Why I chose SEMrush over AHREFs when it comes to SEO keyword research

2 minutes, 12 seconds Read

SEMrush and AHREFs are two of the prominent SEO research tools on the market. They’ve been around for years and both offer unique benefits, but both are not created equally when it comes to keyword research.

Keyword Research: SEMrush or AHREFs?

I’ve always preferred SEMrush but wanted to objectively look at both SEMrush’s Keyword Magic feature and AHREF’s Keywords Explorer tool to see which one was better when it came to keyword volume accuracy, researching new content opportunities, and keyword metrics.

I posted this question in a thread on Traffic Think Tank asking for SEO’s experiences with both tools and read several comparison reviews paying attention to the accuracy of keyword search volume and the ability to identify relevant keyword suggestions. 

SEMrush is the winner when it comes to keyword research

When it comes down to accuracy of keyword volume and finding keyword suggestions, the majority opinion leaned heavily in favor of SEMrush for keyword research (and AHREFs for backlink data). Here’s a list of reasons why SEMrush outdueled AHREFs in this comparison.

Pros of using SEMrush

  • Larger Keyword Database SEMrush has more than 20 billion keywords which is updated at least once a month vs. AHREFs 10 billion.
  • Monthly Updates: SEMrush updates their entire keyword database monthly vs. AHREFs inconsistent updates. In this Traffic Think Tank thread, many keywords haven’t been updated since Dec 2019.
Users report AHREFs keyword database is outdated (screenshot from Sept 2019)
  • Daily Updates on keywords with high-volume searches and on thousands of lower-volume search keywords. 
  • Accurate Volumes Based on experience, search volumes are often more accurate on SEMrush. This is despite SEMrush “grouping” keywords vs. AHREFs exact match approach
  • More Robust Keyword Tool: When it comes to looking for keyword suggestions and keyword alternatives, SEMrush won out this for 5 out of 7 reviews.

Cons of using SEMrush:

  • Grouping Volumes: SEMrush groups similar keywords and their volumes a la Google. (So don’t report on “SEO” and “SEOs” as two different opportunities). 

One has to go use SEMrush with the understanding that you must pay attention to the volumes with that grouping lens, so you can find the pattern, filter out and optimize for that in your keyword research process. It’s not as hard as you suspect. Over time, you’ll begin to see similar or plural/singular versions with the same keyword volume. Ensure you factor those out as you work out your SEO target keywords.

I’ve always found that AHREFs search volumes were way too low for my understanding of the industry I was working in at the time, even when considering that AHREFs uses exact match vs. SEMrush’s grouping philosophy.


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