A guest post by a good friend and colleague, Mr. Scott Kindred.

Safehouse Web - Small Business Website WorksAkin to the simple “lather, rinse, repeat” instructions on your shampoo bottle, the analogy of good hygiene works well with good website strategy: Following simple instructions can produce a website that is clean, fresh and attractive.

 

In order to practice this principle, some very basic building blocks are needed for a successful website or business blog. These 3 items are essential to the cleanliness of your website: Domain Name, Website Hosting and Website Platform – read more in the bonus tips at the bottom of this post. They allow you to build and operate a professional website that works to grow your business.

 

I say cleanliness because if you do not get the right domain name, hosting and platform, you’ll end up with a messy situation that can be costly to clean up. Suggestion: go with trusted sources who provide trusted recommendations based on their own experiences. Avoid going with the cheapest or most popular just because they are cheap or popular. Remember, this is your website. Your business. Invest in it wisely.

 

Now back to the shampooing.

Keeping your website design clean

CLEAN

Professional appearance can make or break your website’s effectiveness. Expect to get less-than-desirable results if your website was built by the neighbor who loves making webbies as a hobby, for example. If you subscribe to the theory that you can “just throw up a web page on the Internet thing,” then you will get commensurate results. So make yours clean and crisp let your customers know you’re serious about them.

Provide a clear description of who you are

Problems you solve and how you do it should be answered within the first few seconds of arrival at your website. This is your website’s job – communicate solutions to people who have come to your website purposely and also to those who are checking you out because you were seen in their search results.

 

A clear message will attract a visitor’s attention immediately – most studies say within 2-3 seconds – and will give you an opportunity to encourage them to stay longer.

 

And doesn’t that same concept hold true for any storefront business? In fact, don’t most people already know that the store they’re going to is going to help them? That’s what generates repeat business, customer loyalty and maybe even a referral because your business got described as the best place to go. Be that same thing on the web.

 

Depending on your market, you should know that 70 to 85 percent of shoppers make their local buying decisions online. Regardless of what end of that percentage your business falls, it’s pretty important that you reach out effectively to 70% of your customers, yes?

 

But remember, providing a clear description of who you are must not include a bunch of self-describing information; it needs to be formatted to include very concise information about how your customers’ problems are solved by you.

 

It must address the people you have defined as your target audience.

Choose a website design and look that is straight-forward and easy for the customer to use

Easy, obvious navigation and an attractive color scheme and layout are the basics here.

 

Creation of a sitemap (it can look much like an organizational chart) is a vital part of the first phase of any website project. A sitemap is what defines your website’s navigation structure; many people have a sitemap that includes pages called Home, About Us, Contact Us, Our Team, Services, etc. And then there may be sub-navigation choices below those main pages. Don’t get too crazy with a complicated navigation structure and dozens of pages. It is critically important that the main navigation structure remain simple and intuitive.

 

For those firms who are selling research services or products – or some other commodity that does require a lot of documentation and reference – not to worry, a savvy website layout can still accommodate an easy way for people to get to that voluminous content, if they want it, without having to burden you main navigation. For example, you might have a page in your main navigation titled, “Research,” and then have that page be its own directory of links to the reference material pages that you want to present. This is a good, simple way to keep your navigation bar uncluttered and easy for everyone to use.

 

Collaborate with your web guy – talk about your thoughts, ideas and goals and then listen to the web guy’s perspective; he’ll usually have some good experience with what works and doesn’t work and should eagerly share that with you.

Color scheme and layout

Now, this is another fun part. This is where you get to build the look of your website, its tone and overall presentation to the public. Make it fun, odd, serious, homey, institutional, colorful or minimalistic. The choices abound! I strongly favor, and specialize in, websites built on the WordPress platform. Its awesome flexibility and huge variety of themes, plugins, styles and colors make it customizable enough to fit most any need.

 

When working with your web guy, be prepared to provide him with at least 5 links to websites that you like. You can like them, or just pieces of them, for various reasons but be sure to make note of your likes and dislikes for each. This is a huge help in getting your website project headed in the right direction.

