How to Start a Link Building Campaign
How to create a link building plan
Welcome to our second chapter in The Ultimate Guide to Link Building!
In this chapter we talk about how to start a link building campaign.
If you haven’t seen our other chapters, find them here:
Creating a Link Building Campaign
What is a link building campaign? A link building campaign is when a person is seeking to increase the amount of links pointing to a website. It will often use content, products, or services that already exist on the website to try and acquire links.
There are many strategies of a link building campaign. Some will be mandatory for success, and others will helps support your link building efforts. The best strategies to implement will depend on the resources you have, and the assets available.
Link building is a strand of digital marketing, and with any form of marketing goals need to be set. Setting your goals at the beginning of the campaign let’s you create a strategy that keeps you focused on what you need to d,o in order to achieve a successful campaign.
It is crucial the goals of your link building campaign, are also similar to the goals of your business. For example, building ‘X’ amount of links is a horrible goal as it will not have an impact on the success of your business. A better goal would be to increase conversions.
Building links ranks you higher, ranking higher gives you more traffic, and more traffic equals better chance of conversions.
What I’ve just said is true, but… there’s an issue.
We mentioned in previous posts that links are a big factor in the search engines ranking algorithm.
So wouldn’t it be better for your traffic and conversion to gain more links?
The answer is yes… but it’s more complicated than that.
Ranking takes time, at least 6 months to see a good change in your rankings. You can’t get to the first page of Google overnight you know.
The more competitive the industry the harder and longer it will be to rank.
The problem it causes for SEOs is that it makes it harder for us to show a link building campaign is successful, no matter what other goals have been achieved.
For this reason, it’s important to remember that the goals you set should be realistic and smart. Your goals have to tie in with the goals of your business, and have a positive impact on revenue.
Link building takes time, and you should have long-term goals, rather than aim to achieve quick results.
Using your Assets
At the core of your link building campaign is the assets you have.
These are what you’re going to use to get those links. Your assets will have to be good enough for people to want to link out to you.
Assets differ from business to business, and it is up to the SEO to know what assets to use and what to do with them.
Examples of assets may be:
One asset I didn’t mention is money.
Now I shouldn’t have to say this, but all link building campaigns will require an investment.
I’m talking about how money as an asset can be used to buy a link.
This is mostly done by black-hat SEOs who don’t really try to build links, but instead buy links. Buying links is a no-go, and is against Google’s guidelines. If caught your site will be penalized and you will suffer loss of rankings, traffic, and it could potentially lead to your site could getting de-indexed.
Buying links is risky business, and don’t I advise anyone to do it.
You also have to make sure the assets you have or create, are beneficial and relevant to the audience you are trying to capture.
What types of links do you need?
One of the first things you do when starting a linking building campaign is to find out what type of links you need to get.
There are many types of links:
- The most common are links that point to your homepage
- Links to pointing to “deep” pages (such as product or category pages)
- There are also links containing your brand / company name
- Links containing the keywords you’re targeting
Moreover, there are variations of the above, such as keywords you’re targeting to your homepage.
Finding out what type of link you need will start with a link analysis of the website you’re working on, as well as a keyword analysis to see where you ranking for your targeted keyword in comparison to your competition.
The results of the analysis will indicate what you need to do next. For, example, you may realise that you do not have any links pointing to your homepage or that the existing links pointing to your site are not relevant. If you find a problem like this, it gives you something to work on and improve.
Prospecting for Link Targets
The first thing you need to do is to think about what type of people you want to contact.
You have to ensure you’re reaching out to the right people who are in your industry, and will be interested in your content or the asset you have to offer.
If you go out and contact random people like some mad man your response will obviously be very low, and people will start to give your brand a bad reputation.
At the start of any campaign, you should already have in mind the type of people who you think will like your content and give you a link. If you have no decent assets, and you need to create some. Ask yourself before curating the content, who will like it? Will anyone link to it?
Finding someone to look at your content is not that hard. Trying to get someone to take the next step and link to it, is a completely different ball game. Likewise, getting your content shared on social media is easy as everyone is on social media, but not everyone has a website or blog.
How to make people link out you?
You need to have assets that make people want to link out to you.
You need to identify what ‘hook’ you’re going to work into your content from the get go. If you keep this until the last moment, when your about to send off the emails, you may find out that people are not interested in your content.
