The Official Ahrefs Tutorial: How to Use Ahrefs to Improve SEO

Created on November 12, 2023 at 10:39 am

The number of times this article was shared on Twitter ORG .

Shows estimated monthly DATE search traffic to this article according to Ahrefs ORG data. The actual search traffic (as reported in Google Analytics ORG ) is usually 3 CARDINAL -5 times bigger.

Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google ORG .

Whether you’re new or old to Ahrefs GPE , you’re in the right place.

This tutorial will walk you through the most practical, repeatable, and actionable Ahrefs ORG use cases from our six CARDINAL core tools that will help improve your SEO.


Site Explorer

Site Explorer is our competitive research tool. With Site Explorer, you can see a website’s:


Keywords it ranks for in Google ORG

Site structure in a tree format

Pages that are responsible for generating the most search traffic

Google ORG ads campaigns

And more.

Because there are so many things you can do in Site Explorer, we won’t be able to go through every use case. Instead, we’ll cover a few low-hanging fruits:

1 CARDINAL . Restore lost link equity from broken backlinks

If there are broken pages with backlinks on your website, that link equity is wasted.

You can reclaim the value of the link equity by either restoring those pages or redirecting the broken URLs to relevant live pages.

Here’s how to find broken pages with backlinks on your website:

Enter your domain Go to the Best by links report Set the HTTP WORK_OF_ART code filter to 404 CARDINAL

For example, we could redirect this blog post about asking for tweets to this one on blogger outreach to reclaim around 42 CARDINAL referring domains:

2 CARDINAL . Find featured snippet opportunities

Featured snippets are full or partial answers to a query directly on the SERPs.

If you can grab the snippet, you can jump ahead of everyone else. That means more search traffic to your site.

Here’s how to find low-hanging featured snippet opportunities:

Enter your domain Go to the Organic keywords report Set a Positions WORK_OF_ART filter from 1 – 10 CARDINAL (you need to be on the first ORDINAL page to win it) Set a SERP features filter to “where target doesn’t rank” and check featured snippet

You can now see thousands CARDINAL of keywords where you can try and optimize your pages to win the featured snippet.

Follow the tutorial below to learn how to capture featured snippets.

3 CARDINAL . Reverse engineer a site’s structure

Investigating a site’s structure shows you which parts of the site attract the most search traffic.

Here’s how to see a high-level overview of a website’s structure:

Enter your competitor’s domain Go to the Site structure report

For example, we can see that most of Mailchimp ORG ’s search traffic goes to its root domain. We can also click on the arrow to see a more detailed breakdown.

From here, we learn that Mailchimp ORG has a subfolder called “marketing-glossary” that gets an estimated CARDINAL 600K monthly DATE search visits.

If you’re a competitor, creating a glossary could be a potential strategy you might want to replicate.

4 CARDINAL . Replicate your competitors’ top pages

If competitors get lots of traffic to pages about certain topics, you probably can, too.

Here’s how to find your competitors’ top pages:

Enter your competitor’s domain Go to the Top pages report

This report shows you the pages that attract the most search traffic for your competitor.

For example, Mailchimp ORG ’s email marketing guide gets an estimated 53,000 CARDINAL

monthly DATE search visits. The keyword that sends them the most traffic is “email marketing,” which they rank # 1 MONEY for in the US GPE .

If you’re a competitor, this might be a topic worth targeting.

5 CARDINAL . Analyze your competitors’ backlinks for link-building opportunities

If you want to rank for anything remotely competitive, merely publishing content isn’t enough. You need backlinks.

One CARDINAL way to do this is to analyze your competitor’s backlink profile to see how they’ve been acquiring theirs.

Here’s how to see your competitor’s backlinks:

Enter your competitor’s domain Go to the Backlinks ORG report

You can see that Mailchimp ORG has close to 800 CARDINAL K backlinks.

Here’s the thing: Your chances of finding anything useful by manually sifting through all 800K is slim. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can add the right filters and find the right link prospects.

For example, if you’re looking for resource page opportunities, you can add a “Ref. page URL” filter to search for terms like resources.html, resources.php, resources.asp, links.html PERSON , links.php, and links.asp .

Apply the filters and hit show results, and you now have over 700 CARDINAL potential opportunities for resource page link building.

6 CARDINAL . Analyze competing pages’ backlink profiles for link opportunities

You can also do the same backlink analysis as above but on a page level.

For example, say we want to analyze the backlink profile of HubSpot ORG ’s blog post on email marketing statistics. We want to create a competing page targeting that topic, so we want to know how HubSpot got so many links to their page.

Manually sifting through 14 CARDINAL K backlinks is a huge waste of time, so we’ll go to the Anchors ORG report to see all anchor texts of backlinks pointing at HubSpot ORG ’s article.

Eyeballing PERSON the report tells us that most people are linking to HubSpot ORG ’s page because of some specific stats:

There are two CARDINAL actionable takeaways:

We should include similar stats on our page, as these earn links. We should replace outdated stats so we can use them in our outreach campaign.

FYI, that’s exactly what we did for our SEO statistics post. Since then, we’ve earned thousands CARDINAL of backlinks and ranked # 1 MONEY consistently.

