Understanding SEO: It’s Correlation Not Causation

When it comes to causation and correlation between any two things, the difference is the effect those things have on each other. Causation is a direct effect caused by a defined action. Correlation occurs when two or more variables appear to have a relationship, though no causative agent has been established.

In the marketing industry, one of the biggest challenges is understanding that SEO, unlike PPC, is not as starkly causational as it seems—or as we want it to be.

In other words, the results of the SEO team’s actions do not always precisely match the expectations of the client or the efforts of the SEO practitioners. While we may optimize content for SEO, acquire backlinks, etc., that doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed a rank on the first page for our desired keyword.

“The SEO specialist’s job is to increase the statistical likelihood that a website or landing page continues to climb on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).”

That’s because there are hundreds and hundreds of confounding variables that can affect a website’s ranking for a given keyword—variables that are beyond any SEO professional’s control. The SEO specialist’s job is to increase the statistical likelihood that a website or landing page continues to climb on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). That means we can’t guarantee a number one ranking for every desired keyword, but we can take a holistic approach, utilizing SEO strategies that make an improved ranking more likely.

How Are SEO & PPC Strategies Different?

In my personal and professional experience, I’ve seen people confuse the causative nature of PPC with the more ambiguous and uncertain nature of SEO. Often, both parts of the digital marketing world are being worked on and reported on simultaneously, and they often use similar language.

For example, both PPC and SEO utilize something called a keyword strategy, but just because these strategies share a name, does not mean they’re the same. In PPC, more than one highly specific keyword can be targeted simultaneously for the same campaign. So, you target a specific keyword then see the results of that action. In SEO, unless content is being created on unique pages to target those keywords, results are a lot less direct. Keyword strategy for this is more like casting a net and seeing what sticks. It requires a variety of efforts and even includes things like considering the age of the website or domain where you’re sending people.

So, when reading reports for PPC vs. SEO, it’s important to know search engine results are not directly controlled by the actions of the SEO team or specialist.

What We Can Do & Why It’s Important to Do it All

SEO is a highly interdisciplinary focus that involves an array of efforts. We focus our efforts on certain aspects of SEO that we believe to be correlated to increased rankings and traffic, and we must decide strategically how to best utilize both budget and time. This involves quite a bit of trial and error until the sweet spot is found. Once successful, it leads to a prolonged acquisition of quality leads and can act as a sort of insurance policy during times when the budget is tight.

Here are a few SEO services we do to increase the likelihood that a website or landing page continues to climb in search results.

1. Optimize Content

We perform keyword research and adjust title tags, H1s, and paragraphs in order to make the content more friendly to the search engine. For optimization of the main text, we add in LSI keywords after performing in-depth keyword research and only when they make sense organically in the text. This last part helps our copy avoid a robotic, keyword-centered sound, which search engines don’t like.

2. Acquire Backlinks

Acquiring backlinks can be done a variety of ways, including utilizing directory listings, guest blogging, and outreach. We focus on all three and have found a surefire way to increase Authority Score by acquiring quality, white-hat backlinks.

3. Perform Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves things like Schema Markup, page speed, and more. We perform a technical audit at the beginning of every onboarding process to make sure everything is up to speed.

Looking for More?

When you approach SEO without being fully aware of what is going on behind the scenes and how it works, unwitting individuals may be eager to bite on “guaranteed first page results,” only to be taken advantage of by more dubious entities. But when you take the time to understand SEO, all its pieces, how they work, and what the goals (not guarantees) are, you can go in more prepared and knowledgeable of your results and what improvements are possible.

If you have questions about improving your SEO, our team can talk about this for days. You can check out some of our work or reach out to us directly.