What is Referring Domain: Comprehensive Guide

If you own a website or work for an agency, you’re likely looking for ways to enhance your site’s rankings and attract more visitors.

While some argue that backlinks have become less important in recent years, having high-quality backlinks still plays a significant role in boosting your website’s search engine rankings and driving traffic to it.

The significance of referring domains for SEO is covered in this article, along with advice on how to assess them using various metrics.

Whether you’re a beginner in SEO or an experienced professional, harnessing the potential of referring domains is crucial for improving your website’s search engine rankings.

Let’s start exploring the topic right away!

What is a Referring Domain?

marketing lad ahrefs metrics

Referring domains, also known as linking domains, are external websites that provide backlinks pointing to your site. Backlinks are essentially hyperlinks, and referring domains are the websites that generate these links.

To illustrate, let’s consider Site A, an external website that has one or two backlinks pointing to Site B, which is your site. In this scenario, Site A is considered a referring domain for your site, regardless of the number of backlinks it provides.

Even if Site A has multiple backlinks pointing to your site, it still counts as a single referring domain.

In simpler terms, if a web page has a backlink from Wikipedia, it is attributed to one referring domain. Even if it has two backlinks from Wikipedia, it is still considered as one referring domain.

However, if it has a backlink from Wikipedia and another from Marketing Lad, it would be counted as two referring domains.

However, 10 distinct websites linking to your page would each be treated as a single referring domain.

 What distinguishes a backlink from a referring domain?

marketing lad ahrefs metrics

The terms “referring domain” and “backlink” are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. A backlink refers to a link from one website to another, whereas a referring domain represents a single website that contains multiple links leading to your website.

When examining backlinks, it is essential to closely analyze the specific links pointing to your site and their anchor texts.

On the other hand, you should evaluate the quality of the websites that link back to your site in addition to the overall quantity when analyzing referring domains.

This approach provides a deeper understanding of the diversity and strength of your backlink profile, enabling you to identify areas for improvement.

You may find high-quality websites that link to your website by looking at referring domains, and then concentrate on building connections with websites that are comparable to those in your sector.

This strategy helps in building your website’s authority and visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). Both backlinks and referring domains are crucial SEO metrics to monitor. By carefully examining each of them, you can gain valuable insights into your website’s authority, relevance, and SERP visibility.

What is a Backlink?

Backlinks are the primary means by which website crawlers like Googlebot navigate the internet.

These crawlers rely on backlinks to move from one page to another, utilizing the anchor text associated with each link to understand the content of the linked pages.

This underscores the importance of anchor text in the realm of SEO. The number of backlinks a website can acquire is limitless, and it is possible to receive multiple backlinks from the same site.

For instance, when one webpage links to another webpage, a single backlink is established. However, if that particular website links to ten different pages on your website, it results in ten distinct backlinks.

It’s worth noting that not all links fall under the category of backlinks. Links connecting different pages within your website are referred to as internal links, serving the purpose of navigation and organization within your site.

How to Check Referring Domains?

Multiple SEO tools are available for checking referring domains and backlinks, such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, Majestic, and SERanking. Among these, Ahrefs offers an excellent referring domains report, which we will discuss in detail.

When using Ahrefs’ referring domains report, you enter your target address and select the desired search report depth, which can be based on URL, exact URL, prefix, or domain with or without subdomains.

Upon accessing the Site Explorer overview, the first panel displays the total number of backlinks and referring domains from the search results, using the most recent database update from Ahrefs.

Typically, the number of backlinks will exceed the number of referring domains by a significant margin.

marketing lad ahrefs metrics

By clicking on the “Referring domains” number in the Ahrefs interface, you will be directed to the Referring Domains overview screen, located within the Backlink profile section of the sidebar.

This section presents a comprehensive data table that lists every referring domain that points to the specified target site. It includes various metrics for each referring domain, such as organic traffic, the number of linking domains associated with each referring domain, and the total number of linked domains that the referring domain directs to.

This feature allows for thorough competitive analysis. To begin, you can access the Referring Domains overview for the competitor you wish to examine by navigating to Site Explorer, then selecting Search, followed by Backlink profile, and finally Referring Domains.

Once you have access to the referring domains linking to the competitor’s site, you can search for relevant websites that you can potentially obtain backlinks from.

The ultimate goal is to replicate the strategies of your top competitors, including closely mimicking their backlink profile and subsequently improving upon it.

When conducting backlink analysis, it is important to search for the following types of referring domains:

  • Authoritative and widely recognized domains within your industry.
  • Relevant websites that cover topics similar to yours.
  • Websites that utilize “do follow” links (you can apply the “do follow” filter to refine your search).
  • Sites with substantial organic traffic can be sorted from high to low for easier evaluation.
marketing lad ahrefs metrics

Suppose you come across an intriguing Referring Domain (RD) and want to explore it further. By clicking on the drop-down menu under the “Links to target” column corresponding to that RD, you can access detailed information about each backlink that directs to your target site from that specific referring domain.

