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Backlinks vs Referring Domains: Definitions and Differences

The marketing world is abundant in terminology. In fact, new terms emerge now and then. Even the most experienced marketers confuse them sometimes, let alone newbies looking for their big break in the industry. One of the most confusing pairs of terms is backlinks and referring domains. Although they seem similar, they’re actually quite complex. Knowing the differences between them can help you with SEO, marketing strategies, and online presence in general. However, mistaking them could reduce your strategy’s potential and effectiveness. Continue reading to finally understand the differences between the two.

What is a backlink?

A backlink, also commonly known as an inbound link, is a hyperlink between pages of different websites. Usually, it’s embedded into content, such as text, infographics, images, etc. This way, the linked words serve as the anchor text. 

Backlinks are necessary for search engine optimization (SEO). Web crawlers use them to access the website and collect relevant information for web indexing. They understand what website pages are all about with every anchor text. The number of backlinks isn’t fixed. Your webpage can link to one or more pages, and it’s up to your strategy whether you’ll get one or more backlinks. 

However, only links to pages outside your website are considered backlinks. Other links, such as those between your website pages, are known as internal links since they link pages within your website. 

What is a referring domain?

A referring domain or a linking domain is more complex than a backlink. It’s the website you used as a backlink to your website. When you’re creating content, you need backlinks to increase its authority and relevance. That’s why you find informative and reliable links from other websites to support your content’s credibility. The links you use are backlinks while the websites they originate from are referring domains.

The definition isn’t the only difference between the two terms. The way marketers count them is another one. You can get numerous backlinks from a website. No matter how many you use, they all stem from one website. That’s why you can count it as one referring domain. It’s also the reason why the number of referring domains and backlinks is rarely equal. When you build a trusting relationship with a business, you’ll link their website often.

How to Check Backlinks and Referring Domains?

We can’t stress enough how important authoritative backlinks and referring domains are for your website’s SEO. Each, in its unique way, contributes to the position of your website in the search engine results, especially if you’re aiming at high organic rankings. With the right tools, you can be sure you’ve made the best decision. While there are a few available options, we recommend the following two.

Google Search Console 

Google Analytics isn’t the only tool marketers like to use day in and day out. Google Search Console (GSC) is one of their favourite tools for conducting backlinks and referring domain audits. After logging in with your Google account, you have to set the domain if you haven’t already done that. When you’ve finally accessed the tool, you can click ‘’Links’’ in the toolbar. You’ll be able to see the ‘’External links’’ panel with the total number of your backlinks. For referring domain information, scroll down the page and check the data in the ‘’Top linking sites’’ panel.


Another tool you can use for this purpose is Ubersuggest. When you visit the tool, simply navigate to the ‘’Backlinks’’ tab. Here you can enter the domain’s URL, click search and analyze the results. The rating of every metric is among the displayed results. To get a deeper insight into the results, you can scroll down for a graphical representation. The graphs show won and lost domains as well as their range. For a list of all the backlinks, you can scroll to the bottom of the page. In case you find links from unknown or spammy websites, you can remove them from the list. 


Marketers have to be familiar with continuously evolving terminology. It’s the only way you’ll be able to bring the strategy to perfection and achieve higher rankings in the search results. Hopefully, this guide has helped you distinguish backlinks and referring domains. Now you can use this knowledge to boost your website’s rankings.

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