All SEOs know that having a high number of backlinks is positively correlated with a website’s ability to go up Google’s search results pages. Backlinks are so important that some successful SEO agencies invest most of their resources in planning and executing link building campaigns.Of course, not all backlinks are good to have. Those that come from poor-quality websites are liable to do serious damage to your own site’s link equity, possibly triggering a Google penalty and leading to a disastrous reduction in organic traffic. For businesses that rely on customers that discover their site through organic search, these penalties can even be fatal.

How Do You Assess Website and Backlink Quality?

In the early days of SEO, the only way link builders could assess websites this was to visit the site and do some detective work. While there were a few tools you could use, you’d still use up several minutes assessing each prospect before you made what was essentially just an educated guess. As you would imagine, doing this for thousands of sites can be a tedious undertaking.

Fortunately, we can now efficiently evaluate website and backlink profiles through the use of modern link intelligence tools. Popular developers of these tools include MOZ, Ahrefs, and Majestic, among many others. These particular developers are known for their high-quality website and link rating systems.

These rating systems can help SEOs assess the value of specific websites’ backlinks as well as the probability of these websites showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Examples of these scoring systems include MOZ’s Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs’s Domain Rating (DR), as well as Majestic’s Citation Flow (CF), and Trust Flow (TF).

These systems all predict different but related things. Domain Authority predicts ranking performance on SERPs, Domain Rating assesses backlink profiles, while Citation Flow measures authoritativeness. Trust Flow, arguably the most different of these, measures trustworthiness.

Though all these systems could be useful in different circumstances, Trust Flow has especially passionate advocates in the SEO industry, especially among white hats that specialize in link building.

What Exactly is Trust Flow?

To understand what Trust Flow is and why some SEOs swear by it, it helps to look at DA, DR, and CF. These three systems are similar in that they mostly rely on the number of backlinks and the variety of originating domains when calculating a site’s score. They also look at the scores of the websites from where the links originate to determine the final rating.

These systems worked quite well for several years. However, black hat SEOs found that by using private blog networks and numerous low-quality sources, they could artificially inflate DA, DR, and even CF scores at will. These methods persist because there is a healthy market for backlinks and plenty of shady webmasters and SEOs who are willing to risk getting their sites penalized by Google for short-term gains.

This is where Trust Flow comes in. Trust Flow was specifically developed by Majestic in a way that allowed it to overcome the vulnerabilities of other ratings systems. Unlike previous systems that focused on link quality and domain variety, Trust Flow measures the distance between a site and other established sites that are generally considered trustworthy.

How Does Trust Flow Work?

The concept behind Trust Flow is based on the six degrees of separation theory which says that all humans on earth are somehow connected, with no more than five contacts in between any two people. Majestic figured that, like people, websites are most likely to stick with those most similar to them.

This makes sense, as trusted websites seldom link out to poor-quality websites whereas low-quality sites like private blog networks (PBNs) tend to link to each other. If a high-quality website does link to another site, it is almost certainly going to be another trusted site.

To make the Trust Flow system work, Majestic had to manually verify millions of websites, checking that they were, in fact, well-managed and trusted by their visitors. This first batch of websites that proved to be high quality then received high TF scores from Majestic and served as the baseline for the Trust Flow system. Sites that are linked to this “seed batch” because of backlinks then receive slightly lower TF scores and sites that link to these sites get even lower scores in turn, and so on.

While the actual mechanics of Trust Flow is more complicated than that, the implementation of this system has been effective at helping eliminate the risk of linking to low-quality websites.

Why Does Trust Flow Matter?

Link building is a resource-intensive process, especially when you’re competing for highly-contested keywords. At the highest level, tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of work-hours could be spent on each month of link building for incremental gain. Thus, being able to reduce the time needed to verify a site’s real value can help your team avoid wasting time and eliminate contact with sites that pose a risk to your clients’ brands and search engine visibility.

Importantly, TF scores can give also website owners an idea of how the rest of the internet community perceives their site. TF scores can give digital marketers charged with improving the site’s reputation a defined starting point as well as a way to measure their success.

What Minimum Trust Flow Score Should I Look For When Building Links?

Every agency has a different strategy but at SearchWorks we aim for a minimum TF score of 15 or better. While this might seem to be on the low side, given that major sites like the New York Times have scores of 99 or better, 15 is already far higher than the TF scores achieved by typical PBN sites, which rarely exceeds 10. Keeping a lower limit of 15 also enables us to find a wider variety of decent-quality sites for link building.

For more link building best practices, read How to Choose Link Prospects That Move Rankings.

Why Do We Rely On Trust Flow?

The way TF is set up means that it is very difficult for PBNs, black hat SEOs, and other malicious actors to game the system. This means that high TF sites are most likely the ones that will pass on significant link equity to your own.

Using Trust Flow can save link building teams a significant amount of time that would otherwise be spent manually evaluating websites. It only takes a few minutes to evaluate a website to get a good feel for how trusted it is but these minutes add up if you’re doing a major link building campaign. By using Trust Flow as a benchmark, we’re able to more efficiently and accurately narrow down link prospects and eliminate risks to our client’s websites.

Trust Flow is also useful for benchmarking clients’ websites before beginning a comprehensive SEO marketing campaign. The initial TF score can be used as a starting point for link building, content creation, and promotional activities, with TF scores being taken periodically to measure their effectiveness.

How to Improve Your Site’s Trust Flow

Fortunately, improving Trust Flow is a straightforward albeit long-term process. To improve your site’s TF score, do the following:

  1. Invest in your content quality. Make sure your content is original, engaging, and produced to high standards. This will give trusted websites a reason to reference your site and link out to it. Whatever that content type is, be it articles, videos, or even product pages, make sure that it’s compelling enough for good websites to link out to on their own.
  1. Promote your content regularly. Before people organically link to your site, they have to know it exists. Promoting your content on social media or even through traditional channels can increase the odds that a mainstream site with a high TF will pick up on it. For promotions, we find Facebook ads and YouTube video posts to be a cost-effective way to promote a site to a new audience.
  1. Be consistent. Building TF scores is a long process and it can be a grind for your content, social media, and link building teams. However, if there is a consistent effort to maintain content quality and promotions, better TF ratings inevitably follow.

Final Thoughts

Majestic’s Trust Flow scoring system can give SEOs an idea of how trusted their site is relative to others in the same niche while also providing an extra layer of confidence when they prospect for links. These benefits make TF a valuable tool for white-hat SEO campaigns.

The major drawback of Trust Flow is that accessing TF scores isn’t free. The monthly rates are high enough that many local SEO professionals may be unable to afford them. However, for a white hat SEO agency like SearchWorks, paying Majestic for access to TF and other link intelligence metrics is a no-brainer as it helps us better focus our resources during link building campaigns. Other digital marketing agencies that want to offer their clients minimum risk and maximum performance should, therefore, consider paying for a Majestic account to gain access to Trust Flow ratings.

To learn more about Trust Flow, Domain Authority, Domain Rating, Citation Flow, and other intelligence tool metrics, feel free to contact us to set up a meeting.