But I’ve also realized that many people don’t know where to get started with Ahrefs.
In other words, there’s so much you can do with our toolset that it can often be daunting, especially for Ahrefs newbies.
With that in mind, here are 10 actionable ways to use Ahrefs that even our most adept customers often overlook.
I’ve also included useful video tutorials from Sam Oh throughout the post, to make it even easier to put these tactics into action. 🙂
1. Find low-hanging content opportunities by looking at your competitor’s high traffic pages
Ahrefs’ blog competes with many other SEO blogs in the SERPs, such as Brian Dean’s Backlinko.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could find out which of Brian’s posts account for the majority of his organic traffic? You can easily do this with Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Site Explorer > enter competing domain > Top pages
Here is Brian’s top performing page—it accounts for 21% of all organic search traffic to his blog:
However, not only can you use Site Explorer to discover your competitor’s top-performing pages, but you can also find which of their pages would be easy to outperform (low-hanging fruit). You just need to look for pages with tons of traffic and little to no referring domains.
Let me walk you through it.
To begin, use the Competing Domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to find a list of your competitors.
Site Explorer > enter your site > Competing Domains
Competing domains shows websites ranking for a high percentage of the same keywords as your target site.
You can also do a prefix search in Site Explorer. For example, I could enter ahrefs.com/blog to find sites that compete only with our blog content, and not ahrefs.com in general. As far as I’m aware, no other tool is capable of doing this.
Here’s Sam Oh demonstrating how to do this:
But let’s go a step further and use the Top Pages report in Site Explorer to find the pages that bring the most organic search traffic for your competitor.
Site Explorer > enter a competitors domain > Top Pages
By default, Ahrefs will show you traffic stats for the country that sends the most organic traffic to each page. If you’d prefer to see traffic from all countries, select “All countries.”
To find low-hanging content opportunities, look for pages that have few backlinks yet still receive a lot of organic search traffic. You can easily spot such pages (if there are any) by skimming the RD (referring domains) and traffic columns.
Once you find a page, you can then use the “keywords” dropdown to unveil the number of keywords that page ranks for in the top 100 Google search results.
Looking at these keywords can give you some “hints” on what you should talk about when putting together a page on this topic.
2. Find out how your competitors are acquiring backlinks, then replicate their strategies
If you can find out how your competitors are acquiring links, then you can probably replicate their strategies to build links to your site.
Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s site
By exploring the Overview, Backlinks, and Referring Domains reports in Site Explorer, you can quickly get a sense of the link building strategies that are working for your competitors. You may even spot a few easily replicable links right off the bat.
Still, you’ll often find that your competitors are now using vastly different link building strategies compared to a couple of years ago. So looking at their entire backlink profile may lead you astray when deciding which link building strategies you should use for your website.
Looking at your competitor’s recently acquired links in isolation will usually lead to more actionable insights.
Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s site > Backlinks > New
Ahrefs’ web crawlers are SUPER FAST, so we discover a lot of new links every single day. In fact, we often pick up new links in a matter of hours—this makes it super easy to figure out how your competitors are acquiring links right now.
Last but not least, you can learn more about your competitor’s backlink profile and link building strategies by finding their most linked-to pages.
Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s site > Pages > Best by links
The Best by links report allows you to see what kind of content attracts links in your niche. You can then create similar “linkworthy” posts or resources (e.g., product pages, service pages, etc.), or even “skyscraper” them.
This research strategy brings us back to the very fundamentals of link building and SEO—what is it that you’re trying to build links to, and does it deserve links in the first place?
A lot of people struggle to get links because they think of link building as a practice isolated from the actual page to which they’re trying to build links. But the reality is that they couldn’t possibly be more connected. By creating pages/resources worthy of a link, you’re setting a rock-solid foundation for any subsequent link building efforts.
3. Get new link opportunities on autopilot using Alerts
Do you want to find new backlink opportunities on autopilot daily? We got you.
First things first, unlinked brand mentions.
For those of you unfamiliar with this strategy, sometimes people will mention (write about) your brand online but neglect to link to your website. With Ahrefs Alerts, you can find new branded mentions automatically.
Alerts > mentions > add alert > brand term(s)
Just enter a branded query or queries (use the OR search operator to do many at once), set an interval, and we’ll tell you about new brand mentions as we discover them. Then you can check that they’re linking to you. If they aren’t, reach out and request the addition of the link.
You can also track new pages that mention a few competing brands, but not yours.
Alerts > mentions > add alert > competitor brand term(s)
Just enter two or more of your competitors and exclude your brand by adding
-yourbrand to your search. For example, if you were MailChimp:
+aweber +activecampaign -mailchimp
This is a great way to find prospects to which to send free samples or trials. It can even be used to find affiliates, or to bring your company to the attention of those who are interested in related products or services.
But what if you’re looking to build backlinks to a specific page rather than to your brand/business as a whole? Just take the pages that already rank for the keyword you want to rank for and track their newly acquired backlinks, then see if you can replicate any of them.
Alerts > backlinks > enter a few competing pages
Set the mode to “prefix,” set an interval, and then you’ll get alerted whenever someone links to any of the competing pages. When this happens, reach out and build a relationship with that person and see if there’s scope for them to link to your page.
4. Find low competition keywords (with high traffic and business potential)
Looking at search volumes for individual keywords is a poor way to predict the amount of search traffic to a page, as it’s almost never the case that a page ranks in Google’s top 10 for only a single keyword. According to our recent study, the average ranking page actually ranks for nearly 1,000 long tail keywords.
So here’s a neat trick you can use in Content Explorer to find extremely low-competition topics with high search traffic potential:
Content Explorer > enter any topic > filter results for 0 RDs AND 1K+ organic traffic
This unveils all the pages that mention your keyword and receive at least 1,000 visits per month while having zero referring domains. In other words, it should be super-easy to rank for these topics.
But let’s go back to the “classic” keyword research that you can perform in Keywords Explorer.
Enter a broad term like “cats,” then go to the Phrase match report. You’ll see thousands of search queries mentioning the word “cats.”
You can then filter by Keyword Difficulty (KD)—a metric that is unique to Ahrefs—to uncover keywords with low competition.
Keywords Explorer > enter broad term > Phrase match > add KD <= 20 filter
If you’re looking for low difficulty keywords with a high commercial value, try adding a CPC filter (this is not super up to date, but it’s still a good indication of commercial value).
Keywords Explorer > filter for KD <=11 AND CPC $5+
This uncovers low competition keywords with a high CPC (on Google AdWords). Remember, if people are paying good money to advertise for such keywords, you can bet that they have commercial intent.
It’s also possible to filter for queries containing “commercial intent words” such as “buy,” “hire,” “price,” etc.
5. Find critical SEO issues that are hurting your website’s performance in Google
Are simple technical SEO issues holding back your site?
Let’s find out by crawling the site with Ahrefs Site Audit.
Site Audit > new project > enter details > create project
This will run a live crawl and discover a bunch of issues with your website (if they exist, which they almost always do in some capacity).
Site Audit is a pretty comprehensive and feature-packed tool, so I recommend starting by checking your Health Score to see a high-level overview of your website health.
You can then dive deeper and investigate specific issues, such as any missing HTML tags on your site (using the HTML tags report in Site Audit).
Site Audit > project > crawl > overview > scroll to HTML tags and content
This will tell you about any missing meta title and description tags, amongst others. It will also show you if they’re too long or short, or duplicated.
But here’s the thing:
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Site Audit. We check for a ton of different issues during every single crawl. You can see every issue we found on your site under:
Overview > actual issues.
I recommend working your way through every issue found on your website, then fixing every one of them.
