What’s My Chain Cert (#26)

Ok and coming in for the home stretch we go into a Domain & DNS tools segment to close out the series

When you manually install an SSL certificate, you actually need to be concerned with probably 2 or 3 separate certificates: yours, the certificate of your issuing provider, and the certificate of their provider. It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme, but it ensures that only the trusted certificate providers are in control of what valid TLS/SSL certs are being used.

Note that if you correctly install your certificate but not the parent certs (also known as the “chain cert”), your visitors will see SSL warnings in their browsers. This happens also if one of the intermediary certificates (that is, the two above yours) has a problem (like they become expired).

As well, as this website handily explains:

To complicate matters, browsers cache chain certificates, meaning that an improperly-configured chain could work in some browsers but not others, making this an annoying problem to debug.

This site tests if your server is serving the correct certificate chain, tells you what chain you should be serving, and helps you configure your server to serve it.

Use the tool to debug and examine these.


BuiltWith (#25)

BuiltWith is a quick and dirty tool that does one thing and it does it very well: It tells you what specific technologies any given website was created with: down to the Analytics/Tracking they are using, Widgets they have installed, their back-end technologies (also known as “the stack”), the technology they are using for mobile, payment processing, and JavaScript Libraries. You also see information about Advertising, email sending providers, SSL certificates, CDNs, the document encoding, and more.

It’s kind of like peaking behind the curtain.


Google Trends (#24)

Let’s take a road trip! Google Trends lets us see what people are searching for by region, over time, and comparative searches.

Let’s see how people are searching for the term “road trip” across America.

When viewed over time, people stopped search for “road trip” right aroudn the end of March when the quarnatine for the COVID pandemic came across America.

We can also see “road trip” searches by state, and interestingly, based on this data can conclude that people from the Northwestern part of America (Washington state, Oregon, Montana) take more road trips (or at least search on Google more times than people from the Southeast.)

The top state for searches for “Road trip” is Oregon, followed by Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state, and Utah.

Google trends suggests related search terms to “road trip” helpfully giving us insights into other things we can explore.


Google Trends also has powerful comparative analytics. Take a look at these two search terms; “beach trip” (shown in red) vs. “bike trip” (shown in blue)


Facebook Audience Insights (#23)

Today I want to explore New York State, so I enter “New York” in this region selector.

This chart tells me that of all the New Yorkers Facebook can advertise to, the largest cohort is 25-34-year-olds. It also tells me that advertises to 54% women and 46% men in New York state, which is off by just 1 percentage point as compared to the whole nation.

This powerfull tool is uniquely valuable when buying Facebook ads, but has even more implications for market research and understanding target markets.

Take a look at this chart of the top categories of interest for New Yorkers:

Finally, look at this side-by-side chart of New Yorker’s relationship status and education level, and notice that Facebook has also included the change in these things.

According to this chart, people are currently getting divorced relatively a lot (the number of individuals who marked themselves as married changed by negative 13% and the number of people who are single is up by 19%). Education level also appears to be rapily changing, with a 29% uptick in people who are going to grad school.


Facebook Page Insights (#22)

If you have a Facebook Page, did you know that Facebook offers you a sophisticated set of tools to gain insights into your page?

Here’s a quick summary of the Facebook page associated with this blog, which you can find at (Incidentally, if you could head over there and give the page a ‘Like’ I would be most grateful.)

Some vocabulary:

Actions – are when someone interacts with the post, either by liking, commenting or sharing

Pageviews refers to how many times people saw the page.

Page previews refer to how many times someone saw a preview of the page (like in the newsfeed).

Likes refers to how many times people it the “like” (or another of the reaction options on Facebook) button.

Reach refers to how many people saw this at least momentarily, in passing, or at all. (that is, the “total reach” of your post or story.)

Recommendations refers to someone recommending your page when a 3rd party asks for recommendations in a post.

Engagements refer to any kind of interaction with your post. Videos show you how many people watched at least 3 seconds of your videos. Followers show a chart of how many new followers you accrue over time. And finally, Orders shows you how many orders were placed through this page (for example, for a Facebook-supported service.) Note that if you are advertising an external website, you’ll want to use the Facebook Pixel to correctly configure the tracking to capture the order and associate it back to the ad that Facebook shows to your customer.

Installing the Facebook Pixel on your website requires a developer, so it is beyond the scope of this introduction.


