Ahrefs 2023 Review: Is This The Right SEO Tool For You?

Let’s face it; Google’s constantly evolving.

It’s one of the reasons why most of the SEO tactics we all used years ago don’t work anymore.

As a result, we’ve all got to work even harder to churn out content that really sticks.

And with so much fresh competition, it’s no surprise that website owners, agencies, and enterprises are looking for advanced SEO tools like Ahrefs to help them get to that coveted number one spot on Google. 

With features like keyword research, link building, backlink analysis, and even rank tracking, Ahrefs is definitely one of the best competitor research and SEO tools out there.

But is it the best tool for you?
Don’t worry, you’ll know soon enough.

In this Ahrefs review, we’ll cover what Ahrefs is, its best features, limitations, pricing, and some alternatives.

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Let’s get started.

What Is Ahrefs?

Ahrefs is a fully-featured SEO tool used by website owners, agencies, enterprises, and more.

Ahrefs’ USP is that it has one of the most extensive indexes of backlinks (outbound links) on the web.

How extensive are we talking here?
Currently, Ahrefs has around 22.3 trillion internal backlinks and 2.8 trillion external backlinks.

Ahrefs also offers you a ton of valuable features to help you:

We know what you’re thinking: “tons of features = extremely difficult to navigate.”

Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Ahrefs tool.

The tool’s user interface and powerful data filters are super accessible, so it usually doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in SEO or if you’re an SEO professional. And if you run into any trouble with the Ahrefs tool, simply contact support via phone, email, or chat support. 

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Now, let’s go over some of its most powerful features to give you a closer look at what it can do for you:

Top 10 Ahrefs Features

Here are ten of Ahrefs’ features that can help you rank higher and get more organic traffic:

1. Keyword Explorer

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is their biggest calling card.

You can use Ahrefs keyword tool to conduct keyword research and find keyword ideas that are worth targeting. Type in a keyword and the Ahrefs tool will give you tons of data that’ll help you determine whether this is a good keyword to target or not.

For example, when we typed in “SEO,” into the Keyword Explorer search bar, this is what popped up:

ahrefs keyword report overview

Here’s a breakdown of the above keyword research metrics:

  • Keyword difficulty: how hard it will be to rank for that keyword based on the current top ranking pages.
  • Volume: how many times people in a specific country search for your target keyword every month.
  • Clicks: the number of clicks on that specific keyword.
  • Global volume: the sum of searches across all countries, and a breakdown of the top countries by search volume.

The keyword tool also gives you insights into cost-per-click data, click-through-rate data, and more.

Further down the report, you’ll see that Ahrefs Keyword Explorer also gives you some keyword ideas:

keyword ideas in ahrefs report

This keyword suggestion report shows us that if we wanted to target “SEO” as a question, we could look at questions like “what is SEO,” “what is SEO marketing, and “what does SEO mean.”

Next, if you take a look below at the SERP overview, you can also see the search engine results pages (SERP) history for “SEO” and the ranking articles at the moment. 

SERP overview in keywords report in ahrefs

You can use the data provided here to better understand:

  • How difficult ranking for a keyword could be
  • How valuable ranking for it would be
  • Who’s currently ranking on top
  • Other related ideas

This way, you can make informed decisions over what organic keywords to target and what not to.

The cool thing about Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer is that it doesn’t limit you to Google.
You can also research keywords in Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, and more.

Keywords explorer in ahrefs

2. Content Explorer

The Content Explorer is an excellent feature for idea-hungry content teams looking to improve their content marketing strategy.

You can use Ahrefs Content Explorer to come up with a new content idea and discover what kind of popular content is doing well at the moment.

Just type in a specific topic to get a list of content on that particular topic. You can also apply filters to see the number of shares on social media, organic traffic, and more.

We tried this out by searching “SEO” in Ahrefs Content Explorer and here’s the search result:

As you can see, the report generated detailed info about when the number of SEO pages peaked, a list of the top authors, and how much traffic they’ve generated:

content explorer in ahrefs

Content teams can also use this data to identify thought leaders in a space, determine what type of content is performing well, and replicate those content marketing strategies.

