Concerns around domain authority and similar metrics has led to an obsession with working towards backlinks on new, stronger referring domains, with less concern about nurturing the number of links or the topical authority they already have from a given domain.
While it’s true there’s a correlation between backlink profiles spanning multiple domains and strong organic traffic, the value of a new referring domain should never take priority over the value of individual links. Some marketers believe that having several backlinks from a single domain can be seen as unnatural, and in some extreme cases even spammy. Context is of course everything, so while ‘the more the merrier’ is applicable when it comes to high quality referring domains, this can get in the way of some hugely valuable opportunities – especially when considering how different pages on the same website can perform.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at building multiple links from a single domain, the best way to go about it, and the kind of value it can promise you as a marketer.
Referring domains and backlinks explained
Before we get into the case for building multiple backlinks from a single domain, let’s refresh our memories on what referring domains and backlinks are, their differences, and their relationship to each other.
Referring domains refers to any site that has hyperlinked to your domain. If your target site, sitea.com, has three backlinks from various places on siteb.com, we can say that it has one referring domain and three backlinks. If the same site had a link each from siteb.com, sitec.com, and sited.com, we can say that it has three referring domains and three backlinks.
Backlinks, simply put, are any link that points from one website to another. A backlink from a high quality, authoritative website to yours can be thought of as a “vote of confidence” for both the site in general, and the specific piece of content that it’s targeting. Search engine algorithms look at various factors of a backlink to determine the relevance, importance, and credibility of its target site, and use this information in its algorithm to rank the target page for various search terms.
Because both the raw number of backlinks pointing to a site, and the quality and relevance of referring domains, can have a profound impact on rankings, backlinks and referring domains are constantly at the front of a good SEO’s mind.
There’s also a well-documented correlation between the number of distinct referring domains, and the amount of organic traffic that a site receives. Though this correlation isn’t enough to point to causation, this suggests that the more backlinks from unique domains you can build, the better your flow of traffic will be.
The reasonable surfer model and the value of links from a single page
Anyone who works in SEO knows that not every backlink is equal, and that the quality and authority of a given referring domain will have a big impact on how valuable the backlinks it hosts are.
What’s less well-known, however, is the variance in value for links that exist on the same page together.
From the point when PageRank was first used in Google’s algorithm back in the late 90s, any two links on the same page would transfer the same amount of link equity to any page either of them pointed at. This was determined through Google’s “random surfer” model, a graph model used to map out the probability of a random web user clicking on a link.
In 2010, Google updated this approach to use a “reasonable surfer” model instead. Under this model, Google ranks pages based on an expanded range of data sources, looking at not only the features of a link’s source page, but also the page that the link is targeting, and the link itself.
Some of the simpler factors that affect the way Google will view a link include the font size, colour, the anchor text, where on the page the link appears, and other factors that might encourage or discourage attention from a “reasonable surfer”. Aside from that, Google now collects reams of data on how a visitor to a given page interacts with that page, including the search terms they use to reach it in the first place, the sections of content that they look at the most, and the links that they click on.
With this kind of variance from one link to another within a referring domain, even when both are contained within a single page, it’s clear how careful, well-targeted link building within a single domain can improve a given backlink profile’s overall equity.
How traffic and site hierarchy affects authority of links
Now we know that Google assesses the value of links themselves, independent of the domain authority of the site they appear on. With that out of the way, let’s look at the kinds of strategies and practices that can be employed to build additional links on the same domain, and improve your organic rankings.
Firstly, targeting backlinks from referring pages that get a higher amount of referring traffic can have a positive effect on the link equity being channelled to your site. Studies have shown that the sum of organic traffic to a referring page has a positive correlation with the rankings of its target pages. This factor even shows a stronger correlation than the number of high-traffic pages with links pointing to a given target page. With this in mind, if you find yourself having to choose between a single link from a page with a huge amount of traffic, and links from several pages that receive a moderate amount of traffic, then the former will generally be the better choice for your rankings.
Secondly, targeting links from pages higher up a domain’s hierarchy can also have potential to drive up your site’s rankings. Aside from ensuring your link will be within the referring site’s crawl budget, links from pages higher up a site’s hierarchy tend to have greater authority and traffic (both of which are generally understood to play a significant role in positively effecting the equity passed through the link to your site). This is especially true for large, long-running sites that host highly specific pieces of content, where page authority varies greatly from one page to another.
Bear in mind that while both of these factors show a correlation with higher rankings in a given site’s backlink profile, correlation is not equal to causation. There are going to be referring pages with tons of traffic that won’t channel as much value as a referring page with lower traffic, and there are going to be pages far down a referring site’s hierarchy that will promise better value than the homepage.
Though these exceptions to the rules may be rare, it’s essential that you take other factors into account, and carefully consider how a new prospective referring page may perform.
A checklist for building links from the same domain
Now that we know how building links within a single domain can affect the ranking of your site, here’s a quick checklist to use when assessing the quality of a new backlink from a domain that’s already included in your backlink profile.
How was the link obtained?
Before you spend any time working to gain an additional backlink from a referring domain in your profile, make sure you’re able to obtain it using white-hat methods that won’t drag down your site equity. When coming to a new SEO project for an unfamiliar site, you may find its backlink profile polluted with toxic backlinks that have been obtained by buying links or spamming blog comments. Sometimes this is a reflection on the prior SEO more than the referring domain, but it’s still important to exercise caution.
Do prior links provide referral traffic?
Although referral links can be a good source of qualified, high-quality traffic, the general consensus in the SEO community is that they won’t have a positive effect on your rankings in the same way that an organic dofollow link will. Don’t lose sight of the end goal when building links, and consider whether your effort could be better spent on another domain.
Content relevancy and authority
Just because a previous link was a good option for your SEO strategy, it doesn’t mean that a fresh link from the same referring domain is desirable. When you’re scouring your existing links for opportunities to build new ones from the same referring domains, be sure to look into the site’s authority and the content’s relevancy before trying to build a new link, the same way you would with any prospective referring domain.
Expanding content and linking to other pages
Though you may want to improve the rankings for a specific page on your site, it’s important to look at same-domain link building in a wider context, and take steps to ensure you’re not missing better opportunities elsewhere. Don’t rush into every opportunity as it presents itself, and consider the possibility of expanding existing content to link to a hidden gem on your site that may have more relevance to the referring page.
We hope this guide and the others in our link building blog have helped you understand more about building multiple links from a single domain. Though building a large cluster of links from a single site or even a single page isn’t always advisable, it can send some very positive signals to Google and boost your site’s overall rankings. If a website has provided a resource link to your domain previously, it is quite conceivable that another link (preferably to a different page and after a short period of time has lapsed) would naturally occur.
Topically relevant websites that linked out once to you already are quite likely to reference your website once more, and as links decay over time – it’s well worth having the strong trust signals multiple links from the same domain very often provide, in our opinion. To learn how creative link building can have a positive impact on your business get in touch today.