What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (2024)

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors. We’ve emphasized this before and we’re emphasizing it again. The power of quality backlinks is what propels websites up in the SERPs. They signal trust to Google that your website contains valuable content that should be displayed to search engine users. They also establish relevance between your content and other sites.

But not all backlinks are created equal (another favorite saying of ours). The key is to get backlinks from the best websites possible. These websites are also called referring domains, and backlinks from authoritative referring domains really make a difference when it comes to ranking.

This article is going to talk about backlinks from a slightly different perspective — that of referring domains.

You’re going to learn what referring domains are and how to check for them. You’re also going to understand how referring domains are valuable to SEO and necessary for establishing authority/credibility.

Now, let’s start with examining what referring domains are:

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What is a Referring Domain?

“Referring domains” goes by two other names: external websites and linking domains. They’re essentially like backlinks, except they refer to an entire website and thus capture the overall value of that website. In the world of SEO, a referring domain (RD) is generally a metric used for analysis.

Technically speaking, a referring domain is a unique website that links out to a target website (aka linked domain) and may direct traffic to that site through one or more of its outbound links. In turn, the target website can receive one or more of those backlinks from the referring domain. The referring domain can also point to a URL, subdomain, or subfolder of a target website.

In terms of an entity-relationship model, a referring domain is a unique entity that can send one or many outbound links to one or many unique target websites. Conversely, a target website is an entity that can receive one or many backlinks from one or many referring domains.

This complex relationship looks like this:

For example, your website can receive 1 backlink from RD A, 4 backlinks from RD B, and 6 backlinks from RD C. This means your website will have 11 backlinks from 3 referring domains.

It’s common for websites to link out to a single website multiple times. It’s less common for websites to only send one backlink to another website (but not unusual). This is why many websites have fewer referring domains than backlinks — some of the referring domains are linking out to the websites multiple times.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (1)

How Does a Referring Domain Differ From a Backlink?

Referring domains and backlinks are slightly different. A backlink is an inbound hyperlink from other websites to yours. It’s basically a link that directs traffic to one of your web pages. So the process of linking incoming traffic to your web pages creates these meaningful tools called backlinks and signals a vote of confidence in your domain to search engines like Google.

Your website gets linked to by other web sources if they consider your content to be useful, credible, and relevant. As previously mentioned, your website can receive any number of backlinks from one or many linking domains.

This is why you want your web pages to always contain linkable assets like informational content, blog posts, videos, and infographics. This is the type of content/media that visitors want to view and why backlinks are important to search engines, affiliate marketers, and referral traffic (to name a few).

For visitors from referral traffic, backlinks provide a reference to useful and relevant information about a subject, product, or service. Think of a consumer shopping for athletic shoes and clicking on a backlink to a relevant online retailer.

Search engines use backlinks to determine a domain’s authority (i.e. website’s credibility) and a web page’s ranking in the SERPs. Marketers use high-quality links to improve their rankings and send traffic to their target sites.

A powerful, high-quality backlink serves as a conduit for passing authority to your website to help improve its search engine ranking. The more high-quality backlinks your domain can procure, the stronger its backlink profile becomes. A strong and diverse backlink profile is what gives authority to a domain and boosts its rankings.

Check out this article on the benefits of link building for more information.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (2)

So now that we explained why backlinks are important and how a collection of backlinks makes up the link profile of a referring domain, let’s talk a bit more about what makes referring domains different from backlinks.

For analytical purposes, a referring domain contains a lot more information than a backlink. This is because referring domains often contain numerous backlinks that comprise the referring domain’s link profile. These link profiles either strengthen or weaken a referring domain and any of its linked domains.

When you’re analyzing a referring domain, you can examine data about that site’s backlink profile, every unique website it’s linking to, and the organic traffic to those target sites (and to the sites that contain the referring domain’s backlinks). It’s a more complete picture than looking at a backlink. It can also provide useful competitive intelligence — something we will go over in the next section.

