It wouldn’t be quite fair to refer to Ahrefs as a single “tool”. When it comes right down to it, it’s really more of a Swiss Army Knife.
There are many components to Ahrefs, and by design just as many uses for nearly any SEO purpose, from technical SEO, to link building, to content marketing. Read on to discover the ways this powerful resource can have the biggest impact on your link building projects.
1. Competitor Backlink Analysis
A firm understanding of both your backlink profile and your top-performing competitors’ is the backbone of an impactful link building campaign. The types of backlinks you should pursue and the methods to acquire them will depend heavily on a comparison of the holes in your own backlink profile against your competitors’ successes.
This is where Ahrefs truly shines. While it’s a tool with a great deal of potential uses, Ahrefs is used by SEOs throughout the industry as their tried-and-tested go-to for analyzing backlink profiles.
There are a litany of features offered by Ahrefs that analyze your competitors’ backlink metrics, but a few of these features are the best choices for this task.
The Site Explorer feature allows you to do a couple important things all in one place.
First, it enables you to take a look at your competitors’ organic traffic. Identifying the keywords and pages that bring a competitor the most organic traffic is crucial to replicating their success.
Site Explorer also boasts perhaps the fastest backlink crawler in the world — and with an index of more than 15 trillion backlinks, it has to be. This allows you to get an accurate snapshot of your competitors’ backlink profile faster than any other crawler out there.
Say you need to analyze several competitors’ sites, or maybe just one seriously large domain. Depending on the number of urls that need to be crawled, going through each one manually could take a very, very long time.
Fortunately, Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool allows you to effortlessly analyze up to 200 individual URLs at once. A single bulk-crawl of all these urls will produce an interactive, downloadable report on metrics including:
number of referring domains
number of backlinks
The “Link Intersect” feature takes backlink profile analysis a step further, quickly and easily identifying domains and pages that link to your competitors’ sites but not your own.
This is helpful in a couple different ways. First, it allows you to find where your competitors are getting links that you may be missing out on — maybe there’s an online magazine in your vertical that you were unaware of, or perhaps they’ve earned backlinks from sources you hadn’t considered before.
Second, being able to see which sources link to several of your competitors means having a clear picture of which sites are more likely to also link to you (weeding out those sites that don’t link frequently, or possibly have an exclusive arrangement with one competitor.
All of this information is available to you in the tool itself or — for those of use who just can’t get enough of pivot tables — in downloadable CSV reports for maximum customization.
2. Competitor Content Analysis
Content creation is a cornerstone of link building. Having well-written, high-quality content on your site makes outreaching to influencers more likely to return results, and truly stand-out articles will even attract backlinks naturally. Content that nets you automatic backlinks is considered such a staple that it’s even commonly referred to as “link bait”.
If you’ve been trying to create content that will give your link building efforts a boost and having no luck, or even just don’t know where to begin, the best jumping-off point is once again to analyze your top competitors. Ahrefs provides the tools necessary to discover how your competitors are using their content to create and sustain success in the link building game.
This tool is an easy and convenient way of finding the highest-performing pieces of content on a site. Content performance is ranked based on metrics including shares on social media platforms (such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook), monthly organic traffic, and number of unique referring domains. This search can also be performed for content across the web, based on keywords rather than a specific site
With more than 2 billion pieces of content in its index, Content Explorer recognizes the need to be highly customizable, allowing you to filter through results based on factors such as word count, traffic, language, domain rating, and social media shares, just to name a few.
After identifying your competitors’ top-performing content, Content Explorer allows your to continue your deeper research without the need to ever leave the tool. Each result has a “details” button that displays the keywords the piece ranks for, the number and source of backlinks, unique referring domains, and even the anchor text used in links pointing to the content.
Another tool in Ahrefs’ content analysis arsenal is the “Content Gap” feature. Similar in concept to the “Link Intersect” feature, Content Gap cross-references your ranking keywords with your competitors’, and removes those that you have in common. This leaves you with a list of competitors’ keywords that you’re not even on the map for, and should start creating and optimizing content around.
3. Keyword Research
Keyword research is at the center of nearly all SEO efforts, whether it be link building, technical SEO, or content. Keywords drive the focus of your content, determine the technical and meta SEO elements like title tags, and even play a central role in the effectiveness of backlink anchor text, when you can control it.
As it holds such a place of importance in the SEO world, it’s not surprising that Ahrefs has features dedicated to performing thoughtful and impactful keyword research.
Now on it’s 2.0 version, Ahrefs’ “Keywords Explorer” tool is considered by some to be the best keyword research tool on the market.
To start, Keywords Explorer is simply a massive tool. At over 3 billion keywords, this tool boasts one of the largest regularly-updated keyword databases in the world. This database also covers more than 100 countries, where many others only include US-based results.
Keywords Explorer offers useful insights into keyword metrics such as keyword difficulty, clicks, search volume, and allows you to dive even deeper with advanced metrics like percent of paid clicks, clicks-per-search, and return rate.
You’ll also be able to see and easily digest current and historical SERP positions at a glance.
4. Link Tracking and Reporting
Throughout each of these topics, one theme is ever-present: Ahrefs is capable of generating some truly robust and useful reports.
Ahrefs allows you to track your link building progress by graphing metrics such as referring domains and pages, backlinks, ahrefs rank, domain rating — anything really. If Ahrefs has it, you can graph it. Almost any report can also be downloaded as a CSV to allow for more customization.
Ahrefs also plays host to an index of over 15 trillion links, and it’s updated very frequently. This helps you stay current on the status of all your links in one place within the tool.
This information is all logged automatically as well, so there’s no need to continually update the records yourself. Add that to automatic email alerts for new links and other changes, and you’re looking at one of the best tools for keeping track of both the logistics and the returns of your link building campaign.
It’s not hard to see why so many industry experts flock to this SEO multi-tool. If you’re struggling to find a firm foothold in the link building world, Ahrefs has all the tools you need to set you on the path to success.