Category Archives: SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation, tips on how to improve your website ranking in search engines.

SEO Tweaks for Big Impact

Search Engine Optimization can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. However, there are some small practices that can be implemented that don’t take too much time and that can really help your website gain a competitive edge in its web rankings. This is a list of ten such things compiled for your pleasure.

1. SEO Basics

Implementing the basics of SEO are among the easiest of tasks, and will yield the greatest results for your website.

The Title Tag is probably the most important part of a website for search engine optimization. It is the first thing the crawler will look at to determine your site’s subject matter. Your title tag should include some keywords, but not so many that your site be flagged for keyword stuffing. The order of words in your title tag is also important, and the closer important keywords are to the beginning of the title tag, the better it is for your rankings (I recommend a natural sounding flow to your title text). Although it varies by SERP, Google usually displays the first 65 to 75 characters of your title. This however, should not be a deterrent to use additional words or characters. Characters will be counted for web rankings even if they are not visible on the SERP. If it is your goal to optimized for localized search, than it is important to include localized keywords in the title area. You may also want to consider including branding for your overall site somewhere within the title space with some sort of separator, such as a hyphen. Make sure that all of your title tags are unique to their individual pages.

The Meta Description is also very important. It less important for rankings than it is for improving clickthrough rate, as it is usually the text that the user will read on the search page to decide whether they should click or not. In some cases the search engine will choose to display text from the page and not the text of the meta description. In this case, you should treat this as an indicator to rewrite your meta description text. It is worth noting that search engines usually only display the first 160 characters of the meta description, so it is important to keep your main message within that character count. The inclusion of more characters will likely be displayed truncated, displayed with ellipses. Although the keywords in meta descriptions don’t really effect search rankings, it is advised that the meta description differ for each page, so that the search engines don’t confuse the page for a duplicate.

Heading Tags are a very important factor for SEO. Search engines put an emphasis on the contents of these tags for determining what the site is about. It is important to note that the heading tags function hierarchically and should adhere to the correct structure. An H1 tag should always be included on a page, and an H2 tag should be used to break your writing down into further subsections. It is not necessary to overuse these subheading tags. They should only be used if it makes sense within your writing structure.

Using a Static URL Structure for your webpage or Permalink Format for your blog is advisable as a good SEO practice (although Googlebot can crawl dynamic URLs quite fine contrary to popular belief). Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team and a go-to resource on SEO for Google, has mentioned that the use of keywords in your URL can effect search rankings (albeit only slightly). I recommend your URL be representative of your page title, maybe with some unimportant words like “and” or “the” omitted to shorten the URL, and separated by hyphens (this page: “/ten-seo-tweaks”). Where this practice really shines through though and where it will have the greatest impact is on your page’s click-through rate. The reason for this is that people dislike long, meaningless URLs and they are more likely to click on a shorter one.

Although it isn’t necessary to have an XML Sitemap, it is still a good idea and will improve the crawl rate and indexation of your website. It becomes more important for large websites, or websites that are updated frequently for this reason. The sitemap should be validated and connected to your Google Webmaster Tools account.

2. Image Optimization

Since search engines can’t see or understand what is depicted in a picture, it is necessary that your provide search engines with details about images. Make sure to include a description of the image in the alt attribute within the img tag. You can also provide context to an image by using a descriptive filename. I recommend that you optimize the file size of your image to load at a decent speed, as this will help for SEO.

3. Webmaster Tools

Using Google Webmaster tools is a must for a website. It gives you great insight and control over the indexing of your website. You can check errors, perform geotargetting, remove an indexed page, reviewing inbound links, and many more functions that are very valuable for SEO. The Google Webmaster Central Blog has a very informative video entitled Using Webmaster Tools like an SEO that I recommend you check out for more information. In addition to Google Webmaster Tools, I recommend you also use Bing Webmaster Tools. It has a great interface that was designed with SEO in mind.

4. Google+

The advent of Google+ and the +1 button has sent shockwaves through the SEO world. For sometime now, social signals have been effecting search ranking, but not in the way that Google+ does. Webpages that have been +1’d by people in your circles will usually appear at the top of the search engine results page above other organic results, making a Google+ essential to your SEO strategies.

