Latest posts by Hailey Friedman (see all)
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There’s 1.7 billion websites on the internet. And Google updates its algorithm 500+ times per year.
So if you’re an entrepreneur or marketer trying to compete in search engine optimization (SEO), you need a great tool to keep up.
The best tools — Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs and GrowthBar — will all help you:
- Find the best keywords to try and rank for based on 1) search volume and 2) competitiveness
- Find backlink opportunities to increase your domain authority
- Track your SEO progress over time
- And gather competitive intelligence — so you can understand what your closest foes are up to
I’ve used each one of these tools — they’re all fantastic and you can hardly go wrong. We’ve used a combination of the four of them to build Growth Marketing Pro into a 6-figure passive income machine.
But which tool is right for you and your business?
SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz and GrowthBar are fantastic, but they’re not interchangeable.
Sure they’re all SEO tools. But they’re priced differently, geared toward different parts of SEO optimization and two of them are for small businesses and startups — while the other two are better suited for enterprise stage companies.
I’ll help you decide which one is best for you!
Also read: The 13 Best SEO Software Tools
Why Use an SEO Software Tool?
If you only ever pay for one software tool for your business, it should be an SEO tool.
1. Spy on Your Competitors
Peak behind the curtain to see what growth tactics are working for your competitors. SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz and GrowthBar allow you to see which keywords are bringing your competitors traffic, conversions, and sales. In most cases, you just type your competitor’s domain into the tool and it spits out the insights.
You will also be able to to better optimize your content, view backlinks, and create a strategy to outrank the competition.
2. Find The Best Keywords to Rank For
Be on the lookout for keywords with high search volume, and low competition. These are open opportunities for your content to rank more quickly and really shine.
Each of these tools helps you understand how likely or unlikely it is you will be able to rank for a specific term.
3. Grow Your Business & Optimize Marketing Spend
These four tools will help steer you in the direction of the most effective channels with the highest ROI, more than justifying the monthly subscription cost.
Plus, a couple of them give you tips along the way, so you can learn search engine optimization while you use the tool.
Keep reading to find the right solution for your business needs.
SEMRush vs Ahrefs vs Moz vs GrowthBar
The tagline reads: “Make it 10X easier to get more customers. The only growth tool marketers and entrepreneurs need for SEO, SEM, and Facebook advertising.”
Oh, did I mention I built GrowthBar? I did it because I couldn’t find a tool that gave me every insight I needed FAST. And the other tools have pages of information — which is totally unnecessary for a scrappy entrepreneur.
GrowthBar is the perfect market research tool because it gives you instant access to critical data points about your competitors and the growth channels and keywords that are working for them — all in your Google search page.
New features are being steadily rolled out that continue to make performing market research a breeze. You can explore your competitors’ backlink data, social signals, which keywords they rank for, best performing keywords, spy on their Facebook Ads and so much more.
Plus, we built it to give you tips along the way — so you learn best practices from the best growth marketers in the world in plain, concise English.
GrowthBar Ease of Use
- Just type in a URL or keyword into your Google search bar and hit “enter” to get started. It couldn’t be easier.
- The data you need lives right on your Google search results page which is extremely convenient. No need to login to yet ANOTHER platform or toggle between tabs to get the info you need.
Unlock this data for any website (your own or your competitors):
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Organic Traffic
- Traffic Value
- Top Paid Keywords
- Keyword Search Volume
- Keywords Competition
- Keywords CPCs
- Keyword Research
- Top Backlinks
- Facebook Ads
GrowthBar is free to try for 5 days and then it costs $29/mo (a steep discount from comparable tools that cost between $100-$200/mo).
GrowthBar is the most complete market research tool that is 100% free to try and more affordable than any alternative. It holds its own against some of the more expensive paid keyword tools on the market, like Ahrefs and SEMrush. It’s become a key part of our market research process for analyzing the SERPs and our competitors.
SEMRush is a digital marketing research tool that has all the tools to help you analyze your competitors’ sites and better understand exactly how and why they’re performing how they are.
By simply typing in a URL you can see exactly which keywords that site is ranking for and their estimated organic and paid traffic. As well as taking a deep dive into their backlinks, paid ad campaigns, social media followings, and more.
SEMRush has all the tools to go deep into analyzing every working part of a website. You can run reports, see the results in the way of a graph or static data, and keep probing until you get the answers you want.