FRESH

Provide fresh, quality content with SEO in mind

Content is what attracts your customers and prospects, and it is what attracts the search engine bots. Bingo…the bots! I’ll just make the simple point that the bots must find (and like) your content in order for your website to do well in search engine results. And once you are doing well in the search engine results, you will start to see more customers. Building and maintaining your website with SEO as a priority is not only very smart, it’s a necessity. That is the long-story-short.

 

Organic SEO steps can begin as an investment of your time or a combination of your time and that of a hired professional guide. Keywords and other meta tags, proper use of HTML code, social media integration and developing quality backlinks are among the basic actions you can take to begin improving your SEO, organically. Check my post for Tips And A Tool For SEO to get free help with meta tags.

 

The experience of SEO professionals, like Mike Glover here at Click Finders, is an invaluable asset to have on your side. When the time is right, plan to invest in your website’s SEO by hiring Mike and, at the same time, plan to handle the influx of website traffic and customers that you are going to see. I always advocate including SEO planning at the very beginning of every website project.

 

A business blog is the best way to deliver the fresh content and to achieve your SEO goals. Committing to regular blogging is a must. The two best ways to accomplish regular blogging is to do it yourself or to hire a knowledgeable person to do the writing for you.

 

“No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog.” -Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs.

Use a fresh look for your website

Avoiding anything with misaligned photos, graphics and/or text content. I know, it sounds odd that I would even bring it up in this day and age… but when you start to take note of how many websites smell like 1995 (or older), or that have the footer’s copyright date showing something pretty stale – and old functionality to match – you will see the beauty of having your website stand out as professional, modern and user friendly.

 

Imagery is a very important consideration. It can include photographs, fonts, art, icons, etc. Opt to pay for quality imagery rather than using clipart, overused stock images or personal snapshots that just don’t make the grade. Know that your customer will form first impressions based on the imagery they see in that first 2-3 seconds, and beyond.

ATTRACTIVE

Invite them to come in! Show them others whose problems have been solved. Provide a call to action or easy way for customers to contact you.

 

Many websites follow the concept of having the business’ contact information on each page. I subscribe to this concept and implement it whenever the website’s layout allows for it and whenever it does not negatively impact the website’s appearance.

 

A call to action, such as signing up for your newsletter, entering your contest or give-away drawing, downloading your free report or coupon, or anything else that your imagination births, can be highly effective ways to reach and retain your customers.

 

Your call to action may see more action if it’s an invitation rather than a pitch; this is a mix of advice and personal opinion on my part. I simply despise the “Sell! Sell! Sell!” approach and will not patronize it. Are you like that, too? Think about which one you respond to more favorably and what you think your customers will prefer.

 

Do these 3 things repeatedly and consistently and you will see results! None of it happens overnight.

 

Think of this: if you don’t do the work to shampoo your hair every day, you end up with bedhead and your hair looks unattractive, right? The solution to that problem is, “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Giving your business website the same attention, regularly, will yield results.

Here are 3 quick bonus tips on how to avoid trouble with your website’s building blocks:

1. Domain name

Expect to pay $10-$15 per year. The free and cheap domain names are rarely free, nor are they cheap when renewal time comes around. Critical consideration: make sure YOU own the domain name – not the company you buy it through, don’t buy through a reseller and make sure you have full control of the administration of the domain name. This is usually accomplished through a control panel at the domain name Registrar.

2. Website Hosting

Expect to pay $100-$120 per year for quality, standard hosting. This should give you a hosting plan that includes unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, email addresses, and the latest releases of MySQL, PHP, as highlights. Be on the lookout for plans with outdated software and for off-shore customer support. I recommend using Dreamhost to make sure ALL your bases are covered. I use them religiously – all of my personal and business needs are hosted at Dreamhost and 90% of my clients use them, too.

3. Website Platform

Expect to pay $0 (yes, zero) for the platform and expect to save hundreds or thousands in website development costs. Advocating WordPress for small businesses not only solves problems for owners and website administrators, but it also allows me to just plain help people. WordPress is free. It’s support community is huge and its themes, plugins, framework options and ever-evolving improvements explain why it is the most widely-used CMS platform in the world. Get it, use it and like it – I did!

 

This year marks a total of more than 14 million installations of self-hosted WordPress, worldwide.

