Moz vs Ahrefs – The Final Frontier

I'll be reviewing the 2 biggest SEO tool companies on the market right now. Comparing their tool suites after the recent massive update to Moz's link tool. See who will take home the glory in this battle of giants.
Moz vs Ahrefs – The Final Frontier

There has been a lot of hype and news around the new Moz Link Explorer.. And what this upgrade to the old Open Explorer tool could mean for the future of the company.

Specifically, Moz themselves have been going pretty wild throwing all sorts of one sided data arguments in promotional blog posts. I’m not the first one to call them out for this manipulation of data, and I’m sure I won’t be the last –

However.. In this blog post, I aim to take a realistic and unbias look at the 2 main SEO tool suites on the market right now.. Ahrefs and Moz.

Which will survive, which will falter, which has the better data and more.. Let’s dive into some experimentation and explanation.

The Tool Suite Comparison

Both of these companies offer tool suites.. It’s not just one tool that you’re paying for, you get a wide variety and they both try and boast that either of them could be your “all in one” SEO suite.  Let’s go through the offerings both tools have, and rip apart the good and the bad.

Link Checking

This is the biggest tools out of all of them, and the big update that Moz has been boasting about non-stop since it’s release.

I decided to run some tests to see which had the better data, once and for all.

Note: Moz maintains just one index, a “live” index. Ahrefs splits there’s in several different ones. Recent, live & historic links. I’ll be comparing the data from the LIVE links index of Ahrefs vs Moz’s index.

I took the top 10 ranking pages from a bunch of different niches in several of the different Google TLDs, to get a breakdown of how many backlinks and referring domains both the tools picked up, the niches were:

  • “Payday Loans” (Finance – .com & .co.uk)
  • “SEO” (.com & .co.uk)
  • “Football” / “Soccer” (Sports – .com & .co.uk)
  • “Best Fat Burner” (Weight Loss – .com)
  • “Cars For Sale” (Automotive – .com)
  • “Online Casino” (Gambling – .nl & .de)
  • “Fashion Trends” (Fashion – .com)
  • “Medical Marijuana Dispensary” (Medicine / Local – .com)
  • “Bitcoin Mexico” (Finance – .com.mx)

Note: Keywords in quotation marks are the specific keyword used. The TLD is the Google TLD we used when looking at the top 10 SERPs for those keywords.

Here is our findings for each search we did –

Payday Loans USA

For this SERP, I’ll be showing the full URLs and the backlink/RD count. For the others, we’ll just be showing the mean of them.

Moz Mean RD – 539 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 2067.4

So far, Moz is picking up more backlinks overall but Ahrefs is shooting ahead for the number of live referring domains. Let’s take a deep dive into the other SERPs.

Payday Loans UK

Moz Mean RD – 213.8 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 181.3

SEO USA

Moz Mean RD – 3,437.4 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 3,562.8

SEO UK

Moz Mean RD – 3,073.1 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 3,227.8

Best Fat Burner USA

Moz Mean RD – 39.3 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 59.2

Cars For Sale USA

Moz Mean RD – 264 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 765.4

Online Casino Netherlands (.nl)

Moz Mean RD – 100.1 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 138.8

Online Casino Germany (.de)

Moz Mean RD – 171.6 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 262

Fashion Trends USA

Moz Mean RD – 70.3 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 111.5

Medical Marijuana Dispensary USA 

Moz Mean RD – 40.8 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 40

Bitcoin Mexico (.com.mx)

Moz Mean RD – 136.3 | Ahrefs Mean RD – 129.7

As you can see, the playing field is pretty even overall, but remember that this is just the LIVE Index for Ahrefs, whereas they also have the multiple other indexes too. It seems very niche/TLD dependent on who picks up the most data. This is likely due to the set of seed sites that each tool uses to begin crawling the web.

The thing with Moz’s new Link Explorer is that it also doesn’t allow for the tens of link filtering options that Ahrefs does – You can sort by redirect, status code, language, platform etc.. Literally the only things you can search for in Moz are NoFollow/DoFollow & link status.

That being said, Russ Jones did confirm they will be adding the filtering options at a later date –

Unfortunately though, this should of been rolled out with the change.. Or it makes the data they provide significantly less usable in all of the marketing press they have been doing around it.

Additional points I wanted to make clear before people start attacking me for this post –

  • This test was run on the 16th of May, 2018 – The day before this post went live.
  • I originally went about testing this via the Moz & Ahrefs API, but wanted to showcase specific data to show the niche / TLD differences between the 2. General data doesn’t show specific, real world examples. The API data I used is what lead me to this conclusion.
  • This is supposed to be a wide variety of SERPs, including ones that would contain very different link building activities and some that may be manually reviewed by Google on a weekly basis.

