What Is a Referring Domain? Everything Site Owners Need to Know

Referring domains are crucial for SEO success. Authoritative referring domains strengthen your website’s performance and direct traffic to your page, resulting in improved SERP rankings and higher organic traffic levels.

In this article, we’ll answer the question “What is a referring domain?” so you understand its importance. We’ll also delve deeper into the relationship between referring domains and backlinks, allowing you to harness their full potential in no time. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Referring domains (aka linking domains) are any external websites that link to your own website.
  • A link from one website to another is called a backlink, and the collection of these links is called a backlink profile.
  • The value of a backlink is dependent on the quality of the referring domain. Low-quality sites provide low-quality backlinks and vice versa.
  • High quality referring domains help build domain and page authority for your site, which will improve your search engine rankings
  • A link building strategy can help you get more referring domains and backlinks. Tactics include creating valuable content, analyzing competitors, and guest blogging.
what is a referring domain

What Does a Referring Domain Mean?

A referring domain — also called a linking domain or a referring page — is any external website that links to your own website. In most cases, websites link to other websites for the purpose of adding a reference to their content, and the link from one website to another is called a backlink.

Acquiring backlinks is important for search engine optimization (SEO) because it signals to Google, as well as other major search engines, that other domains vouch for your content.

In essence, the more high-quality backlinks you acquire, the more credible and trustworthy your website will appear to search engines. However, you must keep in mind that the value a backlink has is dependent on the quality of the referring domain. The higher the authority of the referring domain, the higher the value of the backlink.

Not All Referring Domains Are of Equal Value

For maximum impact on SEO performance — and for long-term success at gaining visibility with web users through referral traffic — it pays off big time when websites receive fewer yet better quality, authority-rich referring domains instead of many low-value ones.

On that account, when trying to acquire backlinks, your focus should be on quality, not quantity. One backlink from a high-authority referring domain trumps 10 backlinks from insignificant, low-authority referring domains.

Generally, the more high-authority backlinks a page has, the higher its page authority and SERPs ranking will be. In turn, this web page will garner more organic traffic, as well as more referral traffic.

To drive the point home with regard to the relationship between referring domains and backlinks, let’s assume there are three different websites: Site A, Site B, and Site C.

If Site B and Site C contain links that take a user to Site A, then Site B and Site C are viewed as referring domains to Site A.

The links to Site A that Site B and Site C contain are called backlinks. These links can be embedded in pieces of text, buttons, images, videos, or other page elements.

As we stated earlier, the value of backlinks is dependent on the quality of the referring domain. So, if Site B is more credible than Site C, Site A will benefit more from a link from Site B than a link from Site C.

How Do Referring Domains Affect SEO?

Referring domains affect SEO in several ways. For starters, when your website acquires a lot of backlinks from high-quality referring domains, its credibility and domain authority increases.

With the increase in domain authority and credibility comes a direct boost in organic traffic (unpaid traffic), engagement, leads, and conversions.  What’s more, having a lot of unique referring domains linking to your website increases your referral traffic, which is the traffic you get when visitors of linking domains click on links that lead to your website.

With that in mind, it’s clear that backlinks and referring domains are notable SEO ranking factors. Optimizing these factors can make a significant difference in your search engine optimization efforts.

However, as we stated earlier, it’s all about quality. Instead of trying to gather backlinks from less-reputable referring domains, you need to focus on high-quality referring domains that are relevant to your niche, authoritative, and trustworthy.

One thing to keep in mind is that site diversity is really important. So, basically, acquiring 15 backlinks from different referring domains is much better than acquiring the same number of backlinks from the same referring domain.

In fact, acquiring an abnormally large number of backlinks from one referring domain can be detrimental to your website’s SEO performance.

If you have a large number of backlinks from one referring domain, Google might assume that you’re using a private blog network (PBN), which is a black-hat SEO link scheme that can lead to a penalty.

How to Check Referring Domains

You can check referring domains and backlinks via Google Search Console, or you can use SEO software such as Ahrefs, Semrush, or Majestic.

Google Search Console

Having set up your Google Search Console account, you can easily access a comprehensive view of your site’s referring domains and backlinks. This is an easy way to perform a backlink audit for your site.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Log in to your Google Search Console account.
  2. Head to the “Legacy tools and reports” section of the left sidebar.
  3. Click the “Links” report option.

After clicking the “Links” report option, a list of metrics that have to do with your site’s backlinks and referring domains will pop up, including:

  • Number of external links, as in the number of backlinks you have.
  • Top linked pages (external), as in the pages on your site that have the most backlinks.
  • Top linking sites, as in your website’s top referring domains.

SEO Software

Alternatively, you can check your website’s referring domains and backlinks with the aid of an SEO software of your preference. Since we can’t cover all SEO software, we’ll be focusing on Ahrefs.

Checking your referring domains using Ahrefs is easy. Simply head to Site Explorer, type in your domain name, and click the “Referring Domains” report option. You’ll then see a list of your top referring domains.

