I hate them and I love them at the same time, but I could not imagine my life without these keyword tools.
These two keyword research tools and SEO tools called Semrush and Ahrefs are my secret weapons when it comes to doing online research, tracking keyword rankings, content marketing and making money with affiliate marketing.
Time they save me and money I earn thanks to them is good enough to stay with them until something better comes up.
Then why such a confusing title?
When you use specific tools every day, you always tend to find things bothering you and making your life a living hell so to speak.
Well, both semrush and ahrefs possess options and key features that I just tend to ignore every day or get frustrated with them.
I don’t deny that these features help me a lot in my day to day work, anywhere from link building, to keeping an eye on organic traffic, rank tracking and social media. But sometimes they represent just another bad user experience.
In this article I’m going to cover some of the main features of Semrush and Ahrefs, things I do like, and things I don’t. I’m going to create that famous “Semrush vs Ahrefs” title since everything in business we do is a competition, right?
You will learn what are the weaknesses and strengths of some of the most popular and used SEO tools of today.
So let’s start with the comparison of these two analysis tools so you can make a decision which one is a right choice for your online project.
Quick Article Navigation:
- What I Like About Semrush
- What I don’t Like About Semrush
- What I Like About Ahrefs
- What I don’t Like About Ahrefs
Started somewhere around 2008, they call themselves Online Visibility Management Platform, they are actually Saas (software as a service company).
But translated for dummies: tool for everything you need in order to increase your own or your business visibility online fast and with efficiency.
I remember when I first started using them, it was somewhere around 2013, the pricing back then was somewhere around $70 I think (good times to remember).
Before that I was using some basic premium tools or free tools to investigate the competitors and to learn the basics of how to grow my online business.
Once I paid for semrush and got into the dashboard, phew…I immediately saw the power of this orange beast.
Everything I needed for keyword research, finding out all of my competitors, seeing where my website is the most vulnerable, how to improve it, export abilities, etc…
That was it, I was hooked and the rest is history.
Let’s start with some pros and cons of semrush first, I want to share with you how I see this tool now and why all of this turned in love/hate relationship.
I’m sitting in front of my whiteboard currently where I marked everything I like and don’t like about these seo tools, and boy this will be a huge article, better get comfortable.
But I’m only going to mention the features I use the most, if you want to test everything, then you need to at least give them a test ride, article cannot cover everything, sorry everyone.
What I Like about SEMRUSH:
- pricing (my type of pricing)
- position tracking (I love to stalk my project growth)
- historical data ( Back to the Future is nothing compared to this)
- unlimited queries (search function)
- site audit tool (perfection drives me crazy)
- backlink analytics (let me see if you’re blackhat or whitehat SEO)
What I Don’t Like about SEMRUSH:
- multi user login too expensive (I’m not paying $70 for an extra user)
- loading time (you got slower my old pal)
- No data bug for organic results (searched for HV keyword data, got nothing)
- limited keyword list (what the heck is 50 kws. list limit)
- downgrading Subscription (building a Rocket is easier )
More in detail…
Starting from just $99 is something I’m ok with, since a lot of features are included in this package. When you choose pro plan you have almost the same features like Guru plan that costs $199, but with smaller amount of “queries”.
For example you can track 500 keywords for your project tracking, while with Guru plan you can track 1500, and what I miss the most in the pro plan is “historical data”where you can go back in time to check your website stats, for example 2012.
I would love if historical data is available in pro plan, I think most of us are paying “Guru”package because of this amazing feature.
Position tracker or also called rank tracker is the feature I use the most, it helps you to track certain number of keywords for a particular website you have. You can track daily changes and positions that your website ranks for on both mobile and desktop.
I like how semrush gives you a certain percentage each day so you can see how your website ranking is changing based on the google updates. For example one day your website position can be 12% and next day it can be either smaller or larger, this helps you indicate changes, improvements or lost positions on SERPS.
What I like the most about position tracking is ability to set different geographical location for the same website to track.
For example I can set to track webislove.com positions for both my own country Bosnia and Herzegovina and United States.
SEMrush Position Tracking Mobile App
In April of 2019, semrush published position tracking mobile app which I use daily and have it on my mobile home screen. I just open up the orange beast each morning to see the fluctuations of my own and my clients rankings.
If anyone from semrush is reading this, thank you for the app, desktop version was so hard to use on mobile phone.
One of the best feature in the popular seo, tracking and analysis tools I have found online. Historical data in semrush helps you to choose a date back in time and to see who positioned where and for which keyword.
You can easily track your competitor’s history and to see how they started growing and which keywords they targeted in the past. Perfect for straight to the point competitor analysis. It helps me a lot when it comes to motivation, this way I can easily see how some of my biggest competitors looked when they were small.
Historical data TIP:
If you’re like me and you’re buying expired old domains with credibility and backlink profile, you then for sure know how hard it can be to find a perfect gold nugget.
