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Ahrefs is an online paid subscription tool that allows you to view key SEO metrics.
It can be used to audit your website, uncover technical issues, provide you with new content ideas and provides a wealth of information when it comes to link building.
This guide is based on the Lite plan, there are even more features on the other plans.
Check out the plans here.
These are some of the cool features you may want to try:
Site explorer allows you to analyse a website and view information such as the backlinks pointing to that site, the type of backlink, the number of referring domains and keywords.
Jump to Site Explorer.
Allows you to search for keywords to get an understanding of the traffic volume, how difficult it is to rank for those keywords and to get related keyword ideas.
Jump to Keywords Explorer.
Input your website URL to find out if there are any issues with the website. Set the crawler to run at regular intervals so you can pick up any problems with your website health score.
Jump to Site Audit.
Add your websites as projects and monitor the changes in average position in the SERP, different SERP features the site appears for and how many ranking keywords are showing for the website.
Jump to Rank Tracker.
Add a topic and get useful information on that topic from the SERP including the top ranking pages and all the metrics that go along with those pages.
Jump to Content Explorer.
Perform batch analysis, domain comparison, set up alerts, Ahrefs APIs, Apps and more.
Jump to More.
Site explorer allows you to analyse a website and view information such as the backlinks pointing to that site, the type of backlink, the number of referring domains and keywords.
Feel free to skip to the Site Explorer section you are most interested in, or keep reading to see what’s in the tool:
To get started, navigate to Site Explorer from the menu and enter a domain or URL. Select the drop down menu to change the scope of the report. For example, if you want an analysis on a specific web page then select URL – Exact URL.
Alternatively, if you want to see a full report on the entire website, then select Domain with subdomains.
You will then get a dashboard screen similar to the below:
A few things to point out on this screen:
Ahrefs Rank – This is a rank Ahrefs gives to the website, this is compared to all the other websites it has in its database and is based on the strength of their backlink profile.
UR – URL Rating. This provides a score out of 100, the higher the better, on the URL based on its backlink profile.
DR – Domain Rating. This shows the relative backlink popularity of the website compared with other websites in the Ahrefs database. Again this is on a 100 point scale.
Traffic Value – This is an estimate of the value of your organic keywords if you were to pay for them via Pay Per Click Advertising.
For more information on how Ahrefs creates their metrics and what they mean, visit their Ahrefs SEO Metrics Blog Post.
Backlink Profile Section
Click on Backlinks under the Backlink profile heading to see information about the backlink profile of a site path or particular web page.
You can use the filters along the top of the results to narrow down the findings, for example: select one link per domain, or only show ‘Dofollow’ links.
To find out more about the context on the backlink, you can click on the links in the ‘referring page’ column. This will open that website in a new tab, so you can review the content and see more information about the page. Or you can quickly scan the ‘anchor and backlink’ column to see the link text and URL to get an idea of the context.
Filter by platform, such as: blogs, eCommerce, message boards, wikis and CMS, Language, Traffic Volume
Use the Word or Phrase input field to refine the list of backlinks to either include or exclude particular words. You can be more specific by selecting where the word or phrase might appear by selecting the ‘Target Any’ select menu.
You can show or exclude the keyword or phrase by URLs of referring pages, Titles of referring Pages, URLs of backlinks, Anchors or Surrounding texts, with an ‘any’ or ‘all’ option.
New, Lost and Broken Backlinks
New – find out which new backlinks have been acquired
Lost – find out which backlinks have been removed
Broken – find out which backlinks are going to broken pages
This is useful to analyse your own website to find out whether you may be able to recover any lost backlinks or broken links as well as tracking any new links to your site.
You could also do the same on a competitor website to see what type of content is getting lots of backlinks (New). This could give you some ideas for your own content.
If your competitor has lost backlinks and you have similar content, you could contact those websites and see if they can link to your content.
Equally if a competitor has broken backlinks and you have a comparable page to link to you could contact the webmasters who are linking to a broken link.
The next report is the Referring Domains report, this shows the websites that are pointing to the website you are analysing.
This is useful for seeing which websites link to your competitors and identifying if there might be an opportunity to reach out to them to link to your website.
You can filter links to only see ‘Dofollow’ or ‘Governmental’.
