As the consensus in 2020 is that keyword research is still an essential part of SEO (see comments on the importance of keyword research here), if you want to do SEO the right way, you’ll need to pay for a keyword research tool — and Ahrefs is the main one. I personally used Ahrefs a fair bit to do backlink checks on competitor websites and my own, estimate search volume and traffic, and estimate how difficult it’ll be to rank for a given keyword, but only for 7 days while I had the free trial. As it’s on the pricy side at $99/month for the most basic plan, I preferred to go with the more affordable UberSuggest, which I plan on writing a review on later. Other keyword tools include SEMrush and KWFinder which we’ve also collected reviews for.
As my experience with Ahrefs is too limited at this stage to write a review myself, I turned to others to comment on how they like Ahrefs, and have published the best responses below. Here’s the query I sent out:
How’s your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research? What do you like about it and where does it come up short? How does it compare with other keyword research tools? The more detail you can share the better. Looking to hear from established SEO’s/internet marketers.
Below are all kinds of reviews and comments from Ahrefs from a variety of different SEO’s and internet marketers. If you’re thinking about paying for Ahrefs, these should definitely help you decide if it’s the right tool for you.
It's undeniable that Ahrefs remains to be the best site to check for backlinks and SEO performance. However, Ahrefs is a lot of excellent things rolled into one, but being a reliable keyword research tool is not one of them. I like to give credit when it's due, so I have to praise Ahrefs or its unique feature where it tells you how many backlinks you need to land at the top ten rankings in SERPs for a particular keyword.
There are much better options out there like KWFinder because it has the best easy-to-use user interface among others I have tried—these include Moz, SemRush, SERPStat, LonTail Pro, and more. The best feature of KWFinder is that it shows the keyword difficulty score right next to a particular keyword, which is a feature other keyword research tools can not emulate.
--Jeremy Owens, Seriously Smoked
My team and I have been using Ahrefs as our main keyword research tool for the past few years. To simply put it, Ahrefs gives you the full picture of how you can rank for any certain keyword. Their CPC and PPC metrics are very accurate in my experience, and their keyword difficulty metric allows us to understand how to best approach any given keywords from content and link building perspectives. Ahrefs keyword ideas are very useful, I love diving into the Questions tab, it allows me to get a feeling about the questions that searchers ask on search engines, which we can then cover in our post, or use them with FAQ schema to get more visibility on SERPs. About a year ago, Ahrefs added YouTube keyword data and a few other search engines to the Keyword Explorer tool. This feature is super useful if you're planning on leveling up your YouTube SEO game. However, the YT keyword data that Ahrefs has remains very limited.
Another Ahrefs keyword research data that I find very useful is the Traffic Share overview by domains and pages. For any keyword, Ahrefs can give you some estimates on the traffic share each page is getting, helping you better understand the SERP and the traffic share you can bring home with your top ranking.
--Amir Shahzeidi, Uscreen
How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research? It is my primary choice for SEO related research and I do not think there is a more effective tool available at the moment.
What do you like about it and where does it come up short?
I like how extensive it is and you can perform practically any sort of SEO research on it. However, if you want to see where your content piece ranks, Mangools is a better tool for that as Ahrefs does not show you rankings in real-time but shows you where it ranked the last time it got crawled.
How does it compare with other keyword research tools?
I would not compare it to other keyword research tools as such. Reason being, Ahref does not only specialize in keyword research. For example, I personally use the tool for content ideas through content explorer. Content explorer even shows you the amount of social shares your competitors have received on a particular piece.
Moreover, features like Site Explorer and Backlink Profile can help you chase after links earned by competitors in real-time and even identify broken links.
If i were to compare, I would compare it with SurferSEO as that tool has one great feature which Ahrefs lacks and that is the Content Editor which helps you with on-page optimization by identifying missing keywords etc.
With regards to keyword research, though, as mentioned Ahrefs gives you more information than you actually might need, which is good and bad I suppose.
One example of this is the CPS (Click per search) it gives against every keyword. Not many SEO experts consider this but it could actually be quite helpful. For example the keyword Apple may have a click per search of 0.5. That means 50% of the people who search Apple will actually click on a search result. So if the search volume is 10,000, 5.000 people will actually engage with the results.
This gives clarification regarding the traffic you should expect on your landing page and not get misled by the search volume of a particular keyword.
--Shayan Fatani, PureVPN
To the actual subject then, I currently use Ahrefs for our SEO and have a monthly subscription for it. Before starting at Trustmary I worked in a marketing agency and did SEO for clients, so I have quite a lot of experience in using different tools.
In the agency, we used mostly SEMRush, Ranktank.org, and keywordtool.io, but at the moment I prefer Ahrefs and Ubersuggest as my SEO tools (the main reason I prefer ubersuggest over keywordtool.io is pricing). In SEO I do pretty much everything else with Ahrefs except keyword research, which I do with Ubersuggest, so the shortcomings at least at my work are quite clear to me. I will first give you a broader answer and then specific answers to your exact questions.
So, in general, I like Ahrefs for keyword position tracking, checking competitors and finding websites and content that can be useful for link building purposes (I mostly do guest posting, but also skyscraper outreach).
For keyword research there are three problems for me with Ahrefs:
1. The suggestions it gives from the seed keywords are quite lackluster compared to other tools ubersuggest or keywordtool.io (not so many related keywords) and very badly organized
2. Does not almost work at all on some languages
3. The usability is a lot worse
*To give an example of the first point*. I could use some seed keyword like search engine optimization, or product marketing. Let's go with product marketing to demonstrate. So when I put product marketing to ubersuggest I get 373 suggestions and 2619 related, 34 questions and 27 prepositions. And all of these keywords are really about product marketing, so terms like product marketing, product marketing definition, Product marketing strategy...
Compare this to Ahrefs, where you get 26 754 keywords, but there is a lot of terms that are not relevant like define role, what is a product?....