We’ve gone over the difference between referring domains and backlinks. Now let’s go over how to check for referring domains.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (3)

Never Worry About Backlinks Again (Managed Link Building)

How to Check Referring Domains

There are many SEO tools that allow you to check for referring domains and backlinks. These tools include Ahrefs, SEMRush, Majestic, and SERanking. One of the best is the referring domains report provided by Ahrefs, which we’ll be discussing in greater detail.

After inputting your target address and choosing the mode for how deep your want your search report to be (e.g. URL, exact URL, prefix, domain with/without subdomains), the first thing you notice in the Site Explorer overview is a panel that shows the search result’s total number of backlinks and the total number of referring domains (based on Ahref’s most recent database update). The number of backlinks will more than likely be greater than the number of referring domains by several multiples.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (4)

Clicking on the “Referring domains” number will bring you to the Referring Domains overview screen (which is a subsection of the Backlink profile section on the sidebar). It’s basically a data table displaying every referring domain pointing to the target site in question, along with various metrics like the organic traffic for each referring domain, the number of linking domains each referring domain has, and the total number of linked domains that each referring domain is pointing to.

This is where you can dive into some competitive analysis. First, you will want to bring up the Referring Domains overview for the competitor you want to spy on (Site Explorer -> Search -> Backlink profile -> Referring Domains).

Now you can see all the referring domains linking to that site. You can now search for any relevant websites that you can try to get backlinks from. Ultimately, you want to be doing the same things your top competitors are doing which can mean mimicking their backlink profile as closely as possible (and then improving upon it).

You’ll want to look for:

  • Authoritative, well-known industry domains
  • Relevant websites that appear to be about a similar topic to yours
  • Sites using “dofollow” links (use the “dofollow” filter)
  • Sites with high organic traffic (you can sort from high to low)

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (5)

Now let’s say you see an interesting RD and want to examine it further. You can click on the drop-down menu under the “Links to target” column for that RD to see information on every backlink that’s pointing to your target site from that referring domain.

You’ll see additional data for each backlink such as its referring page, traffic, contextual anchor text, and hyperlink. The context of the backlink is especially useful for understanding how you could try to get a backlink from that referring domain as well.

Another piece of competitive intelligence you can gain from the referring domains overview is finding out who your competitor’s serial linkers are and how many times they are linking to your competitor’s website.

Serial linkers are essentially those referring domains that link to the same website many times. For practical analysis, you may want to filter “dofollow” RDs with at least 25 – 50 “Links to target”. Now you can dive deeper by expanding the drop-down menu for each serial linker.

You’ll want to look out for referring domains that have linked:

  • From multiple pages or posts (as indicated by the “Referring page” column)
  • In numerous contexts (as shown in the “Anchor and backlinks” column)
  • On multiple occasions over a lengthy period of time (“First seen, Last Check” column)

That sums up some of the useful things you can check with Ahrefs’ referring domains explorer tool (and other SEO tools as well). Keep in mind that anything you analyze about competitors can be analyzed for your website too.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (6)

How Do Referring Domains Affect SEO?

Simply put, you need referring domains to get backlinks. And backlinks are crucial for getting organic traffic. Research on approx. 1 billion web pages have shown that roughly 91% don’t get a single organic visitor per month. And about 66% of the 1 billion pages have zero referring domains. Moreover, there is a strong positive correlation between a site’s total number of referring domains and its organic search traffic. Our article on how many backlinks per month is safe includes some related research that explains this trend in greater detail.

So, do you want more organic traffic? Yes? Then please pay attention to referring domains and always make them a focus of your link building campaign.

Our explanation of how backlinks act as a vote of confidence to Google in your website also applies to referring domains, but on a deeper level since referring domains are composed of many backlinks (i.e. link profiles).

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (7)

Backlinks are considered to be one of the top 3 most important ranking factors. Google analyzes many attributes of a backlink to determine its overall quality. One of these attributes is the quality of the linking domain that the backlink comes from. High-quality, authoritative linking domains will pass on that authority through their outbound links. This is why it’s ideal to get backlinks from authoritative websites.

Just like you want a lot of diverse backlinks, you also want as many quality referring domains as possible. For example, getting 100 backlinks from 10 referring domains looks a lot better than getting 100 backlinks from 1 referring domain.

Although it’s nice to get endorsed by the same website multiple times (in the form of multiple backlinks), the value of each backlink decreases each time that site sends you another link. In other words, there will be diminishing returns to each successive backlink gained from the same referring domain in the eyes of Google.

As an analogy, think of searching for a plumber on an online marketplace. You find two plumbers in your area that can fix your problem. One of them has 10 reviews from 3 or 4 people, and the other has 20 reviews from 18 people. Which one would you trust more?

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (8)

Just remember that Google devalues links that come from serial linkers (for obvious reasons like spam). Don’t expect much value from getting hundreds or thousands of backlinks from the same referring domain. It may look great that you’re getting thousands of backlinks, but if most of them are coming from low-quality websites, you’re not going to perform as well as you may think.

Your link building efforts should focus on getting backlinks from the best referring domains possible. Those that exhibit these qualities:

  • Authoritative
  • Trustworthy
  • Strong backlink profiles
  • Not serial linkers
  • Relevant to your niche

Referring domains are web traffic sources that search engines like Google take seriously. They may represent your business relationships and reflect what your website is about. You want to be associated with as many high-quality referring domains as possible to maximize your performance in the SERPs. And you always want to focus your link building around getting more referring domains.

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Ways to Get More Referring Domains Pointed at Your Site

Acquiring high-quality links from authoritative websites should always be one of your main focuses. You can center an entire link building strategy around adding quality referring domains to your site’s backlink profile. Let’s go over some ways of doing this:

Analyze a referring domains report

Find an SEO tool that offers a referring domains report, like Ahrefs, and use it as your starting point for analysis and strategy development. You’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t use a report like this. They provide a lot of useful information like showing you every backlink coming from each referring page from a linking domain and allowing you to do competitor analysis.

Examine the competition

Analyzing the competition by scanning their link profile and list of referring domains will give you ideas on how to improve your situation and expand your referring domains network by finding partners they collaborate with. You will get ideas on how to earn more links and rank higher in the search results.

Identify the most reputable domains

This is about scanning your current backlink sources for the most authoritative domains in order to find partners you can work with to get more links from their referring pages. Identifying popular, well-respected domains in your industry/niche that aren’t linking to you yet is also important for getting new backlinks and should be part of your link building campaign.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (9)

Select the best destination pages

This is about finding specific pages to share your content on the best referring domains in order to drive traffic and acquire backlinks. This should be part of your link building campaign.

Identify your pages with the most backlinks

Identifying the pages that have your top-performing content (the pages with the most backlinks and referring domains) is a great starting point for optimizing your marketing strategies. You can build off the success of these pages by focusing your SEO strategies on developing them because you know they’re already liked and trusted.

Create great content

Content is one of the main drivers of backlinking, so your site is more likely to get links if it contains great content (i.e. linkable assets). An effective content marketing strategy can reach and expand your target audience, gain referral links, and increase conversions.

There are many ways to produce content:

  1. Publish informational content that shows you’re an authority on a subject.
  2. Write case studies that can help you gain notoriety in the industry.
  3. Create informational videos (Q&A, live support. how-tos) and infographics that visitors want to look at and share.
  4. Write press releases to create buzz around your products and services.
  5. Interviews, research papers, eBooks, guest blogging, etc.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (10)

Distribute your content (i.e. linkable assets)

Shareable content is great for sending to high-quality referring domains that you’re interested in getting backlinks from. Reach out to webmasters with your articles and infographics.

Guest blogging is an excellent way to get yourself known as an expert in a field by writing for other authoritative websites. You can get author bio links from your blog post.

Sites like Help A Reporter Out give you the opportunity to connect with journalists who need content for their stories in exchange for a backlink to your site.

