Moz vs Ahrefs vs SEMrush – What’s the BEST SEO Tool?

moz vs semrush vs ahrefs

Ryan Stewart

I've built and sold dozens of online businesses including WEBRIS, a 7 figure SEO agency. This blog is a collection of my thoughts on scaling digital agencies.

When it comes to SEO tools, there’s 3 clear leaders:

Moz, SEMrush and Ahrefs.

They enable you to dig deeper into your website, competitors and search engines for valuable data.

While each has their own unique value proposition, yet there are large overlaps between the as well.

I’ll be breaking down each tool in detail to help you understand which is necessary for your agency.

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Why Moz, SEMrush and Ahrefs?

I’ve been working in SEO for over 10 years at this point – there’s a tool for everything.

Having a tool for everything isn’t a good thing – I want a tool that does everything.

These 3 tools present the best “all in one SEO tool” in the market.

Strengths

Link analysis. Solid ways to inspect your backlinks and competitors.

Competitive analysis. Awesome at investigating what your competitors are doing.

Keyword research. Industry leaders to help you find valuable keywords.

Rank tracking. Easy methods to track progress of keyword rankings.

Weaknesses

Technical audits. I wouldn’t use these tools for deep, forensic technical SEO. While they each have their own version of a site audit, I prefer to use a tool like DeepCrawl or ScreamingFrog for more advanced auditing.

Let’s break them down individually.

 

SEMrush Review

semrush dashboard

SEMrush was the first SEO tool I fell in love with – I like to call it the “swiss army knife” of SEO tools.

There’s a free version of the tool that gives you 10 requests per day. The free version can be more than enough if you’re doing some light work. As your business grows and your demands increase, you’ll need more than that.

There’s a TON of features in SEMrush, but I like to use it for 4 main things.

 

Content improvements

By simply entering your URL the “organic research” report will spit back the exact keywords your site is currently ranking for.

keyword research

I love this because it has allowed me to double down and optimize specific content. Using this data you can easily go back into your content and make additional optimizations to improve the current rankings.

There is a downside – I’ve found their data to be slightly inaccurate at times.

For example, keyword search volume and traffic estimates rarely match up with actuals. In all fairness, this data is constantly changing and very difficult to estimate – as long as you’re looking at this data in a silo (i.e. not comparing data from SEMrush to Google Analytics), then it works out.

 

Topical / keyword research

You can use this same function for competitive keyword analysis. Plug in another website’s URL and you can see which keywords they rank for and how they’re SEO is performing.

semrush competitive analysis

I like to use this data to understand the “keyword gaps” on my client’s websites. We will then build a content strategy and topics matrix to build out new content to attack these keywords.

I break this process down in detail through the video below.

 

Keyword movements

While SEMrush has a rank tracker, I don’t use it – I find it too expensive.

Instead, I like to use their “Position Changes” report. It does the same thing, you just have to dig for it manually.

semrush keyword movement report

This report tells me the keyword movements on my site over the last few days.

I like to use this data to understand how my pages are progressing in the SERPs and to decide if I need to put in additional effort to maintain / improve rankings.

For example, look at the screenshot below. You can see one of my blog posts lost the following rankings:

  • kpi – slid from position 50 to 85
  • digital marketing kpis – slide from position 11 to 13
semrush keyword movement report

This tells me to take another look at this blog post and make improvements:

There’s a number of angles you can take, but this report gives you the quick pulse you need to make fast decisions.

 

API access

While all 3 of these tools have an API, SEMrush’s is BY FAR the most robust. I’ll run you through a more detailed comparison at the end of this article, but you can check out their documentation here.

semrush api

If you’re a beginner, let me break it down for you a little more simply.

An API gives you access to the tool’s functionality without having to access the tool.

We like to use their API to build our own tools – in fact, a lot of the tools here in The Blueprint run on SEMrush’s API.

 

  • Content analyzer
  • Bulk social media posting
  • Domain versus domain comparison
  • On page SEO checker
  • PPC keyword research
  • Display advertising data
  • Read all features here
  • SEO and or content marketing agencies
  • Bloggers and content creators
  • SEO consultants
  • I would NOT recommend SEMrush for advertising agencies. While there are advertising features, it’s a far better solution for organic search marketing.

