Ahrefs Review: Analysis of Sites, Keywords, External Links, and Mentions

Ahrefs offers a set of tools for working with a website at all stages: from analyzing competitive platforms and planning the structure to removing current positions and evaluating the result. The main vector of the service’s activity is research and analytics of the link mass of an online resource. It allows you to study competitors in a niche and determine the effectiveness of your own website. Read more in the review.

What is Ahrefs

The platform was launched in 2011 as a tool for backlink analysis. Nowadays, there are many more functions. At the same time, the service still specializes mainly in working with links and the English-language segment.

Ahrefs is positioned as an SEO tool that performs the following tasks:

  1. Analyzes the organic results of competing sites, evaluates link building, positions, traffic, and content.
  2. Analyzes keywords. This includes searching for low-frequency keywords, search suggestions, and clustering by semantic groups. A database of 7 billion keywords and search suggestions provides thousands of ideas. The keyword difficulty score is the main filter for selecting the most appropriate keywords for promotion.
  3. Analyzes backlinks. The service crawls 4.61 billion pages per day and updates its index every 15 minutes. The link base is even larger and as of 2022, it amounts to 30.94 trillion links and 170 million domains.
  4. Carries out content analysis. To do this, you just need to enter a keyword, and it will display new and cited content. This greatly simplifies the search and analysis of content.
  5. Analyzes positions. Thanks to the above options, the service does a good job of scanning positions.

For whom the Ahrefs service is intended

The platform’s capabilities are useful for marketers who need to enter the online space in a competent manner. The tools and data offered by Ahrefs can be used by:

  • Website owners who optimize their sites on their own.
  • SEO studios that manage projects for several companies.
  • In-house SEO specialists and marketers who promote their employer’s resources.
  • Webmasters who have several different platforms for promoting projects in affiliate programs.
  • SEO consultants who develop custom SEO strategies.
  • Content marketers who create content for websites.

What data does Ahrefs show?

The service offers in-house developed metrics that reflect website performance. These metrics are derived through regular network scanning, including the following:

Key MetricsWhat is measured
Domain Rating (DR)The effectiveness of a website’s backlink profile compared to others in the Ahrefs database. The higher the rating, the more “link weight” is transferred to related domains. It is used to select sites for link building
URL Rating (UR)The effectiveness of the page’s links. The higher this indicator, the stronger the link profile. Both internal and external links are taken into account
Ahrefs RankThe position of the portal in the Ahrefs database based on the size and quality of its backlink profile (mainly DR). The more quality backlinks a website has, the higher its ranking is
BacklinksNumber of all backlinks detected by the service
Referral DomainsNumber of unique domains that link to the site, according to Ahrefs
KeywordsThe total number of keywords for which the resource is ranked in the top 100 of Google, according to the Ahrefs database. Queries from different geos are added
Organic TrafficExpected volume of organic traffic from Google per month according to Ahrefs
AnchorsThe most common anchors in a website’s link profile
Parent TopicGeneral topic to which the keyword belongs
Traffic PotentialThe amount of traffic that a website could receive if it were to rank first for a given keyword
Keyword DifficultyThe difficulty of ranking a website on the first page of Google for a specific word
Also Rank ForA list of keywords that also rank in the top 10 results. If a website is not in the top 10 search results for a keyword, it is unlikely to receive traffic from it

Project tracking

The Rank Tracker tool allows you to:

  1. study the positions of the site;
  2. monitor changes in positions;
  3. track online history.

To start tracking a website, you need to use the Add Project function and enter the website URL. Then go to Rank Tracker and study the data about the site.

This feature allows you to track the visibility and positions of the site in real time, as well as evaluate the average positions for the keywords you are researching.

In the Metrics tab, you can analyze important parameters for the monitored keywords: ranked position, keyword complexity, cost per click, return rate, etc.

In the Grossing section, you can track the growth of your website’s positions over a certain period of time. This greatly simplifies the full analytics of a website: if you need to quickly generate a promotion report, you can simply download it from the service.