It’s worth noting that, next to each referring domain, there will be a domain rating (DR), which represents the strength of each referring domain’s backlink profile from 0 to 100.

If you’re looking to check your website’s backlinks, follow the same steps, but instead of clicking the “Referring Domains” report option, click the “Backlinks” report option. 

How Can You Get More Referring Domains?

referring domains

Now that you know what referring domains are and are aware of their SEO value, let’s talk about some of the link building strategies you can use to get more referring domains.

1. Create High-Value Content

The best strategy for increasing backlinks and referring domains is writing linkable content that provides value. The higher quality your content is, the more referring domains you’ll acquire. 

There are a few ways to make sure that your content is up to par. For starters, it needs to be comprehensive. If you’re going to tackle a certain topic, it’s best that you cover it from A to Z. One of the effective ways to deliver comprehensive content is to use the skyscraper technique. This technique involves capitalizing on the gaps in high-ranking pieces of content.

Another way of creating valuable content is to rely on data. Data-driven content is known to garner the most backlinks, so be sure to back your content with solid data, even if you have to refer to your own user analytics.

Further, you can add more value to your content by making it more actionable. Sharing tips, tools, analytics, news, and infographics are all excellent ways of making your content more actionable and linkable for referring domains.

2. Grow Your Network

It’s hard to get other high-quality websites to link to you without getting them to notice you first. This is why growing your network and playing the give-and-take game is important for increasing referring domains.

You need to be networking with the leaders in your niche. One way to do that is to link to their blog posts and site content and talk about your experience with said business or service. If you already have a good relationship with other webmasters in your niche, you can simply ask them to link to your content websites and articles whenever they see fit.

Growing your network is all about providing genuine help. The more you send referrals, share content, and link to other sites, the more you’ll be noticed, and the more your link-building efforts will be reciprocated.

3. Improve Audience Targeting

To provide high-value content that others will feel tempted to share and link to, you have to be in tune with your target audience and customize your link-building strategy based on their needs.

By knowing your target audience, you’ll know exactly what their struggles are and what they’re looking for. And with these insights in mind, you can create content that addresses said struggles and provides solutions. This, in turn, will improve your link building results.

There are plenty of audience-targeting strategies you can use. The bottom line is to make audience analysis and market research an integral part of your link-building strategy.

4. Analyze Your Reports Regularly

By regularly analyzing your referring domains report, you’re able to identify opportunities for link building and make adjustments to your strategy based on the quality of your referring domains.

Analyzing your reports will also help you identify your top-performing pages (i.e., the ones that have the most backlinks) so that you can capitalize on related content gaps.

5. Contribute to Other Websites

One of the most effective link-building strategies is writing blog posts for authority websites that are relevant to your niche. This is referred to as guest blogging.

If the content you provide on your website is of great value, you shouldn’t have a difficult time landing guest-blogging opportunities. You provide them with a great blog post; they give you a backlink in exchange.

Remember, however, that acquiring backlinks is all about the quality of the referring domain. So, be sure to target relevant websites that are of high authority. Also, make sure your anchor text is both compelling and natural. If you go overboard by stuffing your anchor text with keywords, it’ll look unnatural and might negatively impact your own domain’s SEO, and won’t inspire any referring domains to link to your content.

6. Analyze Your Competitors

Using SEO tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush, you can easily assess competitor websites and figure out the number of referring domains and their quality.

Analyzing each competitor’s backlink profile will grant you insights into how they acquire their backlinks and referring domains. You can then use their strategies for better results for your link building campaign.

7. Make Use of Journalist Services

Another great way of increasing your backlinks and referring domains is to answer queries on journalist services such as SourceBottle and HARO.

These services are platforms that help reporters and bloggers write better content by connecting them with experts and sources — and they make for great link building opportunities. If a reporter accepts your response to their query, you’ll earn a feature on their website — making it a referring domain.

It’s worth noting that a lot of big-name media outlets use journalist services, specifically HARO. Using this platform can help you acquire backlinks from high-authority websites.

8. Create a Niche-Specific Tool

Creating a tool that can benefit others in your industry is another highly effective way of attracting multiple backlinks and unique referring domains.

It’s all about pinpointing what tool your industry would benefit from, creating that tool, and then going on an email outreach campaign to let the people in your niche know that the tool they’re looking for is available.

For instance, if you’re running a real estate website, you can create a mortgage calculator that others can use to calculate their repayments to help get more referring domains.

What’s the key to SEO success? Getting more referring domains. Referring domains are a great way to build authority, improve rankings, and build trust. Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a referring domain,” you know that the more referring domains your website boasts, the greater your domain authority and credibility will become. However, referring domain quantity is not the sole factor — quality matters, too.

The influence of referring domains on your website’s SEO performance is multi-faceted, impacting organic traffic, engagement, lead generation, and conversion rates. Create high-quality content to get more referring domains and improve your success today.