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Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide…

Search Engine Optimization Basics...

Search Engine Optimization Basics…

Most of us will know by now that SEO is in fact a basic acronym for “Search Engine Optimization” or even “Search Engine Optimizer”. All businesses will at some point consider the option of hiring and SEO guru, however most do not realize, just how BIG the decision is. The simple fact is that whilst any true SEO guru will in fact improve your site and save you time, there is also that risk the SEO could in fact damage your site and perhaps more seriously your reputation.

A recent comment from our friends over at Media Wilde, highlights this:

SEO is one of those amazing concepts and chalked full of valuable data, that if you don’t understand it or find it the least bit interesting, it will lose you, and that can be detrimental to your business if you are web based.
Darby GatesMedia Wilde

Generally most SEO consultants will offer other services to help boost your site performance and reputation.

  • Analysis of your site content or structure.
  • Technically advanced advice on website development, (normally in a report format).
  • Site and Online Content development plans
  • Structured Management of online business development campaigns
  • In-depth Keyword research
  • SEO training for your business or staff
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies.
  • As a base line for this article, we are going to use the basic rules and ethics of Google.

    At this point it is important to understand that all Google search results are organic based, by this we mean that Google do not accept any payments in order to increase your page presence or ranking withing within their results feeds. The results shown in searches are noturally producted using their algorithm systems. It does not cost anything to to appear within Google’s results pages, Google even provide all site owners with a number of free SEO tools including Webmaster Tools, Official Webmaster Blog and Google’s own discussion forum, (although the tools are free, you will need a Google account to use some of them). Googe and SEOThese tools are all designed to enable SEO to become a more simplified method of marketing for the basic business owner. So we have pointed out that all Google search results are placed free of charge, and you are perhaps thinking, “but that is not true“, the fact is, it is true, Google only accept payment for adverts to be placed near search results under the “Sponsored Links” banner. Whilst the premise is search based and results driven any company can use various Google systems such PPC in order to have their “Advert” placed near the search results.

    As we mentioned, most business owners at some point or another look at the option of out sourcing SEO or attempting to do their own SEO work. Either of which is perfectly viable and logical. However before you even start playing around in sea of SEO rules, regulations and even tools, we highly recommend that you do some research first to avoid causing more damage than good. As we are using as the guide for learning SEO tactics and rules, what better place to start than within Google’s own content.

  • Google Webmaster Guidelines
  • Google 101: How Google crawls, indexes and serves the web.
  • Before you embark on your new SEO marketing adventure, try to review the above several time to ensure that you understand it and it’s content. By this time you should be in a far better position to decide if you can do this yourself and more importantly you have to time to do it correctly, or if perhaps hiring an SEO consultant is the preferred route for your business. Regardless of the route you take, in order to gain the maximum leverage when undertaking this project it is also worth considering a site re-design or re-launch. It can not be stressed enough how important it is to have your SEO plan in place prior to any launch, therefore working and building on a good solid SEO foundation, if you are employing an SEO consultant, they can work on a practical search engine structure with you. Most SEO consultants will consider working on existing sites on the basis they have something to build on.

    If you have opted for the later option and wish to sub-contract your SEO work out, again, you should do some research and use a trusted SEO consultant.

    Useful questions to ask an SEO include:Reality Of A Good and A Bad SEO Consultant

  • Do you have examples of your previous work you can show me and can you share any success stories?
  • How often do you check Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • What online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  • What kind of results can we expect to see, and in what timeframe?
  • How do you measure the success of your SEO plans?
  • What do you know about my industry?
  • What experience do you have in my country/city?
  • What’s your experience developing international sites?
  • What do you consider your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in SEO business?
  • How can I expect to communicate with you?
  • How often will you be providing reports back to us detailing the results and future plans?
  • Will you warn us in advance if changes are needed to our site?
  • Whilst SEO consultants will provide great valuable services to their clients, just like any other other industry the unethical SEO consultants have given the industry a bad reputation due to their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate the search engine results. Methods that basically violate the guidelines of most Search Engine systems and generally result in a negative footprint for your sites ranking in the search engines.

    A few points to consider:
    Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
    Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

    Dear Sirs
    Your website: http://www.?????????????????.com/ is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I came to this page via Google but it was hard to find as you were not on the front page of search results. I have found a website which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your site: http://??????????.com/web-traffic/. I managed to get over 10,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted visitors than you have now. Hope this helps 🙂 Take care.