In addition, you can identify keywords for which the site is not growing or sinking.

Tracking backlinks

Links are the most important ranking factor, and Ahrefs makes it possible to:

  • upload backlinks to your website;
  • collect low-quality links;
  • create a disavow file;
  • track new natural links.

Uploading links to the site

Analyzing backlinks is the first thing you need to do when studying competitors. Without it, it is impossible to promote your website:

  • create a disavow file for the webmaster (Google and Bing);
  • determine the link profile and develop a promotion strategy;
  • collect links for content analysis.

For the analysis, you need to insert the URL under study into a special field.

Filtering low-quality links

Often, out of a large number of uploaded links, you need to study which are useful and which are not. When analyzing the link profile of competitors, you can both analyze all backlinks and filter them if necessary, for example, one link to one domain. This will allow you to hide duplicate backlinks that may be 301 redirects, for example, from an old version of the site.

The Group Similar Links feature will combine them into a single stream. Thus, the report will contain only unique links.

What to consider:

  • Domain rank – as mentioned earlier, the higher the rank, the better.
  • Link ranking – here you can estimate the level of spamming of the page – how many pages of links are found on a particular link. Here, on the contrary, it is better if there are fewer, but this does not mean that one link will be enough.
  • Social signals (links on LinkedIn and Facebook) is a rarely used parameter. Nevertheless, if a link has a lot of social signals, it may well have a lot of traffic.
  • Anchor and backlink are important parameters that help to evaluate how competitors write texts around links.

It’s also worth noting that links with a ranking below 10 are usually junk, spammy, and it doesn’t matter what domains they come from.

It is recommended that you clean up this list in Excel and make a list of low-quality URLs, but you don’t need to delete them, they may come in handy later.

Creating a disavow file

From the collected bad links, which can be a lot, you need to remove links from old domains, including redirects.

Then you need to inform the search engine that these links are not needed. To do this, you need to reject them in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster.

Natural links

Natural links to a website are one of the ways to promote it, and you can attract them by creating high-quality and popular content.

The list of these links is formed as follows:

  • Collect all the links from SEOs who have placed them on a given website.
  • Download the list of backlinks from Ahrefs.
  • Sift the list by URL quality (more than 10).
  • Add links from SEO specialists to the top of the report (the URLs themselves), mark the SEO link itself with any color.
  • Remove duplicate links in Excel.

The links that remain uncolored should be studied. Most of them are probably natural.

Cross link analysis

Crosslink analysis is a unique tool that few people know about. It is located at the top of the panel under the More tab.

With this feature, the site owner can identify domains that link to competing sites but do not link to him.

To do this, you need to:

  • go to “More” – Link Intersect;
  • enter two or more competing domains and click Show;
  • get a list of sites that contain links to competitive sites.

How can this be useful? If a resource links to one of your competitors, it may be an accident. But if it links to three competitors, it already shows that links to sites in this niche are natural for it. And if you use a similar approach, for example, choose the same content format, you have a high chance of getting links from this site as well.

Top pages by inbound links

You can use this feature to plan your content format. If you evaluate which pages have the most backlinks, you can see the content that is most often shared.

If you analyze this report, you can come to the following conclusions:

  • half of the headlines (out of 50 items) contain interrogative words: how, what, who, what, how much, what, etc;
  • six out of 50 texts are studies and surveys, and the same number are guides/manuals/instructions;
  • every tenth article helps to make a choice: reviews, comparisons, descriptions of different ways to solve a problem.

Thus, in a few minutes, you can get a topic for several materials that are likely to be linked to.

New backlinks

This tool allows you to monitor the increase in link mass in almost real time. Every day, you can track the list of resources that link to a particular website.

This way, you can mark the domains that are relevant now and can become donors for the site in the future. Thanks to new links, you can establish cooperation with the owners of online platforms and mutually promote each other. You can also find similar sites and expand your donor network.