The Anchors report shows the text on other websites that contains a link pointing to your website. The anchor text reports can help you identify if your site might be subject to an SEO attack. For example, if many sites link to you with the same anchor text for a topic that is not relevant to your website, it could hurt your ranking.
You could also use this report to find out more about the websites linking to a competitor and what it is they are linking to.
Use this report to see all referring domains and pages by IP address and subnet. This can be useful for finding referring IPs from the same network, which may indicate one person owns all these websites. As Ahrefs say on their site this might not be a negative thing however it could be a sign of a PBN (private blog network).
This report shows all your internal links to other pages on your website. This is useful for identifying any issues with these links and may help you to identify where you need to add more internal links.
Input URLs or domains to show who is linking to these domains. In addition, you can add your own URL or a clients domain in the ‘But doesn’t link to (optional)’ field. This way you can find link opportunities or a list of sites linking to your competitors but who do not link to your site.
You can select to only show opportunities who link to all your competitors, as these may be more appropriate.
Likewise if there is a keyword you want to rank for, search for the keyword in Google and take the first few results and put them into the link intersect tool, then see who is linking to them but not you.
Organic Search Section
Click on organic Keywords (under the Organic Search sections) to see all the keywords a domain or URL ranks for. View information such as the:
- Search volume for the keyword
- Difficulty to rank for that keyword
- CPC (cost per click)
- Estimated traffic those keywords are generating
- Destination URL
Filter by country, word count, SERP features, include or exclude keywords and filter by all the metrics above such as volume and position.
There are two sub-reports:
- New – displays keywords that have moved up to the next group of positions eg: from positions 11-50 to position 4-10
- Movements – Show you a history of ranking changes that Ahrefs has in it’s database.
Top pages shows you a list of pages on your website (or the website you are researching) which are getting the most organic web traffic.
Use top pages to see:
- The pages on your competitors website get the most organic traffic
- Which pages on your competitors website gets traffic but has few backlinks
- The keywords your competitor is ranking for (Click on the numbers select menu on the keywords column) – this can help you if you are writing content for your own website
For more tips on how to find your competitors pages that get web traffic:
This report ranks a website’s subfolder based on the amount of organic search traffic it receives.
Use this report to :
- Check out competitors and see which subfolders rank well and get traffic
- Get ideas for your own website structure
- Find content ideas (topics) that may not be very competitive by using the Keyword difficulty filter
Top subdomains ranks a website’s subdomains based on the volume of organic traffic.
This is useful to find out the variances in search traffic between the main domain and subdomains on a website.
Use this to:
- Look at competitor sites to get inspiration on topics and site structure
- Find content ideas which may be less competitive
This report shows a list of competing websites that rank in the top 10 for the same keywords in your target (the URL or domain).
Use this report to find:
- New keyword ideas that your competitors are ranking for but you are not
- Filter by keyword difficulty to find the best opportunities
This report displays a list of pages that appear in the top 10 for the same keywords as your target.
Use this to:
- Click on the number in the ‘Keywords unique to competitor’ column to see all the keywords
- Use these keywords for inspiration for developing new content
The content gap report allows you to input competitor URLs to find out which keywords they rank for. Add your URL in the ‘But the following target doesn’t rank for’ field to get keyword ideas that you don’t currently rank for.
You can use the competing domains report to generate a list of competitor URLs if necessary.
Best By Links – The Best Pages by Incoming Links
Access this report under the Pages section under ‘Best by links’.
This report shows you a list of pages of the website or URL you are exploring based on the number of incoming links.
Use the buttons at the top of the report to toggle between internal and external links.
You can also filter by:
- Platform (e.g: All, Blogs, Ecommerce, Message Boards, Wikis & CMS)
- HTTP code (e.g: All, 200 ok, 301 moved permanently, 302 redirect and so on)
- Search in results input field
- Use this report on your own site and filter by HTTP code and select 404 to see if you have any broken links (both internal and external)
- Do the same on competitor sites
- Internal Linking Opportunities: find out which pages on your site have the most link authority, add a link to those pages to another page on your site to help grow the authority
- Use this report to find out which pages of your competitors website has the most backlinks
- This can give you content ideas or give you ideas on how to improve your own content
- Try to get backlinks from the same websites if you have similar or better content than your competitors
Best By Links’ Growth
This report orders web pages by the total number of referring domains for the selected website by 1 day, 7 days and 30 days.