Learn how we did that in our video series below.

7 CARDINAL . Find broken link building opportunities

Broken link building is where you:

Find a broken page that has backlinks Create your own page on the topic Reach ORG out to those linking to the broken page to link to you instead

Here’s how you can find broken link building opportunities:

Enter your competitor’s domain Go to the Best by links report Set a HTTP code filter to 404 CARDINAL not found

For example, if you’re a competitor to GetResponse, this topic on “what are popups” might make sense for you to cover because 21 CARDINAL websites are linking to it.

To see who’s linking to these pages, click on a caret beside the URL and go to the Backlinks ORG report.

From here, you can reach out to the people linking to these broken pages and ask them to link to your new guide on the topic.

Further reading Broken Link Building: The Complete Guide

Keywords Explorer

Keywords Explorer is our keyword research tool.

Let’s look at a few ways to find good keywords to target, fast.

1 CARDINAL . Find keywords by search intent

Search intent is the reason behind a searcher’s query. To rank high on Google ORG , you’ll need to match search intent.

But, analyzing the SERPs for thousands CARDINAL of keywords manually can be incredibly time-consuming. So, a quick way is to use keyword modifiers like “best,” “how,” and “buy.”

So, let’s say we have an ecommerce store that sells camping equipment. Here’s how we would find keywords by search intent:

Enter a few broad seed keywords (e.g., camping, tent, sleeping bag, campfire) Go to the Matching PRODUCT terms report Add an Include filter for these modifiers (how, what, when, where, why, tutorial, tips)

This will show us a list of informational keywords we can create content for on our blog.

If we want to find commercial investigation keywords, we can simply add an Include filter for words like “best,” “vs,” and “review.”

9 CARDINAL . Find low-competition keywords

There are two CARDINAL ways to find low-competition keywords in Keywords Explorer PRODUCT .

The first ORDINAL way is to set a Keyword PRODUCT difficulty (KD) filter. Set it to a low number, like 10 CARDINAL , and you’ll see low-difficulty keywords you can target:

The second ORDINAL way is to set a Domain Rating (DR) filter. DR is widely used in the SEO community to estimate a website’s authority. So, setting a DR ORG filter can help you find keywords where non-authoritative sites rank high in the SERPs.

So, let’s set it to a low value like 30 CARDINAL . This will show us keywords that have at least one CARDINAL website with a DR up to 30 CARDINAL in the top 5 CARDINAL .

If we expand one CARDINAL of the SERPs, we see a result with < DR30 ORG and 0 CARDINAL backlinks!

This certainly seems like an easy topic to rank for.

10 CARDINAL . Bulk analyze a list of keywords

You can enter up to CARDINAL

10,000 CARDINAL keywords at a time in Keywords Explorer PRODUCT , which allows you to analyze any custom list of keywords.

Once you’ve pasted your list, you’ll be able to view all their metrics.

You can also cluster them by terms or Parent Topics ORG .

11 CARDINAL . See organic share of voice for your competitors

If you’ve entered your own list of keywords, you can go to the Traffic ORG share by domains report to see sites that rank for your list of keywords, along with the traffic share they own.

This tactic is great for keyword research.

For example, we can click on the caret for any of the websites, choose Top pages, and we can see all the topics that are sending them the most search traffic.

Site Audit

Site Audit lets you crawl your website to find and monitor for 100 CARDINAL + technical and on-page SEO issues.

To run a crawl, create a new project and either import your websites from Google Search Console ORG ( GSC ORG ) or add them manually.

When your crawl is complete, you’ll see the Overview report, which will show you a high-level overview of all technical and on-page issues Ahrefs ORG found on your site.

If your main goal is to keep your site in good technical health, then all you need to do is work on fixing the issues we found when crawling your site.

To do that, head to the All issues report.

You can prioritize by working on the red ones first ORDINAL , which represent errors. Then, work on the yellow ones (warnings) and the blue ones (notices).

To see the affected URLs, click on the number in the corresponding row:

There’s more to Site Audit than maintaining your site’s technical health, though. Here are some more use cases (that are not technical SEO):

12 CARDINAL . Find all affiliate links on a website

Let’s say you own a recipe blog that mostly makes money from Amazon ORG affiliate links. However, you recently joined a new affiliate program with higher payouts than Amazon ORG . Now, you need to swap out the Amazon ORG links for your new affiliate ones.

But rather than doing a sitewide change, you want to test the new affiliate links on a few pages to get a sample size for conversion rates.

Here’s how you can do this with Site Audit (after running a crawl):

Go to Page Explorer Hit Advanced filter Create a rule to find URLs that have an external link containing ( Amazon ORG ’s short link). Set an Organic traffic filter to show pages that get at least 1,000 CARDINAL

monthly DATE organic visits

Hit ‘Apply,’ and you’ll see 51 CARDINAL pages that match these filters:

You can pick from these pages to replace the Amazon ORG links.

13 CARDINAL . Find internal linking opportunities

The Internal Link Opportunities ORG report shows you internal linking opportunities based on keywords your pages rank for.