5. Social Networks

Sharing on social network other than Google+ can effect your search ranking a little bit (not nearly as much as with Google+ of course), and social signals will likely become more and more important to the future of search. Even if it doesn’t impact your search rankings, it is still recommended because it will only add to traffic and conversions for your website.

6. Google Authorship Markup

You can use rel=”author” on your website or blog to display your picture and author information next to a page in the SERP. The picture is linked to your Google+ profile. It can be used to add authority to your name and even improve click through rate (it helps your page stand out in the SERP). Cyrus Shepard recently wrote about he was able to further optimize his author picture to increase web traffic.

7. Social Meta Data

The use of Social Meta Data is will not have a direct effect on SEO, but will help with distribution amongst social networks which in turn effects SEO. Social signals have become increasingly important to search engine rankings. When your link is shared on a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn, social meta data will dictate the thumbnail, title, and description that will be displayed. If these aren’t set, they display poorly by default and fewer people will click on the link or reshare it. This is probably the most difficult to implement of the SEO tweaks that I am mentioning, and I apologize if it is confusing.

To Be Used With Facebook / Opengraph

First, modify the attributes of your <html> tag to look like <html xmlns:og=”” xmlns:fb=”” xmlns:og=””>

Then, add the following to following to the <head> section of your webpage:

<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”Name of Website or Blog, Not the Page Name” />

Can be “article” or “website” depending on type of page.
<meta property=”og:type” content=”article” />

<meta property=”og:locale” content=”en_US” />
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Title For Your Webpage (Similar to Title Tag)” />
<meta property=”og:description” content=”Description Text for Webpage (Similar to Meta Description Tag Contents)” />

Image should be representative of the page in reference. It will appear as the thumbnail image when posted to Facebook and some other social networks.
<meta property=”og:image” content=”” />

To Be Used With Twitter Cards

Add the following to following to the <head> section of your webpage:

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary”>
<meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@twitter_handle“>
<meta name=”twitter:creator” content=”@twitter_handle“>

Should be the Canonical URL of the Webpage
url” content=”“>

<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”Title For Your Webpage (Similar to Title Tag, Maxium 70 Characters)“>
<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”Description Text for Webpage (Similar to Meta Description Tag Contents, should be less than 200 characters)“>

Image should be representative of the page in reference. Must be at least 60px by 60px. Images greater than 120px by 120px will be resized and cropped in a square aspect ratio.
<meta name=”twitter:image” content=”“>

Make sure to check your implementation of these tags with Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool.

8. Keyword Research

Keyword research can be a long and tedious process to complete in full, but doing just a little bit can go a long way. I recommend optimized for 2 or 3 keywords, but it isn’t necessary to go crazy with them. Whatever you write should be natural sounding, maintaing an organic flow.

Also keep in mind that it is likely that you will be competing with other high profile websites for search ranking for certain keywords (this is bad for you). You may want to try and optimize for long tail keyword or keywords that are less competitive at first. There are several free tools at your disposal that can help you with your keyword research:

Note: Many of these tools are meant for PPC campaigns, but can also be used for SEO purposes.

9. Consistant Linking

Linking is factor which Google and other search engines use to rank your website. I won’t get into linking really, but would like to stress that it is important how that the link to your website be consistent across the internet. You can link to your website in your social networking profiles, email signatures, and beyond. Choose whether you would like to include the “www” or “/” at the end and be consistant everywhere you put this address. I also think it is worth mentioning that you should not spam the web with your website’s link.

10. Analytics

Employing the use of an analytics package like the free Google Analytics can be very helpful. You can use it to easily see what is working and what isn’t working. Use it to test and improve your SEO practices.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask them in the blog comment bellow. I would be happy to answer.

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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Ecommerce, SEO - Search Engine Optimisation


Taking Payment: Basket and Checkout Optimisation

The Overall Checkout Flow

The faster, easier and more reassuring a checkout process feels, the more likely a potential customer will reach the final stage. In general, that means minimising the number of pages in the process, removing anything that may confuse them, ensuring they are reassured at all points in the process, and handling any errors in a way that doesn’t frustrate people. For mobile checkouts, where devices are smaller and connection speeds often slower, all of that applies twice as much!

