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The Impact of Referring Domains on SEO Performance: Best Practices Unveiled

Table of Contents

What is a referring domain?

In simple words, the websites directing users to your site are called referring domains or linking domains. In technical terms, referring domains are one-of-a-kind websites that create links to a specific website and may send traffic to the site through one or several outgoing links.

Let’s understand it with an example. Let’s consider that Site A is an external website, and Site B is your website. If Site A has one or more backlinks to Site B, it is regarded as a referring domain of Site B (your website).

Remember that Site A is still regarded as a single referring domain for Site B, even if the website obtains several backlinks from it. An important point to consider is that the greater the number of referring domains, the more valuable the site will be. In technical terms, a referring domain usually regarded as a metric used for analysis. Let’s take another example, if you have a health and fitness site and someone else have a yoga website with a huge user base. In such a case, if you get a link from the yoga website, it will help your website to gain a ranking as well through backlink from an organic source.

Difference between a Backlink and a Reference Domain?

Difference between backlink and referring domain

The terms “referring domain” and “backlink” are often used interchangeably; however, they both convey different things. In simple words, backlinks are strands connecting one website to another.On the other hand, a referring domain is a site where the link to your site is placed. The same website can provide you with one or more backlinks. There can be many backlinks to your site, and in the same way, there can be many referring domains.

How do referring domains impact SEO?

Backlinks and referring domains are crucial for getting more traffic to your site. For this, you need to focus on building quality links. Search engines like Google give preference to websites that include more relevant and authentic backlinks in their search results.

Referring domains and backlinks go hand in hand in SEO. The reason is pretty simple. The total number of backlinks may include links that might not be useful for search engines and users, such as backlinks from spammy sites or low-quality pages. Thus, considering just the number of backlinks doesn’t show the actual value of the backlink profile. Search engines determine the value of backlinks based on many other attributes, such as

·       Position of the backlink

·       Page Rank of the linking page

·       Relevance of the backlink

·       Anchor text

Let us now understand how referring domains influence SEO and what benefits you get from having more referring domains.

Higher rankings

The number and authority of referring domains may significantly affect your ranking position on Google. Backlinks are an important and well-known ranking factor as shown in many studies and has been confirmed by experts.

The pages with the highest number of total backlinks typically rank higher on Google (Backlinko, 2020).

Links are considered one of the top two criteria in Google’s page ranking algorithms (Search Engine Land).

However, not all backlinks are created equal, and the quality of the backlinks is equally important in consideration of the ranking of a site.

More traffic

According to the Ahrefs study (2023), websites with more referring domains tend to receive more organic traffic. Websites with 100+ referring domains received 15 times more organic traffic than websites with only 1-3 backlinks.

Better click-through rate

The higher number of quality backlinks and authority referring domains has positive impact upon the click through rate.  A research study found that backlinks can increase click-through rates by as much as 50%. (Search Engine Journal 2022)

How do I check referring domains?

Many third-party tools, like ESL Ranks Pro, are designed to help SEO experts and webmasters analyse their backlinks and referring domain metrics. ESL Ranks Pro allow you to check backlinks by fetching the entire SEO data of a site and show it in a single dashboard. By using this tool, you can analyse referring domains, backlinks, and more.

esl ranks pro page

ESL Pro’s Backlink Checker assists you in finding the following:

  • The referring domains and backlinks
  • The geographical distribution of the maps
  • The anchor text distribution for backlinks
  • New and lost referring domains

Let’s understand each metric in more detail.

The number of referring domains and backlinks

number of referring domain and backlinks

ESL Ranks Pro backlink checker tool helps you understand how diversified your backlink profile is. By analysing the growth rate of your backlink profile over time, you can identify which pages are showing improvement and which are declining and make informed decisions to improvise your outreach strategy.

By analysing distribution of backlinks and referring domains, you can ensure that your link structure is well-optimized. It provides you valuable insights into a website’s SEO health and link-building strategy.

Anchor text distribution for backlinks

Anchor text distribution for backlinks

The clickable text on a link is regarded as the anchor text. By analysing the variety and distribution of anchor text for your website’s backlinks and referring domains, you can find out if it is diverse and relevant to your site.  A diverse and natural anchor text profile plays a significant role in improving website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

The geographical distribution map of backlinks

The geographical distribution map shows from where the majority of your backlinks are coming. When you analyse this data, it can help you tailor your outreach efforts to specific regions and identify potential opportunities for growth. It also helps you to refine your content strategy to better resonate with targeted audience.

geographical distribution map of backlinks and new referring domain

Analyse the backlinks

With this tool, you can easily identify new backlinks and understand their quality. Not all backlinks are valuable for your site, and some can even harm your site if they are coming from low-quality or spammy websites. By constantly monitoring your backlinks using a backlink checker, you can identify and disavow harmful backlinks. By tracking the number and quality of backlinks, you can determine if your efforts are paying off. If you notice a sudden drop in backlinks, it may indicate a problem with your website or a manual penalty from Google.

