SurferSEO vs Ahrefs - Who Takes the Lead?

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SurferSEO vs Ahrefs

So you’ve narrowed down your choices for SEO tools to SurferSEO vs Ahrefs. Read this detailed comparison before you buy any of these for a small gig, in-house digital marketing, or a thriving online marketing agency.

What Is SurferSEO?

Image credit: Surfer

SurferSEO is a web-based software that helps you create a content strategy for websites, landing pages, mobile apps, and PPC campaigns. Besides content strategy, you can use it to optimize existing content or create outlines for new content. Moreover, Surfer includes an artificial intelligence writer that lets you create SEO-optimized content from scratch, without any human intervention.

At its core, there are two systems: the research backend and the user interface front end. In the backend, Surfer uses AI, machine learning, NLP, etc., to analyze over 500 web signals to fetch keyword ideas, content strategies, site audits, and so on.

The front end is for you! With a few clicks and without going deep into the backend, you can craft high-performing articles or copies that rank on Google SERP.

It helps you free your time from researching complex metrics so you can keep enhancing website traffic numbers, subscriptions, and conversions each week.

Clutter-free and easy-to-understand user interfaceAbsolutely no free trial
Minimalistic approach for tools with only 4 core solutionsComplex 7-day refund policy
An advanced content editor to create new content or edit existing contentLimited search credits on top of the tool fees
Easy to set up your web properties for research and auditSteep learning curves
WordPress plugins, Chrome Extensions, and third-party integrationsMonthly budget for Surfer often exceeds
Used by top brands like FedEx, Opera, FreshBooks, ClickUp, etc.

What Is Ahrefs?


Ahrefs is a very popular SEO & SEM engine. Its core tools are Site Explorer, Content Explorer, Keywords Explorer, Rank Tracker, and Site Audit. On top of that, it offers a lot of additional and free tools.

For example, there are free tools for webmasters, YouTubers, backlink managers, SERP researchers, WordPress site owners, competitor analysis teams, and so on.

Moreover, Ahrefs maintains its own web crawler for backlinks, competitor performances, keyword updates, site audits, etc. Not to mention, Ahrefs creates, curates, and maintains a vast knowledge base for the most up-to-date data on SEM, SEO, Google SEO, Bing SEO, and more.

There’s a limited free trial for basic SEO and SEM toolsCredit-based usage and billing on top of a fixed fee
Portfolios and Projects tab for large agencies and enterprisesModerate learning curve
All must-have SEO and SEM tools in one web appAhrefs asks to leave the legacy plans
Suitable for mobile apps, YouTube, eCommerce, and PPC campaignsOver-budgeted monthly bills are possible
A host of integrations and plugins to link business appsThere’s no set monthly bill for aggressive SEO/ SEM research
AhrefsBot crawls the web for SEO intelligenceOccasional confusing characters and symbols in CSV or XLSX downloads

SurferSEO vs Ahrefs – Head-to-Head Comparison

Here’s a handy table that lists their differences and similarities at a glance:

Free trialNoneLimited
Free SEO and SEM toolsNone15+ free and no sign-up tools
User interfaceClutter-less, minimalistic, well organizedClutter-less, minimalistic, well organized
Core SEO and SEM toolsContent Editor, Keyword Research, SEO Audit, Surfer AI, Surfy – AI assistant, Templates, and Custom KnowledgeDashboard, Site Explorer, Keywords Explorer, Site Audit, Rank Tracker, Content Explorer, and a set of 11 special tools just for paid subscribers
Use caseWell-suited for basic to advanced SEO and SEM projects for digital marketingIt uses its own Surfer bot and crawler tools with limitations
User baseOver 15,645 paid customers from more than 159 countriesMore than 40,000 subscribers according to 6Sense
Search engines supportedLimited and mostly for Google SERPSupports 10 search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, and so on.
Content templatesThree content templates when you use Surfer AI for content generation: Blogs, Single product reviews, and Product roundupsNo such content templates
Content creationAdvanced content editor for semantic analysis and content rankingLimited content creation capabilities
Keyword research contextCreates clusters of keywords for primary and related keywords in relevant groupskeyword explorer is basic in the form of all semantic keywords, People Also Asks questions, relevant URLs, etc.
Backlink AnalysisLimited functionality compared to AhrefsRobust backlink analysis tools with historical data
IntegrationsIntegrates with various CMS platforms and toolsIntegrates with popular marketing and SEO tools
Site AuditProvides basic site audit functionalitiesComprehensive site audit tools with detailed reports
Website, content, backlink, and keyword dataIt uses own Surfer bot and crawler tools with limitationsAhrefs maintains the world’s 7th largest web crawler with a 5 million page crawl capacity per minute
AI usageExtensiveLimited
Cost of ownershipLess than AhrefsMore than Surfer
HistoryBasic log of usageIt stores activity history for 6 months, 2 years, 5 years, and unlimited years with varying pricing plans

