 2:Small-sized organizations 

Type 3:Medium-sized organizations 

Type 4:Large enterprises

Type 1: Freelancers

This clan is basically formed by professionals who are SEO and content freelancers like content and copywriters, SEO consultants, content marketers, etc. Their spending on tools like these is very careful and nominal fulfilling their utmost requirement.

Ahrefs pricing is quite similar to that of SEMrush but its increase in charges is strictly proportional to the volume of data it provides, whereas SEMrush focuses more on providing additional features for its higher price plans. Also, it has an additional $175 standard plan lacking in SEMrush. So, you get to pay for only what you need and not more. Talking about features, Ahrefs has intuitive features that can be useful for SEOs and content writers with a neater interface than SEMrush.

Verdict: Ahrefs

Strictly going by the price plans, Ahrefs provides more flexible plans which can be beneficial for freelancers, giving an edge over SEMrush.

Type 2: Small-sized businesses

These are fundamentally startups organizations that are actively seeking projects and constantly on the move with respect to scaling their business and expanding their services across niches. They can be pertaining to a single industry like travel, food, etc. or they can be agencies who have just begun their journeys diving into every industry their projects want them to.

In this case, if pricing is not an issue then one must definitely go for both platform unless you belong to a single and finite industry.

Verdict: SEMrush 

In either case, if you had to choose one, you should definitely go for SEMrush as it provides many more features than Ahrefs. Ahrefs is strictly a tool of SEO expertise and if your business needs to undertake other marketing tasks such as content marketing, advertising, etc. then SEMrush is what you need.

Type 3: Medium-sized organizations/agencies

These can be:

  • Digital marketing companies holding at least 30-40 actively running projects. They can be covering all aspects of digital marketing or full-time SEO/content agencies. 
  • Small scale brands with an in-house SEO/content executive.

A successful digital marketing company needs to subscribe to as many tools available for SEO and other digital marketing tasks, undoubtedly. Plus, with many websites and having to dive into numerous industries, they simply can’t go for one. Talking about budding brands who hire an in-house SEO and content specialist, you can choose one and you can choose the best!

Verdict: Both 

For digital marketing companies whose main business model revolves around SEO, content, and PPC, they inarguably go for both tools to get a holistic view. For emerging brands, choosing SEMrush for conducting & monitoring all of their digital marketing tasks would be beneficial.

Type 4: Large enterprises

This clan belongs to corporate companies and well-established SEO/content agencies. They are well-known brands with a huge workforce, requiring efficiency and finesse in every duty in their organization.

Verdict: Both 

Enterprises should definitely go for both platforms without weighing their pros and cons before both bring something distinct to the table and are state-of-the-art tools. They also have enterprise plans specifically made for these organizations.

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