If you work in a role relating to SEO, then citation flow is an important metric to know. As one of the main Key Performance Indicators involved in SEO alongside trust flow, it can be a huge part of how you manage your backlink profile.

What is Citation Flow and Trust Flow?

Citation flow is a metric offered by the Majestic SEO tools and is meant to show how often a website is linked to (cited) by others. This, alongside trust flow (which is used as a measure of trust), has become a popular way of measuring a site’s trustworthiness and backlink profile quality.

These two factors are a huge part of many SEO practices since trust flow and citation flow are very useful for identifying high-quality backlinks pointing at a specific web page or site.

Both citation flow and trust flow measurements are usable as general-purpose SEO metrics despite not being related to Google’s algorithm. Trust flow can help identify good quality referring domains linking to your site, whereas citation flow identifies the volume of links pointing to any chosen web page.

For simplicity’s sake, many people lump citation flow and trust flow measurements together. The citation flow metric is often considered to be a mixture of both since trust flow and citation flow metrics are generally used together anyway.

How is Citation Flow Measured?

Citation flow measures both the quality and number of backlinks pointed at a site, using them to plot a number between 0 and 100. A high citation flow means that a site has a lot of high-quality backlinks, while a medium citation flow means that either quality or quantity (or both) is lacking.

This makes citation flow metrics a very easy way to separate high-quality backlinks from low-quality links pointing to a given site.

Since the citation flow metric is based on how many sites link to the target and their quality, it is often used to pick out good backlinks and cull bad links by simplifying something that could otherwise take hours to check.

How Were Citation Flow and Trust Flow Metrics Created?

Majestic SEO created citation flow by manually pulling a large amount of link intelligence data from “seed sites,” such as Facebook and Google. This information was then put into a logarithmic scale that served as a measurement of backlink quality and volume, similar to how domain authority is measured.

You can use the citation flow metric system to determine whether a website has good-quality links backing it up, making it a good alternative to link equity. However, considering the unique way that citation flow and trust flow work, they also do not override most normal Search Engine Optimization metrics.

This means that citation flow and trust flow are good ways to interpret a website backlink profile while still being able to measure other factors using authority scores and other similar options.

How Do You Access Citation Flow and Trust Flow Metrics?

The Majestic site SEO chart plots the values of each page or site on a scale of 0 to 100, with the X axis being citation flow and the Y axis being trust flow.

This allows you to quickly compare all of the referring domains that a site receives based on these two metrics, significantly speeding up the process of having to check citation flow and/or trust flow data on each site.

This chart becomes more meaningful as you have more backlinks, which usually means that it becomes more valuable for larger sites (or when comparing two sites or more together). The more links you have, the more points of data can appear on the chart.

Each data point is a link pointing at your site, measured by looking at the page’s backlinks to determine its overall quality and trust. More traffic does not change the results – the graph is only looking at the links as Search Engine Optimization boosters, not as channels for visitors to arrive.

Using Citation Flow

Citation flow and/or trust flow are fairly easy to use since they are both very straightforward metrics. Generally, the higher your citation flow and trust flow, the better your site’s incoming links are.

A good citation flow and trust flow would have both metrics as close to 100 on the scale as possible. However, having one of the metrics compensate for the other can also help if your backlinks are not equal in both categories.

Use citation flow and/or trust flow as a measurement of a site’s current backlink quality. If your citation flow is low, then a greater volume of links might be needed to boost your rankings and traffic. If your trust flow is low, then the links that you have are low-quality.

Both of these things can be true, too. Trust flow is increased through quality, whereas citation flow is increased through quantity, so a new website with a low score in both metrics obviously needs to improve both trust and quality.

How to Interpret Citation Flow

Unlike other metrics used by search engines, this data is specific to your site and based on “case studies” of popular websites with large backlinks. There should not be any bias towards a particular search engine since a good citation flow simply means that you have a lot of links, etc.

These metrics are meant to be standalone measurements of your site’s performance. A high citation flow is a good sign that you have a lot of decent links, which most search engines will see as a major ranking factor – so a high citation flow should be good across all search engines.

While this data might push you to look at more detailed information about your links, it is not complex link data on its own. Interpreting it is easy: the higher the number of each flow, the better you are performing.

Does Citation Flow Have Drawbacks

Using either of the flow data sets on their own is a big risk. Together, they can identify low-quality links and poor quantities of links, which can be invaluable for future link building processes – but on their own, they do not give the full context.

For example, low citation levels imply that your site needs more links. However, without an indicator of whether you have low or high trust flow, you may start getting a link from many different sites without realizing that your linking is damaging your overall link quality even further.

It is also very easy to raise one without raising the other. If you buy a black-hat link service from a website that promises thousands of page links pointing at your site, you will gain a huge amount of citation – but not much trust.

Finally, since neither set of data is connected to a search engine like Google, it works as a standalone measurement. This means that it will not necessarily reflect how Google reacts to specific websites you get a link from and does not take into account things organic traffic benefits in the same way that Google does.

If you are using one or both flow measurements on their own with no additional context, it is easy to get the wrong impression: for instance, thinking that your link profile is bad and that you need to create a lot of low-quality links to boost citation levels. These measurements are just one tool in your SEO toolbox.

Boosting Website Citation and Trust Flows

Improving your sites through these measurements is easy. Each instance of data you get from them is a simple breakdown of your backlink quality and quantity, which means that you know exactly which areas you are lacking in.

For quality/trust, you need to focus on relevancy (for things like anchor text) and domain (site) authority. For quantity/citation, simply getting more web linking opportunities directed to your website (ideally across multiple URL targets and page options) can raise the score.

All of the usual link building methods can still help: keyword research, website guest content, site backlink audits and culling, internal linking improvements, regular backlink URL checks to remove spam sites, and so on.

These metric measurements are tool-agnostic since they are just a score of your performance. This means that you can use them alongside any website or SEO software you have, similar to how domain authority is simply a score of the authority and respect that your website has under search engines.

How Many Sites Benefit From Increasing Trust and Citation Flows?

There is essentially no reason not to increase the flow values on your website or even a specific page. Like authority, they simply measure success on your site, so improving them means pushing your website closer to its maximum potential.

While measurements like domain authority may be more useful if you are using Google tools, Majestic’s flow measurements (including alternate options like topical trust flow, which measures a page’s influence over a specific subject matter) are a good all-purpose measuring stick.

If you need to make a manual review of any page, from a blog post to the root domain of a larger website, then these are invaluable measurements to take. Not only are they useful in the short term for identifying your site’s link weaknesses, but they can also be a good indicator of your gradual improvements in the long term.