Organic Positions

SEMRush used to be the only tool out there that allowed you to search and see the keywords a site was ranking for. Ahrefs blew them out of the water though, and from our recent tests SEMRush is showing just 1/5th the keyword data that Ahrefs is showing.

Moz has also gotten in on the action, and we decided to run some tests of our own. It seems that Moz’s keyword data maxes out at 300,000.. I am using the Medium account and can’t seem to find any data on why this won’t let me find more. Regardless, I can only export 50,000 rows from Moz without getting a custom campaign.. I can export 100,000 rows from Ahrefs with the agency ($1k/Mo) account.

Here is the sites we ran through both tools and the number of keywords they found for each site –

  • Moz.com – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 317,506 / Moz Toal Keywords: 51,211
  • Ahrefs.com – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 30,809 / Moz Total Keywords: 6,799
  • Wayfair.co.uk – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 248,603 / Moz Total Keywords: 35,463
  • Amazon.ca – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 11,963,428 / Moz Total Keywords: 300,000
  • 888.com – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 5,559 / Moz Total Keywords: 454
  • 10beasts.com – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 37,616 / Moz Total Keywords: 4,729
  • Apple.com – Ahrefs Total Keywords: 23,886,301 / Moz Total Keywords: 300,000

Note that this is just the total number of keywords, and Ahrefs tracks multiple Google TLDs, whereas it is very difficult to understand Moz’s data at the moment if you’re looking at a different keyword outside the US, because it doesn’t tell you if it’s the US ranking or the other Google TLD ranking. This ends up meaning you may have 31k keywords on Ahrefs, but you can split those down via US, UK, CA, Australia, NZ etc.. Much easier.

Hopefully Moz is moving towards making the data better understandable/filterable like they are doing with the link explorer, as Russ said above.

Moz seems to pull the keyword rankings from it’s database in real time, whereas Ahrefs seemingly just has it loaded. Making it much faster to be able to see the ranking keywords of Ahrefs than Moz. The Amazon.ca 300k results took over 45 seconds of loading to get.

Keyword Research

One of the big draw backs from me with Moz is that it only refreshes the keyword data every 2 weeks. Ahrefs seems to update the keyword data at sporadic dates, with the larger keywords being updated every day, from our testing.

They both run on ClickStream data, which is data pulled from browsers and extensions directly, rather than pulling it from Google themselves who can’t seem to put together decent keyword metrics now-a-days at all. It’d seem they don’t really want to, either.

Even though they both seemingly use ClickStream, the amount of monthly volume Moz actually shows is rather different and it’s quite annoying they give the same kind of range that Google gives, which is one of the things Google has got the most flack for.

Examples being:

  • “Payday Loans” – Moz showing 118k – 300k US MS, Ahrefs showing 186k US MS
  • “Bitcoin” – Moz Showing 1.5m – 6.9m US MS, Ahrefs showing 1.9m US MS
  • “Charles Floate” – Moz Showing 11 – 50 US MS, Ahrefs showing 350 US MS

The wide range that Moz gives actually hurts the overall quality of the tool, because ranges can’t really be used in doing proper data analysis.

Ahrefs uses a 12 month average search volume, backed up using ClickStream data to accurately guess the monthly search volume – For obvious reasons, this shows you pretty bad data on seasonal & viral searches, but for 99% of other searches, it’s pretty accurate.

The other main issue I have with Moz is their overall lack of data/updating. On Moz’s own tool guide here they show a keyword example which has “no data” –

Fair play for the real world aspect of it, because almost every keyword I have run through Moz has “no data” next to the 6 suggested keywords it shows. This has never happened in the time I’ve used Ahrefs.

Moz need to do a serious, real time upgrade to the tool which shows you full monthly volume data for all the keywords they’re displaying and allows you to update the keywords when you want to, rather than the 2 week discretion period they have currently. They also need to do an upgrade which gives you an accurate estimate, and not a wildly differing guess that Google already gives you.

Content Research

Ahrefs has “Content Explorer” which is very similar to the BuzzSumo tool. Moz has “Fresh Web Explorer” which allows you to see brand new content that is gaining traction on the web for brand terms.

I used the term “ecommerce seo” on both tools to find out which would give me a better insight into content out there.

Again though, Moz has a real lack of filtering options to be able to sort through the data, and measures everything purely on “Mention Authority” which realistically means nothing from our testing of how effective it is at giving content ideas.

