Open any SEO manual online, read any guide, or talk to any expert who has spent years boosting websites’ visibility in search engines; you’ll find one thing in common – the emphasis on link building as a key to achieving SEO success. It feels like an e-commerce platform for SEO where you’re just adding links to your cart.  But in this race to link to as many websites as possible, one thing is often ignored – the quality of links. This quantity vs. quality debate brings us to this blog’s topic: referring domains.

For all its importance, link building is sometimes made more simplified than it is. It is not a simple or easy task. It requires plenty of research and a lot of creativity and outreach. You need to find relevant and authoritative websites that are ready to link to your content. You must also create top-quality and engaging content that attracts and deserves links.

Talking about link building, Google’s SEO guide says links from high-quality, authoritative websites carry more weight than those from low-quality ones. So, while acquiring links, factors like domain authority and website traffic should be considered. This means, that instead of gorging links from whatever source you can, you should carefully analyze referring domains and only link with those which could bring meaningful juice to your website.

Understanding referring domains

A referring domain, also known as a linking domain, is any website that links to your website with at least one backlink. Each unique referring domain is seen by search engines as a vote of confidence for your website, essentially vouching for its credibility and relevance.

Referring domains are a form of “trust currency”, representing the credibility and relevance of a website in the eyes of other websites and, consequently, search engines. Again, don’t get carried away with sourcing links from a million different sites. Here’s what you’d be looking at first:

  • Relevance: How relevant the referring domain is to the topic you have discussed. Just because a health and fitness website has a high domain authority, it doesn’t mean you should link it to your interior design webpage.
  • Trust: The referring domain should be trustworthy and reputable and not associated with spammy or malicious activities. For example, a link from a government website or a well-known media outlet is more trustworthy than a link from a low-quality or unknown website.
  • Diversity: The referring domain should be different from the other referring domains that link to the same website. For example, a link from a new website or a different country is more diverse than a link from the same website or the same country.

Some examples of well-known websites that serve as powerful referring domains are:

·         Wikipedia: The website covers almost every topic imaginable and has a high authority and trust score. Getting a link from Wikipedia can boost your credibility and visibility and drive traffic from its millions of users.

·         Forbes: Forbes has a much wider appeal than a mere list of the richest persons in the world. It is considered a global leader in business, finance, technology, and other topics. Getting a link to one of Forbes’ articles can enhance your reputation and exposure.

·         HuffPost: The online news and opinion website that covers various subjects such as politics, entertainment, lifestyle, and more. A link from HuffPost can increase your influence, as well as reach potential customers from its diverse and loyal audience.

·         Quora: The online Q&A forum allows anyone to ask questions on any topic. Getting a link from Quora can demonstrate your content’s expertise as a problem solver and providing valuable answers.

Quality over quantity: Assessing referring domain authority

The debate over referring domains vs backlinks is the one that might outlast most of us. While backlinking focuses more on quantity, referring domains are all about quality. The authority of the linking domain itself is a crucial factor. Search engines use several metrics to determine the authority, such as Domain Authority (DA). There are tools that help you determine the DA when considering a referring domain.

  • Moz Domain Authority (DA): A widely used metric ranging from 0-100, with higher scores denoting stronger domain authority. Moz also has a browser extension, MozBar, that displays DA along with other metrics while you browse the web.
  • Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR): Similar to DA, ranging from 0-100 and reflecting a website’s overall link profile strength.
  • SEMrush Authority Score: Another metric ranging from 0-100, assessing a website’s link profile and the overall SEO performance.

One more method is to group several websites from your niche and compare their DA. This can provide a relative measure of how authoritative the website is among its competitors.

While going out looking for authoritative referring URL is one way of getting quality backlinks, other strategies can also work like an organic link magnet for you.