Facebook OG Debugger Tool (#21)

Have you ever been on Facebook scrolling through the wall and see someone’s post linking to an article? You probably saw the message your friend shared when he or she posted the link, followed by a large image that seems to represent the page. Below the image are the article’s title and the first line of a description (shown truncated with ellipsis if it is too long.)

Here’s a post in my feed shared by Senator Elizabeth Warren about the housing crisis.

Notice the large image, above the website’s domain, above the headline of the article, above a portion of the intro text.

Today we’re going to cover how to set all of that for your page. In fact, there isn’t much you as the marketer do— this is a job for the web developer. When your CMS or blog correctly publishes what is known as “open graph” tags, all of this information is set for you: the image, the headline, and the description.

Meet the Facebook Open Graph Debugger, also known as the Sharing Debugger.

These things can be examined, debugged, and re-scraped if you want to clear Facebook’s cache. That’s correct: this unique tool both lets you examine how Facebook looks at your page and will display the preview when shared.

In particular, you’ll note that by default Facebook only re-scrapes and looks for changes to this URL once every 24 hours. However, if you use this tool, you will actually be making Facebook re-scrape the page in realtime (near realtime), which will affect the previews for all users across Facebook.

That’s an interesting quirk to be aware of.

For developers, the open graph protocol is documented here. In short, the HTML markup of the page should contain meta tags which determine how Facebook (and other social networks like Twitter) pull the preview content and display it.

Take for example this example from Facebook’s developer documentation. Notice there are 5 open graph tags: og:url, og:type, og:title, og:description, and og:image.

These five element insturct social media platofrm how to display the preview in the social media feed.

You will notice that both the title and description appear in the preview box, but sometimes the description is truncated for size, as is the case with the example above.

What great about the OG debugger is that you can use it to correctly confirm that your webpage is generating the right tags. Also, if Facebook scrapes it once (for example, if you share it in your Facebook timeline), remember that Facebook won’t re-scrape it again for 24 hours unless you use the OG debugger tool. When you do Facebook re-scrapes the content — changing the cache for all users of Facebook — immediately.

Beucase the preview is stored within the post, you’ll want to make sure your OG tags are correct before you start to publish or promote your article or page to social media.


Mention (#20)

Another tool for Social Media & Trend Analysis: Mention.

Moreso than other’s I’ve explored in this series, Mention’s selling point is that it proactive monitors your interests (by specific topic, celebrity, a political issue, cause, etc).

Its first few steps require a bit of up-front knowledge about what you’re looking for, as it asks you this right away:

In the Feed view, we can see a mailbox-like view of all the places where this topic is picked up across the internet.

We add a filter by source and language

Specifically for a brand, we can tell mention our social media pages and profiles. Mention will create a feed showing any time someone mentions these social media accounts in their own timeline.


A “last 7 days” view gives us a trend over time view of how this topic changes.

Mention is the "be the first in the know" tool to get alerts and insights into how your topic of interest is being talked about online. This early warning system can give you braod overview into where your topic is mentioned online and on social media.

All-in-all, Mention seems like a slick tool for a specific brand to use but leaves some features to be desired for competative research.


SEMRush (formerly QuickSprout) (#19)

Everyone advertising online needs to learn about sites similar to their site. This is so you can figure out how to out-do your competition in search rankings (SEO) and keyword advertising (pay-per-click).

In a crowded marketplace, it’s often the case that short, 1-to-3 word keywords are already heavily associated with high ranking websites.

Three little keywords like “little black purse” that drive a ton of traffic to people selling purses. Very few except the ones who have been in the marketplace for a long time will be able to be at the top of Google.

But how do you understand where there are opportunities to be had in what people are searching for?

Enter QuickSprout, a tool to “let your competitors do the work for you.”

QuickSprout appears to have been purchased and rebranded as SEMRUSH. However, the original Quicksprout landing page greets you with this deceptive search box. (Warning: the search doesn’t actually work; you can type anything or nothing in this box and click ‘Start now’ and the website still takes you to the long-scroll landing page you see below.)

Then, before you are required to sign up for the free trial with a credit card, you are greeted with a good dose of marketing ideology and schmooze by being led through several pages of high-octane ad-buying theory. I’ll just leave it here for you to read for yourself.

Today we’ll research the keywords “pet supplies” to see what people are searching for related to their pets.

From here we can see people are searching for pet supplies plus, pet supplies, pet supplies near me, pet supplies plus coupon, pet supplies store, etc. (No surprises there.)