 

SEMrush pricing
  • Starting price: Free
  • Pro: $99.95/month
  • Guru: $199.95/month
  • Business: $399.95/month
  • Custom plans: Available
  • Enterprise solution: Available
Pros of SEMrush
  • Free version available.
  • Great for competitive research, keyword research and content marketing.
  • Easy to navigate and use.
  • Arguably the best SEO API in the market.
Cons of SEMrush
  • Pricing can be a bit high for some, especially their API access. It’s out of control.
  • Data can be slightly inaccurate at times.
  • Their technical analysis module is solid, and getting better, but you still need a technical audit tool.
  • The backlink analysis isn’t great. Their link database needs a lot of work – I would NOT recommend it for link building analysis.

 

Moz Review

If there is one thing that stands out about Moz, it’s their blog. I can’t think of a single better resource for learning SEO. If you ever need to sharpen your skills, give it a read.

I’ve written there a number of times, including filming a Whiteboard Friday at their headquarters in Seattle.

What about tools?

Well, they have a lot of those as well:

  • Keyword explorer
  • Site explorer
  • Chrome extension to analyze any web page
  • Business listing analysis

 

Link Explorer (formerly Open Site Explorer)

As of February 5th, 2018, the Moz OSE has includes 145 billion URLs, 258 million root domains and 1 trillion links.

Needless to say, you’ll have a lot of data at your fingertips. Just type in any domain and you’ll see a complete SEO profile on them.

ose and link explorer

One of the key metrics here is DA and PA.

  • DA = Domain Authority. Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
  • PA = Page Authority. Page Authority (PA) is a score developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engine result pages (SERP). Page Authority scores range from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

These metrics were developed by Moz and became industry standard when referring to the “ranking power” of a website, but eroded as a trusted metric in recent years.

DA and PA recently underwent a massive update in 2019, which has gone a long way to reinstate the metric as industry leading.

da and pa

Just under this, a clear list of backlinks, anchor text and PA/DA is displayed. Compared to SEMrush, Moz’s link index is far larger and more reliable.

Moz definitely has the advantage over SEMrush when it comes to link analysis.

Moz shows you more backlinks than SEMrush which is a huge plus. I’ve found it very useful to scouting out where my competitors are getting their links from.

 

Keyword Explorer

Another area where Moz reigns supreme. SEMrush only allows you to see upwards to 10 keywords but with Moz? Way more. This is great for gaining a deeper insight on your website and competitors.

moz keyword explorer

At the top, you see the total number of links, top positions and the PA/DA if you type in a URL. You can type in keywords which I’ll show in a bit.

Below are the top ranking keywords, a distribution chart and the ability to see all of their keyword rankings. For a free tool, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Now if you search a keyword, you’ll get a lot of useful metrics.

moz keyword research tool

First we can see that a monthly search volume is displayed. You want to typically rank for keywords for higher searches so you can get more traffic.

Next, the difficulty level will let you know how hard it is to rank for that specific search term. Organic CTR determines how likely users are to click on results with that keyword.

Finally, priority is a untie metric developed by Moz to inform you if a keyword should be a focus of yours.

Overall, the keyword explorer is an awesome tool that’s perfect for beginner’s looking for a low cost keyword research solution.

 

Moz Local

For a while, Moz’s local tools were the best in their arsenal. Their other tools have caught up now, but their local ones still hold their weight.

moz local

This is a great tool for small, local businesses who need help managing their local presence.

For example:

  • Check in on your online listings (Yelp, GMB, etc)
  • Manage your reviews across platforms
  • Find and cleanup duplicate citations

This product is well worth the price ($99/year).

 

Moz Bar

A free Chrome plugin that lets you analyze a websote’s SEO from your browser. Or, my personal favorite, let’s you do in SERP analysis of a keyword and results.

mpz bar plugin

This is a great little add on that you can use 100% free, but supercharge it when you sign up for a Moz membership.

