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Q: Content, optimization & ranking ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Content, optimization & ranking
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: ionweb-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 12 Nov 2003 18:33 PST
Expires: 12 Dec 2003 18:33 PST
Question ID: 275288
First off, forgive me if this is long - I wanted to be concise, yet
provide enough relevent information for you to form conclusions...
this is my first time here so I am still learning the ropes.

I have been reading through this site and I have to say I was
impressed with the vast amount of knowledge that is gathered here so I
though I would give it a try.  I am designing a site for my

First of all, perhaps I am old-school, but 3-4 years ago when I last
toyed with web design, search submition was much easier but I suppose
it is a business now so I do understand it had to happen sometime.  I
would just rather have a site listed based on it's merits and design,
not based on how much they paid. I know with my viewing habit's I am
more likely to go to a standard rather than a sponsored site.

I would like to have opinions on this site in regards to page layout
and ranking. I know that 9 search bots (including googles scooter)
have been to the site yet key word searches do not yield results. I
realize it may take a while to propogate into directories and indexes.
I am fairly well versed (more likely an advanced novice) in search
engine optimization, links, meta, etc.... Perhaps the coding and
layout I did on this site will answer that question better. I have
tried to keep it navigable and compatible with older browsers, and
still remain pleasing to the eye of the reader.

That being said, I am looking for more specific "applied" knowledge
rather than the limited book knowledge I have.

Any suggestions on the site content and coding as it is now? Are there
any glaring errors in design? (Keep in mind - it is still in

What can I add or change with regards to content and coding to help
rankings once it is listed?  ( When I do a search for "houston
personal trainer" or any of my other keyword/content words, there is
always a handful of other sites that routinely rank in the Top 20. I
would like her have the same exposure.)

Finally, It seems there are some obscure tips (i.e. H1 tags) that
maybe you could share?

I hope I have provided enough information and background to yeild some
quality answers. The scope of "ranking and optimization" is rather
broad I know, but from what I have read here already from other posts,
you guys are the experts on this and can hopefully can get down to the
nitty gritty on specific details.

Thanks and best regards,
Michael ~ IONWeb
Subject: Re: Content, optimization & ranking
Answered By: serenata-ga on 13 Nov 2003 23:39 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Ionweb ~

I will attempt to address your questions and comments in much the same
order you have presented them, although I am sure there will be some
repetition and/or overlap of the issues you have raised.

Submission to Search Engines

You said, "First of all, perhaps I am old-school, but 3-4 years ago when I last
toyed with web design, search submition [sic] was much easier but I suppose
it is a business now so I do understand it had to happen sometime."

Search engines have always been a business. There are immense costs
involved in indexing billions of web pages and providing relevant
search results. Some search engines, such as Yahoo, have been charging
for years now for speedy consideration of a site with no guarantee
that a site will actually be included in their index.

     "Please keep in mind that payment does not automatically
      guarantee inclusion in the directory, site placement, or
      site commentary. As with all sites suggested to us, final
      judgement remains solely with Yahoo! editors."

Google, on the other hand, besides dedicating itself from the onset to
present the most relevant search results, has always offered free
submission via its add:URL tool,
   - ://

You'll notice that Google, likewise, does not guarantee inclusion,

     "We do not add all submitted URLs to our index, and we
      cannot make any predictions or guarantees about when or
      if they will appear"
   - ://

and it doesn't charge you for considering your site, either. Submission is free.

The fact that Google doesn't guarantee inclusion is good for those
using Google's search engine, as Google is dedicated to presenting the
very best and most relevant results for any search term.

Google Today

While it may sound a trifle "hokey" to some, I think reading "Google
Today" helps you appreciate what it is that Google is trying to

     "By always placing the interests of the user first, Google
      has built the most loyal audience on the web."
   - ://

While its clearly stated responsibility is to the users of its
service, Google is considerate of the website owners, too, and gives
them clear, good advice in its Webmaster Information on how to get
included and stay included in its index.

Getting Listed

There's a better way to get listed in Google, which is explained in
Google's Webmaster Information:

     "The best way to ensure Google finds your site is for your
      page to be linked from lots of pages on other sites.
      Google's robots jump from page to page on the Web via
      hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to you, the more
      likely it is that we'll find you quickly."
   - ://

Google explains its technology in "Our Search: Google Technology":

     "The heart of our software is PageRank?, a system for
      ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page
      and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we
      have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect
      of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide
      the basis for all of our web search tools."

and its PageRank in "PageRank Explained"

     "PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the
      web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of
      an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets
      a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for
      page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume
      of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the
      page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are
      themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make
      other pages "important."

      Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank,
      which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of
      course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't
      match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with
      sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that
      are both important and relevant to your search. Google
      goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a
      page and examines all aspects of the page's content (and
      the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if
      it's a good match for your query."
   - ://

Using Google's link:tool,
:// , I find there are no
links to your site. Without those, you have to work much harder to get
presented in Google's search engine results placement (SERPs). Clearly
you will need to establish RELEVANT links to your site to help with

So What About

You asked, "I would like to have opinions on this site in regards to
page layout and ranking." and "Any suggestions on the site content and
coding as it is now? Are there any glaring errors in design? ... What
can I add or change with regards to content and coding to help
rankings once it is listed?"

Metatags - To Use Them Or Not?

You said, "I am fairly well versed (more likely an advanced novice) in
search engine optimization, links, meta, etc...." You're aware, I'm
sure, that not much weight, if any, is given to metatags. Your own

  <meta name="robots" content="all, index, follow">
  <meta name="revisit" content="7 days">
  <meta name="allow-search" content="yes">
  <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
  <meta name="page-type" content="Personal ...">
  <meta name="rating" content="general">
  <meta name="audience" content="all">
  <meta name="copyright" content="ION ...">

plus "title" "keywords" and "description" metatags.

1. Robots.txt & robots metatags

Unless there are pages you specifically want search engine robots or
crawlers to avoid, including the "robots", "revisit", and
"allow-search" metatags is meaningless and only increases the file

While legitimate search engine crawlers may (but probably won't) honor
your robots metatags, other 'bots (such as spamming for email
addresses and information) won't. In any case, you do not want to
presume to tell search engine crawlers when and how to crawl your
site. The point is to allow them to crawl with no restrictions and to
index as many pages ON your site as possible.

Google's Technical Guidelines suggest:

     "Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This
      file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be
      crawled. Make sure it's current for your site so that you
      don't accidentally block the Googlebot crawler. Visit for a FAQ answering
      questions regarding robots and how to control them when
      they visit your site."
   - ://

In Technology Questions on Google's FAQ page regarding robots.txt files:

     "1. How should I request that Google not crawl part or all
         of my site?
      2. Why is Googlebot asking for a file called robots.txt
         that isn't on my server?"
   - ://

 2. The "Content-Type" Metatags

While you do list the content type, <meta http-equiv="Content-Type"
content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">,  you have forgotten a
DOCTYPE Declaration.

DOCTYPES are essential to the proper rendering and functioning of web
documents in compliant browsers. It is also essential for the search
engines to understand and follow the coding contained on your pages.

DOCTYPE is explained and discussed further in "A List Apart",

and in Web Design Group's article, "Choosing a DOCtype",

You do not have a DOCTYPE Declaration and you should add one to every
page on your site.

Metatags in general are no longer important to search engines,
although some directories, such as the Open Directory Project may use
them if there is no real content on your page to list as a

What you need to do is make sure the CONTENT on your page contains the
search terms under which you wish to be found.

Search Results

Entering your DOMAIN, in Google's search
bar produces the following results:

     "Showing web page information for

      | ENTER |
      | ENTER |. Designed and developed by MGC.