Lost links

A lost link is a link that has been removed from a website. This feature helps to track not very responsible donors who have ordered a backlink. If you contact the owner, you can arrange for the link to be returned.

However, the loss of links is a normal situation. Sometimes the partner sites delete the page or the new site administrator updates the content. Therefore, the report will become a source of information that will help you return legitimate lost links.


When developing a link building strategy, it is important not to forget about anchors. The Ahrefs report will help SEOs track the distribution of links with and without anchors, find out how other sites embed their links, and correct errors if necessary.

If the anchor text is over-optimized (too many keywords), the site may face sanctions from Google.

Competitor analysis Ahrefs

To study competitors, the service offers the following functions:

  • analysis of the positions of competitive sites;
  • checking the link strategy;
  • determination of traffic;
  • assessment of link quality;
  • highlighting the types of competitor’s links;
  • analysis of budgets and pace of promotion in SEO;
  • identifying anchors used by competitors.

Competitor analytics is an important final step in the first stage of SEO optimization. Thanks to a full audit of competitive websites, you can identify important aspects of website promotion.

Analysis of competitors’ positions

At this stage, you need to find the keys on which to focus your promotion. First, you need to analyze the position: the higher it is and the more traffic it has, the more likely it is that the competitor has allocated the maximum budget for SEO, namely links and content.

Ahrefs parsing is distinguished by the support of a large number of geos. For example, the analysis includes resources from Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America.

To get the rankings of an online platform, you need to select the Site Explorer tool and paste the URL. As a result, you will see keywords, their frequency in a given region, complexity, estimated cost per click (in dollars), expected monthly traffic, site position, and URL in Google. Positions can be determined both for the entire site and for a specific page.

You can also monitor new keywords and those that have improved their positions.

Search for pages with the highest traffic

To create content tasks for a website, you need to identify the most visible pages in the search results – the ones that drive the most desired traffic.

Google has three promotion factors: content, links, and RankBrain.

Since you need to determine which links to choose to get suitable traffic and understand how to adjust the content, you need to go to the Top Pages section.

You need to select 80% of the pages with the highest traffic (often there are not many of them) and study their content. To do this, simply follow these links.

You should immediately make a list of comments for rewriting similar texts on the site. At the same time, you should review the materials for correction on a regular basis.

For commercial pages with a narrower focus, you should change the content to a selling one.

Analyze the pages with the most links

To develop a promotion strategy, you need to find out what links are built to your competitors. Keep in mind that Ahrefs sees all links, whether they are made by SEOs, special services, or placed naturally by the target and relevant audience. You can find everything from redirects to real backlinks in this report.

To analyze external links, you need to select the HTTP response code – 200 (normal link), and the ready-made list should be used in further work.

Analyze the quality of the communication profile

An SEO specialist may find that there are even too many links at first. But more than 80% of links have mostly low rankings and have little or no impact on promotion. Therefore, it is worth downloading the report and studying the quality of the links.

The resulting table should be sorted by link ranking and only those above 10 should be left. It is worth removing links that may be inappropriate (automatically created – site rankings), as well as links created by bots or posted by the site owner on non-thematic sites. After that, you should calculate the monthly growth rate of the link volume.

Then you can start studying the competitor’s top pages. The SEO needs to find them in the downloaded report and sort them by the number of links that should be to similar popular content on his site. You also need to go through the pages with the highest number of links that were found earlier. Separately, you should see how the profile is built on them over the month.

Analyze the list of domains, understand the types of links, and determine what content needs to be written for external links.

GEO analysis for promotion in Ahrefs

If your website needs to be promoted in several countries, the service will also help you develop a strategy for this. To choose a geo, you should study the search results: just navigate through the list of countries using the checkboxes.

It is necessary to analyze the content, top pages for each country, and find out how the budget is allocated for different types of local sites.

As for the language for the content, you usually need to determine

  • the highest priority countries;
  • the best language to prepare content for different countries;
  • the most popular resources in different languages.

