Ahrefs Review: More Than Just an SEO Backlink Analysis Tool

Ahrefs Review: More Than Just an SEO Backlink Analysis Tool

When it comes to backlink analysis, the tool you can always count on is Ahrefs.

Headquartered in Singapore with its roots in Ukraine, Ahrefs believes in the lean startup model with this manifesto: “First do it, then do it right, then do it better.”

Launched in 2011, Ahrefs’ index is updated with fresh backlinks every 15 minutes, and the crawler processes up to 6 billion pages a day.

Ahrefs - Home Page

Lots of marketing and SEO pundits trust Ahrefs as their go-to backlink analysis tool. This is because of its index size and the accuracy with which it presents the data.

But contrary to popular opinion, Ahrefs is more than just a backlink analysis tool.

In the last few years, the team behind Ahrefs has worked diligently to introduce new features and also innovate the existing ones. One example of this can be found in the continuous improvement to its flagship keyword research tool, Keywords Explorer.

So in this Ahrefs review, I’ll not just examine the tool’s backlink analysis capabilities, but also explore its various SEO and content marketing features, and evaluate other factors such as pricing, customer support, ease of use, and overall online sentiment around the product.

Finally, I’ll provide a quick overview of how Ahrefs compares with three of its biggest competitors: Semrush, Moz, and SE Ranking.

Let’s get started.

Please feel free to jump to any section of this Ahrefs review using the links in this TOC:

Ahrefs Pricing

Ahrefs Pricing 2021

All good things come at a price. Ahrefs is no exception. The prices start from $99/month or $82/month if you choose to pay annually.

Ahrefs offers four monthly pricing plans:

  • Lite – $99/month
  • Standard – $179/month
  • Advanced – $399/month
  • Agency – $999/month

The table below contains the features and limitations of each plan:

[table id=11 /]

If you’d like to use Ahrefs to manage just one blog, then the Lite plan should be sufficient for your needs.

If you’re running multiple blogs, then the limitations of the Lite plan may hold you back. In that case, upgrade to the Standard plan which allows you to track more keywords and backlinks.

And if you run multiple websites or manage clients’ websites at your agency, then you’ll need to upgrade to Advanced or Agency plan depending on your requirements.

Ahrefs Review: Key Features

Ahrefs has built a reputation over the past few years as a reliable backlink analysis and competitor research tool. But in the recent past, Ahrefs has launched new features and revamped existing ones to be a full-fledged SEO and content marketing tool.

So let’s explore all these features in detail, starting with the Ahrefs dashboard.

Once you login to your Ahrefs account, you’ll be prompted to create a new project and add your domain.

Ahrefs Review - New Project

Next, you’ll be asked to enter the keywords, locations, and the competitor websites you’d like Ahrefs to track.

You can enter up to 5 competitor websites. Ahrefs makes this task easier by crawling your website and suggesting the right keywords and competitors for your website.

Ahrefs Review - Competitors

Next, you’ll be taken to Ahrefs’ dashboard which presents you with all the vital stats of your site, including Ahrefs rank, domain rating, backlinks, referring domains, organic keywords, and the progress of your tracked keywords in search engines.

Ahrefs Review - Ahrefs Dashboard

Depending on your plan, you’ll have a limit on the number of projects you can add to your Ahrefs account. The Lite plan allows you to add up to 3 projects.

#1 Site Explorer

Site Explorer gives you an in-depth look at the organic search traffic and backlink profile of any website or URL. A large portion of your time on Ahrefs will be spent on Site Explorer. You can either generate data on your own site or your competitors’ sites via Site Explorer.

To get started, click on Site Explorer and type any URL into the search box. Ahrefs will give you an overview of the site.

Ahrefs Review - Site Explorer

From here, you can view a website’s total number of backlinks, organic keywords, organic traffic for those keywords, paid keywords, and also see important SEO metrics such as URL rating, domain rating, and Ahrefs rank.

