What Is Majestic TF and CF? A Quick Explainer

What is Majestic TF and CF?  A Quick Explainer Of Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow.

TF stands for “Trust Flow.”  This number reflects the amount of traffic that comes through a link and measures the “trustworthiness” of a page.  CF stands for “Citation Flow.”  It reflects the amount of “link juice” that a page has and is able to pass onto another site through links.  Together, they are used to measure the impact of a link from a website, as well as the likelihood of a certain website ranking well for a specific keyword.

It does go a bit beyond this, so I recommend that you read on.

First, why have two different metrics?

As you probably know already, Google has played cat-and-mouse with people trying to game their algorithm for several years now.  One of the ways that they were successful in gaming the system was by using bots to spam the internet with links, through comment spam on blogs and tons of other methods.  They also caught onto the fact that some “authoritative” or “trustworthy” websites were linking to other websites, but few to no visitors ever clicked on these links, calling into question the value of linking to these sites in the first place.  The way Google saw it was that either the link was irrelevant or the site linking could have been possibly paid by the site receiving the links; in either case, it resulted in a less-than-optimal web experience for web users.

So what is the difference between Pagerank (PR) and TF & CF?

Pagerank used to be what Google used to rank a page.  It’s no longer a factor and is not worth really discussing anymore outside of a few contexts:

  1. If you’re talking about the history of SEO, it is definitely worth talking about PR
  2. If you’re trying to spot a BS SEO, any mention of PR or Pagerank should be a dead giveaway that he or she has no clue of how SEO works.

The idea of TF and CF is similar to what the old PR bar would tell you, with some big differences.  First, TF and CF are generated by a third party, Majestic, and have no data coming straight from Google, while Google provided us PR directly from their data.  Ultimately, there is a correlation between TF & CF and rank in the search engines, but it is by no means a direct, 100% correlation as PR used to be.

How can I use TF and CF to work on my SEO?

There are a few applications:

  • Competitive analysis – what linkbuilding has my competitor done to rank his website?
  • Link outreach – is this site even worth reaching out to for a link?
  • Keeping tabs on your SEO – is the company that you hired cutting corners or doing good work?
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

I do a fairly thorough walkthrough of how to use Majestic to see what links a competitor has acquired.  This guide should give you a good idea of whether your competitor has been doing something that you can replicate, or if you should just consider another method for driving links and traffic to your site.  A word of warning: you may see that other sites are spamming and getting traffic—you may be tempted to do the same thing, but mark my words.  Google. Will. Figure. It. Out.  When it does, you’re going to get slapped.

You can tell if they have been using spammy methods through one of the following:

  • There is a huge difference between the TF and the CF.  A TF that is 1/2 to 1/3 or lower of the CF says that they are getting links from “authoritative” sites, but those links are generating little traffic.  That is fishy and Google can easily tell that they are doing something manipulative.
  • You look at the backlinks going to your competitor and you can tell that they are from BS websites like this one:

how to use tf and cf for seo

LINK OUTREACH

This is the main thing that we use to do linkbuilding for our clients. There are many ways that you can use Majestic to find new opportunities to get links:

  • Find a website that is linking to an article on another site, then offer a better article for them to link to
  • See if a specific blog has enough authority to even bother reaching out
  • Find a website that is relevant to your industry that you did not know about.  This can allow you to establish a relationship in a place where you can gain some new followers.
KEEPING TABS ON YOUR SEO

There are companies and individuals out there that are dishonest (gasp!)

You may be paying a company to write blogs and establish an internet presence for your business, and what they are actually doing is spraying the internet with spam comments.  They only way that you would ever know would be to go to a site like Majestic or Ahrefs and take a look at your backlink profile.  If you see something that doesn’t look kosher, it will give you the opportunity to fire the SEO that you are working with, avoid any potential penalties down the road, avoid blowing even more money on something that is bound to damage your online presence, and move on to another company that is able to do the work that you need.

What you should be looking at:

  • The TF to CF ratio should not be any lower that 1/3 and even that is pushing it.  Ideally, you have a TF/CF of 1/2-2/1 and you are actually getting some traffic from the links that you built.  Links for the sake of links are not the way to go, necessarily.
  • The backlinks that you acquire should be from a variety of websites, with a bunch of differing anchor text (the underlined words that form the hyperlink to your site), and should be in different contexts.  They should not all be guest posts, blog comments, blogroll, footer, or any one type of link.  If they are, for example, 50 blog posts and nothing else, your SEO is getting lazy and you might be at risk for a penalty.
  • All in all, look for anything that doesn’t look natural.

