Referring Domain vs Backlink: Definitions & Key Differences

Referring Domain vs Backlink: Definitions and Key Differences

Referring domains represent external websites that link to yours through backlinks. To put it plainly, referring domains are the digital junctions that create these connections. They are often called “linking domains” since they channel users from their site to yours.

Understanding the distinctions between a referring domain and a backlink is crucial. In this article, we’ll dive further into the definitions of these terms and highlight the key differences between them.

  • Aim for 5-10 high-quality backlinks per month to keep a decent link velocity
  • Growing domain authority and seeing results from your link-building efforts takes time, usually several months to a year
  • Understand the difference between referring domains and backlinks for an effective link-building strategy - backlinks are hyperlinks, and referring domains are the websites that generate those hyperlinks
  • Prioritize high-quality referring domains to build a solid link profile
  • Consistent link-building is key for an effective and successful link-building strategy

Referring Domain vs Backlink: What’s the Difference?

For those venturing into online content creation, it’s common to mistake referring domains and backlinks as interchangeable terms. However, understanding their distinctions is important.

In the following sections, we’ll clarify the crucial differences between these two concepts so that you can understand their unique roles in the online landscape.

Are Referring Domains and Backlinks the Same?

Although many newcomers to the online world might mistakenly believe that referring domains and backlinks are interchangeable, it’s essential to understand their distinctions. Let’s delve into the key differences between these two crucial SEO components:

Referring Domains:

  • A referring domain represents the source domain that provides one or more backlinks to your website
  • It focuses on the number of unique domains linking to your site
  • A single domain with multiple backlinks is counted as one referring domain


  • Backlinks are the actual links or URLs from other websites that direct traffic to your site
  • They are specific URLs or hyperlinks connecting one webpage to another
  • The quantity of backlinks reflects the number of individual links directed towards your webpages

In essence, while referring domains count unique sources linking to your site, backlinks encompass the actual links or URLs connecting those websites. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for a comprehensive grasp of SEO strategies.

What Is a Referring Domain in SEO?

A referring domain is a website with one or more backlinks pointing to your target page. To illustrate, if a web page gets 4 backlinks from a domain like, it counts as a single referring domain.

If the same web page will secure links from both TechCrunch and Mashable, the amount of referring domains will rise to 2.

What Is a Backlink in SEO?

In SEO, a backlink is a hyperlink from one website to another, often accompanied by anchor text. For instance, if you come across an article that directs you to another website, that’s a backlink.

They’re prevalent across the internet, and frequently seen on well-known blogs that link to related content. To put it simply, backlinks are the hyperlinks while referring domains are the websites responsible for creating these connections.

Backlink Example

In the example below, you can see a screenshot from our HostAdvice article about SEO for subdomains. The image highlights a hyperlink over the word “subdomains.” When readers click on this link, they are redirected to another HostAdvice article that offers additional information on the topic. This is referred to as an internal link.

Screenshot from an article on HostAdvice.

In this next example, you’ll notice a hyperlink over the term “Domain authority (DA).” When a reader clicks on this hyperlink, they are directed to a Moz article that explains domain authority. This type of link is commonly known as a backlink or external link and is essential for connecting web content and providing users with relevant, in-depth information.

Screenshot from HostAdvice article.

How Do Referring Domains and Backlinks Impact Search Engine Optimization?

For websites in competitive niches, a website should ideally have 40 to 50 backlinks leading to the homepage and up to 100 backlinks for each individual web page.

However, the quality and PageRank scores of these backlinks are equally significant, as higher-value backlinks require fewer links to enhance overall rankings. In this article, we will look at these key aspects to help you optimize your website for improved search engine performance.

Are Referring Domains or Backlinks More Important?

Backlinks, which are links from external websites leading back to your site, and referring domains, which represent the total number of domains linking to your website, are both pivotal elements.

The number and quality of backlinks are critical ranking factors for Google, but having a diverse array of referring domains enhances your website’s overall authority, contributing to an effective SEO strategy.

