According to Matt Cutts, the biggest issue marketers have with their SEO isn't links or keywords - it's not having a website at all.

It might seem like common sense that you can’t do any search engine optimization if you don’t have a website, but Google’s Matt Cutts says it’s the most common SEO mistake. In his latest Webmaster Help Channel video, Cutts goes invisible to prove that it’s impossible to be found online if you aren’t there with a dedicated domain.

“If you don’t have a website, you’re kind of invisible on the web. And you really don’t want to be invisible on the web. If people have a great business, [Google] want[s] to know about that,” Cutts said.

A social presence isn’t a website substitute

SEO strategies are, at their core, all about gaining visibility online. If companies haven’t laid the most fundamental building blocks down, it will be harder for users to find them even if they’re active on social networks like Facebook, review sites like Yelp or web directories like the YP.

“You don’t want to be invisible, you want to be found,” Cutts reiterates.

It’s not as uncommon as you’d think for a business to have a strong social presence, but neglect to have a proprietary website. Ad Week recently published an article about this very dilemma, urging companies to stop ‘renting’ web presences on social sites, and instead bring the experiences they like to their own domains. Dedicated business pages aren’t subject to trends, changes or algorithms the way social networks are.

Give users a branded destination

“The democratization of technology now allows brands that once relied on social networks  … to instead offer that experience themselves.” – Bobowski

“The democratization of technology now allows brands that once relied on social networks for communication in the social sphere to instead offer that experience themselves. A company’s website can offer photo and video uploading, commenting, contests and sharing,” wrote Kevin Bobowski in the Ad Week article.

It’s estimated that 66 percent of small businesses now have dedicated websites for their organizations, according to data recently released by Deluxe. This is a major improvement from years past, but consider that there are 23 billion small businesses in the U.S. That means there are roughly over 1.5 billion companies without their own domains.

Cutts’ answer could come across as so basic that it seems unhelpful, but it may be just the push these companies need to get started the right way. Underlying Cutts’ point that not having a website is the same as being invisible online is the idea that there is no short cut to SEO success, no magic formula or silver bullet. It’s about building a great website, putting quality content on it and sharing that information with people searching for it on the ‘net.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.