Improve your audience targeting

Knowing your audience is the key to digital marketing and SEO. It will not only allow you to develop targeted content strategies and blog posts that engage visitors and decrease bounce rate, but targeting your audience will assist in your keyword research and increase the likelihood of your sites getting backlinks as well (and thus referring domains).

Improve your link building strategies

It never hurts to keep updating and improving your link building strategies by using best practices and incorporating more data-driven decisions by utilizing tools like referring domains reports.

This could mean that you decide to buy backlinks from an experienced link building service that knows how to reach out to niche domains.

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Final Words

Hopefully this article has helped you understand what is a referring domain and the difference between referring domains and backlinks. Referring domains are unique websites that link back to target sites and direct traffic to them. A target website can have one or many referring domains and a referring domain can have one or many target sites. Typically, websites will have a high number of backlinks than referring domains by several multiples.

Referring domains are very important for SEO and link building strategies because they’re a ranking factor that can signal trust and authority to Google. But this depends on the quality of the referring domains. Backlinks from the most trusted, high-traffic domains are going to bring a lot more value than backlinks from low-quality websites.

There is a positive correlation between the number of referring domains a website has and its organic traffic. So don’t forget to focus on getting more referring domains during your link building campaign.

What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (11)Article by:
Nicholas Altimore

Hey I'm Nick, one of the guys behind SirLinksalot. I have a passion for building online businesses and taking websites to the next level with the help of my amazing link building team.

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What are Referring Domains and Why Do They Matter? (2024)


Why are referring domains important? ›

Adding high-quality referring domains to your site's backlink profile should be the centerpiece of your link-building plan. Without obtaining high-quality referring domains, you might be losing potential traffic, sales, and engagement.

What is the value of referring domains? ›

Referring domains are SEO ranking factors. In fact, these are considered to be high-impact ranking factors that make a difference in your search optimization efforts. Google counts each referring domain as a vote of confidence from other websites.

What is the difference between referring domains and backlinks? ›

Backlinks are the hyperlinks that point to your web pages from another web page. A referring domain is a website that links to your site. A single website can give you lots of backlinks, but it only counts as one referring domain.

What are referring domains? ›

What is a referring domain? Referring domains are websites from which the target website or web page has one or more backlinks. For example, if a web page has a backlink from the New York Times, then it has one referring domain. If it has a link from the New York Times and Forbes, that it has two referring domains.

Why are domains important to protein function? ›

Protein domains are the basic building blocks that determine the structure and function of proteins, and they may be considered the units of protein evolution. Furthermore, combinations of protein domains provide a broad spectrum for potential protein function [1–4].

Are domains still valuable? ›

While sales for millions of dollars are extremely rare, there's an active market for domain names. Many domain names change hands for thousands of dollars, although some can be worth more.

How do referral links work? ›

The link contains a unique ID that allows the company to track how visitors arrive at a website and the account that provided the link to attribute a sale to the correct referrer and provide a reward. Referral links help the company to track the success of the referrer. It gives insights into their performance.

What are referring domains in Semrush? ›

Below the graph, will be the complete listing of domains Semrush found linking to the queried domain. The domains will be listed in descending order by the number of backlinks they send to the queried domain. The table can be sorted by the total number of backlinks and Authority Score.

What is referring root domain? ›

The 'Referring domain' dimension reports which domains visitors click through to reach your site. This dimension is useful to understand which third-party sites drive the most traffic to yours. A link must exist on the external site and a visitor must click it in order for the dimension item to show up.

How do you make money with referral links? ›

20 successful referral program examples
  1. GetResponse – $30 account credit per referral.
  2. Hostinger – 20% commission.
  3. Dropbox – Up to 32 GB per referral.
  4. Fiverr – Up to $100 per referral.
  5. Chase Bank – $50 per referral.
  6. SoFi – between $50 and $500 per referral.
  7. TurboTax – $25 per referral.
  8. Wise – $50 per three referrals.
Dec 15, 2022

How much does it cost to reserve a domain name? ›

Owning a domain name will typically cost between $10 and $20 per year. This cost can vary widely depending on several factors, including: How popular the domain is.