With historical data it can be easy to find the expired domain that ranked in your industry back in 2012 lets say. Some of your competitors probably gave up and left the domain to expire.
All you need to do is get back in time with this feature, check who positioned on the first page, see if that domain is still alive, if not then you probably found yourself a new domain from your own niche to register and dominate the search results.
Historical data goes back to January 2012.
Unlimited Search Queries
When I say unlimited, I’m talking about main search function in semrush to check any website or competitor.
Every day I check over 150 website, sometimes even more, before breakfast or while drinking my first morning coffee I go over 5o sites at least. And I don’t get any limitations like I do get them on Ahrefs (25 sites). Really ahrefs???
Site Audit Tool
If you ever asked yourself what is wrong with your website and you couldn’t remember all of the things to check, then site audit tool is for you.
Site audit is a crawler semrush developed to help you check every issue you have on your website. Definitely one of the best seo checker on the market right now, it tells you about website technical issue, issues on the surface of the website, technical issues, broken links and much more.
This useful feature has over 120 checks to go over and show you SEO issues you have on your site.
Beside position tracking, this feature is the one I use the most to check Authority score of a website, it’s backlinks and overall health or potential indicator to future spammy backlinks or negative SEO.
Main option of this tool is the ability to compare multiple websites side by side and to do a comprehensive analysis of their backlink profile and what gives them the advantage over you or your client.
Things I don’t like at Semrush (Full Overview)
If you want to give semrush access to your friend to check it out and see if it’s the right tool for them while you are logged in at the same time, you will not be able to do that with any plan.
It’s something I honestly hate, not for the reason that I pay $99 and I cannot have extra member of my team or my friend to login at the same time.
But the fact that Semrush charges $70 additionally if you want to add another user?
What happened to you my old pal?
I understand that you recently crossed over 4 million users. And that you process over 6,1 Billion urls a day, but how can such a big company allow themselves to get slow?
Almost every day I get frustrated with the fact that your loading time anywhere in dashboard got worse, please work on this part more.
That’s why I’ve decided to test you against ahrefs loading time, let’s see the results from online speed testing tools.
Let’s show it with graphs:
No data bug for organic results
I really don’t know what’s the reason behind this, but in the last year or two it happens with almost every HV (high volume) keyword that I want to check and to see who positions in the first 10 results.
Let me show you few examples:
Hope semrush will see this article and do something about this. Because I’m so tired of finding other variations of the keyword ideas or checking the positions manually.
Keyword Magic Tool List Limit
I love keyword magic tool, and I like how easy it is to see related backlinks, phrase match and questions that I can use in my content marketing strategy.
But after the last redesign semrush made, it all went downhill so to speak, after I click on button to check “related keywords” guess what happens, I don’t get to the list, instead they land me on the keyword magic tool page.
It looks something like this:
And if I hit the limit of 50 lists, I need to delete the old one and then the page redirects me to my desired location “related keywords” list, I mean, really semrsuh?
Why the limit, and why this awful user experience? Please return the old user flow.
Downgrading Semrush Subscription
I went down this road too many times, I like to change packages from time to time, it depends from how much work I have and projects I have to track.
And guess what, it’s not that easy at all, every time I want to downgrade the package, it’s the pain in the a..
Sometimes it feels that It would be easier to build a rocket and send the it to the moon again than canceling semrush subscription.
Please semrush, just create us a button for downgrading our accounts without going through the support emails, thank you.
That’s all for now when it comes to semrush, let’s move on to Ahrefs instead and see what I like about them and what’s not to be liked…
Ahrefs is an SEO tool for growing your search traffic, that’s how they call themselves. Started somewhere in 2011, and their main strength is how I figured out is everything backlink related and then some more. Originated from Ukraine, have offices there and in Singapore.
They have started small and grew into one of the biggest competitor in the SEO tools niche and digital marketing field.
To be honest, I never used them as much as semrush, but I cannot do my work without this tool.
Since this article is about comparison between ahrefs and semrush, I must tell you why am I in ON/OFF relationship with ahrefs and some things you need to take in consideration before choosing any of these two tools.
I know that these two tools serve for different purposes, but that’s how the business is built and how it grows. They need to listen for consumer needs and see their own strengths and weaknesses, and I hope that this article will help them as well as much as it will help you.
What I like about Ahrefs
- Fresh backlink index (freshly baked results)
- Site explorer keyword freshness (I didn’t catch this backlink anywhere else)
- Multi user login (we are all in)
- Outgoing links feature (where the heck do I link to)
- UR, DR metrics
- Backlink Export Limit
What I don’t like about Ahrefs
- Design (UX design)
- Domain Search Limit
- Organic keywords limit (positions between 21-100)
Lets start with more in detail analysis of the things I like and don’t like in Ahrefs…
Fresh backlink index
Based on the information ahrefs provided me with, they update their own backlink index every 15 minutes. This is what I like about them the most, I can see a lot of changes when tracking my websites in one day that I cannot see with semrush.