 

Wrapping all three of these together as a single component to be handled by your web guy is the best way to proceed, whenever possible. It allows him to have direct access to what he needs during the build process, it gives you peace of mind that everything is properly coordinated rather than fragmented between entities, and at the end of the project – you own it all!

 

Find more information about the building blocks in this post on my blog: Avoid Feeling Like An Arse: Website Building Blocks


 


 Safehouse Web - Small Business Website WorksAuthor: Scott Kindred is owner of SafeHouse Web in Hollister, California. A trusted friend to small businesses and nonprofit organizations who want help building a professional website and productive online presence. Specializing in WordPress; a generalist in social media and organic SEO, with a sweet tooth for marketing all of it together. Contact Scott today at Safehouse Web.

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How to Increase your website traffic by 55%

Increase your traffic, backlinks and authority!

It’s no secret that click-finders.com strongly encourages and promotes blogging.  If you follow this blog at all, or even if it is your first time here, it should not take you long to see that we not only believe it, we live it for our own Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program.  Blogging is the single most efficient and cost effective way to add unique and fresh content to your web site.  The search engines love when you put up fresh and unique content on a regular basis.  When they see you adding new content on a regular basis, they “crawl” your site more often and index your pages faster.  This may not be all that important for the next blog post your write and publish, but what if you want to add a new product or service to your website?  Sure would be nice if that new webpage got crawled and indexed within one week (or in some cases one day) wouldn’t it?  In the most extreme cases of sites that do not add content on a regular basis, it can take up to 90 days for your new webpage to be indexed.  That does not work very well if you are trying to run a summer special and your new page goes live on June 1st.

“Creating fresh, unique content on a regular basis via a blog is the single most cost effective and efficient solution to ensuring that the search engines are crawling your site and indexing your site on a regular basis”

How much can this simple yet effective help your web site?  I’m glad you asked.  Let’s look at some data from an industry leader on inbound marketing, Hubspot.com.  Hubspot ran a study a few years ago and compared over 1500 websites.  In that study they looked at each website in detail and paid particular attention to the number of visitors each site had over a given period, the number of pages indexed by the search engines in total and the number of one-way, inbound links (backlinks) from other web sites (a key factor for SEO).  Here is what they found;

Websites that Blog on a regular basis have, on average, about 55% more visitors – Blogs not only bring in more traffic, they actively engage readers with an opportunity to participate in the conversation (via comments and social media sharing).  This means your readers are on your site for a longer period of time, thus increasing your chances of conversion.  Blogs also help establish your expertise in the industry niche you are competing in.  Do not underestimate the power of the written word and how people see you after reading an article of yours online.  You can also gain further credibility by having other, highly visible and known experts validate your work by commenting on your blog in agreement.  So make sure you post relevant and accurate information always.

Blog more to increase your traffic

 

Websites that Blog on a regular basis have, on average, about 97% more inbound links Blogs are great backlink attractors.  When you write awesome content, people want to share that with their friends, their family and their industry connections.  They do that by postings links all over the internet that lead others right back to your web site.  And guess what?  That’s right…the search engines love backlinks from relevant sites.  The more you links you have from other sites, the more authority and trust you are assigned by the search engines.  Great blog articles are the one the best “link-baits” out there and there are yours for the making.

 Get more backlinks with blogging

 

Websites that Blog on a regular basis have, on average, about 434% more indexed pages – Blogs are great content generators.  Every single blog post you write and publish establishes another [.html] page for the search engines to crawl and index.  Some blog platforms will even create a separate [.html] page for every comment made on your blog!  That can have a huge impact on your ability to generate fresh, unique content on your web site over a long and sustained period of time.  And we all know how much the search engines love new content right?

add content to your site

 

So what are you waiting for….go to www.wordpress.com (or your own favorite blogging platform) and download, install and use the best content generation tool avialable.  Use it often and use it well, and you could see reults even better than these!

Did you like this post?  Please feel free to comment on it!  You can also share it, bookmark it and Google+ it.  There are several toolbars around the post so you can share it on your favorite site.


 

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Blogging for business - 7 easy steps

How to blog for business!