On top of that, you can also analyze the level of competition and demand for a specific niche. For example, you get a complete breakdown of your competitors and the value of their search traffic to help you better understand who’s doing well and who you need to emulate:

Authors report in ahrefs' content explorer

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3. Site explorer

Ahrefs Site Explorer gives you an overview of a specific site or page’s SEO performance.
It’s basically a dashboard filled with tons of juicy SEO-related data.

For this review, we decided to run JustReachOut through Ahrefs and this is what showed up:

site explorer tool in ahrefs

The report highlights things like:

  • Ahrefs rank: how much organic traffic a site or page is getting (determined by the quality of their backlink profile).
  • URL rating: how strong a page’s link profile is compared to other pages in Ahrefs database (on a 100-point scale).
  • Domain rating: how strong a website’s backlink profile is compared to other sites in Ahrefs database (on a 100-point scale).
  • Referring domains: total number of unique domains linking to your site.

Ahrefs Site Explorer also helps you monitor your site’s performance over time

In the graph below, you can see how JustReachOut’s rank position has changed over a period of three months. This data tells you if you’re going in the right direction.

rank position graph in ahrefs

The Site Explorer also shows you if your organic traffic is increasing or decreasing over time:

Organic Traffic Graph in ahrefs

Note: Ahrefs Site Explorer isn’t just useful to determine how well your own sites are doing. Use it to evaluate how well your competitor’s sites are doing to see what you could replicate! 

However, if you’re looking for a free Site Explorer alternative, Ahrefs also has a free Chrome and Firefox extension called Ahrefs SEO Toolbar that provides useful SEO data about the pages and websites you visit. 

With the Ahrefs SEO Toolbar extension, you can find a site’s broken links, get on-page SEO reports, and more.

4. Organic Search

This powerful feature lets you check out which keywords bring you the most value and what SEO keywords your competitors are targeting.

Simply enter the domain name or the site URL to see the organic keywords that drive traffic to a specific domain.

For example, here are the top keywords that JustReachOut is currently ranking for:

organic keywords report in ahrefs

As you can see, Organic Search also has tons powerful of filters like “keyword,” “keyword difficulty (KD),” and “volume” that make it easy for you to:

  • Find keywords that have a specific word or phrase.
  • Select a particular keyword difficulty.
  • Determine the keyword search volume.

Here are two ways to get the most out of organic searches:

1. Find room for improvement

Since organic searches give you insight into which keywords bring you the most volume and organic traffic, you can use this data to identify what pages you need to promote further and what needs extra work.

2. Learn from your competitors

Organic searches also let you see which keywords are bringing your competitors the most value. This way, you can see how you can use those keywords to your advantage and turn it into a lucrative keyword for yourself.

Remember, if your competitors are ranking for those keywords, so can you!

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5. Paid Search

If you’re a PPC marketer, you’re gonna love this one.

And if you’re not sure what PPC is, here’s a breakdown:

PPC stands for pay-per-click. 
It’s an internet marketing tactic where advertisers bid on a specific keyword to make sure their ad is placed at the top of the SERP.

Once someone clicks on their ad and gets sent to their site, they’ll have to pay the search engine (Google) a fee.

The Paid Search feature helps you keep an eye on your competitors and keep track of which paid keywords they’re targeting.

On top of that, you can use it to conduct some paid search traffic research.

In the image below, you can see which paid keywords Ahrefs themselves are currently targeting:

paid search keywords report in ahrefs

Here’s what Paid Search shows you:

  • Your competitors’ PPC keywords.
  • Your competitors’ PPC ad copies.
  • The top landing pages that your competitors are bidding for.
paid search filters in ahrefs

If your competitors are paying for a specific keyword, chances are that keyword is probably very valuable to them and/or is making them some good money. 

This means that it’s a keyword that you should probably try targeting yourself.

Looking at your competitors’ PPC ad copies can also help you write title tags and descriptions that increase your click-through ratio (a metric that tracks how many users clicked on a specific link out of the total users who viewed the ad).

And if you’re running paid campaigns yourself, Paid Search can help you monitor how you’re doing to determine if these ads are a worthy investment.

6. Rank Tracking

While Ahrefs is fantastic at helping you find opportunities, conduct competitor research, and more, you still need a way to determine if all your efforts are actually paying off.

