TL;DR: Trust flow analyses the trustworthiness of your site, whilst citation flow predicts how influential your site may be from the number of backlinks pointing to the domain.
Trust flow is a flow metric provided by Majestic - a popular SEO and link analysis tool. Out of 100, trust flow scores a website’s perceived trustworthiness from the quality of the backlinks. A trust flow score of 10 does not mean you have 10 backlinks or 10 trustworthy backlinks, but rather gives context to the quality of your outreach, PR and similar activities. Together the Citation Flow and Trust Flow metrics form the Majestic Flow Metrics algorithm. The specific criteria used by the algorithm to come to a trust flow score is difficult to know for sure as the tool has to draw a conclusion based on its own machine logic.
Majestic defines trust flow as a score: ‘weighted by the number of clicks from a seed set of trusted sites to a given URL, or Domain’, but what does this actually mean?
To create the scoring system Majestic scores many trusted “seed sites”. This was a manual review of many trusted sites like the BBC, Google, Facebook etc., and the data collected was used on a logarithmic scale to determine these seed site’s score.
A screenshot of the Majestic site showing the trust flow and citation flow of google.com
URLs and websites closely linked to one of these seed websites will have a higher trust flow score than those who have far fewer. The reasoning here is akin to a professional reference for a job: the more positive references a person has from experts in their field, the more like you are to hire them, right? So, the more trusted backlinks a website has, the higher the trust flow score.
Trust flow vs citation flow
Trust flow appears alongside Majestic’s other trademarked metric: citation flow. Where trust flow is primarily focused on the trustworthiness and quality of your site’s referring domains, citation flow looks at the influence your site has or its ‘popularity’ from its referring domains.
For example, adult content sites often have high citation scores because they have a high volume of websites linking to them, but low trust flow scores because the majority of these backlinks are of low quality and/or are spammy.
Together, citation flow & trust flow are used to assess the overall authority of a website based on the its backlink profile. Ultimately, it is the ratio of these two metrics that is of importance: the closer the ratio between trust flow and citation flow the better because this indicates that the majority (quantity) of the backlinks are of quality.
Topical trust flow
Majestic also offers a detailed breakdown of a website’s trust flow within its category (or vertical), called the topical trust flow. Using on-page and off-page signals to determine the vertical, topical trust flow gives marketers further (coloured-coded) context of their website’s trust within their specific industry. Topic scores are independent of each other.
Is trust flow important?
Whilst Majestic is a third-party tool and its specific metric “trust flow” is not a ranking factor used by Google or any other search engine, trust flow scores and similar should be factors that marketers are cognisant of and working on. Especially in the wake of EAT updates* and fake news, it is more important than ever to understand this metric and what it conveys about your site to Google and to users.
Here’s something for you to think about: if your site isn’t trusted by others, why should search engines trust it? And why should they rank it?
*EAT or “medic” update was core algorithm update rolled out by Google in August 2018. This update saw the search engine favour Your Money or Your Life websites that demonstrated Expertise, Authority and Trust in their vertical. This updated further necessitates SEOs and marketers efforts on improving their website’s perceived trust.
This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX