Regardless of how big your business is, having a solid SEO (Search Engine Optimization) process in place is imperative. There are countless tools that help you achieve this and in this Ahrefs review, we’re going to look at how well they perform in what is now an extremely competitive marketplace.
Throughout our Ahrefs review, we will cover all you need to know, such as how it works, what its best uses are, features, pricing, free trials, and finally if it’s worth the investment.
What is Ahrefs?
Ahrefs was launched in 2011 and at the time it has primarily been designed to analyze websites backlinks. It used tools that allowed them to crawl millions of websites and create a picture of where sites were linking to and who was linking back to them.
These days, it’s much, much more than that. While the backlink checker is still very much part of what the tool does, it also includes the following features:
- Site Explorer – Probably the biggest tool highlighting insight son backlink profiles, organic search terms, pages live on-site, links, and search engine rankings
- Keyword Explorer – Allows users to search how competitive keywords are based on who is currently ranking for them in a variety of search engines
- Site Audit – Crawls sites to find information such as its status, health scores, and URL’s that have errors or issues
- Rank Tracker – Tracks the ranking of keywords over time linked to specific websites in a user’s portfolio
- Content Explorer – Finds articles linked to keywords and then highlights what makes the content stand out.
These are the key features of Ahrefs, but it also includes alerts, domain comparison, batch analysis, link intersect, SEO toolbars, plugins, API, and apps. We’re going to look in more depth at how the main features work later in our Ahrefs review.
How Does Ahrefs Work?
Ahrefs is a huge tool. If you’re new to SEO or even if you’re new to Ahrefs, it can be a little overwhelming when you first land. However, the site is set up in a way that makes it relatively easy to use and once you get started, it’s then just a case of interpreting the data to improve your website.
You’re going to initially land on the homepage of Ahrefs once you’ve logged in. Here you will see a snapshot of any projects that you’ve added.
From the image above you can see that we’ve added the Ahrefs site as an example and it’s this that we will use for most of this review.
The snapshot highlights a couple of featured tools from within Ahrefs. Metrics come from site explorer, rank tracker, and site audit, amongst others. You’re able to click on the metric and then be taken to the page that includes all the info you need for that metric.
You’re able to see a snapshot of all websites by using the search bar at the top of the page. All you need to do here is enter the URL and it will bring up a huge string of data on that site.
We will add at this point that the data on Ahrefs should be used as a guide when you take snapshots like this. It’s an incredibly accurate tool, but it’s not perfect, so unless you’ve linked a project via your Google Analytics/Search Console then data is not 100% accurate.
You’re able to click on a range of metrics and this will expand the information for each even further. As Ahrefs is continuously crawling sites daily, changes are usually apparent within 24 hours. For example, if a website faced an overnight penalty from Google and with it came a huge drop in traffic, then this would be highlighted within 24 hours.
Who is Ahrefs for?
Ahrefs is an incredibly diverse SEO tool and can be used in numerous ways. It’s tough to put a category on who the product is for in terms of size, but it’s without doubt for businesses or people who are looking to take their websites to the next level by increasing traffic and on the back of this, profits.
The beauty of Ahrefs is that it’s used by individuals, small businesses, medium-large businesses, and even SEO agencies. The more sites someone must track, the more valuable this tool becomes.
We’re going to talk more about the Ahrefs price later, but Ahrefs is not cheap. It’s still great value, but smaller businesses and folk who are flying solo will find the initial expenditure high and this is one of the main reasons why people are put off.
However, the only way to improve SEO and improve how your website functions based on search ranking is to use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze the data for you.
To conclude, while this is a broad answer, Ahrefs can be for literally anyone that has a website or only presence.
Ahrefs is packed full of features. The platform has come a long way since the days of simply being a backlink checker and is now a must-have tool for a wide range of SEO-related projects. In this section, we’re going to run through the major Ahrefs features and explain a little more on how they work.
