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If you work in Search Engine Optimization, you’ve probably heard of Ahrefs before.

It’s easily one of the most popular platforms on the planet for doing the kind of research you need to rank your webpages.

So, it makes sense that there are already countless blog posts and videos out there that cover how to use Ahrefs in depth.

Of course, Ahrefs has a great YouTube channel that’s worth checking out, too.

But today, I want to show you how you can use Ahrefs to analyze a competitor’s webpage really fast, so you know what to do to get better SEO results right away.

Let’s dive in.

Main Metrics in Ahrefs

First, let’s look at the main metrics Ahrefs offers in its Overview 2.0 dashboard.

Backlink Profile

The first section you’ll see are the four metrics that fall under the heading “Backlink profile.”

Although you can use Ahrefs for all kinds of SEO purposes, it’s probably best known for being a backlink checker and research, tool.

So, it makes sense that Ahrefs seems to prioritize these metrics.

  • DR –Domain Rating is how strong Ahrefs thinks your entire website’s backlink profile is compared to other sites in its database. So, in this example, the “competitor” has a ranking of 80/100 – which is VERY good. To put this into perspective, here are the Domain Ratings for some very popular websites:
    • Facebook: 100
    • YouTube: 99
    • Amazon: 96
    • Target: 91
    • McDonald’s: 87
  • UR –URL Rating is the same idea but focused on just the webpage (the URL). This metric shows how Ahrefs feels the webpage’s backlink profile stacks up against others in its database. As you can see above, the UR for this page is nonexistent. In this case, it’s because Ahrefs reports that, “URL Rating wasn’t populated for your target page yet. It will be added the next time the page is crawled.” So, we might want to wait to check back later and see what it is.
  • Backlinks –This is just the number of backlinks that Ahrefs has found pointing at this page. By itself, that number doesn’t tell us a whole lot, which is why that last metric exists, but we can also click on that number to dig into those backlinks to see how powerful they are.
  • Domains –How many domains are sending these backlinks? That’s what the “Referring Domains” metric tells you. This metric is important because if all of this page’s backlinks are coming from the same domain, they’re not going to be as powerful. After all, this company could just start another website and then link to this one a million times to build out their backlinks. So, the more Referring Domains, the better (generally speaking).

That’s what these metrics in Ahrefs mean.

Now, let’s quickly look at how to use them.

How to Measure the Power of Your Competitor’s Backlinks

The DR and UR are helpful, but like a lot of metrics in Ahrefs, I recommend doing a little extra work to really gain the insights you need to rank your pages.

In this case, when you click on “DR”, you’ll find a list of the pages that are backlinking to your competitor’s page, as well as more metrics to help you better understand those referring pages.

Let’s look at the others:

  • Domain Traffic –This is just how much traffic the entire domain for that webpage gets. As you can see two of the domains above get no traffic at all, so their backlinks probably aren’t worth much, but a lot of traffic doesn’t necessarily make good for backlinks, either. What if the page linking to yours doesn’t perform well? The “Domain Traffic” metric could still be high just because a number of other pages attract lots of visitors.
  • Referring Domains –How many pages backlinks to the page listed in this report? Above, the answer is “none” for all three of these. This is another sign that these backlinks probably aren’t very strong.
  • Linked Domains –This tells you how many domains the page in question is linking to. Why does this matter? Because if one of these pages links to our competitor and a million other pages, that link doesn’t look as special anymore, does it? So, it’s not going to be worth quite as much in the eyes of Google. The lower that number, the more it’s going to contribute to the ranking of that competitor’s webpage.
  • Ext. –This is how many external PAGES this page links to. It’s similar to the last metric, except instead of websites, this is just the webpages. So, that second page above links to 4 domains but 11 webpages. Clearly, it links to pages from the same domain in some instances. And, as we’ve talked about before, the more that happens, the less each of those links is going to be worth.
  • Page Traffic –Pretty self-explanatory, but the more traffic a page gets, the more its backlink is probably going to be worth to this competitor. Again, a domain getting a lot of traffic isn’t the same thing. How much traffic a page gets is far more important.
  • Kw. –Finally, this tells you how many keywords the page ranks for. As I’ll touch on in just a moment, I don’t care about this number a whole lot. I’ll explain why in the next section.

DR and UR are the same concepts here. They’re giving you an idea of how strong those backlinks are as authorities in Google’s mind.

Organic Search

Alright, now we’re finally looking at traffic from search engines.

  • Keywords –This number is how many keywords the page in question ranks for in Google. As I just alluded to – and as I explain in the video above – I don’t put a lot of stock in this number. At the end of the day, who cares how many keywords you rank for if those rankings aren’t bringing any traffic to your site?
  • Traffic –THIS is the number that matters. The Traffic metric will give you an idea of how many visitors you could expect to bring to your site every month if you created a similar page. That being said, this number isn’t 100% accurate. That’s why I recommend you put your own site and some of your own webpages (especially any that are similar to the one you’re analyzing) through Ahrefs, too. Then, compare the Traffic estimates for these pages to the real numbers in Google Analytics to see how close Ahrefs is with its metric.

While this article is focused solely on analyzing a competitor’s webpage for SEO purposes, let’s talk about that last group of metrics, too.