The different categories Ahrefs has somewhat fix this problem (on the left), like phrase match, having the same term, also rank for, but the problem still exists and makes the work difficult.
*The second point* of ahrefs not really working in foreign languages is related to the first one as the problem that exists in English gets 100x worse.
So for example in Finnish if I use term like markkinointitoimisto, which means marketing agency, I get terms like this from ahrefs:
95% of the terms it gives have nothing to do with the term. Joensuu is a city in Finland. Konttori means office. A-tuottajat is a name of a company. Bermuda I guess a name of someplace...
And ubersuggest, on the other hand, seems to work on all languages super well, as an example from markkinointitoimisto, gives only relevant keywords.
And from what I have heard this is not only a problem that is with small languages like Finnish, it exists also on relatively big languages like German (though I am not 100% sure on this one as don't personally speak it and second-hand info).
*The third point* is more of a personal preference I guess, but still, something that is relevant for me. In Ubersuggest it gives the ranking pages from Google on the right as you click a keyword (as you can see from a picture above). Ahrefs does also have this option under the SERP button but the ubersuggest feature is built so that it is easier to jump between keywords and see their SERP results. Just a small thing but still something that makes a difference for me.
*For things that Ahrefs does better*
Well, there are also upsides for doing keyword research in Ahrefs. I still use it sometimes for figuring out seed keywords as it gives a broader perspective on different related keywords (that might be relevant). Also if you want to check trough the competitions link profiles for different pages on a certain keyword Ahrefs is, in my opinion, the best tool there is for it in the market.
*Well I think that covers most of it, will give quick answers to your exact questions still below:*
*1. How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research? * Lackluster, but aside from keyword research, an excellent tool for SEO.
*2. What do you like about it and where does it come up short? * Usability in different languages, the relevance of keyword suggestions and just the UX-design.
*3. How does it compare with other keyword research tools? * I personally like Ubersuggest the best, Keywordtool.io second, Semrush third and ahrefs fourth. (Have not used semrush for a while so might be outdated with this.)
--Shayan Fatani, PureVPN
I think Ahrefs is a great starting point for researching new keywords and topics. It gives you a good general overview of how popular a specific topic is in your industry, with enough data so you can decide whether it's worth targeting or not. If there are several keyword variations, Ahrefs will be able to give you a thorough breakdown of them all - ranging from high-value/high-competition keywords down to low-volume/longtail keywords. You can then use this data to begin shaping the content.
However, once the content is published, I often find a few discrepancies with the search volume that Ahefs provided - with it either being far too high or far too low. There have been plenty of times when an article has ranked well for a keyword that Ahrefs said had a decent search volume, only for the number of Impressions in Google Analytics to be much lower. The opposite has also happened, with Analytics showing many Impressions for a keyword that Ahrefs didn't rank highly - or sometimes didn't show at all.
I find that this issue often happens when using other keyword research tools as well. However, I personally prefer the filter options in Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer tool, and I also make use of their other features. Therefore, Ahrefs is always my starting point for keyword research, but I place much less importance on it when I go to update any pages.
--Adam Lumb, Casino-Professor.com
More than any other tool, I've found Ahrefs displays all relevant keyword information in a way that's easy to read at a glance. I don't have to waste time digging through menus or even customizing what I want. It gives me the most useful information right out of the box, including the average number of searches, how difficult it'll be for me to rank with that keyword, and what the CPC is right now for advertising on Google.
I've also gotten a lot of mileage out of the return rate metric, which I haven't seen in other programs. It displays how often users repeatedly search for keywords, which can be great if you're looking to get your site listed for keywords that have regular significance, or at least seasonal relevance.
The price for the software is decent, for what it is. I have to say if I was *just *using it for keywords, though, I wouldn't bother. It's robust, but there are other programs just as robust -- at least for keyword research. I use Ahrefs for backlink relevance tracking and some other features, so it's worth it to me. But those just wanting a keyword analyzer may want to look into a cheaper option.
--Dan Bailey, WikiLawn
I switched to using Ahrefs for keyword research when I realised the data from other free tools was too inaccurate or limited. I've been using it for a number of years now - whereas previously I was only using Ahrefs for it's backlink data, I've now been able to use it as a more all-in-one solution for a range of services.
I like the way keyword information is presented to me - I can enter a keyword, or a topic, and it will show me a list of questions (and search volumes) based on that topic, which are usually pretty accurate and relevant.
I also like the way that Ahrefs inputs an overview of the SERP landscape for any keyword you enter - so you can quickly see which other sites are ranking for that keyword, plus search volumes, number of backlinks to their site, and so on.
Because Ahrefs and most of the other SEO tools out there are based on user clickstream data (taken from software which tracks and collates real user search data), I do think that search volumes can often be inaccurate due to their limited sample size. I like Ahrefs because it seems the most accurate when comparing against others - within Moz for example the search volumes always seem incredibly low for some keywords. For SEO's one of the main criteria of a keyword research tool is an accurate search volume estimate, so this is a really crucial selling point for me.
--Matt Tutt, Matt Tutt Digital Marketing
Overall, I think Ahrefs is the best keyword research tool out there. In my opinion, I love the learn interface, the ability to quickly perform SEO site audits, and the keyword research tool that lets you search by questions, phrases, and related keywords. If I'm analyzing a competitor's site, I just plug it into the platform and it tells me how they are making money so I can formulate a roadmap for my own site.
First of all, it's not cheap. The $99 plan is good for small websites, but limits your daily searches. Most site owners using analytics check them regularly, and the average search engine optimizer will find the $179 monthly plan is best. I use this plan. If you're an agency or you run a team with multiple people, you have to spend $399 or $999, depending on features desired. I've also found that the website traffic is almost always wrong. Actual traffic is nearly always double what Ahrefs estimates.