Click on the numbers under each column to view the link details, including referring domain, Domain Rating, Ahrefs rank, the date Ahrefs identified the link and the backlinks toggle with more even detail such as:
- Anchor and backlink information (e.g: Image, Content, Canonical)
- Keyword Count in the top 100 (Kw.)
- Traffic (monthly)
- URL Rating
- Referring Domains
- Linked Domains
- External links from the referring page (Ext.)
This report shows you which pages have attracted the most links recently, which can help you determine:
- Popular content topics
- Where each pages’ backlinks have come from
- Which keywords the page is ranking for
- Which paid keywords are targeted
The top content report sorts pages by the number of social shares on platforms such as twitter, facebook and pinterest.
This report also allows you to view:
- Referring domains
- Total social shares
- Social power (SP)
- Published date
This report may be helpful in viewing:
- Trends for content that is popular (most-shared) on social channels
- Trending topics (by date)
- Content pieces your competitors are getting the most social shares
- Which content has the most backlinks
Outgoing Links Section
This report shows which sites the targeted website or URL is linking to as well as the linked domains’:
- Domain rating
- Ahrefs rank
- Referring domains (dofollow)
- Linked domains (dofollow)
- Organic traffic
- Links from target (total number of links the target website is sending)
- Dofollow – number of links that do not have ‘nofollow’ applied (from the target website)
- First seen – the date Ahrefs found a link from the target site
This report is useful for reviewing the websites you are linking to and checking that the URLs are not being redirected to irrelevant URLs.
The Anchors reports lists all the words used for the links on a URL or domain.
These can be viewed by internal and external links.
Click on the external or internal buttons to view the details including the referring page, anchor and when Ahrefs first found the link.
Use this report to see which pages you are linking out to – perhaps some of these links could be updated or replaced with links to your own content.
This report shows all the broken outgoing links on the selected website or URL including:
- Referring page
- URL rating (UR)
- Internal backlinks
- External backlinks
- Anchor and Link
- DP Check – Last time Ahrefs checked the destination page
- RP Check – Last time Ahrefs checked the referring page
This report is useful to help you:
- Fix any outgoing broken links on your website
- Find opportunities from broken links on a competitors website
Paid Search Section
This report shows you all the keywords that a site ranks for in paid search results including:
- Ads – A preview of an ad as seen in paid search results
- Block – whether the ad appears at the top or bottom of the SERP
- Keyword Difficulty (KD)
- Average Cost Per Click (CPC)
- Traffic – Percentage of Paid Traffic that goes to that website by the given keyword
- Results – Total number of organic search results for the keyword
- Last updated
You can further filter the results by volume, keyword difficulty, cpc, word count, language and you can include or exclude keywords. For example if you are running the report on a competitors website you may want to exclude their brand keywords.
This report can be used to:
- See which keywords your competitors are paying for
- View the cost per click to decide if you want to bid for those keywords
- See which paid keywords send the most web traffic
- See the copy that your competitors are using for their ads
- Find low cost keywords with good traffic volume to bid on
This report appears as ‘ads’ in the left hand navigation and can be found under the paid search section.
This report provides a preview of the ads that are being run by a particular website, the monthly volume of traffic they are getting, the % of paid traffic generated by the ad, the average CPC, total number of keywords and the destination URL.
This is useful to:
- View the copy that your competitors are using for their ads
- Get ideas for title and meta description from your competitors best ads for your own organically ranking pages
- See the keywords that are being targeted which could give you inspiration for your own paid or organic efforts
- Filter by keywords that are relevant to your business including location, products or services
Top Landing Pages
This report shows you the pages on a website that get the most traffic from paid advertising, including:
- The % of traffic from paid ads going to the particular URL
- Number of keywords ranking in paid search
- Number of ads associated with one URL
- Page URL
- Top keyword – the one that brings the most traffic
- You can also filter by keywords to include or exclude
- You can target URL or keywords
Use this report to:
- See which keywords are sending the most traffic
- Which pages your competitors are sending paid traffic to – you can see what their landing pages look like and if you could incorporate any of these features in your own landing pages
CSV & PDF export options.
