Local Small Business: 55 Online Visibility Tips and Tactics for Marketing and SEO Success

Local Small Business Online Visibility and Success
This guide is written mainly for local business owners who are new to the whole online thing. I tried to simplify it as much as I could.

small local business
photo credit: flickr: Ed Yourdon

Local Business Online Visibility and Success

  1. First Things First
  2. Get a web site.
  3. Site Content & Architecture.
  4. Get Local Business Listings (Citations)
  5. Track Your Business.
  6. Marketing.
  7. Get Ratings & Reviews.
  8. Social Presence.
  9. Advanced Local
  10. Get Involved.
  11. Great Tools.

Download the document at: http://bitly.com/localbizseo

Contact me at
Twitter: @JShehata
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnshehata
Google +: https://plus.google.com/+JohnShehata/posts

 

1. First Things First

  1. When you choose a business name, use simple easy to remember business name that has your main search term(s) describing your business (laundry, jewelry, plumber, hair salon, computer repair, etc)
    1. If you already have a business name, don’t change it. It is recommended that you never change your business name unless you are creating a new company.

 

  1. If there are multiple main search terms that describe your business choose the most popular one, the one that users use most frequently when referring to a business like yours (choose Laundromat is used almost 5 times in search vs. Laundry)

 

  1. Get a Gmail account ( YourBusinessName@gmail.com ) and make sure you have a very secure password and a secondary email for recovery
    1. Use this email in all the steps below
    2. Don’t use your email@YourDomain.com. If someone hacked your site, they have control over your email and can reset all your logins to all services online including hosting, domain name, business listing pages, social accounts, etc. They can take over your online presence for your business in matter of days.
    3. You can use email@YourDomain.com in contact us forms and customer communications and emails displayed in listing pages but don’t use it in logins

 

  1. Don’t fall victim for shady advertising companies. You will be contacted 100s of times from marketing companies that will offer you a site, domain name, marketing, etc
    1. Don’t market your site in Yellow Pages or Newspapers, it is useless. Unless your target audience is mainly paper oriented and not active online
    2. If an advertising company hint that they have special relationship with Google, never do a business with them. They are liars!
    3. You get what you pay for; if you get a low budget campaign you are probably getting a bad service.
    4. If they do paid ads on Google and Bing, ask how much money allocated for your ads (paid to google/bing) and how much commission they charge. A reasonable commission is between 15-30%. If they refuse to disclose the number, don’t trust them.
    5. Ask what happens to your site and business listings if you stop working with them, and who owns the site and listings.
    6. Ask for references, get sites, check rankings and call business owners from their contact us forms on their sites to confirm.
    7. Ask if they offer google analytics integration, and what type of reports they will send you
    8. Ask for phone tracking. I believe this is the ultimate success measurement.
    9. If they sell Search Engine Optimization (SEO), ask for a detailed list of items and tasks they will do every month. They should add content to your site regularly, optimize your meta tags for all pages, audit your local listings for any problems, add new local listings, find relevant quality directories for you to join. They should also help you gain reviews in a healthy ethical way
    10. Ask if you have human customer support and monthly/weekly meetings with customer rep to go over deliverables.
    11. They need to understand your business and goals
    12. Never sign a long term contract; start with 3 or 6 months and see if things do improve.
    13. If you don’t follow up with the advertising agency after you sign up, it is your fault. You need to track their progress and get reports explained to you
  2. Buy a domain name that will have the main search term for your business (laundrmat, computer repair, jewelry, etc)
    1. Buy “.com” domain. Don’t buy other extensions (unless you have extension specific business like colleges .EDU) . You don’t need it
    2. Make it short and easy to remember
    3. Avoid terms that are hard to spell
    4. Test your domain name by telling your friends over the phone and see if they type it correctly

2. Get a web site

Buy Cheap Domains at: e1front.com , register.com, godaddy.com

  1. Get the location in the domain name
    1. If you only have one location and you don’t plan on expanding, it is ok to get the location (city or county) in your domain name (example: nycplumber.com),
    2. If your business serve the entire state or you have multiple branches, you can state in your domain name (example: NJPlumber.com)

 

  1. Own your domain name: don’t let your designer, website developer buy the domain name for you. You must buy it and guard this login. Even if you have to share the domain name and hosting login with the company building your site, make sure to change the login once they are done. There are so many horror stories on design and development companies hijacking clients domains when they stop working or advertising with them.

