Not sure if Ahrefs is the right choice for you or your company? This comprehensive 2022 review will give you a tour of the program through experienced eyes.
I'll provide an Ahrefs overview, an in-depth look at the program's features, and ultimately empower you to decide with confidence if the program is a good fit for you...or not. I'll also answer some FAQs.
Spoiler alert! SerpFocus is a fan of Ahrefs. Though I'll take you through the good, the bad, and the ugly, I've ultimately given Ahrefs an excellent overall score of 4.5/5, based on the scores of the three components below.
Ahrefs is not inexpensive, but then again, neither are its competitors. In exchange for your money, Ahrefs provides a lot of data. I'll delve further into this later in the review, but for now, I'll stand by my 4/5 score for price.
SerpFocus has given Ahrefs a 4/5 for accuracy. Ahrefs is impressively accurate in much of its data but falls a little short in a few key areas, such as the scope of its link database and providing up-to-date rank tracking reports.
Ahrefs is pretty incredible when it comes to the outstanding array of useful features it provides. Though I'll stop short of saying its features are perfect (there's always room for improvement), I'll still hand out a perfect 5/5 in this area.
Ahrefs is one of the best-known SEO tools available. Founded in 2010, it’s a product that helps optimize websites for search engines. At your command, Ahrefs crawls search engines and websites to collect data. Ahrefs then provides an intuitive interface where you can effectively use that data to improve your website's traffic and ranking.
Sound intimidating? The truth is that SEO is a landscape that requires careful study and proper technique to navigate. Ahrefs will not tell you what to do, but in the right hands, Ahrefs can be an invaluable tool in getting you where you want to go. It's an accessible program that can be used effectively by experienced SEO pros and beginners alike.
In this review, I'll delve deeply into many of Ahrefs' specific features. As an overview, though, suffice it to say that Ahrefs' core capabilities include:
Ahrefs is a big program with lots of tools. Before I dive into them, let's take a look at a quick overview of what SerpFocus believes to be Ahrefs' biggest pros and cons.
Great User Experience - As with any tool, it takes a little while to get used to Ahrefs' interface. But once you do, the program is intuitive and easy to use. Also, it has very decent customer support and education opportunities.
Excellent Data - From site auditing to keyword research to backlink analysis, Ahrefs gives you the data you require to succeed. And lots of it. It also helps you to sort and filter that data so you can use it effectively.
Wealth of Features - Beyond its core features, Ahrefs has an impressive amount of "extras". With everything from Link Intersect (which reveals sites that are linking to multiple competitors) to Content Gap (which shows you keywords that you don't rank for, but your competition does), there are many helpful features that can really take your SEO journey to the next level.
It Goes Beyond Google - Ahrefs distinguishes itself by allowing you to perform keyword research for a wide array of search engines. Though Google is the biggest, other engines can be important for specific ranking goals (example: ranking on YouTube's search engine for your site's video content).
No Free Trial - Though Ahrefs does offer a dramatically reduced free version of its "Site Explorer" and "Site Audit" features called "Ahrefs Webmaster Tools", competitors Semrush and Moz both offer much more when it comes to freebies.
Limited Rank Tracking Updates - Ahrefs only updates your rank tracking reports once every three to seven days (depending on the plan you subscribe to). I feel this is sub-standard and definitely a drawback to the Ahrefs program.
No Mobile App - Though most SEO work is (admittedly) best done on a desktop, I feel that Ahrefs could benefit from even a streamlined mobile version. Currently, only the desktop version is available on your phone.
Smaller Link Index - Though the 30.3 trillion links in Ahrefs' database make its backlink analysis a solid choice, Semrush and Moz both have more (43 trillion and 40.7 trillion, respectively).
Alright, Ahrefs has a lot of features, so this is going to be a lengthy section of the review. I won't cover them all, but I'll try to provide an in-depth look at Ahrefs' core features and a helpful cross-section of the rest.