What are the four key elements of making a referral? ›

4 Elements of a Good Referral
  • Connection. A good referral makes a strong connection between a potential customer and a business. ...
  • Authenticity. You can try to upsell a business's products or services, but never cross the line of misrepresentation. ...
  • Consent. ...
  • Follow-Up.
Nov 11, 2017

What are examples of domains? ›

A domain typically consists of two or three words separated by dots. For example, blog.hubspot.com is a domain.

What does Referring organization mean? ›

ORGANISATION NAME (REFERRING) is the ORGANISATION NAME that is referring the PATIENT to another Health Care Provider.

What are the 4 types of domain? ›

They include four sub-categories:
  • Generic (.com, . net, . org, . info), domains that can be used for general purposes.
  • Generic restricted (. pro, . biz, . ...
  • Sponsored (. edu, . gov, . ...
  • Infrastructure (. arpa) which was one of the original top-level domains used to help with the DNS infrastructure.

Why are the 7 domains important? ›

The purpose of this education model is to develop the whole learner into a healthy, intelligent, compassionate, creative, and productive human who is capable of leading an empowered and enriched life. The Seven Domains is an all inclusive approach that nurtures the highest growth potential of each child.

What is domain mean in biology? ›

(doh-MAYN) A specific physical region or amino acid sequence in a protein which is associated with a particular function or corresponding segment of DNA.

Can you make money from expired domains? ›

Making money with expired domain names: an honest, legal and lucrative business. Buying expired domain names is a legal practice. If the former holder has abandoned his domain, it is often because it no longer had any interest for his business.

What is the most expensive domain name? ›

List of most expensive domain names
DomainPriceSale date
Voice.com$30 million2019
360.com$17 million2015
NFTs.com$15 million2022
Sex.com$13 million2010
35 more rows

What is the most expensive website domain ever sold? ›

The most expensive domain name ever sold has come to light — at $872 million. Yes, you read that right. Cars.com was valued at $872 million (we get that number from reading the SEC filing, courtesy of the parent company, Gannet Co., Inc.).

What are the two types of referral system? ›

Modern classification of referral systems includes interval referral, split referral, collateral referral, and cross-referral. When a formerly discharged person from the hospital comes back for further treatment, an interval referral system is used.

What are the 6 steps in the referral process? ›

Page 3: Six Stages in the Pre-Referral Process
  1. Stage 1: Initial concern regarding a student's progress.
  2. Stage 2: Information gathering.
  3. Stage 3: Information sharing and team discussion.
  4. Stage 4: Discussion of possible strategies.
  5. Stage 5: Implementation and monitoring of strategies.
  6. Stage 6: Evaluation and decision making.

What are the two ways of referral? ›

Background: A two-way referral system is an organized two-way relationship between a health care provider or physician in a health care facility at one level of the health care system and another health care provider or physician in a health care facility at the same or higher level of the health care system.

What are referring sites in SEO? ›

Technically, any domain that originates and redirects traffic to your domain is known as a referring site. Using referral traffic, one can understand which websites are referring traffic to a website and how have they discovered your website.

How much do backlinks affect SEO? ›

Backlinks are important to SEO because search engines see all of those votes of confidence as evidence that your content is valuable. If lots of sites link back to yours, search engines are more likely to surface your content in search results, improving your ranking for the topics linked to.

What are lost referring domains? ›

Lost domains are domains that you have lost backlinks from within the past 3 months. What this means is Google might still be considering their value when it comes to analyzing your domain's backlink profile.

What is the difference between a domain and root domain? ›

Domain name

Domain names are the second level of a domain's hierarchy (after the top-level domain). Domain names on a specific TLD (called a root domain, discussed below) are purchased from registrars and represent the specific, unique location of a website.