    The unforgivable promise “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Search Engines“.
    No matter how good the SEO consultant is with his sales patter, beware of SEOs that promise or guarantee rankings, claiming to have a “special relationship” with search engine companies, or claim to have a “priority submit” system with search engine companies. There is no priority submit for search engines. In fact, the only way to submit a site to most search engine sites is directly through their public Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do both of these yourself at no cost whatsoever.

    Secretive Sales Banter:
    Just like anything technical, it can become a minefield of terminology, that you simple just don’t understand. Never be afraid to ask question for an complete explanation. Keep asking until you are clear in your own mind that your SEO is using ethical methods. Some SEO’s have been known to create deceptive or misleading content on behalf of their customers, with things such as “doorway page” or “throwaway” domains, both of these alone could result in your site being completely removed search engine index’s. As your SEO consultant is representing your company, it is your responsibility to ensure they are using good codes of practice. Most SEO consultants will require access to your server through basic FTP, this alone is placing a great deal of trust in them. We would advise that you request a weekly diary in advance noting any changes they will be making to your server files and your site.

    SEO’s with Linking Power.
    Many SEO’s have been know to talk of the power of online marketing through “free-for-all” linking systems. Linking sites together through popular link sharing systems and schemes or perhaps submitting your site to thousands of search engines. Generally these are seen as pretty pointless exercises that have very little if any affect on the search engine results with the major search engines. These methods are seen as nothing more than money pits, you spend for little results.

    Careful Consideration
    Whilst you are considering to use any SEO consultant, we would advise you to do some basic industry research. Any basic search through the internet will yield results from various resources. We would advise perhaps check out the search engine sites and their support pages first, this way you know the information is accurate and to the point. Whilst you are doing your research, without a doubt you will find cautionary results that are being highlighted by the media. These are generally caused when SEO’s have used unethical business practices within the SEO industry. Do your research and Be careful.

    Watch the Money Pot and know where your budget is being spent.
    It is important to also understand where your money is going and to ensure it is simply being spent on “SEO Marketing” and not on “Company Advertising”.
    These are not one and the same thing, as so many companies believe. Some search engine systems, combine various advertising promotions such “Pay Per Click” or “Pay For Inclusion”. It is important that you know the difference between these two systems. Whilst it is all good that your new SEO consultant can show your “Advert” on page one of bing. However are you sure that the results content you are seeing is in fact honest SEO marketing and not a simple paid for advert. In basic, the simple method to spot the difference would simply be the fact your “Advert” would not be listed in the search results section of the web page, it might be listed to the right of the results or perhaps even as a banner on the page. This is a well known tactic of SEO consultants in fooling you that you are getting good SEO results, however it is in fact an illusion. Remember you can always check your results on your own computers at any time.

    Shadow Domains
    Another well known code of practice with some SEO consultants would be to create “Shadow” domains that are claimed to funnel users to the site of the SEO choosing using deceptive redirect links. Generally these shadow domains will be owned and controlled by the SEO, who will be claiming to be working on your behalf. Baring in mind that business relationships do not always run smooth and can sometimes work out badly. Should this happen with your SEO consultant, the question is, what will happen to that shadow domain, in basic, the SEO will probably point the links to their other clients or perhaps worse for you to your competition. These sites are owned by the SEO and there will be nothing you can do about it. Should you at any time hear the term “shadow domains” or even the reference to that style of system, we advise you to say no thanks.

    Doorway Pages
    Another known illicit practice would be to place “doorway” pages fully loaded with various keywords on their client’s site. Generally the SEO implies that this will make the page more relevant for the search engine results page. The fact is, this practice is inherently false, individual pages are relevant to their core subject and not for a wide range of keywords. SEO consultants have also been known to add links to their other clients within the pages of your doorway pages. Doorway pages that are overloaded with keywords will inevitable drain the popularity of the links.

    SEO warning signs.
    What should you be looking out for?
    The above list is by no means an in-depth view of things to look out for, these are simply some of the basics and perhaps more common. The bottom line, is simply trust your instinct and always be a position to walk away at any time.