It also helps you understand not just your own backlink profile but also that of your competitors. By gaining valuable insights into your competitor’s website, you can use them to improve your website’s ranking and visibility.

It is recommended to analyse all of these metrics to get a better insight of your backlink profile and make informed decisions that lead to improved SEO results, including higher search engine rankings and increased organic traffic.

analyse the backlinks

One must always bear in mind that the impact of referring domains on CTR depends on many factors such as the anchor text distribution, quality and relevance of the backlinks and overall user experience of the website. However, by focusing on natural and diverse backlink profile with high-quality referring domains, you can significantly improve your website’s click-through rate and overall SEO success.

12 effective ways to get more referring domains

It is not easy to get referring domains to your website. You have to put forth the required efforts toget links to your website. Here are some of the most popular and effective ways to acquire new referring domains for your site.

1. Using the right tool to analyse backlinks and referral domains

One of the ways to elicit the secrets of your backlink profile is by using a referring domain report (you can get this report in ESL Ranks Pro). Evaluate the quality and number of referring domains using the report. It helps in determining which domain has the strongest backlink profile. By examining the referring domains report, you can identify extra link-building opportunities. It will also help you identify domains boasting high domain authority scores as well as discover hidden opportunities for further link-building success.

2. Identify your best-performing pages.

Identify your most popular pages for your link-building initiative. The most popular pages here refer to those pages of your site that have been linked to the most times. When other websites and people link to your site, it shows that they find the information valuable. The top pages are the most valuable for the ranking of your site. You can use any online tool to discover top-performing pages and content gaps. By analysing contact gaps, you can focus on building compelling content that drives traffic and engagement. Creating relevant articles, blogs, and web pages also helps to get more referral domains.

3. Create engaging and valuable content.

When you share useful and engaging content, it will increase the number of links from authoritative domains in your field. A successful content marketing campaign will help you increase traffic from referral sources and improve rankings in search engines. Here are some content marketing strategies to get more links from distinct referring domains:

4. Use industry directories.

Industry directories are a great source for gaining visibility and referring domains. List your website in relevant and authoritative directories to enhance your online visibility, which will eventually help you get more traffic and backlinks from these credible sources.

5. Create linkable assets.

These are top-notch assets that draw backlinks naturally. These assets could be guides, reports, or infographics. Create top-notch assets like guides, reports, or infographics in a way that other websites would like to link to them.

6. Reach out to the unlinked brand mentions.

Sometimes, your brand is mentioned online without any links. One must develop an outreach campaign to detect unlinked brand mentions and contact them, asking them to include a link to your site on their webpage.

7. Improve your strategy to reach the intended searchers.

Knowing your audience is the first and foremost step in any marketing strategy. If you want to conduct a successful link-building and SEO campaign, it is important to understand your audience using a data-driven approach, such as demographics and online routines. Once you have identified the interests and preferences of your audience, create content that is engaging and relevant to them.

8. Observe your competitor’s link-building efforts.

Looking at what your competitors are doing is a way to get better insights on what you should do. To begin with, you can assess your competitor’s backlink profile in ESL Rank pro. By evaluating their backlinks in the tool, you can get some insights as well as ideas for your link-building strategies.

9. Distribute your work around.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise on other websites is also a way to boost your reputation as an industry leader. Write high-quality articles for other sites in exchange for backlinks to your site.

10. Host an affiliate program.

Affiliate programs encourage other websites to put links to your products and services and receive commissions on the sale. It not only improves sales but also helps to develop a referring domain network. Host an appealing affiliate program to encourage your affiliates to participate and create links to your site.

11. Monitor your backlink profile.

Monitor your backlink profile regularly to ensure that low-quality referring domains do not link to your site, and if you find one, you must disown them before it can harm your reputation and make your site penalized by Google.

12. Broken link building

Broken link building is also an effective strategy to get more referral domains and strengthen your backlink profile. Find broken links on other websites and offer to replace their broken links with a link to your content.


If you want more organic traffic to your site, you need to work on improving your backlink profile and referring links. Diverse referring domains linking to your website signals high quality and trustworthiness attracting more clicks and visitors. By analysing referring domains and backlinks, you can ensure anchor text distribution is relevant and diverse and refine overall strategy for SEO success.

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