Baskets vs Mini Baskets

Whereas most e-commerce sites used to send users to the basket whenever they added an item, more frequently now you see a little ‘mini basket’ sitting at the top right of every page. Adding a product to your basket now often simply updates that, only sending users to the ‘basket page’ unless they specifically try to visit it. is a good example of a ‘mini basket’ site. Add any product to your basket there, and you’ll remain on the current page, while a small notifier lets you know at the top right of the screen that the product has been added.
Mini baskets work very well on sites where you would expect the user to buy four or five products, as they allow visitors to continue shopping without interrupting them by jumping them to the basket page. But, on sites where visitors are only likely to buy a single product, it’s often more sensible to send them straight to the basket page itself. For example, sells unique experience days. Because people tend to buy those as ‘one-off’ events, they send visitors straight to the basket when any product is added to cart. Doing so means it’s less likely potential buyers will be side-tracked, and more likely they’ll move from ‘basket’ to ‘purchase’.

The Basket Page

A good basket page should include the following:

  • Details of all of the items in the basket complete with quantity and price
  • A subtle area allowing them to add promotion codes if theyare already intent on doing that
  • The total price, broken down with shipping costs (and VAT displayed if business customers may purchase)
  • The option to increase or decrease the quantity of items in the basket
  • Delivery information or a link to display a delivery popup
  • Prominent display of all the main payment types you accept
  • Notification that your checkout is secure, or any relevant safety icons
  • A prominent, impossible to miss ‘checkout’ button, which should be visible without the need to scroll
  • A less prominent ‘continue shopping’ button
  • A way to contact you in case the visitor has any final ‘must answer’ questions before purchasing

Take a look at your own basket page, compare it against the above list, and if it does not match, ask if there is a good reason why not.

Customer Information and Registration

Forcing new visitors to register for a site before they checkout often reduces the likelihood they’ll purchase. Econsultancy consultant Dan Barker noted “Occasionally this only makes a small difference, but usually, removing the need for customers to register before they buy has a big impact. The biggest difference in improvement I’ve personally seen in a test reduced the number of new visitors who dropped out at this stage in the checkout by more than 50%. “
It’s often best to display your Checkout with PayPal option as early in the checkout process as possible, to reassure visitors that they aren’t going to have to enter lots of personal information, and that they can simply purchase with a few clicks using their PayPal details.

Reassurance and Validation

Throughout the checkout process, it’s worth reassuring visitors they’re in the right place, and entering the right details, and validating any details they give immediately before moving on. Some simple tips:

  • Add a tick icon next to form fields once they’ve been correctly entered
  • Include a subtle link next to any areas that may be confusing, allowing visitors to hover over it to see an explanation
  • Show any error messages as soon as the error appears, rather than waiting for the visitor to hit ‘continue’
  • Have a visible ‘Step 1 of 3’ notification to show visitors where they are in the process at all times
  • Include a summary of their order at all steps during the checkout, not just on the basket page. Many sites do that by placing a green tick next to each form field when they’ve been correctly completed.


On mobile, everything written here applies twofold. PayPal’s checkout is optimised for mobile, but for elements outside of PayPal, it’s worth bearing in mind the potential issues and making sure you’ve done what you can to overcome them. The main issues to bear in mind with mobile payments are:

  • The screen size is usually smaller
  • It’s far more fiddly to enter form fields
  • Connections are often slightly slower than they would be on a desktop
  • Customers are usually slightly more wary of paying on a phone.

Taking Payment

If the customer pays with their PayPal account, taking payment is all handled for you in a simple interface that customers are used to. If you also take payments by other means, it’s best to make sure the form fields you use are very clear, and that simple mistakes like entering a postcode in lower case, or with no space, don’t trigger an error. It’s also worth remembering the buyer may have to enter their 3D Secure or Verified by Visa information at this stage. Adding reassurance around that, notifying them that it’s coming, and offering absolute clarity on where they are in the process can all smooth out little bumps in the journey like that.