Ahrefs Site Explorer is the most commonly used tool for analyzing backlinks.

Dofollow and nofollow links

Not all websites leave dofollow links. Usually, both links lead to the resource. At the same time, nofollow links should be studied, as some of them can provide traffic.

That is, it is important to choose such sites, and you also need to prepare high-quality content for them.

To do this, select Nofollow in the Backlinks block of the Site Explorer tab.

These can be links from partner sites, Wikipedia, or high-traffic sites.

This list should be studied by the company’s PR manager to find the most traffic-rich sites for link placement.

Study of competitors’ anchors

The search engine evaluates both anchor and anchorless links during promotion, without emphasizing them. The text near the anchor is taken into account in general. But it is still recommended to study the anchor text – anchors matter in the burger.

For convenience, you can compare different types of anchors and determine the percentage of leading ones. The following statistics are worth considering:

  • 40% of links are without anchors.
  • Approximately 10-15% are URL or company name mentions.
  • About 20% are anchors without a keyword.

The rest of the anchors are already assigned to keys, and usually no more than one or two links per anchor are used.

Ahrefs offers a convenient way to highlight such anchors: divide them into terms consisting of a different number of words – from one to four.

The anchor list can be downloaded and sorted by frequency of use, compared with the semantic core, and a promotion strategy can be developed.

Search and analyze content in Ahrefs

Working with content in the service involves:

  • collecting keywords;
  • drafting a technical task for a copywriter;
  • assessment of missing semantics.

Sometimes the team may not know what else to write on the website. This happens when the initial analysis of competitors is completed, the site is being promoted according to plan, and the necessary content is written better than the competition.

Keyword selection

You can add from 1 to 250 keys (or upload them from a text file). Later, you can use this list for ongoing metrics analysis.

As a result, you can track the overall frequency of the keyword list, the approximate number of clicks for geo, and the average frequency and competitiveness of the semantics. In addition, the search results for these queries show the types of links.

You can also download all the other queries that occur for the keyword list:

  • are related to them;
  • are also ranked in the search alongside them (synonyms are possible);
  • are search engine suggestions (search tips).

Missing semantics

If you are planning to expand the semantics, but the keywords are not defined, you should study the missing semantics by comparing domains with each other. To do this, SEOs need to select up to three competitors (preferably those in the top 10) and specify their website.

The list should be sorted by the following filters:

  1. Traffic – from 100.
  2. Number of words – from two.
  3. Region.
  4. Keys whose complexity does not exceed 50.

Then you need to study the content by the keywords used by your competitors’ websites and set up a task for a copywriter to prepare texts for new pages. To do this, you should collect search tips for the keyword using Keywords Explorer. Copy the issued keys and send them to the copywriter so that he or she can write better than the competitors.

Pricing of services Ahrefs

The following tariff plans are available to users:

In case of an annual subscription, the prices will be reduced: $99, $199, $399, $999, respectively.

Additional users and data that are not included in the tariff plans will be charged separately. The fee is charged automatically upon usage. However, you should be careful with automatic fees, as they can be charged for the slightest actions with the tools.

A seven-day trial period is also available, which costs $7.

Despite the fact that there are no free service packages, site owners can activate some features for free. For example, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools provides free limited access to Site Explorer and Site Audit.

Ahrefs’ free features are designed for small companies, beginners, and nonprofit sites. They mostly solve one specific task, such as link analysis or keyword generation for a particular search engine. Of course, the features are limited compared to the tariff plans, but they are enough to conduct a cursory analysis of the site and assess whether Ahrefs is suitable for use at all.


Ahrefs helps website owners and marketers identify and evaluate the main competitive projects in a niche, improve the quality of their own search traffic, find out the reasons for low website rankings, form a semantic core, and create high-quality content. Many people are scared off by the far from affordable cost of services (from $1 thousand to $10 thousand per year), but large companies cannot do without this service to ensure strong SEO.

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