Some of the top pages included a digest email newsletter and a spam, auto-generated WordPress site –

In comparison, Ahrefs gives you a ton of features to search for and gives statistics that you can actually use such as different networks social shares, referring domains and organic traffic –

Moz really needs to completely revamp the fresh web explorer. It seems completely broken with spam taking the top spots for more keywords we ran through it, and the mention authority is completely meaningless. As well as the fact that there is no filtering, minus allowing to only see sites in Google News.

Site Auditing

Ahrefs has recently put in their own site audit tool, and whilst it’s still in the works I have been impressed with it’s speed of finishing crawls – I audited a medium size affiliate site (2.5k pages) today and got the full crawl completed within 30 minutes of starting it. In comparison, for the exact same site, it took me a full day to get the crawl back from Moz.

Before we get into the crawls, I just want to cover a few things –

  • Moz has 2 different crawling tools. The main site crawler, and their OnPage grader. I’ll be covering both of these in the review.
  • Moz also only allow a maximum crawl of 3,000 pages on any plan, with 2 crawls/day. Ahrefs allow a maximum crawl of 10,000 pages on any plan, with differing amounts of pages, up to 2.5 Mil/Month.

The crawls themselves are very similar, however Ahrefs is more technically focused, Moz is more content focused.

The way they both display data is different, Moz use a simple, clean UI whereas Ahrefs UI is kind of hard to look at when viewing the overview and wanting to find specific sections.

I’d give the edge to Moz on this one, though they’ve had the tool in play for several years now and Ahrefs tool is a matter of months old at this point.

Tool Bars

When it comes to browser extensions, the Moz toolbar is universally used over Ahrefs. The Ahrefs extension has a hole host of developer problems and half the time the SERP overlay doesn’t work.

Even though Ahrefs has the better data set for organic positions, it still doesn’t show this on the overlay – Either on the specific site, or SERP overlay.

Moz’s tool bar is significantly better in it’s functionality, but I don’t use either in my day to day anyway.

Which Has The Most ROI

This is the real question. You’re paying $99/Month for either subscription.. but which gives you the most bang for buck. That’s where the real MVP will stand tall, not in specific semantics, but in overall ROI.

Currently, there is a pretty obvious winner.. Ahrefs. They have the better overall tool suite, with much more usability than Moz.

You get around an equal link index to Moz’s new tool, but on every other front they out class Moz for the same subscription fees.

There are 2 upsides for Moz though..

You get way more user seats for your money than Ahrefs. This means if you have a team inhouse or abroad, then you won’t need to have the insanely expensive $1k/Mo Ahrefs package, in comparison to Moz’s affordable $179/Mo for 10 users.

You also get way more link explorer credits with Moz than with Ahrefs. Ahrefs 25 domains per day look up for $99/Month is the annoying kicker for me.. Any SEO doing a day’s worth of hardcore research will burn through that limitation in minutes. Though it’s also a bit of a clever marketing ploy to get people on the higher subscription tiers – If it weren’t for Ahrefs sorting me out with a free account, I’d be handing over ten grand a year to ’em.

However the actual use of this data is the most important thing, and simply don’t get as good from Moz.

This Is It For Moz

Moz has been hemorrhaging money for years now, 2017 was the first year they posted a net positive income.. but it was of a mere $1.5 million profit with a $47.4 million revenue.

In terms of the technology and product offering, it’s got a huge amount of catch-up to play just to be equal to Ahrefs, let alone actually start taking ground off them. Where as Ahrefs have the subscriptions with them now and the better technology in place, all they have to do is expand operations to keep Moz behind, they likely won’t have to do any major updates.

The marketing power behind Moz’s tool overhauls may actually lead to massive subscriber gains, but without continual improvement of the entire platform in a very short amount of time.. The retention rate past trials and on the accounts themselves will be abysmal.

As long as they can post net profits, they’ll stay above board.. However Ahrefs is likely doing the same, if not more revenue and with 1/6 the staff (Just 29 employees, vs Moz’s 170) where staff account for over 1/2 of Moz’s overall costs. Moz as a company is also in debt, with $29.2 million in VC Funding and making a loss of $16.4 million between 2013 and 2016. Ahrefs has no VC funding.

It’s not looking bright for Moz to overtake Ahrefs anytime soon, or at any point in the future and to really start pulling back the seed and loss money they’re going to really have to be an overall better product than Ahrefs. Even if Moz double their profit in 2018, it’s still pocket change in comparison to what they should be doing at this stage of a company.. Especially in an industry that grew from $1bn market cap to over $80bn in the time since they first got funding.

Thanks For Reading

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and comparison.. It took me a while to compare all the data.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the Moz vs Ahrefs debate in the comments section below, and don’t forget to join my email newsletter on the right hand side if you haven’t already done so.

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