TF and CF are metrics given by a proverbial “blind man feeling the elephant.”

As I discussed in another post, none of the SEO available paint a complete picture.  There is a lot going on in Google’s algorithm (supposedly, over 200+ items) and these tools are only measuring links, which are just one part of the equation.  As Google’s AI becomes even more powerful, it is likely that links will decrease in importance, at which point the entire SEO industry will be upended yet again, and tools like Majestic will need to change in order to continue to provide value.

Please share your thoughts below.  Did I miss any important uses for Majestic’s TF and CF?

 

 

 

 

The First Step of SEO for a New Website: Technical SEO

SEO starts with taking care of the technical part

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the technical elements that we take care of when doing SEO for a new website and that you can absolutely do yourself.

YOUR SITE MUST BE MOBILE-FRIENDLY

Your new website is mobile-friendly, right?  If it is not, you are probably working with a site that will not best serve about 50%-75% of the people searching for businesses like yours on smartphones.  Even if you do manage to rank the website well, it will be for nothing if it doesn’t get you any new customers.

You can remedy this very easily by installing a responsive WordPress theme on your site.  “Responsive” means that the site will readjust the placement of the images and text according to the size of the screen that it is displaying on.  This means that it will be mobile and tablet-friendly and it will be able to use more of the real estate on a larger computer monitor.

YOUR SITE MUST BE FAST

There are a lot of options for checking the speed of your site, but I’m going to recommend Google PageSpeed Insights.  Type the URL of your website into the tool and Google will tell you what you need to do in order to improve the speed of your site.  There are common issues that can be addressed with any number of free plugins, the most common being:

Images that haven’t been optimized

The dimensions of the images on your site are much larger than they need to be.  Compress them and your site will look the same, yet have to download much less information

No browser caching

Allows a browser to store a local version of some of the info that the site delivers, allowing it to load more quickly

Minify CSS and/or Javascript

Basically, compresses some of the script that tells the browser how to display your website

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

This means that the JavaScript and CSS in your theme have to be loaded before the html loads for the content that you first see when you land on the website.  This article goes into more detail about it.

Another way to speed up your site for mobile will be by implementing AMP (accelerated mobile pages).  Amp stores an html version of your blog posts that will allow them to load on smartphones almost instantaneously.  There is a plugin for WordPress that will get you up and running in AMP.  Mind you, it does not support the pages of your site, only blog posts.

YOU MUST HAVE A METHOD FOR ADJUSTING TITLE TAGS AND META DESCRIPTIONS

title tags and meta descriptions

You are going to need a method of adjusting the text in the image above.  This can be done with a plugin like Yoast SEO or by doing it manually, but it needs to be done and you’ll have to figure out how you intend to handle this critical part of your SEO strategy.

YOU HAVE PLACED MICRODATA ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS ON YOUR WEBSITE

This is particularly useful for a local business.  There are ways to share information about your business, products, or services in a way that Google will be able to share it right on the search engine results page.

rich snippets example

To start, this result jumps out from the rest since it is the only result for “italian restaurant in philadelphia” that has a price range displaying as well as 789 reviews.  If you are trying to get in front of a person that is looking to spend $30+ a person and wants to know that there are reviews that he or she can see, then this microdata could help to push your business ahead of the rest on the search engine results page.

There are WordPress plugins that can handle the entering of microdata and Google allows you to do it right in the Search Console with its data highlighter tool.

data highlighter tool

YOU HAVE A SITEMAP AND YOU SUBMITTED IT TO BING AND GOOGLE

Sitemaps make it much easier for the search engines to know what to crawl and index your site.  Think of them like a map of downtown Manhattan—sure, you can just wander around and you’re likely to stumble upon a bunch of cool stuff, but a map would guarantee that you saw everything that you wanted to see.  A sitemap will do exactly that.  You can manually create a sitemap or generate one using a plugin such as the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.  Once you have a sitemap, submit it in Search Console.

submit your sitemap through search console

Now that we’ve gotten the basics of the technical SEO started, let’s move onto the second step: local citations and listings.

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

What will it take to rank the site of a local attorney in local search?