Ahrefs Rank Tracker is a great way to monitor your keyword ranking performance and determine if your efforts are getting you to where you want to be.

To do this, just input or import a list of keywords, and list the URLs of the relevant pages.

The data will be presented in a graph to help you track your keyword ranking position over time.

In the rank tracking report below, you can see which SEO keywords you rank for, what your position is, how much organic traffic you’re getting, and a lot more:

rank tracker in ahrefs

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7. Backlink Checker

Ahrefs Backlink Checker shows you every backlink that a specific domain has.

All you have to do is enter the site’s URL to get their complete backlink profile.

For example, we added JustReachOut’s URL and here’s their backlink profile:

backlink profile report in ahrefs

This backlink profile report gives you a ton of data about your referring pages, including their domain rating, anchor text and backlink context, search traffic generated, and more.

So what’s so powerful about this backlink feature?
Well, firstly, you get tons of powerful filters.

These filters let you:

  • Group similar links.
  • Display one link per domain.
  • See link types like nofollow, dofollow, sitewide, and more.
  • Choose the type of platform, including forums, WordPress blogs, and more.
various backlink report filters in ahrefs

Secondly, Ahrefs’ backlink index is massive, and it’s updated consistently, which means you’ll never be left staring at outdated backlink data.

But that’s not all.
You can also view new, lost, and broken links. 

different backlink types in ahrefs

This way, you can easily track if a specific backlink you built still exists.

Do you have a ton of backlinks to pages that don’t exist? 
With Ahrefs Backlink Analysis features, you can easily identify your 404 pages and resolve the issue in one fell swoop:

broken backlinks report in ahrefs

But that isn’t all that backlink analysis is good for.

It’s also a great way to find link building opportunities. You can use this feature to identify who links to your competitors, and use this data to reach out to those site owners, especially if you’ve got better content.

And if you discover any 404 pages along the way, you can use this as a reason to break the ice and potentially build a long-term relationship with them.

8. Link Intersect

Not sure what backlink to build next?
Ahrefs Link Intersect feature is the perfect link building solution.

This link analysis feature shows you all the common backlinks that your competitors have, but you don’t.

For example, we’re going to check which domains link to Ahrefs’ competitors, but not to Ahrefs:

link intersect tool in ahrefs

Below is a list of 142,981 domains that are linking to Moz Pro and SEMrush, but not to Ahrefs (yet): 

link intersect domains in ahrefs

If Ahrefs’ competitors can secure those backlinks, what’s stopping Ahrefs from doing the same?

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9. Domain Comparison

Domain comparison lets you see how your website’s SEO metrics compare with your competitors. 

This way, you can see how well your site is performing in comparison to your competitors, identify whose backlink profile is strongest, and how you can improve your SEO strategy.

As you can see, this feature lets you compare up to five domains.

domain comparison tool in ahrefs

You can compare them against aspects like:

  • Domain rating 
  • URL rating 
  • Social share
  • Backlinks

For example, we took five popular SEO blogs and compared them here:

domain comparison of seo blogs

10. Site Audit 

Finally, Ahrefs Site Audit feature lets you do a technical SEO audit on any site.

Why’s this important?
Technical SEO helps site owners ensure that their site meets the technical requirements of search engines. In doing so, sites have a better chance of getting to the top of the search result.

When you run a site audit in Ahrefs, you’ll get an overview of a website’s overall technical SEO status, what issues you have and how to fix them.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of what the Site Audit highlights:

  • Crawled URLs distribution: see all the crawled URLs split into three categories: external, internal, and resources.
  • Crawl status of links found: see all the links discovered during the crawl split into three categories: crawled, uncrawled, blocked by robots.txt file.
  • Health score: see how many of your internal URLs don’t have errors (the closer to 100, the better).
  • Issues distribution: get a quick overview of the proportion of errors, warnings, and notices.
  • Error distribution: see internal URLs with and without errors

Here are some of the issues that’ll get flagged:

  • Duplicate, missing, or non-optimal length meta descriptions and title tags
  • Broken links (bad links that lead to 404 errors or the wrong place)
  • Orphan pages (pages that aren’t linked to any other page on your site)
  • Slow pages
  • Low word count
site audit tool in ahrefs

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Now that you know what Ahrefs can do for you, how much is all of this going to cost?

