Backlinks vs Referring Domains: Which is Better for SEO

Backlinks vs Referring Domains

In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), backlinks and referring domains play a significant role in determining a website’s search engine rankings and driving organic traffic. While they are often used interchangeably, there is a fundamental difference between backlinks and referring domains.

If you are learning about SEO for the first time, it’s important to understand the difference and know how to pitch to a client who is hearing about all this technical stuff for the first time.

Why? Simply put if a website is not SEO optimized, it will not be recommended on Google. Google gauges the quality of a website based on DA (domain authority). The higher the DA, the better chance of being ranked on page one on Google.

By understanding the difference between the two, you will understand which one of them to better focus on, and learn more about SEO optimization in order to rank on Google.

In this article, we will explore the main differences between the two, the best ways to use them for SEO, and the impact they can have on your website’s search engine rankings and overall success.

Google changed drastically over the years

google search engine on macbook pro
Photo by Pixabay on

In the past, if you are writing a blog post, you can simply write whatever you want and chances are, you could get ranked on page one without much effort.

Fast forward to 2020 when the pandemic hit, businesses all move online, and every business is looking to rank SEO on Google. Google receives 77 million blog posts a month and Ahrefs keyword research found that 90.63% of content published will not be ranked by Google.

Now link building is the fundamental layer for online businesses to follow in order to get ranked on Google. That’s why businesses are pumping money into building backlinks and referring domains.

What are Backlinks and Referring Domains?

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A backlink is a link from one website to another. It is also known as an inbound link or external link.

If another website links to your website, you have a backlink from that website. Backlinks are an essential part of SEO because search engines like Google use them to determine the authority and relevance of a website.

The more high-quality backlinks a website has, the more likely it is to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Referring domains, on the other hand, are the unique domains that link to your website.

If multiple pages on the same website link to your website, they will only count as one referring domain.

In other words, referring domains represent the number of unique websites that link to your website, whereas backlinks represent the total number of links pointing to your website.


The Main Differences Between Backlinks and Referring Domains

While backlinks and referring domains are closely related, there are some fundamental differences between them that are important to understand for SEO.

If you work on addressing and improving these issues, you can significantly increase DA in less than a month.

Quantity vs Quality (Backlink Wins)

Quantity vs Quality

Backlinks focus on quantity while referring domains focus on quality. In other words, having a lot of backlinks from the same website won’t have as much of an impact on your search engine rankings as having backlinks from many different websites. Referring domains are a better measure of the quality and diversity of your backlink profile.

Simply put, find big businesses that don’t mind featuring your post or business, their shares or links to your website are many times more valuable than smaller online businesses.

The best way to improve referring domains is to reach out to other businesses. This means learning to write well-crafted emails or reaching out directly to businesses to be featured. Here’s an example of how I reached out to a business I like.

how to email to businesses to increase referring domain
Backlinks vs Referring Domains: Which is Better for SEO 1

To boost my website HustleVentureSG SEO, I had to reach out to as many niche website that focuses on content similar to mine. That way, Google understands more about my website and thus, can rank it higher in authority.

Anchor Text (Backlink Wins)

Sharing what is Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink that is used to link to another page or website. As you can see in the image, the highlighted content in red is a hyperlink to find out more about the information I would like to discuss.

Backlinks often include anchor text, which can help search engines understand the context and relevance of the link. Referring domains, on the other hand, do not have anchor text associated with them.

If you want Google to understand your article, the best way to do that is by linking to as many backlinks to give Google a chance to fully understand what your content is truly valued for.

Here’s some example of how I can share content through anchor text to boost the relevance of this content:

Notice what I’m trying to push out? Yes, the keyword is SEO which is tied down to this content’s title. By adding as much relevance to the content, it shows Google that you know your stuff.

Domain Authority (Referring Domain Wins)

what is Domain Authority

Let’s go more in detail about DA (domain authority).

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). The DA of a website is calculated based on a number of factors, including the number and quality of backlinks and referring domains.

Backlinks have a more significant impact on a website’s DA than referring domains. The best part of all, it is easy to start and build from scratch without having to worry about external factors, unlike referring domains.

Domain authority scale
Backlinks vs Referring Domains: Which is Better for SEO 2

However, what backlinking lacks is credibility. You can link all your articles but if you aren’t working with other businesses on the web, Google isn’t going to boost your ranking. It’s common to see websites with a DA of 30 or below, with proper backlinks they could easily get 40 ~ 60. However, if they are looking to go beyond, referring domain is the only way.