If you follow this blog (or even if you are a first time reader) it doesn’t take much to realize that we believe in and encourage all businesses to blog.  Blogging is the most cost effective, efficient and least technical solution a business can implement to add fresh, unique content to your web site on a regular basis.  Content, by its very definition, is simply some form of substantive information, usually in the form of text or the written word, that explains more about your web site, your products or your services.  Adding fresh content is important for SEO because the search engines love fresh, unique content.  The more content that you provide, the more value the search engines place on your site and the more frequently your site will be crawled and indexed.  So if you want your site crawled often and indexed fast when you post a new product or service, you need to be adding fresh content as often as possible.  Okay, so now that you are ready to add content, let’s make sure it’s added the best way possible, so that the search engines can easily find and index it. 

“Setting up and running a business blog is paramount for success in today’s online marketing and search engine world.  Not having one is akin to not having a FAX machine in the 1980’s.”

First, you have to select a blogging platform.  There are many to choose from and yes…they are each different and have their pros and cons.  I personally use the WordPress platform.  I find it gives me the flexibility and control that the other platforms do not.  I also like the plug-ins.  Things like SEO plug-ins, social media plug-ins, scalability, database management and back-up and many, many more!  The choice is yours though so make sure you choose wisely.  It is after all, the platform you will be presenting your company to the world with [no pressure though…haha].  Okay so you have a good platform, have it installed on your domain and you’re ready to go….now what?  Now is the hard part!  The content creation.  Here are some basic tips to help you get started;

  • Be Conversational in your blogging – Yes you may very well have the technical solution to the replacement space craft for the space shuttle, you have all the documents, drawings, slide-rules and calculations, however….who on earth wants to read just that?  Do your best to take that technical data and turn it into a conversation that engages and enlightens your target audience.  Keep it as conversational and light possible.  I try to do this by bringing personal experiences into my writing.  It does not always work 100% of time, but when it does, it works like magic! 
  • Share your knowledge – Without stepping into the realm of being overly technical (see item #1), be sure to bring something to the table that people (your target audience) are actually interested in and want to learn more about.  Don’t be shy either, share your best stuff always.  People like, share and refer friends to AWESOME resources online.  Make sure your blog is full of awesome information written in an awesome format, surrounded by some awesome graphics and others will link to it (great for SEO!) and share it all over the internet.  Write mediocre material and share miniscule tidbits of information and people will not share that.  In fact, they won’t even come back to see what’s new.  Bottom line…write and share AWESOME material and it will get shared.
  • Be the expert – No matter what you do, please make sure you post information that is valid.  This is especially true if you are writing a highly technical blog.  Remember, your credibility is on the line.  If you lose that, you have nothing left to build on.  So do whatever you have to do in order to make sure the information you are putting out is valid.  Read other well respected and followed bloggers, authors and industry experts to gain insight and inspiration.  Do not however, plagiarize anything.  It could cost you all of your credibility and actually hurt you in the search engine rankings.
  • Be organized – Before you write your first article, sit down and write a list of 100 topics that you can or want to blog about (update this list often).  Pick an idea from that list and then jot down some notes about.  List 5-10 bullet points you want to cover or expand on.  Jot some notes down that tie it all together and wraps it up nicely in your conclusion.  The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.  Writing every month, every week or lord forbid….every day is not easy.  Being organized and structured helps the creative juices to flow because you already have a content generation formula, all you need is the idea!
  • Select relevant topics – This should be a no brainer for most, but I guess its worth a mention.  Make sure you pick topics that are of interest to your target audience.  For example, if you are writing a blog about Shipboard Navigation Technological Advances, you probably want to stay away from writing about your 2 year olds birthday party last Saturday.  Unless of course her birthday party was held on the bridge of a brand new U.S. Navy Air Craft Carrier while getting underway and leaving her home port for the first time ever.
  • Promote your blog – by all means you need to promote your blog!  Writing a blog and then not promoting it is about as effective as putting up a web site and not marketing it.  Its fine if you never want visitors.  But if you do want traffic, comments, engaging interaction and possible conversions (into $ALE$), then you absolutely, positively, 100% have to promote your blog.  No one else is going to do it for you!  There are two previous articles I have written that can help you promote your blog if you are not sure where to begin.  They are 8.5 More Ways to promote Your Blog and 12.5 Ways to Promote Your Blog
  • Measure your results – Always measure your promotions and responses.  Do it however you want, but measuring response and making course corrections is essential to your blogging  success.  I gauge post success by the feedback I get in emails, text messages, PM’s, IM’s, ReTweets and blog comments.  I categorize each one and tally them in the end and track trends, surges, topics and responses.  It was amazing to see the changes in my writing style, frequency, performance and responses when I started tracking the information to this level.  I highly encourage every blogger to do the same!