Now that you’ve gained a summarized idea of how SurferSEO vs Ahrefs stack up, find below an in-depth feature-by-feature comparison.

Features – SurferSEO

If you’re researching SEO content intelligence, creating content strategies, or evaluating content’s SEO scores, these Surfer tools will help:

  • Content Editor: This feature enables you to write from scratch or import existing content for editing. The tool offers keyword input ideas, suggests SEO-optimized terms that rank on Google, shows a plagiarism score, and creates a version history for collaboration purposes. It also helps you create an SEO-optimized outline for existing or new articles.
Content editor
Image credit: Surfer Docs
  • Surfer AI: It’s an advanced AI SEO content writer with anti-AI detection technology. The tool uses various NLP solutions, GPT models, and website signals to produce high-quality content. It takes up to an hour for the completion of an article where 20 minutes is for writing and 40 minutes is for optimization.
Surfer AI
Image credit: Surfer Docs
  • Audit: If you want to update the content of an old blog according to the latest SEO guidelines, Surfer’s Audit feature will help. It finds errors in SEO and shows suggestions to rectify them. You can also select top-performing content in your niche as competitors and run the Audit tool.
Content audit
Image credit: Surfer Docs
  • Keyword Research: When creating content for websites, landing pages, PPC campaigns, and articles, you start with this tool. It lets you discover what your competitors are doing, explore new topics and semantic keywords to rank for, and learn how hard it’s to rank for certain keywords.
Keyword research
Image credit: Surfer Docs
  • SERP Analyzer: This feature allows you to rank URLs on search engine results pages (SERPs) by researching content intelligence from competitors or high-authority websites. It also tells you which keywords to target for ranking purposes. The report you generate includes metrics like Outside links, NLP, Search Visibility, Structure, Backlinks, Questions, and more.
SERP analyzer surfer
Image credit: Surfer Docs

Also read: How To Make AI Text Undetectable With Ease

Features – Ahrefs

You’ll mostly use the following features for SEO research and optimization:

  • Dashboard: It enables you to create a bird’s eye view of your web properties on the Ahrefs home screen. You can include domain rating, health score, organic traffic, backlinks, referring domains, and keywords as the tracked metrics.
Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Site Explorer: This tool comes in handy when analyzing your or competitor’s website performance. It offers data on Backlink profiles, Organic traffic performance, Website structure, and Paid traffic performance.
Site Explorer
Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Keywords Explorer: To attract traffic organically and convert traffic into subscribers or customers, you must rank your blogs or websites. You do that with trending keywords, evergreen keywords, high-traffic potential keyphrases, and low-ranking difficulty scores. This module of Ahrefs provides all these services.
keyword explorer
Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Site Audit: For on-page SEO analysis of your website, blog, landing page, etc., you must use the Site Audit tool of Ahrefs. You can explore over 160 SEO issues that relate to page performance, HTML tags, content quality, social media tags, localization, outgoing links, incoming links, CSS, images, JavaScript, and so on. This tool also allows you to create custom website crawls for A/B testing purposes.
Site audit
Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Rank Tracker: Every new Google SEO update could make or break your website’s SERP ranking. So, you always need to stay on your toes to learn about webpage ranking and take the necessary initiatives to improve or maintain the scores. Here, you can use Ahrefs Rank Tracker. It doesn’t only track your web properties but also your select competitors. You can also customize ranking criteria like Google’s Featured snippet, Sitelinks, Thumbnails, Top ads, People also ask, and more.
Rank tracker
Image credit: Ahrefs
  • Content Explorer: So, you want to expand your web publishing business to travel from tech. Or, you want to look for top content that you can pitch in your website’s or mobile app’s backlink. Here comes Content Explorer at your rescue. From page traffic to page status and everything in between, you can find instantly content that ranks in such filters.
Content explorer
Image credit: Ahrefs


Find below how Surfer and Ahrefs compare from a pricing standpoint:

SurferSEO Pricing

Surfer pricing

Surfer is more content-oriented compared to extensive SEO and SEM activities. Hence, it offers basic content intelligence and SEO tools in one pack and keeps additional features like site audit, SEROP analyzer, etc., as add-on packs.