Just make sure to focus on most important ones first. You can use the inbuilt filters (errors, warnings, notices) in Site Audit to do this. Start with the “errors,” then move on to “warnings,” and finally “notices.”
Within Site Audit, you will also get some guidance on why each issue is important and how to fix it. Just click the corresponding information icon (question mark in a grey circle) to learn more about any issue.
6. Find guest blogging opportunities in seconds
- You have to spend time scraping results;
- There’s a lack of SEO metrics;
- It limits you to sites with “write for us” pages.
I’d say that final point is the biggest drawback, as many websites don’t have a so-called “write for us” page. However, as long as you offer them “quality” content, I’ve found that most sites are open to accepting guest contributions.
So try taking advantage of Content Explorer’s massive database of 918M+ pages to find topically-relevant sites that have yet to link to you, then reach out and see if they’d be willing to accept a guest post.
Content explorer > enter a topic > one article per domain > highlight unlinked mentions
Entering a keyword into Content Explorer will return all pages (from our database of almost 1 billion web pages) that mention this keyword in their content (or title). If a website mentions your target keywords on their pages, it usually means that site is somehow relevant to your niche.
Checking the “one article domain” box will make sure only one article per domain is shown in the results, and highlighting unlinked mentions will make sure you’re shown only sites that haven’t yet linked to you.
From there you can limit your list of search results even further by adding a Domain Rating (DR) or publish date filter.
Here’s another trick:
If you know the name of a prolific guest poster in your industry, use the author operator in Content Explorer to find all sites for which they’ve written. Then reach out and see if you can write for those sites too.
If you want to exclude their site from appearing in the search results, you can use the following operator in Content Explorer:
However, as Content Explorer only works with specific author markups, this tactic won’t pick up everything. So here’s a super neat trick I discovered recently:
Grab the Twitter handle for the prolific guest blogger you found, then look at the backlinks pointing to their profile.
Site Explorer > enter twitter URL of prolific guest blogger (e.g. twitter.com/ryanwashere) > backlinks
Because most people link to their Twitter from their author bios, this is another good way to uncover the sites they’ve written for.
7. Keep an eye on your ranking progress with Rank Tracker
Did you know that our article has ranked #1 for “SEO audit” since 3rd May 2018?
I know this because it’s one of the many keywords that are important for our company, so I track it in Ahrefs Rank Tracker.
Rank Tracker lets you add a list of keywords that you want to rank for and track your daily/weekly ranking progress for any location (Rank Tracker supports 170 countries).
But search results in Google are rarely “10 blue links”, which is why Ahrefs Rank Tracker also allows you to keep an eye on 13 SERP features that may be present in the SERPs for the keywords you’re tracking.
Rank Tracker > project > overview > SERP features
You can even see how many of your tracked keywords show a featured snippet, and track how these SERP features—and your ownership of them—change over time.
Because featured snippets steal clicks/attention away from other results, try using this report to identify stealable featured snippet opportunities, such as those currently owned by your competitors.
Speaking of competitors, try this:
Rank Tracker > Competitors > Pages
This pulls all pages seen in the top 100 search results across all keywords you track and ranks them by the amount of search traffic (traffic share) they get from all of these keywords combined.
8. Find gaps in your content strategy
Ahrefs’ blog ranks for a lot of competitive keywords.
But one keyword we don’t currently rank for is “SEO checklist” (1,800 searches/month).
I discovered this “content gap” using Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool. I looked for keywords that some of our biggest competitors rank for, yet we don’t, and this was one of the topics that came up.
Here’s how to find content gaps on your site:
Site Explorer > enter your domain > Content gap
Enter 2–3 competitors (you can enter up to 10 actually) to uncover keywords they each rank for, yet you don’t.
If you see all your competitors ranking for a particular keyword, that must be an essential topic. And since you haven’t yet covered this on your site, you’re seriously missing out.
