What is link building – The Complete Guide 2022
Every year there are new trends and tricks to build a link profile, but in fact they all – based on the old "foundation". Only the approach changes, and the methods of implementation are the same, but then why is it difficult?
A little introduction
We've been doing comprehensive link building for sites around the world for 6 years now. We started small and every year we see an increase in clients who need quality links. As link building has changed, our skills and knowledge in this niche has grown.
We have seen a lot of situations that happened with the link building profiles of customers and indeed, the effect of the links can be unexpected for each niche or site, can be early or late, sometimes the result from the first month, and sometimes months helping clients to build a link profile, and only then we see the result.
Building links is not easy, and many do not know where to start or how to continue, so we have prepared a complete guide – what link building consists of.
What link building is and its value in SEO
Let's start with the basics: link building is a way to get external links to a site.
It is an essential part of SEO.
Link profile of the site has a significant impact on the ranking in a Google search, so link building is worthy of attention along with the content. Quality content is the ability to retain traffic to the site, and links – referring potential audiences to the site, increasing the visibility in search, improving the SEO parameters of the site. In order to get the desired effect of linking, it is necessary to pay attention to the choice of link building methods and select the right donors for placement.
There are many different factors and ways to get links to the site, each of which we will describe in this guide in detail.
Links are really important for us to find content initially. So it’s like if nobody links to your website ever then we’re going to have a hard time recognizing that it even exists. But once we found it and started crawling it and started indexing its content and seeing that it’s pretty good stuff then those links are generally not that critical anymore.
John Mueller, Search Advocate Google
Why will there be link building, as long as there is SEO?
Nowadays it is difficult to imagine the promotion of a site without placing links to it from other resources. In the past, the search engines WebCrawler, Lycos, infoseek and others (even before Google) relied exclusively on the content and on-page optimization for ranking. For example, for WebCrawler, you had to enter an exact query for the search engine to correctly show the results of the output, and indexing took weeks or months. Read more about the history of search engines.
As Google came along and established itself as a search giant, other rules for ranking sites emerged. Accounted for not only the content and internal optimization of the site, but external (off-page). Exactly the same external optimization were links to the site from other resources.
Chronology of search engine popularity
Is it possible to do without link building?
Each site owner chooses his own channels for its promotion: contextual advertising, content marketing, advertising on social networks or television. If SEO is chosen as a channel for attracting users, then to achieve results it is necessary to adhere to the rules of search engine ranking. One such key ranking factor is link building. Let's check this thesis.
For example, for the commercial query "guitar shop" we see a site selling guitars, TOP-3 in Google, region UK.
Let's look at the frequency of the key query through the Ahrefs service
On the screenshot you can see that the page is referenced by 4680 backlinks obtained from various sites, but do not forget that now, as we wrote earlier, the quality of links should be a priority.
If you look at sites that are on positions 11-60 in the same query, you can see a direct correlation between the top position and the number of links.
The number of links at positions 20-30 for the query "guitar shop"
If you want to check whether you can do without link building in the search engine promotion or not, look at the link profile of your competitors in the top output for specific queries.
It is important to note that in the top of some niches for low-frequency requests you can find pages with no links or with a small number. However, these niches – not competitive, and the queries – informational (not commercial).
Sadly, much of the content being published is simply not worth linking to. 75% of it is getting zero inbound links. So forget the ‘more is better’ approach to content if you want links. Go with quality instead. Your content will generate links only if it is truly remarkable, as Seth Godin would say.
Brian Sutter, Director of Marketing Wasp Technologies
Donors for link building
It is important to use different link building methods: in this way you can understand what type of links works best for your niche or geo, and diversification of your link profile – a "must have" for the SE.
Donors for link building can be:
- Social media
- Q&A sites
- Blogs (posting comments under topical articles)
- Guestposts (placing an eternal article with a link to a relevant and visited donor)
- Catalogs and directories of sites
- Submittion links
What donors to choose:
- Relevant (try to look for thematic sources for links. This can be done as with keywords in a search engine, and by analyzing backlinks top competitors through the service Ahrefs)
- Quality (do not forget about the parameters of sites that will be selected for external links).