Use these reports filters to generate your own csv or pdf reports.
You can also see CSV and Export options on most reports on the top right hand corner.
Keyword explorer allows you to get keyword ideas along with all the important metrics that go with them such as search volume.
Search for keywords by search engine including: Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Baidu, Daum, Naver and Seznam.
Keywords Explorer is made up of the following reports – each report here is linked so you can jump straight to the relevant section:
Input a single keyword or create a list of keywords in notepad or another text editor (one keyword per line) and paste the keyword into the search box.
Select the relevant search engine (or leave as is for Google), select the country and click the search icon.
As you can see from the screenshot above, this report provides information on the keyword, difficulty, search volume, clicks, CPC, Return rate (RR), Search Features (SF), parent topic, SERP and when it was updated.
Parent topic: click on the parent topic to get more ideas for keywords and content.
SERP: click on the SERP caret to see what the search results look like along with all their metrics.
Use this report to help with:
- Keyword research – planning which keywords you will try to rank for
- Finding keywords with lower difficulty but still a good traffic volume
- Finding new keywords you haven’t yet explored
Use this report to show the history of a particular keyword in paid search and which companies have been competing over these keywords.
You can also use this report to see:
- Your competitors ads
- Which pages your competitors are sending paid traffic to
- Get inspiration from the ad copy to improve your own page title or meta descriptions
All Keyword Ideas
Use this report to find more keyword ideas based on keyword difficulty, volume, word count, SERP features and so on.
Phrase Match: This report gives you keyword ideas based on the specific order your keywords are written
Having Same Terms: This report gives you keyword ideas based on all the words in your search in any order.
Also Rank For: This report gives you keywords that the top-ranking pages for your searched keyword also rank for within the top 100 position.
Search Suggestions: This report provides autocomplete suggestions based on your keyword and related terms along with all the metrics.
Newly Discovered: Keywords that have been recently added to the Ahrefs database.
Questions: Keyword ideas that appear in questions.
Traffic Share By Domains: This report allocates a portion of estimated monthly traffic as a percentage against each of the ranking domains.
Traffic Share By Pages: This report allocates a portion of estimated monthly traffic as a percentage against each of the ranking pages.
Click on ‘keywords explorer’ on the main horizontal navigation and you will see a ‘+ New list’ button. This allows you to group keywords by topics or categories.
Once you have a list this will appear under the Keywords Lists option on the left hand navigation.
This report will help you fix any underlying issues with your website.
Click on the ‘New Project’ button to get started and move through the wizard to set up your site crawl.
Once the crawl has completed click on the date of the crawl to view the results.
You can then work through the issues, prioritising the errors and warning and then the recommendations.
By clicking on the issue, an accordion will drop down and you can see more information about how you could go about fixing the issue.
You can export the reports in csv or print the summary page in a pdf.
All issues: Click on this to see a full list of issues
To-do: As you go through each of the issues you can add them to a ‘to-do’ list, these issues will appear here. They can then be exported as a csv.
Crawl log: Provides the details on what Ahrefs has crawled for your site audit
Bulk export: Allows you to export from a list of different URLs by categories such as duplicate content URLs, Orphan pages and image references without alt text.
Page explorer: Shows you a list of site URLS along with their page rating (backlink profile strength in comparison to other pages on the site), organic traffic, HTTP status code and more.
Click on the ‘manage columns’ button to add the metrics that you will find most useful.
Link Explorer: Use this report to see where you are linking to on your website along with information such as ‘is nofollow’, http status code and the link type.
Structure explorer: Shows you the distribution of http status codes across different sections of your website. If you have lots of 4xx and 5xx or timeouts then this might need some attention, you can also use this to find any redirects you have and fix these if they aren’t needed.
Internal pages: provides an overview of any page issues and the http status codes, protocols distribution (http/ https), content types, discoverable URLS by crawl source and top subdomains.
Indexability: Shows non-indexable causes (such as canonicalization, noindex and non-200) indexability by depth level, robots directives (such as nofollow, noindex) and canonical tag distribution.
Links: Review any issues with links on your website, both internal and external. This report also provides information such as the top anchors, top pages by incoming links and so on.