Site Explorer is one of Ahrefs' most essential elements and the starting point for many SEO projects. Basically, it provides technical information about any website's overall quality and SEO performance.
Curious about your own or a competitor's site (or page)? Simply enter the URL into Ahrefs' Site Explorer tool and get an immediate report on important metrics, including its backlink profile, search results performance, keyword analysis, historical information, and more.
The two biggest components of the Site Explorer tool are backlinks and organic traffic, so let's explore each one separately below.
But first, just to make sure we don't get confused with terminology, what’s the difference between URL Rating and Domain Rating? Ahrefs' Site Explorer provides both metrics, and it’s important to distinguish between the two.
UR and DR
UR (URL Rating) and DR (Domain Rating) both show the strength of a target's backlink profile on a logarithmic scale from 0-100—with 100 being the strongest. The difference is that the target for UR is a specific page, while the target for DR is an entire website. So, the two terms are related but not identical, meaning that a specific page on a website can have a different score (UR) than the website it belongs to (DR).
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's explore the Ahrefs world of backlinks.
Backlinks are a major component of good SEO. Every incoming organic link to your site (aka a backlink) has a positive impact on your site's ranking. And the Ahrefs Backlink Checker is a tool that shows you a site's backlink profile.
Upon entering a specific URL, you’ll receive a complete list of the backlinks pointing to that particular domain. This in itself is a standard feature of many SEO tools, but what I particularly appreciate about Ahrefs software is that once you’ve compiled your list of backlinks, you can sort and filter them in many useful ways.
The more links there are in a profile, the more important it becomes to filter the raw data so that you can put it to work for you. Ahrefs' Backlink Checker allows you to pinpoint the information you actually need with filters for domain rating, link type, and more.
The more you know about a competitor's backlinks, the more likely it is that you can "reverse engineer" their success by approaching the same websites linking to their site, and asking them to link to your site too.
As mentioned earlier, Moz and Semrush both boast larger link databases than Ahrefs. However, Ahrefs' 30.3 trillion links are still formidable, and the index is updated regularly to provide superior data to customers.
Broken backlinks are negative in every possible way. Broken incoming links pointing to your site can directly harm your rankings by sending a signal that your website is old and outdated. Likewise, broken outbound links can be equally damaging if they’re interpreted as a sign of poor quality content.
Fortunately, Ahrefs makes it very easy to identify broken links. Inbound and outbound link analysis are both available as features of Site Explorer. Using these features, you can quickly generate lists of links that need attention, removal, or repair.
Another feature of Ahrefs' backlink analysis is that it reveals what anchor text is being used for each backlink pointing to a particular page or website. Since search engines use external anchor texts to influence SEO rankings, it’s definitely worth considering the anchors on your (or your competitor's) site.
Anchors can also be a factor in helping you to determine the strong keywords you want to rank for. More on that in the Keywords Explorer section below.
Link Intersect is a handy Ahrefs tool that allows you to discover websites that are linking to your competitors—but not to you. Armed with data from Link Intersect, you can approach those same websites with a request to link to your website as well. This can be an important SEO strategy, and Ahrefs makes it really manageable.
Backlinks are incoming links that point to a particular website or web page. The website where a backlink originates is called its referring domain. So, if Time Magazine links to your website, time.com would be the referring domain.
Ahrefs Site Explorer offers a Referring Domains Report in addition to its Backlinks Report. This allows you to easily access comprehensive information about the details and quality of the websites that are providing organic backlinks to your website (or your competitor's website).
It also allows you to access key information when deciding whether or not to approach a new website with a backlink request.
In the world of SEO, organic search refers to non-paid search results from a search engine. These results can't be bought or influenced by advertisers, and this makes them relevant on their own merit. In other words, highly desirable. This is how everyone is trying to rank and one of the reasons why SEO exists.
Ahrefs knows how critical organic search rankings are and provides a toolset to help you track and manage them.
