This week, I did a study to learn how Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow helps predict overall the organic search engine traffic of a domain. I wanted to find out which of the two ‘flow metrics’ is better, and by how much. I plotted the values of over 400 domains on charts and analysed them. It turns out that the somewhat mysterious Trust Flow is indeed a very interesting metric, with quite a bit of predictive power.
Using Flow Metrics
Majestic’s Flow Metrics can be used to understand the quality of a domain’s backlink profile. Citation Flow takes into account all backlinks, while Trust Flow focuses only on links that can be connected in a few steps to a basket of hand-picked “high quality” sites. Improving organic search traffic is the goal of search engine optimization, therefore, this this metric to compare Citation and Trust flow against.
To do this research, I randomly selected 1000 root domains from the top 3000 of domains ending with “.uk” in the Majestic Million. Then I collected Majestic Flow data and SEMrush’s organic traffic estimates for Google.co.uk for each of these domains. A lot of domains had no traffic data and these were dropped from the sample, leaving me with 408 in the final sample. The reason I used only “.uk” domains was to reduce the effects of sites with traffic from different Google domains/countries.
The results are plotted in the charts below. (Organic traffic on a logarithmic axis. The black line is the exponential trend line).
Citation Flow vs. organic traffic (logarithmic axis)
Trust Flow vs. organic traffic (logarithmic axis)
What does this mean?
Looking at the distribution of the dots, it seems that a higher Citation Flow indeed gives you more search traffic. However, it also seems that while this is true for high values of the Citation Flow, a lot of sites in the 30’s to 50’s citation flow have much lower organic traffic than one would expect.
This could be inaccuracy of the SEMRush organic traffic data. However, when looking at the Trust Flow vs. Organic traffic chart, you can see that the pattern holds up all the way to the lowest of Trust Flow figures, although the traffic is more scattered in those lower reaches. Bearing in mind that these are the same sites that we are plotting, it seems that Trust Flow for a domain is a better predictor of organic traffic than Citation flow.
And exactly how good are these metrics? In the table below you will find the correlations.
|Citation Flow & Traffic||0.47|
|Citation Flow & log10 of Traffic||0.57|
|Trust Flow & Traffic||0.27|
|Trust Flow & log10 of Traffic||0.70|
What about keywords? As you can see, the correlation between Trust Flow and the logarithm of organic traffic is the winner. This means that when you improve the Trust Flow of your website, you are likely to increase your traffic exponentially.
Correlation is calculated on a scale from 0 to 1, and a correlation of 0.7 is considered quite a strong signal that there really is a relationship between the two variables. It can be thought of as meaning that 70% of the organic traffic to a domain can be explained/determined by looking at Trust Flow.
You might say that different keywords have different traffic volumes, and this could influence the results. This is true. Fortunately, SEMRush also gives us the number of keywords that a domain ranks for (in the top 20). When correlating the logarithm of the number of keywords with Citation Flow and Trust flow metrics, we get the following figures:
|Citation Flow & log10 of Keyword Count||0.61|
|Trust Flow & log10 of Keyword Count||0.75|
As you can see, removing the influence of variable traffic per keyword by focusing on the number of keywords in the top 20 improves the correlation figures. This means if your domain has more Citation Flow or Trust Flow you will likely rank for exponentially more keywords.
To round up, it appears that Trust Flow is a good predictor of organic search traffic. And even a better predictor of ranking in the top 20. In other words, a domain with more Trust Flow will rank for exponentially more keywords and receive exponentially more Organic Traffic. Citation flow is also a reasonable indicator, but as we saw it pales in comparison to Trust flow.
Whether this also means that the Trust Flow of single page is an indicator of organic traffic to that page is not clear. I would think that is a great topic for the next study.