A Quick Explainer Of Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
TF stands for “Trust Flow.” This number reflects the quality of the websites linking to the site, measuring the “trustworthiness” of a page.
CF stands for “Citation Flow.” It reflects the amount of “link juice” that a site has and is able to pass onto another site through links. CF is largely a reflection of the volume of links.
Together, they are used to measure the impact of a link from a website, as well as the likelihood of a certain website ranking well for a specific keyword.
It does go a bit beyond this, so I recommend that you read on.
First, why have two different metrics?
As you probably know already, Google has played cat-and-mouse with people trying to game their algorithm for several years now. One of the ways that they were successful in gaming the system was by using bots to spam the internet with comments on blogs and tons of other methods. A site may have some good links pointing towards it that would drive up its “trustworthiness,” but it would also have a lot of spam and links from links farms. What Majestic decided to do was to create TF to measure the good links and CF to measure the overall volume of links.
So what is the difference between PageRank (PR) and TF & CF?
PageRank used to be the primary factor that Google used to rank a page. This number used to be shared with SEOs, but the company has since discontinued the practice. At this point, there’s no real reason to even talk about PR, since it is an internal number only used at Google. There are two cases in which you should consider PR:
- If you’re talking about the history of SEO, it is definitely worth talking about PR
- If you’re trying to spot a BS SEO, any mention of PR or Pagerank should be a dead giveaway that he or she has no clue of how SEO works in 2018.
The idea of TF and CF is similar to what the old PR bar would tell you, with some big differences. First, TF and CF are generated by a third party, Majestic, and have no data coming straight from Google (Google provided us PR directly from their data). Ultimately, there is a correlation between TF & CF and rank in the search engines, but it is by no means a direct, 100% correlation as PR used to be.
Trust Flow vs. Domain Authority – Which is Better?
Trust Flow is a metric developed by Majestic SEO, while Domain Authority is a metric developed by Moz. Until a few months ago, Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) metric was highly unreliable, with its crawler finding a fraction of the backlinks that Majestic’s crawler found. This has recently been rectified by Moz’s new “Link Explorer,” a tool that greatly increases the size of the Moz index. In other words, Domain Authority is finally able to present a picture of a site’s backlink profile that is roughly as reliable as Majestic’s Trust Flow. How easy it is to “game” Domain Authority with spam in comparison to the ease with which one can “game” Trust Flow is yet to be seen.
What is a Good Trust Flow (TF) Score?
Most SEOs consider any site with a TF under 15 to not be “trustworthy,” but take this with a grain of salt. A more important metric should be number of keywords that a site ranks for and the estimated amount of traffic generated by those keywords. Whether Google ranks a site highly is a much better indicator of the value of a link from that site than the site’s Trust Flow, Domain Authority, Domain Rating, or any other third-party metric. You can find estimates of how much organic traffic a site gets with tools like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.
What is a Good TF/CF Ratio?
When Majestic launched its Trust Flow and Citation Flow metrics, it also introduced a concept of TF/CF ratios. In a nutshell, it measures the quantity of links from trustworthy websites against the overall quantity of links. According to the company, a TF/CF ratio of 1-2 is ideal. In other words, if a site has a TF of 20 and a CF of 75, it could be viewed as a spammy site despite its high metrics. A site with a TF of 17 and a CF of 24 would be considered to be much more trustworthy of a site and therefore less likely to trigger a penalty should it link to you.
How to Increase Trust Flow (TF)
There is little reason to try to increase your Trust Flow if you are trying to rank your site. Raising your TF score will not increase your search rank. Often, increasing your search rank will not result in a higher TF score. That said, this is how you would go about increasing your TF:
- Get links from other sites that have a high TF. This can be accomplished through guest blogging, but use this approach sparingly. Excessive guest posting can result in a Google penalty.
- Focus on acquiring links from .gov and .edu sites.
- Aim to get links from sites related to your niche. Majestic has a topical TF in addition to its overall site Trust Flow.
- Go for quality links and not quantity.
How can I use TF and CF to work on my SEO?
There are a few applications:
- Competitive analysis – what linkbuilding has my competitor done to rank his website?
- Link outreach – is this site even worth reaching out to for a link?
- Keeping tabs on your SEO – is the company that you hired cutting corners or doing good work?
I do a fairly thorough walkthrough of how to use Majestic to see what links a competitor has acquired. This guide should give you a good idea of whether your competitor has been doing something that you can replicate, or if you should just consider another method for driving links and traffic to your site. A word of warning: you may see that other sites are spamming and getting traffic—you may be tempted to do the same thing, but mark my words. Google. Will. Figure. It. Out. When it does, you’re going to get slapped.
You can tell if they have been using spammy methods through one of the following:
- There is a huge difference between the TF and the CF. A TF that is 1/2 to 1/3 or lower of the CF says that they are getting links from “authoritative” sites, but those links are generating little traffic. That is fishy and Google can easily tell that they are doing something manipulative.
- You look at the backlinks going to your competitor and you can tell that they are from BS websites like this one:
This is the main thing that we use to do linkbuilding for our clients. There are many ways that you can use Majestic to find new opportunities to get links:
- Find a website that is linking to an article on another site, then offer a better article for them to link to
- See if a specific blog has enough authority to even bother reaching out
- Find a website that is relevant to your industry that you did not know about. This can allow you to establish a relationship in a place where you can gain some new followers.
KEEPING TABS ON YOUR SEO
There are companies and individuals out there that are dishonest (gasp!)
You may be paying a company to write blogs and establish an internet presence for your business, and what they are actually doing is spraying the internet with spam comments. They only way that you would ever know would be to go to a site like Majestic or Ahrefs and take a look at your backlink profile. If you see something that doesn’t look kosher, it will give you the opportunity to fire the SEO that you are working with, avoid any potential penalties down the road, avoid blowing even more money on something that is bound to damage your online presence, and move on to another company that is able to do the work that you need.
What you should be looking at:
- The TF should generally be higher than 10
- The backlinks going to the website should not be a bunch of directory links or web 2.0 links
- The TF to CF ratio should not be any lower that 1/3 and even that is pushing it. Ideally, you have a TF/CF of 1/2-2/1 and you are actually getting some traffic from the links that you built. Links for the sake of links are not the way to go, necessarily.
- The backlinks that you acquire should be from a variety of websites, with a bunch of differing anchor text (the underlined words that form the hyperlink to your site), and should be in different contexts. They should not all be guest posts, blog comments, blogroll, footer, or any one type of link. If they are, for example, 50 blog posts and nothing else, your SEO is getting lazy and you might be at risk for a penalty.
- All in all, look for anything that doesn’t look natural.
TF and CF are metrics given by a proverbial “blind man feeling the elephant.”
As I discussed in another post, none of the SEO available paint a complete picture. There is a lot going on in Google’s algorithm (supposedly, over 200+ items) and these tools are only measuring links, which are just one part of the equation. As Google’s AI becomes even more powerful, it is likely that links will decrease in importance, at which point the entire SEO industry will be upended yet again, and tools like Majestic will need to change in order to continue to provide value.