What is Trust Flow?
TLDR: Trust Flow (TF) is a measure of the quality and reputation of a site’s backlinks. The impact of spam on this SEO metric is mitigated by favoring links from human-reviewed sites. Scores range from 0 (low and common) to 100 (rare and high).
Trust Flow is related to the concept of link equity, a model that passes value through links between pages in the Web Graph.
Trust Flow and its companion Citation Flow (CF) are available from Majestic.com and other SEO tools under license.
The longer version: Welcome to our Guide on Trust Flow!
The web is big and constantly growing. New pages are being created every second. Trying to survey the web is complex. There are relatively few companies able to capture and analyze what amounts to a huge amount of data. Majestic is one of them.
Majestic produces a web map consisting of lists of backlinks. This post focuses on a SEO vendor metric that is produced by Majestic. Read on to discover:
- What is Trust Flow?
- Why is Trust Flow Important?
- How does Majestic calculate Trust Flow?
- What is the ideal Trust Flow score?
- The relationship between Trust Flow and TF in SEO
- How to check the Trust Flow level of your website?
- How do you increase your Trust Flow?
- What is Citation Flow?
- What is the TF/CF difference / TF/CF delta / TF/CF Ratio?
- Why has my Trust Flow changed?
- Reasons why your Trust Flow can drop
- Why has a link to my site been deleted?
This post is the first in a three-part series. This series covers why Trust Flow is important and why your score may change. The next article will explore how to monitor your Trust Flow.
The series concludes with a deep dive into using more advanced tools to perform depth of analysis into the potential causes behind a Trust Flow change.
Defining Trust Flow
Before we look at Trust Flow, a little background is useful.
The web is a big place. The internet offers lots of opportunities to explore and discover new content and new content creators.
There are a few ways to go about this discovery process. Search Engines – like Google and Bing are popular choices. Surfing the web is another – following links from forums or bloggers to other content.
For many professionals in digital marketing, the task of discovering relevant content or interesting opportunities becomes an overhead. Majestic aims to make this process simpler.
Majestic offers a backlinks index, which is effectively, a map of how the world wide web links together. In addition to trying to map the web, Majestic adds an analytical layer. The analytical element involves trying to gauge the quality of each page and site using various algorithms. Through the calculation, you can understand how well linked the content is on the internet.
Early attempts to produce SEO backlink measures were quite basic. Counts of Backlinks and Referring Domains were once a popular way to measure popularity. But, they have fallen out of favour in recent years.
Why have they fallen out of favour? Backlink and Ref Domain counts CAN be useful data points in the hands of a skilled professional, but can be easily manipulated.
Another issue is that different SEO tools add-up these numbers in different ways.
Plus, not all links are equal.
A backlink from a popular page is likely to be more valuable than a huge volume of links from questionable websites.
A reliance on the number of Backlinks and Referring Domains caused a problem in the early days of the search because both of those counts can be manipulated. Both search engines and reporting tools were impacted by attempts to create links to boost search performance.
Google PageRank was one attempt to rate the relative value of different pages better.
Majestic saw a need to develop a metric that would help users assess the value of a page more effectively.
Trust Flow is a proprietary metric developed by Majestic that attempts to assign scores between 0 -100 to different websites. Trust Flow works on both URL and Domain Levels. The metric is based on the concept that content linked to from human-curated websites will likely be of higher quality.
The metric is not associated with Google or other search engines, but Trust Flow could be thought of as a potential ranking signal.
Matt Southern, Search Engine Journal’s Senior Writer, states ‘Google doesn’t use scores from third-party SEO tools to rank websites. However, the scores can provide useful data on SEO and performance’.
The measure seeks to quantify content that will benefit the reader, which is also authoritative and well-linked.
Trust Flow and its companion Citation Flow were launched in 2012. Citation Flow was based on research by Majestic on factors contributing towards a site’s authority.
When a website links out to another website, part of that Trust Flow will flow with the link as a sign of trust between them. Trust Flow takes into account links that pass through multiple levels, not just the immediate neighbours of a site – similar to how the PageRank algorithm from Google was originally applied.
Why is Trust Flow Important?
There has been a great deal written about website visibility, backlinks, and search engine ranking.
Backlinks are a leading ranking factor and will continue to be so for many years.
Trust Flow is a good indicator of the quality and relevance of a website.
The trademark metric can help marketing professionals make better-informed decisions about their link-building.
Many SEO professionals use our metrics to determine the credibility of a website. George Nguyen, the Director of SEO Editorial at Wix, shares how Michael Johnson from Page One Power evaluates the authority of domains using the Majestic Flow Metric scores.
