Content marketing and SEO go together like bread and butter.
You don’t want to serve either one on its own.
When they’re together, they make each other better.
And we have a tool that’ll help you get on top of both today.
Staying on top of your SEO and your content strategy at once can often be difficult, time-consuming and even overwhelming.
At the same time, we all know that SEO is vital to the success of your content, your website and your bottom line—so it needs to be done.
Luckily, this is where the right SEO tool swoops in and saves the day.
Why Content Marketers Need Sharp SEO Tools
With the right online SEO tools in your arsenal, you’ll improve your SEO and as a natural extension of that, improve your content marketing.
Create more strategic content
While tools won’t go so far as to create content for you, good tools will, in fact, help you publish better content and reach more people.
They’ll do this by helping you choose content topics more strategically and putting your content in front of the right audience, increasing your reach and visibility.
Make SEO tasks easier
The best SEO tools can also take a lot of the pressure off you, handling a large part of your SEO research and analysis. When that happens, you can finally focus on what you do best—which, if you’re reading this blog, is probably content.
Free up your hands so you can focus on higher-leverage activities, and your team will start to make exponentially more progress.
So while it’s definitely important to have a firm grasp on SEO and stay on top of your optimization strategy at all times, there’s nothing wrong with handing over some of the responsibility to a few convenient and clever tools.
When it comes to online SEO tools, it’s hard to find a more convenient, clever or comprehensive one than Ahrefs.
Ahrefs Review: The Clever SEO Tool That Takes Care of Your Bread and Butter
An Introduction to Ahrefs
Ahrefs is one of the biggest players in the SEO toolkit market, and for pretty good reason.
It’s an awesome tool with a lot to offer both content marketers and SEOs, all wrapped up in a nice, clean and easy-to-use interface.
And you’ll know that’s not an easy feat once you see the huge amount of data it provides!
The Story Behind Ahrefs
Ahrefs was launched in 2011 as a standalone tool, Site Explorer, which is still a core part of their tool offering and their most popular feature today.
Since then, Ahrefs has grown into a large collection of tools including Site Explorer. These all work together to get you more traffic and help you monitor your market segment.
When you sign up for Ahrefs (because, yes, you have to sign up—I’m just putting this out there now that there’s no free version) you get all of the tools in the collection.
The tools cover practically every aspect of your SEO and marketing including keyword and content research, link building and web monitoring. I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much you get!
The team behind Ahrefs is based all over the world including the US, Ukraine and Singapore. They definitely count some movers and shakers among their ranks, and they move quickly, always updating and improving their unique toolkit.
The Capabilities of Ahrefs
Thanks to this impressive team, Ahrefs has grown massively since it was launched. It now has one of the largest backlink, keyword and content databases of any SEO tool and an extensive crawling capability.
The crawler processes around 6 billion web pages and 200 million root domains every day.
The index contains approximately 12 trillion known links and 3 trillion known URLs, and it updates every 15 minutes.
It’s a mind-blowing amount of information!
What does that mean for you? For one, your job becomes a whole lot easier. The tool collates so much data in one place, that you’ll have to do less jumping around between tools.
With this huge database of information, you can refine your SEO and content marketing strategy down to the very last detail, with everything accounted for.
For all of this, I’ve found Ahrefs to be incredibly handy.
It’s also worth noting that Ahrefs comes highly recommended by some of the industry’s leading experts including Neil Patel (of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg) and Brian Dean (of Backlinko).
So it’s pretty safe to say that this tool has something going for it!
How to Get Started with Ahrefs
Ahrefs can be set up quickly and easily.
Since it’s a web-based software product you don’t have to download or install anything. You just need to sign up for a subscription plan, and then the tools are yours!
Just type in your website domain(s) along with any competitor domains and keywords you want to track in your main dashboard. The number of things you can track at once will depend on the level of plan you’ve chosen—but more on that later.
In your dashboard overview, you’ll always have a picture of how your site is doing.
There, you can see important SEO metrics like domain rating, number of backlinks and number of referring domains (as well how many of those links and domains are recent), plus a snapshot of how your keywords are ranking in search engine results pages.
From your dashboard, you can easily navigate to all the different tools that make up Ahrefs and use them for both analyzing your own website and researching your competitors’ sites.
Let’s take a look at the huge collection now.