 

  1. Get cheap hosting from the domain provider, $5-$10 a month is more than enough for a starter site. Get Linux/MySQL/PHP hosting environment

 

Get Cheap Hosting at: e1front.com , register.com, godaddy.com

 

  1. Create a simple site using wordpress. WordPress is the easiest content management system (CMS) out there. Most of the hosting providers offer one click installation for the CMS

 

  1. You can buy a nice wordpress design for less than a $100
    1. Make sure it is responsive (mobile friendly)
    2. Buy a clean design, users trusts sites more if they are professionally designed, clean and easy to use
    3. Must be fast

 

Get Nice WordPress Design and Logos at: TemplateMonster.com, ThemeForest.com,

 

  1. Avoid building your site completely in FLASH or AJAX. Search Engines can’t read your site. If they can’t read the site, this means poor rankings and traffic.

 

  1. Make sure your business Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are the same everywhere online including your site. This is the most important step of all.
    1. Don’t use your one-word-domain-name (example: MyBusinessName.com) as your business name in some places then separate the words (My Business Name) in other places. It has to be the same name used everywhere.
    2. NAP consistency is critical to your success online
    3. always use your local phone number (don’t use 800 number or tracking numbers online)

 

Check if your name is consistent online: MOZ.com ,

 

  1. If you have one location: Your business name, local phone number, address must be on all your pages in text format (not an image)

 

3. Site Content & Architecture

  1. Pages you must have on your site
    1. Location page(s) and service areas: include your contact info, business name, address, a map, direction tool, business hours and a list of all cities and counties you serve.
      1. If you have multiple locations, create a page for each location. Add the different services each location provide in addition to the info mentioned above.
      2. You may create a location page for each city you serve on your site. You need to add unique content that makes these pages distinct. You CAN’T just copy the same info and change the city name. Creating such pages will harm you. Each page must have sufficient unique content.

 

  1. Reviews page: Collect reviews from online local sites (google plus, facebook, yahoo local, yelp, etc) and display them on your page.
  2. Service pages: each service you offer should have its own page.
  3. All Services Page: list all services with short description for each and link service name to service page.
  4. Complains and feedback page: why would you let your customer complain about your service/products on other sites?? Create a page where users can submit complains and feedback directly to you on your site. They will come to you first before they go elsewhere.
  5. Blogs: Write frequently on different topics that relate to your business
    1. Industry news
    2. Latest business updates
  • Discounts, coupons and offers >> very popular search
  1. FAQ: see below
  2. Guidelines, help articles and how to
  3. Employee Profile Pages
  • Events & Calendars
  • Press Releases
  1. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): if users ask the same question twice, it should definitely go into you FAQ section on the site. FAQ content has a great traffic potential since most of the users will be searching for info on their problems/issues (example: black screen on my PC, what’s wrong) first before they contact a service provider (example: computer repair in city state). Each question should have its page.
  2. Write a review page: A page that lists logos of all sites that have your business listing where users can leave you a review

 

  1. I recommend the following site structure (folder architecture)
    • Homepage
    • Services
      • Service 1
      • Service 2
      • etc
    • Locations
      • Location 1
      • Location 2
      • etc
    • Testimonials
    • Contact us
    • FAQ
    • Blog
      • Guides
      • How to
      • Discounts
      • etc
    • Feedback & Complains

 

  1. Blog or hire someone to blog for you. You need to post on regular basis and it has to be quality content

 

  1. Make your site easy to use
    1. Think like a customer not like a business owner.
    2. Create easy navigation
    3. Group (categorize) similar pages together (all services pages are grouped in one directory called services)
    4. Make content easy to find; the user shouldn’t search your site to find contact us form or phone numbers.
    5. Make call-to-actions (contact us link, submit email for newsletter, contact us forms, call us now, etc) visible and have unique look. You can even design all call-to-action buttons in one color that obvious to the user.