What Is a Good Backlink to Referring Domain Ratio?

While you can accumulate numerous backlinks, they may originate from the same referring domain, for instance, if another website links to yours multiple times, it results in multiple backlinks but just one referring domain.

Typically, a favorable ratio of backlinks to referring domains falls within the range of 1:1 to 3:1. In simpler terms, for each backlink, it’s advisable to have one to three distinct referring domains linking to your site.

How to Obtain a Backlink and Referring Domains List

To strengthen the backlink profile of your website, you’ll need to not only have a diverse array of referring domains linking to your site, but you’ll need to apply different strategies in order to get more backlinks.

In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to three tools to aid this endeavor. However, understand that these tools are simply one of the multiple approaches you should take.

Referring Domains Ahrefs Tool

The Referring Domains 2.0 tool from Ahrefs introduces new technology and a fresh database, making it significantly faster than its predecessor. Users can effortlessly select their desired timeframe for data comparison, providing insights into live referring domains.

A valuable addition to Ahrefs’ Webmaster Tools, it offers Site Audit and Site Explorer tools, free for website owners. For more comprehensive access, subscription plans are available, starting at $99/month for personal use and $999/month for agencies.

Learn how to use the Ahrefs ref domains report.


  • Enhanced speed and performance
  • Precise data comparisons
  • Includes valuable Webmaster Tools
  • Free tools for website owners


  • Paid subscriptions may not suit all budgets

Screenshot from Ahrefs dashboard.

Search Engine Reports Tool

The Search Engine Reports Referring Domains Checker is a valuable tool for compiling a list of websites that contain backlinks to your site. It’s essential to maintain a balanced ratio between referring domains and backlinks to ensure your website’s credibility with search engines like Google.

If the number of backlinks significantly exceeds the number of referring domains, it can raise concerns of spammy practices and potentially lead to being flagged by search engines.


  • Useful for monitoring backlinks and referring domains
  • Helps maintain a balanced ratio for SEO credibility
  • Promotes adherence to search engine guidelines


  • Limited to referring domains and backlink analysis

This tool is available for free, offering a cost-effective solution for website owners.

Screenshot from Search Engine Reports tool.

SEMRush Referring Domains Checker

The SEMrush Referring Domains Checker is a comprehensive tool that provides valuable insights into a website’s backlink profile and its influence on SEO.

Users can access a list of domains linking back to the queried domain, along with essential data to analyze their impact. It offers sorting options to prioritize backlinks based on factors like the number of backlinks, Authority Score, and First Seen/Last Seen dates. Additionally, users can assess the geographical diversity of these links with IP addresses and countries.


  • In-depth analysis of referring domains and backlinks
  • Sorting options for prioritizing link partners
  • Insights into the geographical distribution of backlinks
  • Category associations for a niche-specific overview


  • Subscription pricing starts at $129.95, which may not be suitable for small website owners

The SEMrush Referring Domains Checker is an integral part of SEMrush’s comprehensive SEO and marketing tools, making it a valuable resource for businesses invested in online visibility and success.

To use this tool, click on the Domain Overview option under Competitive Research in your SEO Dashboard.

Type in the domain you are interested in. In our example below, we have used

Next, click on the number of backlinks that the dashboard displays. You can then choose to look at backlinks, anchors, referring domains and more. To see this report below, simply click on Referring Domains.

Screenshot from SEMrush new and lost referring domains report.

Additional screenshot from SEMrush referring domains report.

Best Practices for Building Referring Domains and Backlinks

By securing links from authoritative websites, you communicate to search engines that your content is trustworthy and valuable, thus increasing your potential to achieve higher rankings in search results.

In the following sections, we will discuss the significance of high-quality content, explore the benefits of guest posting, and understand more about effective outreach strategies to obtain referring domains and backlinks.

Create High-Quality Content

High-quality content is all about delivering value to your audience. It should be informative, industry-specific, and avoid triviality. Quality content enriches a reader’s understanding and sheds light on a subject in a unique way.