You’ll just waste time creating a piece of content that no one wants to link out to.
Some hooks that you can use:
- Detailed content
These are some great hooks you can use to make people link to your content.
An easy, quick exercise you can do is to go on twitter and take a look at what’s trending. See what links people are sharing, and what hashtags people are using.
Make a note of what similarities each link has, and try to see if there is a pattern immerging. Normally links shared on twitter are informative, because people use this platform for debate and more serious issues, and are less likely to share funny content.
Then, go on Facebook and look at your feed. Make a note of what types of links are being shared. Normally, it’d be more funny content that is shared on Facebook.
Identifying your target audience for links
After your ideas are written down, it won’t take too long to find out which people fall within your target audience. This process normally involves figuring out what subject’s relate to your content.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Let’s pretend you’re creating an article called, The Ultimate guide to the Ketogenic Diet. You are producing this content as you own a gym, and you sell various dieting programs to your clients.
Who would be interested in this ultimate guide?
Gym lovers: Obviously!
Fitness bloggers: They may want to link out to this guide, so their visitors can know more about it.
Healthy eating websites: Because your guide will contain lots of great recipes you can eat on the diet.
Supplement websites: Because your guide with contain supplements you should take whilst on the diet.
Within a few minutes, we’ve come up with four types of websites that may be interested in our ultimate guide. Now, we can take a deeper look into these types of websites, to get a better understanding on our chances of getting a link from them.
Techniques for finding link targets
I will teach you a few techniques that you can use to turn “fitness bloggers”, into a whole list of websites which you can then outreach to.
Find lists of bloggers
The easiest place to start your search is Google:
This search alone gave me a huge list of people to look through.
The best thing about this technique is that all the hard work is already done for you.
Someone has already creating the list for you.
Once you have all the URLs from this pag,e you can put these into a Google Chrome plugin called Scraper. The tool allows you to retrieve data from URLs, and put it into a spreadsheet.
You can the export the list into a spread sheet.
Now paste all these URLs into a tool called URL opener. This will open all the URLs for you in separate tags.
Then, look at all the sites and see if the site has content relevant to yours. If they do, find their contact information
Find bloggers on Twitter
You can use a tool like Followerwonk that allows you to find people via their bios.
You can type in your keyword into the search bar, and everyone that mentions ‘fitness blogger’ in their bio comes up.
Download these results into a spreadsheet, and find out if these guys have a website or not.
If they do, get in contact with them.
This is a great way to find people to contact, as they all will be relevant to you niche and perfect for your content.
Advanced search queries
This is my favourite.
There are lots of ways to search Google which most normal users are not aware of.
Most people search the same way, but only 1% of people use advanced search queries.
These advanced search queries are perfect for link building, as they give you the exact relevant information that we’re looking for.
These queries act as a filter, separating the wheat from the chaff.
Here are a few advanced searches:
Take a closer look at the search bar were it says “inurl:resources”
It tells Google to only show results that contain the word “resources” in the URL.
Here is a screengrab of the results:
Take a look at the results, and see the websites that best match what we need.
Think about whether or not the visitors will like you resource. If you think it’s a great match, then the owner of the website will likely think the same, and they could potentially link out to you.
Let’s take a look at another example:
In this search we have combined two advanced searches.
First, we used the same search query like last time, “intitle:resources”. It tells Google to only show pages that have the word “resources” in the page title.
We also put quotations marks around the word “keto”. The search modifier tells Google to only show results with the word fitness blogger.
This is great for searching fitness bloggers, as it’s a very broad term. But, putting the word “keto” in quotes will mean only fitness bloggers who are interested in the keto diet will appear in the search.
You now have a list if people that you can get in contact with, to try and get a link from.
But we’re not done yet.
There’s something else we have to do before we send off those emails.
Finding the personas of your target audience
The key to having a high response rate with your outreach, is to make sure the websites you’re targeting are as relevant as possible.
One way to do this, is to take some time out to learn about the people you are targeting. Look at their website or blog, and try to get a rough idea of what type of content they like to produce.
It’s also a good idea to scroll through their social media profiles, to see what they are sharing, re-tweeting, and liking.
When you’re looking at what they’re sharing online, look to see if they’re actively sharing other people’s resources or blog posts as well. This is a great indication on whether or not they will share your resource. After all, that’s what you’ll be asking them to do when you get in contact with them.