Within this expanded view, you will find additional data for each backlink, including the referring page, traffic statistics, contextual anchor text, and hyperlinks.

Context of the backlink is particularly valuable as it provides insights on how you could potentially obtain a backlink from that referring domain.

Additionally, the referring domains overview allows you to gather competitive intelligence by identifying the serial linkers associated with your competitors and determining how frequently they link to your competitor’s website.

Serial linkers refer to those referring domains that link to the same website multiple times.

For practical analysis, you may consider filtering for “do follow” referring domains with a minimum of 25 to 50 links directed to the target.

By expanding the drop-down menu for each serial linker, you can delve deeper into their specific linking patterns and strategies.

Pay attention to referring domains that exhibit the following linking patterns:

  • Links originating from multiple pages or posts can be identified through the “Referring page” column.
  • Links are provided in diverse contexts, as indicated in the “Anchor and backlinks” column.
  • Links that have been established repeatedly over an extended period, as indicated by the “First seen, Last Check” column.

These are some of the valuable insights you can uncover using Ahrefs’ referring domains explorer tool, as well as other SEO tools. It’s important to note that the same analyses you conduct for your competitors can also be applied to your website.

Referring  Domains and SEO

seo and referring domains

There seems to be a clear link between the quantity of distinct referring domains and the volume of organic search traffic.

A recent study conducted by Ahrefs revealed that most websites lacking any referring domains typically receive zero Google traffic.

Additionally, the research demonstrated that approximately 91% of one billion web pages do not attract any organic visitors in a given month.

Referring domains serve as valuable assets for search engines to assess the reliability of your website. Establishing connections with numerous reputable referring domains is crucial for enhancing your search engine results page (SERP) performance.

Therefore, incorporating effective link-building strategies becomes an essential element of optimizing your website for search engines.

Ideal Techniques for Building Referring Domains and Backlinks

A. Produce Amazing Content

amazing content

Producing outstanding content is an excellent approach to gradually acquiring new, top-notch backlinks and referring domains.

When your website offers substantial value, assists in explaining intricate subjects, or provides valuable data to support arguments, other websites will naturally link to it.

Considering this, there are specific types of content that I suggest creating to generate backlinks:

  • Studies and surveys yield insightful findings and statistics.
  • Comprehensive guides and instructional posts that delve deeply into a subject.
  • Thought-provoking pieces that showcase a unique perspective on a topic.
  • Round-up posts that compile diverse opinions or resources on a subject.
  • Infographics that visually present information in a compelling manner.

Regardless of the content type, remember that quality is crucial. Your content must be demonstrably superior to existing content on the first page of Google if you wish to attract backlinks.

B. Engage in Guest Posting on Other Websites

guest blogging

You don’t have to solely rely on organic backlinks to increase your backlink profile and referring domains. Guest posting on other websites is an effective strategy to build backlinks and expand your referring domains.

When writing a guest post, you usually have the opportunity to include one or more links to your website within the main content or your author bio.

To start guest posting, identify high-quality websites that accept guest contributions. There are many ways to achieve this.

One approach is to examine the backlink profiles of your competitors and identify sites where they have previously contributed as guests.

Another method is to use specific Google search parameters to manually find websites in your niche that accept guest posts.

If you are looking for guest post opportunities in the field of digital marketing, you can search for something like:

intitle: “guest post” digital marketing

Google will display websites related to digital marketing that have the term “guest post” in their page titles.

C. Actively Reach Out to Other Websites


Another strategy is to proactively contact websites and request backlinks. This method is particularly effective when combined with high-quality content.

For instance, you can employ the skyscraper technique to create exceptional content and then reach out to websites.

If your new article provides sufficient value, many website owners may choose to link to it as well.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the overall landscape in your industry, analyze the backlink profiles of your competitors.

Benefits of Using Tools to Check Referring Domains


Utilizing a domain checker tool allows you to analyze websites that contain backlinks to your site. Understanding the sources of your backlinks provides valuable insights for enhancing your website’s traffic and ranking.

However, it’s important to note that the quantity of backlinks alone does not guarantee a higher ranking. It is crucial to prioritize the quality of referring domains.

Keeping a close watch on referring domains is essential, and this is where a domain checker tool proves helpful. Acquiring your initial backlink can be challenging, as gaining trust and credibility for your brand is not an easy task.

Some individuals resort to unethical methods to obtain backlinks, resulting in misleading or irrelevant information for users.

To address this concern, Google consistently updates its algorithms to evaluate websites. In the past, Google has penalized or demoted numerous websites for such practices.

Being aware of the backlinks you acquire can greatly benefit your website’s ranking performance.

There are numerous referring domain checker tools available, offering various features and functionalities. You can choose the tool that best suits your specific needs and requirements.