Specifically, it shows:

The page we recommend you link from

The keyword that’s mentioned on the source page (also the keyword that the target page ranks for)

The page we recommend you link to

For example, let’s say we want to add internal links to our blog post on keyword research. In the report, we can set a Target ORG page filter and paste the URL to our keyword research guide.

We now have over 200 CARDINAL potential pages we can link from.

Further reading Internal Links for SEO ORG : An Actionable Guide

Rank Tracker

Rank Tracker PRODUCT lets you monitor your Google ORG rankings over time. You can track rankings from any country, city, zip, or postal code. On top of that, you can segment your keywords using tags and track your performance against your competitors.

In the Rank Tracker Overview ORG , you can see charts that give you a nice visualization of various categories like share of voice, average position, traffic, SERP features, and positions. And these graphs are affected by the filters you set.

Below these groups is the data table where you’ll see ranking, keyword, and traffic data for each tracked keyword.

A cool feature in Rank Tracker ORG is that we keep track of your competitors too:

14 CARDINAL . Automatically track your competitors’ rankings

Go to the Competitors overview report and you’ll see the same data, plus how your competitors are performing for every keyword.

Even if you didn’t add any tracked competitors to your project, you can still get competitor insights by going to the Competitors traffic share report.

This report shows you all your organic search competitors for your tracked keywords. If you look at the Pages tab, you can see the exact pages you’re competing with in organic search. If you go to the Domains ORG tab, you’ll see all websites ranking for your tracked keywords.

For example, both HubSpot ORG and Shopify own a lot of traffic for our tracked keywords. So, they likely rank for a ton of topics that might be interesting for our own blog, which means we could dig deeper into them in Site Explorer.

Content Explorer

Content Explorer is a search engine for marketers with billions CARDINAL of pages in its index. Search for any topic, and you’ll see all pages that match your query, along with their SEO and social metrics.

The best part: You can apply any combination of filters to dig into the data.

Here are some use cases for Content Explorer:

15 CARDINAL . Find low-competition topics with high search traffic potential

Here’s how:

Enter a broad query (e.g., backpack) Set a Referring domains filter < 10 CARDINAL (to find low-competition topics) Set a Page traffic filter > 500 CARDINAL (to find topics with high traffic potential) Set a Word count filter > 500 CARDINAL (to find blog content)

For example, this seems like a great topic to cover for a website that sells backpacks:

Click the Page traffic box and you’ll see the exact keywords it ranks for, its ranking positions, and more:

16 CARDINAL . Find guest post opportunities

Here’s how:

Enter a niche-related query (e.g., knitting) Set a DR filter of 30-65 CARDINAL (to find low- to mid-authority websites) Set a Website traffic filter of > 5,000 CARDINAL (to find sites that get a good amount of search traffic) Set a Word count filter of > 500 CARDINAL (to narrow results to blog content)

Head to the Websites tab to see sites that match our filters:

Eyeball the report to find potential sites to pitch. For example, a site like Nimble Needles would make a good guest post target.

Further reading Guest Blogging for SEO: Everything You Need to Know

Web Explorer

Web Explorer allows you to search through all pages, domains, and links that are indexed by Yep, which is our search engine. This index is around 500 billion MONEY pages, ~36 times larger than Content Explorer’s ORG index.

Basically, you can search through almost anything and filter them down by SEO metrics.

Here are some use cases:

17 CARDINAL . Find unlinked brand mentions

Unlinked ORG mention link building is when you:

Find pages that mention your brand but don’t link to you

Reach PERSON out and ask them to link to you

The reason why this tactic works well is because the battle is halfway won. They know who you are and probably like you, but they may have just forgotten to link to you.

To find unlinked mentions, search for [your brand] -outlinkdomain:[yourwebsite].com -site:[yourwebsite].com .

You’ll see over 61 million CARDINAL pages that mention Ahrefs PERSON but don’t link to us.

18 CARDINAL . Search niche-relevant pages that link out to Amazon ORG affiliate URLs

For example, let’s say you want to find pages on gardening that link out to Amazon ORG affiliate URLs. The reason you might search this is to find potential acquisition targets, find websites that might be interested in joining your affiliate program, or find affiliate content ideas for your own gardening website.

To find these pages, run this search: “gardening” (outlinkdomain: ORG OR

You’ll see 14 million CARDINAL pages that match this query.

FYI, if you want to explore more use cases in Web Explorer, simply hit the Examples tab.

Final thoughts

We’ve barely scratched the surface with all available use cases in Ahrefs GPE . That’s why we’ve also created a 7-hour TIME certification course that digs deep into how Ahrefs GPE works. I highly recommend checking it out.

Even though we’ve covered our core tools, we have some other tools as well.

Check out Competitive Analysis, which includes tools like Content Gap and ORG Link Intersect.

Our Batch Analysis tool lets you get SEO metrics on up to 200 CARDINAL targets in seconds TIME :

And don’t forget to install our free SEO toolbar where you can get Ahrefs GPE metrics laid over your SERPs and web pages.

Any questions or comments? Let me know on X (Twitter).

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