In the Keyword Manager, we can create a list. (Let’s call it “pet supplies”)

It is empty by default:

We then add keywords to this list to create a composite view.

Gap Analysis

Let’s take a quick look at the Keyword Gap Analysis tool. Here I want to look at the clothing brand Uniqlo versus four competitors: H&M,,, and Express.

The keyword analyizer shows is a visual Venn diagram of the overlap between these brands.

If my brand were lacking in significant keyword traffic as compared to the others, this tool would tell me what keyword gaps I have in my traffic (where I could be more competative).

SEO Writing Assistant

SEMRUSH also includes an SEO tool to analyze my text. When I give it the text of this article, it scores me with a 5.9 out of 10, giving me advice that the text is too short, it is missing a headline (it is not actually), and that I should add the keywords ‘digital marketing,’ ‘search results,’ and ‘search engines.’

There’s a ton of more features too: cost-per-click views, saved reports, site auditing, backlink auditing, and social media auditing.

Semrush is a powerful tool if used in the right way: it can let you slice and dice your SEO and ad spend to gain insight into where you can have a strategic edge.


SpyFu (#18)

In ad buying and organic optimization, there are two critical acronyms you should familiarize yourself with: SEO, which stands for “search engine optimization,” is the art of positioning your content and its associated buzz in ways that get you optimal organic search results. In other words: to the top of Google.

PPC is a term used in ad buying and it means “pay-per-click.” Since most ad buying networks rely on a model where you pay only when someone clicks (or engages) with your ad. You don’t pay for all the times the ad network displays your ad but people don’t click or engage with it. That’s why it’s called “pay-per-click.”

When you’re buying ads, you need to be paying attention to your competitor’s position in the marketplace.

Analyzing their spending is critical, as is understanding gaps in the way they are advertising. This will give you get a competative edge when you are purchasing ads for your campaign or websites.

SpyFu lets you spy on your competitor’s SEO and PPC and helps you identify opportunities in your keywords or search traffic.

Let’s take the popular video calling app Zoom as an example.

First, a breakdown of the competitors to this website, and how they get traffic. Remember, organic always means people typing search queries into search engines; paid refers to traffic from advertising (that is, an ad is shown after a search is performed).

Here are the primary competitors to Zoom:

Next, SpyFu draws you an actual Venn-diagram to visualize the overlap between these sites (based on the keyword traffic):

Next, we get the keywords— organic & paid, associated with this domain.

We see the top pages that are driving traffic to this website:

SpyFu analyzes the keywords between these competitors and then intelligently recommends whether you should buy that keyword now or not. (Presumably, by analyzing the supply-demand ratio of the market for those keywords.)

We get a glimpse into the AdWords marketplace specifically, which is Google’s ad platform.

The monthly Pay-Per-Click overview shows us a chart over time. This interesting data point shows us that Zoom conferencing, which took over during the COVID pandemic of 2020, appears to have had a significant drop-off in paid advertising right at the beginning of April 2020, just when its popularity took off because of everyone working from home.

Next, we get a breakdown in paid advertising by keyword, which also shows a drop-off in April. (Notice the little bars indicate that Zoom stopped advertising all but two keywords after April.)

SpyFu lets you literally spy on your competition. See what keywords are driving organic traffic and how much they are paying for paid keyword traffic.

If you’re doing paid keyword advertising, especially on Google, this tool is an invaluable resource for understanding the marketplace you are competing in and how to get the most bang for your buck.


Ahrefs Backlink Checker (#17)

Ahrefs refer to the html tag known as the anchor tag (also known as a link), a very common tag developers and non-developers alike recognize:

<a href="">Google</a>

This is how to make a normal link on a website. A backlink is a link from someone else’s website to your website. Thus, the Ahrefs Backlink Checker is a tool you use to see all the other links on the internet back to your website.

This page has a wealth of information, including multiple rating & scoring metrics for the domain.

Let’s explore some of the column heading here, which describe both what you are looking at and provide and provide some education into how the tool works.

The DR is the Domain Rating

UR rating is URL Rating

The Referring Domains is a count of how many unique referring domains link back to your domain. The traffic column is an estimate of your organic traffic (search results) came from that backlink. (That is, how much organic search traffic the referring page has.

Finally, the Anchor & Backlink column shows the anchor text of the backlink (That’s what people actually click on.)

Ahrefs Backlink Checker has even more tools too: competitive analysis (find out what keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t), email alerts, batch analysis, and broken links too.