Difference Between Referring Domains vs Backlinks (Explained) – How To Learn SEO

It is no secret that search engine optimization (SEO) and link building go hand in hand.

You cannot have one without the other.

A strong link profile encourages a ranking opportunity for the keyword phrase you are targeting, which will help drive more organic search traffic to your website.

The two components of a healthy link profile are backlinks and the referring domain.

But what is the difference between referring domains vs backlinks?

As you will find below, backlinks take visitors from one website to another, whereas referring domains are the actual websites from which the backlinks are coming.

Backlinks are used by search engines to determine the popularity of a website’s content, while reference domains are used by search engines to determine which sites are linking to another site.

It is often difficult for beginners to understand the difference between a referring domain and backlinks, but both are important for SEO. And knowing how search engines interpret them can help you increase your rankings, traffic, and conversion rates.

Let’s dig into the details below!

Referring Domain vs Backlinks

Referring to domain vs backlinks

The main difference between referring domain and backlinks is that referring domains are the websites from which your backlinks are coming whereas backlinks are the actual links on the sites that are linking to your web pages. A referring domain can contain one or more backlinks to a website.

What is a Backlink?

A backlink, also known as an inbound link, is a hyperlink that points from an external website back to a specific page on your website. You can earn multiple backlinks from the same page or site. (See this page on backlinks vs inbound links for more details on the similarities of these two terms.)

Links can be embedded in various elements such as text, buttons, images, etc. When Google indexes a new page on your site, it crawls links to that page to find out if there are any other pages worth following.

When backlinks are embedded in text, the clickable words in the hyperlink are known as link anchor text. Anchor text carries the ranking weight with Google. It helps to enforce context as to where the link is directing the user and what the content will be about.

Backlinks are a widely used SEO strategy to increase search rankings, increase authority on a topic, and build relevance with your target audience.

He is regarded as one of the The Most Important Factors to Rank on GoogleAccording to Ahrefs for keyword optimization.

How do backlinks affect SEO?

Backlinks affect SEO by acting as a vote of confidence for your website. The more votes, the better, but the amount of links isn’t the only metric that matters.

Quality does too.

The more votes that come from reputable sites (referring domains), the better your position on the SERPs.

Not all backlinks are created equal

Backlinks are the bread and butter of SEO. They tell search engines what other websites think of your website. When a backlink is earned, it means that the website thinks your content is valuable to their visitors.

This sounds like a great reason to build a network of backlinks, doesn’t it?

When done properly, linking can be an integral part of your content strategy – and a great way to improve SEO traffic to your site.

A good backlink comes from a site that has authority or credibility attached to it. The more authority or credibility attached to that site, the better your backlink will be.

For example, earning links (For example, Via journalism reach) can help spread awareness of your website and generate more referral traffic from other websites in the same or related niche as yours.

But when backlinks are not obtained from a relevant source, they have the potential to harm a website as much as it does to help. Search engines can penalize a website for having too many links from irrelevant sources, not having enough links in general, and more.

Avoid the wrath of Google by simply linking out if you have something valuable, relevant, and unique to contribute to the conversation.

You can learn more about off-page SEO optimization, including backlinks, here.

What is referring domain?

A referring domain is a website that describes where your referral traffic is coming from. If you have a website, you want other websites to link to your content.

For example, let’s say you operate a blog that publishes content about marketing. John Smith is looking for ‘marketing tips’ and types that query into Google. John finds an article on “XYZ.com” that lists your site as the best blog to follow for marketing tips, so John clicks on the link and it takes him to your website. “XYZ.com” is the referring domain.

Having backlinks from a variety of referring domains is a good thing. So why not just get links from as many sites as possible? it’s not that easy.

According to Search Engine Journal, Google sees the quality of your links And where do they come from, not just quantity. A link to a low-quality site is not the same as a link to an official site.

What makes a referring domain authoritative?

The authority of the referring domain is based on the relevance of the topic/industry and the quality of their own backlink profile.

Focus on earning high-quality backlinks from relevant sources in or near your industry. If you have a large number of referring domains from well ranked sites, Google will consider those links as strong signals of quality and promote your website.

How to check backlinks and referring domains for your website

Now that you know everything about backlinks vs referring domains, it’s time to assess your own domain.

Some questions might be running through your mind at this point of time:

  • Which sites are you linking to?
  • From which page are the backlinks coming?
  • What anchor text is being used in links?
  • Which pages on your site are being linked to the most?

Both Google Search Console and AHREF are essential tools for analyzing and understanding which websites link to you.

How to Use Google Search Console to Find Backlinks and Referring Domains

link report google search console Will show an overall overview of backlinks and referring domains.

Once you’ve set up a free account and linked your website, Google Search Console opens to an overview page. Scroll down on the left sidebar to find the Links report.

Backlinks and Referring Domains in Google Search Console

Once the Links report opens, you’ll find six metrics related to referring domains and backlinks.

  • Total number of external links: Shows the total number of backlinks you have from other sites that link your own.
  • Top linked pages (external): Shows specific pages on your website that are most linked to from other sites.
  • Total number of internal links: Shows the total number of links from your website to other pages of your website.
  • Top linked pages (internal): Shows specific pages on your website that are most linked to other pages on your website.
  • Top Linking Sites: Shows top referring domains that link to your website.
  • Top linking text: Shows anchor text used by other sites in your website’s backlinks.

How to Use AHREFs to Find Backlinks and Referral Domains

AHREFs are a powerful tool to have in your SEO arsenal. This tool allows you to check specific and total backlinks and referring domains of a site.

Here’s a step-by-step step-by-step on how to find the report:

  1. Login to your account
  2. Go to Site Explorer and type the URL of any website
  3. to select back either Referring Domains on the side menu
  4. A new page will appear showing all your results for the site

Graphically, here are the steps:

Ahrefs.  Mentioning domains and backlinks in

Here’s an example of a referring domain report:

Ahrefs.  Referenced domains report
Difference Between Backlinks and Referring Domain Summary

Difference Between Backlinks and Referring Domain Summary

If website development is the ultimate goal, then knowing the difference between backlinks and referring domains is essential for ranking high on search engines like Google.

Make sure to check your referring domain vs backlinks on a regular basis. You can keep track of both using the free Google Search Console, or paid AHREFs.

It only takes a few minutes but is vitally important to your success in organic search.

Difference Between Referring Domain and Backlinks

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