      Google can show you the following information for this URL:

      Show Google's cache of
      Find web pages that are similar to
      Find web pages that link to
      Find web pages that contain the term

   - ://

You'll notice there is no title, only "enter" The reason for this is
that the first encounter with anything to index the Googlebot finds is
"| Enter |"

To your visitor, there is a Flash demonstration of couple (although
the image is broken and appears offset by several pixels), but search
engines can't index Flash.

Here's what Google suggests in its Design and Content Guidelines:

    "* Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links.
       Every page should be reachable from at least one static
       text link.

     * Offer a site map to your users with links that point to
       the important parts of your site. If the site map is
       larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the
       site map into separate pages.

     * Create a useful, information-rich site and write pages
       that clearly and accurately describe your content.

     * Think about the words users would type to find your pages,
       and make sure that your site actually includes those
       words within it.

     * Try to use text instead of images to display important
       names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't
       recognize text contained in images.

     * Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive
       and accurate.

     * Check for broken links and correct HTML...
   - ://

There is a general lack of the above specific recommendations to help
your site in getting listed on any search engine - but especially

I noticed you do have some commented text, and worse, some black text
on a black background, which can get you penalized by Google.

While the commented text is ignored by most crawlers, the fact that
there are two paragraphs can potentially be interpreted as 'spamming';
but the black text on black background is clearly hidden text -
something search engines are prone to penalize you by dropping or
banning you from their listings.

Google specifically warns against that:

     "* Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
      * Don't load pages with irrelevant words."
   - ://


     "certain actions such as cloaking, writing text that can
      be seen by search engines but not by users, or setting
      up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search
      engines may result in permanent removal from our index."
   - ://

In addition to the above you have "Optimized for Microsoft Internet EXPLORER 3.0+
Screen resolution 1024 X 768 32-BIT color" at the bottom of the page.
Besides the fact that Internet Explorer 5.x and 6 account for almost
86% of the browsers in use, the fact that you have the phrase there is
insulting to your visitors, and implies a lack of professionalism on
your part. You really should get rid of the entire first page. It does
nothing for you and presents many factors that can be detrimental to
your search engine ranking and insulting to your visitors.

Your second page, home.php has more information and text rich than the
first page, this would make a better 'home' or landing page than the
one you currently have, once you have paid attention to the
recommendations by Google.


You really should read Jakob Nielsen's recent newsletter,
"The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines", dated November 10,
2003, to help you construct your site with an eye toward usability and
what your visitor expects when he comes to your site. Whether or not
you agree with Nielsen, he does understand usability and apply as many
of his recommendations to your site as you can.

You can read the latest newsletter here:


Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794
and 794d, set forth the minimum government standards for

Among these standards are website design which enables those with
special needs to be able to access and understand your web site.

You might want to run each page of your site through Bobby, which will
give you a full context report of any portions of your site which do
not meet the minimum standards. If you make all the corrections
suggested, it will greatly enhance any search engine's ability to
crawl your website as well.

The Bobby analysis page can be found here:

The Big Three

There is no substitute for both your visitor's experience and search
engine optimization for good HTML design, rich RELEVANT content and
establishing links TO your site, which is currently one of the major
indications of the 'importance' of your content.

Here is some helpful information to get you started:

Establishing Links

As stated, Google's PageRank is based on the number of pages which
link to your site.

"The best way to ensure Google finds your site is for your page to be
linked from lots of pages on other sites. Google's robots jump from
page to page on the Web via hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to
you, the more likely it is that we'll find you quickly." (SEE Google's
" How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google? - 2. Submitting Your site")
   - ://

There are many practical ways of establishing links which are
beneficial to you in your endeavor to get respectable position
placement on search engines. These methods may take time, but they
also help in establishing credibility and help with your page rank.

Approach like-minded or complementary businesses about linking to your
site (with a reciprocal link from your own). This works without
harming search engine positioning or page rank.


