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Study: Trust Flow As Predictor of Organic Traffic

This week, I did a study to learn how Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow to help 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. 

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)Plot of Organic Traffic vs Citation Flow
Trust Flow vs. organic traffic (logarithmic axis)

Plot of Organic Traffic vs Trust Flow

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.

How good?

And exactly how good are these metrics? In the table below you will find the correlations.

Correlation

 

 

Citation Flow & traffic

0.47

 

Citation Flow & log10 of traffic

0.57

 

Trust flow & traffic

0.27

 

Trust Flow & log10 of traffic

0.70

 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.

What about keywords?

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:

  Correlation
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.

Conclusion

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.

 

20 Comments

  • DJ says:

    Cool study. It confirms what I was thinking about trust flow. I think it will continue to grow in importance.

    Was wondering your thoughts on what are good citation and trust flow numbers. Did this come up in your study?

    • It seems that when you group domain trust flow in groups of 10 or 15, the frequency of those groups will be power law distributed. The power is normally around 2. That means that a Domain with trust flow over 20 is in the top 25% of domains on the internet. Higher than 30 will get you the top 12%. I use 30 as a indiciation of a decent domain.

      I don’t use Citation Flow, because Trust Flow is a better metric.

  • DJ says:

    Cool study. It confirms what I was thinking about trust flow. I think it will continue to grow in importance.

    Was wondering your thoughts on what are good citation and trust flow numbers. Did this come up in your study?

    • It seems that when you group domain trust flow in groups of 10 or 15, the frequency of those groups will be power law distributed. The power is normally around 2. That means that a Domain with trust flow over 20 is in the top 25% of domains on the internet. Higher than 30 will get you the top 12%. I use 30 as a indiciation of a decent domain.

      I don’t use Citation Flow, because Trust Flow is a better metric.

  • Neep Hazarika says:

    Excellent observations. Maybe a simple linear regression analysis to determine what proportion of each of the flows contribute may be helpful.

    • Nick Garner says:

      I’ll ask Gillis to ping you if thats ok Neep. Funnily enough I had been thinking of contacting you guys about some new ‘data analysis ideas’ we could work on with Majestic Data

  • Neep Hazarika says:

    Excellent observations. Maybe a simple linear regression analysis to determine what proportion of each of the flows contribute may be helpful.

    • Nick Garner says:

      I’ll ask Gillis to ping you if thats ok Neep. Funnily enough I had been thinking of contacting you guys about some new ‘data analysis ideas’ we could work on with Majestic Data

  • Hey Neep,

    If you try to find a formula in the form of: Trust flow * X + Citation flow * Y to correlate with log10(traffic), I find that correlation is always optimized when Y = 0. This suggests to me Citation Flow does not add any value in this case, and I stick to using Trust Flow.

    Maybe you have additional suggestions how I could improve on this, please let me know.

    Cheers, Gillis

  • Hey Neep,

    If you try to find a formula in the form of: Trust flow * X + Citation flow * Y to correlate with log10(traffic), I find that correlation is always optimized when Y = 0. This suggests to me Citation Flow does not add any value in this case, and I stick to using Trust Flow.

    Maybe you have additional suggestions how I could improve on this, please let me know.

    Cheers, Gillis

  • Dixon Jones says:

    I’m late to the party as always – that's an excellent study Nick and intuitively it makes sense. In my experience, I found Citation Flow to correlate with absolute PageRank(r) reasonably nicely – but because of the way in which Majestic starts Trust Flow's data set from peer curated sites, the traffic that flows through those links are much more likely to be humans than bots and this is why I think the correlation with traffic is higher than with many other metrics out there.

  • Dixon Jones says:

    I’m late to the party as always – that's an excellent study Nick and intuitively it makes sense. In my experience, I found Citation Flow to correlate with absolute PageRank(r) reasonably nicely – but because of the way in which Majestic starts Trust Flow's data set from peer curated sites, the traffic that flows through those links are much more likely to be humans than bots and this is why I think the correlation with traffic is higher than with many other metrics out there.

  • […] The article going into the number is here […]

  • […] The article going into the number is here […]

  • Stefan Meggl says:

    Hi Gillis,

    being very new to the show I can see that I am yeeeeears too late but nevertheless find this very interesting.

    Although one question pops up in my mind: How can you make sure that you are not saddling the horse from the wrong side?

    I mean, how can you make sure that this is a valid correlation as – to me – it could be exactly the other way around.
    Couldn’t your data just confirm that high organic search result sites get higher TF and CF?

    Thank you, regards,
    Stefan

  • Jordan says:

    Thanks for doing the study to put some real science behind all the SEO myths out there. I’ve done similar studies myself and found similar correlation.

    So, then how do you manufacture trust flow (TF)? All the explanations I’ve seen so far say to get links from the hand picked few. Which are these sites?

  • Jordan says:

    Thanks for doing the study to put some real science behind all the SEO myths out there. I’ve done similar studies myself and found similar correlation.

    So, then how do you manufacture trust flow (TF)? All the explanations I’ve seen so far say to get links from the hand picked few. Which are these sites?

  • Julia Stiles says:

    Interesting! What is the major difference between Trust Flow and Domain Authority. In this study you said -“Trust Flow is a good predictor of organic search traffic”, and is domain authority also helpful to gain organic traffic?

  • Julia Stiles says:

    Interesting! What is the major difference between Trust Flow and Domain Authority. In this study you said -“Trust Flow is a good predictor of organic search traffic”, and is domain authority also helpful to gain organic traffic?

  • […] But guess what? Trust Flow (TF) is also correlated to organic traffic – and there is a study on this. Here it is. […]

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