The ‘Thank You’ Page

Finally, a step that e-commerce sites often pay little attention to is the ‘Thanks for your Order’ page. This is the last impression your customer will have of your site, so it’s worth making this page as nice as possible, with all of the information they may need about their order and delivery, and of course a gentle nudge for them to tell their friends about your site via email or via social media.

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Ecommerce, SEO - Search Engine Optimisation


Your website: 10 tips to Increase Sales

Two of the biggest factors in success for online retailers are:

  1. How many visitors do their websites attract? (for more information see our article How to Attract Customers Through On-Site Search Engine Optimisation)
  2. When visitors come to the site, do they buy?

Here we offer ten simple tips for your website to help you increase the chance that ‘visitors’ will turn into ‘buyers’.

1. (Proposition) Ask “would a new visitor understand what we do and who we are?”

The biggest and most important tip is to take a look at your site through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before. Visit your homepage, category pages, product pages, and any popular blog posts and ask the question “if I’d never heard of this site before, would I understand what they do, the types of products they stock, and why I should buy from them?” If the answers to any of those 3 questions is “no”, then it’s worth fixing immediately! is a great example of this. They recently added ‘Baby Specialist’ beneath the logo, most pages feature offers as well as awards they have won, and the simple categories at the top of every page communicate the range they sell immediately.
As mobile device usage continues to grow, and mobile connection speeds get faster, it’s also worth going through this process on a smartphone. If you are reading on a mobile site, take a look at for a great example of an ecommerce site that communicates what they do, the products they stock, and why you should buy from them very clearly no matter which device you’re using to browse.

2. Update your homepage and plan for frequent updates.

We use the web more and more every year. It’s not uncommon for visitors to return to the same websites (even e-commerce sites) several times a week. In fact, a good proportion of ASOS’s traffic is from visitors returning to the site to see what’s new.
With that in mind, it’s worth giving your homepage a refresh, updating any products, news, and other information there, and putting together a simple plan saying how often you will update the homepage, and what you will change. If you are a Google Analytics user, you can get a rough idea of how often people visit your site from the ‘Days Since Last Visit’ report (found under ‘Audience > Behaviour > Frequency & Recency’).

3. Add payment logos to your footer and a noticeable link to delivery info.

The three key questions every single visitor to your website asks themselves prior to hitting the ‘checkout’ button are:

  • “How can I pay for these products?”
  • “How much does delivery cost?”
  • “How quickly will they deliver?”

Some visitors will have these questions in their mind as soon as they land on the site, some will only think about it at the point they’re ready to purchase. Either way, it is essential to answer all the questions quickly, and without the need for users to hunt around for the answers. Doing this very simple thing can be the deciding factor in whether they buy from you, or drift off elsewhere. The PayPal Logo Centre contains various images to allow you to tell customers you accept PayPal, as well as the many payment method that allows buyers to use.

4. Reviews and testimonials.

Tripadvisor, Yelp, Toptable, Which, and many other companies have built their businesses on the power of reviews. There are three key benefits to reviews:

  • If you don’t have reviews, there is a much greater risk of visitors leaving your site to find product reviews elsewhere.
  • Even negative reviews are useful. At the point visitors are ready to buy, their last question is often “is there any reason I shouldn’t buy this?” – reading negative reviews and not finding anything particularly bad is often more reassuring than seeing a suspiciously high amount of five star reviews.
  • Buyers who do leave a review are almost always more likely to buy from you again.

If you’re able to, collecting and encouraging product reviews is a fantastic way to increase sales. If not, gathering a set of core testimonials from customers is a nice fall-back that reassures potential customers they can trust you.

5. Make sure your phone number is visible (and clickable!).

One of the odd secrets of e-commerce is that a good proportion of the ‘commerce’ part still happens the old fashioned way: over the phone. This is particularly true for higher value products and gifts, where customers want a little bit of final reassurance.
Alongside that, more and more customers now shop using their phones, where it’s often just as easy to click a phone number to purchase as it is to buy direct from the website.
Make sure your phone number is visible to catch anyone who may need a couple of final questions answering before they purchase. And make sure it’s clickable to catch extra sales from mobile customers who are happier buying over the phone.
PayPal’s Virtual Terminal makes all of this a little easier, by allowing you to take payments over the phone.