It has 4 tiers of pricing for the core tools, and the monthly plans are as follows:

  • Start: $59 for 100 keyword searches/ day and 20 content edits per month.
  • Scale: $129 for 100 keyword searches/ day and 100 content edits per month.
  • Scale AI: $219 for everything you get in the Scale tier along with 10 AI-generated articles with Surfer AI per month.
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing.

Besides the basic fees mentioned above, you could also be charged on the following items depending on your usage:

  • $49 for 100 audits/ month with the Audit add-on
  • $29 for 100 searches/ day for the SERP Analyzer add-on
  • If you exceed the content editing limit, it charges you $3 per additional article in the Start package and $1 per additional content in Scale and Scale AI packages

If you plan to use the tool casually for small business and personal gigs, choose Scale. However, if you plan to use the tool and all of its features extensively as an agency or a large business, pick the Enterprise pack.

Again, if you’re planning to use Surfer for a month to create a content strategy and use free SEO tools later on, go for the monthly subscription. Contrarily, if you’re a large business with a significant SEO and SEM budget, go for the annual plan that saves you a significant sum.

Ahrefs Pricing

Ahrefs pricing

Ahrefs offers you way more SEO and SEM tools than Surfer. Also, you get free and subscription-only SEO tools along with the paid plan. Hence, its pricing seems a bit higher than Surfer’s.

Its monthly subscription tiers are as follows:

  • Lite: $99 for most SEO tools of Ahrefs and suitable for individual and small teams.
  • Standard: $199 for everything in the Lite tier plus Portfolios, Advanced Site Explorer, Content Explorer, etc. It’s suitable for consultants who take up 2 to 3 clients.
  • Advanced: $399 for everything in the Standard tier plus HTTP authentication, Looker Studio, Web Explorer, and more. This plan is good for businesses running in-house digital marketing projects.
  • Enterprise: This tier starts at $999 covering all the features of Ahrefs Advanced tier plus Access management, Audit log, SSO, etc.

Keep in mind that if you go beyond certain limits you can expect additional charges. For example, in the Lite plan, if you use up all 500 credits in the first 20 days of the month, you won’t be able to perform activities on Keywords Explorer, Web Explorer, Site Explorer, etc.

Now, if you activate Pay-as-you-go in your profile, your account will be given access to more credits automatically and thus billed additionally in the month’s invoice. So, watch out!


Both Surfer and Ahrefs maintain self-help resources like blogs, knowledgebase, and learning platforms.

Also, both tools utilize the same in-app chat system to provide chat or email support.

If you post a message on the SurferSEO web app, it could take 1 hour or more for you to get a reply.

Surfer contact

As you can see from this screenshot, Ahrefs’ online contact point is similar. However, it takes only 10 minutes or so to talk to a human being.

Ahrefs contact

In both of the SEO tools, you can instantly chat with the AI agent. AI refers to the in-house knowledgebase and help articles and often confuses the user. So, if you can’t talk to a human, try the help pages.

SurferSEO vs Ahrefs – The Verdict

Overall, Ahrefts prevails when it comes to sheer functionality.

However, it comes at a steep price with various in-app credit limits. You can find the tool truly useful and cost-effective if your marketing agency or business utilizes SEO optimization extensively in various projects like PPC, website content, landing page, blog articles, etc.

If you’re a small team and only looking to enhance the content publishing effort, Surfer is the right SEO tool for you. Should you choose to enhance your content production efforts using AI, you can get Surfer AI on a per-article basis.

Hopefully, this SurferSEO vs Ahrefs comparison has helped you reach a decision.

More about the topics: App Review, SEO