Ahrefs vs Moz: The Ultimate SEO Tool Showdown – Process Street

Ahrefs vs Moz: The Ultimate SEO Tool Showdown

Moz vs Ahrefs

Looking at the pricing pages and marketing material for complex SaaS products can be confusing enough, but comparing two similar products is a real pain on paper.

Which do you choose?

Moz Ahrefs Pricing

From just this information, the list of features, and outdated reviews, it’s impossible to make a decision, especially with a very specific set of requirements.

After checking out the features of the major SEO tools, we decided to try Moz and Ahrefs in parallel, getting free 30-day trials of both on the Medium and Standard plans.

What are our SEO requirements?

Process Street is a young, content-focused startup. Thanks to our content marketing, we’ve been able to grow the company through PR efforts, blog content and guest posts — all without breaking the bank. Finding a powerful tool to analyze just how successful these efforts have been is top priority, to make it less hit-and-miss and shape our SEO strategy in the future.

Here’s what we need from a tool:

A way to track keyword against SERP.

With a lot of content — both on and off-site — tracking rank against keyword is extremely important for us. That’s because we don’t promote only our own content, but any content that mentions us. We promote all guest posts, YouTube videos and articles on news pages.

Whenever we create content, we do it with a keyword in mind. Naturally, we want to test whether we hit or miss that target. Wouldn’t everyone? The thing is, ranks fluctuate over time. It might be a month or two before your content starts ranking for the keyword you want, and it could even be on the first page for keywords you weren’t directly targeting. That’s valuable information because you want to know what path your audience takes before they land on your site.

Tracked Keywords Moz

High-quality keyword research.

For keyword research at the moment, I’m using a process drafted mostly by reading a ton of Brian Dean content. The ‘meat’ of the process is Google Keyword Planner, which, as Brian notes often, has a rubbish imagination. Sometimes keyword research can take longer than it has to, so ideally the tool we end up with should be like GKP with common sense.

That way, we can replace half of the process (which includes some tedious steps) with a more all-in-one solution.

Ahrefs Keyword research

On-page optimization analysis.

In the spirit of making sure we’re on the right track, we want to make sure it’s true when we assume we’ve fully optimized a page for a certain keyword. It’d also be a bonus to get suggestions from the tool as to which keyword would be a good fit for the content or landing page.

Basically, we want a tool to tell us where we are, but also where we should be headed.

On-page SEO

Tracking our backlinks

Keeping track of where your site is linked means you can grab opportunities for further promotion and remove links from ‘bad neighborhoods‘ before they damage your site’s ranking. Both Moz and Ahrefs offer great backlink trackers, but while Moz is focused on who linked you (and offers more limited filters), Ahrefs shows you who linked and overall trends, displayed as graphs on the dashboard.

Ahrefs Graphs


Snooping on the competition

We want to know how well the competition is doing, and, more importantly, where they’re getting their backlinks from and which keywords they’re ranking for. Ahrefs determines who your competitors are and can grab a huge list of every ranked keyword for a competitor’s pages. Moz makes it easy to decide how authoritative those pages are, showing you how likely it is you can outrank them.

Competitors list

Coming up with fresh content ideas

Finding content inspiration is something I’m selfishly enthusiastic about. Both Moz and Ahrefs have features which can find the most popular content in any topic, providing proven titles and subjects that people want to read. Even the most popular content on the web isn’t comprehensive, so by using that content as research, it’s possible to write articles that will resonate with your audience and give added value.

Moz content shot

How do the features of Moz and Ahrefs match up with our needs?

To test both tools, I compared our requirements against the features of the software (not what it seemed like it could do from the landing page copy).

While Moz and Ahrefs are similar, the exact details of what they do varies quite a bit, as well as the amount of data they can each collect. Here’s how they stack up:

Tracking on and off-site page ranks

To be clear, what we want to do is see which keywords our content ranks for, regardless of whether it’s on our domain or not. Unfortunately, we found that neither Moz or Ahrefs can do this at the scale we’d need.

There are some alternatives we can go to in both tools, however.

Ahrefs Positions Explorer

The Positions Explorer from Ahrefs lets you check a domain, sub-domain or exact URL for how it ranks in Google. When we put process.st into the Positions Explorer, it shows a list of over 7,000 keywords that we rank for, including their search volume and competition. You can export the file as a .csv for real analysis.

positions explorer output

But what about guest posts, or mentions on other domains? Unfortunately, Ahrefs only lets you do that one at a time. To say that it’s incapable of doing it would be wrong, but it certainly does make it an arduous task.