Paid Search

Just like with Organic, there are only two here and they are fairly straightforward.

  • Keywords –How many keywords is the competitor ranking for with paid traffic? In the above example, there are just two keywords.
  • Traffic –Same thing here: how much traffic do these keywords draw a month? Beneath it, you can see the “Paid traffic cost”, too. In this case, the answer is “N/A”, but normally, this number would tell you how much it costs to get these clicks every month. This can be valuable information because it can give you a sense for how much this traffic is worth.

Using Ahrefs for Keyword Research

In the video above, I pull the keywords from Ahrefs to look at what queries the “competitor” is ranking for with the specific page I’m studying.

This means understanding a host of other metrics, though.

Fortunately, they’re pretty simple:

  • Keyword– You can probably guess this one: it’s the query people search for in Google when this page shows up (i.e., the whole point of doing keyword research).
  • SERP Features– This tells you what features are on the Search Engine Results Page in Google. I go into it in a lot more detail in the above video, but it’s good to keep in mind what this page looks like because it will affect everything from the type of page you’ll need to create to what kind of traffic you can expect depending on where you rank.
  • Volume– How many people search for this query every month?
  • KDKeyword difficulty is exactly what it sounds like: Ahrefs’s estimate for how difficult it’s going to be to rank that keyword.
  • CPC– CPC (cost per click) tells you how much you’ll have to pay per click if you want ads to show for that keyword.
  • Organic Traffic– This number is how many visitors the page attracts from search engines every month for the given keyword.
  • Paid Traffic– This number is how many visitors the page attracts from paid ads.
  • Current Position –Finally, this is where the page ranks for the keyword in search engines.

There’s also “Current URL”, “Current URL inside”, and “Updated”, but those aren’t important for the kind of analysis we’re using Ahrefs to do.

A Big Fat Important Word About Keyword Difficulty in Ahrefs

I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but there’s a video above where I walk you through using Ahrefs step-by-step and show you how I use it to analyze competitors.

Anyway, one aspect I spend some time on is Ahrefs’s Keyword Difficulty (KD) metric.

As I just touched on, it’s Ahrefs’s attempt at gauging how difficult it will be to rank for the given keyword.

You have to remember that every number for this metric over 30 represents a “hard” keyword.

Keyword Difficulty Ahrefs

For example, in the above video, I look at “men’s flannel shirts”, which Ahrefs says gets 32,000 searches a month but only has a Keyword Difficulty of 42.

42 doesn’t seem too bad, right?

But as you can see, “42” is considered a “Hard” keyword to rank for by Ahrefs.

Keyword Difficulty Score Ahrefs

The thing is it’s not just “hard.”

It would be EXTREMELY hard to rank for this keyword given the other popular names that are on the first page. This includes brands like:

  • Amazon
  • Duluth Trading Company
  • Nordstrom
  • GQ
  • Macy’s

So, why does Ahrefs score this at the lower end of the “hard keyword” spectrum?

How Does Ahrefs Establish Keyword Difficulty?

Ahrefs relies heavily on backlinks to establish keyword difficulty in their platform.

As they put it, KD is “…based on linking domains to top-ranking pages.”

But while backlinks are definitely important to consider, another really big one is brand recognition. The better known a brand is, the more likely it is to get clicks and CTR (clickthrough rate) probably plays a role in affecting rankings.

That’s why I stress the importance of actually looking up your keywords in that video. If you notice that the top spots are taken by brands your market already knows and trusts, taking those positions from them is going to be really, REALLY difficult.

(Not impossible – just REALLY difficult).

And simply building backlinks probably isn’t going to be the answer.

Reviewing Internal Links

The last step I use Ahrefs for when I’m doing competitor analysis is to look at the kinds of internal links pointing at the page in question.

Similar to backlinks from other sites, these internal backlinks (links from within the site) can help to bolster the ranking of the pages they point at.

Now, if these are simply header or footer links, I don’t worry about them quite as much. They’re showing up again and again because they’re in a header/footer menu, not because they’re uniquely relevant to those specific pages.

Checking How Well Blog Posts Are Helping

This is why blogs are perfect for powerful interlinking.

And that’s why blogging should be a part of every eCommerce brand’s SEO strategy, even if they don’t prove to drive lots of conversions.

So, when I was looking at this example page from Land’s End, I also used Ahrefs to pull their list of internal links, filtered by the ones that come from blog posts.

I had to do a little more filtering to get rid of blog posts that probably weren’t very topically relevant to the page I’m targeting (i.e., an article about “chinos vs. khakis” probably doesn’t do much for boosting the rankings of an eCommerce category page about something completely different).

This information gives me a much more complete picture of how this page manages to rank so high in Google and what we’d have to do if we wanted to achieve similar results.

Use Ahrefs to Turn Your Competition’s SEO Strategies into Roadmaps to Better Rankings

The video above is only about 18 minutes, so I hope you get a chance to watch it.

But the good news is that once you go through this process a few times, you should be able to repeat it over and over in under five.

So, whether you have a page that needs improving or you’re thinking of starting a new one from scratch, you can quickly take what’s already working for your competitors and use it to beat them in Google’s SERPs.


Let’s chat!