6. Clean up images on your top products.

Photos and images are one of the key selling points on a website, but it can be very costly and time consuming to take multiple high quality photos of every product on your website. Thankfully, the ’80:20’ rule often applies on websites, meaning 20% of the products on any website receive 80% of the views (often even more).
Take a quick look at the stats for your website, find out which are the most viewed products (often these differ from the most purchased), and go through the top 10 or top 20 making sure they each have multiple photos, and that every photo is more appealing than your nearest competitor.

7. Stock and availability.

One of the big, big, big factors in online retail is stock. If a customer can see that your product is in stock, they are more likely to buy it. This is especially true in fashion, but it does apply in other areas too. So much so that simply adding the phrase ‘In Stock’ on pages where it wasn’t previously featured has been known to improve sales.
Alongside this, it’s important to make sure the products you feature are in stock. If they’re not in stock, promote others a little more heavily on your homepage, category pages, and marketing instead. And, if you are able, ensure all of your stock is listed online.

8. Site search.

Econsultancy consultant Dan Barker notes “On most e-commerce sites, between 4-8% of visits will use the on-site search tool. But, in visits where the user landed on the site intending to buy, this can shoot up dramatically to 15-20% of visits.” When visitors come to your site intending to purchase something very specific, they may often use on-site search father than hunting through navigation options.
Take a look at the search terms your visitors use on the site, and make sure there are products listed for each, or that key questions are answered. Some retailers do this every few weeks to make sure they understand what potential customers are looking for, and to make sure customers can find the products they’re looking for! Doing this fairly frequently can reap big rewards.

9. Gather feedback.

It almost doesn’t need saying, but asking your customers what they think of you, of your site, of your products, and making sure you hear about any problems they have, can fundamentally change your business.
You may choose to do this through occasional surveys, emails to customers, or you may choose to use a live chat tool like Olark, or a constant feedback gathering tool like Qualaroo. However you do it, you should absolutely be gathering feedback from customers.

10. Tie in email and social media.

Finally, one of the best ways to ‘refresh’ your website is to make sure you connect with customers and potential customers via social media and email. This means trying to gather their email address so that you can continue to communicate with them, and nudging them toward following you on social media.
Doing both of these not only gives you an opportunity to market products to them, and build your relationship with them in the future, it also means you can communicate any changes you make to the site in future immediately and gather instant feedback!


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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in SEO - Search Engine Optimisation


How to Attract Customers Through On-Site Search Engine Optimisation

One of the vital tasks for online retailers is to make sure your website is visible within search engines. Despite the growth in social media over the last few years, search engines are still the main way that customers begin a purchase journey online. A study of over a million internet users found that 58% of purchases began with a search. Even in-store purchases now often include a search. 82% of smartphone owners say they have used a search engine whilst in a shop to research a purchase.
In this article we talk you through the process of ‘on-site search engine optimisation’ – making sure the main elements on your website itself are set up so that search engines can find you, and you have a chance to rank for the keywords that are important to you.

Step 1: Understanding Your Competitors

The first step in ranking on search engines is to understand what your competitors are doing.

  • Go to Google & search for: (eg: to see how many pages they have indexed in Google, and flick through them to see what their titles and descriptions say.
  • Visit their websites and take a look at which words they’ve used in the browser title, and in any headlines on key pages.
  • Use Open Site Explorer to see which pages are most linked to, and which words have been used to link to those pages.

Doing this for 4 or 5 of your key competitors should give you a great idea of what is happening generally within search engines for your particular market.

Step 2: Choose Your Keywords

Having gone through your competitors, and with a good understanding of your own products, the next step is to define the keywords you would most like to rank for.
To do this, go through your main products, and main categories, and note down a rough idea of the 1 or 2 keyphrases you would expect a customer to search for when looking for each on a search engine. Once you have this list together, enter them into Google’s Keyword Tool. The tool is not totally accurate, but gives you a rough indication of how many people search for each phrase per month. Importantly, it should also show closely related terms which may get more searches, and will also show you how competitive each is (i.e. how hard it is likely to be to overtake competitors who rank for the term).

