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SEO Case Study – How Ahrefs SEO Tools Helped Cloudways Grow Organically

Updated on December 3, 2020

10 Min Read

Ahrefs is popular among content marketers because of its comprehensiveness – the platform has all the tools that content marketers need to increase and monitor the organic reach of their brand.

It is the go-to tool for checking backlinks, keeping an eye on competitors, keyword research, and identifying new content ideas. Marketers also use the toolkit for identifying technical SEO issues with their digital properties.

In short, Ahrefs is a powerful Swiss Army knife that should be in the digital toolbox of every marketer.

A Bit More About Ahrefs

In my opinion, Ahrefs is among the top three most popular keyword research and backlink analysis tools out there. Dmitri Gerasimenko originally launched Ahrefs in 2010 as a simple backlinks Index. This Index became Site Explorer, the first product from Ahrefs.

Ahrefs has now evolved into a major provider of SEO marketing and analytics tools. With the capability of crawling up to more than 8B webpages in a day, the Ahrefs suite is the ultimate content marketing and discovery solution that helps marketers create, strategize, and execute a high-ROI marketing strategy for their brand.

The dashboard is the central location from where you can track all important data about your brand (and competitors). In particular, the dashboard displays crawl errors, new links, URL rankings, all the referring domains for the target URL. This bird’s eye view allows you to finetune your sites better and reach better SERP positions.

The Question of Pricing

Ahrefs offers four plans – Lite, Standard, Advanced, and Agency. The price starts from $99 and go up to $999, with monthly and yearly plans. It is quite similar to how we, at Cloudways, manage the billing cycle. If you pay for the full year, you get a good discount on the invoice.

Ahref pricing & plan

If you are not sure whether Ahrefs is the right fit for your digital marketing processes, you can evaluate the question during the seven-day trial at just $7 for their starter plans. In these 7 days, you have the chance to try out all the tools available within the platform.

I understand that there is no free trial (like we offer at Cloudways), but I am sure you are not going to regret spending those 7 dollars. And if you are a proactive marketer, you are going to utilize the 7 days to the max.

Given the value that a competent digital marketer can extract from the Ahrefs tools, I can confidently say that Ahrefs is very economical to use. I will now explore the major tools you get when you signup for an Ahrefs plan.

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The Ahrefs Tools & Features For Digital Marketers!

At the minimum, Ahrefs offers five essential tools that brands looking to improve their visibility in SERP can leverage for their benefit. In addition to these tools, you also get features like a WordPress plugin and a Bing keyword ranking/search tool.

When you subscribe to Ahrefs, the five basic (read: best) tools you get for your business are:

1. Site Explorer

site explorer

Ahrefs Site Explorer is the evolved version of the original backlink analysis tool. Site Explorer offers several tools for analyzing the performance and “searchability” of competitors’ websites. These tools include:

2. Organic Traffic Research

organic keywords

Shows the keywords the target site ranks for and the traffic the keywords generate. According to Ahrefs, more than 150 million keywords are monitored in the US region alone. Along with this, keywords for over 150 other countries can also be monitored with this tool.

3. Backlink Research

backlinks profile

Lists the detailed backlink profile of the target URL. As per Ahrefs, it is the fastest backlink crawler and the world’s largest index of live backlinks with 14 Trillion+ links. By the time you write all the zeros in 14 Trillion on a piece of paper, the Ahrefs Backlink Index has moved far past that number.

4. PPC Keyword Research

ppc keywords

This is an incredibly useful tool for building the PPC marketing profile of competitors. This tool shows the keywords and the cost (bids) the competitors are paying for getting ranked on the keywords.

5. Site Audit


This tool offers incredibly detailed insights into a website’s on-page SEO performance. The tool is capable of crawling every page of a website and delivers an overall SEO health report that shows all the problem areas (in the context of SEO) and how these issues can be improved.

6. Data Explorer

data explorer

Data Explorer is a sub-tool of Site Audit and returns more than a hundred data points for a page. This helps marketers quickly analyze website performance on comprehensive metrics.