So there it is…7 easy steps to successful blogging for business.  I hope you enjoyed this information, got something out of it and please, feel free to add anything else you may want to contribute in the comments below.  Have any of these worked for you?  Worked against you?  Have you used other techniques?  If so what?


 

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7 Steps to Creating Effective SEO Content

Share your knowledge with the world!

It may seem like common sense to most internet  professionals, however, some people still just don’t get it or may be very new to internet marketing so I thought we’d cover some basics in this one.  As the search engines tweak and change the algorithms (sometimes almost daily) searching for that ever elusive “perfect set” of returns for each and every SERP, they are actually getting smarter and better at finding quality content.  What does that mean to you?  It means you had better be creating good quality content that someone wants to read.  It also means that the content you create needs to be created in an organized and logical manner that triggers a positive search engine response.   You have heard it before, the whole “content is king” battle cry from SEO’s all over the world.  The fact remains though, that organic search engine optimization is based on the premise of quality content that has been properly formatted within the Google Webmaster Guidelines and is found to have value to readers who then share that information with others.

“Creating effective SEO content is not difficult.  It does however require some basic SEO knowledge and skills and some good old fashioned elbow grease to get the work done. “

Follow these simple steps and you will be well on your way to creating a very useful and SEO friendly web site that is content rich and ready to be found on the internet.

Step 1 – Develop an idea structure that solves a problem that is related to your niche market.  Whatever your business market is, there is always someone who is trying to learn more, read more and grow.  You are the “expert” so what are you waiting for…share that knowledge and help someone else learn. 

Step 2 – Take the idea from step one and write about it.  Solve the problem.  Tell your readers how you do it.  Don’t worry about trade secrets or whether or not you will be giving the farm away.  The people who read the information and want to do it on their own are going to do that anyway, with or without your written word.  You have to share your knowledge in order to gain credibility and establish yourself as an industry expert.  Believe me, buyers today are very well educated and when they do research on you as a potential vendor, they need to know you that you are an expert and you can handle their requirements.  Your Blog, Forums or web site are the perfect way to let them know you are qualified.

Step 3 – Keyword research.  So you have an idea and you have put pen to paper for a first draft.  Good.  Now it’s time to make sure you optimize the writing with some keywords that will give you the results you want.  There are lots of keyword research tools out there.  Some free, some not.  Find one that works for you and make sure you put the time in and do it right.  Find a list of related keywords that is not the most competitive, but still has a fair amount of Global and Local searches each month.  Then go back and sprinkle them into your article where and when it makes sense.  WARNING:  Do Not Keyword Stuff, SPAM, Hide Text or do other “black hat” SEO techniques.  The risk just ain’t worth the results.

Step 4 – HTML Tags and Coding.  This is where SEO can get a little technical so I will just say that you do need to use your selected keywords throughout your content and HTML meta tags (Title tags, description and Headers).  Follow the Google webmaster guidelines for your tags and you will be fine.   HINT: There are character limits you need to follow so be careful.

Step 5 – Fresh content.  Now that you know “how” to create effective content you need to be creating it on a regular basis.  It’s okay if it’s only once a week.  Just as long as the content generation is consistent.  Your readers will begin to expect whatever frequency you fall into.  If you start off posting daily, that’s what they will expect and when you don’t post for 2 or even 3 days, they will wonder off and might not return.  It may be better to post once a week in the beginning and build your readership on that frequency and then increase posting frequency later, as you can.

Step 6 – Link Building/Baiting.  Make sure you make it easy for your readers to link to you.  Widgets, and gadgets are great ways to build back-links.  If you can develop them on your own (or pay someone) then you should definitely be doing that.  Otherwise just make sure that your content is link friendly.  By that I mean that you can build a quick HTML link box (copy this code to share box), make sure your URL strings are clean and are not cluttered with a hundred or so unrecognizable characters that don’t make any sense.

