Ahrefs is an SEO software suite that contains tools for link building, keyword research, competitor analysis, rank tracking and site audits. Most of the features inside Ahrefs are designed for marketing professionals.
In short: Ahrefs is an SEO tool designed to help people get higher Google rankings.
What is Ahrefs Used For?
Ahrefs is mainly used to analyze a website’s link profile, keyword rankings, and SEO health.
You can also use Ahrefs to conduct keyword research for Google, YouTube, and Amazon.
And many people use Ahrefs to find content that’s performed well (in terms of social shares and/or links) on a given topic.
When Ahrefs first launched in 2011, it was mainly a tool to analyze a site’s backlinks.
And its feature set has grown over the years.
Today, Ahrefs is mostly used by:
Small business owners that do SEO for their own websites
SEO agencies that work with multiple clients
“In-house” marketers that run marketing for their employer’s site
Affiliate marketers that run several different sites
To date, this guide has 4.45K backlinks from 1.47K domains:
In fact, a lot of the sites that linked to my competitor’s guide now also link to my keyword research guide:
This approach works so well that I’ve started to double down on definitive guides.
Which is one of the main reasons that our organic traffic has grown by 19.92% over the last 8 months.
And it all started from the insight that I got from the “Best by links” report.
This feature gives you a list of sites that recently linked to your site (or a competitor’s site).
Why is this helpful?
Because it shows you link building opportunities that are working right now.
For example, here’s an old backlink to my site:
I got that link 5+ years ago. You MIGHT be able to also get a link from that page.
But as time passes, it’s less and less likely that person is going to go back to an old page and add a link. Plus, SEO techniques change all the time. Specifically, strategies get overused and no longer work.
Which means that it’s entirely possible that the approach I used to build that link no longer works.
On the other hand, here’s a link that’s only a month old:
The person that wrote that new article is going to be MUCH more receptive to adding your link vs. someone that published something 5+ years ago.
Bottom line? “New” backlinks can help you identify fresh link building opportunities that you can tap into right away. They also help you see what’s working best in terms of link building right now.
Lost backlinks is just like it sounds:
You get a list of pages that used to link to you… but recently removed your link.
Well, if I can find out why that person removed my link, I can sometimes get that link back.
That said: it’s normal to lose links. Sometimes scraper sites will delete a page. Or someone will update a post and remove your link because it’s no longer relevant. The idea here isn’t to obsess over lost links. Instead, use this as a way to get legitimate lost links back.
Note: Sometimes Ahrefs will show “link removed” even though the link is still there. So make sure to look at the page to confirm that your link was actually removed.
While not as in-depth as Semrush’s suite of keyword tools, it definitely does the job.
When you enter a keyword into Keywords Explorer, you’ll notice a bunch of cards above the fold:
This is the “Overview” section that gives you a high-level overview of the term that you just searched for.
If you’ve ever used a keyword tool before, most of this stuff (like search volume and keyword competition) should be familiar to you.
This overview is helpful when choosing a keyword for SEO… or quickly deciding between two different keywords.
But what makes Keywords Explorer helpful is that you get to also see a keyword’s “Return Rate” (how often people search for a keyword more than once):
Number of clicks:
Percentage of people that click on paid vs. organic results:
And “Clicks per search”:
Why is this stuff important?
Or, put another way: what’s wrong with just looking at a keyword’s search volume?
Here’s the explanation:
As you’ve probably noticed, Google has been adding more SERP features to the results every year.
Things like Featured Snippets, “People also ask…” boxes, additional ads, video carousels, and more.
Thanks largely to these new SERP features, according to Sparktoro, “no-click searches” are up significantly compared to last year.
Which means you can’t just go by a keyword’s search volume anymore. You also need to know how many people actually click on the organic results. Because in many cases, these two numbers are completely different.
For example, take a keyword like “Mount Everest height”.
According to Keywords Explorer, that term gets 4.5K searches per month.
But those 4.5K searches only result in 763 clicks.
Which is why many SEO professionals now focus more on “Clicks” over traditional search volume.
This is a list of keyword ideas based on the seed keyword that you searched for.
In my opinion Keywords Explorer isn’t great at generating new keyword ideas. It tends to pump out simple variations of your seed keyword:
(That’s actually one of the main reasons that I prefer Semrush: their “Keyword Magic Tool” feature is much better at coming up with different keyword and topic ideas.)
Plus, you can hit the “All keyword ideas” link in the sidebar:
Which sometimes bubbles up a handful of interesting keywords.
At the bottom of the page you’ll see information on the pages that rank in the SERPs for the keyword you’re looking at.
First, you have “SERP History”.
This is a breakdown of how the rankings have changed since Ahrefs started to collect data on that term (this starts in 2016 for most keywords).
That way, you get some context around how pages have come and gone from the first page.
You can also see how much the results tend to fluctuate over time.
As you can see above, the keyword “link building” has been pretty stable over the last 3+ years.
(And it’s been super stable over the last year.)
But if you look at a keyword like “creatine”, the results are all over the place.
Why is this helpful? Well, if you see a SERP that hasn’t budged over the last 12 months, the chances of you coming in and mixing things up is pretty low.
(Unless you have a super authoritative domain.)
On the other hand, if you come across a volatile SERP, that means that Google hasn’t found 10 results that they like yet. Which means you have a chance of cracking the top 10.