SEMrush Ease of Use
- There’s a lot of data for you on each screen, but once you know what you’re looking for it’s easy to read
- Liberal use of drop-down menus and all the key information displayed on the sidebar makes navigation easy
- Just type in the domain or keyword you want to analyze to begin
- Perform Website Audits
- Set Benchmarks for Data Analysis
- Find and Analyze Keywords
- Competitor Overviews
- See Competitor’s Paid Ads
- Track Organic Keyword Rankings
SEMRush is always running free trials, although the duration changes from time to time. They have 3 paid plans starting at $99/month for their Pro Plan, which allows you to run up to 5 projects.
You can upgrade to their Guru Plan for 50 projects and some additional features or their Business Plan for 200 projects.
SEMRush is what I like to call the “middle of the road” competitive analysis tool. It does everything really well but doesn’t go as deep as Ahrefs if you want to take a very detailed analytical approach to your research.
I still consider it an enterprise tool, as it goes pretty deep in a lot of places and costs $1,000+ per year to use.
I recommend taking a free trial, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using their suite of tools for free.
Ahrefs is a premium competitive analysis and keyword research tool. They claim to have “the world’s largest index of live backlinks” of any tool on the market. So, you know you’re dealing with the most accurate third-party information available.
The main features include performing keyword research by either typing in a seed keyword or analyzing competitor sites to see what they’re ranking for. Or, downloading backlink reports to see the referring domains for a site.
This just scratches the surface for this tool. It has a deep pool of tools and will take you as deep into analyzing keywords or competitors’ site’s as you’re willing to go.
Ahrefs Ease of Use
- You can execute most search queries by either typing in a keyword or a URL
- The UX is smooth and intuitive to use, although it can look cluttered at times
- You can see Information via visual graphs, color-coded results, and data
I could go on and on if I were to list every individual feature Ahrefs has to offer. I’ll keep it to their core set of features that most people will be buying the tool for:
- Competitive Analysis
- Keyword Research
- Backlink Analysis
- Content Analysis
- Rank Tracking
- Site Audits
Ahrefs offers a 7-day trial for $7, which is an awesome way to try out the tool without committing to a plan. Monthly plans start at $99/month, which opens up enough of the features for individuals and small agencies.
Pricing tops off at $999/month, making it one of the most expensive tools on the market but it’s worth every penny if you’re putting it to good use.
There is no denying that Ahrefs has the most tools in its toolkit out of all of the market research tools on the market — and the price reflects that.
More isn’t always better, however, and it’s fair to say that Ahrefs isn’t going to be suitable for everyone. If you’re an individual or a small agency and can’t justify the $99/month fee, there are less expensive options that will do everything you need.
Moz is one of the original SaaS companies specializing in SEO tools. Originally founded in 2004, their own domain authority metric (zero through 100) has been used as an industry standard for many years now.
That’s a reflection on how good their products are and how well they’ve continued to develop their software tools and release new features.
This is why Moz Pro is always in the discussion when the best market research and competitor analysis tools are the topic of conversation.
Moz Pro is a complete SEO toolkit that enables you to find out everything about a competitor’s website and marketing strategy. Or, enables you to carry out market research and keyword analysis in your niche to find profitable opportunities.
Moz Ease of Use
- One of Moz Pro’s strengths is its interface. Their use of color-coding and rating scales makes it incredibly easy to use and interpret the data
- Very little data needed from you outside of the keywords or sites you want to analyze
- Personal dashboard and reporting data is easy to use
- Free Chrome Extension
- Keyword Explorer
- Ranking Tracker
- Perform Technical Audits
- Content Optimizer
- Backlink Checker
Moz offers a generous 30-day free trial. After that, their plans start at *$99/month for their Standard Plan, which will allow you to run 5 campaigns. Or you can upgrade to their Medium, Large, and Premium plans for *$179/month, *$249/month, and *$599/month respectively.
*You can save 20% on any of their plans if you opt to pay annually.
As one of the longest-running tools on the market there is a great deal of trust and history showing Moz Pro to be one of the best and most reliable competitive research tools.
You don’t need to question whether or not Moz Pro does what it promises, you just need to check the fine print to make sure it’ll do everything you need. You can’t go wrong taking them up on their 30-day free trial, that’s a lot of time to put Moz Pro to the test.
Our favorite SEO tool
GrowthBar – Try it for Free.