Home / Learn / Link Building

Referring Domains vs Backlinks: Understanding the Difference

Referring domains and backlinks can be a tricky subject.

Edona Shala

Content Writer

Referring Domains vs Backlinks: Understanding the Difference

Referring domains and backlinks can be a tricky subject. But, knowing the difference between the two can help you create better SEO tactics and boost your website’s presence on Google.


High-quality backlinks are essential for ranking websites high in search engine results pages. They determine the relevance of your content to content on other websites.


So keep reading to find out what a referring domain is and how it differs from backlinks. We’ll also show you how both affect your SEO and provide best practices for gaining more referring domains and backlinks.

Referring Domains vs Backlinks

The difference in definitions between a backlink and a referring domain is slight but essential. You should look at the referring domains to backlinks ratio. If you have a lot of backlinks but few referring domains, you have a poor backlink profile.

What Is a Backlink?

Links that lead from one website to another are known as backlinks. A website or web page can have multiple backlinks. Inbound links are another term for them.

What Is a Referring Domain?

A website that links to your website is known as a referring domain. They are also referred to as linking domains. By creating backlinks, they direct referral traffic.


Backlinks describe the relationship between pages, whereas referring domains describe the relationship between entire websites.


To be more specific, if a website links to your page from one of its pages, that link is referred to as a backlink, and the website becomes a referring domain.


While a website can provide thousands of backlinks, it only counts as one referring domain. 


The more referring domain links there are, the more reliable the website content is.

Why Is It Important To Understand The Difference?

Even if you know how important backlinks are for SEO, you still can’t build a great SEO campaign if you don’t know the difference between referring domains and backlinks.


The main issue is that increasing your backlink profile alone won’t have a big impact on your SEO. You need to also increase your referring domain profile. 


Having one site link to you 100 times isn’t as effective as having 100 different sites link to you once.


As a result, your goal should not only be to gain as many backlinks as possible, but rather to get as many referring domains as possible.


The differences between the two may be difficult to spot. So, to sum them up for you:


  • One-way or inbound links refer to backlinks while linking domains refer to referring domains.
  • Backlinks are hyperlinks that direct the reader back to the website, and that is where backlinks are generated.
  • Backlinks increase a website’s traffic, and referring domains help direct traffic to specific websites.
  • Only referring domains can generate backlinks. Backlinks are always the result of referring domains.
  • All backlinks come from referring domains but not all referring domains produce the same backlinks to a website.
  • Many referring domain links help increase a website’s priority based on a search engine’s algorithm. But, too many backlinks from one website can damage SEO rankings.

How Do Referring Domains and Backlinks Impact SEO?

Backlinks and referring domains are critical if you want more organic traffic.


Backlinks are a vote of confidence in your website. The more backlinks your website receives from credible sources, the higher Google will rank it.


Research shows that 90.63% of pages with no referring domains receive no traffic from Google. 


There is also a link between the number of unique referring domains and the amount of search traffic received by the target web page.


The study’s findings suggest that the more backlinks you have from unique websites, the more traffic you are likely to receive.


Backlinks are not all created equal. Some are more authoritative and carry more weight than others.


Several factors influence the authority of a backlink. The first is the importance of the web page that provides the link. A backlink from a page covering the same topic as your website is more valuable than a link from an irrelevant page. 


The anchor text of the link is the second. Because search engines use this text to determine the content of a page, it is beneficial if the link includes descriptive anchor text. Including a keyword in the anchor text of a link can be particularly effective.


It is also important to consider the authority of the website providing the backlink.


Low authority backlinks, on the other hand, are not worthless and will not harm your site’s ranking.


Referring domains act as votes of confidence and can influence the authority of each backlink.


Some referring domains are better than others, just like backlinks. The metrics used to assess the quality of a referring domain are the same as those used to assess the quality of backlinks.


Referring domains are more valuable if they are relevant to your website and search engines value them as authoritative. 

How to Check Backlinks and Referring Domains?

Google Search Console allows you to examine your site’s referring domains and backlinks. Its backlinks and referring domains report will give you an in-depth look at your backlinks and referring websites.


Scroll down to find the links report in the left sidebar. There are six indicators for referring websites and backlinks in the links report.


These include the Total Number of External Links, which displays the total number of backlinks from other websites to your site.


The Top Linked Pages (External) section shows which pages on your website are most commonly linked from other websites.


You can also view the total number of internal links that lead from one page of your website to another.


Top Linked Pages shows which sites on your website have the most links to them from other pages on your site.


Top Referring Domains displays the most popular domains that link to your website.


And, Top Linking Text displays the anchor text used in backlinks to your website by other websites. 

Building Referring Domains and Backlinks: Best Practices

The method that involves link building with a referring domain to help get valuable SEO results includes different tactics.

Examining The Referring Domains Report

The referring domains report will show you a complete list of every domain that links back to your website.


You can examine the quality and quantity of the referring domains to determine which has the best backlink profile. The more domains with high authority scores, the better.

Identifying Content Gaps and High-Performance Pages

Identifying your top pages is one of the best ways to decide your next content marketing strategy and link-building campaign. These are the most popular pages on your website that have also received a large number of backlinks.


Backlinks from top referring domains show that websites and online users trust your content. You can maximize your link-building efforts by focusing your SEO strategy on high-quality content.

Creating Content

The higher the value of your content, the more links you will receive from top referring domains. You can widen your target audience and referral links if you use the right marketing strategy. You’ll also see an increase in conversions from natural search results.


To get more backlinks from unique referring domains and improve your marketing efforts you can:


  • Publish studies and surveys that generate data and insights.
  • Publish educational content to prove your expertise in a particular field.
  • Create educational videos (Q&A and how-tos) and infographics.
  • To generate interest in your products and services, write press releases.


Keep in mind that quality is key when creating any kind of content.

Get Your Content Out There

It’s a good idea to send shareable content to authoritative referring domains from which you want backlinks.


Guest blogging is a great way to gain recognition as an expert in the field by contributing to other reputable websites. You can link to your author bio in your blog post.


You can also look for opportunities to connect with journalists who are looking for content. You can share your expertise in their stories in exchange for a backlink to your site.

Reach Out to Other Websites Manually

You can reach out to any website and request a backlink. When combined with high-quality content, this strategy works best.


Create a top-notch piece of content and then contact any website that links to a competing but inferior article.


Many site owners will link to your new article if it provides enough value. 


You should now be able to tell the difference between referring domains and backlinks. 


In conclusion, backlinks refer to links that your website receives from other websites. Referring domains are the individual websites that do the linking. A single site can have many backlinks, but it only counts as one referring domain.


For SEO and link-building strategies, referring domains and backlinks are both vital, with the former being more important than the latter.


They are a ranking factor that helps Google signal trust and authority based on the quality of the referring domain. Backlinks from high-traffic and trusted domains will be more valuable than those from low-quality and untrustworthy websites.


A referring domain is a website that includes a link to your website. The bigger the number of high-quality referring domains on your site, the better its link profile and the higher it should rank in Google

Although a single website can provide many backlinks, it only counts as one referring domain. You should consider the referring domains to backlinks ratio. You have a poor backlink profile if you have a lot of backlinks but few referring domains.

If you want more organic traffic, you must have backlinks and referring domains. Backlinks are a vote of confidence in your website. The more credible backlinks your website receives, the higher Google will rank it. The more unique backlinks you have, the more traffic you are likely to receive.

More Content Hub