Ahrefs Backlink Checker
The backlink checker is one of the most used and developed tools on Ahrefs. A lot of businesses sign up just to use this feature, such is the quality and data that it possesses.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks are hyperlinks that link to different websites. They contain a link that allows the user to click it and go from one site to another.
For example, if you had a news website and you were writing an article on a story about a business, you might link to that business from your article. It adds creditability to the article and allows users to see exactly the topic that is being described.
They come in a range of forms, but the most common are no-follow and do-follow. Both these backlink types will give direct links to a site, but the way that they are structured informs Google if they should count these backlinks or not.
A do-follow backlink will say to Google that they are linking to a post or page as a source. A no-follow backlink will allow the user to use it as a link but will tell Google to not track that link.
Why is this important?
Google considers the strength of sites that link to other sites. The higher a site ranks, the more authority it has. Backlinks from high authority sites will carry more weight than lower authority sites, which means that Google then increases the trust factor as the number of high authority sites linking increases. We talk more about this in the section on how this can help your website.
What does the Backlink Checker do?
The backlink checker is going to provide a ton of information. You can literally check the backlink profile of just about any site. We’ve stuck with Ahrefs as our example to highlight what you can see.
The top section of the profile allows you to sort between how many links you want to see from a single domain. Given that one domain may include multiple links, it can condense or expand the data that’s on offer. You can also flick between new and lost backlinks, as well as set a timeline for what was live and when.
In this example, you can see that Ahrefs has a backlink from Videoder, which is a downloader tool for YouTube videos. You get a snapshot of the following info:
- DR (Ahrefs Domain Rating) – This score is out of 100 and highlights the strength of the backlink profile of that site. In this case, Videoder is a 64 rating, which is mid-high.
- Domain Traffic – This is an estimate of the amount of organic search traffic the site gets a month.
- Referring Domains – This is the number of domains (websites) that link back to this site.
- Linked Domains – The number of linked root domains from the referring page
- – Number of external links from the referring page.
- Page Traffic – Monthly organic traffic for this page.
- KW (Keywords) – Number of keywords the referring page ranks for in the top 100.
- Anchor and target URL – The anchor text and the URL used in the referring page.
- First/Last seen/Lost – When the link was first and last seen. If it’s lost, the date it was no longer visible.
- Links – Number of backlinks from the referring domain.
You can use this data to determine how valuable certain links are that come back to your site. Some metrics are more important than others, but each has value.
How Can the Backlink Checker Help My Website?
Many people assume that the backlink checker is best used to see a general overview about who is linking, but there are two key areas that the Ahrefs backlink checker needs to be used to improve the health of your website.
Bad backlinks can have as big if not more effect on how your site performs than good ones. If you’ve hundreds of spammy websites with terrible Ahrefs Domain Rating, then Google is going to link you to those sites and lower your score and therefore ranking.
Use the backlink checker to find these links and then get them removed. There are two processes for link removal.
The first, and often least successful is to contact the linking website and ask for it to be removed. This can be time-consuming and often there is no contact info on a spammy, low-quality site.
The second, and most successful, is to disavow these links with Google. This is basically telling them you do not want them to count towards the rating of your website.
To do this you need to head to Site Explorer > Enter Your Domain > Explore > Referring Domains and then use the box next to each domain to select the backlinks you want to remove.
Then you click on the “Disavow Domains” button, and it will download a file that you can then upload to your Google Search Console account, and it will inform Google that you no longer want these backlinks to be tracked.
Another great way to use the Backlink Checker to help your website is to see what backlinks your competitor has. You can drill down to see which are the best and then outreach to those sites to see if you can also get a backlink.
It’s worth noting that if you’re new to SEO software that this is common practice and not “stealing” from other sites. It’s public knowledge and they will have likely done the same to their backlinks in the first place. In fact, we will go as far as saying that if you’re not doing this, you’re missing out on very easy, high-quality backlinks.
Backlink Checker Special Features
Aside from picking new targets for backlinks and removing the deadwood, the backlink checker has several features that make it even more powerful.