When you scroll down, you’ll find other useful information such as:

  • Referring domains and pages pointing to your website
  • New and lost referring domains
  • New and lost backlinks
  • CTLDs (Country Top Level Domains) distribution
  • Anchors cloud, anchor phrases and terms
Ahrefs Review - New and Lost Referring Domains

Site Explorer is a great way to start using Ahrefs as it presents a quick analysis of your site. To unleash the true potential of Site Explorer, however, you’ll need to use other features discussed here below.


This is where the real fun begins. From Site Explorer, you can access a report that lists all the sites linking to your target website or URL. You can filter down this data by Link Type (DoFollow, NoFollow, Redirect, etc.), Platforms (Blogs, Wiki, Comment Systems, etc.), and Languages.

Ahrefs Review - New Backlinks

You can view the new/lost/broken backlinks and referring domains of a site, view all its anchors, and top referring content (most popular content of your target website based on the number of social shares).

Ahrefs provides you with an option to export all this data onto a CSV or PDF file.

Organic Keywords

This report will show you all the keywords that a target website or URL ranks for in the top 100 organic search results. You’ll be able to see:

  • New Keywords – A report that shows if a keyword moved to a higher “group” since last week. There are 3 “groups”: rank 1­-3, rank 4­-10, rank 11-­50.
  • Movements – A report that shows the history of all ranking movements that Ahrefs’ bots have noticed for a target website or URL.
  • Top Pages – A report that ranks the pages of a target website based on how much organic search traffic they bring.

Best Pages

Ahrefs allows you to view the pages of a target website based on their total number of backlinks.

In this section, you’ll be able to view a site’s best pages by number of backlinks, best pages by links’ growth, best pages by total number of social shares, and top content by total number of shares.

Paid Search Data

Ahrefs is a reliable PPC tool as well as it displays paid search insights that can really help you plan your PPC ads. This section of Site Explorer helps you unveil your competitors’ paid search keywords and ad copies.

You’ll be able to view all the keywords that a site ranks for in paid search results. You can also view a preview of the ads as seen in paid search results and finally, you’ll be able to see the top landing pages that receive the most paid search traffic.

Ahrefs Review - Paid Search Data

All this data can be exported onto a CSV file.

#2 Rank Tracker

The Rank Tracker feature on Ahrefs helps you keep track of a list of target keywords. Remember the keywords you entered while creating a new project on Ahrefs? This is where you can track the progress of those keywords in SERPs.

Ahrefs lets you track 500 keywords with the Lite plan and 1500 keywords with the Standard plan.​

In addition to this, you can also see how your rankings for a particular keyword progress over time through position history charts. Ahrefs also allows you to track your rankings in multiple locations (country level) both for desktop and mobile devices.

You can also enable Rank Tracker Notification which will allow Ahrefs to send you a weekly or monthly report of your rankings via email. Click on ‘Notification Settings’ to enable Rank Tracker Notification.

Ahrefs Review - Rank Tracker

Rank Tracker Notification is particularly useful if you manage a lot of sites or offer SEO services.

#3 Disavow Links

Spammy links pointing to your site can really affect your search rankings. As such, you should monitor your backlink profile on a regular basis to identify any suspicious links to your site and disavow them from time to time.

Ahrefs makes this task easier by giving you an option to add links to your disavow list while browsing Site Explorer reports.

The other option is to add disavow links manually in this format:

Ahrefs Review - Disavow Links

Once the disavow links have been added to the list, you can export the file to upload it to Google Search Console.

#4 Ahrefs Alerts

By setting up alerts for your domain or keywords, you ensure that you never miss another backlink or mention of your site. Ahrefs sends you an email every time you lose or gain a backlink and will also notify you when someone mentions your website or brand name.

To set these alerts, click on ‘Alerts’ from the main menu. From here you can set up three types of alerts:

  • Backlinks Alerts
  • New Keywords Alerts
  • Mention Alerts

Click on ‘New Alert’ for each of these to activate Ahrefs Alerts.

Ahrefs Review - Alerts

You can also spy on your competitors by setting up alerts for your competitors’ websites and businesses as well.

#5 Domain Comparison

Ahrefs lets you compare 5 domains side-by-side.