Look out for any similarities with the type of post they share, and make a note of them. This will come in handy when you are writing them an email. It makes your outreach personal and genuine, rather than some templated email.
Finding contact details
Once you have a good number of websites that are relevant and within your target audience, you now have to find the site owners contact details.
When looking for an email on a website, take a look in the header and footer. Likewise, take a look on their about page or a contact page. Their email is normally located in one, or both of these places.
Prioritizing link targets
At this point you should have long list of link targets. Now you need to prioritize your link targets by groups, so you can message them with ease.
Here are some ways to prioritize your links for outreach:
- By domain metrics, i.e., Domain Authority
- Blogger influence, i.e., number of Twitter followers
- By relevance (their likelihood of linking), i.e., a fitness blogger vs. a general health blog
Here is a better explanation of this:
Domain metrics measures the value of a link.
The two domain metrics to use when looking for link targets are Page Rank and Domain Authority.
You can gather the URLs of the link targets in your list, and check these metrics to find out which link target is most suitable.
Once you go and find these metrics you can sort them out in Excel, and filter them from the highest to the lowest. For example, filtering the link targets by the lowest domain authority.
If you have link targets that don’t have particularly high domain authority, you can take them off your list. Let’s say, a DA under 30. This helps when you have a very large list, and don’t want to spend a lot of time contacting them all.
You could also sort by Page Rank. Ideally, get rid of anything that has a score below 1.
There is no exact science in doing this, but all you’re looking to do here is look for sites that are relative AND have a good domain authority.
If you have a large list, be more aggressive in the filtering process. This is so you get the most from you research, and your only outreaching to the best of the list.
An important part of getting as much traffic to your blog posts as possible, is getting influencers in your niche to share the post on social media.
Even if you get one influencer, with a large following to share your article, it will have a knock on effect and lead to other people sharing it.
So when you’re looking at a website that has poor DA, don’t count them out. Check their social presence and see how influential they are.
You can find out the number of followers people have using tools like Buzzstream and Followonk. You can then export thee results into a CSV file, and see which people are the most influential, either by the number of twitter followers, number of tweets, or their influence score.
The most influential people are the ones you should prioritize and target first.
Chances of linking
This is where all of your research you’ve just done comes into play.
You need to know which potential link targets have the highest chance in linking out to you. Unfortunately, there is no tool in the world that can figure this out for you.
The best way to do this is to simply score all your suitable targets on a list from 1-5, and grade them. The highest targets given priority, and work your way down.
When you are trying to figure this entire thing out, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- Which people are the most relevant? (fitness blogger vs a person who blogs about everything, including fitness)
- Are they active?; i.e when was their last blog post article?
These questions will help you determine how likely a target is to link out to you?
Gather all this data, and sort through it.
Now you should have a list of bloggers who you think will link to your content, have higher metrics, and have a good social following.
The guys at the top of your list are the people who you should contact first. You need to make your outreach emails as personalised as possible, don’t send generic emails to these guys as they will definitely ignore you.
The influencers hold great power in your niche, so getting one of these guys to link out to you means you could save so much time.
Well, influencers can “seed” your content.
Basically, other websites will also be aware of your content, and they might even link or share your content as well.
If this happens it saves you hours outreaching.
Once you’ve done all of this, you should have a nice list of potential link target that have a high chance of linking to you.
You’ve got their contact details, now you have to outreach.
Now our list is complete, we now have to start telling people about our amazing content and see if they want to give us a link.
You should start with the best link targets because you want to spend the bulk of your time outreaching to these guys, and then work your way down the list. If you get a link from an influencer, it increases your chances to get a link from other influencers.
Get in contact with a human
After a while of outreaching you’ll get bored, as you may not of had a response from your prospects. Eventually you’ll get frustrated. What happens then is, you start think that there’s no one in control of the website.
You think to yourself, am I sending emails to a robot?
No. No your not.
It is always a real person you are communicating with.
If they don’t respond, it’s because you didn’t approach them correctly, or because they don’t like your content. More often than not, it’s because you didn’t curate your email properly and they don’t want to waste their time in working with you. Let alone link out to you.