The main parameters in the selection of donors
- DR (domain rating) – check with service Ahrefs
- Number of keywords by Ahrefs
- Traffic amount by Ahrefs
- Number of dofollow domains by Ahrefs
- TF/CF (Trust Flow Factor) – check with Majestic (to calculate the Trust Ratio value you need to divide Trust Flow by Citation Flow)
- Spam score – Check with Moz
- DA (domain authority) – check with the service MOZ
The higher the donor scores, the better the result will be for the acceptor. Otherwise, placing links to "bad" sources can be detrimental to your site.
Inbound links to your site should be both dofollow and nofollow. Despite the fact that nofollow links do not transmit weight, you should not abandon them completely. This is because search engine crawlers pay attention to a diverse and natural link profile.
Dofollow-links are used to transfer link weight from the donor to the acceptor. It is important that the donor page led as many incoming links, and with the donor was a minimum of outgoing links, except yours.
Dofollow-link in the code
Nofollow-links are needed to dilute the link mass and drive targeted traffic from sites when properly placed.
Nofollow-link in the code
- Spam forums where you post just for the sake of leaving a link
- Sites with parameters: DR, DA<20, Ref. domains<100 and Spam Score by Moz>20
- Link exchangers
- Non-thematic publications
- Useful and interesting postings, so that users actively discuss them in forums
- Publications on Q&A sites to get links and traffic
- Choose sites with traffic from 1k on Ahrefs
- Sites without moderation
- Off-topic listings
- Fake information about the company
- Fill out complete company information
- Add photos
- Pay attention to directory metrics
- Use paid directories as well
- Mix dofollow and nofollow directories
- Publication of articles on blogs that are in a link exchange with low parameters
- Content plagiarism
- Publishing on sites that were created only for the purpose of selling links
- Publications on spammed sites (sell links to sites selling casino, adult, pharma)
- Publications on thematic sites
- Quality content on their own or with the help of a copywriter
- The emphasis in the article on key queries
- Analysis of metrics sites for publications
- Domains after gray or banned topics (pharma, casino, porn, drugs, etc.)
- Relinking sites from the grid with each other
- The same structure on all sites
- Identical patterns for all sites
- Identical link profile on all sites
- Add PBN sites to GSC
- Delinquency in payments for hosting and domains
- Normal domain names: domains must have links from reputable sites and be close in subject matter
- Unique IP for each site
- Unique content with photos, videos, tables
- Internal linking to the page with a link to the manisite
- Technical optimization of sites: download speed, mobile version (Google has moved to a mobile index), redirects and the main mirror
- On-page optimization pages
- PBN pumping with links (crowds, submits, social networks)
- Links to trusted inforesources for diversion and dilution of outbound links
- Closing sites in .htaccess from services like Ahrefs, Majestic, SerpStat, etc.
What link building method to use for three different sites?
|Young site||Site with traffic, but not in the TOP||A large site with positions in the TOP|
Build up your link profile smoothly, avoid link blasts or placements on questionable sites.
Actively build link mass and distribute weight evenly among the priority pages of the site.
Constantly increase the number of links without losing quality, to use various methods of link building.
Use low frequency queries
Use LF, MR queries
Use all kinds of queries
Of course, link building and the result can depend on a variety of factors, which must be adapted:
- Region of promotion
- Current state of link profile
- Site optimization
Three key recommendations to help make your link building strategy even more effective:
- Respect thematicity when linking from any site
- Select and analyze donor parameters for placements. The most popular are Domain Rank (DR), Domain Authority (DA), Trust Flow (TF), Citation Flow (CF)
- Look at the age of the domain from which you want to get the link. The older the better. You can analyze the age of the domain with the domain age checker:
Where to post links in 2022?
There are a huge number of sites from which you can get links. All potential link donors can be divided into types. Each type of site is used for a different purpose link building: some to promote certain queries at the top, some – for dilution. Let's review the types of sites in more detail.
Links from forums and blogs
Crowd-marketing is used for different purposes. They attract target traffic (because attendance and concentration of CA on forums is high), dilute the link profile and anchor list, pump young sites and PBN.
The main donors in crowdfunding are forums. Types of links from forums:
- Profile links. These are links you get from your forum profile. Don't waste your time building these links, they are most likely not considered by search engines or considered last.
- Links in the signature. Many forums allow you to create a unique signature under your account, it will be displayed under every comment you post on the forum. These links work well, but with every post on the current forum, the link will have the same anchor or URL. Moreover, on most forums, you can only get a link in your signature after you've proven yourself as an active member.
