Best SEO Software 2020

Ahrefs vs. SEMrush: Compare SEO Software

Is Ahrefs or SEMrush the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best search tool to drive more traffic to your website.

Ahrefs and SEMrush are the two best all-in-one search solutions. Both come with several highly-valuable features that millions of online marketers use to streamline their processes and acquire more search traffic.

The team at SoftwarePundit uses both tools on a daily basis. This in-depth comparison is the product of our personal experience and our expertise in software analysis.

Comparison Summary

Ahrefs and SEMrush offer comparable features at similar price-points. This can make it difficult to determine if Ahrefs or SEMrush is the best option for you. To decide between them, it's best to understand the superior features offered by each tool, and pick the solution that is best aligned with your company priorities.

Ahrefs Superior Features

Ahrefs is superior to SEMrush for the following features:

  • Backlink research: Ahrefs is the best tool for monitoring your website's backlink profile, and discovering new backlink opportunities.
  • Site auditing: Ahrefs provides access to more detailed information about your website's SEO performance.

SEMrush Superior Features

SEMrush is superior to Ahrefs for the following features:

  • Keyword research: SEMrush is slightly better at finding new keywords for you to target with organic & paid search campaigns.
  • Keyword rank tracking: SEMrush is the best tool for tracking the position of your most important keywords in Google's search results.
  • Competitive analysis: SEMrush is better at understanding the online marketing tactics used by your top competitors to capture search traffic.
AhrefsSEMrush
PricingStarting at $99 per monthStarting at $99.95 per month
Superior Features
  • Backlink analysis
  • Site Auditing
  • Keyword research
  • Keyword rank tracking
  • Competitive analysis
Ease of UseAhrefs has a clean design & moderate learning curveSEMrush has a clean design & moderate learning curve
Best ForMarketers & SEOs focused on content marketing & backlink buildingMarketers & business owners who want to grow their organic & paid search channels
Visit AhrefsVisit SEMrush

Table of Contents

Ahrefs & SEMrush Price Comparison

Ahrefs and SEMrush plans are priced very comparably. The entry plan for both solutions starts at a cost of $99 per month and include the same set of features.

The biggest difference between the plans is the volume of keyword data that's provided. As you can see in the table below, SEMrush is the more cost-effective solution for keyword research.

PlanPriceCompetitor Keywords AvailableKeyword Gap Analysis Results
SEMrush Pro Plan$99.9510,00010,000
Ahrefs Lite Plan$99All keywords in top 20 SERP results10
Ahrefs Advanced Plan$399All keywords in top 100 SERP results50,000

Ahrefs Pricing Details

Ahrefs pricing starts at $99 per month. You get two months free if you pay annually.

  • Lite: $99 per month for 1 user
  • Standard: $179 per month for 1 user
  • Advanced: $399 per month for 3 users
  • Agency: $999 per month for 5 users

SEMrush Pricing Details

SEMrush pricing starts at $99.95 per month. You save 16% if you pay annually.

  • Pro Plan: $99.95 per month
  • Guru Plan: $199.95 per month
  • Business Plan: $399.95 per month

Ahrefs & SEMrush Feature Comparison

As mentioned above, the best way to decide if Ahrefs or SEMrush is the best solution for you is to understand their features and pick the tool that's best aligned with your company priorities. Here's the full breakdown of the five most important features from each tool.

Keyword Research

SEMrush has the advantage for keyword research. Here's why:

  • Both tools have good keyword explorers that return search volume, keyword difficulty, and CPC data for a given list of keywords.
  • SEMrush competitive analysis & keyword gap reports show you more keywords for a cheaper price.
  • SEMrush's Keyword Magic tool is easier to use than Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer.
  • SEMrush includes a PPC Keyword tool that can be used to organize your keyword list into campaigns and ad groups.

The primary tool that is used for keyword research in both tools is a keyword explorer. With this tool, you upload a list of keywords and see corresponding data on the keywords' search volume, keyword difficulty and CPC estimates. Here's a view of Ahrefs' keyword explorer:

Ahrefs keyword explorer

Additionally, both tools come with a keyword gap report. These reports allow you to input several competitors and see the keywords that they rank well for, but you do not. As you see below, the entry plan for Ahrefs limits you to 10 results.

Ahrefs keyword gap analysis

SEMrush's most popular feature is the Keyword Magic tool, pictured below. This tool makes it very easy to find all keywords related to any other keyword. Ahrefs does have a keyword ideas report with similar functionality, but it is a bit more difficult to use.

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool Cars

Keyword Rank Tracking

SEMrush is the better option for keyword rank tracking. Here's why:

  • SEMrush updates keyword rankings each day vs. every few days for Ahrefs.
  • SEMrush informs you of changes to Google's search algorithm, which makes it easy to understand the cause of major shifts in your keyword rankings.

Both Ahrefs and SEMrush have a tool that allows you to track keyword ranking. This is a best practice that provides visibility into how well your website is ranking in Google's search results.

