8 Most Useful Free SEO Tools by Ahrefs (Expert Review)

In the early days of my marketing career, I didn’t have access to any paid SEO tools. But this made me crafty at using what I could afford – which was anything free.

That’s how I discovered Ahrefs’ free tools, which also happened to be the first SEO tools I ever used. 

Although they’re considerably limited compared to the paid versions, they still provide plenty of value to up-and-coming bloggers and small business owners.

In this article, we’ll go over the eight most helpful free Ahrefs tools for SEO and content generation.

1. Free Keyword Generator

Keyword research is the process of identifying suitable keywords to target with content on your website. 

It’s a foundational aspect of SEO since choosing the wrong keywords (or not doing any keyword research at all) will lead to disappointing results.

Ahrefs’ free keyword generator helps you discover new keyword ideas using one search query.

How to use it

Start by entering your search query and adjusting the location. Note that the tool can find keywords on Google, YouTube, Bing, and Amazon.

The tool will display 100 keyword suggestions alongside useful metrics such as keyword difficulty (KD) and monthly search volume.

Unfortunately, you can’t export these results. But since “Phrase match” and “Questions” results are limited to 100 and 50 keywords, it’s easy to copy and paste them into a spreadsheet.

The verdict

The keyword generator displays the keyword difficulty and the monthly search volume only for the first ten results. So if you see an interesting keyword further down the list, you’ll have to run a separate search to get this data.

Limited metrics aside, this tool still generates 100 keywords in one run for free. And this is more than enough to kickstart your SEO strategy.

2. Website Authority Checker

Website authority, also known as domain authority, is a metric that represents the trustworthiness and credibility of a specific domain. It is defined by the links that the website has.

Ahrefs’ website authority metric is called Domain Rating (DR). 

It’s calculated using external backlinks and expressed as a number on a scale from 0 to 100. 

Although website authority isn’t an official ranking factor, Ahrefs has found a correlation between the number of keyword rankings and the domain rating.

Generally speaking, a website with an authority score of 85 can rank more easily for competitive keywords than a website with a score of 12.

Ahrefs’ free website authority checker allows you to estimate the Domain Rating (DR) of any website, which is especially helpful for competitor research.

How to use it

To check a website’s DR, simply paste the URL into the search bar.

In a few seconds, you’ll see the website’s authority score, as well as the number of backlinks and referring domains.

The verdict

This is a straightforward tool that calculates DR quickly. It gets bonus points for displaying the number of linking websites and backlinks, which gives you more insights into the domain’s authority.

It would be helpful if the linking website data was more granular. For example, it could include a graph representing the DR of linking websites to see how many are high-authority domains.

3. Keyword Difficulty Checker

Keyword difficulty is a metric that shows how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword in organic search. It’s a number on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being the easiest and 100 being the hardest to rank for.

You need a domain with strong authority and quality content to rank for high-difficulty keywords.

Some marketers will even avoid keywords with a higher difficulty than their domain authority because they want to target keywords that are easy to rank for.

Ahrefs’ free keyword difficulty tool makes it easy to check this metric for any keyword you’re interested in. 

How to use it

First, type in a keyword and set your preferred location.

When the analysis is complete, the tool will display the KD of your target keyword, a search engine results page (SERP) overview, and a quick explanation of how difficult it is to rank at the top of the SERP.

The verdict

This free tool offers additional insights beyond just displaying the KD. It explains how many backlinks you’ll need to rank for your target keyword. And it includes a SERP overview (limited to the top 10 pages) which allows you to analyze the top-ranking content without leaving the page.

4. Backlink Checker

Backlinks are links on third-party websites that point to your domain. They are closely connected to your DR since Ahrefs uses backlinks to calculate this metric.

Most tools in this category distinguish between dofollow and nofollow backlinks. The main difference between the two is that the former influences your domain’s authority, while the latter doesn’t. 

The nofollow tag added to the HTML code tells search engine crawlers not to follow the external link, so the link doesn’t transfer any ranking power to your domain.

Ahrefs’ free backlink checker lets you analyze a domain’s backlink profile, including any subdomains.

How to use it

Paste the website URL and click “Check backlinks.” 

Because this is a free tool, it only analyzes domain and subdomain data. Other options such as checking specific URLs or paths are available to paid users.

The results appear similar to the Website Authority Checker. The backlink profile includes the website’s DR, the total number of backlinks and linking websites, and a list of the top backlinks.

The verdict

This tool displays the top 100 backlinks, with a limit of one link per domain. Unfortunately, you can’t see how the domain’s backlink profile changed over time, the geographic distribution of backlinks, or pages that get the most backlinks.

It also doesn’t allow you to export the list.

All in all, this tool is a great option if you need a basic overview of a domain’s backlink profile. But to do an in-depth analysis, or to find all backlinks, you’ll need access to the paid version.

5. Website Traffic Checker

There are many tools that can measure your website’s traffic. Chief among them are Google Analytics and Google Search Console (GSC). 