Google specifically warns "Don't participate in link schemes designed
to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid
links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own
ranking may be affected adversely by those links." (See Google's
Quality Guidelines - Basic principles)
   - ://

It stands to reason that what's good for Google, currently ranked as
the number one search engine is good rule to follow for other search

Articles on Link Popularity

A couple of excellent articles on how to establish the right kind of
links are available in Traffick's "Ten Steps to Building Links to Your
Site", Craig Fifield - 5/3/2002

and "The Right Way to Improve Link Popularity", By Paul J. Bruemmer -4/14/2002 -

Notice both articles offer suggestions which can be easily adapted for
use on any website without resorting to link farms. They both point
out the differences and offer easy ways to get started to the kind of
linking search engines prefer.

"Link Building Is Important", which discusses link building from A to
Z and also provides a good reference page with linking resources.

The information contained in the above articles offer suggestions
which can be easily adapted for use on any website without resorting
to link farms. The differences in "good links" and those which may be
harmful are discussed, and the articles offer simple ways to get
started to the kind of linking search engines prefer.

Important Google Links For Your Reference

In addition to the above information, here are some important links
from Google's Webmaster Information and Webmaster Guidelines.
Webmasters who follow the guidelines and avoid Google's "Thou shalt
nots" usually have no problem getting listed and showing up under the
search terms they desire.

   * Google Today (absolutely the best information you
     can read about the "how and why" of Google's results
     - ://

   * How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google?
     - ://

   * My Web Pages Are Not Currently Listed (a good 'primer'
     on how and why Google works so well)
     - ://

   * PageRank Information (covers both Google's PageRank and
     - ://

   * Webmaster Guidelines (contains both the dos and don'ts)
     - ://

   * Google Facts & Fiction (can  you buy your way to a
     high ranking in Google?)
     - ://

   * Search Engine Optimizers (some good advice on what to look
     for if you're going to hire a Search Engine Optimizer)
     - ://

   * Frequently Asked Questions (pretty much what it says, but
     definitely worth wading through)
     - ://

Other Sources of Information

There is also good information from many of the top search engine
optimization experts, such as

   * Detlev Johnson, Search Engine Guide

   * Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Watch

   * Jill Whalen, High Rankings

   * Shari Thurow, Web Pro News (and quoted all over the Internet)

who all have columns or newsletters to which you can subscribe and
keep abreast of the best way to use good content for better
positioning in search engine results.

In addition, Webmaster World - - has
discussion boards on most of the search engines. While some of the
discussions are anecdotal and/or questions for information, there is
usually enough discussion to keep abreast of what seems to be

There is an entire section devoted to Google at:

It never hurts to keep track among these discussions, but remember,
trying to optimize for search engines only is like trying to hit a
moving target. You'll notice among the more experienced contributors
to the discussions - plus the SEO experts listed above - that there
really is no substitute for content, relevant links and good HTML.


My suggestion, again, is to discard the current index.html and
substitute your home.php page, with the corrections to make your site
user- and crawler-friendly which are suggested above.

Understanding what your visitor expects, and then giving it to him in
an easy to negotiate website can only enhance your SERPs.

Likewise, establishing links from relevant sites, will clearly help
with both PageRank and your SERPs.

So far as Google is concerned, it isn't about money. It IS about
delivering the most relevant sites for a search query. Toward that
end, they tweak their closely-guarded algorithms constantly to help
achieve that goal. If you follow their recommendations and guidelines,
it also helps with placement in other search engines.

Search strategies -

Besides specific searches mentioned above, the above material was from
my own bookmarks and knowledge form day to day use.

Good luck and best wishes,

Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by ionweb-ga on 14 Nov 2003 08:14 PST
Hello Serenata,

Thank you so much for the detailed reply - it is apreciated.
I would like to clarify a few points you made as well as perhaps
clarify my original question(s) - I knew going into this that they may
be vauge in nature and that your response would enable me to clarify
those questions.

Submission to search engines:

My comment was meant to say that the option to submit a free URL has
virtually disappeared - or is buried where I can not find them.  Am
taking about excite, hotbot, lycos, etc... When you click add URL, it
always takes you to a paid inclusion page. Perhaps I am missing
something - either way, that is not a big deal, jsut wanted to clarify
my comment about the business side of search engines. In addition, I
do fully understand payment does not = inclusion.

Getting Listed:

I don't know if you are familiar with awstats, but I use it and see
that there are 6 external page links. I will work on getting that
increased but I want to do so with quality sites.  I agree, I do NOT
want spam links and will not use that type of service.

More specifially, how can I tell what my page rank is? Do I need to
download the google toolbar?


Yes, I am aware that not much importance is placed on them with
certain engines. It is confusing when people like Danny Sullivan (and
others) state the importance of them in conjunction with relevant
content - which is what I tried to do. The tags on the index page are
mainly there simply because it is an entrance page into the site and
does not have much content on it.  The "meat" of the site starts with

I will read up on the robots.txt and add the DOC-type meta as you
stated.  Thanks ;)

Search Results:

Check the listing again, google has reindexed the page (I believe
sometime yesterday) Included is the description that is in black (I
*** I assume this is a good thing that it was updated in google?
*** Does this mean that it was not interpreted as spam?

From the human side, it is obviously not spam (explained below) but
does that fact that is was reindex with the new information mean that
it is acceptable to the robots?

(I do know about the downside of hidden text, and the only reason I
did so was to add content to that page.  The reason for doing it in
the same color was for aesthetics only - wanted to preserve the "look"
of the entrance page without having a bunch of text.)

In regards to the design and content guidelines:
You mentioned there was a general lack of those items? I am confused...
   Every page has static text links...
   Javascript is placed below all text in the page...
   There are NO broken links...
   I believe all images have alt tags...

And "ouch" on the index page comment... I did not realize nor intend
for the optimized comment to be insulting.  Perhaps you are right,
that page should be ditched all together.


I have much reading to do - I see that and will do so.

If I remove the index page - what happens to engines that already have it listed?
Do I just redesign the index page with duplicate contact from the home.php?
Do a redirect from index (as it is) to home.php?
(Home.php has the counter so I do not want to loose that by changing
it to and html page.)

Since google has listed now with new
content, why does it not index the rest of the pages, specifically the
home.php page which has the most content in it?  Can it not follow the

Finally, comes up #1 when a search is done on "houston
personal trainer"   Aside from my index page... how does that site and
mine differ that much? They only have one external link (using the
google link tool)and Head content is very similar..... am I missing
something obvious??

Thanks again - hope I have cleared up a few things.
Michael ~ IONweb

PS... I figured asking for clarification and specific detail would be
better served here so that the rating and tip go to you since you took
the time to start this.  Hope this is acceptable....

Request for Answer Clarification by ionweb-ga on 14 Nov 2003 08:26 PST

As an afterthought, (and this use your word.. hokey) but my girlfriend
really likes the front page... would it be ok to redesign it with more
text content using guidlines you suggested or is it better to ditch it
all together.  Does the fact that google has reindexed it changed your

Thanks again ;)

Clarification of Answer by serenata-ga on 14 Nov 2003 18:59 PST
Hello again Ionweb ~

Thanks for your Request for Clarification, I'll attempt to answer your
specific questions:

1. PageRank

You asked, "how can I tell what my page rank is? Do I need to download
the google toolbar?"

Yes, the Google toolbar which installs on Microsoft Windows
95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or
later. You can download it from here:

If you use Mozilla, there is a custom-made Google toolbar available for Moz.

2. Metatags

The major search engines do not pay much attention to the metatags any
longer because of years of those who used them to 'spam' indexes.

Be that as it may, it also doesn't hurt, and it gives focus to the
terms under which you wish to be found to make sure those terms are
used within the page's (notice I stress page, not the entire site -
each page should have it's own title, description, etc.)