In addition to SERP History, Ahrefs also breaks down the 10 results based on Domain Rating, URL Rating, number of backlinks and more.
This is your typical SERP breakdown for SEO. The only interesting feature here is the “Top keyword“ column.
This shows you the keyword that brings that page the most organic traffic. In most cases, it’s the keyword that you’re analyzing. But in many cases, you’ll uncover a keyword that you wouldn’t have even thought of searching for.
For example, when I search for “SEO tips”, literally 10 out of the 10 results all have “SEO tips” as their top term.
Not super useful.
But when I search for “how to do SEO”, I get a list of top keywords that I may not have otherwise found.
Keyword Research For Other Search Engines
Ahrefs’s keyword tool supports a few different search engines.
Like most keyword research tools, you can search for keyword data for a bunch of different countries (like Germany and the UK).
But you can actually use Keywords Explorer for different search engines, including:
So if you do SEO for any of these non-Google search engines, you’re covered.
Keywords Explorer Mini-Case Study
Let me walk you through a real-life example of the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer in action.
A few years ago I was debating whether or not to target the keyword “SEO Audit”.
And to help me decide, I popped that keyword into Ahrefs.
This single page gave me pretty much everything I needed to make a decision.
Specifically, I looked at the keyword search volume:
And in my industry (B2B), 4.8K searches is a pretty solid amount. So that was a good sign.
Next, I saw that the keyword difficulty was 61. And that I’d need backlinks from “134 websites” to rank in the top 10.
So the keyword was competitive. But not insane. Another positive sign.
Next, I looked at “clicks” and “clicks per search”.
And these two metrics told me that 91% of people that search for that term ultimately click on an organic result.
Another great sign.
Then, I saw that the average cost-per-click for “SEO audit” was $19.
This told me that this keyword has a strong commercial intent. In other words: people that search for this keyword are likely to convert.
And based on those numbers, I decided to create this post optimized around “SEO Audit”:
Chapter 5: Organic Keywords and Organic Search Traffic
This Ahrefs feature scrapes millions of Google results to see who is ranking for what keywords.
And when you enter pretty much any domain or URL into Ahrefs, you can see the exact list of terms that they rank for (and where they rank for them).
This allows you to quickly size up how your site compares to the competition.
You can also use it to keep tabs on how your own site is doing (the data updates so often that I basically use it in place of traditional rank tracking).
Let’s break down this useful feature in detail.
Organic Keywords and Organic Traffic
Ahrefs’ “Organic Keywords” and “Organic Search Traffic” features reveal all of the keywords that a domain ranks for… and how much search engine traffic that site is getting right now.
You can also see how these metrics have changed over time with this chart:
To be honest, there isn’t much actionable stuff you can do with this data. It’s more to benchmark where a site is compared to your site or other competitors.
The real value comes from the complete list of keywords that a competitor ranks for:
You even get an estimate of how much traffic they’re getting from each term:
So if your site has a similar Domain Authority, you have a good shot to rank for these keywords too.
In many ways, this shortcuts the entire keyword research process. Instead of typing a bunch of random keywords into a tool, you get a site’s entire keyword profile presented to you.
This underrated feature shows you the approximate value of all the traffic a website gets from search.
The higher this number, the more valuable the traffic is.
Why is this important to pay attention to?
Well, it’s one thing to get 1M visitors per month from Google. But if most of that traffic comes from keywords with little-to-no commercial intent, then it’s not super valuable.
On the other hand, if a site only gets 10k visitors per month, but that traffic is made up of people with strong buyer intent, this will show up in the Traffic Value report.
In fact, I tend to pay more attention to my Traffic Value number than anything else. As long as that’s going up, I know that the quality of my search traffic is increasing.
Example of How I Used This Feature to Find an Awesome Keyword
As you may know, my site is in the SEO and digital marketing niche.
And because my site has been around for 6 years, I’ve pretty much already covered the major keywords in my space (like “link building” and “on page SEO”).
Which is why I’m always on the hunt for marketing keywords that aren’t super obvious.
Thanks to the Organic keywords feature in Ahrefs, I was able to find one.
First, I put a competing site into Ahrefs.
And when I looked at their top keywords, I found a term that had high search volume and a high CPC.
And in this chapter, you’ll learn how this feature works.
Find Highly-Shared Content
This is the main reason that people use Content Explorer.
All you need to do is pop a keyword or topic into Content Explorer…
…and you’ll get a list of articles that got tons of shares on social media:
If a specific social media network is important to you, you can sort by shares on that specific site:
Otherwise, you just want to scan the list to get a general idea of what’s working. Or to find a specific piece of content to use for The Skyscraper Technique.
Sort By Traffic Value
Like I mentioned back in Chapter 5, I’m a big fan of using Traffic Value as a metric for how a site’s SEO is doing.
And what’s cool about Content Explorer is that you can sort the results by Traffic Value. That way, you don’t just see content that got a bunch of shares… but content that’s still bringing in valuable traffic today.
Find Republished Posts
There’s a little dropdown tucked away in the top left-hand corner of the screen that lets you find content that’s been republished.
(In other words: content that someone updated on the same URL.)
This can give you a better idea of why a specific piece of content did so well.
For example, when I searched for content related to “SEO tips”, I noticed this result got a ton of shares.