The Most Important Features You’ll Use in Ahrefs
1. Site Explorer
The original and most well-known tool, Site Explorer is what initially put Ahrefs on the map and got it noticed by the big industry players.
And for good reason, too—Site Explorer is easily one of the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis tools I’ve ever used.
You just plug in any website, and Site Explorer will show you a whole stack of important SEO metrics for that site including domain rating, a complete backlink profile, referring domains, web traffic, organic keyword positions and more.
You can then delve further into backlink analysis by systematically going through and investigating each individual backlink and referring domain.
The tool will show you everything you need to know about each inbound and outbound link including the page that it’s linking from and the page that it’s linking to, how old it is, anchor text and how well the referring page has performed on social media.
Site Explorer can be hugely helpful to your content marketing strategy, especially when it comes to staying on top of your competitors.
The tool allows you to get a much deeper understanding of where your competitors are being seen and how they’re being seen, which means you can follow the same avenues to build on what they already have with your own unique brand.
2. Keyword Explorer
Keyword Explorer helps you research and plan keywords to build content around, ensuring that you’re always providing the best answers to your users’ queries.
Because, after all, that’s how your content gets noticed—keyword optimization. That should always be the primary reason behind every piece of content you create (apart from the desire to provide quality information, obviously).
This is a handy tool, so don’t underestimate it.
You can type in up to 100 keywords that you want to take a deeper look at, and Keyword Explorer will show you exactly what you need to know to determine whether you should be incorporating them into your content strategy or not.
These are things like search volume, difficulty, return rate and traffic potential—all things you need to weigh up before deciding whether or not to target any particular keyword with your content.
Keyword Explorer will also show you keyword suggestions based on what you’ve entered, which is really great for finding longtail keywords that you may not have considered before and that you can create content around.
As you can see in the example above, the keyword “content marketing” has an incredibly high search volume and difficulty level, which means it would be expensive and timely to pursue.
But in the search suggestions, there are phrases like “what is content marketing” and “content marketing strategy” with significantly lower search volumes.
That means you can target these somewhat easier keywords first, to gain traction for your website or blog. In the meantime, you can start laying the groundwork for those more competitive keywords.
3. Content Explorer
With Content Explorer, you can get into all the juicy details about popular and highly-shared content in your niche, making it a fantastic research and outreach tool.
You type in a keyword or topic you want to explore, and Content Explorer will show you hundreds of thousands of results with accompanying statistics—all editorial content like blog posts and articles.
Beyond the ocean of data that’s returned to you, this tool really stands out with its filters.
On your results page, you can narrow down your search to focus on the most relevant and high-performing content by filtering by publish date, domain rating, social media shares, word count, organic traffic and referring domains.
And when I say filter, I mean you can get super specific.
For example, I could refine my search for “content marketing” to only show articles that were published between the 18th and 20th of May, that are on a site with a domain rating of 70 or higher, are less than 1,000 words and have been shared more than 100 times on Facebook and 80 times on LinkedIn.
And from there, each result also comes with more detailed stats about their shares, keyword performance and sharers. This is hugely valuable when it comes to outreach, helping you pinpoint influencers and market segments that you can build a content strategy around.
Other Valuable Tools Within Ahrefs
Ahrefs also has a number of secondary tools that can enhance the way you use it as a whole, as well as help you expand on your SEO and content strategy.
Alerts is a really handy add-on feature, and it’s not difficult to guess what it does.
Here you can set up customized alerts for your backlinks, new keywords and mentions, making it easy to stay on top of how your content and website is going.
Now, while Ahrefs does this overall alert feature very well, I should point out that they’re not technically alerts because they’re not given in real time—they’re more like reports or round-ups.
However, they’re super comprehensive, and the mention alerts are especially useful for content outreach.
You can set up daily mention alerts for your brand name or keywords, and every 24 hours you’ll get an email report of every mention of your brand or keywords on any website over that past 24 hours.
It’s up to date and hyper-relevant, and the emails tell you the domain rating of each site so you know straightaway which ones you should be paying attention to.
This makes one part of your outreach strategy a little easier, because if someone has mentioned your brand or a piece of content you published, that’s a great opportunity to ask for a backlink.
And if they’ve mentioned a keyword that you have great content to support, you can reach out with that too. It’s instant potential backlinks, without you having to do the work to find them.
This one is a Chrome extension that you can install on your web browser so that, when you have it turned on, you can see SEO and site metrics right in your toolbar for every website you land on.
