Trust Flow: The Most Rubbish SEO Metric in Existence

Trust Flow has been all over the SEO community lately like bugs on a windshield. Everyone is making buying and linking decisions off of this rubbish metric alone, but that really isn’t helping your overall SEO efforts.

majestic trust flow metricAs domain brokers we get a lot of questions regarding trust flow. Everyone cares about trust flow. When we publish a new list of expired domains for sale, anything TF 30+ sells like hot cakes and nobody is interested in anything with less than TF 20 and especially not less than TF 15.

However, what many people don’t realize is that trust flow alone is not a good metric to go by and is almost worthless. If you blindly buy off trust flow then you will be very disappointed and likely not get the rankings you want. The reasons why the trust flow metric is rubbish are listed below.

1. Majestic updates frequently so the metric is unstable.

If you check the trust flow of your domains frequently you will see that it goes up and down all the time. As domain brokers we have checked the trust flow on a particular domain more than once in a day only to see different metrics. If you are buying on trust flow alone then you will be disappointed. When someone provides you with the trust flow metric, it’s just a snapshot of that domain at one point in time but is always subject to change, and it will change.

We once bought about 10 domains in our earlier days based on trust flow. They were TF 20-30 and we were stoked because we just knew that linking those to our money sites would give them a huge boost.

Well, guess what? It didn’t.

Shortly after we checked the metrics and the TF on all of them had completely tanked… to 0 on most of them. We unlinked them from our sites and put them in our virtual garbage can. However, a couple months later when we realized that Majestic was moody we checked the metrics again and the TF was back on all of them, even higher than it was before. What the heck, Majestic?!

At the time of this writing it appears that there was some big Majestic update (as if it isn’t wacky all the time anyways). Here are some conversations from the Facebook group we are apart of just to show you that it is a widespread problem and everyone is talking about it.

trust-flow-facebook-convo

And here is another conversation on the same day…

tf-convo-facebook3

And another from a Skype Group

skype2

As you can see there is a lot of chatter about trust flow because it is so unstable and it’s constantly throwing everyone off.

So if you’re going to buy domains based on trust flow alone you either shouldn’t, or stop complaining when the trust flow drops because it’s the nature of the beast. Those are your only two options. The reason why the metrics change so much over time is listed in the next point.

2. Majestic isn’t a perfect crawler so it often doesn’t find links that it found before.

Did you know that trust flow on any particular page or domain is a combination of the trust flow of all of the pages linking to it? Majestic isn’t a perfect crawler and if it doesn’t find a backlink in a particular crawl then your trust flow could be completely messed up. Often, you can check the backlinks of a domain and it shows links as “deleted”.

Have you ever checked for yourself to see if this is true? Most of the time it’s not! If you check for yourself, 80% of the time the link is still there but because Majestic thinks it has been deleted it will factor out the trust of that domain.

The highest TF link of this domain shows as deleted, but it's not!

The highest TF link of this domain shows as deleted, but it’s not!

link-found

See, it’s still live. But the TF of that link is not factored in.

When we purchased this domain (we found it from scraping) it had TF 20+, but not Majestic shows that it only has TF 11. If you are living and dying by trust flow, this really, really sucks. It makes you feel like you’ve been ripped off and that you’ve wasted money.

Trust flow dipped from 20+ to 11 because of the "lost" link.

Trust flow dipped from 20+ to 11 because of the “lost” link.

However, because we have advanced in our domain buying strategies, we didn’t buy this for the trust flow. In fact, we NEVER buy for the trust flow of a domain. We bought this because the DA was high (and not because of spam, mind you). And look, the DA is still high even when Majestic is being moody.

moz-stats

3. Trust flow is easy to manufacture.

Trust flow is a garbage metric because it’s easy to manufacture… simple as that. A domain can have high trust flow because of one link… and it may be its only link.

Here is an example of one of the domains we bought a while back because it had TF 39. The trust was coming from one link alone, and Majestic showed that there were only a handful referring domains to total to the site. This domain was actually pretty weak and even if trust flow mattered, spending money on this domain would be risky because if that one link is lost then there goes all of the trust flow.

high-tf-profile

As I said, when we bought this domain it had TF 39 but today (many months later) it has TF 24 for no apparent reason. We even linked one of our powerful PBNs to this site (TF 37, DA 45) yet the trust flow is much lower than when we bought it. Why???

Originally had TF 39. Now it's TF 24.

Originally had TF 39. Now it’s TF 24.