Ahrefs Specific Features
1. See Top 10 SERP (search engine results pages) traffic estimations
2. Keyword ranking history
3. Newly discovered keyword list
*Ahrefs vs Other Tools*
The other big platform SEO agencies use is SEMrush. I've used this platform but didn't like it. This is best for smaller shops and single-owner websites. It focuses mainly on finding competitors, tracking Domain Rating (DR), and seeing a site's best keywords.
SEMrush is basically Google Keyword Planner with a few extra features, with a less user-friendly interface. While Ahrefs can be overwhelming until you get to know it, Semrush is a little easier to use. I found their traffic estimator to be far more accurate than Ahrefs, too.
Finally, SEMrush has a much better pay per click (PPC) tool. Ahrefs lets you see
Who should use Ahrefs:
- SEO agencies and internet marketers that want as much data as possible
- Someone wanting to keep a close eye on exactly what their competitors are doing
- Those who value a clean interface
- Affiliate and internet marketers with large software budgets
Who should use SEMrush:
- Marketers and agencies wanting an easy to use tool without fancy features
- Those seeking a tool mainly for keyword planning, and less for finding backlinks
- Those running in-depth pay per click campaigns
Ahrefs and its competitors do essentially the same thing, but focus on different strengths. If your traffic mainly comes from PPC campaigns, then you're better off using different tools. But if you get your traffic by targeting organic search engine traffic, Ahrefs is second to none.
--Andrew Helling, REthority.com
Ahrefs has helped us find many long-tail keywords with business potential that would have been harder to find in other ways. But what I love most about their keyword research tool is that it gives you some hints on what keyword ideas match your business goal, how difficult it is to rank on them, and what traffic you could achieve on your page.
Keyword research is not only about volume, but also about correlating different types of data that help you plan to deliver quality traffic to your website.
Compared to other tools, Ahrefs provides more details about the competitors you are going against by targeting the same keywords as they do. You can learn more about their link profile, how much traffic they might be generating, what other keyword ideas they use, how many backlinks they have, and more.
For example, you might be targeting a keyword that doesn’t have too much search volume. But, by looking at your competitors in the Keyword Explorer, you will see that some of them generate more traffic just because they are using other keywords with higher search volume that you missed. But keep in mind that your mission when doing SEO for business is to generate sales, so targeting keywords with the highest search volume is not always beneficial.
--Olivian Stoica, 123FormBuilder
I have used several of the top keyword research tools. Ahrefs far exceeds all of them. I have used Ahrefs for 5 years now and I will typically have Ahrefs open in a browser window at all times.
My opinion is that Ahrefs, SemRush and Ubersuggest are the top tools for keyword research. There are some others that offer browser a browser add on.
Here is what makes Ahrefs the best for me:
* Track individual keywords
* Track total organic keywords
* The ability to filter and find what competitor keywords that are ranking and I am not
* The content gap tool is very useful in finding what I don't rank for
* Keyword explorer helps me to determine what keywords to focus on
* Ahrefs allows me to track my campaigns and see how my keywords are moving up or down in the SERPS.
--Doug Mitchell, insurancequotes2day.com
I love using Ahrefs so there's probably a ton I can say, and they do most things very well. But in the interest of hopefully not repeating things others might, I'll try to share a few comments I hope are uncommon.
- I love the fact that you can export keyword results along with the SERPs to do faster analysis on bulk data in Excel. It is kind of annoying that you can only export 10 results though. For example, I recently tried to do an analysis of service providers in a particular industry by city. But because you can only export 10 lines from the SERP, you end up getting a lot less useful data when the majority of the SERP is occupied by Indeed, Yelp, Clutch, etc - which for my purposes were useless results. If I could choose to export more lines, it would be extremely helpful.
- When filtering through large keyword sets, you can only select to include all of a few keywords you provide to the filter, or any. There's no option to make more complex filtering than that. That means that the handling of plurals can be a bit annoying with large keyword sets. For example, I want keyword data around Womens/Girls apparel and specifically want to compare shirts. Ideally I'd set up a filter like must contain 'womens' OR 'girls' and must contain 'shirt' OR 'shirts'. But the only option is ANY of the 4 keywords. That means going through lines like white shirt or womens pants. Obviously you can work around this based on your seed keywords or doing separate filters. But it's a pain when you have to do a lot of research, and Excel can do a better job of filtering the original data set in that case.
- Local result data isn't the best. You can't get results for local searches unless the city name is included. So even though people in Houston are searching garage near me, you can only get results for garage houston - which often people in Houston won't be searching since Google already knows to deliver local results. And because the data is typically presented on a monthly basis, it can mean that data Ahrefs presents for garage houston is extremely limited, with no SERP results either. They can give data by country. So I can separately look at keyword data for Americans searching personal injury lawyer vs Canadians searching the same. But it's a lot harder to find out how many people in California are searching personal injury lawyer. Especially since the word California will rarely be in the search term.
--Abir Syed, upcounting.com
I've used Ahrefs for the past 2-3 years, pretty much every day. In my case, the experience was great. First of all, Ahrefs is very reliable. I experienced maybe one or two downtimes in my history of usage and these were very short lags. Secondly, their tool is very powerful and you can find endless keyword opportunities if you just spend enough time digging deeper and deeper into the results. Thirdly, Ahrefs automates a lot of things and make them very simple. They offer dozens of filters that make the whole job so much easier compared to the usual search or analyzing scrape data through, e.g. Excel. Of course, features such us Hot Pages and the ability to go through your competitors' websites is an unprecedented thing to have. Without it, I (and many other marketers) would have an extremely harder job when trying keywords that are worth fighting for. Overall, I really enjoy using the tool, plus their brand is really cool. Their email marketing is on point and they run two YouTube channels that are both entertaining and helpful in terms of SEO and running a SaaS. And, of course, their blog is great and some of their articles have helped my kick start my journey with SEO.
--Jakub Kliszczak, channels.app
I have been using Ahrefs for the past 4 years, and it has been my go-to suite for everything SEO.
Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs', is phenomenal in terms of both the database and customization options. It has a huge database of 3 billion keywords which is regularly updated.
By using Keywords Explorer it is easier for me to find commercial keywords, as the tool even shows the average Cost Per Click an advertiser is paying to get clicks on their ads. This makes me certain that the keyword I am opting for will not only drive traffic but it can also generate revenue for my website.
To further expand my keyword research I use a trick to find long-tail keywords. After entering the seed keyword for example hosting, then apply the keyword volume filter, which I tend to set to minimum 1500. Then the next filter pretty much does the job. I set word count to minimum 5 and I get dozens of keywords with high search volume and low keyword difficulty, hence easy to rank for.
--Muhammad Farasat Khan, IsItWP
I love Ahrefs and I use it daily for a variety of SEO related tasks, including extensive keyword research.
A couple of features I really like:
The keyword difficulty information is very helpful. When researching lots of keywords the difficulty indicator is a good and quick point of reference for how hard the task will be. Along with that, I'll look at the SERP results for a particular keyword and analyze the top few results and see what their major keywords are to get a better idea of who is ranking and why. This helps provide context for the keyword and can even serve as a way to get other keyword ideas. It also shows me what kind of pages my competition is ranking for.
I personally prefer Ahrefs over Moz, Ubersuggest and other tools. Ahrefs has really great support, I've used it plenty and they publish blogs and videos that walk you through using their tool.
I've been overall very happy using the tool, I did a lot of research before committing to the purchase and it's been super helpful.
--Dan Martin, linkasaur.us
How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research? - My experience with Ahrefs has been pretty good so far. I'd say it's the best paid tool out there for keyword research.
What do you like about it and where does it come up short? I really like Ahrefs' ability to show broken links to a website. This allows me to put my competitors in the search box and see all their broken 404 pages. Then I reach out to the people that link to that broken page to replace it with a link to my page. It's a great opportunity for backlinking.
As I'm on Ahrefs' lite plan, I don't like how limiting it can be. Sometimes I'm not able to do enough extensive analysis for my topics as there are only 25 reports (searches) you can use per day.
How does it compare with other keyword research tools? - Ahrefs is on a whole new level if you compare it to other free keyword tools. Regarding paid tools... I think it compares well with SEMrush but I still think that Ahrefs tops the rankings.
--Momchil Koychev, Codegiant
Huge fan of Ahrefs! Before using them, I'd have to manually go on Google search and guess the keyword difficulty. Now I input the keyword and the tool immediately tells me how difficult it will be to rank. Their keyword research tool also shows total backlinks and unique domain links which is second to none for a SEO who wants to replicate and improve upon results. We use this tool along with our own content marketing to get clients on the first page of Google for profitable keywords across industries. The value for what we pay is unbelievable. I know this sounds like an ad, but it's not. Ahrefs is just that good for executing keyword research and a solid SEO campaign.
--Brian Robben, Robben Media
Ahrefs is probably one of the best tools for keyword research. Much like all third party SEO tools, their numbers are not always 100% accurate, but in our experience Ahrefs is close enough that those small discrepancies are not really noticeable. Where Ahrefs really shines is in competitor-based keyword research. They have a great platform for plugging in your competitors and seeing some of the more obscure long tail keywords they have captured. This is particularly helpful for us when researching for clients that have a relatively new business, as those are the keywords they can see progress in much faster. Semrush and Moz offer very solid alternatives as well. Semrush is probably equivalent for keyword research but not quite as effective for judging a domain's authority and how competitive search terms are. Moz is a bit better for judging website authority and guessing at where you site will be able to rank, but Moz doesn't seem as strong for general keyword research as Semrush and Ahrefs.
--Alexander M. Kehoe, Caveni
One of Ahrefs strong points for keyword research begins with its Site Explorer tool. It’s incredibly convenient for tracking personal, client, or competitor keywords. Naturally, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer feature is the best keyword tool available today. They have a growing database of over seven billion which is the largest of its kind. I also find the advanced metrics like return rate, click per search, click percentage, and other very practical. The keyword suggestions save a lot of time when coming up with search term and content ideas. The keyword difficulty score is great for discovering terms you can easily rank for relative to domain authority, as well.
I would say that the one drawback to Ahrefs is the expensive price tag and lack of a free demo. There is a $1/day trial, but it’s nice to instantly jump into a platform like SEMrush or Ubersuggest without having to enter your credit card. I’ve also found that the number of keywords you can track to be low compared to other tools like Spyfu which includes tens of thousands versus Ahrefs Basic plan only tracking 500. Then, of course, there is somewhat of a learning curve because the extensive amount of features and power of the software itself.
--Carmine Mastropierro, Carminemastropierro.com
I have used many free and low cost keyword research tools. Ahrefs is the only subscription based kw research tool I've used.
There is absolutely no comparison between Ahrefs and any of the other kw research tools that I have used.
I am enamored with it's breath of resources.
My favorite sections of the tool include:
Site Explorer: I can immediately look at competitors top pages and top keywords to discover keywords which my site might rank for. This gives me a list of important content ideas as well as the likelihood of the page ranking in the top 10 Google search results.
Content gap: This feature allows me to compare my articles with those of competitors to find out if I'm missing important kw and subjects within my content.
Rank tracker: Allows me to look at my two websites and determine which keywords I'm ranking for. I can see which of my articles are shown in Google snippets and find out which articles are improving their rankings and which are declining. I use this information to improve my content.
The instructional videos and blog are superb tools to learn how to best use the product.
My only complaint is that it is so feature-rich that I doubt that I'll ever be able to use all of the platform's capacity.
