Whether you’re new to SEO, a casual learner, or a seasoned professional, you can never learn too much about link building—properly placing links off and on your website can literally make or break your SEO success. Before we get into the dynamics of what Citation Flow and Trust Flow mean for your backlink profile, let’s take a quick step back.
A Short Link Building Refresher
Arguably the most crucial aspect of SEO, and ranking well in Google, is building out a strong link portfolio. By “strong”, we mean links to your website, anchored in relevant anchor text that are located on trustworthy websites, or links on your website that link internally (linking from one of your webpages on another webpage).
Simply posting your website links in the comment section of every blog, video, or post you can find is not good enough, and Google will penalize you for it—especially now that Penguin 4.0, the Google algorithm that punishes a bad link portfolio and spammy links, updates in real time.
Now that link building is fresh in your mind, it’s time to turn to Majestic, a leading expert in SEO and digital marketing, to learn more about two of their original link building concepts: Trust Flow and Citation Flow. We find majestic to be a superior tool to strategize SEO services in analyzing a link profile as it is updated more frequently than other tools and trust flow is very challenging to manipulate being based on topical relevancy. Here is what that looks like for The Huffington Post:
Now that is a lot of backlinks. However, we are paying more attention to the number of referring domains and the Citation Flow to Trust Flow Ratio.
What is Citation Flow?
Verbatim, Majestic defines Citation Flow as:
“A trademark of Majestic. Citation Flow is a score between 0-100 which helps to measure the link equity or ‘power’ the website or link carries” (read more here).
This metric will essentially inform you of the importance of a certain webpage or domain based on how many links point back to that page—or the amount of link building done externally on the page where your link is placed. This metric, when used alone, isn’t incredibly useful or telling. But, one thing to keep in mind: the more links you acquire, the higher the metric will grow. The term to keep in mind here is “influence”.
What is Trust Flow?
Trust Flow is another trademark of Majestic, and it measures quality on a scale of 0-100—just like Citation Flow. However, Trust Flow focuses more on the trustworthiness of the websites where your links are placed. This metric is crucial, but useless when not applied alongside Citation Flow. Sure, a website may have links pointing toward it. But are they useful, trustworthy links? The term to keep in mind here is “trustful”.
How do they interact?
When you understand what each metric means, it can be quite simple to understand a simple Citation Flow (CF) to Trust Flow (TF) ratio.
Say, for instance, that your CF is 30/100, and your TF is 15/100. That makes your CF:TF ratio 30:15, or 2:1. Ideally, you want your ratio to get as close to 1:1 as possible (or greater).
Remember the term “influence” mentioned above? A website is considered “influential” if there are multiple links pointing toward a certain website, as it is likely mentioned in or linked from multiple locations. A higher CF metric indicates links that are placed in “influential” places. Remember the term “trustful” from above? Well, it all comes back to quality link building practices. You can place a link in 5,000 places—but, if those links are used in a spammy manner, or the websites don’t contain quality content, then they aren’t high quality. They contain no “trust”. So: a website can be trustworthy while not being influential, but it can also be influential while not being trustworthy.
Are you catching on?
With a CF:TF ratio, you get a multi-dimensional view into your link profile. So why do we want that ratio to be as close to 1:1 as possible?
A 1:1 ratio indicates that your links are all placed in relevant and trustworthy places.
But, don’t worry if your ratio isn’t close to 1:1. Keep in mind that Google’s ratio is 98:99 (nearly perfect across the board), so don’t be discouraged. It is less about the quantity of each number, and more about that ratio between the two numbers. Granted, you want a high CF metric—but, your website will only suffer in the rankings if you don’t have a high TF to match. A desirable ratio is at least around 0.50, but getting closer to 1:1 is the goal.
A CF:TF ratio wherein your CF metric is exponentially more than your TF metric indicates a large quantity of low-trust links. Trust Flow ÷ Citation Flow equaling less than 0.5 is bad, and you are putting yourself at risk for a penalty.
A CF:TF ratio wherein your CF metric is anywhere from 1:1-0.50 compared to your TF, then you are linking to more authoritative and trustworthy sites. This is generally the sweet spot.
A CF:TF ratio wherein your CF metric is lower than your TF metric is not quite as common. This would mean that your links from trusted sources heavily outweigh ones coming from low quality sources. A Trust Flow ÷ Citation Flow equaling greater than 1.5 means that the majority of links are from high-quality sources, and that is incredibly difficult to achieve.
This infographic serves as a quick reference when reading Majestic’s Citation flow and Trust flow metrics:
The reality is that neither you or your webmaster or your SEO company can always dictate what sites are linking back to you. High authority directories end up getting picked up by low quality directories, highly trusted content sources often get syndicated by low quality aggregators, etc. The main point is that building trust to your site (and thus organic traffic) is a marathon and not a sprint. We use Majestic as our go-to tool because the metrics are nearly impossible to fake, has a vast index of the web and an easy interface to use.
If you have any questions or want to learn how to build a more trusted link profile to your website feel free to contact us. We are more than happy to provide information about your offsite footprint, on-page SEO, and provide the services that your webpage needs to gain trust from Google.