Here is another example if you aren’t convinced that trust flow can be manufactured. This is one of our affiliate sites in a highly competitive niche. It’s not quite a churn-and-burn site but pretty darn close because we’ve abused it so heavily.

manufactured-tf

manufactured-tf-2

Many of you would probably jump up and down if this was available for a reasonable price. Trust flow 54 on the home page URL? No wonder it has high trust flow, look at the top backlinks to the domain.

high-tf-backlinks

What you may not realize is that this domain is close to brand new (less than one year old). We have blasted it with GSA links when we thought that was a good idea. These links are far from natural, trust me, but they have made the trust flow of the domain ridiculously high. It is all too easy for a domain broker to build a couple high trust flow links to a domain and then sell it at a premium because it has high trust flow, only to later pull the links away.

4. Trust flow is not really about one domain but about ALL the domains linking to that domain, and all ALL the domains linking to THOSE domains, etc. etc.

I can hear you now saying “Well my trust flow dropped but Majestic doesn’t show that any of my links have been deleted, it just dropped.”

Trust flow is not about your domain, but about the domains linking to your domain, and the domains linking to those domains, etc. If site A (your domain) is linked to from domain B, and domain B is linked to from domain C, and domain C loses some links, then the trust flow is affected which affects the trust flow of domain B which affects the trust flow of domain A (your domain).

Are you exhausted trying to keep up with this yet? You should be.

why-tf-is-always-changing

The web is not static… it is dynamic like a river. Any snapshot that is taken is just a specific moment of time but then things quickly change. The web is constantly being crawled and metrics are constantly being updated to reflect those crawls. As covered above in this article, crawlers aren’t perfect and are frequently missing links. That is why you cannot rely on it as a metric but why you need to look at the domain as a whole to see if it will stand the test of time and be a good investment.

5. Trust flow is based off of the page that the links originate from, not the root domain.

When looking at trust flow you’ll see on the Majestics backlinks page that it’s based off the of page where the inbound links originate, not the trust flow of the entire domain. Why is this important?

This is important because if the link originates from a page that Majestic doesn’t feel has decent trust flow, even if the domain has wild trust flow, then no trust flow is passed to your domain. This is insane!

Trust flow is based on linking page, not linking domain

TF is based on linking page, not linking domain

 

All that trust and no trustflow

All that trust and still no trust flow

If you have an inner page link (because who is going to get a homepage link?) from bbc.co.uk, foxnews.com or huffingtonpost.com and that inner page doesn’t have high TF, your domain will appear to be garbage, based on trust flow anyhow. I don’t know about you but I consider links of that sort to be pretty valuable.

If Majestic were to factor in root domain TF, wow wouldn’t that stir things up a bit? At least maybe trust flow would be more reliable as a metric as you’d be able to spot better links easier. But as it currently stands… the trust flow metric is garbage.

You’d be ashamed to know how many lust-worthy domains are overlooked by domain scrapers which have amazing backlinks from domains that Google trusts highly, but aren’t getting any trust flow from Majestic’s algorithm.

6. If you are blinded by trust flow you will miss out on a lot of great domains.

We have dealt with many customers that are looking for domains in really specific niches… think a “pink and blue striped baseball cap” niche. We have actually found strong domains in some of these niches for customers that are spam-free, have high DA, maybe a Wikipedia link or .edu link, maybe TF 15 and numerous referring domains only to have customers say “No thank you, I only accept TF 20+ domains”.

We don’t even know how to respond to this. They are completely blind to all other factors and want to make a buying decision off of a metric that is going to change over time and is highly unstable. They pass up on really great domains (as good as expired domains get that is) because they don’t meet their minimum trust flow metrics.

7. Relying on trust flow means you will stop using your head, stop using common sense and as a result, not see the ranking improvements you wish to see.

We see many people that want a proven SEO method and want to feel 100% confident in everything they are doing, and they do it by going strictly off of commonly agreed upon metrics. Because everyone talks about how important trust flow is they will be more confident in their buying decision if they buy high trust flow domains. Many people have stopped using common sense and feel if they can’t simply go off of an agreed-upon metric in the SEO community then everything just seems up to speculation and that doesn’t make them feel warm and fuzzy. But guess what… SEO isn’t warm and fuzzy! It’ a lot of trial, error and best judgement!

So if trust flow isn’t the answer, then what is?

The answer is that you can’t simply go off of any metric whether it is trust flow, referring domains or even domain authority. Metrics just give you an idea as to if the domain is valuable or not but really, you need to look at the domain as a whole to see if it will give your websites a good push or not. Some things you want to analyze include:

If you buy expired domains from a broker this can be difficult because the only thing you’re given is metrics. Unless you have built trust with the broker. A good idea is to pre-pay for domains and you’ll find brokers far more willing to share backlink profiles since they’re much less likely to get robbed blind.

If you’re paranoid of pre-paying a broker, then why not learn how to scrape your own expired domains? It’s really not that difficult, you don’t need mega bulk domain scrapers. Although Jesse did put together a 20 hour writeup on his top pick if you plan on going the paid route. You can do small scrapes in only the niche you need with pretty good results using some of our favorite tools.