  • Linkable assets: If you ever feel you can’t find the answer to ‘how to get more referring domains’, just go back to linkable assets. These are pieces of content or resources that add value to users’ experience and have, thus, high sharing value. These can include comprehensive guides, research studies, infographics, tools, or any content that provides substantial value to your target audience.
  • Ego bait: It is a strategy that involves creating content that features or highlights influential individuals, companies, or organizations within your industry. This content is designed to appeal to the ego of these entities, making them more likely to share or link to it. For example, you are in the hospitality industry, and you have interviewed a big chef. Now, you share the interview on your website, and the chef will share it with his followers. This gives you a natural backlink from an authoritative personality.
  • Reverse engineering: This means you’re going backwards to analyze the backlink profiles of competitors to identify their strategies. By understanding what works for others, you can replicate and improve upon those strategies.

Here is a five-step guide for reverse engineering:

  1. Make a list of your main competitors or well-established players in your industry that consistently rank well and have a strong online presence.
  2. Use backlink analysis tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, and Majestic to retrieve information about their backlinks.
  3. Look at the anchor texts used in the backlinks to see what keywords and phrases your competitors are targeting.
  4. Review the domains that are linked to your competitors and pay attention to the quality of these domains.
  5. While carrying out the above steps, keep an eye on broken links. They are your chance to one-up on your competitors. If you find broken links on competitors’ websites, reach out to the linking domains and offer your content as a replacement.
  • Guestographics: According to a study by Backlinko, infographics are the most linked-to content type, with an average of 25.8 links per infographic. So, if you create an insightful infographic, other websites would line up for a link. You have just leveraged the visual appeal of infographics, and links will start falling on your website just like that.

Using referring domains to improve user perceptions

Authoritative referring domains can improve audience perception of a website by transferring some of its credibility and value to the linked website. When a site receives a link from an authoritative referring domain, it signals to the audience that the website is relevant, reliable, and valuable in its niche or industry. This increases the audience’s interest, engagement, and loyalty to the website.

According to a study, 91% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that people are more likely to trust a website if it has positive feedback and endorsements from other reputable sources. Therefore, having links from authoritative referring domains can boost a website’s trustworthiness and reputation among its audience.

Common mistakes to avoid

Getting links from other websites is a quest during which even the most seasoned SEO pros often get carried away and make mistakes – rather blunders – that tank not only their link-building strategy but the entire website. Search engines know when someone tries to game it. If you’re found violating guidelines or engaging in deceit, the search engine’s wrath will come down hard on you. The end result would be your site would be penalized and, in worst cases, banished from the search engine. So, while trying to get links, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Avoid tactics like link buying, link schemes, or blog comments solely for backlinks. Aim for natural link-building strategies. Encourage others to link to your content based on its merit and usefulness.
  • While reaching out to people, always remember you’re asking them for a favor. Don’t be a headache by bombarding them with tons of emails. You’d be shown way off the spam folder in no time.
  • Don’t stuff link after link in your content. It comes off as excessive and confuses the readers.
  • It is highly recommended to regularly audit your backlink profile to find and disavow any spammy or irrelevant links. This helps maintain a clean and authoritative link profile.

Future trends in referring domains and SEO

Searching online is now all about user experience. Every move by search engines is now aimed at making this experience better. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in search engines enables them to comprehend user intent better and provide more relevant results.

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is now replacing featured snippets at the top of SERPs. To feature there, your content has to add value to the user experience and comprehensively answer their queries. In this age of AI-driven search engines, improving the authority of your website is more critical than ever before. One way to do it is to get strongest backlinks by producing top-notch content.

So, the idea is to leverage the power of AI to analyze enormous amounts of data to identify relevant websites and potential link targets. AI can also personalize outreach emails based on the contact information, website content, and relevant interests of the target website owner. With tailored messages to each recipient, your outreach campaign would be more engaging and relevant, leading to higher response rates.

Over to You

Ask any expert who has been in the SEO game, and they will tell you that link building is always quality over quantity. So, five links from reputed referring domains are better than 10 links from one website. The idea is to build credibility to improve your website’s online presence. You’re lucky that now AI is here to revolutionize link-building by making it more efficient, effective, and data-driven. We can expect it to significantly improve the process and make link-building simpler.