 

  1. Each page on your site must have
    1. Unique helpful content. You can’t copy content from somewhere else. Avoid using marketing fluff words but use actual terms that users will search for and that will help the user understand the page. There is no magic number for how many words to have on a page but let’s say 80-100 words minimum.
    2. Unique SEO Meta (page title, meta description and meta keywords). Using WordPress CMS allows you modify and optimize these elements easily. It is extremely important that each page has a unique seo meta.
      1. Page title should not exceed 60 characters. Put your brand name at the end of the page title not in the beginning
      2. Meta Description: 160 characters include call to action (view, read, get, etc). Make it interesting for users to read.
  • Meta Keywords: no more than 10 1-2 word-phrases separated by commas

Check All pages of your site: WebmasterWorld.com > Enter your domain, click “check”, click Download XLS, check page title, description and keywords. Each page must have unique/different data.

  1. Unique heading tags. These are H1, H2, etc tags

 

  1. Once you create the site, submit to Google and Bing. Also make sure you open Google/Bing Webmaster accounts. They are free and offer you a ton of helpful information.

Google: Submit / Bing: Submit

  1. Implement Google and Bing Webmaster tools. These tools provide you with a wealth of information including keywords and a lot of technical issues that your site may face. It will also you alert you if you site has been hacked and has malware or banned from search

Google Webmaster tools
Bing Webmaster tools

 

4. Get Local Business Listings (Citations)

  1. You must have a physical location to get a local business listing page at many of the places below.
    1. Some sites allow you to hide your location which maybe a good option if you are working from home but it doesn’t help you much in rankings
    2. You can’t use a P.O. Box or a virtual address service. You actually need a real address staffed location.

 

  1. Get verified: most of the local directories will verify your ownership by sending you a postcard to your business or call you on the phone. This is very important step to gain strong visibility online and drive traffic and sales. Make sure you pay attention and not to lose the verification postcard or miss the phone call.

 

  1. Before starting creating and/or claiming your local business listings have the information below ready. Make sure you record all submissions and claims in an excel sheet that you can revisit in the future.

Company Name, Address Line 1, Address Line 2, City, State, Zip, Local Phone Number, Fax Number, Other Phone Numbers Used, 800 Phone Number, Business Categories, Domain Name, Landing Page for Location (if you have multiple locations: yousite.com/location1), Business Hours, Company Description (Short), Company Description (Long), Company Email Address, Social URLs, payment information

 

  1. When you create a local listing page make sure you
    1. Use consistent NAP (name, address, phone number)
    2. Add as much info as you can
    3. Include important terms that users search for in description and services but don’t keep repeating them, this is considered spam.
    4. Select business categories carefully (select Italian restaurant NOT pizza, select Computer Repair NOT computers, etc)
      Great tool to help you find categories: http://blumenthals.com/Google_LBC_Categories
    5. Write a descriptive company description
    6. Write full list of services
    7. Add pictures, don’t just add a couple
    8. Add videos if available
    9. Add business hours
    10. contact use email @yourdomain.com

 

  1. Here are the most important local business listing pages that you MUST have
    1. Google My Business: http://www.google.com/business/
    2. Bing Places for Business: https://www.bingplaces.com/
    3. Yahoo local: https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/local-listings
    4. Yelp Business: https://biz.yelp.com/
    5. Facebook for business: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create
    6. Twitter for business: https://business.twitter.com/
    7. LinkedIn for business: http://learn.linkedin.com/company-pages/
    8. Foursquare for business: https://foursquare.com/business/

 

  1. Check if any local directories rank in google first page for your key terms and locations. Most of the time you can submit your business (or claim it if it is already there) for free. It is important to claim your business as your competitors may claim it and harm you by providing wrong business information
    1. Find local directories that rank in Google for your main search terms+city/state:
      com, AL.com, Cleveland.com, etc
    2. Best of the Web local directories: http://botw.org/top/Regional/United_States/