Step 1: Find out who is ranking for the keywords we are targeting

We just launched a brand new site that has no backlinks.  As any good SEO knows, this site is going to need some links if it is ever going to rank for anything.  How better to develop a strategy than to see what has ranked some of the current top results?  But who are they?

For this, we’re going to go straight to Google.  We are going to check who is already ranking for the keywords that this client wishes to target:

  1. lawyers in mount holly
  2. workers compensation lawyers mount holly
  3. workers compensation lawyers south jersey

As you can tell, this client is a lawyer in Mount Holly, NJ that wishes to rank for terms related to worker’s compensation.

“Lawyers in Mount Holly”

After the local three-pack, we have a number of directory sites, followed by some local firms (several of whom are actually in the three pack).

Step 2: Uncover the linkbuilding strategies of the sites that are currently ranking well

We’re going to take these urls and put them into Majestic SEO.  Using the domain comparison tool, this is what we found:

Clearly, there is a reason that mr-law.com is outranking the rest.  While neither the citation flow or trust flow of the site is particularly high, the other sites have clearly done almost nothing in terms of SEO.  The takeaway from this is that even a modest SEO plan will rank our client for these keywords.

What has been mr-law.com’s approach to linkbuilding?

Tentative answer – Directory submissions

why is my competitor outranking me

As I scrolled through the site’s backlinks, they were mostly from low to medium-quality directories.  This is not the best approach to linkbuilding, but in the incredibly noncompetitive market that our client is competing in, this was enough to outrank everyone.

Don’t trust just one tool…

So this is what Majestic says.  What if it missed something?  We’re going to check the same site in Ahrefs.

ahrefs for law firm seo

linkbuilding law firm new jersey

Turns out that with the exception of a local real estate website, mr-law.com is relying almost exclusively on directory submissions to rank.  Outranking this website for “mount holly lawyers” should not be particularly difficult for our client, but let’s see what it will take to rank for the more competitive worker’s comp keywords.

What will it take to rank for worker’s comp-related keywords?

Step 1: Who is ranking for “mount holly worker’s comp lawyers?”

how to rank for workers comp lawyer in nj

We did not get a local 3-pack for the search “worker’s comp lawyers mount holly,” but we did get a smart snippet result (see image to the right).  We’ll have to keep an eye on what this site has done as far as local SEO and where it is ranking in the organic results.

results for seo analysis workers com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: What are these firms doing to build backlinks?

We now have the first local results (after skipping over the first three from Superlawyers and Findlaw).  Let’s throw these into Majestic and see what we find:

workers comp lawyers south jersey seo audit

Looking at these raw numbers, I don’t see a clear winner, so let’s check them in Ahrefs:

ahrefs seo analysis south jersey

What is clear from looking at the two tools is that www.brennerlawoffice.com clearly has many more backlinks than the others, and rupinskilaw.com is the largest site (in number of pages and amount of content), but www.injurylawyernj.com has links from the largest number of domains.  For this keyword, it will likely be more difficult to rank, but we already have three different websites ranking through three different approaches.  It would best serve us to look at the specific link sources for all three sites and form a strategy based on what we learn.

www.brennerlawoffice.com

law firm using directories to rank on Google

As I scroll down the list, I come to see that the site is ranking almost exclusively through links coming from directories, similar to the firms that we saw for the previous keyword.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach as long as the quality of the directories is high.  The problem with an approach like this is that it can be copied with a few hours of work.  A site that wishes to win the local SEO game needs to have links coming to it that a competitor cannot simply create a profile for.  This is not to say that we should forego creating profiles for the client, but this is not a throrough backlink strategy.

www.injurylawyernj.com

law firm in new jersey that finally started doing SEO

This is what it looks like when a firm wakes up and starts doing some linkbuilding.

As you can see, this firm just started doing some linkbuilding a few months ago, but let’s see what they have been up to.  Are they building links through guest posting?  Are they creating content?

more links from attorney directories to boost seo

Nope—more directory links.  In comparison to www.brennerlawoffices.com, it looks like they’ve submitted to more of these directories, but the other website’s directories duplicated many of those links, resulting in more overall from less submissions.  Between the two, it’s hard to say which one is more spammy; the one that has the lower quality links or the one that gives more links per submission.

I almost don’t feel like even looking at the third one, but I have to do my due diligence and see what they’ve done.

rupinskilaw.com

example of terrible backlinking

Spam.  Either this firm has a side hustle selling air jordans in Korea or they have paid a terrible “SEO guy.”  Amazingly, this was the firm that popped up in the local snippet.  WTH Google???

