Are We Looking at SEO Correlation From the Wrong Angle?

We often come across analysis of the factors that can have an impact on SEO rankings in Google. These studies can be useful if they are carefully interpreted and the tactics implemented for the benefit of better website rankings. But when these reports are released they can cause quite a stir and people start to create hypotheses about the correlating factors which lead to confusing opinions.

About the stir Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Search Spam, said:

“If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking.”

Even though that statement sounds like it’s denouncing Google+, it’s been noted that the activity on the Google+ platform, such as shares, can result in more prominent website rankings.

But what if we get the wrong end of the stick and look at these correlation scenarios from the wrong angle? Sometime back in 2011, another study claimed that Facebook shares had a direct effect on high ranking search results. Some SEO-ers found this questionable. Then even Matt Cutts said in an interview that Google’s effect on Facebook is limited as they do not have full access to its data, hence Facebook shares can’t be used as a prominent ranking factor.

Is it possible that we, the SEO community, are misreading the correlation studies during our efforts to find quick wins to reach our SEO goals?

A third perspective of the same scenario is that it’s quite possible a high level of Facebook shares, Google+ and tweets are not genuine signals that Google wants to take into account for rankings, but they are recognised as an indication of improved search visibility.

Obviously the affiliation of social shares and high rankings is a complex process that may rely on numerous interconnected variables. So, instead of trying to wrap our heads around that process, it’s probably a wise move to use the analysis of the prediction signals. For example, if a blog post goes viral, acquiring lots of attention from the internet users; that can be predicted to have long lasting visibility on search engines. While it’s not a certainty, it’s an important factor in addition to the other criteria taken into account.

By bundling all the factors affiliated to SEO in a predictive context, we’re simply trying our best to create a valid assessment of the importance of social sharing in an SEO framework. At the same time it highlights the uncertain nature of SEO where fool-proof results can never be guaranteed. It’s therefore wise to interpret these correlations as predictions knowing the overall uncertainty of search. It will then enable you to extract the real value from these studies and incorporate those recommendations into your search engine optimisation.

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