 

Top sites by city: http://moz.com/learn/local/citations-by-city

 

  1. Check vertical directories that rank well for your keywords
    1. lawyers: Lawyers.com, Martindale.com, Avvo.com
    2. Restaurants: Yelp.com, TripAdvisor.com, OpenTable.com

 

Find more great places to have your business listing by category at
http://moz.com/learn/local/citations-by-category

 

  1. Get Citations and Local Links are extremely important to your business. Citations are simply the mention of your business name along with phone number, and/or address. They might be a link also back to your site. Citations and links are important especially from local relevant organization as vote of trust to your business.
    1. Local Chamber of commerce websites
    2. Better Business Bureau
    3. Local news websites: contributing articles or write how to guides
    4. Local Sponsors: sponsor a school or a local charity. Usually you get a link from the site
    5. Your Partners and vendors
    6. Organizations & Societies that you deal with
    7. Suppliers, manufacturers, attorneys, Accountants, other partners
    8. Press Releases
    9. Guest blogging on other reputable sites (local news sites are great place for that)
    10. Charities (make donations) and sponsorships
    11. Internet Yellow Pages

 

  1. If you have time you can also list your business at
    1. com
    2. com
    3. com
    4. com
    5. com
    6. com
    7. com
    8. com

 

  1. Make sure before you create a business listing to check if it already exists. If it does, you should claim it and NOT submit a new business

 

  1. If someone claimed your business listing page, contact the site and get back the ownership of your listing. This might be used by a competitor to hurt your business

 

  1. If you find multiple duplicate listings at the same directory/site, you must clean up your listings. It is a long tedious process but it has to be done

 

Great Source on Cleaning Duplicate Listings: http://moz.com/learn/local/moving-locations


5. Track Your Business

  1. Add google analytics code to your site; usually it gets added once to the footer file of your site. This is very important.

Get Google Analytics at http://www.google.com/analytics/

 

  1. Track your main keywords in search engines. you should select the most important 20 service terms for your business and combine them with city and track these terms
    1. for example (keyword-1, keyword-2) and your cities you service are (city-1, city-2, city-3) then you should track 6 keywords (2 keywords * 3 cities), i.e. (keyword-1 city-1 state, keyword-1 city-2 state, keyword-1 city-3, state, keyword-2 city-1 state, keyword-2 city-2 state, keyword-2 city-3 state)

Free Great Tool to Track Keywords http://greenlotus.ca/seo-tools

 

Tool: generate keywords and cities: http://www.5minutesite.com/gen_keywrds.php

 

  1. Ask every customer who contacts you via phone or email or site forms, or comes in person to your business, “how did you know about us”. Also ask every
    1. Track leads: Record the finding in an excel sheet and find which channel (word of mouth, google search, google ads, facebook ads, newspaper ads, etc) drove more visits and phone calls. Calculate how much each lead cost you
    2. Track clients: see how many of these leads convert to be paying clients and calculate how much it costs you per client
  2. There are many channels for marketing some free and some paid
    1. Google Ads: you pay per click. The price could vary from few cents to tens of dollars based on how competitive is your industry and how popular is you location. You can target audience by location, interests, geo/zip codes, etc
    2. Facebook ads: you can target users more effectively. Cheaper than google and mainly depends on how attractive your ad image is. You can target users by a variety of factors that are not available in Google ads (status, birthday, interests, groups, etc)


6. Marketing

Google Ads: https://www.google.com/adwords/
Facebook Ads: https://www.facebook.com/advertising
Bing Yahoo Ads: http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/home
Yelp Ads: http://www.yelp.com/advertise

 

  1. Word of mouth (referral program): offer your clients X% off if they refer a client. Also offer the prospective client similar incentive if referred by existing client.
  2. Lead Generation: A lot of sites offer lead generations when you get a bunch of leads for a fixed price. You contact each lead and try to close the deal. Deals are generally sent to multiple businesses where customers are trying to get the best service and price.