There are still some lesser, specialized search functions which use
'description'. The Open Directory Project, for example - some of the
editors prefer to use a site's description metatag for the description
as opposed to reviewing the site for content or writing their own

So while they don't actually HELP in the handful of browsers from
where most search traffic comes from, they don't necessarily hurt,

3. Search Results

Searching the various Google datacenters for your domain name,, I am getting the newer listing and not the

The fact that your hidden text may be showing up does not mean at all
that your page doesn't contain spam. My guess is that it's a fresh
bot, and if so, don't be surprised if you disappear in a few days and

As for the the black text on black background, please understand that
it isn't a matter of "being considered" spam. It IS spam. Google says
don't do it. The decision to remove it or not is, of course, entirely
up to you. On the other hand, why risk it, when you know adding real
test that is visible is the simple solution.

If you perform a search on the Google News portion of Webmaster World,
there are countless tales of woe from sites that have been banned or
removed from Google's index for 'hidden text' (spam). Some have been
banned and have had to get a new domain name and start again, as
merely changing content at that point did not get them readmitted.

4. Google's Guidelines

When I said, "You mentioned there was a general lack of those items?"
I apologize, it was an over generalization.

I was referring specifically to your 'landing' page ... with the
visible link being the 'enter' and I apologize for the

The reason it is not indexing the rest of your pages is, as I said,
the fact that it cannot find them. The link is 'enter' which means
nothing to the crawler. There's and they probably won't go beyond
that. And there is also the possibility your host may have some
restrictions on search engine crawlers. Your own robots-related
metatags have restrictions, if you'll recall.

If you remove the entry page, rename the home.php or use a permanent
301 redirect to that as your landing page, the search engines will
pick up the changes on their regular crawls. Most search engines,
including Google now perform a rolling, continuing update, which is
great for their search customers.

5. Body E-FX

Body E-FX has a menu to index (which uses alt tags with descriptive
words), it has several paragraphs of rich content, it has a PR of
2/10, but mostly it's the fact that every page has a link from the
landing page (and thus, for the robots to follow) and the fact that
there is text to index.

Everything on a page, every piece of code, every portion is weighted.
How it is done is either an advantage or a disadvantage in a search
engine's algorithms. Trying to design for SERPs is like shooting at a
moving target. It's much easier to do those things which are
recognized as helping get ahead. All other 'tweaks' because someone
recognizes a 'trend' which may get you ahead today may very likely get
you banned tomorrow.

The sites who hang in there are those that have relevant content
(which matches a search query) and follow the basics of good design.

6. Your landing page

I'm sure your girlfriend likes the landing page. Most SEOs and SEM
specialists will ask you the question, is the site about YOU or what
your visitor wants?"

For those with flash turned off, there  is a grey blank square in the
middle of the page. And there are other issues of design, the waste of
a 'landing' page which serves no real purpose, etc., which will and DO
cause visitors to leave.

The rule of thumb is you have about 30 seconds to present something to
your visitors to see, and you need to make it very clear what the site
is about "above the fold" (first screenful).

Successful sites, small or large, get down to the nitty gritty ... the
basics of good web design are all there, the visitor understands from
the start what the site is about, doing business on the site is easy
from anywhere. Buying is easy, etc., all of those basics of good
design can be found on Jakob Nielsen's site.

Any or all of them, when put to proper use on your site, will help
increase your site's goal. And the goal should be immediately clear on
the first page, above the fold.

I hope this helped answer your questions.

Good luck in your endeavors,

ionweb-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Thank you for the clarification - I will get to work on those things
you mentioned. I think what I will do is redesign the index page and
either move the applet elsewhere or remove it all together.  In
addition I have some work to do on the rest of the pages.

I hope that I can revisit this subject when I complete the
modifications you suggested.  I really do want this site and any
others I build to be a valueable addition to the web and I want to do
it the right way - that is the whole reason for coming here in the
first place - it would have been easy to spend the money of linkware
and submition services. However, it takes effort to build a quality
site, not shortcuts and I would rather do it the right way from the

Thanks again and take care,

Subject: Re: Content, optimization & ranking
From: serenata-ga on 16 Nov 2003 22:31 PST
Hi Ionweb ~

Thank you for the rating and the generous tip. That was very nice of
you to do that, and I appreciate it.

Good luck with your redesign,


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