If for example someone is doing a blackhat SEO toward me or my client websites I can see that backlink if the attacker makes a mistake and Google indexes the backlink.
Sometimes it feels like Ahrefs is working in real time with the backlinks, really god job on this part.
Fresh Keywords in Site and Keyword Explorer
Just like with the backlinks, they did an amazing job with the keywords index, for example I can see more realistic keyword changes and it’s position unlike semrush where they tell the keyword is on position 5 when in reality he is on a totally different search result page.
While semrush won’t show me the stats for low volume keywords, ahrefs do just that, no matter if the keyword search volume is 20 or 2000. They of course sometimes both have the exact same volume for the same keyword.
But the semrush is better evaluating the positions through position tracking, while ahrefs does this with site explorer.
Multi User Management
Shhh! I paid for one user but two of us are logged in at the moment, doing some work and working hard on our next SEO project. As much as I could notice so far, my business partner and friend can login at the same time when I’m logged in.
Maybe this is some kind of glitch? How are your experiences with this part, let me know in the comments!
You know that Google looks to whom do you link out to? Yes that’s right, and they keep a close eye on your outgoing (outbound links).
Outbound links boost your online credibility, but at the same time when you don’t monitor your links and don’t disclose a paid advertising, it can reduce your website credibility.
That’s why you must love this ahrefs feature, check who do you link out to, find outdated links, links that you don’t want to link out to anymore and just remove them.
Wonderful feature, too bad that semrush is missing on this.
Outbound links TIP:
Use this useful ahrefs feature to stalk your competitors, find out who do they link out to, find broken domains and see if you can register them.
Chances are that high authority site that still links to broken domains passed a bit of credibility to the broken-expired domain.
All you have to do is register that domain and build you next affiliate niche website or just redirect it to your money site, keep in mind to check the backlink health and site authority, age etc…
UR , DR metrics (url, domain rating)
Ur rating or UR represents how much a cetain page is strong when it comes to it’s backlink profile, the more links you have the better the ranking (scale from 0 to 100).
Domain rating or DR represents also how strong the certain url is, (scale from 0 to 100).
But don’t let this confuse you, because UR rating represents the rating of a certain page unlike DR, where it represents the rating of the domain as a whole.
I find this feature the most interesting one when I search for expired domains to buy, without checking ahrefs UR and DR and semrush’s Authority Score I don’t buy any domain.
Backlink Export Limit
Since I do a lot of backlink exporting in order to see what works best for other competitors, from time to time I tend to download a lot of CSV and XLS files and I can’t allow to have limitations when it comes to exporting such data.
Ahrefs really nailed with this feature and has a higher export limit unlike semrush
Ahrefs backlink export limit per report: 100K
Semrush backlin export limit per report: 10,000
I understand that ahrefs has a lot of options to offer to SEO community and to others, but charging $99 for such a smaller range of tools is not fair.
This sentence would probably never saw the daylight if it wasnt for the next feature that I don’t like at all, and for which I think is unaceptable in this day and age of digital marketing.
But this paragraph can be skipped because everyone’s money has it’s own different weight.
Come on crew, the branding is great, but the design and user experience is a bit outdated. You can do much better when it comes to that ugly left sidebar, and please connect all those upper features in one useful page-place.
Domain Search Limit
Oh how I got frustrated about this feature, and it is related to the paragrah above where I mentioned the pricing. Paying $99/month and being able to only search 25 domains/day is “Insulting” to anyone who does SEO or any kind of digital marketing.
This is where you lost me and Semrush got me, honest truth. I personally search daily more than 150 websites and I need to collect all that data, and I cannot do it with your tool.
Organic keywords limit
This happened to me so many times while using ahrefs, I eagerly went to check organic keyword postions for my website because I saw the increase in keyword numbers….
And in the moment of happines I was caught by surprise with your limit on organic keywords in Lite plan where I cannot see the keyword if it’s positioning between 21st and 100 position.
Why would you do that to your premium member?
Semrush vs Ahrefs Conclusion
Thank you so much for reading thus far into the article, I tried to write only the things that I personally find useful and things that can be improved.
People always tend to find the solution for themselves first and sometimes it turns out to be helpful for many others, that’s what I hope will happen with this article too.
Both these tools have their own positive and negative sides, useful and not so useful features and options that sometimes just drives us crazy.
And based on all of these things I mentioned here….
My humble vote goes to SEMRUSH.
For the same price you get a ton of features and things that can help you if you’re just starting out ,or if you’re an expert in your field and just need some efficient tool to help you out a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue using Ahrefs, but it will always be my backup tool just in case.
If we could somehow merge these two giants, that would be the optimal solution.
Thank you again for reading, I hope that no one got insulted by this article, I wish you all the best and good luck with your business projects.
Still not sure why would someone pay for Ahrefs, btw great article Dalibor.