From the menu, you can select broken backlinks. This will highlight all backlinks to your site that are broken.
The term broken references links that are not going to live pages on your site. Usually, these ping in the form of a 404 error, which means that the page for that exact URL is no longer visible. The most common reason for this is that the URL may have slightly changed, which creates a 404 error.
It’s then a case of reaching out to the site that is linking back to ask them to update it with the new URL or to change the URL to a different page. Most website owners will be happy to do this as linking to 404 pages will be to their detriment also.
Ahrefs has a handy “Anchors” section where you can break down your links based on the anchor text used. This is a great tool for seeing how certain anchor links perform and to give you ideas on how to create new anchor links moving forward.
Finally, one of the most recent additions has been that of the Link Intersect. This tool allows you to see which sites are linking to up to three separate domains and then who are not linking to you.
This is a great tool to see which of your competitors have backlinks that you could potentially add to your own site.
How to Use the Ahrefs Backlink Checker
The process using the Ahrefs backlink checker is relatively simple. We’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to do this:
- Open and log in to Ahrefs.
- From the dashboard, use the menu section at the top and select “Site Explorer”
- Enter the domain for the site that you want to check. You can use the URL or Domain here, although we recommend using the full URL. Click the search button.
- In the left-hand side menu, click on “Backlinks”
- Use this page to see all the backlinks for that site. You can access the left menu to get to the other features, such as broken backlinks, referring domains, anchors, and internal backlinks.
Internal Backlink Checker
One of the features that our Ahrefs review hasn’t mentioned yet (in any detail) is the internal backlinks sections. This is a key and often overlooked feature that many people fail to utilize on Ahrefs.
As the name suggests, this looks at internal links, instead of external links which is commonly associated with the term “backlinks”. It’s an important metric for Google to see which pages on your website are relevant to that page. It’s also possible to feed a small amount of link “juice” by doing this.
For example, a page that has a high page rank can link to lower-ranked pages which then triggers Google that they are of a higher authority.
The internal backlinks sections show all the pages on your site and then the links within each page to other areas of your site. It gives a great snapshot of what is being linked where and allows users to quickly see which pages are short of links both to and from.
Larger sites are going to have a huge number of pages to sift through, which means it’s imperative to use the filter section at the top of the page. Here you can break things down by link type, platform, language, traffic, and keywords.
If you aren’t already interlinking pages on your site, then you should use this tool to improve those metrics as they will play a role in the overall picture of how Google views your site.
Keyword research, for us, is where Ahrefs starts to really excel. Don’t get us wrong, it does pretty much everything very well, but the keyword depth that you can dig into is quite remarkable.
There are several routes that you’re able to take to do your keyword research. It starts with the “Keywords Explorer” in the top menu.
Once the page opens, you’re able to enter the term that you want to research. You’re able to enter multiple terms here if you wish and then Ahrefs will create multiple reports based on each of these. For this example, we’ve used a very competitive term in “best Smart TV”.
After hitting the search button, the report will create a huge amount of information based solely on that term. As an overview, you can look at the general difficulty of how hard it is to rank near the top for that term, the volume of searches per month, potential traffic, and then volume based on each country.
When you carry out any sort of keyword analysis, you need to make sure that you’re searching for the location your audience will be in. For example, for the best smart TV, the United States has a ton of volume with 14,000 searches per month, whereas, in Australia, it’s just 1,000 searches per month.
The “Keyword Ideas” box gives you article or product matches based on this keyword. As you can see, terms linked to “Best smart TV” include best buy smart TV, best smart TV 2021, Best 32-inch Smart TV, and so on. Some will give great ideas for new articles or even sections that you can add to additional articles.
Adding FAQs to pages is now common practice for most web pages and using the “questions” section within Ahrefs creates some useful additions. Ones that have larger searches can be used as part of the main body of text.
With our Ahrefs review, we wanted to look at the addition of the Content Gaps feature. This is another keyword research tool that Ahrefs has created to use on its platform to get ideas for new pages or even entire sites.