This is especially true for popular blogs who get tons of emails a day. They are not going to open all of them, jut the best ones. In your emails don’t harp on, but also pretend that you’re talking to them in a normal conversation.
You wouldn’t have the same conversation you just had with 10 other people.
Remember, people don’t have time to link out to you. Blog owners don’t wake up and think, “who shall I link out to today?” It’s not in their things to do list, nor is it their obligation.
All you can do, is give them a good reason why they should link to your resource.
Don’t expect links!
If your content is a work out art and you know the chances of people wanting to share it is high, you should have confidence and be optimistic when you are outreaching.
Like I said, don’t be one of those guys who expect a link, but being optimistic and not overconfident is the mentality you should have.
How to create your message
When crafting you’re your emails, keep in mind that the bloggers you’re trying to contact are busy people, especially if they have a very popular blogs with thousands of visitors.
Your emails have to be detailed, to the point were the recipient doesn’t get bored and stop reading, but interesting enough for them to read the whole thing.
Keep in mind the following when sending your emails:
- Tell them how they will benefit.
- Tell them what you want them to do.
- Show that you care and are not a spammer.
- Give them a reason to care.
If you’re at the point where you’re outreaching, this shouldn’t be a problem.
At the beginning of the campaign you should of worked out why people will like your content, and link out to you.
Before creating your content you should of asked yourself “why would someone want to link this?”, “what are the hooks of this piece of content?”
Remember our hooks from earlier:
- Detailed content
Does your content match any of these hooks? If not, have you got something else up your sleeve as to why people will like your content?
If the answer is no, back to the drawing board my friend.
The blogger you’re outreaching to are very likely active in your industry and know what they’re talking about, so take a look at their own posts to see if they will like the topic you’re writing about. If possible, try to relate your article to the bloggers, to increase your chances of getting a link.
For example, if you’re getting in contact with a music blogger and they have just written a blog post about a particular artist, and your content happens to mention that artist, bring it up!
This tells them they should care about you’re content, and that you have taken some time out to read their blog, instead of sending emails by bulk.
What can your link targets do for you?
Many people are too scared to actually ask what they really want.
They skirt around the issue and avoid words like “link”, as they’re scared the blogger will ignore the email or think it’s spam.
However, we need to get the blogger to do something for us. Most of the time it will be about getting link from them. But not always.
It could be the following:
- Sharing your content on social media.
- Accepting a guest post.
- Embedding your widget or infographic.
- Wanting an interview with them.
These are just a few examples showing how outreaching is not only about gaining link.
There are many types of action they can take, and the level of effort required for each is different. Compare the following; asking a blogger who is editing an article to include some information about your business is a big ask.
However, asking them to share your content takes a few seconds.
When outreaching, take into consideration what you want them to do for you, and whether or not they will do what you want. The more you want them to do something, the better the content has to be.
You can also get the bloggers to do multiple things for you. For example, they could link out to you and then share the content on their social media. Likewise, if an influential blogger doesn’t want to link out to you, but still likes what you’ve produced, ask if they can share it on social media instead.
Similarly, you can ask the influencer if you could guest post on their blog, instead of sharing your article.
You could ask this in a situation when the blogger likes your content but does not have time to go out and write about it. You’re basically doing the work for them and getting a link in return.
Show that you’re not a spammer
The best way to show that you’re not a spammer is by personalizing your emails as much as possible.
Remember, owners of popular blogs will get sent tons of emails a day, so you have to personalize your email to get a slight chance of getting a response.
Here are a few tips in personalizing your emails that won’t take much time:
- Use their name.
- Have a good subject line.
- Mention their work in the email.
- Use a proper email signature.
- Use your location.
Now we’ve established that, let’s take a look at those in more detail
Use their name
It literally is that simple.
However, you’d be surprised how many people don’t include the name of the person whom they are trying to get in contact with in the email.
It’s straight forward and doesn’t take time, but it can increase your chances of getting the bloggers attention.
Here a few things you can do to find someone’s name:
- Check their about page
- Contact page
- Search for the author who writes the blog posts.
- Look through their social media profile.
In some cases it will be impossible to find someone’s name, in this case use something like “hi there”. Don’t use something like “Hello webmaster” as it sounds very spammy.
Have a good subject line
Make sure your emails have a good, catchy subject line.