  • owns or offers shadow domains
  • uses doorway pages to promote your business or other clients
  • offers to sell you keywords
  • can not or does not distinguish between true search results and adverts that appear on search results pages
  • promises or guarantees high ranking in search results
  • operates with various business names or has falsified WHOIS info
  • has had domains removed from Google’s index
  • is not itself listed in Google
  • SHould you find yourself in the position where you feel any SEO consultant has mislead you, you should make it your responsability to report it. Most countries have systems in place to protect businesses and consumers from such activities, but if they are unaware of it they can not respond.

    You can use this link to report it online

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    Splicing HTML’s DNA With CSS Attribute Selectors

    Splicing HTML’s DNA With CSS Attribute Selectors

    Splicing HTML’s DNA With CSS Attribute Selectors

    John Rhea

    For most of my career, attribute selectors have been more magic than science. I’d stare, gobsmacked, at the CSS for outputting a link in a print style sheet, understanding nothing. I’d dutifully copy, and paste it into my print stylesheet then run off to put out whatever project was the largest burning trash heap.

    But you don’t have to stare slack-jawed at CSS attribute selectors anymore. By the end of this article, you’ll use them to run diagnostics on your site, fix otherwise unsolvable problems, and generate technologic experiences so advanced they feel like magic. You may think I’m promising too much and you’re right, but once you understand the power of attribute selectors, you might feel like exaggerating yourself.

    On the most basic level, you put an HTML attribute in square brackets and call it an attribute selector like so:

    [href] {
       color: chartreuse;

    The text of any element that has an href and doesn’t have a more specific selector will now magically turn chartreuse. Attribute selector specificity is the same as classes.

    Note: For more on the cage match that is CSS specificity, you can read “CSS Specificity: Things You Should Know” or if you like Star Wars: “CSS Specificity Wars”.

    But you can do far more with attribute selectors. Just like your DNA, they have built-in logic to help you choose all kinds of attribute combinations and values. Instead of only exact matching the way a tag, class, or id selector would, they can match any attribute and even string values within attributes.

    Attribute Selection

    Attribute selectors can live on their own or be more specific, i.e. if you need to select all div tags that had a title attribute.


    But you could also select the children of divs that have a title by doing the following:

    div [title]

    To be clear, no space between them means the attribute is on the same element (just like an element and class without a space), and a space between them means a descendant selector, i.e. selecting the element’s children who have the attribute.

    You can get far more granular in how you select attributes including the values of attributes.


    The above selects all divs with an exact title of “dna”. A title of “dna is awesome” or “dnamutation” wouldn’t be selected, though there are selector algorithms that handle each of those cases (and more). We’ll get to those soon.

    Note: Quotation marks are not required in attribute selectors in most cases, but I will use them because I believe it increases clarity and ensures edge cases work appropriately.

    If you wanted to select “dna” out of a space separated list like “my beautiful dna” or “mutating dna is fun!” you can add a tilde or “squiggly,” as I like to call it, in front of the equal sign.


    You can select titles such as “dontblamemeblamemydna” or “his-stupidity-is-from-upbringing-not-dna” then you can use the dollar sign $ to match the end of a title.


    To match the front of an attribute value such as titles of “dnamutants” or “dna-splicing-for-all” use a caret.


    While having an exact match is helpful it might be too tight of a selection, and the caret front match might be too wide for your needs. For instance, you might not want to select a title of “genealogy”, but still select both “gene” and “gene-data”. The exclamation point or “bang,” as I like to call it, is just that, it does an exact match, but includes when the exact match is followed by a dash.


    To be clear, though this construction often means “not equal” in many programming languages, in CSS attribute selectors it is an exact match plus an exact match at the beginning of the value followed by a dash.

    Lastly, there’s a full search attribute operator that will match any substring.


    But use it wisely as the above will match “I-like-my-dna-like-my-meat-rare” as well as “edna”, “kidnapping”, and “echidnas” (something Edna really shouldn’t do.)

    What makes these attribute selectors even more powerful is that they’re stackable — allowing you to select elements with multiple matching factors.

    But you need to find the a tag that has a title and has a class ending in “genes”? Here’s how:


    Not only can you select the attributes of an HTML element you can also print their mutated genes using pseudo-“science” (meaning pseudo-elements and the content declaration).