Redirects: Shows any redirects you have on your website
On page: Shows any on page issues with a website from title tags to, h1’s and meta descriptions.
Social tags: Shows any issues with open graph tag implementation.
Duplicate content: identify pages without content (not set or empty) or bad duplicates (pages with duplicate content which is not properly managed by their canonical).
Localization: Shows any issues with the hreflang tag
Performance: Shows page load issues.
Images: Shows performance of images and their attributes including inclusion of alt text, protocol distribution and http status code.
CSS: Shows any performance issues with CSS on the website
Rank Tracker allows you to track set keywords on a website so you can view performance over time in the Google search engine.
It shows the website’s visibility as a percentage of total clicks for the tracked keywords. Average position, traffic, SERP features and whether traffic has gone up or down and by how many positions.
Watch this video from Ahrefs which explains how to use Rank Tracker in more detail:
This report is connected to the projects that you set up on the site audit. So if you use the lite plan you are restricted to 5 projects and a limited monthly crawl budget.
If you are creating a new project under rank tracker it will also give you the option to input competitor URLs so you can compare ranking against your competitors.
You can also select which country or countries you want your data to be based on.
Sub reports include:
- Tags – you can add tags to your keywords to group them into meaningful categories.
For example if you are optimising landing pages for particular keywords, you could mark those keywords as ‘landing page’
- Pages – this shows the URLs on your site which are ranking for your rank tracker keywords. Click on the organic keywords button to find out what other keywords those pages are ranking for
- Grossing – shows the changes in position of your rank tracker keywords over time. Filter by country, positions and volume. Click on the SERP button to see a preview of the search results for that keyword
- Metrics – See the position, keyword difficulty, CPC, volume, clicks and other detailed metrics on your rank tracker keywords. If the parent topic is different to your rank tracker keyword you could also incorporate this keyword into your content to try to rank for both keywords
- Competitors overview – see the performance of your competitors in comparison to your own website, for visibility, SERP features, position and other key metrics
- Competitors: Tags – see how your competitors may be outperforming you based on the tags you have applied to your rank tracker keywords
- Traffic share – identify new competitors, see which pages are driving the most traffic and filter by key metrics
This tool allows you to search for a keyword or phrase and see useful SEO metrics associated with the ranking pages.
This report shows a topic’s popularity over time, or even a brand or product name.
Set a particular time frame to see the search results for that time frame, this may help explain any significant changes to the data.
You can also use this report to:
- See a websites content posting frequency over time
- See the published and republished dates
- Set the filter to broken links to find broken links on a particular topic (only available on standard plan or higher)
- Find pages which were published a long time ago that may be outdated (for link building opportunities)
- Filter for pages with a good amount of traffic but few referring domains
More tips in Content Explorer using the inurl operator:
Here are a few more reports that you might find useful under the ‘more’ section.
Alerts can be used to automatically send an email to you when you get a new backlink, ranking keyword or a mention (e.g: your brand name is mentioned online). You will also be notified if you lose any of these.
Choose from the following settings:
- Domain or URL (optional)
- Mode e.g: choose the specific URL, prefix (specific path and children) or domain with all its subdomains
- Scope: all backlinks, new backlinks and lost backlinks
- Interval e.g: daily, weekly & monthly (on the lite plan you just get the monthly option)
- Send email toggle (on/off)
- Domain or URL
- Volume (from, to)
- Send email toggle
- Search Query
- Blocked domains (domains you don’t want alerts on)
- Send email toggle
Input up to 5 domains to compare their backlink profiles over time.
Allows you to produce multiple backlink reports at once, by entering a list of up to 200 URLs at once.
Allows you to add domains or URLs to see who is linking to those URLs. Optionally input your own URL in the ‘but doesn’t link to (optional)’ field to get ideas for backlink outreach or new content creation.
Other features in the more section:
There are also links to Ahrefs API, SEO toolbar, their WordPress plugin and Apps.
We love Ahrefs and it’s clear to see why with all of these comprehensive, actionable reports.
If you would like to find out how they are different to other search tools check out their article on 13 things only Ahrefs can do.
If you would like to read about another SEO tool, we have also written an article on SEMRush check it out.
What SEO tools have you used? Which one(s) work best for you?