We all know by this point that SEO is an irreplaceable component to a successful internet marketing strategy. Not only does it allow marketers to drive free, organic traffic to their website, but it also provides a customized opportunity to convert leads into customers, gain more insight into user personas, and differentiate from competitors. Any online marketing strategy worth its bitcoins has optimized their website for search engine listings.
So how do we track our SEO performance and create KPIs to ensure we are always growing? There is a variety of free and paid marketing analytic tools on the market to provide the data needed to make decisions and record progress.
Backlinks & Referring Domains: Why They Matter
First off, let’s take a look at some of the key metrics that are provided by Moz, Ahrefs, and other website analytic tools. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on two components of SEO measurement: backlinks and referring domains.
What is a Backlink?
A backlink is any incoming link to your website from another web source. While the concept of a backlink was initially critical to web navigation, the current state of the web has developed far beyond these parameters leading backlinks to serve a primary purpose in search engine optimization. In simple terms, Google deciphers “a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B.”
Creating a strong network of credible backlinks increase the odds that your site will have greater visibility in search results, in turn, driving more leads to your website.
What is a Referring Domain?
Now that we have established what makes up a backlink, it’s time to further expand this raw data into a number known as the referring domain (also known as linking domain). As we are sure you know, a domain is an organization’s unique brand identifier located within their URL.
For example, the domain in www.xzito.com is ‘xzito’.
Your website’s referring domain is the total number of website domains that feature a backlink to your site. One single referring domain may contribute anywhere from one to all of your tracked backlinks.
Take for example your email inbox:
You have 300 emails- let’s consider these backlinks. Of those 300 “backlinks”, you have five different senders- these five senders make up a referring domain score of five. John Smith’s “domain” sent you 100 of those 300 emails, but (no matter the quantity) he is still only one of five “referring domains.”
Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to Your Referring Domains/Backlinks Ratio
When optimizing your website for SEO, it is crucial that you keep an eye on the ratio of referring domains to backlinks. If you have a ton of backlinks, but they are only coming from a few domain sources, Google will deem your profile as weak and punish your account under suspicion of a paid linking scheme.
While it may take more time and patience, developing a strong network featuring a wide variety of credible websites will work wonders towards building your SEO credit, ultimately increasing the chance a visitor will come across your website in their online search.
Moz vs. Ahrefs
Now that we have walked you through what backlinks and referring domains are, it’s time to discuss the best sources to find this information. A quick Google search for SEO measurement tools will range from companies promoting their platform to blogs outlining which metrics you should use to advice on how to build an SEO strategy.
At this point, we will do you a favor and cut down on some clutter! Let’s take a look into two of the more well known and established SEO measurement tools: Moz vs. Ahrefs. While both may bill themselves as a marketing analytics software, each company offers a unique set of services and value to their customers.
Moz, the older of the two programs, was founded in 2004 as a SEO consulting company. Since launching their first Pro app in 2007, they have expanded into inbound marketing software, became a powerful provider of link data APIs, and is home to an enthusiastic community of online marketers.
Ahrefs was founded in 2011 as the all-in-one source for website analysis with the “largest and most updated database of live backlinks.” In addition to offering the largest index of live backlinks, Ahrefs provides customers with SEO Reports, Social Metrics, Batch Analysis, Domain Comparison, and much more.
You’re probably thinking both sound pretty similar still- so how do I decide?
For the sake of clarity, we will be focusing on which of the two companies, Moz and Ahrefs, provide the best service in regards to tracking backlinks and referring domains.
An important factor to consider is how often these tools crawl the web for data. Ahrefs boasts an impressive index of 6,000,000,000 pages per every 24 hours, with their index reflecting this information every 15 minutes- that’s pretty impressive!
As a note of comparison, Moz performs a crawl once a week one the same day of the week your account was created and their Mozscape OSE (Open Site Explorer) is indexed about once a month.
In the digital age, where every single interaction with your brand is an opportunity to convert, it is critical to have the most recent data at your fingertips.
Ahrefs organizes all of their data without the use of any third-party services and offer the biggest arsenal of actual data on the backlinks. So, not only does Ahrefs maintain a consistent up-to-date crawl, but they also go a step beyond to give customers a comprehensive understanding of these links and the knowledge to address site issues such as spam.
And the Title Goes to...
At this point, it’s safe to say we endorse Ahrefs as the leading source for tracking and measuring your backlinks and referring domains. But that doesn’t mean Moz isn’t a great source for a wide range of marketing analytics- in fact, inbound marketing superstar Hubspot employs the Mozscape API to power their Marketing Grader, Link Grader, and Competitors tool.
We hope this article gave you a deeper understanding of backlinks and referring domains, as well as insight into Ahrefs advanced indexing.
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