7. Get Ratings & Reviews

  1. User Reviews are extremely important to every local business. You must get a lot of good ones for your business to rank well and for users to contact you. The simplest way is to encourage your customers to leave you reviews:
    1. Send them a thank you email/text message after their visit. Include a link to you all reviews page where they can leave you a review. The page should have the top 4-6 places where users can review you.
    2. Don’t promise any incentives (like 10% on next visit); google may penalize you for that if they found out or if a competitor reported you. It is against their policies to pay customers for reviews. You can still tell your customers verbally on any review-incentive you may offer

Great resources on reviews: http://moz.com/learn/local/reviews

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers who had a great experience with you if they’d be kind enough to give you a review. You will be surprised how many of them are willing to do so, but you have to ask

 

  1. Always collect emails of your clients and email them back. You can filters their emails and send satisfied clients with Gmail accounts a link to your business listings page on Google, same thing for Yahoo email clients, send them a link to your Yahoo local business listing
  2. Send satisfied Clients with Yahoo accounts a link to your place page on Yahoo Maps

 

  1. Send a thank you postcard or Post a sign on your business door that you are on YELP, or any other site. Most of these sites send stickers

 

  1. Don’t be afraid from negative feedback online. Negative feedback makes you legit. More users trust businesses that have few negative reviews more than those who have none.
  2. Never insult your clients and describe them as stupid, cheap or ignorant
  3. Try to remedy the situation offline (can we call you and help with this matter)
  4. If the problem is solved ask customer to write a follow up, most customers will be happy to do so
  5. Consider it as a chance to improve your business and service
  6. Apologize if you have mistaken
  7. Hey, some customers are hard to please and some are just terrible customers trying to blackmail business owners. If you did all what you can do within limits and you tried your best, don’t fall for their blackmail. Most of sites will allow you to reply on user comments; describe what happen without insulting the client, and explain that you tried your best to help but with no luck.
  8. Social Media is important. The most popular one is Facebook but it may not be the best channel for you or the only the one you need.


8. Social Presence

 

  1. Add social media sharing buttons to your pages. It is important to make it easy for your users to share your business and content. Don’t exceed 4-5 buttons. You can use one of the following services with your wordpress CMS

Add This: http://www.addthis.com/

Share This: http://www.sharethis.com/

 

  1. Add Social Media Badges to allow users to follow you directly on social from your site.
  2. Other social networks (like Instagram and Pinterest) are great for visual products and events (fashion, cakes, weddings, decorations, etc)

 

  1. Social Engagement Rules:
    1. You need to be active, you can’t just create a social presence/page and forget about it
    2. Allocate 15-30 mins a day to manage social accounts
    3. Post 1-2 times a day (industry news, offers, link to your blog, etc)
    4. You need to read comments; people will praise and critique your products and business. You need to respond when appropriate
    5. Never engage in a fight or call a customer stupid

 

  1. Create a YouTube video channel: YouTube is the second largest search engine out there and it gets featured all the time in google search results. Get a channel and post on regular basis.
    1. Post helpful videos, how to, guides, answer questions, etc.
    2. The video shouldn’t exceed 3 mins
    3. Add you logo and contact info to all videos
    4. Write descriptive video titles and description
    5. Use video annotations
    6. Embed the YouTube videos back into your site pages

 

9. Advanced Local

  1. Use schema in marking up your site address, product/service reviews and testimonials

schema.org examples for location pages: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/business-location-pages/schema.org-examples

 

  1. Check your data at the major data aggregators. Local aggregators feed most of the sites, local directories and search engines online. Here are the most important ones in US

Infogroup: http://www.infogroup.com/
Localeze: https://www.neustarlocaleze.biz/welcome/
Acxiom: http://www.acxiom.com/
Factual: http://factual.com/
Yext: http://www.yext.com/

 

  1. Make sure you are on apple maps https://mapsconnect.apple.com/

 

  1. Check if your business in the right location on Google maps, edit it if needed http://www.google.com/mapmaker
  2. get involved in your community
    1. Participate in your city local chamber of business
    2. Schedule training seminars for free at your business to educate and train targeted audience
    3. Provide information to your customer, don’t hide or make it difficult to understand. Users will trust you and consider you the subject-matter expert and probably hire you


10. Get Involved

 

  1. Answer emails and social messages comments

 

  1. Find local forums and message boards, answer related questions and offer advice
  2. Great example of that realtors answering questions on Zillow and Trulia message boards


11. Great Tools

 

I hope you enjoyed this quick simplified Local SEO document.

