Google: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation In Search Rankings

Mar 5, 2012 • 8:25 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google SEO CorrelationKaspar Szymanski, a Googler responsible for Webmaster Communication and spam prevention, said in a Google+ post that "correlation does not imply causation."

Something many have said before, but heck, it can't hurt to say again. It comes off a lot stronger anyway when a Googler who sees the details of a specific situation says it himself.

Kaspar said:

Browsing Google webmaster forums it seems like some folks confuse correlation with causation. That one link from a dodgy directory you got last week or changing H2 to H3 yesterday did likely not contribute to your sites visibility today. Please keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation. Rather than assuming impact, check your Webmaster Tools message center or better yet enable message forwarding to email :)

He is clearly hinting that someone in the forums blamed a ranking drop to a header tag change when in reality, Google emailed the webmaster via the Webmaster Tools message center the real reason. If he just checked there, he would not have felt his H2 change caused such a serious ranking drop because it did not.

Often it is hard for SEOs to realize that Correlation Does Not Imply Causation but they need to. Too many variables in search to simply pinpoint one change as the deciding factor in many cases.

Forum discussion at Google+.

Image credit to ShutterStock for SEO graphic.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: March 2, 2012


Singapore Sue

03/05/2012 01:34 pm

This is a great reminder of a basic principle of science. One can imagine how it's easy to let this slip in this realm, where, in lieu of dealing with relatively constant natural principles, one is dealing with a relatively quiet team of active individuals making occasional changes in background.

Autocrat (Lyndon NA)

03/05/2012 01:40 pm

"Correlation does not equate to Causation, and reading it on some site doesn't make it fact." Should be a mantra for anyone involved with the internet. Tiem and time again I see the "chinese whispers" ... someone at/near the top says AAA, and within a week it's in numerous blogs as ABCDEF. All forms of "potentially" and "may" and "possibly" and "likely" seem to have disappeared, and things like "is" "certainly" and "for real" seem to crop up instead. Some people need to understand that they have an audience, and thus a responsibility. Maybe, if peopel took a little more care in writing, and others in reading - we wouldn't see so many people getting stuffed up?


03/05/2012 03:15 pm

Google is a one trick pony so to make more money they need more sites to advertise. Panda is just correlation... Traffic goes down because Google is a one trick pony and fills the page with their junky, high priced ads that look like normal results. Just correlation. Yeah.

Jeff Downer Indianapolis IN

03/05/2012 03:16 pm

Statistics 101.  First class.

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