Step 7 – Integrate Social Media sharing to your content.  You did all of this hard work, developed this wonderful, value packed content, now give your readers a way to share it!  Integrate Twitter, FaceBook and any other social media bookmarking sites and tools into your content creation method.  In today’s world, it is imperative that you give your readers a way to share this content.  Not only are the search engines already indexing the social media platforms, but there is case after case of social media sharing taking a good site and catapulting it to levels of viral sharing that we all dream of. So no matter what…make sure you give readers a way to share your content!

Like we talked about above, always put your best content up for your readers and don’t worry about giving the farm away.  Kary Rogney is a pretty well known social media guru who practices what he preaches.  This is what he says about sharing content;

Well there it is, the 7 steps to creating effective SEO content.  Whether you hire a professional to do this work for you or you go about it yourself, you now have the basics of what it takes to develop the content you need.  So good luck and start creating that content!


 

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Top 8 WordPress Plugins you must have

Top 8 WordPress Plugins

Disclaimer:  I make no representations here or otherwise about compatibility of plug-ins with versions of WordPress.  It is up to you to determine whether or not a particular version of a plug-in is suitable for use with your blog.  Also – These are our personal favorites.  You may feel free to add others below in the comment section.  You may also comment on these if you don’t like them, however, again…they are our favs, not yours, so don’t take it too personal ;-)!

It’s no secret that all of us here at click-finders.com absolutely love the WordPress blogging platform!  It simply is the best, all around, easy to use blog available today.  What makes it so great?  Here’s a short  list:

It’s FREE

There are over 100 FREE Templates to use

It’s very customizable

It’s very Search Engine Friendly

It provides for seamless integration into your existing site

And lastly….there are 100’s (if not thousands) of plug-ins to help make your blogging life easier, more efficient and downright enjoyable! 

Hands down, my number one question from other bloggers is “Mike, what are your favorite plug-ins for WordPress?”.  So here they are in no particular order.

WordPress Database Backup – Speaks for itself.  There are many database backups out there.  Make sure you install one that backs up everything you need it too.

Google XML SiteMaps – An absolute necessity if you want Google to properly index and crawl your blog.  This plug-in makes it all as easy a few clicks and then automatically rebuilds and resubmits your site map on each new post!  Could it be any easier?

All In One SEO Pack – Essential tool for making sure your posts are search engine friendly.  Each post is scrutinized and optimized by Title, Description and Keywords.  You set them all and then choose whether or not to use SEO on every post.

Cbnet Ping Optimizer – Pinging the search engines and blog services is paramount if you want to promote your blog and build a following.  This nifty little plug-in takes care of this task for you.  All you have to do is the sites you want to be pinged on each post and this little baby does the rest.  The best part is, if you have to go back and tweak a post, it will not re-ping the services again.  Pinging them too much can get you banned.  Hit me up on my email if you want my active ping list!

Subscribe 2 – Nice little email subscription service for your readers.  Let’s them sign up via email for a notice every time you make a new post.

Social Media Plug-ins – You have to have….let me say that again….YOU HAVE TO HAVE social media integrated into your blog nowadays.  The search engines look for it and your readers will demand it.  Make it easy for them to share your work.  Here are a couple of the ones I use.  There are many though, so make sure you select the ones you like and work for your blog.

                Tweetmeme

                Simple Twitter Widget

                Facebook Likes It

                Addthis Social Bookmarking (with FREE analytics)

Akismet – Anti-spam plug-in for comment section and trackbacks.  Very nice and easy to use interface and I find that it cuts down like 99% of all spam.  A must for anyone promoting your site actively, because once the spammers find it, you will be flooded with spam comments and links.

SMU Manual Do-Follow – A must have for SEO 2.0 enthusiasts.  The part about this plug-in I like is that I can assign parameters for do-follow (3 approved posts before do-follow status) or I can do 100% manual do-follow activation.  Either way, the choice is always mine.

As you can see…these are just a few.  I am sure that there are lot’s more (and maybe better ones) than the ones I listed here.  If you know of any, please feel free to share them in the comments section!  Until then…Happy Blogging to you all ! ! !


 

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