The Ultimate Guide to AHrefs 2017 (Everything You Need To Know)

It’s no secret that content plays an integral role in a business’ marketing strategy. Without content, it’s difficult to reach out to your market and make yourself known, after all. It’s no wonder that most of the traffic driven to your website will come from your content.

With that thought in mind, most businesses keep churning out new content to publish and promote in hopes that some, if not all, would make an impact to the audience, engage them, and ultimately convert them. But the thing is, there’s so much more to content than just stringing together words that relate to your business. Not all content succeeds. Now, if we consider this line of thought, constantly churning out new content just to have something to publish would typically put an unnecessary dent in your marketing budget which could have been diverted to more effective means of reaching out to your market.

A content with a high potential for success comes from careful and organised research, planning and mapping of ideas. This includes keywords, careful analysis of competitor’s content and keywords, and so on.

So, should we scrap content that leaves a lot to be desired?

Not necessarily. As a marketer, you should know that it is your responsibility to improve said content and repurpose it into something that has more value to your audience, thereby earning more shares and search traffic. Otherwise, creating content just for the sake of creating content is akin to that of being blindfolded while shooting a target. You can only hope to, at least, hit one shot.

Why?

Because you are not incorporating insights from valuable data into your content. This is where SEO and backlinking tools such as Ahrefs come in handy.

What is Ahrefs?

In case you’re new to this (or if you’ve been living under a rock) Ahrefs is an amazing tool which boasts of an all-in-one functionality. Most marketers tend to recognise it for its backlink analysis features right away, but it has a lot of other useful features that will come in handy to properly optimise and leverage your content and copy.

Why Ahrefs?

If you’re a marketer already using an SEO tool, then you’ll understand how frustrating it feels to sometimes find your tool lacking and wish that a certain feature is available instead of having to subscribe for a different software to perform the functions you need. Because Ahrefs is an all-in-one tool, you may find that most of your SEO and content marketing needs can be met by this tool alone.

If you’re unsure, here are some possible reasons to consider having Ahrefs in your marketing arsenal.

1. You need to monitor competition

It is important to know what content your competitors are creating and sharing especially if they are successful. It is also important to know how their content is faring in both social media and search and which keywords they are using to successfully drive traffic and revenue.

2. You want to gather ideas for content

This is particularly helpful if you find yourself running out of content topic ideas or if you simply do not know where to start or what topics are successful in generating engagement.

3. You want to increase shares

Tracking and analysing the type of content which gets more shares will help you determine the type of content to create in the future.

4. You want to engage more people to share, like, promote, retweet, etc. your content

Researching about the people who find value in your content and who actively engage in your content lets you create a marketing persona which you can use in determining the type of content to create.

5. You want to build backlinks

Tracking content that gets the most backlinks, websites that links to your competitors lets you in on what content or pages have the most potential for you to gain links for your pages or content.

Do Not Use Ahrefs if You…

  • Have a low marketing budget. Even the cheapest among the pricing plans will set you back at $99/month which has limited features.
  • Do not update your site regularly. Investing in Ahrefs does not make sense if your website remains stagnant and not updated regularly.
  • Your niche is fairly new. If you are in an industry niche which is new, you’ll find that there is not enough data for Ahrefs to monitor.

Pros & Cons

Of course, as with all things, Ahrefs comes with a set of pros and cons:

Pros

  • Keyword and mentions alerts sent daily (or hourly) to your email
  • Extensive information regarding social shares for platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.
  • Vast backlink database
  • Clean user-interface
  • User-friendly
  • Includes SERP analysis
  • Advanced filter options
  • Up-to-date data
  • Content Explorer for new topic ideas
  • Rank tracker

Cons

  • Cannot be integrated to Google Analytics
  • The Lite plan has a relatively low limit
  • No relevancy score for keyword suggestions

Glossary of Terms

To speed things up a bit, I've prepared a mini glossary to help you with some of the jargon which will be mentioned in this guide.