    <span class="joke" title="Gene Editing!">What’s the first thing a biotech journalist does after finishing the first draft of an article?</span>
    .joke:hover:after {
       content: "Answer:" attr(title);
       display: block;

    The code above will show the answer to one of the worst jokes ever written on hover (yes, I wrote it myself, and, yes, calling it a “joke” is being generous).

    The last thing to know is that you can add a flag to make the attribute searches case insensitive. You add an i before the closing square bracket.

    [title*="DNA" i]

    And thus it would match “dna”, “DNA”, “dnA”, and any other variation.

    The only downside to this is that the i only works in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and a smattering of mobile browsers.

    Now that we’ve seen how to select with attribute selectors, let’s look at some use cases. I’ve divided them into two categories: General Uses and Diagnostics.

    General Uses

    Style By Input Type

    You can style input types differently, e.g. email vs. phone.

    input[type="email"] {
       color: papayawhip;
    input[type="tel"] {
       color: thistle;

    Display Telephone Links

    You can hide a phone number at certain sizes and display a phone link instead to make calling easier on a phone. {
       display: none;
    a[href^="tel"] {
       display: block;

    Internal vs. External Links, Secure vs. Insecure

    You can treat internal and external links differently and style secure links differently from insecure links.

       color: bisque;
    a:not([href^="http"]) {
      color: darksalmon;
    a[href^="http://"]:after {
       content: url(unlock-icon.svg);
    a[href^="https://"]:after {
       content: url(lock-icon.svg);

    Download Icons

    One attribute HTML5 gave us was “download” which tells the browser to, you guessed it, download that file rather than trying to open it. This is useful for PDFs and DOCs you want people to access but don’t want them to open right now. It also makes the workflow for downloading lots of files in a row easier. The downside to the download attribute is that there’s no default visual that distinguishes it from a more traditional link. Often this is what you want, but when it’s not, you can do something like the below.

    a[download]:after { 
       content: url(download-arrow.svg);

    You could also communicate file types with different icons like PDF vs. DOCX vs. ODF, and so on.

    a[href$="pdf"]:after {
       content: url(pdf-icon.svg);
    a[href$="docx"]:after {
       content: url(docx-icon.svg);
    a[href$="odf"]:after {
       content: url(open-office-icon.svg);

    You could also make sure that those icons were only on downloadable links by stacking the attribute selector.

    a[download][href$="pdf"]:after {
       content: url(pdf-icon.svg);

    Override Or Reapply Obsolete/Deprecated Code

    We’ve all come across old sites that have outdated code, but sometimes updating the code isn’t worth the time it’d take to do it on six thousand pages. You might need to override or even reapply a style implemented as an attribute before HTML5.

    <div bgcolor="#000000" color="#FFFFFF">Old, holey genes</div>
    div[bgcolor="#000000"] { /*override*/
       background-color: #222222 !important;
    div[color="#FFFFFF"] { /*reapply*/
       color: #FFFFFF;

    Override Specific Inline Styles

    Sometimes you’ll come across inline styles that are gumming up the works, but they’re coming from code outside your control. It should be said if you can change them that would be ideal, but if you can’t, here’s a workaround.

    Note: This works best if you know the exact property and value you want to override, and if you want it overridden wherever it appears.

    For this example, the element’s margin is set in pixels, but it needs to be expanded and set in ems so that the element can re-adjust properly if the user changes the default font size.

    <div style="color: #222222; margin: 8px; background-color: #EFEFEF;"Teenage Mutant Ninja Myrtle</div>
    div[style*="margin: 8px"] {
       margin: 1em !important;

    Note: This approach should be used with extreme caution as if you ever need to override this style you’ll fall into an !important war and kittens will die.

    Showing File Types

    The list of acceptable files for a file input is invisible by default. Typically, we’d use a pseudo element for exposing them and, though you can’t do pseudo elements on most input tags (or at all in Firefox or Edge), you can use them on file inputs.

    <input type="file" accept="pdf,doc,docx">
    [accept] {
       content: "Acceptable file types: " attr(accept);

    HTML Accordion Menu

    The not-well-publicized details and summary tag duo are a way to do expandable/accordion menus with just HTML. Details wrap both the summary tag and the content you want to display when the accordion is open. Clicking on the summary expands the detail tag and adds an open attribute. The open attribute makes it easy to style an open details tag differently from a closed details tag.

