What is the Best Keyword Research Tool?

An effective keyword research tool is critical for anyone who wants to improve their SEO and drive organic traffic to their website. Ahrefs, SEMrush and Moz all allow you to dig into your website, industry competitors and search engines for valuable data. But which one offers the most bang for your buck? We’ve broken it down based on the most important capabilities.

Basis for Comparisons

While each SEO tool includes a variety of features, we’ve limited our evaluation to the following five factors, which tend to hold the most weight with marketing experts.

Backlink Analysis

These days, backlinks are arguably the key critical ranking factor for online content; so it’s very important to have an SEO tool with a very effective backlink analysis feature. By understanding exactly where your competitors get backlinks, you can identify link-building opportunities and negate your competitors’ advantage.

It’s not easy to create a dynamic backlink analysis tool because this sort of undertaking demands a very big, sophisticated database capable of storing link info for every site on the net. Such a database is very costly, not just to build but to maintain.

Because of this, there can be variations in backlink analysis tool quality. In regard to this key factor, Ahrefs is a clear winner, with Moz coming in second and SEMRush bringing up the rear.

Keyword Research Tool

Good SEO depends on a reliable keyword research tool that can pinpoint high-volume queries and related long-tail phrases. While this feature is undoubtedly important, there are a lot of free keyword research tools these days and most digital marketing agencies have access to Keyword Planner from Google Ads if their PPC budgets are high enough.

Still, this is an important consideration for many marketers. For our purposes, Ahrefs wins this round too, with SEMRush a near second followed by Moz.

API Access

API (application programming interface) allows different computer programs to interact and share data. Digital marketers prefer software that has robust API because it facilitates reporting by allowing software to pull information without as much human intervention.

While it’s not an absolute necessity, it is nice to have. In regard to API, SEMRush comes out on top, followed by Moz and then Ahrefs.

Technical Audits

User experience and site loading speed can impact your search rankings. An effective technical audit tool can pinpoint issues that might promote slow loading times or mobile incompatibilities. Despite its clear importance for SEO, technical audit tools are available for free throughout the internet.

seo performing keyword researchStill, since many marketers prefer their capabilities bundled into one interface, we’ve included it as a factor, with SEMRush coming out on top, followed by Moz and then Ahrefs.

Competitive Audits

You can identify hidden ranking opportunities by finding out what your competitors are ranking for. If you use PPC campaigns, you may also be able to use competitor auditing tools to learn what keywords your competitors are bidding on.

Since SEO is one of the world’s most competitive industries, this factor is a big consideration for many marketers. When it comes to competitive auditing capabilities, SEMRush takes the cake, followed by Ahrefs and then Moz.

Ranking the Tools


After weighting each factor for importance, Ahrefs comes out on top. This is primarily because it boasts the biggest backlink index, which is the most critical feature in a good SEO tool. Ahrefs’ latest keyword research tool is also very good for analyzing keyword data, surpassing in its latest iteration SemRush’s keyword magic tool.

Ahrefs’ API access and technical audit tool are both less than stellar, but these aren’t usually as critical to most digital marketers.


Coming in a close second, SemRush would have no trouble surpassing Ahrefs if they increased their investment in their backlink index. They have a robust API and a thorough technical audit tool. SemRush’s competitor audit also has the most accurate competitor PPC data. Still, because they don’t have Ahref’s backlink index, SEMRush is an inferior option in the eyes of many.


Once the internet’s premier SEO tool, Moz used to have the biggest backlink index. In recent years, however, both Ahref and SemRush have jumped ahead.

Still, Moz does have a useful business listing analysis tool that sets it apart from the others. It’s not worth the price of a subscription alone, however, at least for most digital marketers.

The Bottom Line

Moz, Ahrefs and SEMrush all have their advantages and disadvantages. In the end, the choice comes down to what you think your site needs most, and what you plan to spend the most time doing. None of the three are bad choices, and you will definitely need at least one if you are hoping to improve your site’s SEO and attract new organic traffic.

It takes deep insight and extensive industry experience to get the most out of any SEO tool. Unfortunately, even the most intuitive options come with steep learning curves. Sympler can help you leverage all available SEO tools to their fullest capabilities, so you can achieve your digital marketing goals. To learn more, contact our team today.

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