- References in the text of a comment. Links you place in a forum discussion. This is the most common and effective way to get links from the forum, when you place the appropriate link in the discussion. Many forums are moderated, just from such forums tangible effect both in terms of traffic and transfer of link weight. If you do not work on the text of the comment or it is not the topic of the discussion, most likely it will be removed and your account will be blocked.
Where to start:
Find blogs and forums in your niche
- Upload competitor backlinks using the Ahrefs service.
- Search for a forum through the search commands "keyword query + inurl:"
- forum display
3. Use the Boardreader forum search engine with the necessary filters.
Find the relevant discussion threads
*Before you start commenting, read the rules of the forum, because on some you can not leave a link, or the account must be pumped up to 5-10 posts, or in general to post a link you have to pay.
There are several ways to do this:
- Search the forum
2. With the command "keyword +site:forum domain" in the search.
3. With Ahrefs, if you need topics with high forum traffic.
Enter the forum domain in Site Explorer, select the top pages and sort by decreasing traffic index.
Upgrade your account profile (comment on posts, advise, and create new topics)
Basic rules for boosting your profile:
- don't post many comments in one day
- the text must fit into the discussion and be useful to the audience
- use VPN of the country (city) where the forum is located
- it is desirable to fill in details of the personal data of the account + add an avatar
What kind of forum postings will have no effect?
- discussions with lots of links
- advertising comments
- irrelevant discussion
- forums, which can use automated software such as Xrumer
- dead sites with 0 traffic on Ahrefs
- donors with bad parameters DR <20 by Ahrefs, TF, CF <10 by Majestic
|targeted site traffic||links are removed by the moderators|
|inexpensive type of links on the market||forums cease to exist|
|low probability of getting under the filter||some links do not transmit weight because they have scripts or redirects|
|increasing the visibility of the site in search||a lot of spam|
Links from directories
Catalogs, or directories as they are otherwise known, have received a lot of skepticism from SEO-specialists, although links from such resources were previously valued. In spite of everything, links from directories still work and remain "white" and safe links, which can generate traffic if placed in the right place.
Placements in incorrect and off-topic directories or sections disorient not only the search engines but also the user.
Before you start, you should choose which directories will publish your site.
- Mandatory directories. Example: Google My Business, Trust Pilot, Tripadvisor
- Local directories, depending on where you are located.
- Directories where your competitors are listed.
- General directories with thematic sections where there is traffic.
|Generating traffic to the site||You can't put a direct link everywhere|
|Increasing brand awareness||Some directories require a backlink|
|Must have for a link profile||Complicated moderation, where you really need to confirm the reality of the company with documentation|
|Links from trust sites|
|Useful for local SEO|
Guest Posting is the posting of articles with a link to a promoted site on blogs or media. It is most often achieved through an arrangement for a fee. This type of link building is considered one of the most effective.
Let's see what you get by placing these types of links:
- get quality links (except for your links will not be competitors' links)
- improve the position of the site in search engines
- increase traffic to the site
Disadvantages of this method:
- a lot of time to correspond with the owners of sites
- can be expensive and of poor quality
- low response rate from webmasters
Algorithm of work for guestposting in 2022:
- Finding sites that are popular and relevant to your audience
- Identification of opinion leaders on the chosen topic (of course, in the output you will initially get a list of the most popular sites that regularly add their content and most likely they have high attendance)
- Search for contacts of resources' representatives (you can find them without problems at the bottom of the homepage, or in the "contact" and "feedback" sections)
- Choice of format: press release, interview, article, mention with a link (the choice is yours, it all depends on the price and the content offered)
- Preparation of the press release with details and terms of collaboration
- Drafting of a welcoming letter (this is one of the main points, because your letter may determine whether they will want to cooperate with you further).
- Communication with representatives and negotiations
- Content preparation
- Publication and monitoring
|Visitor confidence in links from articles||The site owners can delete the link after a while|
|Getting the target audience||Cost of placement|
|A steady stream of traffic from a good article|
Links from PBN
PBN (Private Blog Network) is a network of thematic sites or blogs, which is created to build link mass to the promoted resource (money-site). In other words, these are thematic sites with history and backlinks, whose domain name was not prolonged in time and is now available for registration.