Link Juice (Backlink Wins)

Pushing to website information through Link Juice

Link juice refers to the value that a link passes from one page to another. When a website links to your site, it passes some of its authority and value to your site. Backlinks pass more link juice than referring domains because they are individual links rather than just a count of unique domains.

Here’s what link juicing really means.

What link juicing means

If you are just starting a website, you can’t possibly challenge articles from recruitment centers in your local country because it is too competitive.

But what you can do is slowly write low-quality keywords article to boost your authority to go rank for long-tailed keywords. Once you have built enough online authority, tackling informative keywords shouldn’t be a problem.

Why Referring domain is more important

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

The score for backlinks to referring domains is 3:1. However, although backlinks and referring domains are important for SEO, referring domains are more important.

Google considers a backlink as a vote of confidence for your website, but it also takes into account the quality and authority of the referring domain. In other words, if your website gets a backlink from an authoritative website, it will have a greater impact on your search engine rankings than if it gets a backlink from a low-quality site.

Moreover, having a high number of backlinks from a single referring domain is not as effective as having backlinks from multiple authoritative referring domains. Google considers this as an attempt to manipulate search results and may penalize your website.

The Impact of Referring Domains on SEO

Referring domains play a significant role in search engine rankings and SEO efforts. Search engines use a variety of factors to determine the relevance and authority of a particular website. One of the most important ranking factors is the authority of a referring domain.

When a high-quality website with a good domain rating (DR) links to another website, it sends a strong signal to search engines that the target website is also of high quality. This, in turn, can improve the target website’s search engine rankings and drive organic search traffic to the site.

The Impact of Backlinks on SEO

While referring domains are important, backlinks also play a significant role in SEO. The number of backlinks to a website is an important factor in determining the site’s authority and relevance. However, it’s not just about the total number of backlinks, but also the quality of those backlinks.

Search engines use complex algorithms to determine the quality of a backlink. A good backlink should come from a high-quality site with a strong link profile, valuable content, and a good ratio of do-follow links to no-follow links.

It’s important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. A low-quality backlink from a spammy or irrelevant site can actually harm a website’s search engine rankings and result in a penalty from search engines.

The Best Ways to Build High-Quality Backlinks

Here’s a video by the well-known Online Marketer Neil Patel in which he shares his insight into building high-quality backlinks. Learning about the how-to, tips, and tricks which most beginners need to know.

Building high-quality backlinks is an essential part of any SEO strategy. Here are some of the most effective ways to build high-quality backlinks:

1. Guest Posting

Guest posting is a great way to build high-quality backlinks. By writing valuable content for other websites, you can earn a backlink in return. However, it’s important to choose the right websites to guest post on. Look for high-quality sites in your niche with a good DR and strong link profile.

HustleVentureSG has a domain authority of 47 and we are growing fast as a company. If you are looking to share content related to the personal finance and side hustle space. Be sure to click on the featured guest post service below!

2. Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves finding broken links on other websites and offering a replacement link to your own content. This can be a powerful tool for building high-quality backlinks, as you are providing value to other website owners while also earning a backlink in return.

3. Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique involves finding high-quality content in your niche and creating an even better version of that content. You can then reach out to other website owners and ask them to link to your new and improved content.

4. Authoritative Websites

Getting links from authoritative websites in your niche is a great way to boost your site’s authority and improve its search engine rankings. Look for websites with a high DR and strong link profile, and aim to get a link from their homepage or top-level pages.

The Best Ways to Build referring domain?

In conclusion, there are several effective strategies for building referring domains to your website. These include creating high-quality content, guest blogging on relevant websites, reaching out to influencers for collaborations, participating in online communities, and leveraging social media platforms.

By implementing these tactics consistently over time, you can increase the number and quality of referring domains to your site, which can improve your search engine rankings and ultimately drive more traffic and conversions. However, it’s important to remember that building referring domains is a long-term process that requires patience, persistence, and a commitment to providing value to your audience.

Want to learn more about Link Building?

Now that you have learned what there is to know about backlinks and referring domains for link building. If you would like to learn more about Link building. I highly recommend you check out Ahrefs complete guide to link building for beginners.

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