To access content gaps you need to head to Site Explorer, then use the menu on the left to find Organic Search > Content Gap.
Content Gaps allows you to search competitor sites that are all ranking for keywords that your site is not. You can add as many targets as you like and then see who is ranking for what.
It’s an incredibly powerful tool to see where your site might be missing on money-making opportunities.
As a quick example, we’ve compared Ahrefs to SEMrush, MOZ, and SpyFu, who are arguable its biggest three competitors to see articles that Ahrefs does not rank for, but the other three do.
The table above gives you a look at the type of information that you’re going to get back. You can see the keywords, volume, KD, CPC, SERP, and then the positions for each of the sites.
You’ll notice that there are several areas where the three have content that Ahrefs could add and could outrank. The likes of sitemap generators, Google algorithm updates, and Google PPC are all relatively high search volume and are outranked by its competitors.
Content Gap is a fantastic way to start new sites as well. You can get an idea of the type of content that sites in your niche are dominating and then target those keywords for new article ideas. It’ll be harder to rank based on the established competition, but you only need a small piece of the pie in most cases to make a decent return on investment.
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
The Keyword Explorer at Ahrefs has widely been voted as the best in the business. The level of data and analysis that comes from the tool is second to none and plays a huge role in the development of many websites.
What was most impressive for us about the tool is the ability to narrow down and filter to get exactly the information that you want. For example, you’re able to change out search engines from Google to include YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, and several more. It removes the confines of just using Google as a search engine, which is a massively underappreciated asset given Google’s monopoly on the search engine sector.
We were impressed with the metrics that it gives from each search. We’ve mentioned several of these already, but it’s the ability to offer alternatives to the mains search that is a key part of why this tool is so strong.
Short Tail v Long Tail Keywords
Keywords are generally broken up into two main parts. These are short and long-tail keywords.
They work in pretty much the same way as you would expect, in that, they are based on the number of characters. An example of a short keyword might be “Best smart TV”. A long keyword in the same category might be “Best smart TV for streaming”.
Short keywords almost always have a bigger search volume. The above example has 14,000 searches for the short and just 600 for the long.
They both play a huge role in the success of both websites and pages. What you find is that the page will have the main term that is a short tail keyword and multiple long-tail keywords mentioned throughout.
What Ahrefs does so well here is that it highlights the competition for each keyword. So, if you’ve got something that is high in competition, it might be worthwhile creating content targeting longer keywords than has fewer sites targeting that term.
This page is a great example of exactly this. Our goal is to rank for a short tail keyword in “Ahrefs review”, but to make this the best possible page about Ahrefs we’ve included multiple long-tail keywords such as “Ahrefs backlink checker”, “Ahrefs keyword explorer”, “Ahrefs Pricing”, “Ahrefs Blog” and so on.
Keyword ideas is another tool that you can access from within the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer section. This is designed to take a topic of your choice and then create ideas on where you can head with this sort of information.
The best way to access this is by clicking the “terms match” button once the overview of your keyword has loaded. We’ve stuck with the same “Best Smart TV” keyword for this example.
From the image above you can see the information that’s been added based on your original search. For smart TV’s a lot of the search is based on the year, brand, and size of the TV.
With each keyword idea, it gives you the KD (keyword difficulty – how hard it is to rank for that term), the volume of searches based on location, global search volume, traffic potential, CPC, parent topic, and if they come with enriched search results. You’ve also options to see how they rank and how they look in the SERPs based on the search engine you’ve selected (Google is the default).
The keyword ideas section also includes a related terms query. This allows you to see terms that people search for in Google that might be linked to your original query. It’s more short-tail keywords here, but it can be a good steppingstone to see the potential for other terms to include on-site.
Ahrefs Site Audit: Audit Your Website
Established websites are going to need to look at the Site Audit feature and in our Ahrefs review, we’re going to be highlighting what we like and don’t like about it.
What is a Site Audit?