 

  • Open site explorer
  • Keyword explorer
  • SERP analysis
  • Keyword suggestions
  • SEO audit
  • Moz integrations
  • Klipfolio
  • Bitium
  • Cyfe
  • LinkTrust
  • Read all features here
  • SEO and or content marketing agencies
  • Bloggers and content creators
  • SEO consultants

 

Moz pricing
  • Starting price: Free
  • Standard: $99/month
  • Medium: $149/month
  • Large: $249/month
  • Premium: $599/month
Pros of Moz
  • Good value from their free tools.
  • Excellent communit and support.
  • A new CEO is pushing a better product than in previous years.
Cons of Moz
  • Pricy for the functionality of the tool.
  • Lost market share over the last 5 years has them playing catch up in regards to functionality and efficiency.

 

Ahrefs Review

Last but not least, Ahrefs. One immediate downside compared to SEMrush and Moz is that nothing is free besides their toolbar. That’s great and all, but you’ll be spending $7 for a 7 day trial of anything else.

Just like the others though, they do offer a site explorer, keyword explorer, rank tracker and very similar tools. Is it worth the money? Let’s find out.

 

Site explorer

Okay, lots going on here. Ahrefs takes all of the important information and puts it on one screen. You don’t need to be wondering all over the platform to find the main data.

ahrefs dashboard

We can see backlinks, keywords, traffic level and more right off the bat. On the side bar, everything else you need from checking anchor text to competing domains is accessible.

Ahrefs boasts the world’s largest backlink index too with a total of 15 trillion. This makes their site explorer tool stand out from the crowd, in a major way.

You can also check exactly which keywords and pages are bringing in the most traffic, for yourself or competitors. It’s very detailed and has almost identical functionality to SEMrush now.

top organic pages report

 

Link explorer

Ahrefs started as a backlink analysis tool, but recently expanded into SEMrush’s territory of keyword and competitor analysis.

Ahrefs link tool is by far and away the best in the market – there’s nothing that comes close.

backlink explorer

We can not only monitor our own links, but competitors as well.

Everything from when the link when live, to if they are do-follow or no-follow, anchor text and more. This is incredibly powerful when building your SEO strategy, as links are a huge ranking factor.

 

Keyword explorer

This tool has come a long way in a short time. In my opinion, Ahrefs keyword tools has leap frogged both Moz and SEMrush.

ahrefs keywords

A very impressive tool for:

  • Rounding up endless keyword suggestions
  • Finding accurate search volume for keywords
  • Determine how difficult a keyword is to rank for

The charts and graphs are very organized. It has everything you need for doing your traditional keyword research and competitive analysis.

 

  • Open site explorer
  • Keyword explorer
  • Backlink checker
  • SEO toolbar
  • Batch analysis
  • Content explorer
  • Read all features here
  • SEO professionals, agencies and consultants
  • Link builders

 

Ahrefs pricing
  • Trial: $7 for 7 days(Standard/Advanced only)
  • Lite: $99/month
  • Standard: $179/month
  • Advanced: $399/month
  • Agency: $999/month
Pros of Ahrefs
  • Best link index, by far.
  • Vastly improved keyword and competitive research functionality.
  • Growing community and support.
  • A free Chrome extension toolbar.
Cons of Ahrefs
  • Expensive.
  • Weak API.

 

Final Verdict

Looking at all three of these tools, it’s clear they all have their pros and cons, I’ve broken them down as best as I could.

Feature SEMrush Moz Ahrefs
Technical audit 7.0 8.0 7.0
Link analysis 6.0 8.0 10.0
KW research 9.0 8.0 9.0
Competitive audit 9.0 5.0 9.0
API 10.0 7.0 4.0

Personally, if I had to pick one, I’d go with Ahrefs. I spend most of my time analyzing backlinks and competitors, Ahrefs has both of those on lock.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of them – and you need one of them. They all have their nuances, it’s all about finding the one you’re comfortable with.

 

 

COMMENTS (4)

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  • Victorsays

    Awesome report. I don’t normally leave comments on these types of reviews, but this has been super helpful so I just wanted to thank you!

  • Haroonsays

    Really great insight into the tools. I am looking one to suggest for my company, I decided to go with Ahrefs