If you don’t want to learn to scrape your own expired domains then be sure you are working with a reputable domain broker to give yourself the best odds a buying expired domains that will help you to rank you site. Also, if you are in search of expired domains don’t have false expectations about how good those domains will be. Understand the difference of buying expired domains vs buy domains at auctions. There is a reason those expired domains didn’t get picked up at auction.

Otherwise, if you already scrape your own expired domains or purchase from auctions then you should be able to do a full domain analysis to decide if it’s worth your money or not. Ultimately the only thing that matters if is a particular domain will help you to rank your website.

Conclusion

Surely this topic will continue to create controversy as people are grasping at straws for anything solid which can be used to guarantee rankings. The reality is harsh, but SEO isn’t now, nor for the foreseeable future, a perfect science.

After putting over 500 hours into domain scraping over 4 months and spending 12+ hour days gawking at backlink profiles we can say with 100% confidence the most reliable metric is common sense. Even Majestic themselves suggests the same…

 

So without giving away the farm… How do you square up on your ideal domain? Have any trick’s you’d share?

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23 thoughts on “Trust Flow: The Most Rubbish SEO Metric in Existence

  1. I’ve stopped putting as much stock in TF as I used to. I too noticed a huge drop in several sites in the last few days and with little to no change in the backlinks. I think Majestic is helpful for seeing how many referring domains there are (although I do see it drop links that still exist), and I use it mostly to see what the Topical flow is. Nowadays that’s what I primarily look at (topic, how many referring domains, and whether the backlinks are within the page content or blog comments).

  2. You said it. Look at the domain as a whole not just 1 metric. My first port of call is backlinks. If they are strong and present, I dig deeper.

  3. Thanks for the great article – you did the content upgrade / unlock just right.

    You cleared up TF for me, but of course you made the whole decision process much harder!

    Dale.

    • Thanks Dale! Not relying on TF shouldn’t make things harder… even if TF were a good metric it’d still be good to do as much research as you can on the domain though I understand that it’s not always an option if you’re buying expired domains unless you work out a fair deal with a seller :-)

      I had a great conversation with someone earlier today that bought a domain with 2 .edu backlinks from really powerful sites (DA 50 and DA 90 I think he said…) and everyone told him the domain was bad because it only had TF 11. In this case he used his gut and kept the domains because it was common sense to him that the domain had value because those links were hard to get. Metrics are only great because they can give us a place to start our search.

  4. Hi,

    So do you offer domain names for sale suitable for building a PBN or a service to find them?

    If so send me an email (entered it with this comment) as would be interested in using someone who takes a holistic approach.

    By the way would be useful to install a plugin that lets us subscribe to comments or be notified when a reply occurs.

    Dale.

  5. Nice post. Yeah it’s tedious, gotta really look at things holistically. Can’t wait until we can program human learning bots that can spam-check our PBN domains for us.

  6. Pingback: Majestic's Topical Trust Flow: Why You Shouldn't Hinge Domain Buying Decisions on It - SimpleSites.info
  7. What if I’m bulk checking thousands, or even millions of expired domains? What do you think is the best metric that I can use?
    I think it would be impractical to check the domains one by one especially if you scraped millions of expired domains… :/

    • Great question, Sarah. There is a time and a place for metrics. We do the same thing and you have to start with metrics otherwise there are too many domains and it would be too time consuming to sort through! I suppose this depends on if you are selling the domains or trying to find them for your own purposes. We tend to sort and cleanse based on a minimum trust flow, minimum DA and a minimum number of referring domains. This can get tricky as what if there is a REALLY good domain that is just below your trust flow threshold or just misses the mark of your minimum number of referring domains? The line needs to be drawn somewhere otherwise the entire venture will just become completely unprofitable. Sometimes we take a glance at the domain names that missed the cut just to see if there is any gold in there or we’ll put them on a different sheet to go through if we get desperate. People are still obsessed with metrics because they are a GREAT place to start and to give you an idea of what domains are of quality but the problems start when the domain is really solid and someone doesn’t want it because it’s trust flow 17 and they only accept trust flow 18 and above (happens to us as sellers).

  8. Thank you for this fantastic, thoughtful article. Even as a link noobie I was immediately suspicious when I noticed the trend – and received the advice – of trusting trust flow as the primary factor in assessing domains – I mean, wasn’t it PR last week that we had to put our faith in? It is appeals to people’s inherent laziness to be told that you only need to assess one factor, and it’ll allow you to be able to pick up 10 sweet domains in under 10 minutes. I don’t mind that it is complicated though – I don’t want SEO to be easy. Let the lazy bastards have their trust flow domains.