To ensure the highest quality, put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask: Is it relevant?

Additionally, adhere to the EEAT principle, which stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Originally known as E-A-T, this principle closely aligns with Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Guest Post on Other Websites

Guest posting on other websites is an effective way to generate high-quality referring domains and inbound links. You can begin by using hashtags like #guestpost, #blogging, and #SEO on social media platforms to identify relevant posts and accounts.

Following influencers and bloggers within your niche and checking if they accept guest posts is another viable approach. Additionally, analyzing your competitors’ backlinks can lead you to websites that welcome guest contributions.

To find free guest post sites, you can simply Google your search terms along with phrases like “guest blog,” “write for us,” “submit an article,” “contribute guest post,” “become a guest blogger,” “guest blogging guidelines,” and “contributor guidelines.” This will help you identify suitable platforms for guest posting.

Manually Reach Out to Other Websites

To enhance your backlink profile, consider reaching out to other websites manually. Create a valuable resource, such as an ebook, infographic, comprehensive blog post, or online course, focused on an in-demand topic in your niche.

Once you’ve crafted this resource, find relevant websites in your industry. Identify specific posts or pages on these sites where your resource could be beneficial. Crafting a well-researched, specific outreach email will increase your chances of gaining valuable backlinks from these websites.

This strategic approach ensures that your content is precisely matched to the needs of your target sites, making the outreach more effective.

Final Word

Both backlinks and referring domains play a crucial role in boosting your website’s authority and visibility in search engine results. To enhance your domain authority, initiate a strategic backlinking campaign, focusing on acquiring high-quality referring domains.

Whether you’re new to the web or an experienced site owner, building this strong foundation is a step in the right direction. Ready to begin? Explore our recommendations for the best website builders and web hosting services to kickstart your online journey.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Domain Authority

Frequently Asked Questions

Is getting 100 backlinks from 100 different websites better for ranking?

Not necessarily. While acquiring backlinks from multiple websites can enhance your link profile, quality prevails over quantity. Obtaining 100 backlinks from low-quality websites might have a negligible impact on rankings.

It’s more advantageous to focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative domains relevant to your niche. Quality backlinks can significantly boost your website’s ranking and authority.

How many backlinks are needed to increase domain authority?

To enhance domain authority, a website should aim for about 40 to 50 backlinks to the homepage and up to 100 backlinks to each individual webpage. The quality and PageRank scores of these backlinks are crucial, as high-quality backlinks require fewer in quantity to have a positive impact on SEO rankings. Focus on obtaining authoritative, high-value backlinks for the best results.

Is 1000 backlinks good?

Having 1000 backlinks to a website is considered above average. However, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Obtaining 100 backlinks from 100 different referring domains is more beneficial than having 1000 links from the same source. A diverse range of high-quality backlinks is key to improving SEO and domain authority.

How do I build 100 backlinks in 30 days or less?

Building 100 backlinks in 30 days or less can be achieved by creating and sharing infographics, enhancing social signals, reaching out to contributors on LinkedIn for mentions, guest blogging, and writing testimonials. Keep in mind that a decent velocity for backlinks is around 5-10 per month. To determine a specific number, consider factors like your website’s age, niche, and competition.

What is a domain name and what does it have to do with backlinking?

A domain name is a website’s unique address on the internet, like “” In backlinking, a domain name is associated with the source of a hyperlink. Websites receive backlinks when other sites link to their content using their domain names. These backlinks are crucial for boosting a site’s credibility and visibility in search engine rankings.

Do aged domains help my SEO?

Aged domains, which are domain names that have been registered for an extended period, may provide certain SEO benefits. They often have a history and existing backlinks, potentially contributing to improved domain authority.

However, the impact varies, and it’s essential to assess the domain’s history, relevance, and the quality of existing links before concluding that an aged domain will significantly benefit your SEO efforts.

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