PBN is suitable for any direction whether it will be a gambling direction or medicine. The only main point is the correct linking and thematicity of drops.
|Control the link mass to your site||Time- and resource-consuming|
|The quality of donors depends on you||Probability of getting caught by filters|
|In some niches, cheaper than guest posts||Constant monitoring|
Submittion links are the posting of information about a site with a link to sites that allow you to post custom information. For example:
What tasks are solved by submits:
- Increasing the credibility of the site
- Dilution of the anchor list
- Variety of link types
Why is this method so popular and what are its advantages:
- Free. Most often, this method requires no investment.
- Affordable. Anyone can learn.
- Fast. Does not require any effort to be placed, but remember to gradually build up the link mass.
|Types of submits||Work algorithm||Examples of sites|
|Directories ( catalogs and guides)||
Job search sites (recruiting)
|The same as in the directories|
||Trustpilot, Foursquare, Angi’s list|
Under each posted video, write a clickable link to the site and product description
|Freelance sites with portfolios||
||Fiverr, Upwork, Behance|
|Promotion via DOC, PDF files and PPTP presentations||
Issuu, Speaker Deck, Slideshare
|Links from forums and social networks||
What should be in the profile page?
|Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin|
Social is the way our work gets discovered. Content that is truly exceptional, unique, and useful can earn tremendous awareness through social media, and that social amplification often leads to great links, which leads to great rankings.
Creating your own PBN sites
Creation of PBN for promotion is a task for experienced webmasters or teams of contractors. Lack of knowledge at any of the stages of building a network will entail a quick ban and as a consequence, the loss of a decent amount.
The first step in building a network is to find domains that will actually give results. Consider what they are and what are the best to work with:
- old drops – this involves finding an old authoritative site (such as Forbes) and finding outgoing broken links through Ahrefs. Then this list of broken links (or rather domains to which they lead) check for availability for registration. Select the best from the list and register.
- new drops – with expireddomains.net and spamzilla.io you can find drop domains that have recently become free.
- auctions – domains with expired registration and put up for auction by the registrar. As a rule, this category contains the most powerful and high-quality domains. Keep in mind that you will have to fight for these domains at auction, and it may not be cheap.
How do I correctly evaluate domains so that they will work correctly? First, you need to set the right parameters. Filter the metrics that will remove the wrong options for you: TF, CF, DR, etc. After that, spot-check domains for the rest of the metrics:
- presence of spammy inbound anchors
- presence of spammy topics in the web archive
The remaining stage of checking the drop for quality depends only on your persistence. You can analyze the site for backlinks, the dynamics of organic traffic.
Many are of course interested in the financial question: how much domains are and where you can buy them. For this there is a site tld-list.com, which shows the cost of domains with the dynamics up to 3 years.
What suspicions can make Google check your drop domains:
- Registration date – no need to buy all the domains on the same day
- You should not place the entire grid on one registrar
- Don't have more than 5 domains on one hosting account
|A quick way to get a link||Requires domain and hosting renewals every year|
|Fast and predictable results||Probability of getting sanctions from a search engine|
|Ability to change, add content and links at any time on each PBN||
Need for constant monitoring
How to make a strategy for your site?
Even with an understanding of the basics of link building it's difficult to create a link building strategy for your site.
The most common questions when creating a strategy:
- What link building method to use?
- What sites to take?
- How many links are needed?
- What is the evenness of placement?
- What is the ratio of anchor to unanchored links?
- What kind of links to reject?
- What results do I expect from the links?
These and other questions make it difficult to create a strategy for link building.
The first step is to analyze the link profile and determine the current parameters of the site in Ahrefs and Majestic. This will allow us to understand the current state and quality of the link mass of the site and get a superficial analysis.
Always seek for link opportunities and suitable linking targets; because once you’ve reached the top, your competitors will never stop in trying to outrank you – make this part of your campaign’s daily tasks.
Step 1: analysis with Ahrefs
Let's start analyzing the link profile with Ahrefs – paste the link to the site into Ahrefs Site Explorer and see visually the indicators – Ahrefs Rank, UR, DR.
Thanks to these indicators you can make general conclusions and understand the approximate state of the site in search.
- Ahrefs Rank – shows the position of the site in the overall ranking of sites of the service based on the domain rating. The closer the value is to one, the better.
- UR – shows the link rank of a particular page on a 100-point scale. The higher the number, the stronger the URL rating.
- DR – shows the link rank of the domain. The index depends directly on the quality of backlinks.
After a quick analysis of the site, you need to understand why these figures and make substantive conclusions.
*Don't forget to compare the figures obtained by the site with niche competitors.
Go to the backlinks section to understand the state of your link profile. What to pay attention to:
- Link gain and "churn"
- Quality of links
- Site type
- Link type
*Ahrefs crows Nofollow links but does not take them into account when calculating DR, UR and Ahrefs Rank, so the quality and results from this type of links can be tracked in Google Analytics with targeted conversions.
- Number of broken links
- Referring IPs
- Domain zones that are referring to you
*Each referring domain must have a different IP
- Jumps in the growth or decline of the link profile negatively affect positions in search
- Links from non-thematic resources with low traffic should be rejected in Google Search Console
- Anchors should not be of the same type. The ratio of anchorless and anchorless links should be watched by subject intersection at the top of the search or competitors of the resource
- Link profile should be built up with an even increase over the years
The domain zone schedule should match your location or focus on your CA. It looks like this:
Step 2: analyze with Majestic
Analyze your site with Majestic like we do with Ahrefs but focusing on different metrics: Flow metrics and site subject matter.
- Trust Flow – shows the quality of links leading to the site. TF is measured on a scale of 0 to 100.
- Citation Flow – shows the number of links leading to the site. CF is measured on a scale from 0 to 100.
- TF/CF(Trust ratio) – trust ratio. The ideal index = 1, but with the highest possible TF and CF.
After calculating the rating, you can make conclusions and focus on quality or quantity.
*Fast analysis of the domain can be done by extensions from Majestic
Consider two options, the data are taken at the root domain:
- Trust Ratio > 1
Conclusion: the domain has a quality link profile, but not enough referring domains.
- Trust Ratio < 1
TR= 28/50 = 0,56
Conclusion: the domain has good traffic, but some of the incoming links may be of questionable quality.
Do not forget that data without a comparison with competitors in your niche – just numbers. In Majestic, it is convenient that you can compare up to 5 domains at a time – this greatly speeds up the analysis, and visual analytics allows you to quickly understand the main weaknesses of the site.
The first two steps are not sequential, the most important thing is to combine the data and make the necessary conclusions with the information obtained.
Step 3: compiling the anchor list
Anchor links are links "hidden" under the text keyword query or under the text. Unanchored links are links that contain the page address. Both of these types of links are necessary for the site in a certain proportion that has historically been established in the niche (this can be determined by studying the TOP).
|Types of anchors|
Anchor texts containing the name of your brand.
For example: links-stream
Such anchors include: "here", "at the link", "here", "here", "source", "on the site", etc
These anchors include the words: order or buy (order links, buy links)
Anchors that display different kinds of links:
How to make an anchor list
Virtually everything in SEO starts with a niche and competitor analysis. The easiest way to do this is with Ahrefs.
- Looking at the TOP-10 competitors
- Analyze the anchor lists of each competitor and sort them into groups
We look at the % ratio of domains by anchors and on this basis sort the anchors into groups. In this screenshot you can see that the site is referring mostly to pseudo-organic, branded and anchors in the form of URLs.
Anchor list analysis not only helps you to understand how much to use certain anchors, but you can also find new key phrases from your competitors that can be applied to your niche.
Another big plus of anchor list analysis using the Ahrefs tool is the ability to see on which specific donors your competitors' anchors are used.
This way you can gather not only the anchor list, but also donors for placement :)
- Brand anchors
After analyzing the anchor lists of your competitors, you will probably find a large ratio of branded anchors to the bulk.
Using the name:
- Your company or business in different variations. Example: Links-Stream, links-stream, link-stream, etc.
- your site. Example: https://links-stream.com/, links-stream.com, www.links-stream.com
- company management. Example: Svetlana Velichko links
- Distribution of anchors on pages of the site
When you have already made a master list of anchors, you need to understand how to properly distribute them on the pages of the site. Competitors will also help us in this, and more precisely – the analysis of their anchor lists. You can see what pages are most frequently referenced, and then analyze the structure of the site using Ahrefs.