    • You got it Ben :-) Yes, if SEO were easy, everyone would be doing it and there would be more competition so it’s good in a way that people blindly trust metrics! Glad you were/are able to see through the trust flow BS early on as a link noobie.

  9. While I appreciate your effort and information I wonder where the end and the beginning occur. Your conclusion that trust flow as a metric is not believable or reliable as a metric is because it is a moving target. While that seems to impress you negatively I can not recall any metric, especially the one’s we had thrust down our necks for years by Google as anything other than moving. As such, an always changing metric does not sound like an automatically negative issue to me as it relates to Trust Flow. The issue is only a problem on thin domains that have too few links from too few sources. Now as disappointing as it is to get a link from a High TF domain only to benefit a sub 20 TF rating from the inbound link there is a grey area as to the combined effect of the absolute url and the domains url, both of which will certainly have different TF factors. If I were to conclude anything from the data set you provide is there is endless opportunity to credibly misinform your self and others. The best conclusions to be had are singly be wary of thin domains. Second is do not put blinders on in-turn ignoring other determining factors as referring ,IP’s, referring sub-nets, and referring domains.

    Issues abound on the typical Chinese domain that can have thousands of Edu and Gov links but are coming into a domain that served a seedy topic as far as US business is concerned. With all the many thousands of links Chinese domains can have they pass barley any trustflow and or domain authority when totaling the sheer numbers of Edu and Gov links. These Chinese domains certainly would in many cases be disastrous domains to work with if neighborhoods, IP community are still as important today as they were in the past. I can see that young domains can not have “attained” anything worthwhile as far as trust or track record so unless I am in love with the domains name I simply ignore young domains.

    In conclusion I do hope for a consensus metric or utility that fashions a computational result that serves as a reliable predictor and an effective evaluator of domains. Studies have shown that in a normal domain evaluation the tendency is 85% certain that as domain trust flow increases so too will the domain authority. If you find high trustflow domains with low domain authority or the reverse a red flag should emerge warranting additional research. Additionally too high citation flow in relation to trustflow is another red flag issue. Citation flow certainly can have a negative effect in the wrong percentage relationship with trustflow. Typical analysis shows a fall off of benefit when citation flow exceeds trustflow and increases in negative effect the greater the spread. With the correct perspective I think trustflow can and does provide a benefit with-in confines. Right as we look at this subject matter the indices of social relevance, social engagement and the elements that provide for ranking local websites is ever changing on issues of quality and quantity. It is certain a consolidated solution across providers will be hard fought especially where and while Google remains master
    regards
    Keith Richard
    President
    SEOtactical Inc

  10. Thanks for the well thought-out response Keith.

    The fact that the metric is moving does not negatively impact me at all… my main gripe is that we sell expired domains, and people make buying decisions off of this metric alone. Really, as we do not disclose the expired domains prior to purchase as the are unregistered, that’s all people can go off of is metrics. However, if we list an expired domain with a TF metric of 20 but when we go to sell it it’s dropped to TF 18, people don’t want the domain anymore when the links are all still there because they have a minimum TF threshold which is silly because that is just one metric.

    Many expired domains that can be scraped ARE thin domains which also decreases the reliability of this metric. You’re right… it’s best to not go with thin domains, but many people are building their PBNs with expired domains as domains at auction can get pricey. That said, they want extremely stable, reliable metrics, and think the domain is complete garbage when the TF metric wiggles. People also have blinders on to the metrics they want, irregardless if there may be a better domain for them.

    You’re also right… there are lots of red flags when metrics are out of what which are great to keep an eye out for as many imbalances can be an indication of spam.

    As always, metrics are a great place to start but are not an all-inclusive way to tell if a domain should be used in a PBN and if it will have any push which I think many people agree upon, but these “stubborn” people I speak of are still victim to metrics alone.

  11. Moz and Majestic have the same issue. Issue #5 that you pointed out. Even if the main domain has awesome TF, both of these sites will not give your the appropriate TF or DA just because your link is on an internal page (With obviously low metrics. You know what though, it doesn’t matter because Google does. That’s why our rankings keep going up month after month (Although the TF and CF has dropped significantly). These tools are only to be used to ‘gauge’ things. If your rankings are going up then who cares really :)

  12. That’s seriously insane stuff… I find majestic metrics to be full of flaws. I had one of my site showing 20 referring domains in ahrefs and only 6 on majestc.
    How can they miss all of the 14.. It’s spider is all screwed..

    And I also have don’t know how you can judge on such correlations. Well It’s not G for sure. I have also seen people blocking bots from majestic and ahrefs to enter their site. Now how would they connect with that?

    But that was a cool stuff mate. Well done

    • If you want to know what Google thinks of a domain, check it’s rankings. Simple as that. All other tools are just tools. Thus the write-up!

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