  • Backlink – a backlink happens when a webpage links to another page
  • Anchor – an anchor is the clickable text in a hyperlink
  • Ahrefs Rank – the ranking of a domain among all other domains in the internet
  • Click-Per-Search – the average number of clicks made per search
  • Cost-Per-Click – the price an advertiser pays for every click on an ad
  • Domain Rating – Ahrefs' rating system according to the quality and quantity of backlinks to any given domain
  • URL Rating – Ahrefs' rating system according to the quality and quantity of backlinks to a URL
  • Referring Page – pertains to a page linking back to a URL
  • Referring Domain – pertains to a domain linking back to a URL
  • Keyword Volume – also known as keyword search volume, this pertains to the number of searches made for a particular keyword

Ahrefs Features

If you hear Ahrefs, the first thing that comes in mind is backlinks. But the truth is, Ahrefs is more than that. It is packed full of exciting features not limited to tracking backlinks. You’ll find that your content will benefit a great deal from these features.

Dashboard

The first thing that you see when you log in to your Ahrefs account is the dashboard. The dashboard displays the most important stats of your website such as keywords, backlinks, etc. at a glance. It also allows you to set up to 10 websites you want to keep an eye on to be displayed in the dashboard.

Clicking one of websites highlighted on the dashboard will direct you to more detailed insights of that website in the Site Explorer.

Why is this important?

Having a dashboard is a great way to keep things organised and keep track of your website and your competitors’ websites within reach. Also, giving you a quick peek at the important metrics makes it easier for you to make quick analysis and comparison between your website and your competitors' websites.

Alerts

The Alerts section is a pretty neat feature that lets you set up alerts for new backlinks, new keywords and new mentions. This feature keeps you up-to-date of keywords and brand mentions that you want to track by sending you alerts to your email. The domain rating on every article mentioned in the alerts is something I’m sure you’ll appreciate given the fact that you can determine the credibility of the article.

Do note, however, that if you want to receive frequent alerts, you will have to shell out $399 which may seem a bit too much for most. If frequent alerts aren’t a priority and a weekly report will suffice, the standard $179 is just right.

Why is this important?

The Alerts feature enables marketers to keep an eye out on targeted keywords and brands which you can then use to study and analyse the type of content that works for your competitors.

Another bonus is that you’ll find that unlike Google Alerts, Ahref Alerts emails readily includes mentions from websites leaning on spam content which gives you the ability to disavow them right away using the Disavow Tool.

Site Explorer

The Site Explorer lets you delve in deeper to any website you want to track, especially if you want to analyse your competitors. The site explorer shows you where you competitors get links from so you can try your hand at doing the same; or if you want to dive in deeper, analyse the data to understand what works best and develop your own strategy to gain links.

Why is this important?

The Site Explorer is not limited to backlinks alone. Here are some of the things you can do with Site Explorer:

  • Discover where your competitors are getting their links from
  • See what content or page gets links
  • See what kind of content works best in your industry
  • Determine link opportunities
  • Find out what content gets the most shares
  • Identify broken links
  • Broken link-building

Content Explorer

Think the Site Explorer is fantastic? Then, you’ll love the Content Explorer. Like much of Ahrefs’ user interface, the Content Explorer is simple to navigate and use. Simply enter a keyword or topic you wish to research and you’ll be served with a list of suggestions relevant to the topic or keyword you chose. What’s even more amazing about this is that you can narrow down your search even further by filtering factors such as language, domain rating, word count, shares and publish date.

Clicking on the detail button of each search result will yield you detailed insights on key metrics such as shares, keyword ranking, and referring pages, referring domains, backlinks and keywords. It’s pretty much extensive as it also includes social media shares across platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

In short, it’s basically like BuzzSumo except that it uses data from Ahrefs.

Why is this important?

We get days when we just run out of ideas to write. It happens. So when it does, it’s a relief to know that there are tools to help you overcome this minor hurdle. Another thing you can use Content Explorer for is to monitor your content’s social shares and retweets. Ahrefs not only monitors shares, but also who shares your content. It also has a nifty function called “who tweeted” to record the people who have tweeted a particular article.

If you’re looking to reach out to the people who actively share your articles or to people who actively engage to your competitors’ articles, then this tool is perfect.

Keywords Explorer

Keywords Explorer is Ahrefs’ keyword planning tool. Its use as a keyword analysis tool is one of the features that has many marketers choose Ahrefs among the competition. It also boasts of accuracy of reports owing to its utilisation of Clickstream to fetch keyword volume data.

