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In September 2020, Ahrefs unannounced their Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. This is a free take on their complete SEO suite (as a collection of SEO tools is called), which helps you as a website owner or administrator do more with your SEO than you can now with Google Search Console. What is in it, and how do you use it? You will find it here, after some explanation of questions and objections that I encountered online.

Why is Ahrefs giving this out for free?

What's going on with a company that makes money with their software to let web admins use it for free? And are there any catches in the grass? Those are the main questions I came across. While, of course, I can't speak for Ahrefs, I do think I can provide the answers here.

Why Ahrefs provide this free tool?

If you are an entrepreneur or do marketing, you know that having your products or services tried for free or easily accessible works. First, people are reluctant to try something new if it costs them money. Second, the law of reciprocity often plays a role. In my opinion, the latter is not the decisive reason for Ahrefs to launch their Webmaster Tools. They also indicate that they want to help small entrepreneurs in this way without immediately deflating. Call me naive. I believe so.

Are there any catches in the grass?

Well, what are the catches? In any case, you do not have to expect full functionality from a free product or service. In any case, you will not get access to all parts that you get in a paid subscription from Ahrefs. And the limits of the functionality that you get are also different than in a subscription. Nobody will think that is crazy. To use Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT), you do need to verify your website, and that's where several people are starting to raise concerns.

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Verifying your website: free data for Ahrefs?

Several people went wild on Facebook or Twitter by stating that it was not all that noble of Ahrefs to offer AWT for free. By linking your Google Search Console (GSC) with Ahrefs, you would share your data with them to collect data for free. Firstly, it's not true. Secondly, it doesn't even have to be that bad.

It is not necessary to link GSC.

Let's start by verifying your website does not necessarily have to be done via GSC. For most people, this is the easiest way, so there is, of course, a good chance that this is also done a lot. You can also link by:

  • upload an HTML file
  • add an HTML meta tag to your homepage
  • add an extra TXT record to your DNS configuration

That all sounds difficult and technical, so linking with GSC is, of course, obvious. So it is not necessary so that objection is dropped.

Extra data is only fine.

If you do (voluntarily or otherwise) share your data with Ahrefs, this will be done anonymously. And what I think is great is that they can further improve all their tools with our data—everyone who uses Ahrefs benefits from this. Don't forget that they also have a free 'Keyword generator' that you can also use, and that tool can benefit from that. Find further what you want, as long as you realize that it also benefits you.

What can you do with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools?

As mentioned, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is a 'stripped-down version of Ahrefs' paid SEO suite. In fact, you get 2 of the tools from the paid plan for free:

  • Site Audit
  • Site Explorer

With this, you monitor the website condition of your website, and you will find many ideas to optimize your website further. In addition, there is a limit on the number of pages that you can crawl in Site Audit. With 5,000 pages, this is often sufficient for small to medium-sized websites. You can use Site Explorer for the websites in your own Dashboard, while with a subscription, you can also analyze any other website in Site Explorer.

The difference between the number of search terms in Ahrefs and GSC

Let's face it; sometimes, you get more search terms for your website from GSC than from Ahrefs. That does not mean that Ahrefs will underperform there. There are several reasons for these differences:

  1. GSC also shows search terms that fall well outside the top 100;
  2. Ahrefs does not index all positions in real-time;
  3. Ahrefs does not index search terms with a deficient search volume or index them very late.

These are some of the reasons, but the clearest as far as I'm concerned. But: it can also be the other way around.

When Ahrefs returns more search terms

If you score on many thousands of search terms, you will get more in Ahrefs than in GSC. GSC will then display a maximum of 1,000 search terms, while Ahrefs will display everything that falls within the top 100. However, I must say that thanks to Search Analytics for Sheets, you can now also retrieve more than 1,000 search terms. It doesn't hurt to use both if you have data from multiple sources. Always good.

How do you use AWT now?

A promise is a promise. Of course, we will dive into Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to see what you can do with it as a website owner. In fact, we dive into Site Explorer and Site Audit, where the first thing is to understand what you can do with it and what you get out of it. I will go deeper into all the tools from Ahrefs itself.

This is the Dashboard where you start when you open Ahrefs:

Site Explorer: improve the content and check your competitors

Site Explorer is one of the most used parts in my Ahrefs environment. You get a lot of interesting information about your own website and findability, but you also look at the art from your competitors.

Site Audit: technical analysis with limitations

The Site Audit detects problems (issues) in your website. This way, you improve your website without looking for where it is needed. You can crawl up to 5,000 web pages with the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, which is more in the paid version of Ahrefs. This may be enough, but make no mistake: you will soon have more pages on your website than you think.

Take a look:

You have now got a first look at Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, showing you how to use it. Because there is already a lot in it, it cannot be done in detail. If you have specific questions or something you would like to see further explained, let us know in the comments below.


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