The Battle of Backlinks and Referring Domains: What is the Difference Between them?
To maximise your SEO strategy, you need to have a strong understanding of the difference between a backlink and a referring domain (RD).
Understanding how each of these helps your website will allow you to use them to improve your Google rankings.
The difference is minimal, but it is enough to make Google question your credibility if you are using them incorrectly.
What is a Backlink?
Also known as inbound links, backlinks are a hyperlink between two websites.
These hyperlinks are usually embedded in text with anchor words that describe what the link is taking you to.
The links can also be embedded in images and buttons.
These backlinks are how Googlebot makes its way around the internet, travelling from page to page and site to site to understand what each page is about, and how it fits into the structure of the website itself.
This is where your anchor words become important when linking to an external site, or when creating an internal link within your own website.
If the anchor words don’t lend to the content, it makes it hard for Google to understand the relevance of the linked page.
This will also affect your SEO for this content. Without going over the top, it’s important to try and get a few keywords into your anchor text for a backlink.
The limit for backlinks truly does not exist. It is possible for your page to be backlinked hundreds of thousands of times.
These thousands of backlinks could also potentially come from one website. There is no limit to how many times a single website can backlink to your website.
What would that single site that has backlinked you, be called?
You guessed it…a Referring Domain.
The referring domain is the website that has hyperlinked your website.
So basically, backlinks are the individual hyperlinks themselves, connecting one of your pages to another website’s page.
Referring domain is the website-to-website relationship.
If website A hyperlinks website B, that gives website B a backlink. It also makes website A the referring domain.
If website A hyperlinks all 45 of your website’s pages, this gives you 45 backlinks, but they remain as the 1 single referring domain.
Most websites will have a significantly higher number of backlinks than referring domains.
The true power when it comes to SEO strategy lies in the number of high-quality referring domains.
Having many backlinks won’t necessarily result in your ranking higher on Google.
In fact, a high number of backlinks along with a low number of RD’s can be perceived by Google as paid linking or other such suspicious behaviour, and result in your rankings getting penalised.
If you have a reasonable number of backlinks from quality, reputable RD’s, that is where the magic happens.
A website with authority, high ratings, and a good reputation backlinking your site will drive your SEO and will also give your audience confidence that you can be trusted.
A newer, lesser-known website backlinking you is still ok if they are relevant to your content topic, it just won’t be favoured as much by Google when it comes to ranking.
If the backlink is coming from a reputable site, your consumer will be encouraged to have the same confidence in your site as they do in the RD site.
To tell if an RD is an authoritative one, it is best to look at the relevance of that site to yours, as well as how well they are favoured by search engines (what are their rankings like when you search the content topics on Google?)
To get an overview of how you are faring with backlinks vs RD’s, you can use a web-based backlink checker.
These will give you a rundown of how many backlinks and RD’s you have, as well as give them a rating.
Those links that are receiving poor ratings are best to be removed so that they don’t harm your SEO.
How Can I Get More of Both?
If you are creating quality content that provides your audience with value, information, explanations, and data, this will help people link to your website.
Make sure your content has a stance or point of view and provides research support.
Think of how often people use Google to research an argument they are trying to make. If you can support their argument, they are highly likely to backlink you in their post/article.
The best way to approach this is to try and create how-to posts, studies, roundups, infographics, or opinion pieces on the relevant subject matter.
You can also try to find opportunities to post on other people’s websites as a guest author.
This will usually give you a chance to link your website in your author bio, and potentially also throughout the piece you are writing.
Use search engines to find websites that are within your niche, or that explore relevant subjects in their content.
Once you have found some options, reach out to them with some examples of quality content seeking the opportunity to feature on their site.
If you are struggling to find websites to approach, you can opt to find some lower-quality content in your niche and produce a higher-quality version that could be offered to the publishing website.
You can also research your direct competitors’ backlinks for a list of other sites that are relevant to your niche.
Make sure you have a good grasp on your industry landscape prior to this process so that you understand what information the audience is interested in, what they need from the content, and how to compete with other businesses that may be using the same strategy.