Ahrefs Domain Comparison - Ahrefs Review

The results displayed include a comparison of referring domains and IPs, backlinks, backlink types (dofollow vs nofollow), and graphs of changes in each domain.

#6 Keywords Explorer

In addition to analyzing backlinks, Ahrefs is also a powerful keyword research tool. Keywords Explorer can help you generate tons of keyword ideas with its database of over 3 billion keywords.

Ahrefs Review - Keywords Explorer

With Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, you can do the following:

  • Discover new keyword ideas – With the latest update, Ahrefs provides you with massive amounts of keyword ideas, including phrase match, having same terms, search suggestions, and more.
  • “Clicks” metric – In addition to search volume for keywords, you also get to see clickstream data, allowing you to calculate search volumes more accurately.
  • Keyword Lists  Once you come across some new keyword ideas, you can now save them into a list for future reference. A huge time saver if you’re doing keyword research for multiple projects.
  • Keyword Difficulty Score – Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty (KD) score is an estimation of how hard it would be to rank on the 1st page of Google organic search for a given keyword. It is measured on a scale of 1 to 100 (low difficulty to high difficulty).
  • SERP overview & Positions History — Ahrefs’ new SERP overview report brings all the core SEO metrics together to help you make educated decisions about the actual difficulty of a given SERP.

#7 Content Explorer

Content Explorer helps you find the most shared content for any topic. Type any topic into the search bar and Ahrefs will show you the most popular content for the topic with details on total social shares, domain rating, referring domains, and the organic traffic it generates.

Ahrefs Review - Content Explorer

You can filter down the results by publish date, languages, number of shares, domain rating, referring domains, organic traffic, and word count.

You can also find out who tweeted the articles by clicking on the ‘Who tweeted’ button. This data can be exported onto a CSV file which you can use late for outreach purposes.

Ahrefs Review - Content Explorer

#8 Site Audit

Site Audit is Ahrefs’ weakest link. This is despite the fact that the company has made significant improvements to the tool since its launch.

The biggest problem with the Site Audit tool is that it takes way too long for Ahrefs to crawl all the pages on your site and return with a report. Even if your site has less than 1000 pages to crawl, Ahrefs will take well over 2 hours to generate an audit report.

Now, when a tool takes this long to generate an audit report, you would at least expect a comprehensive report that identifies the important technical SEO loopholes on your site. Sadly, that’s not the case.

In my experience, I’ve seen Ahrefs toss out health scores of over 90% for sites that were plagued with critical SEO errors.

Ahrefs Site Audit Report

For that reason, it’s best if you Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool to identify and fix only the most basic SEO errors on your site.

Ahrefs Review: Ease of Use

Ahrefs’ user interface is clean and organized. This makes the tool very easy to use, an impressive achievement considering the vast amount of data and features the tool offers.

The team behind Ahrefs has worked really hard to create a platform that’s immensely user-friendly not just for beginners, but advanced users too who are migrating from other SEO platforms.

Ahrefs Review: Customer Support

Ahrefs provides customer support via phone, chat, and email. You can also search for questions at their help center to see if they’ve already been addressed by the team before.

They don’t organize webinars like Semrush, but their blog is highly resourceful with tons of blog posts that you can read to sharpen your SEO skills. You can also follow the Ahrefs YouTube channel, where they upload in-depth SEO and digital marketing tutorials to help you achieve higher search rankings.

Ahrefs Resources 2021

Here are some of the top blog posts we highly recommend you read:

Ahrefs Review: User Reviews and Ratings

Ahrefs has garnered quite a reputation among professional bloggers and marketing pundits in the last few years. The tool is a part of most marketers’ must-have SEO tools and it’s easy to understand why that’s the case.

Ahrefs Reviews - Reviews by SEO experts

The same is the case with online review sites such as G2, TrustRadius, and Capterra. Here’s how Ahrefs is rated on these sites:

  • G2Crowd – 4.6/5 (280 reviews)
  • TrustRadius – 8.9/10 (189 reviews)
  • Capterra – 4.8/5 (278 reviews)

Most reviews commend the accuracy of data obtained from Ahrefs and its backlink analysis features while a few others complain about the steep monthly subscription price of the tool.