Go to "TOP pages by incoming links”
Most domains link to the home page and then there is a distribution of links to pages according to their importance and attendance.
Step 4: building a link profile
The last step in building a strategy for links is individual. It is the selection of the right donors to place based on an analysis of your link profile and competitors.
Making a plan for placing links should be done both for the long term and for the short term based on your budget and placement sites.
There is no single recommendation for the effectiveness of links and the result of them, but you need to adhere to the rules of search engines.
The main ones are
You can read the full list of unwanted links and link building methods here - https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en.
Links-Stream link strategy
Creating a link strategy for outsourcing is not a bad idea to get quick results and then immediately buy links on recommendations.
We at Links-Stream practice such a service for clients. The example of strategy is here.
There was a brief time in SEO history where you could build thousands of spam links and watch your site climb to the top of the first page. Those days are long gone. SEOs that do well today dedicate serious resources (time, money, and skilled labor) towards their link building campaigns.
White hat links vs Black hat links for SEO
Link building, as well as many methods of promotion, can be done by the white method, and you can do it with a violation of the integrity of other sites (hacking) or data theft. White hat links are used for both white and other projects, but the black hat links are not strongly recommended for "white" sites, because at any time a search engine can detect a violation and impose sanctions on the site.
White hat link building
- is oriented to the needs of users, then the search engines
- takes a long term approach and reduces the risk of search engine penalties
Link building techniques with White Hat:
- Creating quality, unique and most importantly, useful content.
- Unique content is very important, because when the search engine indexes it and determines that it is unique, and the bot does not need to choose from duplicates, which text is more useful to the user, the search engine will immediately increase your ranking.
- Guest posts, not PBNs.
- Link building distinguishes between two types of sites – real sites and PBNs (personal blog networks). PBN refers to Black Hat methods and we'll look at it a little later. Real sites (blogs) are created by bloggers who publish only quality content and the blogs themselves have decent parameters.
A few ways to distinguish a real blog from a PBN:
- There is a services section, content restriction (ban on publishing gray topics: adalt, gambling, esseika), about us and contacts of the blog owner
- Checked WHOIS – was the owner or has changed several times. If the owner is hidden – it's suspicious
- Whether the site has been up and running since its inception or whether it was lifted from the archive
- Whether content is published regularly. PBN will publish content at irregular intervals, unlike a real blog which has a certain publication schedule
Black hat link building
- focusing on search engines (or more precisely, their vulnerabilities) and then on users' needs
- getting results in the shortest possible time and a high risk of search engine penalties
Black Hat link building methods:
Using the PBN
PBN (Private Blog Network) is a private, closed network made up of different sites that link to a single promoted resource, veiled from search engines.
There are several ways to determine the PBN:
- Little information on the site: home page, about us and category page
- Once or more domain ownership changes – by checking the history of the domain, you can see that it has expired and has been taken over by the new owner
If you decide to use Black Hat, be prepared to get penalized by search engines.
Using services for automatic linking
GSA, Xrumer and other automated services are tools designed for mass automatic link building on multiple resources. At this point it is a very risky and inefficient technique. If you use it, you are more likely to get penalties from a search engine than an increase in your site's position.
Using links from compromised sites
In especially competitive and black niches (illegal or semi-legal) webmasters use links from hacked sites. In order to link to well-known CMS's (like Wordpress) sites they are intentionally hacked and malicious programs are inserted into their codes, which allow them to link to websites they are promoting.
It is worth noting right away that this is not only dangerous for your site, but also illegal. We strongly recommend you to refrain from using this link building method.
I love backlinks!
But the first rule about backlinks: DON’T CALL THEM BACKLINKS!
The best links come from real content intended for consumers. The value of a link from a top authority site, regardless of whether it’s a deep link or domain link and regardless of The link anchor text, will perform 100 links engineered on search sites.
To get these kinds of links, you need two things:
1 ) content for readers of these sites ( this can be as little as a mention of your company in an article but best if you’re co-creating content for the website)
2) relationships with the people that create content on that site. This is just good old-fashioned PR. learn what the reporters want and make sure they get it
The biggest bonus for useful links is the direct traffic that comes to your site from people interested in finding you.
A link like this a 100 times as good as a link from a smaller site, worth putting in 50 times effort 🙂
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