Ahrefs' Organic Keywords feature is focused on finding a target website's total number of keywords that are ranked in the top one hundred organic search results in Google. It also estimates how much search traffic each of those keywords brings in.
As with the backlinks tool, SerpFocus is a fan of Ahrefs' sorting and filtering system for making what could otherwise be an overwhelming amount of keyword data useful and manageable. With options for finding specific words or phrases, filtering by keyword difficulty level, plus much more, Ahrefs does a great job of helping you narrow down a list of keywords that have the potential to work well for your page or website.
Top Pages and Organic Traffic
Ahrefs' Top Pages report shows which pages on a target website receive the most organic traffic. Among other things, you can use this information to see which of your competitors' pages gets the most organic traffic and then find out which keywords they rank for. You can also use it to find out which pages on your own website are receiving the highest levels of organic traffic.
Content Gap is a nifty Ahrefs feature that allows you to figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t. Basically, it takes all the keywords your website ranks for and "subtracts" them out of the bank of keywords that your competitors' websites rank for. This leaves you with a very helpful list of target keywords to zero in on.
Ahrefs' Traffic Value metric takes the amount of organic traffic you’re getting and calculates how much you would be spending if you were attracting the equivalent amount of traffic via PPC (pay-per-click) advertising.
This is one way to get a sense of how much your domain is "worth", but it's not highly accurate since many other factors also contribute to the real-life value of a website. It is, however, yet another interesting metric in the Ahrefs Organic Search toolkit that can be relevant in certain situations.
Keyword research is a fundamental component of SEO, and Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer tool helps you tackle the task in an informative and organized way. Among the many reasons for keyword research are goals such as finding out how many people are searching for a given keyword, establishing how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword, identifying who is already ranking for specific keywords, and getting suggestions for new keywords.
Keywords Explorer can help you in all of these areas.
To get started, you'll need to select the search engine you wish to retrieve data from. Unlike its competitors, Ahrefs doesn't just provide keyword data from Google. It offers access to information from ten different search engines, including YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, and more. Though Google has by far the lion's share of search queries worldwide, it can be useful to access other niche engines for specific reasons. For example, if you have video content on your website, you will likely want to rank on YouTube.
Next, you'll enter a keyword into the explorer tool and immediately be able to view a dashboard of metrics for it. These will include its Keyword Difficulty Score, Volume, Potential Traffic, Global Volume, and Keyword Ideas.
Let's take a look at what each of these metrics means and why the information is valuable for you.
Ahrefs provides a keyword difficulty score that tells you how difficult it will be to rank for any given keyword, with 0 being the easiest and 100 being the hardest. For Google keywords only, Ahrefs also provides a backlink target that estimates approximately how many organic backlinks would be required for a site to rank for the keyword in question.
Search volume quantifies the number of people searching for a particular keyword per month. After all, there would be little point in trying to rank for a keyword that hardly anyone is searching for in the first place!
This feature also provides the number of searches for a specific keyword that result in organic clicks, as well as the amount it would cost to generate the same amount of clicks through PPC advertising.
Ahrefs provides global (i.e., worldwide) search volume results. But it also allows you to narrow these results by location. This can be very helpful, depending on your SEO goals.
The Ahrefs Traffic Potential metric shows you how much traffic the number one ranking page for any given target keyword gets in total. In many cases, higher traffic volumes don’t always convert directly to more website traffic. Therefore, this number is often more relevant than sheer search volume when putting together your SEO action plan.
Keyword Ideas is the Ahrefs tool that helps you to generate new keyword suggestions related to a target keyword or phrase.
I ultimately feel that, while the Ahrefs Keyword Ideas feature does generate a lot of suggestions, they’re not always as consistently "on topic" as I would like. In many cases, a lot of searching and sorting is required to find the gold nuggets. And some of Ahrefs' competitors stack up better in this area. I would like to see Ahrefs offer stronger sorting and filtering systems for their keyword suggestions like they’ve done with their backlinks and organic keywords tools.