Your site’s Trust Flow and search engine ranking are closely related. Emma Labrador (former Head of Marketing from OnCrawl) previously shared: “It seems like there is a direct correlation between Trust Flow and organic traffic. Indeed, if a site has a high Trust Flow, it means it has a lot of qualitative backlinks, and Google rewards qualitative backlinks. As a matter of fact, you will be ranked higher.” Therefore, improving the former can help you improve the latter.
Trust Flow will be helpful in a variety of tasks, including website audits and link prospecting.
Linking to good-quality sites can potentially enhance your visibility and increase web traffic.
Another suggestion is using the indicator to see how you measure up against your competition.
How does Majestic calculate Trust Flow?
Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores are the product of hugely complex calculations which require a static map of the web. A static map is needed to understand the effects of indirect links on Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
If you receive a link from a website that has authority links, your score should increase. If a website that links to you recieves more authority links, then that should positively impact your Trust Flow too.
This produces a meaningful metric but at a cost. The scores are rebuilt with every full build of the Majestic Fresh Index – approximately once every 24 hours.
Trust Flow is reported as a value between 0 and 100. The score is weighted, so it gets harder to increase in value the closer you get to 100. It’s far easier to increase a score from 0 to 5 than it is to go from 10 to 15. If you are interested in learning more about our Flow Metric calculations, check out the blog post “Inside Trust Flow”, in particular, the section about ‘Interpreting the High-Level Metrics’.
What is the ideal Trust Flow score?
As said so often, “It Depends”.
Opinions will differ on this subject.
Because here’s the thing…
All businesses are unique and many operate in different industries. Their target markets can vary. A good Trust Flow for one niche may differ from a good Trust Flow in a different niche.
The general consensus is that a high Trust Flow score is preferable.
A Trust Flow score comparable to other sites in your niche is good. Ideally, you may like to see a higher Trust Flow than your competitors, but it’s important to be realistic.
Trust Flow aims to report on how well-linked your website is. Seeking to raise your Trust Flow as a target without a strategy in place to create good links is unlikely to help you generate qualified leads.
The aim of a link building strategy should be building quality links from meaningful Digital PR activity. Trust Flow is a way of conveniently measuring your success in outreach and enhancing the visibility of your website online.
The relationship between Trust Flow and TF in SEO
Trust Flow is a well-known and generally well-received SEO vendor metric. It’s, therefore, unsurprising that the acronym “TF” is often used as a shorthand for Majestic Trust Flow. Likewise, Citation Flow is often shortened to CF.
You may also see things like “TF/CF ratio”. This means the ratio between the Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores. We will also look at the Trust Flow ratio in this blog post.
How do I check the Trust Flow level of my website?
Majestic offer a number of tools to help you check and monitor the Trust Flow score associated with your website. Simply enter the domain in Site Explorer and view the current Trust Flow score, along with a number of other useful data points.
SEO Browser plugins also represent a different way to query Trust Flow and Citation Flow. Our plugins are free to use at low volume (but require occasional completion of a captcha) and available for Chrome and Firefox.
How can I increase my Trust Flow?
Setting out to increase your Trust Flow for the sake of it is unlikely to bring benefit in its own right.
By design – Trust Flow is an independent measure of how well linked to your site is. Instead of boosting Trust Flow, it can be better to think of enhancing your link profile by meaningful outreach.
Trust Flow was designed to be an indication of success in digital PR and outreach, rather than a cause of it.
Aim to obtain relevant links from sites related to your niche. The Topical Trust Flow metric can be a useful indicator of affinity between two sites.
Backlinks from highly trusted websites may also help improve your score. When prospecting for authoritative websites to place links on, aim to build good links. The Jellyfish Academy defines a good link in the following way:
- The link is editorially given
- It is placed on a trusted website
- The link is relevant to your niche
Focus on building quality links instead of the number of inbound links to your site, because Quality > Quantity!
What is Citation Flow?
Citation Flow is a companion metric to Trust Flow. Both use the same algorithm, but Citation Flow does not use the same human-reviewed seed set that benefits Trust Flow. Like Trust Flow, Citation Flow is reported as a score between 0 and 100.
With many SEO tools offering just one SEO metric, what makes Majestic split the score into two?
The answer is depth.
Citation Flow and Trust Flow differ slightly. Looking at the difference between Trust Flow and Citation Flow can provide detailed insights. Link Profile is a powerful visualisation that captures the volume of links at different levels of Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
You can also compare these at individual domains or link levels.
What is the TF/CF difference / TF/CF delta / TF/CF Ratio?
Despite Trust Flow and Citation Flow not being linear scores, the concept of the TF/CF ratio has picked up traction in the SEO industry as an indicator of link quality.
The ratio is typically calculated by dividing Trust Flow by Citation Flow to provide a simple score for links or sites. This quick calculation highlights the subtle difference in how Trust Flow and Citation Flow are calculated and is easier to compare than a more complex analysis based on Link Profile Charts.
As mentioned earlier, Citation flow determines how influential a website is based on the number of links pointing to the site. Trust Flow is the result of a tweak to the same algorithm that biases human-reviewed sites. This subtle difference between scores creates variations in the resulting Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
And the ratio takes into account the different methods used to calculate each Flow Metric.
Similar to observations on “what is a good Trust Flow” above, a healthy TF/CF ratio may vary depending on the sector. As a general guide, parity in the Flow Metric scores tends to correspond with a healthy link profile.
Your score may also change from time to time. If both metrics change, but the ratio is pretty stable, then that’s not as concerning.
A site with a slightly lower Trust Flow than Citation Flow can happen and is not normally a matter of concern.
A large difference between Trust Flow and Citation Flow, such as a ratio below 1:2, may be worth investigation. Potentially, this indicates that the site has many low-quality backlinks. And that could harm your search engine ranking.
If this ratio declines, that’s something worth looking into.
(Quick note: Please keep in that the calculation may not always apply to every site. It only provides a brief overview).
Why has my Trust Flow Changed?
Spotting an unexpected change in your Trust Flow could cause you to celebrate or question your hard work. However, sometimes it may be too soon to come to any conclusion.
Trust Flow is rebuilt with every full Fresh Index build, usually around once every 24 hours. A full Fresh Index build represents a complete rebuild of the index. It is normal, therefore, for the Trust Flow and Citation Flow to vary slightly between builds.
In addition to subtle changes in our index, there is also noise generated from the Web. As the web changes and grows, linking patterns change, resulting in another source of small fluctuations in your Trust Flow.
But if you experience a significant change in your score, then you may wish to do some detective work…
However – caution needs to be exercised here!
The aim is to determine if the change in the Trust Flow score is caused by a real-world issue.
If the answer is yes, then you can develop a strategy to do something about it – if it’s a change you care about.
Remember, Trust Flow is simply a signal based on a map of the web.
Reasons why your Trust Flow can drop
There are 2 main reasons why your Trust Flow can drop: Off-page and on-page.
Off-page SEO is activities you implement outside your website to help with rankings. If you lose links or they are deleted, your Trust Flow score will be impacted.
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing the website to achieve good rankings on search engines. If a page on your website returns a 404 or 403 errors, our crawler cannot visit them. This may affect the Flow Metric score too.
Effectively manage both your Off-page SEO and On-page SEO to achieve the desired results.
Why has a link to my site been ‘deleted’?
As websites are maintained, it’s usual for some articles to be updated or some content to be dropped.
Maintaining good digital PR helps ensure new links are created as old ones disappear, and keeping track of your backlinks using a backlink checker like Majestic should give you confidence that your outreach is working.
However, if you experience a drop in link count, it’s reasonable to dig a little deeper to see if there is cause for worry.
A ‘big’ drop could be due to lost links or a crawl issue. If you want to investigate a drop, it makes sense to understand some of the HTTP status codes that are related to web crawling. Here are some common reasons links may be lost and the associated status codes:
- HTTP 404 – The page no longer exists
- HTTP 307 – A temporary redirect is in place
- HTTP 301 – Permanent redirect
Occasionally, a link reported as lost may exist, but a crawler may not be able to verify it exists. The Status codes and error messages that are reported are shown below.
- HTTP 403 – The crawler is blocked from crawling the domain
- HTTP 406 – The server cannot fulfill the request made
- HTTP 500 – The crawler encountered an error when trying to crawl the domain.
- Connect Failure – Indicates that there is a technical fault
- Domain Name Resolution Failure – There is a problem with the DNS server for the source domain
And finally, the ‘Timeout’ error message. The error message indicates that a website took too long to respond to our request.
We’ve seen that Trust Flow is an SEO vendor metric from Majestic. SEO Vendor metrics are used as performance indicators by digital marketing professionals to help inform campaigns, pitches and portfolios.
SEO vendor metrics exist because of an absence of other meaningful measures. Raw counts like backlinks and referring domain counts tend to be highly subjective. Raw counts focus on quantity not quality – the opposite to what experts say is required for digital PR based link building in the 2020‘s.
Trust Flow differs from other vendor metrics in two key ways:
- It has a companion, Citation Flow, that uses a similar method of generation but doesn’t attempt to mitigate spam. Comparing Trust Flow and Citation Flow can yield interesting insights.
- Trust Flow (and Citation Flow) are URL based metrics. The domain scores for Trust Flow are calculated from the URLs within that domain.
No Vendor Metric is perfect. For some, all that matters is search engine ranking position. However, if you care about developing and maintaining quality content-based linking relationships on the web, we hope you will find Trust Flow a useful companion.
In the next part of this series we will look at the tools Majestic offer to help you monitor your Trust Flow on an ongoing basis.