Link Types

Referring Domains

Glossary  |  4 mins

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Referring domains, sometimes called linking domains, are websites from which a given target website has one or more backlinks.

If, for example, a target site has three links all hosted on TechCrunch, it can be said to have three backlinks and one referring domain. If it has two links from TechCrunch, and one link from Wired, it still has three backlinks, but two referring domains.

While they’re often measured alongside backlinks, tracking referring domains deals with the value of the entire site, rather than the value of a specific page that hosts a backlink.

Referring domains are important in SEO, as sites with backlink profiles that have a higher number of referring domains tend to perform better in organic rankings compared to those without. In some cases, sites that have a high number of backlinks, but a relatively small number of referring domains, can raise red flags in the eyes of Google’s algorithm. Sites that have a disproportionately high number of backlinks from a small cluster of referring domains can be seen as using spammy tactics, such as partnering with webmasters to build high volumes of unnatural links.

Aside from showing Google that a wide range of sites find your content valuable, building referring domains can be a useful way to diversify your backlink profile and protect it from ranking drops when referring sites and pages are deleted or removed. Furthermore, backlinks from referring domains that haven’t linked to the target site in the past have been shown to be more valuable for SEO compared to new links from a referring domain that’s already included in a target site’s backlink profile.

Referring domains can be a good metric to track when analysing your site’s ranking potential compared to competitors, as sites with a greater number of referring domains tend to rank higher on average than those with a low number.

Referring domains are also useful when vetting new sites for link building campaigns. This is because sites with a high number of referring domains are seen as more authoritative than those with a low number. Links from these kinds of sites are usually challenging to build, but also tend to be much more valuable for organic rankings.

Like backlinks themselves, referring domains can be gained by hosting authoritative, high quality content on your site, claiming lost or broken links, and guest posting on targeted referring domains.

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Referring Domains FAQs

What does referring domain mean in SEO?

In SEO, a referring domain is any website domain that hosts a backlink pointing to a given target site. The number and quality of referring domains in a backlink profile is commonly used as an indicator for a target site’s ranking potential.

What are referring domains in Semrush?

Semrush’s referring domains report gives users a breakdown of all the domains currently linking to a queried target site. The report is headed by a graph showing new and lost referring domains over time. Below this, the report shows a complete list of referring domains to a site, accompanied by metrics such as the number of backlinks each domain hosts, the first and last time the link was crawled, and Authority Score.

Questions to ask your link builder