Ahrefs is a set of online research tools to help you improve your website’s search rankings and traffic. It allows you to research your competitors, giving you the information you need to outrank them. You can also monitor your niche and stay on top of trends.
Ahrefs is subscription-based. There are four plans available. In this review I’m taking a look at the Advanced plan.
A Look at the Tools
Ahrefs provides lots of tools so you can research keywords, your niche, your competition, and lots more. New tools are added every week.
The Dashboard allows you to track the performance of 25 websites at a time. You can add new sites from this screen and see the results by a certain number of days that you select from the dropdown. There isn’t a sorting feature, but you can star them so your favorites will show at the top. You can also delete them.
It shows you the Ahref’s rank, domain and URL rating, number of backlinks, number of referring domains, organic keywords based on country, and the tracked keywords that you selected when you added the website to the dashboard. Each of the stats are clickable so you can see more detail about each one.
Each of the websites in the dashboard has a button to see rank tracking. This tool tracks your keyword ranking for both desktop and mobile based on location. It gives you a graph to show ranking history. The report will be sent to your email based on the frequency you choose.
The Alerts tab shows backlinks, new keywords, and mentions. They include switches so you can turn them on or off by domain.
This allows you to monitor your niche for backlink activity in real time. You can set up alerts so that you’ll get an email any time someone uses a certain keyword. It provides you with a link to the content. This way you can know if anyone is talking about your brand, your competitors, products, services, etc., which can provide you with opportunities to exploit the conversation and get insights on readers’ needs.
The Site Explorer tab gives you an overview and shows the backlink profile, organic searches, pages, outgoing links, and paid searches. Here’s a look at a couple of examples.
This is a research tool that shows you the backlinks of a URL and some of the SEO metrics. You can use this information to find out who to get backlinks from.
This lists the keywords for the site and shows the volume, traffic, position, gives you the URLs, and lets you choose by country, giving you a competitive analysis of traffic. It shows the keywords that your competitors are ranking for in organic searches and how much traffic they’re getting. It also shows their top ranking pages and the keywords those pages rank for but you don’t. Using this tool you can see the content gap and the keywords to create content for.
The Content Explorer shows you content based on organic search traffic, the number of backlinks, and social network performance for keywords. It provides the domain rating, number of referring domains, and organic traffic for each post. You can sort them and export the results.
You can also see which of the sites haven’t linked to yours. This is great for knowing which content in your niche gets the most attention.
The Keywords Explorer is a keyword research tool that gives you relevant keyword suggestions based on your keyword searches. It also shows yearly search volume and ranking history, and provides information about the behavior of those who’ve searched for those keywords.
You can see all of the keywords, view them by phrase match, see those that have the same terms, other keywords a domain is ranked for, suggestions, by domain, and by page.
The Tools tab includes apps, an API builder, rankings, comparisons, an SEO toolbar, batch analysis of URL’s, and a link interest.
Here’s a look at a few of the tools.
The Domain Comparison tool lets you enter up to five domains to see how they rank on several networks. The best ranking in each result is in bold so you can recognize it quickly.
To offer a definition, Batch Analysis compares up to 200 URL’s or domains at the same time, showing their number of organic searches, ranking, referring domains, linked domains, backlinks, and social metrics.
Now this feature, Link Intersect, compares URL’s to show who links to them but doesn’t link to another URL that you choose. You can see the Ahref’s ranking of each URL. This reveals link opportunities that you can pursue.
An Example – A Step-by-Step Guide to Determining Your Competitor’s Keywords
In this example of using the Keywords Explorer I wanted to rank for a specific keyword around the topic of web development. I wasn’t sure who would be my greatest competition or what keywords I had a chance at ranking for, so I started with a few keywords and then used the information the Keywords Explorer suggested.
Keywords Explorer Example
I selected Keywords Explorer in the menu. Here I’ll place all of the keywords that I’m interested in searching. I wanted to see the competition and difficulty to rank for the keywords “wordpress development”, “web development”, and “website development”. I entered the keywords and hit the search button.
The Overview tab reveals that monthly search volume for all three keywords is pretty high but only half of those results had clicks. This might expose an opportunity to provide the content that 47% were looking for that the results didn’t provide. There is a large number of clicks and 91% were organic. Two of the three keywords had a larger distribution bucket for both monthly volume and difficulty. This gives me an idea of which keywords I have a better chance of ranking for.
The SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features show the number of uncommon results, such as ads, news, etc. Ads and site links provide the most compitition for my keywords. The volume-difficulty distribution shows the volume and difficulty of each of the keywords. The higher the volume and the lower the difficulty the better. The keyword “website development” has a volume of 6700 and a difficulty of 45.
Keyword ideas gives me a list of keywords that I hadn’t considered. For example, “graphic design” is a related topic with a high volume. Another is “web development tools”. These, as well as several others on this list, are excellent keywords that I wouldn’t have thought of.
Top countries by volume shows where my competition will come from and who my audience will mostly consist of. This helps me to decide on the keywords to use and also can help with my writing style, choosing images, choosing affiliate programs and ads, as well as my website design.
This chart shows which domains get the largest share of traffic for my keywords. This is great for letting me know who I’m competing with. I can see here that some of these, like wikipedia and udacity, are popular. If there are any sites like mine I could analyze those sites and see what keywords they rank for and who they get backlinks from.
Traffic share by pages shows the traffic volume, percentage of share, the number of my keywords they’re using, and the page title and URL. This allows me to get even deeper with my analysis so I can see what it is about these pages that readers like. I can look for opportunities and expand on their content with updated information and provide detail where they did not.
The Keyword metrics tab shows the SERP for each keyword, the keyword difficulty number, search volume, cost per click, clicks per search, and return rate for each of the keywords. I can see from this screen that “website development” is a good choice between the three. It has the lowest difficulty rating, decent search volume, and good amount of clicks.
The SERP dropdown gives details for each keyword. From here I can see the post names and URL’s, ranking, domain ranking, URL rating, number of backlinks, number of URL’s giving backlinks, traffic, number of keywords it’s ranking for, the best keyword that domain ranks for, monthly search volume for their top keyword, and social shares by network.
None of the competition has “website development” as their top keyword. This means they’re using multiple keywords and they’re getting more traffic from other keywords. This also means that readers are not finding what they’re looking for, opening up some opportunities.
The third website on the list has an impressive amount of backlinks. I can analyze that site’s backlinks to see where they come from and look for some backlink opportunities.
Specific Keyword Results
Since the keyword “website development” has the lowest difficulty rating from my three choices I wanted to see its specific details.
My results show a keyword difficulty of 45. If I could get backlinks from 68 websites I could rank on the first page of Google. The search volume is great, especially if my goal is to run a small blog. There was a little under a click for each search, so those searching this keyword didn’t always find a result they wanted to click on. I could also tell that the majority of my traffic would come from India and from the United States.
This gave me an idea of what I was up against and revealed that I needed to amend my search with different keywords in order to get more traffic.
Fortunately the results gave me a list of related keywords. From this list I could see that “web developer” and “make a website” were related keywords with lots of searches. These would be good keywords to rank for.
This chart shows the position history for the top 5 websites that are currently ranking for my keyword. It’s color-coded so I can tell at a glance which sites are the most or least consistent with their ranking. As before, Wikipedia and udacity were the highest competition and were the most consistent.
The SERP overview shows the list of pages that rank the highest for the keywords. This is the same chart as from the Overview tab and gives me the information I need to analyze specific pages.
Thoughts on the Results
By analyzing this data I can see which keywords have the most competition and see other keywords that I didn’t even consider that might be better opportunities to help me rank higher.
The keyword “website development” has a high volume and a lower competition rate than my other two keywords. The domains that I would be competing with are mostly training sites, developers, and general information sites. Most of them, with the exception of wikipedia and udacity, have a fairly low share of the traffic.
Also, the keywords “web developer”, “make a website”, “graphic design”, and “web development tools” are related keywords with high volume that I didn’t consider before. I now know which articles to study for content and backlink opportunities.
All of the metrics that I could think of, and lots of metrics that I didn’t think of, that I wanted about a keyword, domain, or links was available at my fingertips and it wasn’t difficult to use and understand. I quickly found who my competition would be, which articles that are ranking, who’s backlinking to them, what other keywords I should be using, and lots more.
Everything about using Ahrefs was intuitive. It has a lot of charts and graphs that look daunting at first glance, but everything has an info box that opens when you mouse over them and the explanations are short and simple. If I wasn’t sure what something was I just placed my cursor over the icon. Everything was self-explanatory. If you do want training there are videos to get you familiar with what the tools do.
Ahref’s is an excellent tool to analyze traffic. I don’t know of another tool that has this level of detail or is this intuitive. The information it provides is invaluable in outranking your competition. I highly recommend Ahref’s to anyone that wants to take their traffic to the next level.