7. Keywords Explorer

Keywords Explorer

With more than 7 Billion keywords, the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool is well reputed to be the world’s third-largest keyword database. It is updated on a monthly basis and more keywords are added every month.

Keywords Explorer uses the idea of “clickstream” data to generate keyword ideas. This helps the marketers refine search volume and estimate the number of clicks for each keyword.

8. Content Explorer

content explorer

The Content Explorer tool resolves a huge problem that marketers face regularly – finding the highest performing content on the target website. The analytics reveal the number of referring domains and social shares. More interestingly, the tool also lists the value of traffic generated with the share of the organic traffic highlighted. The data is conveniently represented in the form of charts and includes more than a dozen filters to help marketers refine content related.

9. Rank Tracker

Rank tracker

This tool helps marketers track website Google SERP rankings across 170 countries. Simply ass the list of keywords you are interested in, select the relevant countries, and competitor URLs. The tool is often used to view data for SEO performance over time in the form of interactive graphs. 

How Ahrefs Adds Value for Cloudways Digital Marketing

Here at Cloudways, we are always looking for new ideas and topics to produce content that our readers find useful and relevant.

Since our niche is highly competitive with several big and minor players, we need a set of tools that can enable us to track the progress of our campaigns and help us keep a close eye n the competition.

Ahrefs offers just the right set of tools for optimizing the already deployed content and discovering new ideas for topics that are trending and therefore could benefit our business KPI.

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Here’s how we use Ahrefs to improve our content marketing campaigns

Discovering the Trending Keywords

Just type the competitor’s domain into Site Explorer and go to the Organic Keywords report. This report offers a list of all the keywords that our competitors are being ranked for in the search engines.

This is a great way of finding the keywords that could improve the ranking of our published content and spell out the gaps in our content lineup. We then move in to close these gaps with ToF and MoF content pieces.

Here is another pro tip: Dig up keywords with DR lower than 40 and you will have keywords that are going to work wonders for your brand. I know the role of this simple yet powerful tactic in the growth of Cloudways SERP positions.

Content Explorer for New Content Ideas

At Cloudways, if we find ourselves out of content ideas, we simply open Ahref’s Content Explorer, type our desired keyword, and then just visualize the data to come up with new content ideas.

The benefit of this approach is the historical data of the content types that have performed well. The ideas are further validated as we can see the number of social shares and organic traffic for each idea.

Just filter the results and you have a list of keywords you can forward to your content production team for exciting content pieces with a high potential for traffic and conversions.

The Game of Likes

Who doesn’t love Likes?

As a content marketer, you got to love Likes. So in order to get likes, we need to know exactly the audience endorsing our domains. At Cloudways, we use the Site Explorer to track the backlink profiles of our competitors. We do this to help us generate ideas that get us more links by identifying the “loop-holed” areas for creating more informative content for our readers. As most of our content is also UGC, we use the tool to identify potential websites that would be willing to collaborate with us and share backlinks with Cloudways.

Content Marketing at Quora

Quora is a favorite platform for marketing our content. We simply search for the main Quora domain in Site Explorer and look at the top pages report for keywords related to our content. It is that simple. In addition to marketing, this also helps us in identifying more topics to produce valuable content that our audiences are interested in reading.

Ahrefs For Competitor Research

You need to know and understand the competitors so that you have a clear idea of where your marketing initiatives stand in comparison.

Ahrefs is one of the best tools any digital marketer can use for SEO competitor research analysis. At Cloudways, we use Ahrefs to identify different aspects of our competitor’s marketing strategy. We use it to find out the backlinks, the top-performing content, the best-performing pages with links, and the high authority sites linking to our competitors.

1. Backlink Profiles

Digital marketers know that in order to grow organic traffic, they need to improve the website’s backlink profile. While there are several strategies for this, a clear cut and actionable plan for identifying the competitor backlink profile is an essential requirement. It is then just a game of what works for your brand (and niche).

We used Ahrefs to see what guest bloggers link to our competitors and then identified the ones that may work with us, and not for our competitors.