What else can you do with Keyword Explorer?

  • Judge Keyword Difficulty. Doing this without the aid of tools may seem daunting for SEOs and non-SEOs alike, despite it not being an overly-complicated task. What makes it daunting is that it’s a process that takes time. This is how the Keyword Explorer speeds up the process by including the Keyword Difficulty Score based on a scale of 1 to 100 with 0 – 10 (Easy) for less than 10 domains, 11 – 30 (Medium) for 11 – 36 domains, 31 – 70 (Hard) for 37 – 200 domains, and 71 – 100 (Super Hard) for 200 domains or more.
  • Get Keyword Ideas. Aside from displaying keyword suggestions, you can also sort the keyword suggestions by category (i.e. Phrase Match, Having Same Terms, Also Rank for, Search Suggestions)
  • SERP Analysis. This lets you analyse a keyword based on the keywords ranking on the first page of Google. The SERP analysis displays the relevant metrics such as URL Rank, Domain Rank, Backlinks and Domain level.

Note that Ahrefs only displays keyword positions up to 50. For keyword positions from 51 to 100, you’ll be required to upgrade your plan to Advanced ($399).

Why is it important?

The Keyword Explorer lets you in on what your customers want to hear from you as opposed to what you just want to say to them. Because your copy or your content should be something that answers your market’s questions, it is important to know what keywords or terms your market use to search.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer not only has the standard metrics such as keyword volume, keyword difficulty, and CPC (cost-per-click), but it also has novel metrics such as CPS (clicks-per-search) which pertains to the traffic potential of a given keyword according to the number of results people tend to click. Obviously, if a keyword has a high CPS, then it’s worth using since people are clicking more results. Another novel metric is the Return Rate which pertains to the frequency of doing the exact same search within a month.

With Keyword Explorer, it’s easier to discover new opportunities improve your SEO and to save money by avoiding using keywords that do not drive traffic.

Tools

Apps

This section is mainly used to showcase SEO tools built by developers with the capability to fetch data from Ahrefs. As of now, there are 8 listed third-party apps that makes use of Ahrefs’ data. However, if you want access to the database, you are required to register for a paid subscription. There are also fees should you want to purchase the add-on applications, as well.

Ahrefs API

The Ahrefs API allows developers to use the Ahrefs database for external projects. This is available whether you are an OpenApp Developer, one who develops apps on behalf of Ahrefs users; or an OpenApp User, one who has the capability to authorize third-party applications to make use of the data from Ahrefs.

There are three Ahrefs API subscriptions available.

  • API Standard. $500 monthly with 500,000 API rows included. ($1/1000 rows)
  • API Plus. $2000 monthly with 5,000,000 API rows included. ($0.40/1000 rows)
  • API Premium. $10,000 monthly with 30,000,000 API rows included ($0.35/1000 rows)

Ahrefs Rank

The Ahrefs Rank section shows the top 1,000,000 domain names on the web. You can also filter your search based on the domain (i.e. .com, .org, .com.au).

Domain Comparison

This section lets you compare up to 5 URLs showing results for comparing referring domains, backlink types, nofollow links, crawled pages, backlinks, etc.

SEO Toolbar

The SEO toolbar is an extension, available for Google Chrome and Firefox, that gives you a glimpse of the domain and URL rating, and backlinks of any given page or website that is on display on your browser.

Batch Analysis

This section lets you to request comparisons of metrics of several hundred URLs and domains. These metrics contain domain and URL ratings, social metrics, backlinks, referring domains, etc. You can also download said report.

Link Intersect

The Link Intersect lets you find link opportunities by identifying which sites link to your competitors, but not to you. Doing so will help you level up the playing field and help you put yourself out there to be seen by your target market. This is also a great way to discover influencers whom you can reach out to.

Pricing and Payment Plan

There are four pricing plans available to acquire Ahrefs you can pay either monthly or annually, the most popular of which is the Standard Plan which costs $179/month or $990 if you choose to pay for a year’s worth. Choosing the annual payment plan entitles you to 2 months of free subscription.