Ahrefs' keyword rank tracker is a valuable tool with much of the same functionality as SEMrush. One major difference is that Ahrefs only updates its keyword rankings every few days. This is why the Ahrefs chart in the image directly below shows less volatility than what you see in SEMrush.

Ahrefs keyword tracking tool

In addition to updating more frequently, SEMrush has added one valuable feature to its rank tracker. When Google updates its algorithm, SEMrush records the update and displays it on the rank tracker. It has recorded the latest update with the small Google icon in the screenshot below. In some cases, this will help your team quickly understand why your rankings have suddenly shifted.

SEMrush keyword tracking tool

Backlink Analysis

Ahrefs is the better option for backlink analysis. Here's why:

  • Ahrefs updates its backlink data more frequently.
  • Ahrefs has a more detailed backlinks report that visually represents more data.
  • Ahrefs gives you more options to filter reports by dimensions such as redirect chains and language.
  • Ahrefs has a report for broken backlinks that SEMrush does not.

Ahrefs is the superior tool for backlink analysis. SEMrush includes much of the same functionality, but its data is less fresh and its reports do not have quite the level of detail that's found in Ahrefs. Here's a screenshot of Ahrefs' backlink profile report:

Ahrefs backlink profile report

As you can see below, SEMrush does provide most of the same data. However, the SEMrush reports have a few less data visualizations, and do not provide as many filtering options. For example, Ahrefs lets you filter for redirect chains and specific languages.

SEMrush backlink profile report

There is one valuable backlink report, broken backlinks, that is only found in Ahrefs. Using this report, you can find backlinks pointing to your website that return a 404 error. Fixing these backlinks is a very quick way to improve your website's backlink profile.

Ahrefs broken backlinks report

Site Auditing

Overall, Ahrefs is the better option for site audits. Here are the main reasons why:

  • Both tools have good crawlers that will detect your website's biggest on-page SEO issues.
  • Ahrefs gives you access to more crawl data for an in-depth review of your website's performance.
  • SEMrush's report is simpler and easier to interpret for beginners.

The website crawlers in Ahrefs and SEMrush are comparable. However, Ahrefs provides access to more information that can be used by marketers and developers to better understand their websites' on-page SEO errors. Each link in the image below takes you to a report in Ahrefs with detailed crawl data.

Ahrefs site audit report

The crawler in SEMrush is effective and a productive starting tool for beginners. The crawl overview is easier to interpret and highlights the most important SEO errors that you should correct. However, in SEMrush, it's a bit harder to access the raw data from the crawl.

SEMrush site audit report

One valuable report offered only by SEMrush is the Compare Crawls report. This report shows a comparison of your website's performance over time. As a result, it's easy to use SEMrush to see if you are making progress reducing on-site SEO issues.

SEMrush compare crawls

Competitive Analysis

Overall, SEMrush is a better tool for competitive analysis. Here are the main reasons why:

  • SEMrush includes more information about your competitors' paid search tactics, including display ads.
  • SEMrush shares up to 10,000 competing domains vs. 10 with Ahrefs.
  • Both tools allow you to see your competitors' top pages by banklinks & traffic.
  • Both tools allow you to do backlink and keyword gap analyses.
  • Ahrefs has more information about your competitors' backlinks.

Ahrefs and SEMrush both provide valuable insights about your top online competitors. Both solutions have reports that show your competitors' paid search ads. However, only SEMrush can be used to see your competitors' display advertising tactics.

SEMrush display ads report

Ahrefs and SEMrush also have reports that show you the websites that you compete with most for search traffic. In the Ahrefs' report below, you can see allrecipe.com's top 10 competitors. While this is helpful, SEMrush shows up to 10,000 competitors for the same price.

Ahrefs competing domains report

As mentioned above, Ahrefs is the superior tool when it comes to backlinks. This also applies to competitive research. As you can see below, Ahrefs' competitor backlink reports include numerous data points and filtering options. For competitor backlink analysis, Ahrefs outperforms SEMrush.

Ahrefs competitor backlinks report

Other Features

Ahrefs and SEMrush subscriptions come with other tools that will help your company with online search. These are less critical than the features outlined above, but worth understanding before you make a purchase.

Ahrefs ToolsSEMrush Tools
  • Internal Backlinks
  • SEO Toolbar
  • Content Explorer
  • Ahrefs Ranks
  • Backlink Batch Analysis
  • Ad Builder
  • Listing Management
  • Social Media Poster
  • Social Media Tracker
  • SEO Writing Assistant

Bottom Line

Ahrefs and SEMrush are both outstanding tools. The reality is that the vast majority of marketers would be happy with either option.

However, these solutions are slightly better for different use cases. You should pick the tool that is better at the use cases most important to you and your team.

  • If you want a tool that is best at backlink analysis and site audits, go with Ahrefs.
  • If you want a tool that is best at keyword research, keyword rank tracking & competitive analysis, go with SEMrush.
Bruce Hogan

Bruce Hogan is Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit, a technology research firm that provides advice, information, and tools to help businesses thrive. Bruce has experience investing at multi-billion dollar private equity firms, leading teams at venture-backed Internet companies, and launching new businesses.