The site audit looks at established sites that you have up and running. You need to link these to your Ahrefs account, and you’ll also need to verify them, usually by inserting code or linking to Google Analytics/Search console platforms.
When you add new sites in, it takes time for Ahrefs to crawl the site and bring all the data together. Make sure you set it away ahead of time before you need to complete your audit. As the site is being crawled, your log will look something like this:
The audit is designed to give you an overview of what’s happening on your site based on a ton of metrics taken from the Ahrefs platform. You can then address any issues that it reports which may lead to increased rankings or a better user experience.
Why is a Site Audit Important?
Site audits find problems in sites that you likely wouldn’t have picked up elsewhere. Even though your site might be performing well and making money, there are always ways that it can be improved and the site audit is designed to show you what these areas are.
Generally, when things are flagged in the audit it’s because there are already issues or there are about to be issued. Things like 404 pages, broken links, incorrect redirects, non-indexed pages, links to broken pages, lack of HTML structure, lack of meta information, and much more.
For the most part, audits like the one on Ahrefs are the only way of seeing these issues without having to manually monitor each page. If you’ve got a website with hundreds or thousands of pages, then this is an impossible task.
How Can I Audit My Site on Ahrefs?
Accessing the Site Audit on Ahrefs can be done by clicking the link in the top menu bar. Once you’re here you will see an overlay of the site that you’ve searched or you can click on the “+ New Project” button to get started with a fresh search.
If you have your own site that you want to audit, the best way to do this is by linking up your Google Search Console account. Ahrefs will take the data from this and its own crawl data to create an incredibly in-depth audit of your site.
Alternatively, you can click on the “Add Manually” button to enter a domain and project name before Ahrefs does its best to crawl and audit that site. As we mentioned earlier, these things take time (sometimes hours) to fully crawl, so bear that in mind.
One of the best things about the process is that you can schedule the audit to run at any time. You can choose the frequency and start date for each crawl. You can even add in keywords to check for rankings and see how competitors are faring based on keywords that you’re both competing with.
Things can change very quickly in the online world and the Ahrefs site audit is a tool that you need to track at least once per week. It’s only here that you will find problems and potential growth for your site on a regular basis.
Ahrefs Position Tracking – Rank Tracker
Once you get set up with Ahrefs and you utilize features like the site audit, you’re going to want to shift your attention to the Ahrefs position tracking software, commonly known as rank tracker.
What is Position or Rank Tracking?
Position tracker allows you to track keywords on your site and see where you rank for them in search engines. This is a key tool to see site development and if any pages start to drop.
The tool allows you to check both your own sites and competitors’ sites. This works great for seeing how well you’re performing and targeting areas that competitors might be starting to excel in. You can even run searches that will ping you every time a competitor has a big jump in the SERPs for a particular keyword or search term.
Within this section, you can see metrics such as visibility, average position, traffic, SERP features, and overall positions based on up/down movement.
Why is it Important?
Rank tracker is incredibly important to see how pages on your site are performing. You need to be able to not just see when a page might increase or decrease in the rankings, but also work out why this might be.
The tool allows you to compare your rankings to competitor sites and then you can evaluate what metrics are clearly working on that page if you’re not able to overtake them in the SERPs.
Ahrefs Review – Platform and Ease of Use
Ahrefs scores incredibly high when it comes to usability. If you’re new to SEO and you’re looking for a tool to get started, offer advice, and see where your current website can be improved, Ahrefs is going to do just that.
The layout of the site is clean and well-maintained. The menu system allows you to jump to different reports with ease and the time it takes to load these reports is minimal. Given the sheer volume of data that it includes, makes this quite remarkable.
If you’re new to SEO tools in general, it may seem like there’s a lot going on and there is, but it’s very digestible and you can use as much or as little of the site as you want. The learning curve is very shallow, and it won’t take long to get grips with the main features.
Ahrefs also includes a ton of educational content and videos. It makes using the site a lot easier and helps you get the most from it.
Ahrefs Free Trial
Ahrefs have stopped running its free trial period. It’s also stopped running the $7 trial for a week’s use at the start of 2022.