Ahrefs does not have as many reviews as some of the other SEO tools such as Semrush and Moz. This may be due to the fact that Ahrefs is a relatively new tool compared to Moz and Semrush.

How Ahrefs Compares with Other SEO Tools

In this section, I’ll quickly compare Ahrefs with three of its biggest rivals: Semrush, Moz, and SE Ranking.

Ahrefs vs Semrush: Is Ahrefs Better?

When it comes to backlink analysis, Ahrefs is definitely better than Semrush. Although Semrush has a larger link index, Ahrefs’ backlink data is more in-depth and accurate.

Ahrefs also has an edge over Semrush in terms of user interface. Ahrefs has a clean and polished UI which makes it easier to obtain the information you need.

But Semrush is better in all other aspects, including keyword research, competitor analysis, technical SEO audit, and content marketing.

Semrush is the most comprehensive SEO tool on the market. It helps you scale up your SEO efforts and drive results faster than any other tool out there.

That said, both Ahrefs and Semrush are exceptional tools. If you have the budget, I’d highly recommend you subscribe to both these tools.

For a more in-depth analysis of these two tools, check out my Semrush vs Ahrefs comparison post.

Below is a breakdown of how Ahrefs compares to Semrush on key parameters:

Semrush vs Ahrefs - Comparison Table

Ahrefs vs Moz: Which is Better?

Ahrefs is most definitely better. Since Rand Fishkin’s departure from Moz, things have gone from bad to worse at Moz.

Both tools are similarly priced, but that’s where the similarities end. From keyword research to backlink analysis to competitor analysis, Ahrefs is simply faster and better. Not to mention, Ahrefs’ UI is smoother and more user-friendly than Moz’s cluttered, confusing mess of an interface.

Ahrefs vs SE Ranking: Is Ahrefs Better than SE Ranking?

Once again, Ahrefs offers better backlink analysis features than SE Ranking. It also has a more accurate and up-to-date rank tracker. But when it comes to other essential SEO features like keyword research and site audit, SE Ranking is better. SE Ranking also has more value-added features.

Furthermore, SE Ranking is more economically priced than Ahrefs. SE Ranking’s basic plan is $60 cheaper than Ahrefs’ basic plan. So if you’re on a shoestring budget, SE Ranking will offer more bang for your buck.

But if you can afford to shell out more money for an SEO software, Ahrefs’ comprehensive backlink analysis and position tracking features justify the steep price. If your objective is to scale up your link building efforts, you need a tool like Ahrefs by your side.

For a more in-depth analysis, check out my Semrush vs SE Ranking comparison post.

Below is a breakdown of how Ahrefs compares to SE Ranking on key parameters:

Ahrefs vs SE Ranking - Comparison Table

Ahrefs Review: Final Verdict

Ahrefs has built a brand around its backlink checker capability because of the sheer depth of its index, but once you start using the tool, you realize that it is much more than a backlink analysis tool. From Rank Tracker to Keywords Explorer, Ahrefs provides quality data that can be invaluable to your website.

If you’re serious about SEO and content marketing, this is a must-have tool in your marketing toolkit.

Side note: If you’d like to make the best use of your Ahrefs subscription, do check out this insanely in-depth guide on Ahrefs by Nathan Gotch at Gotch SEO. 

If you liked this review, please share it on Twitter using the link below:

Editor’s Note: This Ahrefs review was originally published on 30 June 2017 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.

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Sandeep Mallya
Sandeep Mallya is the Founder & CEO of Startup Cafe Digital, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Bangalore, India. He is an active member of the startup community, having worked with several early-stage startups and accelerators. 99signals is Sandeep's online marketing blog. The blog currently features 200+ in-depth articles, how-to guides, and hacks on a wide range of online marketing topics such as SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, blogging, and more.
ahrefs-reviewAhrefs is the #1 backlink analysis tool, trusted by SEO experts worldwide. In the recent past, the company has also branched out to other areas such as keywords research and content marketing, making it a full-fledged SEO and content marketing tool.



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