However, these tools are only accessible to website owners. If you need to do competitor research, for example, you need a solution that can estimate the traffic of other websites.

Ahrefs’ free traffic checker provides insights into any website’s organic and paid traffic estimates.

How to use it

Paste the website’s URL and click “Check traffic.” The website traffic checker provides data only for the domain and any subdomains.

The results include monthly organic traffic alongside a graph visualizing organic traffic trends over the past six months.

It also shows the countries where most traffic comes from and the top keywords driving the most organic traffic to the website.

The verdict

This traffic checker is considerably limited compared to the paid version. However, it will be helpful if you need a high-level overview of organic search traffic over the past six months. 

But comparing traffic and keyword data, isolating specific pages, and bulk analysis isn’t possible.

That said, the traffic checker does provide a list of top countries, pages, and keywords (limited to five each), which is still helpful for primary analysis.

6. Keyword Rank Checker

Monitoring your keyword rankings allows you to track your website’s search performance.

It also helps analyze the impact of search algorithm updates and identify content to refresh.

Ahrefs’ free keyword rank checker lets you discover the rankings of any domain for a specific keyword.

How to use it

Type in your target keyword and paste the website URL to find out if it ranks for that keyword. You can do this for your own domain or a competitor’s.

The results show the position your website ranks for, including the exact URL. You’ll also see how many keywords the URL ranks for in total, which helps with performance reporting.

Remember to analyze the top-ranking content under “SERP Overview,” especially if your page isn’t in the top 10 results. It will give you an idea of how to update your content and achieve higher rankings.

The verdict

This free tool will do a fine job if you track keyword rankings for a personal website. 

Yes, it’s a little time-consuming to manually enter each URL and keyword. But it’s not a big deal if you occasionally use the tool for a handful of keywords.

For professional use, it’s best to invest in a paid rank tracking tool that offers robust insights and analyzes many keywords at once. 

7. Outline Generator

If organic content (like blog posts) is a part of your marketing strategy, AI tools will help accelerate content production.

Ahrefs’ outline generator saves marketers time on creating content briefs. Additionally, users can leverage it to prepare for presentations and structure academic papers.

How to use it

Before you use Ahrefs’ outline generator, you should have a rough idea of the main points to include in your content.

On the right-hand side, select how many sections to generate. 

Pick the writing tone that matches your brand voice or personal preferences.

Here’s what the end result looks like:

Ask the tool to expand the content by clicking “More like this.” This won’t overwrite the existing content but will generate a new structure. And “Modify” will rephrase or translate the content.

The verdict

The outline generator provided plenty of key points to include in each section. 

However, it didn’t generate additional headings or subheadings, which would’ve been a big plus. While you can use ChatGPT to identify other main sections to include, switching between two tools isn’t ideal.

That said, if you already know the article’s structure and just need AI to fill in the key points, this will be a useful tool. It gets another bonus point for achieving an engaging tone without much fluff.

8. Ahrefs Webmaster Tools

Monitoring your website’s SEO health is crucial to detect issues that could hurt your search rankings. For example, various website errors and slow pages could reduce your visibility in organic search.

GSC is a great free tool for this purpose. But it’s pretty limited in a couple of areas, including SEO metrics. For the best results, combine it with another tool that offers additional data such as Ahrefs’ Webmaster Tools.

Inside Webmaster Tools, free users are granted limited access to Site Audit and Site Explorer

Site Audit crawls your entire website, discovers technical and on-page issues, and then offers tips to fix them. Site Explorer provides insights into organic traffic, keywords, backlinks, and more for your domain.

How to use it

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is only accessible to website owners. Users verify website ownership manually or by connecting their GSC account. You can connect to an unlimited number of websites as long as you can verify ownership.

Check out this guide for step-by-step setup instructions.

Once Webmaster Tools is connected to your website, schedule regular audits to receive updates over email.

The Site Audit report provides a domain health score, with a breakdown of the top issues below. Click on each issue to see a list of impacted URLs.

And the Site Explorer report hosts all data related to your website’s backlink profile and search performance, both organic and paid.

The verdict

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is a must-have for every website owner and marketer. It’s packed with so much value – from detecting 140+ issues to detailed search performance insights – that it’s a shame not to use it.

When To Opt for a Paid Ahrefs Plan

Ahrefs isn’t cheap – which is why I relied on free tools for so long. But at some point, using only free tools will hold you back. And any money you save by using free tools will end up costing you in lost productivity and poor insights.

Consider transitioning to a paid plan once the free Ahrefs tools don’t provide enough data for your SEO strategy. For example, in-depth competitor research or keyword gap analysis will require a paid plan.

To learn more about Ahrefs’ SEO toolset, check out the unconvential insider review by Tim Soulo, the Chief Marketing Officer at Ahrefs.

Aida Knezevic is a versatile content marketer working primarily with B2B SaaS companies. Having launched her career at a major content marketing agency, she has helped leading companies in fintech, digital marketing, and many other verticals achieve growth using SEO blogs, case studies, thought leadership, and other types of content.