It’s a shame that one or both are no longer available as it makes the initial cost significant.
Ahrefs Pricing and Costs
Ahrefs pricing model starts from $99 per month for the Lite version. It increases to $179/month for standard, $399/month for advanced, and $999/month for the agency. You get two months free if you pay annually, which works out to be the best possible deal that you can get.
It’s worth noting that they never run sales or discounts, so the price you see, is the price you will always pay.
You’re able to customize how many people get access to each account. These are referred to as Ahrefs seats and this is priced at $30 per additional seat.
Access to the whole site starts with Lite and the only difference between each level is the usage. For example, with Lite you’re limited to 500 tacked searches every seven days. With the Advanced level, you can get 5,000 searches every three days.
Ahrefs Review – Customer Support
Ahrefs comes with two points of contact in the form of a live chat function and a dedicated help section. Live chat can be accessed around the clock and you’re able to get in touch with someone within a matter of minutes.
The help center includes dozens of articles related to general queries such as accounts, billing, dashboard help, alerts, and how to get started using Ahrefs.
Ahrefs Login – How to Create an Ahrefs Account
Below we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to create an Ahrefs account.
Step 1 – Open your account
Click this link to be taken through the Ahrefs landing page. Here you can start the process of opening your account.
Step 2 – Click on the “sign up button”
A big orange button will greet you. Click on this.
Step 3 – Choose your plan
You will see the four plans that are available to you. At the top of the page, you can flick between paying monthly or paying for the year. If you choose the latter, you get two months for free and this is the best value deal. Once you are done, click on the “subscribe” button and accept the terms and conditions.
Step 4 – Enter payment information
Fill out the pop-up box with your payment info. You will need to include your billing address. Once this has been processed you will be able to log in to your account and get started.
Ahrefs Pros and Cons
We’ve outlined some of the pros and cons of Ahrefs in the box below.
|Incredibly in-depth keyword research tool||Very expensive if you’re only your own|
|Great for keeping an audit of any issues on your site||Can take a while to complete full audits on large sites|
|The best when it comes to site troubleshooting for any that have Google penalties||Lack of phone contact for customer support|
|Rank Tracker allows you to see how you are performing over a period|
|The backlink tool allows you to find a huge range of backlinks from competitors|
Alternatives to Ahrefs
Ahrefs is a market leader when it comes to SEO tools, but there are a couple of options that are worth noting. These come in form of SEMrush and Moz.
SEMrush v Ahrefs
SEMrush is a lighter version of Ahrefs in that, you can run a lot of the same tasks, but not quite as in-depth. It’s ideal for those looking for more of a snapshot, rather than a deep dive, although we would be doing SEMrush as a disservice to say that they don’t offer this.
Pricing is a little more expensive, starting at $119.95/month and they also charge more per user that you add ($45 compared to $30 with Ahrefs). One of the biggest limitations is that SEMrush only uses Google search, but they do offer phone support, which is a big leak on Ahrefs part.
Check out our SEMrush review in full.
Ahrefs v Moz
Ahrefs and Moz are very similarly priced, with both base options starting from just $99. If we are honest, Ahrefs trumps Moz in just about all sectors. The only area where Moz would be a viable alternative is the analysis of on-page SE). This is, without doubt, Moz’s strength.
Conclusion – Is Ahrefs Worth the Money?
At just shy of $1,000 for the “Lite” version, Ahrefs is not cheap. Many have queried why it’s so expensive, but it’s only when you spend time within the program that you realize Ahrefs is a bargain.
It’s one of those programs where you get what you pay for. The money invests in tools such as rank tracker, backlink checker, and Ahrefs keyword magic tool is worth every penny.
If you’re trying to take your website to the next level, then Ahrefs is a must. It’s used globally by the likes of Facebook, eBay, Trip advisor, Shopify, Netflix, Uber, Pinterest, and many, many more. If that’s not good enough a reason as to why you need to use Ahrefs, then we don’t know what is.