Step 3: Choose Which Pages to Apply Your Keywords

Perhaps the stage that most people miss; the next step is to decide which pages on your site you would ideally like to rank for each set of one or two keyphrases. A common misconception is that you should put your main keywords in all of the pages across your site. (e.g. thinking that your products are children’s toys, therefore every page in your site should be optimised for the phrase “children’s toys”). In reality, the ideal scenario is that each main page on your site is optimised for a distinct set of one or two keyphrases. That might mean deciding you will aim for your homepage to rank for the phrase “children’s toys”, another page for “vintage toys” and “retro toys”, and another for “board games” and “board games for kids”.

Step 4: Optimising the Pages

By now you should have chosen the main pages you want to rank, and a set of one or two phrases you’d like each to rank for. It’s now time to go through the pages, applying the following:

    • Page titles. The page title is the section that appears between in the source code of the page. It’s also the text that appears at the very top of most web browsers, the text that appears on the tab when the page is loaded, and – most importantly – the text that appears at the link in Google and other search engines when your page appears in search engines. Make sure to place your main keywords within the title tag of the most relevant page.
    • Meta descriptions. While ‘meta keywords’ don’t have any effect on search engines, ‘meta descriptions’ definitely do. The meta description is the descriptive text that often appears below the link when your page appears in search engines. As a result, it should include your main keywords, and ideally some snappy text to encourage users to click through to your site from the search results.
    • Text on the page. It goes without saying that your keywords, or variations, should appear within the text of the page. In the past, pages would often stuff pages full of keywords repeated over and over. It’s important not to do that, as it’s more likely a search engine would see that as being a bit spammy than it would see it as a good thing.
    • Linking to the page. Links to the page should include keywords, or variations of them. If your site has a ‘breadcrumb’, and images that link to pages, it’s important to include the keywords in those links too. For example, if a category page has hundreds of ‘children’s toys’ links pointing to it from individual product pages, it’s easy for a search engine to understand which is the most relevant page on the site to rank when searchers are looking for ‘children’s toys’.
    • Avoiding duplicate content. To avoid confusing search engines, it’s best not to have lots of pages on your site containing very, very similar content. Doing that sometimes means search engines will simply decide on a particular page to show in search, which may not be the one you would wish to rank.
    • Headlines. Any headlines on the page should contain your keywords, or synonyms or other closely related phrases. Usually those would be marked with tags in the source code of the page.
    • Keywords in the URL. While it isn’t imperative that your URLs don’t contain keywords, it’s great if they do for 3 reasons:
      1. Search engines can very easily understand that keywords in the URL indicate the content of the page
      2. If anybody links to you using the URL, that automatically includes the main keywords in the link
      3. When search engines display the link, searchers can very easily see that the page is relevant simply from the URL.
  • Videos and Images. Finally, any images within the page should have an “alt attribute” (sometimes called an “alt tag”) defined. This tells search engines and web browsers “the text alternative of this image is [your text]”. Similarly for videos, if possible, including a transcript of the video very much helps search engines understand its content.

Step 5: Sitemaps and Submitting Your Site

While you no longer have to submit your website to search engines, you can still do so. Google offer a tool called ‘Webmaster Tools’ (Bing has a similar tool) allowing you to see all sorts of stats and information about your site and its situation in search engines. Within Webmaster Tools, you can submit the site, or particular pages to make sure they’re crawled. You can also submit a sitemap of all of the pages on your site to make sure Google has a constantly updated list of your content (most e-commerce systems allow you to automatically create one of these).

Search engines love frequently updated content, such as blogs. This is supported by the fact that blog posts frequently appear highly in search engine results, as blog content is generally unique and frequently updated. Not only are blogs good for driving search engine traffic, but they also help to make a site more friendly, engaging and informal therefore encouraging return visits by users.


Attracting new customers is one of the key challenges for retailers, and search engines offer one of the biggest opportunities to help get your brand and your products in front of potential customers. Working through the simple tips we’ve given above should make sure you have the main fundamentals in place for a search optimised website, putting you in the best position to start increasing your rankings, and attracting new potential customers. Very best of luck!

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in SEO - Search Engine Optimisation

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