Not getting the search traffic you were hoping for? In a new Webmaster Help video, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts reveals five of the biggest basic SEO mistakes webmasters make, and suggests a few ways to improve your website.
1. Your Site Can't Be Crawled
The biggest mistake, according to Cutts, is having a site that isn't crawlable – or not having a domain at all.
Google uses web crawlers (a.k.a., bots or GoogleBot) to find and index web pages by following links. If you make your good content really hard to find, then Google can't crawl, index, and rank your content.
To fix this, Cutts advises surfing around your website to make sure you can reach the pages on your site by clicking on regular links, ideally in a text browser (to do this, from Google's search results, click on Google's cache of your page/site, then click the "Text-only version" link).
2. You Aren't Using Words People Search For
Do your pages use the words people search for? If not, users won't be able to find your website.
For example, Cutts said if you have a page about Mount Everest's elevation, you wouldn't just put the words "Mount Everest elevation" – you'd want to use words like "how high is Mount Everest" because people are going to type that into the search box. Or, a restaurant website should include its menu in plain text, not just a PDF, and include its business hours.
The solution: include the right words on the page, Cutts said. Describe what you do or include the keywords people search for.
3. Focusing Too Much on Link Building
Are you too focused on link building, and not enough on making compelling content and marketing your site?
"I wouldn't put too much of a tunnel vision focus on just links," Cutts said. "I would try to think instead about what I can do to market my website to make it more well known within my community, or more broadly, without only thinking about search engines."
Rather than thinking of your job as building links for search engines, Cutts said you should focus on making something compelling – a reason people will really want to use your website – then think about the broader marketing (e.g., talking to newspaper reporters, billboards, paying for advertising, guerilla marketing, reaching out to people in the community).
4. Your Website Has Bad Titles and Descriptions
Pay close attention to your titles and descriptions, especially on your home page or high traffic pages, Cutts said.
Is your page title "Untitled" or something that, if a user bookmarked, would make it difficult to find later? For help on this topic, you can see our post, "How to Write Title Tags for Search Engine Optimization".
Your description (which usually appears as the snippet beneath the link to your site in search results) should entice people to click on your results by letting searchers know that your site provides an answer to their query or is a good resource.
Cutts also suggested that you could run tests to experiment with different meta descriptions on high traffic pages to see if it results in more visits.
5. You Aren't Using Webmaster Resources
There are a lot of resources to help your site be found. Use them, Cutts said.
In addition to providing Webmaster Tools, Google provides resources including articles, forums, blogs, and videos. Googlers also attend search conferences and talk to people online. And you should use tools from other search engines like Bing and Blekko.
For a great collection of Google resources, check out our post "Top Google Website Optimization Resources".
Making your site crawlable, including the right words on your pages, creating compelling content (and marketing it), improving your titles and descriptions, and making use of the free web sources are just five basic ways you can improve your SEO and user experience, according to Cutts.
Here's the full video: