There seems to be a lot of questions with regard to the validity of the results of SEO correlation studies. In order to understand the studies and use the information shared properly, there is a need to put it in the right context.
The Benefits of an SEO Correlation Study
A correlation study can offer help in a lot of ways. First, it can allow you to predict outcomes. When two variables appear to be strongly correlated, conclusions can be made. In the context of SEO, a correlation study may show you what high ranking sites implement. Whether or not their initiatives contribute to their ranks in search engines is inconclusive. However, you can possibly find a relationship between the variables involved.
Another advantage of this kind of study is that it helps speed up the process for further research. The results of the study can be used as an initial basis for further research. It can lead to better analysis. In this way, you may be able to fine tune outcomes as well as derive causation explanations which can further justify or dispute initial impressions on the relationship between two variables.
Results from a correlation study can prove useful. But it also depends on the extent of your understanding of the study. While conclusions can be easily drawn out, caution must be practiced. There are certain limitations about this kind of study. Hasty conclusions can easily lead to unnecessary initiatives in your SEO strategy and result to costly mistakes.
The Limitations of a Correlation Study
The first limitation of a correlation study is that it does not offer any indication in terms of causality. While results can demonstrate or give you insight on the nature of relationships between variables, it does not in any way indicate causation.
For instance, in the case of high ranking pages that display certain initiatives, you cannot make the conclusion that such factors are responsible for putting them at the top of the search engine ranks. In the context of SEO, some correlation studies may show social signals as a common factor among top ranking sites. However, this does not necessarily mean that social signals have a definitive impact on search engine rankings. In fact, this is contrary to the belief that social data is insignificant to Google and other search engines.
The bottom line is vigilance and caution must be applied when interpreting the study. Whether such data may be of help or deem completely useless depends on how you utilize the information presented before you.