How Much Does Ahrefs Cost?

Here’s a breakdown of Ahrefs’ access subscription plans:

  • Lite plan ($99/seat or $82/month when paid annually):
    • Unlimited verified projects
    • Five non-verified projects
    • Monthly alerts
    • Seven-day update frequency
    • And more.
  • Standard plan ($179/seat or $149/month when paid annually):
    • 10 non-verified projects
    • 1,500 tracked keywords
    • Five-day update frequency
    • Weekly and monthly alerts
    • And more
  • Advanced plan ($399/three seats or $332/month when paid annually):
    • 25 non-verified projects
    • 5,000 tracked keywords
    • Daily, weekly, and monthly alerts
    • Three-day update frequency
    • And more
  • Agency plan ($990/five seats or $832/month when paid annually):
    • 100 non-verified projects
    • 10,000 tracked keywords
    • Daily, weekly, and monthly alerts
    • Three-day update frequency
    • And more

Additionally, if you opt for the annual plans, you get two months free, and there’s a seven-day free trial in the Ahrefs Lite and Standard plans.

The plan you choose depends entirely on your business requirements and budget.

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But before you sign up, here are two drawbacks you might want to know about: 

2 Limitations Of Using Ahrefs

While Ahrefs is a very comprehensive SEO solution, it does have a few drawbacks: 

1. No daily updates

As we mentioned above in this Ahrefs review, all four pricing plans don’t offer daily ranking updates.

It’s every seven days with the Lite plan, every five days with their Standard plan, and every three days with the higher plans.

Ideally, your rank tracker should update your rankings every day.

If SEO plays a significant role in your success, you’d want to keep an eye on how things are performing round the clock. You usually can’t afford to wait a minimum of 72 hours to see how things are doing.

And while SEO is most definitely a long-term game, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on how you’re doing frequently. Not to mention, if you’ve got clients who rely on these kinds of SEO metrics, you’ll need to update them regularly instead of asking them to wait weeks.

Additionally, as the more affordable plans update results so infrequently, you could be looking at inaccurate data while conducting your research, which could put a dent in your SEO efforts.

2. Limited PPC features

Although Ahrefs has PPC keyword reports, they only provide basic info like what PPC ads your competitors are buying and what SEO keywords they’re bidding on.

Ahrefs also doesn’t update their PPC data often, so you should use this number as an average.

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Are these drawbacks making you second-guess your decision to purchase Ahrefs?
Here are three competitors you could opt for instead:

Some Ahrefs Competitors

Here are three alternatives to Ahrefs that you might want to consider:

1. SEMRush

SEMRush is an SEO software that can do most of what Ahrefs can.

What gives SEMRush a great tool is its detailed PPC reports and metrics, which you can use to create entire PPC campaigns.

However, SEMRush only provides data for one search engine, Google, unlike Ahrefs.

2. Moz Pro

Need a great tool that can help you keep a close eye on competitor websites?
If you’re in a super competitive niche, Moz Pro’s competitive metrics could come in handy.

While the SEO tool also has essential features like a keyword research tool, custom reports, and rank tracking, they aren’t as comprehensive as Ahrefs. 

3. SpyFu

SpyFu is one of the more affordable SEO tool options. 

Similar to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, this SEO software gives you detailed insights into your competitors’ keyword strategies.

However, SpyFu is better suited to being an add-on tool for detailed domain analyses, instead of a fully-fledged, all-in-one digital marketing tool.

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The Final Verdict

As you can see from this Ahrefs review, Ahrefs is a great tool for website owners and agencies who are serious about their sites.

And while Ahrefs isn’t cheap, the software can do it all when it comes to SEO, provided you actually need most of the features it offers.  

However, when it comes to crafting a fantastic content strategy, it’s best to leave it to an SEO expert.

If you need help analyzing which keywords to target and how to boost your rankings, connect with the SEO experts at Startup Voyager. We can help you create an SEO campaign, implement your SEO strategy, and help you grow your traffic organically! 

About the author

Startup Voyager is a content and SEO agency helping startups in North America and Europe acquire customers with organic traffic. Our founders have appeared in top publications like Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc, Huffpost, Lifehacker, etc.

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