2. Discover The Right Keywords To Target

Enter the competitor’s URL into Site Explorer. What you see are some of the top keywords and pages that generate the bulk of the organic traffic for the competitor.

We use Keyword Explorer to identify the top keywords and find out if there is a “gap” that we can explore and plug with fresh or repurposed content. This simple tactic has helped us increase organic traffic to our website by several folds.

3. See the Competitors’ Top-Performing Pages

At Cloudways, Site Explorer remains the most used (and thus our favorite) Ahrefs tool. We use it to discover the pages on our competitors’ websites that are performing above our base rank mark. This helps in benchmarking our pages and discover the type of content ideas that we need to produce to overcome the SERP gap.

4. Keeping an Eye on New Competitor

New competitors spring up every other day. We need to keep an eye on them and what better tool than Ahref to help us do that. We keep checking competing domains against our own website to help us spot any new competitors that are rising in SERP on the relevant keywords. You need to be proactive in this approach and Ahrefs helps in keeping a close eye on the competition that could capture a piece of our traffic.

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Using Ahrefs to Set SMART Goals

You need to set goals to make sure your strategies are going in the right direction.

At Cloudways, we use Ahrefs to help us identify how we are performing against other managed cloud hosting providers. This data is indispensable for setting realistic goals for our teams. In particular, this data helps us identify the competition for our target keywords. In turn, we use this information to set up SMART goals for each keyword.

Once the goals are in place, we initiate content production processes and set up appropriate goal tracking processes (aka KPI).

Ahrefs Simplifies Performance Monitoring

At Cloudways, we use Ahref’s to identify which of our content pieces are doing well (more importantly, the ones that are not doing so great). In this process, Ahrefs is used to continuously monitor page rankings so that we can see where we stand in SERP when compared to the competition. This is perhaps the fundamental requirement of all marketers.

Ahrefs is a pretty great platform for tracking organic keywords. While we do this, we also identify the content that we can repurpose so that more visitors could consume it at both our and third-party platforms. As a result, the chances of getting a backlink from a good source increases significantly. In the end, all this helps in improving the SERP positions of our pages.

Here, I would like to share a pro tip that I learned quite early in the SEO game: It is better to rank for only a handful of relevant, organic keywords, rather than thousands of irrelevant keywords.

Ahrefs Helped Cloudways Develop (a near-perfect) Content Strategy

I’ll keep this part simple and to the point. Ahrefs helped Cloudways in generating relevant organic traffic by helping us in the following ways:

  1. Identifying the right content opportunities that generated the right user engagement
  2. Develop the right strategy on how to go neck to neck with our competitors
  3. Identify keyword search volume to see the number of searches our keywords get from our intended audience (this is usually a monthly activity).
  4. Ahrefs helps us in generating millions of keyword ideas which are then filtered down to hundreds for keeping the content machine churning.
  5. Identify our SEO pain points through data that can then be used to fix the issues.
  6. Identify the domains that are willing to collaborate in producing the right content.
  7. Perform a reverse brand analysis to identify competitor tactics (and get a sense of their strategies).

Wrapping It Up

Ahrefs is a major contributor in our journey to becoming one of the major managed cloud hosting providers today. It is still an important tool that our marketers use daily to extract data and carry out “what-if” scenarios for finalizing content ideas.

If you would like to know more about Ahrefs, I strongly recommend subscribing to their mailing list. You will get the latest news, and content in your inbox and you can get some great ideas about using Ahrefs for creating and finalizing marketing tactics. You can also follow Ahrefs on Twitter and subscribe to their Youtube channel.

And if you still want to learn more, the Ahrefs blog is the place to be. Just give it a read and you will understand why it can help you like it is helping us at Cloudways.

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Jamil Ali Ahmed

Jamil is an Organic Search Manager at Cloudways - A SEO friendly hosting Platform. He has 14 years experience in SEO, and is passionate about Digital Marketing and Growth Optimization. Jamil is a Minimalist, Observer, Loves Nature, Animals, Food, Cricket & Mimicking :)


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