John Shehata

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enterprise-seo-roadmap

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enterprise-level-seo-tactics

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Questions to ask (before you start): – SEO Budget – Resources – Legal – Tools – Usability – Previous SEO?
2. Inform “Develop Institutional Knowledge”
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• – Best Practices Guides (BPG) / One Sheet Checklist
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Project Management Process Integration is a must
– SEO is not an afterthought (It starts before development)
– Understand The Process
– Kick Offs / Traffic Sources Expectations
– Requirement gathering
– IT / Development
– Design Comps
– Content / Internal Links
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• – Page Level Optimization
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• – Top 10 Paid Keywords – PPC
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• – Canonical Tags
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• – Template Level Optimization
• – On Page Optimization (layout, Heading Tags, etc.)
• – Page Titles, Meta Description, SEO Tags
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• – Mobile SEO
• – Content Verticals Optimization (entertainment, tech, etc.)
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• – Rich Snippets
• – Link Building Campaigns
• – Crawl Efficiency / Duplicate Content / URL Architecture
• – Syndication
• – Social Media
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• – Provide SEO Recos to Breaking/Trending News
• – SEO Recos to all new design and tech projects
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• – Executive Summary is a Must
• – Daily/Monthly Reports
• – Author/Content/Product/Vertical Reports
• – Social Media Reports
• – Project Reports
• – Promote your work
• – Track traffic changes for all work done

Tools & Resources
• Excel• SEOmoz• SEObook• Screaming Frog• Google/Bing Webmaster Tools• Advanced Web Rankings• Google Analytics / Omniture• Raven Tools

17 Tactics that help you succeed at Enterprise SEO
1. Develop Technical & Excel Skills
2. SELL Your Projects. Align your Goals with the Company’s Goals i.e. Align your Projects with the Company’s Projects. Find a project sponsor
3. Show Value
4. Big Projects – Small Projects Justifies Big Projects – Divide Big Projects into smaller tasks – Find projects that can include these tasks – Focus on quick wins
5. Your Platform is not just desktop! – Mobile is a must – App/Tablet Optimization – YouTube
6. Tech/Dev Teams• Great ally or the worst hurdle• Push Back when appropriate• Your strategy is Dead-On-Arrival without technical resources.
7. Build Relationships: Communicate in Person, Emails are not enough
8. Stop Long Emails: Tell A Story / Promote your success / Use Numbers
9. Task, Reports, Meetings, etc. Stop whatever doesn’t provide VALUE
10. Choose your Battles Wisely Prioritize / Ask your manager to prioritize your work
11. Find Hidden resources – Sister companies – Cross promotions, – links – Talents in other departments
12. Center of Excellence [COE] – SEO Ambassadors (across sites, global, editorial, IT, etc.) – Highlight the Champ – Badges / Compliance Certificate – Train the trainer
13. We are consultants; we provide recommendations to other teams to implement!!
14. Develop A Content Marketing Strategy – Editorial calendar – Evergreen content – Product Reviews – Best/Worst Lists – Trending topics – National vs. Local Content
15. Working with others• Make others great! Focus on making the other people successful, and you’ll earn their trust.• Make your emphasis how SEO will make them successful.• Make a big deal of giving public acknowledgement of their vital contribution.• Respect the hard work these folks have to do that has nothing to do with your SEO needs
16. Less Is More SEO• Focused recommendations• Focused emails• Focused reports• etc.
17. Be a Good Person – Approachable – Available – Share Knowledge – Train and Train Again – Invest in People, Develop Skills – Optimize for Users not SE SEO

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