That being said, Ahrefs does provide several valuable ways to generate and organize keyword ideas, depending on your SEO goals. Let's take a look.
The Questions toggle allows you to see only keyword suggestions that have question modifiers (who, what, why, etc.). This can be helpful if you are researching informational queries and want to find out what kinds of things your target audience might want to learn.
The "Related Terms" feature is actually divided into two main modes: "Also Rank For" and "Also Talk About".
Also Rank For
The Ahrefs "Also Rank For" feature reveals keywords that the top-ranking pages for a target keyword also rank for. This can help you hone in on additional keywords and phrases you may want to consider ranking for as well.
Also Talk About
Similar to the "Also Rank For" feature, the "Also Talk About" feature provides keywords that the top-ranking pages for a target keyword frequently mention. Finding common topics among top-ranking pages can help you expand your SEO strategy and attract a larger audience to your website.
Ahrefs' "Term Match" and "Phrase Match" features show a variety of keyword ideas that contain words from your original target keyword or phrase. This is great for expanding on a word or phrase you already believe is a solid starting point.
The Ahrefs Site Audit feature is designed to allow users to stay on top of the technical side of SEO. Technical aspects of your website, such as site speed, security, and mobile-friendliness (among others), can impact your rankings, and it’s important not to ignore them.
Enter a target domain into the Site Audit tool, and Ahrefs will generate a report on your website's overall health. The central metric is your website's current "Health Score", which factors in all the issues that might be having a negative impact on your search rankings (e.g., duplicate content, slow-loading content, broken links, and more). Ahrefs tracks this score over time and also provides Core Web Vitals data, which shows how your site measures up against a set of targets from Google that relate to speed, responsiveness, and stability.
Overall, SerpFocus feels that Ahrefs' Site Audit tool is very strong.
The Ahrefs Rank Tracker tool tracks the rankings of target keywords and phrases. Type a keyword into the Rank Tracker, and Ahrefs will track its changes over time.
While this is a highly accurate and useful tool, I feel that Ahrefs does not provide frequent enough data reports. Users only receive rank tracking reports every three to seven days, depending on the plan they subscribe to. To us, this falls short of the mark—particularly in the competitive and fast-moving world of SEO.
The Content Explorer tool is designed to help you get content ideas on any topic. It’s an excellent way to explore and learn about top-performing content in your target niche—and then use the information to increase your rankings. Enter a topic to search for, and you'll get a wealth of data that can help you find link-building prospects, low competition topics, partnership opportunities, and more.
The Ahrefs Authors feature is noteworthy because it lets you to group search results from Content Explorer by author. This allows you to reach out directly to high-ranking authors in your target content niche, rather than just websites.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Ahrefs' wealth of features is one of its strongest selling points. It would be impossible to take an in-depth look at all of them in even the most comprehensive of reviews. That being said, here are a few final features I’d be remiss in not highlighting!
Ahrefs' Alerts feature makes it really simple to get a notification when important changes occur within a target domain. These include new or lost backlinks, new or lost web mentions, and new or lost keyword rankings.
Batch Analysis is a bulk backlink checker that lets you create a single report of up to two hundred URLs. Metrics reported include Ahrefs Rank, Domain Rating, number of referring domains, number of backlinks, social metrics, and more.
The Ahrefs WordPress Plugin allows regular WordPress sites to easily access unique Ahrefs features and improve their search engine rankings. These features include access to Ahrefs' backlink index and content audit as well as Google Search Console integration, Google analytics integration, and more.
API (Application Programming Interface) is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Ahrefs' API is designed to allow users to access Ahrefs' tools and resources in flexible ways—and often for purposes beyond straightforward SEO. For more information, visit Ahrefs' API page.
Ahrefs Academy is a database of free video tutorials that can help you improve your Ahrefs proficiency and overall SEO success. SerpFocus loves this feature, especially for novices. Check out courses including "How To Use Ahrefs", "SEO Course for Beginners", "Blogging for Business," and "Ahrefs' Certification Course".