Hopefully, you can see how Content Gap is a unique tool that makes it super easy to see how you stack up against your competitors and find proven content ideas in seconds.
Content Gap can also be used to find neglected subtopics in existing content. E.g., related subtopics that you didn’t talk about in an existing blog post.
Site Explorer > enter a page URL on your site > Content gap
Just paste in some top-ranking pages for the keyword you want to rank for and compare them to your page on that same topic.
You can then incorporate the keywords/topics Content Gap finds into your post to increase its overall relevance and comprehensiveness. This will often result in ranking for more long-tail searches, which brings you more traffic.
9. Fix your broken backlinks (and links) to preserve “link juice”
Imagine working super hard to build high-quality links to your site, and then wasting all that so-called “link equity” by unknowingly having broken pages and broken links on your site. This wastes time, effort and possibly money.
But here’s the good news: broken pages and backlinks are usually pretty easy to fix. You just need to find them.
Site Explorer > enter your site > Best by links > add 404 filter
This will show you any broken pages on your site alongside the number of backlinks pointing to them. You should preserve the “link juice” that you get from all those incoming links by restoring the broken page or at least redirecting them to a relevant similar page on your site.
But it’s important not to forget about broken outbound links, as they waste “link equity” too. Here’s how to find those:
Site Explorer > enter your site > Outgoing links > Broken links
This will unveil all broken outbound links on your site. I.e., broken pages to which you’re still linking. To solve these issues, remove these dead links or replace them with another suitable link.
Site Audit can provide an even more comprehensive view of your dead external links coming from your website.
Site Audit > External pages > External 4XX
To be honest, Site Explorer (see above) will suffice for most sites. But if you have a super large website, Site Audit may be a better alternative as it performs a live crawl of your website, meaning that the data is as up-to-date as can possibly be. You can then rest assured that all of the reported broken links are totally accurate. Plus, Site Audit will unveil a ton of other issues with your website. Check out this tutorial.
To learn more about finding and fixing broken links, check out this post: How to Find and Fix Broken Links (to Reclaim Valuable “Link Juice”)
10. Find your competitors’ broken (or redirected) pages to uncover MASSIVE link opportunities
Link rot is the plague of the web.
This is terrible news when it comes to your own site, but the good news is that it affects your competitors too. And therein lies an endless stream of link building opportunities.
Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s site > Best by links > add a 404 filter > sort by RDs
Now you have a list of all broken pages on your competitor’s site, some of which will no doubt have a ton of backlinks.
You could then recreate these pages on your site, make them even better, and reach out to all the linking websites to kindly suggest that they replace the “dead” link with a link to your resource—a process commonly referred to as broken link building.
You can find an almost infinite number of opportunities using this tactic. Just do it for all your competitors, then their competitors, then theirs, etc.
Here’s how to take this idea one step further:
Many sites will consolidate their content every so often, which usually entails redirecting old, low-performing content to other semi-relevant posts/pages on their site.
But nobody wants to link to something semi-relevant. So here’s a trick you can use in Site Explorer to find your competitors irrelevant 301 redirects:
Site Explorer > enter a competitor’s’ site > Best by links > add a 301 filter > sort by RDs
Look for the redirects that look irrelevant.
/headline-clickthrough-rates/ may 301 redirect to
I’d argue that a post about headline clickthrough rates is not the same as a post about headline tips and tools. So anyone linking to “/headline-clickthrough-rates/” is unwittingly linking to a semi-relevant post.
If you’re unsure about the relevance of a particular 301 redirect, try checking out the old post using Archive.org.
Once you know what the original page was, you can recreate it and reach out to everyone linking to the now redirected page to tell them about the issue. Let them know that they might want to link to your page instead, as it’s more relevant.
There you have it!—10 actionable ways to use Ahrefs. I tried to keep things brief so make sure to watch the embedded videos if you need additional help putting things ideas into practice.
Do you have any other cool tips that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to add to this list over time!