Why is the root directory important? ›

The root directory of a website contains important files such as the index. php and forms the base of a website's folder structure. Files that are stored outside of this folder cannot be accessed directly by website visitors.

How much does Amazon pay for referrals? ›

For sellers enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry and selling in Amazon's US store, Amazon's Brand Referral Bonus is an opportunity to earn, on average, a 10% bonus of the sales price on sales generated from non-Amazon marketing efforts. If you aren't earning a Brand Referral Bonus yet, here's how it works...

Is referral selling illegal? ›

Under Australian Consumer Law, this kind of business conduct is illegal and can attract significant penalties. The maximum penalty for each offence is $500, 000 for an individual.

Can you fully own a domain name forever? ›

You cannot buy a domain name permanently. Domain name registration is done on a yearly basis. However, you can pre-pay for up to 10 years which guarantees that you will have a domain name for 10 years.

Is it smart to buy domain names? ›

A domain name isn't strictly necessary in order to create a presence on the web. However, having your own domain name gives you control over your online identity and the content you post – and a domain of your own is a must-have for building confidence in your brand or business.

Can you fully buy a domain name forever? ›

While it's not possible to permanently buy a domain, there are leases for indefinite lengths. The reason for this lies in how domain registration works. Domains such as .com, . net and .

What makes a great referral? ›

A good referral has an immediate need, and the prospect is willing to accept a phone call from your associate. Even if the individual does not have a direct or immediate need, securing permission for your colleague to call gives the individual an opportunity to develop a new relationship.

What makes a good referral source? ›

A genuine interest in others.

The most effective referrals come from one person's desire to help another. These people are the ones who are more likely to refer you—even without being prompted—if they know of someone in need of your services.

How is referral value calculated? ›

How To Calculate A Referral Rate. Your referral rate is perhaps one of the most important metrics to look at when evaluating the overall success of your referral program and campaigns. It's the number of referral link clicks divided by the total number of purchases from those clicks.

What is a domain value example? ›

In many cases, domain names have specific and measurable data or attributes on which to base a valuation. Examples would include amount of traffic a domain gets, is it a popular word and correctly spelled, is it on the .com TLD or another less valuable TLD, etc.

What is a fair price for a domain name? ›

Owning a domain name will typically cost between $10 and $20 per year. This cost can vary widely depending on several factors, including: How popular the domain is.

What are the 4 steps in the referral process? ›

What are the stages of the pre-referral process and what do they involve?
  1. Stage 1: Initial concern regarding a student's progress.
  2. Stage 2: Information gathering.
  3. Stage 3: Information sharing and team discussion.
  4. Stage 4: Discussion of possible strategies.
  5. Stage 5: Implementation and monitoring of strategies.

What are the key elements to a referral? ›

4 Elements of a Good Referral
  • Connection. A good referral makes a strong connection between a potential customer and a business. ...
  • Authenticity. You can try to upsell a business's products or services, but never cross the line of misrepresentation. ...
  • Consent. ...
  • Follow-Up.
Nov 11, 2017

What is a domain names give at least 5 examples? ›

Domain Name Types
  • .com – commercial business (the most common TLD)
  • org – organizations (typically, nonprofit)
  • gov – government agencies.
  • edu – educational institutions.
  • net – network organizations.
  • mil – military.

How do you write a domain example? ›

The domain of a function is the set of all possible inputs for the function. For example, the domain of f(x)=x² is all real numbers, and the domain of g(x)=1/x is all real numbers except for x=0. We can also define special functions whose domains are more limited.

Can you get sued for a domain name? ›

If you take the domain name registrant to court and win, the court will order the domain name registrant to transfer the domain name to you and may award you money damages as well. A lawsuit is always an option, whether or not you pursue ICANN's dispute resolution process.

Can you make good money flipping domain names? ›

Domain flipping is a very lucrative business that has the potential to make you a full-time income while working part-time hours. The right domains can sell for thousands of dollars and more often than not it's just a game of arbitrage – buying from one place, and then selling elsewhere.

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