Why SEOs Need to Care About Correlation as Much (or More) than Causation

Posted by randfish

correlation does not equal causation

Today I’m going to make a crazy claim—that in modern SEO, there are times, situations, and types of analyses where correlation is actually MORE interesting and useful than causality. I know that sounds insane, but stick with me until the end and at least give the argument a chance. And for those of you who like visuals, our friend AJ Ghergich and his intrepid team of designers created some nifty graphics to accompany the piece.

Once upon a time, SEO professionals had a reasonable sense of many (or perhaps even most) of the inputs into the search engine’s ranking systems. We leveraged our knowledge of how Google interpreted various modifications to keywords, links, content, and technical aspects to hammer on the signals that produced results.

But today, there can be little argument—Google’s ranking algorithm has become so incredibly complex, nuanced, powerful, and full-featured, that modern SEOs have all but given up on hammering away at individual signals. Instead, we’re becoming more complete marketers, with greater influence on all of the elements of our organizations’ online presence.

Web marketers operate in a world where Google:

  • Uses machine learning to identify editorial endorsements vs. spam (e.g. Penguin)
  • Measures
  • Read the rest

January 20, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Correlation vs. Causation (A Mathographic)

Posted by Dr. Pete

As part of our quest to understand the Algorithm, we do a lot of correlation analysis here at SEOmoz. We tend to dive right into the deep end, so I thought it might be a good time to take a step back and talk about the absolute basics of correlation, including some warnings about causation. We’ll often say (and hear) the fallback phrase – “correlation does not imply causation”, but people rarely dig into what that means.

To make this experience as pleasant as possible for the math-phobic, I drew you a picture. I’d like to introduce the world’s first Mathographic. Ok, it’s probably not the world’s first, and it’s really just an infographic, but give a guy credit for trying to keep you entertained.

View Full-sized Infographic (796 x 2200)

Correlation vs. Causation (A Mathographic)

 Embed this image:

Obviously, our actual studies get a lot more complex than this, but everything has to start somewhere. If you’re interested in more advanced topics on correlation, here are a few references … Read the rest

September 22, 2011  Tags: , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments



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