Before a blogger opens your email, the first thing they’ll see and read is the subject line. If they don’t like it they will simply delete the message, or even worse, the email may appear as spam and the blogger may never even see it.
To write a good subject line, remember to keep it to the point, mention the name of the website, avoid words like “link” and don’t OVERUSE CAPITAL LETTERS!
Mention their work in the email
This is a crucial step that must be followed.
It shows that you have taken some time out, and read some of the articles they have published.
It shows that the email you sent isn’t template.
Mentioning something nice about one of their content is a great Segway in introducing your content, and why they should give you a link or share your content on social media.
Here are few things you can mention:
- Look at their blog posts.
- Scroll through their tweets.
- See if they’ve made any comments on other blogs.
- Take a look at their social media bios.
Using these tips can help you uncover information about the person your contacting, and make it easier emailing them.
Here’s an example:
This email didn’t take very long to write. All I had to do is look at a few of the articles they’ve published on their blog.
It would be pretty hard, if not impossible, for software to create an email like this as it is so personalized.
Use a proper email signature
This is an easy trick to increase the open rate of your email as it shows trust.
Make sure to always include a proper email signature at the bottom of the email.
It should include:
- Your name
- Phone number
- Job title
- URL of website
Adding a proper signature also proves your genuine, as the blogger can go and check out your website or your social media profile.
Use your location
You will not always have to use your location, but there will be some occasions where it’s best advised. For example, if you are contacting a blogger who is in the same city or area as you. This allows you to take advantage of your locality, and have something to break the ice.
If you wanted, you could even take the local bloggers to a café for some coffee.
What better way to prove you’re real then meeting them in person.
If there are a lot of local bloggers in your area, why not hold a local meet up. It’s a great way to network and build relationships, and convince them to work with you.
Following up with your emails is crucial for building links.
Popular bloggers are very busy and in the era when you can check your emails any time, any place, your emails can easily get overlooked or lost. For this reason it is important to follow up with another email to make sure they at least see it.
To follow up efficiently, you have to have a system in place to make sure you know who has replied and who hasn’t.
Everything has to be recorded.
The last thing you want to do is send someone a follow up email, when they have already replied to you.
The best way I find to stay organised is by having a spreadsheet made, especially for your outreach campaign.
Creating an Excel spreadsheet
Before you start outreaching, make sure to create a spreadheet to keep track of progress.
If you’re an SEO, you can make a template and re-use it on different clients. This help reduce confusion, and lets you know what work needs to be completed for each client.
Here is an example of what one may look like:
It literally has to be as simple as that.
You can add any extra columns if needed, for example any metrics you want to add, but this will certainly do the job.
Like I said, this template can be used over and over again on different clients and campaigns.
However, for those who like to make life complicated, there’s some software that can also help you do the job as well.
Tools for outreach
If you’re having keep up with the spreadsheet, maybe because you have many clients, software may be a great way to keep focused and stay on target in building links.
A popular tools for this is called BuzzStream, it’s perfect for the job.
Another great tool is called Boomerang.
It’s a free plugin that has a feature that allows you to follow up your emails. Once you send an email, you can tell Boomerang to send the email back to you if you don’t get a response after a set period of time.
Once you get the email sent back to you, you can follow up with another email to make sure your link target gets the message.
Using this trick along with canned responses can help save so much time, and all of a sudden our outreaching becomes efficient and effective.
How to follow up like a pro
My advice on how to follow up with people is to keep the email short and sweet.
In the first email you would have given some detail in why you’re contacting them, so it’s pointless doing it all over again. Most of the time if you reply to the same email the original email would be included anyways; all the blogger has to do is scroll down.
Here is a little help in what to include in the follow up email:
Subject Line:quick question
Hey [First Name]
Just checking that you got my previous email (attached below), and just to confirm that this isn’t some weird spam message but an actual person trying to bring a broken link with a potential replacement to your attention 🙂
That’s all there is too, short and simple.
Dealing with negative replies
At some point in your link building campaign, you will get some negative responses.
This is normal and you should not worry about it too much, it’s the nature of the game.
In this section here are a few things you can do when receiving bad feedback.
It can be an easy to ignore negative emails, especially when you’ve been working hard ccreating a great piece of content only to be rejected. But by ignoring the email, it burns bridges with the person you’re trying to contact, meaning you’ll never have a relationship with them.