It’s a subtle, non-intrusive toolbar and it pulls a heap of useful stats for every site including domain rating, URL rating, number of backlinks and number of referring domains.
And to see more about the website’s link profile (because sometimes just the numbers aren’t enough to properly evaluate it), you can expand the toolbar with one click to see complete backlink history graphs and some extra information like referring IPs and referring subnets.
SEO Toolbar is essentially a time-saving tool, making everything more efficient and convenient when you’re doing backlink research and analysis.
Deciding whether to reach out to a person or business with your content depends on a lot of things, but with this you can weed out the bad ones a little more easily to collate a shortlist for further analysis.
Domain Comparison is a simple tool that you probably wouldn’t need to use very often, but it’s there if you need it, regardless.
Plug in up to five domains that you want to compare, and the tool will show you their key metrics side by side (with the strongest one for each category bolded) for an easy and quick assessment.
The metrics include number of referring domains (further broken down into number of referring top level domains like .com, .edu, .gov and .net), social media shares (broken down into social media platform), dofollow and nofollow links, redirects and heaps more.
Useful for a quick snapshot of how a few competing domains or potential outreach sources compare.
Similar to Domain Comparison above, Batch Analysis won’t be hugely relevant to your day-to-day processes but it’ll come in handy every now and then.
With this tool, you can generate incredibly detailed backlink reports of up to several hundred URLs for an easy comparison and contrast of the most important metrics.
These metrics include number of backlinks and referring domains, domain ratings, URL ratings, traffic, social media shares and types of links.
All in all, it’s a pretty in-depth overview of what can be a lot of domains, so this is a good tool to use when you’re getting into deeper competitor research and want an organized way to collate a large amount of data.
Link Intersect is a very useful step to include in your competitor link research and finding new opportunities to share your content.
The tool basically shows you where backlinks cross over or intersect.
You can find websites that link to two or three of your competitors but not to you, or that link to some of your competitors but not to others.
It’s a good way to spot easy link opportunities. If, for example, a content publisher is linking to three of your competitors, they’re more likely to agree to link to you if you ask as well because they clearly have an interest in your niche. Definitely worth using.
Ahrefs Plans and Pricing
Now, the pricing is where I hesitate. Ahrefs is quite expensive.
There are four plan options ranging from $99 a month or $990 a year for the Lite version (yes, this is the cheapest option) all the way up to $999 a month or $9,999 a year for the Agency version.
Choosing an annual plan over a monthly plan gets you a pretty significant discount, but as you can see, you’ll need to be prepared to fork out a fairly large chunk of money in one go.
If it’s something your budget can afford, I would definitely recommend taking the trial for a spin to see if it’s worth it for you.
Although you should be aware that it’s not free to try it out. It costs $7 to use it for seven days with all the premium features.
As it is, the price point does unfortunately put Ahrefs out of reach for many.
How Ahrefs Compares to the Competition
SEMrush and Moz give Ahrefs a good run for its money with their powerful keyword research and tracking features. Monitor Backlinks is the big contender when it comes to backlinks.
In terms of pricing alone, SEMrush and Moz are equals with starting packages priced at $99, though you might find one of their keyword features better suited to your research needs.
If you’re at all interested in managing your backlink profile and doing some linkbuilding, Monitor Backlinks is where it’s at. It offers a comprehensive keyword rank tracker, a powerful backlink management tool and even a neat reporting module.
We often recommend trying the free trial of the Monitor Backlinks SEO tool alongside the other tools on the market. It might turn out that you don’t use half the bells and whistles offered by Ahrefs and others; Monitor Backlinks is much more streamlined and user friendly, with a friendly starting price of $21.67 per month.
Final Thoughts on Ahrefs
Ahrefs is an incredibly in-depth and detailed collection of SEO tools that can benefit your content marketing strategy through better research and analysis.
This is what your entire strategy is built upon, and Ahrefs gives you the most complete picture you can get of relevant keywords, content and backlinks so that your strategy incorporates every potential channel.
While it’s definitely a very valuable tool that I’d gladly recommend, it’s also a premium product that comes at a premium price.
This makes it more suitable for agencies and well-established content teams, and it’s certainly a worthwhile investment if you’re at that level.
But it’s not going to be feasible for every content marketer and if that’s the case, make sure you’re at least using some affordable alternatives—because you can’t afford to leave your SEO to chance.