If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then backlinks are an SEO specialist's best friend—though, unlike diamonds, backlinks will leave you if you’re not careful.
Both Semrush and Ahrefs offer excellent tools for backlink analysis. The core of these tools is the ability to tell you which web pages contain links to other web pages—most importantly, to your own web pages and to your competitors’ pages.
Semrush has a larger database for analyzing backlinks—in other words, it monitors more pages and the links from those pages. That means you’re getting more accurate data from Semrush and a better idea of which websites you might be able to contact for backlinks.
Both tools offer a lot of information about backlinks, including:
- The number of links and whether they’re dofollow or nofollow
- Information about the linking pages (country of origin, domain type, etc.)
- The anchor text used, and the page that’s being linked to
With all of this information, you’ll learn not only which pages are linking to which, but also why those links are on those pages. That’s great for off-page SEO—but we can do even better for competitor analysis.
Which tool has better competitor analysis features?
Semrush and Ahrefs both offer competitor analysis backlink tools—these tools are called Backlink Gap and Link Intersect, respectively. They both allow you to search which sites are linking to certain domains (your competitors) but not to other domains (yours). Ahrefs’ tool is a bit better because it allows you to compare to 10 domains at once, while Semrush limits you to four.
Which tool has the best features for finding broken links?
Finding broken backlinks is an invaluable part of off-page SEO. Both Ahrefs and Semrush offer tools to help you find broken links pointed to your competitors’ domains. The idea is simple—you find inbound links to your competitors, then email the websites that are linking to them. You ask them to redirect their links from your competitor’s broken content to yours. It’s a win-win, and you get extra authority.
I prefer Ahrefs approach to this tool—it’s incredibly easy to access through Site Explorer. You simply go to “Backlink profile” then “Broken backlinks” and run the report. Getting to Semrush’s broken link feature requires a bit more arcane knowledge. You need to:
- Run the backlink analytics report
- Go to an ‘indexed pages’ section
- Click the ‘broken pages’ option
- Export the results
A couple of Semrush extras
Semrush offers two features that Ahrefs doesn’t, and they’re both useful.
The first feature, backlink auditing, allows you to search for toxic links, then automatically create a list of these links to send to Google to disavow. Not every SEO analyst worries about toxic links, but if you do, this can be a handy feature.
The second feature, link building, is incredibly handy. You can use this tool to generate a list of domains that Semrush believes backlinks would be especially beneficial from. The tool then allows you to flow through an outreach pipeline, even enabling you to email the folks in charge of the domain directly through Semrush. Once the first email is sent, you’ll also be able to send a follow-up.
And the winner is…
Semrush. With a larger database and more features, it’s the better tool for analyzing backlinks and improving your off-page SEO.