Guest post Positions Explorer

Moz Rankings Report

As far as Moz goes, it doesn’t have a tool that can compete with Ahrefs’ Positions Explorer. There’s no way of giving Moz a URL and getting back a list of keywords it ranks for. Moz does, however, have a more concentrated and less blanket approach of tracking your rankings. It can cross-reference your domain against a list of target keywords and generate ranking reports.

Tracked Keywords MOZ 2

This means that you can see how well you’re doing by feeding Moz your list of every targeted keyword for each blog post then checking it against the rank. The results can be downloaded as a CSV, and are also available on the dashboard.

Tracked Keywords Moz

While Ahrefs can (slowly and painfully) gather keyword ranking data from external domains, Moz can’t do it at all. This puts Ahrefs above Moz for this feature, especially since Ahrefs can also generate ranking reports the same as Moz.

Finding quality keywords — quickly

Both Moz and Ahrefs come with keyword tools built-in. Moz has the Keyword Difficulty tool while Ahrefs has the Keywords Explorer. They’re very different, and each have great features, but which find the best new keywords?

Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool

The Keyword Difficulty tool isn’t a keyword research tool at all, but one that will help you narrow down your list of potential keywords. The tool is especially useful for me because I used to do this the ‘old-fashioned’ way, which was to Google my terms and activate MozBar to snoop on PA/DA. With Keyword Difficulty, I can put in a list of up to 20 keywords and grab all of their PA/DA scores (and an idea of how difficult it will be to outrank them) in one click.

Keyword Difficulty Moz

To get a better look at your chances of ranking for a term, you can run a SERP Analysis Report and see the exact pages you’d be up against, and how authoritative they are.

Basic SERP Report

If I targeted ‘saas pricing’, I’d be in for a shot at the #2 spot if I could get 2 backlinks and had a higher DA than 36.3. Seems promising!

Ahref’s Keywords Explorer

Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool is for narrowing down your pool of keywords to the ones you have a shot at ranking for, while Ahref’s Keywords Explorer is for generating new ones. Providing it with a seed keyword, it gives you a list of synonyms and related terms, alongside their volume.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Compare this to ol’ faithful (Google Keyword Planner), and you’ll see that Ahrefs gives more focused and relevant results:

GKP SaaS pricing

In conclusion, both Moz and Ahrefs have great tools here for keyword researchers, but they would be best used in conjunction. If I were to have to mark one out as more useful than the other, I’d say that Moz’s Keyword Difficulty would save me a lot of time checking PA/DA, so that’s the more valuable tool.

Analyzing on-page optimization

There’s a ton of content out there that will tell you how to optimize pages to up your chances of ranking, but how do you know if you’ve done it properly? When looking at checking how well a page is optimized, there are a lot of factors. Out of the two tools tested here, only Moz has the capability of checking how well optimized your pages are. It also gives you additional information on how to improve your content, which acts as a way to get you in good habits.

Onpage Grader

For the example I tried out, the page got a perfect score, meaning that no more optimization is required. I looked back at some older posts which we created before we had a proper SEO process in place to see what tips it could give me.

I found an old post from the early days of the blog to see how it matched up against the keyword ‘business process management’.

BPM grader

Moz graded the page a B and gave some tips for how to improve its visibility:

Grading suggestions Moz

Ahrefs doesn’t have a way to do this, but I’ll forgive it.

Tracking backlinks

Is your SEO strategy working? Well, how many backlinks are you getting? If you don’t know, tools like Moz and Ahrefs can give you a detailed overview of it all.

Without SEO tools like these two, there’s not much more you can do than Googling your own keywords and seeing if you crop up. That kind of work is unnecessary and gets tiring fast, so to see how well your SEO strategy is really doing, you need something more powerful.

Moz Open Site Explorer

The Moz Open Site Explorer helps you research backlinks, find link-building opportunities and remove bad neighborhood links. If you need a quick look at the amount of backlinks you (or your competitors) have, then Moz’s OSE can grab that in an instant (the data is drastically different to Ahrefs, though).

Moz Backlink Data

Putting your site’s domain into the OSE shows you a list of backlinks, ordered by authority. Here, I filtered them to show only the follow backlinks:

Backlink checking with Moz OSE

If you want to see the newest backlinks instead of the most authoritative (perhaps to get in touch with the writer and build a relationship), there’s Just Discovered. It does, however, seem to be showing me content from 2014…

Just Discovered

Ahrefs Site Explorer

A major difference between Moz and Ahrefs becomes obvious when calculating backlinks. As you can see in the Moz OSE screenshot further up, Moz finds 338 total links for the root Process Street URL. Ahrefs, however, finds 752.

Ahrefs Backlink count

I contacted support to find out why this is, and Moz said that it’s the difference in algorithms and discrepancies between the different tools they use behind the scenes. Ahrefs said the same, but it’s likely that they found more backlinks for us because Ahrefs have the largest database of live backlinks.

