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The by-no-means-definitive keyword size showdown: GSC vs. Ahrefs vs. Semrush vs. Moz

With regards to tools, most of us have our favorites as SEO professionals. Ahrefs, Moz and Semrush try to accomplish exactly the same things at a higher level, but youd be hard-pressed to get an SEO professional who doesnt have strong opinions on each tools capability to achieve this.

Any seasoned SEO practitioner knows opinions alone will get you roughly so far as asking Googles John Mueller about domain authority (hint: not far).

Our SEO team recently put our opinions to the ensure that you biases aside to compare the keyword size of Google Search Console (GSC), Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz for the customers we manage.

When you can read more in the Methodology and Caveats and considerations sections below, the nod to the data not being definitive in the title is that it isnt. The info was only pulled for 51 domains, which reside in the pharmaceutical space. So, its a little, non-representative sample. Youve been warned.

GSC had over 36% more keywords compared to the other sources combined

Average keyword count per site: Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush, GSC.
An assessment of Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz for the common amount of ranking keywords or keywords registering a minumum of one impression among 51 domains in-may 2022.

Patrick Stox from Ahrefs published an excellent study about keywords hidden in Google Search Console. I encourage one to read it, however the gist is as the number varied greatly by site, almost 1 / 2 of the entire clicks were related to hidden terms.

Considering that Google Search Console hides lower volume keywords, which will make up nearly all search queries, this likely means more than half of the keywords are obstructed to the finish user.

But heres the truth. GSC still may be the best we’ve with regards to keyword visibility size.

On the list of three, Ahrefs had probably the most keywords for 98% of websites

Relative keyword ranking size by domain

Source 1st 2nd 3rd
Ahrefs 50 domains 0 domains 1 domain
Semrush 0 domains 50 domains 1 domain
Moz 1 domain 1 domain 49 domains

A ranked order of Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz by keyword ranking size of 51 domains in-may 2022

In lots of ways, its unfair to compare Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz to Google Search Console. GSCs metrics and intended use contrast a lot from another three tools.

So, when removing GSC, we ranked the keyword size for every of the 51 sites inside our data warehouse. Ill be honest; I was shocked at the consistency in the outcomes.

Ahrefs nearly had a clean sweep of first-place finishes, with Semrush and Moz continually to arrive second and third.

Typically, Ahrefs had twice the ranking keywords as Semrush, which had over doubly many as Moz. Ahrefs had nearly five times the quantity of ranking keywords for the clients as Moz. Thats an unbelievable disparity!

You could be wondering, if Ahrefs has this type of dominant lead on Semrush and Moz, you will want to just use Ahrefs?

As strong as Ahrefs was, it missed 87% of keywords

Keyword counts: Ahrefs vs. Others

First chart: The full total ranking keywords in Ahrefs when compared to total ranking keywords or keywords registering a minumum of one impression within Moz, Semrush and/or Google Search Console rather than in Ahrefs for 51 domains in-may 2022.

Second chart: The full total ranking keywords in Ahrefs when compared to total ranking keywords within Moz and/or Semrush rather than in Ahrefs for 51 domains in-may 2022.

First, the truth that Ahrefs is even in a position to be when compared to other sources stacked together is powerful. That is definately not a knock onto it. However, if our eggs were in the Ahrefs basket, we’d be passing up on a consequential level of keyword data.

Even though you remove Google Search Console, Ahrefs still didnt contain 32% of keywords.

Simultaneously, not using Moz (our smallest source), leaves some blindspots.

In comparison with Ahrefs and Semrush, 13% of keywords were exclusive to Moz

Exclusive keyword counts by source.

First chart: Total ranking keywords or keywords registering a minumum of one impression exclusive to 1 source comparing Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush and Google Search Console for 51 domains in-may 2022.

Second chart: Total ranking keywords exclusive to 1 source comparing Ahrefs, Moz and Semrush for 51 domains in-may 2022.

When considering the chart on the proper, passing up on 13% of total keywords is hard to ignore.

Mozs exclusive numbers dropped drastically when GSC was put into the mix with under 2% of keywords. But as Ive earlier mentioned, these tools arent exactly equivalent in what they cover.

Semrushs exclusivity percentage jumped to 24% in comparison with Ahrefs and Moz, nonetheless it was also sitting at under 2% when GSC was included.

Lets consider the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than exclusivity, where was there complete coverage? If we drew a random keyword out of a hat, how likely would it not be within each one of the four sources we analyzed?

Less than 1% of keywords were within all sources

Keyword counts by number of sources
Amount of ranking keywords or keywords registering a minumum of one impression by represented source count among Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Moz and Ahrefs for 51 domains in-may 2022.

An astounding level of keywords inside our dataset were only within one source. Conversely, only a select few were represented in every four sources.

The keyword counts increased modestly from 0.4% to 2.6% when moving from four sources to three. Even two sources didnt cover 10% of the full total keywords.

