Referring Domains: Why You Can’t Ignore This Link-Building Metric

Last Updated December 31st, 2020 · Web Development

Referring Domains: Why You Can't Ignore This Link-Building Metric

Building backlinks is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO). Regardless of which search queries you are trying to rank it for, your website needs backlinks. Rather than only tracking your website’s total number of backlinks, though, you should track its referring domains as well. For SEO, referring domains is an invaluable link-building metric that you can’t ignore.


What Is a Referring Domain?

Also known as a linking domain, a referring domain is a website from which you’ve acquired at least one backlink. A domain is a unique website. A referring domain is a unique website that refers traffic to your site by linking to it.

Referring domains are similar to backlinks. For every referring domain your website has, it will have at least one backlink. Your website can’t have more referring domains than backlinks. Referring domains are simply the websites that link to your site.

You may discover that your website has more backlinks than referring domains. It’s not uncommon for websites to acquire multiple backlinks from the same site. If another website links to your site 20 times, it will create 20 backlinks but only a single referring domain.


The Importance of Tracking Referring Domains

Tracking your website’s referring domains will allow you to build a healthier and more diverse profile of backlinks. If your website has a disproportionately high ratio of backlinks to referring domains, it will raise a red flag with search engines’ algorithms. They may assume that you are trying to game the system by partnering with one or a few websites to mass-build backlinks.

A high number of backlinks and a low number of domains sends this message. Search engines may then target your website with an automated ranking penalty, resulting in a sudden loss of rankings. If your website has a more balanced ratio of backlinks to domains, on the other hand, it won’t get targeted with a penalty.

Search engines emphasize diversity in backlink profiles. If your website has a diverse backlink profile, they’ll reward it with higher rankings. Search engines want to see many different unique websites linking to your site. Of course, you can’t achieve a diverse backlink profile without tracking your website’s referring domains.

In addition to tracking your own website’s referring domains, you can track the referring domains of the sites from which you are trying to acquire backlinks. If you discover an opportunity to acquire a backlink from a website, for instance, you can check to see how many domains link to it. The more domains it has linked back to it, the greater the value of its backlinks.

You can still acquire backlinks from other websites, but those with a lot of referrers will have the greatest impact on your site’s rankings. Wikipedia has over 5 million referring domains. If you acquire a backlink from Wikipedia, some of the equity of those links will flow to your site.


Domain Age and Search Engine Optimization: Are They Connected?
Related Article
Domain Age and Search Engine Optimization: Are They Connected?

Many people believe that the older a domain, the higher a website will rank. The connection between domain age and SEO, however, isn’t black and white.

How to Track Referring Domains

You can track your website’s referring domains using backlink analysis services. Most backlink analysis services, including Ahrefs and Moz, show both backlinks and referring URLs. In Ahrefs, they are listed as referring domains. In Moz, they are listed as linking domains. Both backlink analysis services display the referring domain next to total backlinks or total inbound links.

Keep in mind that referring URLs are page specific. Therefore, some of your website’s pages will likely have a different number of referring domains than others. Your website’s homepage will probably have the most referring domains, whereas its privacy policy or terms and conditions page may have the least.

Using Ahrefs, Moz or a similar backlink analysis service, enter the URLs for your website’s pages to run a backlink report. In each of these reports, you’ll see how many referring domains the respective page has.


Tips to Increase Referring Domains

Getting more sites linking to you requires expanding your link-building strategy to include new sources of acquisition. Acquiring backlinks from the same websites that you’ve been using won’t work. If a website is already linking to your site, any additional links it sends your way won’t count as a referring domain. Instead, you must acquire backlinks from entirely new sources that haven’t yet linked to your website.

Write for Other Sites

Guest blogging can increase your website’s referring domains. Guest blogging is a content marketing tactic in which you write and publish posts for blogs. You won’t get paid for it, but most blogs compensate their guest authors by linking to their websites. Just remember to distribute your posts across multiple blogs. Publishing a single post on five different blogs will result in five new referrals, whereas publishing five posts on a single blog will result in just one new referring domain.

Keep Publishing Content

Along with guest blogging, publishing content on your own website can increase its referring domains. It’s considered a form of passive link building. Website operators typically link to other sites because they want to share a piece of high-quality content with their followers. If your website is barren with few or no pieces of high-quality content, it won’t attract many backlinks. Sticking to schedule and publishing content regularly creates new opportunities for your website to earn backlinks.

Find Unlinked Mentions

Another way to score a referring domain is to find mentions of your website’s name that don’t contain a link. If you discover a website citing or referencing your site, contact the operator. You can express gratitude for the mention while politely asking the operator to link to your website.

Since these mentions don’t contain links, you can’t find them using a backlink analysis service. Instead, you’ll have to find them by manually searching. When you’re ready to begin your search, go to Google and enter your website’s domain between a pair of quotation marks, such as “example.com.” While going through the results, look for indexed pages that mention your website’s name without linking to it.

How Toxic Backlinks Can Poison Your Website
Related Article
How Toxic Backlinks Can Poison Your Website

Search engines rely heavily on backlinks when ranking websites. When planning a link-building strategy you should beware of toxic backlinks.


Building more backlinks isn’t guaranteed to improve your website’s search rankings. If you acquire them from most or all of the same websites, it could hinder your SEO efforts. You need to build a diverse backlink profile by increasing your website’s referring domains.

Link Software provides SEO services to our clients. Let us help you get going down in the right direction for your brand new, or existing website. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you get started with the fundamentals of search engine optimization.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.