      <summary>List of Genes</summary>
        Luen Yang
    details[open] {
       background-color: hotpink;

    Printing Links

    Showing URLs in print styles led me down this road to understanding attribute selectors. You should know how to construct it yourself now. You simply select all a tags with an href, add a pseudo-element, and print them using attr() and content.

    a[href]:after {
       content: " (" attr(href) ") ";

    Custom Tooltips

    Creating custom tooltips is fun and easy with attribute selectors (okay, fun if you’re a nerd like me, but easy either way).

    Note: This code should get you in the general vicinity, but may need some tweaks to the spacing, padding, and color scheme depending on your site’s environment and whether you have better taste than me or not.

    [title] {
      position: relative;
      display: block;
    [title]:hover:after {
      content: attr(title);
      color: hotpink;
      background-color: slateblue;
      display: block;
      padding: .225em .35em;
      position: absolute;
      right: -5px;
      bottom: -5px;


    One of the great things about the web is that it provides many different options for accessing information. One rarely used attribute is the ability to set an accesskey so that that item can be accessed directly through a key combination and the letter set by accesskey (the exact key combination depends on the browser). But there’s no easy way to know what keys have been set on a website.

    The following code will show those keys on :focus. I don’t use on hover because most of the time people who need the accesskey are those who have trouble using a mouse. You can add that as a second option, but be sure it isn’t the only option.

    a[accesskey]:focus:after {
       content: " AccessKey: " attr(accesskey);


    These options are for helping you identify issues either during the build process or locally while trying to fix issues. Putting these on your production site will make errors stick out to your users.

    Audio Without Controls

    I don’t use the audio tag too often, but when I do use it, I often forget to include the controls attribute. The result: nothing is shown. If you’re working in Firefox, this code can help you suss out if you’ve got an audio element hiding or if syntax or some other issue is preventing it from appearing (it only works in Firefox).

    audio:not([controls]) {
      width: 100px;
      height: 20px;
      background-color: chartreuse;
      display: block;

    No Alt Text

    Images without alt text are a logistics and accessibility nightmare. They’re hard to find by just looking at the page, but if you add this they’ll pop right out.

    Note: I use outline instead of border because borders could add to the element’s width and mess up the layout. outline does not add width.

    img:not([alt]) { /* no alt attribute */ 
      outline: 2em solid chartreuse; 
    img[alt=""] { /* alt attribute is blank */ 
      outline: 2em solid cadetblue; 

    Asynchronous Javascript Files

    Web pages can be a conglomerate of content management systems and plugins and frameworks and code that Ted (sitting three cubicles over) wrote on vacation because the site was down and he fears your boss. Figuring out what JavaScript loads asynchronously and what doesn’t can help you focus on where to enhance page performance.

    script[src]:not([async]) {
      display: block;
      width: 100%;
      height: 1em;
      background-color: red;
    script:after {
      content: attr(src);

    Javascript Event Elements

    You can also highlight elements that have a JavaScript event attribute to refactor them into your JavaScript file. I’ve focused on the OnMouseOver attribute here, but it works for any of the JavaScript event attributes.

    [OnMouseOver] {
       color: burlywood;
    [OnMouseOver]:after {
       content: "JS: " attr(OnMouseOver);

    Hidden Items

    If you need to see where your hidden elements or hidden inputs live you can show them with:

    [hidden], [type="hidden"] {
      display: block;

    But with all these amazing capabilities you think there must be a catch. Surely attribute selectors must only work while flagged in Chrome or in the nightly builds of Fiery Foxes on the Edge of a Safari. This is just too good to be true. And, unfortunately, there is a catch.

    If you want to work with attribute selectors in that most beloved of browsers — that is, IE6 — you won’t be able to. (It’s okay; let the tears fall. No judgments.) Pretty much everywhere else you’re good to go. Attribute selectors are part of the CSS 2.1 spec and thus have been in browsers for the better part of a decade.

    And so these selectors should no longer be magical to you but revealed as a sufficiently advanced technology. They are more science than magic, and now that you know their deepest secrets, it’s up to you. Go forth and work mystifying wonders of science upon the web.

    Smashing Editorial (dm, ra, yk, il)

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