--Barbara A. Friedberg, Robo-Advisor Pros
After two years of extensive Ahrefs use in my job, I can say that I can’t imagine any other tool would tempt me to stray. Of course, I haven’t tried other SEO tools, not even on a trial basis, because I don’t want to mess around with my productivity by learning a new bit of software on the fly. So here is what I really like about the thing. However you want to slice and dice or mix and match keywords, Ahrefs is there to do the heavy lifting. The site explorer and backlink profiles are particularly handy for my keyword research, which is based on finding high traffic / low competition opportunities for content marketing and guest posting. The only complaint I can muster is that the very basic package costs right at $100 per month. Of course, when used properly, the return is much, much greater.
--Carla Diaz, Broadband Search
I was in SEO and digital marketing for years. I still use Ahrefs extensively. Here's my detailed review:
*The detailed bar charts and other data visualizations presented when you do a keyword search - everything you need, and sometimes a bit more, to help you analyze quickly and easily.
*The SERP breakdown feature in the Metrics section allows you to see exactly who is ranking for what
*The search volume feature gels nicely with Google KW Planner's interface that groups queries by volume
*Difficulty score reporting, made up of several other scores, so you know which terms will be easier to rank for
*It's a bit pricey compared to other services available
*It's a bit bare bones in nature. You'd better know what you are doing before you venture forth with it.
*KW suggestions leave a bit lacking
*Lack of list building function. Better than it used to be, but nowhere near what some others offer.
--Vinay Amin, Eu Natural
1. How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research?
We've been very pleased with Ahrefs at our agency. One of the first things that people ask my agency about when they come to us, is simply Why si competitor XYZ ranking above me? For answering that question, we've found no better tool than Ahrefs. We looked at Moz, SEMrush, Raven, and more, but found that Ahrefs could provide us with more detail on the link-building strategy of our competition. It easily provides us with the full link network, improving our own link-building capabilities in a scaleable manner.
2. What do you like about it and where does it come up short?
Again, Ahrefs is exceptional when it comes to competitive link-building research.
Personally, I've found that the on-site page recommendations are a little bit weaker than the competition. While it certainly has some of those features in its toolset, they're noticeable less complete than most SEO tools', and so we have to be a bit extensive in how we actually analyze the code on the website.
3. How does it compare with other keyword research tools?
We've found it's really exceptional with keyword research. It is great at identifying which words we have a good opportunity to target with our client's websites, particularly when consider their own website's authority compared to the competition.
--Alexa DeKalb, Search & Social Marketing Agency
Overall, Ahrefs is a fantastic SEO solution that excels at keyword research. Ahrefs' subscriptions start at $99 per month, which is an attractive price given the breadth of tools included in the platform.
There are several ways to do keyword research using Ahrefs. The top three are the keywords explorer, content gap analysis, and competitive research. To use the keywords explorer, you enter a root keyword. Ahrefs displays all the necessary information about the keyword including search volume, estimated CPCs and keyword difficulty. Ahrefs also surfaces hundreds of keywords related to the root keyword. A content gap analysis allows you to find keywords that rank well for other websites, but not your own. This is an effective way to find the keywords that work best for your competitors. Finally, Ahrefs allows you to see the top organic keywords for any individual web page. This is an efficient way to see all the keywords related to a specific web page and its topic.
Ahrefs is definitely one of the top keyword research solutions. One of its major shortcomings is that it limits the number of keywords shown in its reports. For example, with the $99 subscription, the content gap analysis only shows you the top 10 keywords. When looking at organic keywords for an individual page, it only shows keywords where the page ranks in the top 20 search results. To avoid this issue, you can purchase a more expensive Ahrefs subscription. Alternatives like SEMrush do offer a greater number of results for a similarly priced subscription.
--Bruce Hogan, SoftwarePundit
I have been a professional SEO and affiliate marketer since 2004 and have used more keyword research and search engine optimization analysis tools than I can even remember.
Until Ahrefs came along, I used a suite of probably a dozen different tools at the same time to accomplish everything I needed to do my job effectively including a combination of Moz, SEM Rush, Google Keyword Planner, Longtail Pro, and Majestic. They all had their own particular holes in their indexes and since I tend to work in competitive and cutting edge industries, my keywords tended to be in their index coverage holes most of the time. Ahrefs came along with a massive index of information, and replaced them all except SEM Rush, which still has some important features that Ahrefs does not.
The best feature of Ahrefs is that it doesn't only give search volume for keywords, but it actually tells you how many searchers actually click on an organic listing, which is not the same because increasingly, Google pollutes the organic rankings with ads and rich snippets. Two keywords that have the same search volume could have a 10x difference in actual clicks.
The major negative for Ahrefs for keyword research compared to SEM Rush is that the latter shows Google PPC ads for the keyphrases, which is really important for many people who do organic SEO as well as Google Ads campaigns. Having both at your disposal at the same time is really helpful, and not having this data is a negative for Ahrefs.
Keyword research is only one aspect of what makes Ahrefs great, and if I could only have one SEO research tool it would definitely be Ahrefs.
--Nick Mitchell, Coin Clarity
Everyone in the SEO space knows that Ahrefs is a premium backlink checker. But what most don't realize is that Ahrefs is also a premium keyword research tool. In fact, they're so good that they easily compete with the best (and the best keyword tool in my opinion is SEMrush).
Here's how I use Ahrefs for keyword research.
#1- Finding pages with very few backlinks and a lot of Google rankings
When I see a page that has only a couple of links yet ranks for hundreds of keywords, I rejoice, because that means I just found a bunch of very easy keywords to rank for. So I dissect the page that ranks and try to outdo it with a much better page.
This method works even if the page currently ranking is on a powerful domain. In that case I just need to get significantly more links to beat it, because Google ranks pages, and not websites.
#2- Finding untapped niches with Ahrefs keyword tool
So, when I see a low authority site (anything below 30 DR is low) ranking for a tonne of keywords and pulling significant monthly traffic from Google, I dig deeper to see what's happening. Usually it's a new niche I wasn't aware of and one that I can tap into quite easily.
Because if a weak site ranks for so many keywords, then these queries don't require a lot of authority to be conquered. They are easy pickings.
Finally, the one thing I don't like about Ahrefs keyword tool is that their KW difficulty scores tend to be too low.
--Nikola Roza, nikolaroza.com
Over the last year we've had subscriptions to Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz and Ahrefs is the only one we still pay for. For keyword research we have found that their results are the most interpretable and therefore actionable. Ahrefs explicility translates their difficulty score into an estimate of how many backlinks you'll need to hit the front page for a given keyword. The other tools give a difficulty score that can only be compared relatively against the difficulty of other keywords.
We also found their keyword suggestions were more effective. As a test we plugged a primary keyword we wanted to rank for into both Ahrefs and SEMRush. We then analyzed the top 50 SERP results for that keyword and looked at the top 10 other keywords those pages were ranking for. Of those 10 keywords, 8 were recommended as keyword recommendations in Ahrefs while only 3 were recommended in SEMRush. We've seen similar strong performance for Ahrefs relative to Moz.
--Stephen Greet, BeamJobs
How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research?
I gradually learned SEO by different experiments and tricks. At first, I used the free tools, but then I got the subscription of the paid ones. I have used 2-3 other tools before Ahrefs, but it is the one that holds the same position in the SEO world as Amazon in e-commerce.
The usage of keywords kept on changing in SEO, but they always remained the strongest pillars to level up the SEO game.
I am glad that Ahrefs has an exceptional site-specific and internet-wide crawling capability that saved me a lot of time. It made me able to come up with optimized and effective keywords to achieve the top positions in the search engine results.
What do you like about it, and where does it come up short?
The best thing I like about Ahrefs keyword research explorer is the detailed information with interactive data visuals. They have gradually improved their keyword exploring features.
It is like getting a review of every sub-area related to the potential keywords. It happens because their algorithm runs on a massive database of approximately 7 billion keywords, and it is refreshed every month. So, each month our strategies keep on improving according to the latest search trends.
The feature I admire the most is “clicks” metrics. I do not want to target the keywords with the higher search volumes if they are not clicked in the same ratio. Ahrefs shows the keyword potential clicks, which helps us in estimating our revenue generation through a particular keyword.
Along with it, I have not seen any other tool providing the maximum details about keywords. Most of the tools offer basic data i.e., keyword research volume and difficulty score. But, Ahrefs also shows the detailed metrics, including % of clicks and % age of paid clicks against the keyword. It assists me in understanding whether the specific keyword is an excellent option to get organic traffic, or I need to put it in the list of potential paid keywords.
There are three stages of sales in inbound marketing. At first, we have to be aware of the clients; at the second, we have to rank ourselves in their consideration list, and at the third, the conversion happens. This great tool filters the keywords based on these sale stages as well. So, we could align them with our sales team goals.
Things are running so fast; we do not have enough time to spy our competitors manually. The “content gap” feature tells us all the keywords on which our competitor is performing well.
I think Ahrefs is not an ideal tool for local SEO, as it does not drill down at the city level. In a situation like COVID, people prefer their nearby businesses. So, it is an area in which improvement could be made.
I want to get the most out of Ahrefs, but they have daily keyword research limits. I wish they would increase the limit so that our SEO processes would become better.
How does it compare with other keyword research tools?
The tool I have used before Ahref is KWfinder, so I am eligible to compare both of them. KWfinder is a smaller tool and works best for small businesses. They provide excellent value against money. However, it is not suitable for the large businesses and websites. Such businesses need every detail about the keywords like Ahrefs generates. No doubt, Ahrefs is pricier than KWfinder. Still, it provides a ton of data that is not available on KWfinder.
The leading information KWfinder provides is an only rating of keywords, CPC (cost per click), suggestions for alternate keywords, and keyword difficulty. It is an excellent place to start for beginners but not the expert's thing.
I find one benefit of KWfinder over Ahrefs that it splits down the Keyword research to the city level. Other than this, Ahrefs is a winner in every regard.
--Werner Jorgensen, Heatxperts
Here is my analysis of Ahrefs, given my experience with it for the past 3 years.
Ahrefs has the best backlink database of all the SEO tools out there. I rely a lot on it whenever I want to spy on my competitors. Things like how they acquire their backlinks and if I can replicate that. Oftentimes, I find out that many of my competitors are getting new dofollow backlinks but can't figure out why. Without Ahrefs, I wouldn't know that they acquire those links using the Skyscraper technique from Brian Dean. Furthermore, Ahrefs also helps me with finding any broken links on my competitors' website. They probably aren't aware of that and those are great linkbuilding opportunities.
Another excellent thing about Ahrefs is its Content Gap analysis. I can input my domain and a bunch of other competing websites. After a few minutes, I can know which keyword that I haven't had an article for but the other sites already had. This helps me plan my content production ahead of time and slowly bridge the gap between my site and others.
Speaking of keyword, Ahrefs' Ranktracker is another excellent feature. What it does is to regularly check my position within Google SERP for any given keyword that my website is ranking for. Great way to keep track of things to see how well I'm doing and whether or not I need any adjustments.
Keyword research is Ahrefs' weakness. I personally feel that it isn't great compared to its main rival - SEMRush. SEMRush has a more robust keyword research report than Ahrefs. You can also go into more details with SEMRush while Ahrefs offers less than that.
That said, Ahrefs does have SERP Volatility. It basically showcases how often a new page can get into the top 5 positions for a specific keyword or how volatile of a particular SERP. If the volatility is high, that keyword is easier to rank whereas harder if the volatility is low. This feature is minor compared to SEMRush but I feel like it's some sort of fact-checker that helps me make a decision. Therefore, I often use Ahrefs along with SEMRush when it comes to keyword research.
If you want a thorough and up-to-date backlink analysis, Ahrefs is definitely the tool in my opinion. The tool also simplifies its interface and make it easy for users to navigate through it. It only took me an afternoon to get used to Ahrefs.