A useful feature of Ahrefs’ Site Explorer is the ability to show only your top referring content. If you guest post a lot, you’ll be able to see which site gives the most authoritative backlinks and better plan your content strategy.

Referral backlinks

Snooping on competitors

To spy on your competitors and outrank them, you first have to know who they are. Competitor analysis is one of the founding elements of any SEO strategy, and both Moz and Ahrefs do it well, but in different ways. Here’s the tools each offer:

Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool

This tool isn’t a starting point for competitor analysis, but rather a tool to use near the end of the process. That’s because it can’t find who all your competitors are for all your major keywords or tell you much about them, but it can tell you how difficult it would be to outrank them.

Moz Keyword Difficulty

Searching ‘workflow software’ with Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool shows us a group of competitors and some general, non-competing domains too. Highlighted in green is #4 in the rankings for that keyword — a page with 1 backlink on a domain with less authority than ours. That tells me that with a little work we could hit #4 on that page too.

Keyword Difficulty is useful as the last stage of the keyword research process, because it tells you whether you’ve picked a keyword that has already been used by the immovable objects of the web, or whether you could easily knock your competitor off.

Ahrefs’ Positions Explorer

Positions Explorer shows you your top 10 competitors then lets you check every keyword they’re ranking for. If you know you have a competitor with a lower domain authority, you can use Positions Explorer to find out which keywords they’re on the front page for. A little creativity and writing prowess later, and you’re not only getting more visibility, you’re getting more visibility than your competitor (important difference!).

Ahrefs Organic Keyword

The sites listed as our competitors create similar software to us, so when looking at their organic keywords in Positions Explorer, it shows data like this:

Organic Keyword for Manifestly Ahrefs

This is a feature that Moz simply doesn’t have, making Ahrefs invaluable for SERP data, both yours and your competitors.

Generating fresh content ideas

Sites like BuzzSumo are great for finding hot topics in your niche, but if you’re paying for an SEO tool you’d want that built-in as a feature to avoid paying for two similar services. Moz and Ahrefs both show data on popular content for any keyword, but which does it best?

Moz Content

Moz Content is a separate product to Moz Pro and something we have limited access to without paying. We can, however, get a good idea from the free version of its power.

By searching for a keyword in a niche your audience is interested in, you can see the most popular recent posts in that niche. Here’s an example for the keyword “task management”:

Task management Moz

As you can see, people in this niche are writing about to-do list apps and task management systems. These pages have got themselves a fair amount of links, so it’s fair to believe that there’s a demand for it.

Moz Content also gives you the option to audit your own existing content, to see what has performed best in the past and get an idea of what to write next.

Content Inventory

How does Ahrefs match up?

Ahrefs Content Explorer

The Content Explorer is a lot like Moz Content, but comes built into the Ahrefs platform. It’s not a separate product that costs at least $59/month, but it also doesn’t feature a content audit.

Here are the results when searching “task management” in the Content Explorer:

Task Management Ahrefs

Not only do I get all 8000+ results for free, they seem more interesting and relevant, with some posts getting thousands of shares and hundreds of backlinks, unlike Moz’s meager selection.

For further analysis, I can quickly grab the top 1000 results and download them as a CSV. This is great for data-driven content looking at the most popular keywords in titles or finding which headline formulas got the most shares.

Excel Ahrefs

For the fact that you get more for your money, and that the search is more relevant, I’d choose Ahrefs over Moz for content ideas.

Moz vs Ahrefs: Which will we choose?

As I said at the start, we’re looking for a tool that help us in 6 areas. Now I’m going to recap those 6 areas and say which tool I think ‘won’ in each:

Tracking SERP against URL and keywords: Hands down, for this it’s Ahrefs. Even though you can’t bulk search the ranking of guest posts, Moz can’t do this at all.

Finding quality keywords: When it comes to keyword research tools, Moz and Ahrefs have unique abilities that I wish were rolled into one product. Once again Ahrefs’ Positions Explorer (which shows you which terms your competitors URLs are ranking for) lets Ahrefs put up a strong fight, but Moz has the more useful tool for keyword research, the Keyword Difficulty tool. Moz’s keyword difficulty is extremely useful for judging who you can knock off the first page with your own content, as well as finding your competitors.

Analyzing on-page optimization: Since Moz is the only tool which offers on-page optimization, Moz is the winner here.

Tracking backlinks: Without a doubt, the best backlinks tool is Ahrefs. When comparing Moz’s backlink data against Ahrefs’, it’s clear that Moz doesn’t have as much data at all, which makes for less well-informed decisions. Go Ahrefs!