  • Lite Plan. $99 monthly or $990 annually (you save $198)
  • Standard Plan. $163 monthly or $1790 annually (you save $358)
  • Advanced Plan. $399 monthly or $3990 annually (you save $7988)
  • Agency Plan. $990 monthly or $9990 annually (you save $1998)

Another good thing about their offer is that you can upgrade and downgrade your subscription or even cancel it at any time. You might want to take advantage of the trial offer before deciding to pay for the software, as well.

If you’re looking to receive alerts on a daily basis, plans starting at Advanced will give you that advantage. The Agency plan boosts that advantage to hourly alerts.

Trial & Guarantee

You can try it out first by taking advantage of the free trial available for the Lite Plan and the Standard Plan. Ahrefs also offers a 7-day money-back guarantee to its subscribers.

Customer/Technical Support

Exploring Ahrefs is made easy with the availability of training materials and onboarding videos. While Ahrefs is an honest-to-goodness easy to use tool, having guides and materials at your disposal is still a welcome help, after all. A chat feature is also available for customer queries.

Software Like Ahrefs

SEMRush

SEMRush is a fairly easy-to-use SEO tool despite the initial impression that it is complicated which may be due to the fact that the dashboard looks cluttered with all the stats on display as well as the features available to the tool.

All you have to do is to enter your website’s URL or your competitor’s URL or domain name to get an in-depth report on stats such as organic keywords, banklink stats, top keywords, and anchors. What’s great about SEMRush is that you can narrow down your searches by location, letting you know more about your targeted audience. This is particularly useful for on-page SEO.

This tool also lets you determine which relevant keywords are high-value with the Organic Search Positions data to learn more about keyword search volume, and search engine ranking.

If you’re looking to optimise your Adwords campaigns, you’ll find that the SEMRush PPC keyword tool will cater to competitor ad strategy analysis and ad research. This lets you keep an eye on your competitors’ video ads and display ads.

Here are some of the features to expect:

  • Display Advertising
  • Backlink Audit
  • Site Audit
  • Organic Research
  • Advertising Research
  • Keyword Research

Like Ahrefs, SEMRush is a paid tool with three pricing plans and 2 payment plans starting at $99 monthly. A free account, which is limited to 10 queries per day, is a good choice for beginners.

MOZ

Moz, known for its Page Authority scale and Domain Authority scale, offers features such as the Open Site Explorer, Ranking and Optimization Tools, and the Keyword Explorer, among others. The Page Authority Scale is a scoring system for a specific page predicting its potential to rank on SERP by analysing data from MosRank, MozTrust, Mozscape, etc. The Domain Authority scale is a scoring system based on the age, popularity and size of any given domain name. You can install Moz to your toolbar from the Chrome store – this is available to all users.

The Open Site Explorer, available through free subscription or paid subscription, boasts of a huge index size which is regularly updated by schedule. Enter the site URL will display all the links available to that website including spam score and anchor text of each link aside from the Page Authority and Domain Authority scores. This tool is particularly useful for competitor analysis, most specifically, their backlink profile.

You will also find the Link Intersect feature particularly useful should you want to know which sites are linking to your competitors, and not to your website.

The Keyword Explorer is another valuable tool which provides users with keyword suggestions which includes the monthly search volume, the difficulty and opportunity rate.

You will also find their blog particularly helpful should you wish to learn more about basic and advanced SEO.

Moz offers a free account subscription with unlimited site explorer access and a limit of 5 queries daily for the keyword explorer tool. Should you require a more extensive use of the tool, Moz Pro is available starting at $99 monthly for the basic plan. If you want the page optimization and rank tracking tool, then you’ll want to subscribe to a Moz Pro Plan.

Majestic

Majestic is a linkbuilding software, pretty much like Ahrefs, which offers features like Site Explorer, backlink analysis, custom reports, Search Explorer and OpenApps for developers which are mainly available for the Lite Package. The Pro Package packs more features which includes domain comparison, flow metrics history and keyword checker, among others.

Majestic displays information classified into two indexes which are Historic and Fresh. The Historic index displays in-depth details based on all-time data. The Fresh index, displays information from data of the last 90 days. You’ll find that this type of indexing makes research easier and much more organised should you want to analyse your competitors’ all-time or latest backlink history.