Another thing I like is the ability to filter/customize the report. I can do it beforehand inside the Ahrefs' interface before exporting it to my computer. Data export is another neat thing. Mind you, Ahrefs isn't cheap so if I can just sign up for one month, do all my research, and export them all to my laptop, that's a life-saver for sure.
--Thinh Phan, BBQInProgress.com
I have used Ahrefs extensively. In fact, it's my main keyword research tool and I think it really stands out from the competition. First off, it generates a huge number of useful keyword ideas when you're looking for good topics. Oftentimes, these can run into the thousands, more than enough to keep any SEO busy. Second, its keyword difficulty score isn't perfect but it's given me the most reliable indicator I've found among keyword tools. When I first started doing keyword research I used SEMRush but found it's keyword difficulty score to be inaccurate and erratic by comparison. Its SERP analysis is very rich as well, providing data on organic traffic and keywords, backlinks, and ranking, which give you all the info you need to dive into what your competitors are doing and decide if it's an area you want to compete in.
There aren't many negatives but Ahrefs has lots of features and depth so it does take some time to learn to use effectively. Also, it's pretty expensive starting at $99 for the Lite plan, though this is plenty to get started. Overall though, there's a good reason this is the tool of choice for most professional SEOs and it's worth the investment.
--Donovan Gow, House and Tool
Ahrefs is the only SEO tool I use and after over a decade of doing SEO, I can say that it's by far the best keyword tool there is on the market. What I love about Ahrefs is the fact that it has everything keyword researchers would need while also including constant updates and improvements. Comparing it to close competitors such as SEMrush, I have to say that they don't have as many keyword features and are not even near as accurate when it comes to results.
I think the only thing that's missing is youtube keyword targeting as compared to other data and analysis tools like VidIQ. There are lots of youtubers out there now and it would be a great additional focus for Ahrefs to develop something specific for the Youtuber community.
--Sergei Belous, upflip.com
I really like using the Ahrefs SEO tool. It comes with a ‘Keyword explorer’ service which provides its users with detailed information on each keyword. Besides that, I find its option to filter the list of keywords suggestions by keyword difficulty and keyword volume super useful while researching new keywords.
Apart from the ‘Keyword explorer’ function, Ahrefs also has many other features and is mostly known to be one of the most powerful tools for backlink analysis. Even better, Ahrefs tells you exactly how many backlinks you need to rank in the top 10 for a certain keyword. Amazing, right?
SEMRush and Ubersuggest tools (which I also use from time to time) don’t offer such an option, and frankly speaking, they come with many limitations comparing to Ahrefs. Yet, the biggest advantage of these tools is that they provide the user with many free features, whereas Ahrefs is fully paid software.
Moreover, when it comes to link building, I prefer Ahrefs to Google for example. With this tool, I don’t need to deal with all these search queries, filtering the results, etc. Ahrefs is one of the most useful tools I know that makes it possible to create a huge list of link prospects. Ahrefs enables me to automate the entire process and save lots of time.
--Oksana Chyketa, BreatheWeb.com
I use Ahrefs almost daily for my websites and blogs I run. It has helped me rank on the first page for my current sites and also find new niches and open opportunities for new sites I might start.
I spend a lot of time is the Keyword Explorer tool. You’re able to input any word that you would like to rank for on your website and it will tell you many different keyword ideas. You have the ability to match the phrase directly, only queries in question form, and the tool even offers search suggestions for new ways to rank for the term.
The other tool I use a lot in Ahrefs is the Site Explorer. I can find any of my competitors’ websites and it will give me their top ranking pages, where they rank for certain keywords, and also where they get most of their backlinks from. This gives you many different opportunities to get a leg up on your competition.
Many people suggest that the Keyword Explorer tool can be replaced by free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner but I’ve found that Ahrefs gives some of the most accurate data out there instead of a range of searches like these free tools.
The only “shortcoming” when it comes to Ahrefs is the price.. The basic plan comes out expensive for most new website owners and once you get very active, you might have to upgrade your plan to an even pricier one.
Even though it does seem expensive compared to other keyword research tools, the team and developers are always changing and updating the tool to help their users even more which makes me happy as a paying customer.
--Joseph Sleek, Learn How to Stream
I really like Ahrefs for keyword research. I've used it and SEMrush pretty extensively and Ahrefs just has that it factor that makes it an engaging and enjoyable tool to use.
I think a big part of that is the design investment. They don't have a designer in-house, so they asked a top agency for help early in the company's history, and it really shows.
The other part is that because the software is so focused on SEO (rather than SEO *and* PPC like SEMrush), they really nailed down a few key functionalities--keyword researching being one, and link analysis being the other. The interface feels very focused compared to SEMrush's plethora of navigation and feature options.
In Ahrefs it's really easy to enter one word and fall down a rabbit hole of possibilities using questions and also rank for. I also like the keyword list management. Overall just really easy to use.
I actually started out my career using SEMrush exclusively, but then I tried AHREFs and it's now my go-to tool of choice.
The biggest downside of the software is that it's not the best for B2B applications. This isn't necessarily exclusive to Ahrefs, but pretty much all keyword data below 1000 searches per month is often inaccurate due to limited clickstream data.
There are several cases I can point to where Ahrefs might estimate a certain search volume for a specific, low-volume term, but the reality is much different when the content goes live.
And worse, sometimes this inaccuracy is for highly valuable terms. For example, the term enterprise cybersecurity companies has an estimate of 0-10 searches per month in Ahrefs, which makes sense because there probably aren't a huge volume of people looking for that type of solution at any point in time.
BUT, even one sale of such a solution is worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, if Ahrefs is off by even 50 searches per month, that could be the difference between a million dollars of revenue or more.
So now if you're doing keyword research, it feels wrong to not use the tool at all, but you're potentially paying hundreds of dollars a month for Ahrefs and you can't REALLY trust it. And right now, the B2B content marketing arena has a lot of opportunity, and this tool isn't serving that need.