Snooping on competitors: While Ahrefs isn’t a tool specifically designed to gather competitive data, it does a rather good job at it. The Positions Explorer (the star of the show), pulls up the top 10 competitors for each search domain and then lets you see all the terms they rank for, and at what position. While Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool gives great insights, the Positions Explorer takes Ahrefs to the top in this category. Again.

Generating fresh content ideas: For content ideas, the Content Explorer which comes built into Ahrefs is both more capable (for the reasons I need it) and less expensive than Moz Content (from $59/month). While the content audit Moz Content provides is useful, I’m going to keep trialing the free version and see if I feel it’s worth the full price as the blog and company grows.

Do you use Moz or Ahrefs? Let me know what you think and why you chose them in the comments below! 🙂

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Benjamin Brandall

Benjamin Brandall is the Head of Content Marketing at Process Street, and runs his own blog on the side. Find him on Twitter here.


Why thank you for creating this post! I’m currently using both Ahrefs and Moz, and I have to decide which one is going to be a basic subscription and which one will be a larger investment. You’ve made my decision easier.

Nice post Ben.

I have been subscribing to both tools for many years now but finding myself using Moz less and less.

For me, the best part of Moz is their DA and PA which is the closests thing to Google’s own PageRank than any other tool. Ironically, the best part of Moz is what they give away for free.

I still find myself paying for Moz Pro more out of some strange sense of loyalty to Rand rather than because I actually need to use their tools.

As much as I hate to say it, I think Moz has focused more on their content and community than delivering tools that are the best in class. Not sure how long they can keep going on a good name alone.

Great article. I have Moz and SemRush subscriptions and trialling Ahrefs but Ahrefs competitors backlink checker, particular recent backlinks s could swing it for me. I personally don’t rate AdWords keyword checker as I feel its skewed / AdWords centric. Have used Wordtracker for about 14 years now and still does a job for me.

Thanks again.


Nearly 3 weeks later, I’m still using Moz, Ahrefs & SEMRush. I was looking to cancel SEMRush, however, it does produce nice clients reports of keyword performance,

Ahrefs is brilliant though, particularly the feature to look at new clients backlinks – unearthered some real nuggets there. It also does AdWords research pretty well.



Hey Steve,

Yeah it’s really difficult to cut one piece of software out of the mix, especially if you’re relying on it for a single unique thing. I had this experience too with Moz, which as I said has keyword difficulty checks built in. I’ve never used SEMRush, what are the main benefits for someone using Moz and Ahrefs already?

Hi Benjamin,
I think the main benefits are from the way it presents the data when comparing yours (or clients) sites vs several competitors. If it wasnt for this, I think I could unsubscribe. They have recently added SEO suggestions, which TBH arent great (Using Ahrefs is without equal at looking at content and links for ideas).

So in a nutshell, I’m using it more for a glorified reporting tool for keyword positions, as Moz & AHrefs dont do this as effectively, which leads me to think I should maybe look at Quill Engage or Raven Tools …



Nice! Are you tracking content, or landing pages? The problem we’ve found is when we’re doing guest posts that we can’t find a solution to track that easily. Do you have any experience with that?

Is there any alternative to Moz Keyword Difficulty tool? Also thanks for sharing great content. It’s very useful for my digital marketing needs.

Funny I cam upon this when I did! I used to use Moz, but canceled when I found SEO Powersuite (LOVE their products – their Rank Tracker tools is the best) — but I also use Ahrefs as well. I was thinking I was missing something by not having a Moz subscription….but you just saved me $99 a month so thank you. Sometimes I think we just need a little “kick” to remind us to enjoy what we have!

Have you taken a second look at your decision since Moz added Keyword Explorer? I’ve always been one to use both Moz and Ahrefs in tandem, but I’m trying to convince myself to go one way or the other and save a few bucks. I *want* to lean towards Moz, but I think I would miss Ahrefs’ Positions Explorer too much. I wish Moz offered something similar.

It’s been a week of me using Moz, and I must say I am in love with its Keyword research tool. It gives you great insite and also helps to find a new niche with the great opportunity.

If you have semrush and Moz account then you can seriously come up with great long tail keywords with low competition and high search volume within hours.

Hey John,

Care to explain your process combining Moz and Semrush? I’m curious, because I’ve never used Semrush before but have heard it’s useful. What’re you doing with it that you can’t do with just Moz alone?

Benjamin – thank you so much for this outstanding post! I have been debating between these two platforms and your post was invaluable to me. Ahrefs is my winner based on what I’m looking to do. Naturally when you visit a website, the marketing language makes any product sound perfect for you but I appreciated your feature by feature comparison so I could choose the tool that met my needs (backlinks). Thanks again. Joe

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