What sets Majestic apart from the others is that it offers a rich backlink analysis with relevant metrics such as the Topical flow, Trust flow and the Citation flow. The Topical flow pertains to the influence of the URL you are tracking in a specified category. The Trust flow pertains to the number of clicks on a particular URL on a trusted site. The Citation flow pertains to the number of backlinks and its impact to the domain.

Here are some features to expect from Majestic:

  • Keyword Checker
  • Search Explorer
  • Backlink
  • Site Explorer

There are four available pricing plans and three payment plans starting at $79 monthly. You have the option to pay quarterly, monthly or annually with the option to pay in 3 currencies – GBP, USD, and Euro.

SEO PowerSuite

This tool, like Ahrefs, is an all-in-one tool which gives Ahrefs a run for its money. Here are just some of the available features to expect:

  • Keyword Research. Discover top keyword suggestions with relevant metrics.
  • Competitor Analysis. Discover competitor keywords, backlinks, content strategy and rankings.
  • Advanced Rank Tracking. Track organic and universal rankings.
  • Local & Global SEO. Research location-specific keywords in any language.
  • Google AdWords and Google Analytics integrations. Gain stats on CPC, bounce rates, search volume, traffic, competition.
  • Social Media. Gain stats on backlinks, shares and social media stats from Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Content & HTML Optimization. Track and measure optimization rates of landing pages for keywords and get optimization tips and SEO best practices.

SEO PowerSuite license is available for free with very limited features, but is also available for $299 ($499 originally) for the Professional License and $699 ($1199 originally) for the Enterprise License. The main differences between these pricing plans are the number of competitors it can track, cloud storage, watermarked reports and white-labeling for client reports favouring the Enterprise License.

SERPStat

Serpstat is another SEO tool which boasts an all-in-one functionality like that of some of its competitors including Ahrefs. It has familiar features like that of Ahrefs’ like domain comparison, PPC research, batch analysis, backlink analysis, and site audit, to name a few.

Here are some features to expect:

  • Rank Tracker
  • Site Audit
  • Backlink Analysis
  • Website Analysis
  • Keyword Research

Serpstat is available with a different set of plans for Personal and Business Use. Both of which have four price plans and several payment plans which they can pay monthly (1, 3, 6, 12, or 36 months) for as low as $19/month or yearly for $182.40 per year for Personal Plans. Business Plans are available for as low as $499/month or yearly for $4790.40 per year. Note that the prices are based on 3-year plans. Also Serpstat subscription can be acquired for free, but with a limit of 30 queries for and access to Position Monitoring and Site Audit features. If you’re just starting out or if you feel that you do have no need for complicated features, then this is something you should consider.

While the features are, indeed, impressive; a main concern for the

Summary

It’s certainly not easy to decide which software to buy, especially if the market has a lot of choices to offer. Of course, while budget may be one of the factors to come up with a decision, it’s wise to point out that being affordable does not make it a good deal just as much as a software with a premium price does not necessarily mean it’s the perfect fit for your business goals.

Alternatively, before deciding on which SEO software to acquire, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can the marketing budget cover the costs in acquiring this tool?
  • Is the software regularly updated?
  • Will I or my team need assistance to set it up?
  • Is this an all-in-one tool?
  • Will this help me analyse my competitors?
  • Will I be using this regularly?

If you answer “yes” to most of the questions then that particular software is good to be included into your choices in the decision making-process.

Not all SEO tool covers a wide range of features to satisfy marketers focusing on content. So, it’s a welcome notion that Ahrefs cater to basic SEO areas such as keyword planning, backlink research, and content research.

Another winning factor is that social media shares are also included in the insights along with the individual users sharing the content allowing you to create marketing personas targeting these people as well as create opportunity to reach out to these people.

Another key feature I love is the Alerts. I think it’s incredibly useful how keywords and brand mentions I’m monitoring are monitored and reports are sent directly to my email. The alerts aren’t just list of articles or content, either. I appreciate that domain ratings for the articles are included which makes it easier to sort out articles with high credibility.

The downside to these fantastic features, however, is the lack of integration to Google Analytics. The hefty price range does not help, either. Though, if you consider the features, you’ll realise that the price range justifies the premium features included in the software.

In summary, if you want an SEO tool that also caters to inbound and content marketing needs, Ahrefs is the tool of choice.

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