What I have learned

  1. It should not be particularly difficult to outrank these websites.  I’m shocked that any of them is even ranking well.
  2. Directory links continue to work for local SEO.  Although I am doubtful of this being a long-term ranking strategy, these firms are certainly generating business from this approach.  It is a matter of time before they call a firm like mine to handle the disavows once Google rolls out a new algorithm that smacks them for all of the directory links.
  3. Rupinskilaw.com is committing some egregious SEO sins, but they haven’t been penalized yet.  Honestly, I see backlink profiles like this all of the time and I have strong suspicions that Google’s propensity to penalize websites is greatly overstated.
How To Tell Why A Competitor is Outranking You On Google In 3 Steps

How To Tell Why A Competitor is Outranking You On Google

There are a number of useful, free tools available to help you find out why and what to do about it.

These tools are all the proverbial blind men touching and trying to describe an elephant, but when used together, a picture can start to come together.  Here I’m going to go through the steps that I normally go through when doing research for a client.

This is a “live blogging” post.  I am writing it and taking screenshots as I progress…

Step 1: Check My Client’s Website in Majestic

I randomly picked a website ranking on page 2 for “dui lawyer cherry hill.”  This is going to be my hypothetical “client.”  Let’s take a look at some of his numbers:

majestic seo for lawyer

 

 

Ouch.

To start, Majestic didn’t even find a title tag for the home page.  The trust flow and citation flow are typical of what one may expect from a local law firm that isn’t ranking too highly, but that begs the question “how can I get this firm to rank on page 1?”

Step 2 Let’s look at the other firms that are ranking on page 1 for the same term.

I cut and pasted the firms ranking on page 1 into Majestic’s “bulk backlink tool” (found at the top under “tools”).  This is what I found:

dui lawyer cherry hill

None of these sites have insurmountable numbers, so I would feel confident that this firm can get some backlinks.  There are a couple things that I would like to point out about these competitors.

  1. When you see a huge spread in numbers like the one that you see for www.bawallacelaw.com or www.brianreaganlaw.com, there is a higher likelihood that this site has done some bad linkbuilding.  I would not recommend copying these sites’ strategy, since there is a chance that they may get penalized in the future.
  2. The one that I would be most interested in emulating is www.nj-dmv-dwi.com.  It is clear that they have done some linkbuilding and the TF/CF spread does not look particularly suspicious.  Let’s take a look at their backlink profile to see if there’s anything that can be copied.

I discover the strategy

I plug the website’s url into the search bar and click on the “backlinks” tab.  The strategy is pretty clear—he is getting tons of links from other law firms in other parts of the country.

lawyer exchanging links

There are two possible explanations for this:

  1. He is creating great content that everyone is linking to
  2. He is involved in a link exchange scheme, which is against Google policies and could get him penalized (if he gets caught.)  If you’re interested in learning more about what Google considers a “linkbuilding scheme,” read here.

There’s only one way to find out, so I clicked on one of the links!

yea, it's a link exchange

Yea, it’s a link exchange.  At this point, you either:

  1. Start over and look for someone that’s doing SEO the safe way
  2. Say “screw it, he’s probably driving business this way and I should do the same thing!”

I’m not going to tell you to go one route or the other, but I will tell you that there is risk involved with going route #2.  Google has some really smart people working there, and it is likely only a matter of time before they catch onto this site.  On the other hand, he may generate a few hundred thousand dollars in business before it happens, so you make the call.

Hell, I’m curious, let’s see what kind of business he’s generating…

Step 3 – See what the results have been

For this, we’re going to switch over to Spyfu.

His monthly traffic skyrocketed in October, which may have been when he started this current strategy.  It has been driving 1k-2k visits a month to the site, so assuming that 4% of this traffic converts into clients, he’s likely getting in the ballpark of 60-100 cases a month.  At $1000-$2000 a pop, this is a good chunk of change.

A final thought

This is not the way that SEO is supposed to be done and it is a little risky.  Engaging in this firm’s strategy can potentially backfire, but it could also generate a large amount of business for some time.  Ultimately, your decision to take this approach is entirely dependent on your tolerance for risk.  I would also add that Google often tells us that we should do one thing, yet the algorithm rewards something else.  Wil Reynolds gave a great talk on this frustrating part of SEO back in 2012 and it is 100% true even today.