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Data collection

  • Google Search Console: Unfiltered, query-level search data was stored inside our data warehouse via Google Search Console’s API every day from May 1 to May 31 for 51 client domains. Keywords were deduplicated by domain and aggregated right into a monthly total.
  • Semrush: One live API call via Semrush’s Domain Organic Search Keywords report was stored inside our data warehouse in-may for 51 client domains. The U.S. was the designated region.
  • Moz: Organic search keyword rankings were manually exported from leading end of Moz’s Keyword Explorer utilizing the default settings in-may for 51 client domains.
  • Ahrefs: Organic search keyword rankings were manually exported from leading end of Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer utilizing the default settings in-may for 51 client domains.

Processing and analysis

A query-source matrix was made to be able to determine where there is overlap and exclusivity among Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Moz and Semrush per client domain and in aggregate.

Caveats and considerations

Data sample

I mentioned this in the introduction, but it’s worth repeating. Our analysis featured both a little and industry-specific sample of domain rankings. You ought not draw any conclusions around overall relative keyword size comparisons of the tools.

So, why publish the outcomes? As also touched on in the main element takeaways section below, beyond the info being interesting and potentially sparking beneficial dialogue, I needed to stress the worthiness of analyzing these tools beneath the lens of one’s industry.

Source availability

Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Moz and Semrush aren’t the only real products with original keyword visibility datasets. Serpstat, seoClarity, Brightedge’s Data Cube along with other tools might have been section of this study to create it more comprehensive. If any reps from those tools are scanning this, we would be thinking about comparing your tool to the others the next time around. Hit me up!

Source comparability

With Ahrefs, Moz and Semrush, they were one-time data pulls within the month of May. However, with Google Search Console, 31 separate API calls were made. This might have inflated GSC’s numbers a little.

Had we pulled rankings every day in-may for another tools, more unique keywords could have been added either from shifting domain rankings or keyword database updates. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it could have impacted any overarching trends or takeaways.

Additionally, Google Search Console data included mobile and desktop keywords from all countries, while we only included U.S. desktop rankings from another sources. This again would inflate GSC’s numbers, however, not likely to a qualification that could change the trends in a meaningful way.

Keyword volume exclusion

Keyword volume had not been one of them exercise, which limits its potential value. With everything else being equal, I’d become more worried if Moz missed a 25,000 MSV keyword when compared to a 25 MSV keyword.

Next time this analysis is run, we anticipate incorporating volume. However, we’ll have to create logic around how exactly to best include GSC impressions being an MSV proxy, in addition to how exactly to calculate the quantity for keywords within multiple tools.

Data freshness

Data freshness had not been considered in this analysis. Because of the way its metrics work, Google Search Console is inherently fresh. Quite simply, if we pulled GSC data from May, those keywords were definitely visible in-may (even though only for an instant).

However, it is possible another sources contained keywords with out a refreshed rankings pull since before May. If these tools had disproportionately stale data, it might have altered the outcomes.

Key takeaways

1. Challenge your assumptions

Before revealing the outcomes to my team, I asked them to rank the four sources to be able of keyword coverage predicated on their very own gut feeling. Around 10 people guessed, including me, but not just one folks was correct!

Semrush was routinely ranked less than we predicted, and GSC had not been given nearly enough credit. However, with GSC, that’s much more likely because of them used to pulling the info from the front-end interface.

Most of us could be guilty of trusting our gut feelings and hunches a touch too much, which goes far beyond SEO tools. As marketers, we ought to continually pressure test our positions and become ready to change our minds.

2. Utilize the GSC API

When pulling data directly from Google Search Console’s interface, you are limited by 1,000 rows of data. If we’d simply downloaded data from GSC with the date selection of May 1 to May 31, this tool would no more have already been leading the pack (definately not it).

Querying GSC from the API still has its limitations, nonetheless it increases the quantity of available data by way of a considerable margin.

3. Use all of the tools

Admittedly, this takeaway is really a tiny contradiction via me. As mentioned in the section above, we don’t use all the tools, nor do we intend to. However, I’ve consistently advocated for not using just one single SEO tool.

My actual advice is this: spend money on one-month subscriptions and/or free trials to measure the relative performance in your unique category. From there, it is possible to pick the best tool(s) for you personally based on your unique verticals, budget and goals. Our pharmaceutical client ads often say, Results can vary greatly, and exactly the same is true with this particular. Take the excess time and energy to see what’s best for you personally.

Also, when trying out tools for the specific industry and needs, don’t just look at keyword sizes. Size, accuracy, user experience, customer care, technology integrations therefore much more may also be considered.

4. Repeat and enhance your tests

Our first official test is performed, but we don’t anticipate calling it quits. Semrush recently went public. Moz was acquired just over this past year. Ahrefs launched search engines.

That is an arms race, and when we don’t refresh these results periodically, we’re able to be making decisions on outdated and inaccurate data.

Opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author rather than necessarily INTERNET SEARCH ENGINE Land. Staff authors are listed here.



    Tylor may be the VP of SEO at EVERSANA INTOUCH in the burbs of Kansas City. He also runs in his free time and occasionally speaks at search conferences. His life beyond SEO includes attending concerts, watching the Houston Rockets and preventing the Oxford comma within simple lists.

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