The opinion at SerpFocus is that...it depends. Ahrefs' PPC tool is robust enough to research competitors’ ads, find keywords they are bidding on, and see where their traffic is coming from. If you’re primarily looking to run a few ads for your site, then the feature should be sufficient.
That being said, I can honestly state that Semrush's PPC features are in a whole other league if you’re looking to seriously focus on PPC advertising.
The Ahrefs Paid Search Feature includes options to see the keywords your competitors are bidding on, the cost-per-click (CPC) for each keyword, which keywords send the most paid traffic, the exact ad copy your competitors are using, the pages your competitors are sending paid traffic to, paid keyword metrics, ad copy, and landing page URLs from over 170 countries, and how to find low-cost keywords to bid on.
As I mentioned earlier, Ahrefs provides a very strong keyword research platform. The SerpFocus team are big fans of the depth of information you can retrieve about a specific keyword or phrase. When it comes to generating keyword ideas, I would like to see more "on point" suggestions and filtering options. But that being said, I still feel that keyword research is an Ahrefs strength.
One of Ahrefs’ most recently updated features is its Data Studio Connector, which allows users to access Ahrefs data through Google Data Studio. This is a convenient way to access all of your relevant data in one place.
Ahrefs is one of the big players in the SEO tools landscape. Major competitors include Semrush, Moz and Majestic. Other players include Serpstat, Similarweb, Conductor, Google Analytics, SE Ranking, and SpyFu.
Ahrefs is used by everyone from SEO novices to professionals who provide SEO services to others. It can be a great tool no matter where you're at in your SEO journey.
In my opinion, both programs have strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned in this review, I feel that Semrush outdoes Ahrefs in terms of its link database size, frequency of rank tracking reports, and PPC features. That being said, SerpFocus is a big fan of Ahrefs, and the program you ultimately choose will depend on your specific preferences.
What Sets Ahrefs Apart From Its Competitors?
Many things! For starters, it's easy to use, provides options for keyword research on multiple search engines, has loads of useful features, includes a free training academy, and its site audit tool can't be beaten.
Very accurate! I’m satisfied with the high level of accuracy Ahrefs provides on everything from backlink analysis to site audits. My only criticism stems from Ahrefs' infrequent rank tracking reports and comparatively small links database.
According to Ahrefs, "We get existing volume data from Google Keyword Planner, and pair it with clickstream data to create a model that gives very accurate search volumes for almost any keyword." Click this Ahrefs help link for more information from Ahrefs.
No. Though Ahrefs offers a very paired-down version of some of its features (known as the "Ahrefs Web Master Tools"), there is no free trial for its full complement of services. Ahrefs subscriptions range between $99 (Lite Plan) and $999 (Enterprise Plan). There's no way around it. Ahrefs is not cheap. But you’ll receive a lot of data in return for your investment. If you're serious about SEO, it’s likely worth the cost.
According to Ahrefs, they partially update their backlinks index every fifteen minutes.
|Lite - $99||Standard - $199||Advanced - $399||Enterprise - $999|
|All in Lite|
6 months of history
Position history chart
|All in Standard|
2 years of history
Google Data Studio
|All in Advanced|
Pay by invoice
To conclude, the team at SerpFocus feels that Ahrefs is a very strong SEO tool, and sticks by our 4.5/5 score. Despite some criticisms, I would ultimately recommend Ahrefs to anyone wanting to improve their site's SEO. Though its competitors may have an edge in certain areas, Ahrefs holds its own, and I believe it’s one of the best options on the market.
Is it right for you? You be the judge. Please don't hesitate to contact the SerpFocus team with questions or comments throughout your SEO journey.
For the past decade I've been building businesses and using SEO to rank them in top positions. For the last 5 years I've worked at a premier search engine marketing agency where it's my job to stay on up-to-date with the latest SEO developments and implement SEO strategies for my clients. Read my full bio here.