So overall, when you're a content marketer like me, Ahrefs is great when it works, but sometimes it just doesn't and that can be a bit frustrating.
--Josh Piepmeier, MoreyCreative.com
Ahrefs's keyword research tool provides a comprehensive look across many countries and various search engines. SEMrush's keyword overview tool, in comparison, just focuses on Google rankings around the world. Whereas Ahrefs splits out their reports across more niche engines including YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu & variety of other international search engines. This is helpful for more detailed segmentation, especially if you were working to expand into other territories that may not use Google as the default search provider.
One of my favourite features in Ahref's keyword report is their metrics comparing how often organic results are selected over PPC ads, which allows the user to draw some of the following conclusions based on the term they are researching. For example, is this term lower down in your business' or competitor's funnel (more of a research topic requiring a resource to be created instead of an advert from a landing page) or is the competition's PPC copy particularly weak? (allowing you to set up a campaign with improved copy/better service offering).
They've done well to now also include historic data as part of their standard pricing plan for this feature, showing month by month results since 2017. You can further delve into this if you know what keywords competitors were bidding on in a given month & contrast this against a tool like Spyfu to see what ad copy was performing very well historically. SEMrush tend to limit how much historic data they give you on their standard plan so these insights are one of the reasons I find Ahrefs to be stronger for keyword research.
The most obvious weakness I can point out about Ahrefs vs SEMrush in their keyword research tools is that Ahrefs makes a bold claim on their keyword difficulty scale, in that they give you an idea of the number of backlinks you'll need to rank on page one for a term, whereas SEMrush isn't as bold to make this estimate. A focus on backlinks over quality isn't going to get your site long term rankings for a key term if your content doesn't provide significant value over what the competition is offering.
If it's possible to use both tools I would encourage this strongly as between different providers search volumes, CPC & loosely related topics & content ideas can vary wildly. In niche areas of marketing & SEO, this can really affect how you benchmark priorities for strategies around content creation and paid search.
--Eleanor Bennett, Logit.io
Ahrefs Keyword research tool is my #2 kw research tool after the Keywords Everywhere plugin — simply because the latter can be used right on the SERP page, without going anywhere. With regards to functionality, though, Ahrefs is the best of the best: it provides much more than standard Volume, CPC and Competition data.
First of all, Keyword Difficulty rank is greatly useful. Not only does it help to estimate the keyword quickly, Ahrefs actually tells you how many backlinks you would need to rank for a certain keyword. Second, it gives you a timeline for keyword use — the average number of searches for each month logging all the way back to March 2017. So insightful! Within these timelines, you can see the percentage of results clicked vs. not clicked for every month plus the proportion of organic and paid results.
Personally, my favorite feature about Ahrefs' kw research is how they structure their database. When you enter a keyword, Ahrefs shows you 4 different lists of related keywords:
1) Those that have the same term within;
2) Related questions - very useful when you search for proper long-tails;
3) Also rank for — this category is excellent for brainstorming. It shows for which other keywords rank those pages that rank for a keyword you entered;
4) Newly discovered — keywords that are beginning to trend. This might be helpful when you search for easy low-volume keywords for cluster content creation.
A useful function from this section is Parent topic - this shows the keyword that is superior (more general) to the one you entered in the search bar. Quite often the parent topic is rather misleading, however. For example, if I enter lead generation companies (vol. 2.3K), it shows the parent topic lead generation services (Volume 700) — which is totally meaningless, as these phrases are on the same level semantically and the volume of a parent topic turns out to be 3 times less.
Finally, in contrast to most KW research tools, Ahrefs not only shows SERP results for each keyword, but it demonstrates how the top 5 SERP positions have changed historically. This feature gives you one of the best insights into how Google algorithms work.
Except for the Parent topic issue, another qualm of Ahrefs might be the volume numbers they provide. Sometimes they differ from Keywords Everywhere quite dramatically. To be fair, it's hard to tell which one is closer to the truth. To try to find the truth, I check with MOZ keywords tool as it shows more precise volume while Ahrefs and KE tend to round their numbers.
--Christina Pigol, cience.com
1. How's your experience been with Ahrefs for keyword research?
Our team loves Ahrefs for many reasons, but a huge part of why we’ve stuck with them for so many years is because of their keyword capabilities. My colleagues and I are in the dashboard multiple times each day assessing our keyword rankings and looking for new opportunities.
2. What do you like about it and where does it come up short?
The metrics that Ahrefs provides about each individual keyword are super helpful in determining our strategy. A keyword might have the potential to yield a high volume of clicks, but if it has a high keyword difficulty then you can’t expect to move the needle as quickly as you might with a keyword at a lower difficulty. These metrics help us layout keyword goals which we categorize as: low hanging fruit, main keywords, and goal keywords.
As an SEO tool, Ahrefs is great, but if you’re looking for help with SEM, it falls a bit short (more on that below). Other than that, the only shortcoming that I can really think of is that Ahrefs isn’t real-time so when you’re as obsessed with rankings as our team is, sometimes it is more beneficial to see where we sit on Google through an incognito window search.
3. How does it compare with other keyword research tools?
SEM Rush and SpyFu are both tremendous tools to round out our keyword research process. While we feel strongly that Ahrefs is the winner amongst SEO tools, the tool quickly falls short for PPC and SEM. If you’re looking for a dual functioning tool to cover both SEO and SEM, we really lean towards either SpyFu or SEM Rush. We lean heavily on these tools in conjunction with Google Keyword Planner to develop our paid search campaigns and use this knowledge to help build out a holistic search strategy encompassing both SEO and SEM.
--Haley Anhut, Clean Origin
Before joining OutwitTrade.com I had several years of experience in online marketing, advertising and SEO before also working as an analyst at Hertz for over 2 years.
In my spare time I like drawing, creating music and reading. 🙂
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