It may be that they just don’t like that particular piece of content, so don’t jeopardize your future chances of working with them by ignoring the email, and giving an unprofessional response.
Aim to get feedback
When responded to a negative email, and try and find out why they don’t want to link out to you.
If they rejected a piece of content, find out why they didn’t like it and what would make it better. Try and find out as much as possible, so you can learn from your mistakes and increase your chances of getting a link next time.
Likewise, you could maybe even ask the blogger if they felt that there was a topic in the industry that was lacking information.
You could even collaborate with the blogger to write something special, who knows.
Try and fish for ideas, if they give you a good idea, go and write a piece of content on it and email them back.
They will be more open this time, and you know it’s something they’re already interested in.
How to be efficient when outreaching
The whole idea behind outreach is to personalise the email, yet be efficient.
You don’t want to compromise on quality, but there are some helpful tools out there that can speed up the process.
This tool was mentioned earlier, yet I have to tell you that this tool is great for link building.
It has so many features that can help you become efficient in outreaching. The follow up feature was mentioned earlier, but there are other cool features that this tool has to offer.
Another great feature this tool has is that it allow’s you to schedule your emails.
This is super helpful as you may need to get in contact with people from different countries and time zones. For example, if you’re in the UK and you outreaching to someone in New York, when you’re starting work, they’ll be finishing.
This isn’t the best time to send someone an email.
Boomerang allows you to schedule when an email is sent, so you don’t have to worry about bloggers missing your email. You can always get in contact at the right time.
When your composing an email click, on the button that displays “In 2 days”
Once you press this button you can start to schedule your emails.
Canned responses are key for any outreaching campaign, as they save you having to re-write similar emails over and over again.
You can simply create multiple templates, and insert them into your email.
This feature is a Gmail Labs feature, but it can be a bit hard to enable. For more info, read how to enable this awesome feature.
All you have to do is click on the down arrow, and select a canned response
Using canned responses alongside Boomerang gives you maximum impact, as you can have canned responses set up which follow up with the emails you’ve already sent out.
Outreach mistakes to avoid
When link building, there are a few mistakes that people always make.
Mistakes are inevitably going to happen which is fine, but as long as you learn from them. This section will try and help you learn from other peoples mistakes, so you don’t make the very same.
Using software to send bulk emails
There are lots of software out their which allow you to send bulk emails to many people at once.
This is widely practised ,and is only good when people have ‘opted in’, and are aware they will be receiving these emails. An emails subscribers list for example.
However, when link building this is something you do not want to get involved in.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid sending bulk emails:
- You can’t personalize emails.
- If you make an error in an email, it’s not just one person seeing the email; it’s every recipient that sees the mistake.
- People can blacklist you and if they think your spamming.
- You may be breaking the law if you send emails when people haven’t volunteered to receive them.
So if you were thinking about outreaching using software, STOP. You’ll only give your brand a bad reputation and this will have an impact on how people perceive your business.
Not customising your emails
Earlier I showed you an example of a template that I used:
Just imagine sending this email without personalising it at all.
What do you think is going to happen?
No one is going to respond to you.
Make sure all your email templates can be easily edited, and you can chop and change it when needed.
How long will it take to see an increase in rankings?
It can take a while to see a noticeable improvement on your rankings.
The length of time can vary.
However, this depends on many factors:
- How competitive the niche is?
- How competitive your keywords are?
- The types of links you are trying to build.
- How active your competitors are in building links to their website?
- The authority of your domain.
These factors can determine how long it takes to see an increase in your rankings.
Before any link building campaign, all these factors should be factored in so you have a rough estimate in how long it will take. It can also help set your goals and expectations, so you don’t underestimate the length of time it takes to rank.
Before you start, you should note down where you currently rank for your targeted keyword.
Then make notes when your rankings change throughout the link building campaign.
Normally, an increase in traffic will be the first result that you notice if you are continually working on your website.
You should also get out of the mind-set of thinking link building is a one-time project. Link building is a marketing tactic that should continue, so as long as your business does.
Link building, social media, and content marketing should be working together to get the most out of your link building campaign.
Do this and you will see a surge in traffic, rankings, and sales.
Well, that’s it.
Now you’ve read how to start a link building campaign, read our next article in the ultimate guide to link building. We discuss what types of backlinks you should build.
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