Tools to Check Referring Domains

1. Ahrefs

backlink checker

Ahrefs, renowned as the most potent backlink checker, possesses the second most active web crawler worldwide, trailing only Google. Consequently, Ahrefs boasts the most comprehensive and superior backlink database in the industry.

The backlink index of Ahrefs is regularly updated with fresh data every 15 minutes, ensuring the provision of the most up-to-date information available.

By utilizing Ahrefs, users can access domain and page-level metrics for any desired target, offering actionable and insightful SEO insights. Key metrics include:

  • Several referring domains: Indicates the number of unique domains that link to the target website.
  • Several backlinks: Reflects the total count of backlinks pointing to the target.
  • Domain Rating (DR): A metric used to evaluate the overall authority and strength of a website’s backlink profile.
  • Ahrefs Rank (AR): A proprietary ranking metric that assesses a website’s popularity and visibility based on its backlink profile.

Moreover, Ahrefs provides comprehensive information about the websites linking to the target through domain-wide metrics. The Referring Domains report provides an extensive overview, including:

  • Domain Rating: Evaluates the strength of the linking domains.
  • Referring domains (followed): Specifies the number of linking domains that pass SEO value through the following links.
  • Linked domains (followed): Represents the domains that contain follow links to the target.
  • Estimated organic traffic: Estimates the amount of organic search traffic received by the linking domains.
  • Links to target: Indicates the total number of links and the subset of followed links directing to the target.

Overall, Ahrefs’ backlink checker offers a robust platform for analyzing backlinks and obtaining valuable SEO insights at both domain and page levels.

2. Semrush

semrush backlinks checker

With their backlink checker, you can accurately examine backlinks for almost any website, with a staggering count of 43 trillion backlinks at your disposal.

Through extensive research, they have developed the largest backlink database compared to other well-known competitors.

As the fastest backlink discovery tool available, you can assess their website’s performance and stay ahead of your competitors’ campaigns. Their dedication to updating the database ensures that you can swiftly find backlinks on Semrush.

3. All in One SEO (AIOSEO)

marketinglad ahrefs data

AIOSEO, also known as All in One SEO, is the most popular SEO tool specifically designed for WordPress. With a user base exceeding 3 million, this tool has become the go-to choice for managing SEO on WordPress websites.

  • Standout feature of this plugin is its seamless integration with WordPress, allowing users to incorporate it directly into their websites.
  • This integration simplifies the process of monitoring and analyzing website performance using the AIOSEO plugin.
  • Using AIOSEO is its ability to provide insights into the number of backlinks and internal links present on your website.
  • This knowledge is crucial for enhancing your website’s SEO.
  • By having a clear understanding of the backlinks and internal links on your website.
  • You can implement strategies to optimize your SEO efforts and improve your website’s visibility in search engine rankings.

4. Moz Pro


Moz Pro is a comprehensive SEO suite that includes a referring domain checker tool, available in both free and paid versions. This tool enables users to obtain a thorough link profile analysis of their website.

By having access to your website’s profile, you can make comparisons with other websites and determine your ranking position. Additionally, you can identify areas where your competitors have surpassed you.

One of the notable features of Moz Pro is the Link Intersection functionality. Also, with this feature, you can investigate the websites that link to your competitors’ websites but do not link to your own.

This valuable information allows you to identify potential link-building opportunities and develop strategies to enhance your backlink profile.


Understanding the concept of referring domains is essential for effective search engine optimization in 2024. Referring domains play a crucial role in determining the credibility and authority of a website.

They are the external websites that link to your website, serving as endorsements and signals of trust to search engines.

This comprehensive guide has provided an in-depth understanding of referring domains, their significance, and their impact on organic search traffic.

We explored the correlation between the number of unique referring domains and the amount of organic search traffic a site receives, highlighting the importance of building high-quality backlinks.

Furthermore, we discussed various strategies to acquire backlinks and increase referring domains.

These tactics, combined with the use of backlink checker tools like Ahrefs and Moz Pro, enable website owners and SEO practitioners to analyze and optimize their link profiles effectively.

In addition, by leveraging the power of referring domains, businesses, and website owners can enhance their search engine rankings, attract more organic traffic, and establish their online authority.

Also, as the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying informed about referring domains and implementing effective link-building strategies will remain crucial for achieving success in the competitive online world.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a referring domain in analytics?

The ‘Referring domain’ dimension provides information on the domains visitors have used to find your website. This dimension is important for identifying the external websites that send the most visitors to your site.

2. What is the original referring domain?

The ‘Original referring domain’ dimension provides information on the first referring site that a visitor used to find your website. Once set, it will always have the same value for as long as the visitor ID is in use. This dimension might help you identify the external websites that first brought visitors to your website.

3. What are referring domains for SEO?

A referring domain (also known as a linking domain) is an outside website that contains backlinks and is “referring” to your website.

Also, it may help your website rank higher overall, drive more organic traffic, and build brand awareness from an SEO standpoint.

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