Ahrefs again calls out Semrush for ‘unethical practices’

Ahrefs leadership is once again calling out Semrush for making “7 shameless edits” to an Ahrefs vs. Semrush comparison article written by Brian Dean before his site, Backlinko, was acquired by Semrush.

The saga continues. That would actually be seven additional edits. Because previously, in Ahrefs mentions vanishing from Semrush-owned Backlinko, Ahrefs called out Semrush for, among other edits, changing Dean’s recommendation from Ahrefs to Semrush in a sentence preceded by “if you had to make me pick ONE tool to use for SEO, I’d have to go with…”

The 7 ‘shameless edits’. So what’s changed now? In his own words, Ahrefs CMO Tim Soulo said these changes were made:

  1. Erased the fact that Brian used to be our customer for many years (since 2013)
  2. Changed Brian’s preference from Ahrefs to Semrush
  3. Tried to upend the narrative that backlink analysis is Ahrefs’ “bread and butter feature”
  4. Link Intersect is no longer “awesome:”
  5. No more praise for “Best by links” report
  6. Erased the statement about the accuracy of our traffic estimations
  7. Relegated our Site Audit tool from “web-based version of ScreamingFrog” to a “toned-down version of ScreamingFrog:”

The one edit Ahrefs wants. What Soulo and Dmytro Gerasymenko, founder and CEO, want is a disclosure that the article was edited by Semrush. The only mention of a connection between Backlinko and Semrush is in the footer of the page:

  • © 2023 Backlinko is a Trademark of Semrush Inc

Deceptive endorsement? Ahrefs seemed to indicate they believe the article (which now has the title of Ahrefs vs Semrush: Which SEO Tool Should You Use in 2023?) could be violating Federal Trade Commision’s Endorsement Guides, which, in part say:

  • “If there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that a significant minority of consumers wouldn’t expect and it would affect how they evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed clearly and conspicuously.”

You can dig deeper into the FTC rules here.

Semrush response. “Overreach” was the word used by Nick Eubanks, Semrush’s head of digital asset acquisition:

  • “’Intentionally deceptive’ is overreaching here. ‘Doing business’ as in strategically owning media.. Semrush is far from the first company to do this,” Eubanks posted.

Little sympathy for Ahrefs. Reaction within the industry has been mixed. While both companies have their die-hard supporters/customers, various X posts accused Ahrefs of whining. Here are a couple of the negative reactions.

But Ahrefs also had supporters:

Why we care. Nobody really “wins” here from a reputation perspective. Ahrefs is viewed negatively for complaining about a competitor. Semrush looks like it’s being deceptive (and perhaps a tad arrogant). But for Gerasymenko, this battle won’t be won in X posts. As Terry Van Horne put it on X, “report them to the FTC and move on”:


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