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Content Marketing Measurement Guide: 23 Definitions To Know

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Every time I use the words “analytics,” “metrics,” or “KPIs” in a discussion about the impact of content, a little voice goes off in my head. It’s the voice of Inigo Montoya from the movie, The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

While content marketers may recognize these terms relate to content measurement, it’s easy to confuse their distinctions. Read on for explanations of 23 common measurement terms and how they fit into your content’s performance strategy.

Content measurement definitions

Analytics

Marketo defines analytics as the practice of managing and studying metrics data to determine the ROI of marketing efforts like calls to action, blog posts, channel performance, and thought leadership pieces, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Bounce rate

According to Google Analytics, a bounce rate is a single-page session divided by all sessions on your site. A bounce is a session that triggers a single request to the analytics server, such as when a user visits a page on your site and exits without taking further action. While a site exit doesn’t tell you much about your content (everyone leaves your site at some point), a page with both high exit and bounce rates may need changes to the content.

The bounce rate is a single-page session divided by all sessions on your site, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Click-through rate (CTR)

A click-through rate is the percent of total viewers or recipients who clicked a link in a content asset (clicks divided by total recipients). It’s commonly used to gauge success for email campaigns, newsletter-driven website visits, and content promotions (e.g., display ads, native advertising), where the total number of recipients can be quantified (rather than estimated).

Conversion/conversion rate

A conversion happens when a consumer takes an action after engaging with your content. The action is what your organization designates as meaningful – purchasing a product, registering for an event or a gated asset, subscribing to a blog or newsletter, or joining a social media community. Calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of visitors to the content who converted by the total interactions with that piece of content.

Customer acquisition cost

A customer acquisition cost is how much the company spent to obtain that customer. Take all the expenses – product research, development, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, etc. Divide that total by the number of customers within a designated time frame.

Calculate the customer acquisition cost by adding up all expenses and divide by number of customers in the time frame, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Downloads

The download metric is commonly used to gauge performance for lead-magnet content assets like white papers, e-books, and infographics. It indicates a deeper level of engagement and interest than a view or visit because the user found the content valuable enough to save a copy to explore in more detail or share with others in their networks.

Engagement

Engagement is considered both a fundamental content metric and a content marketing goal. As a metric, it’s broadly defined as an act of content consumption –opening an email newsletter, reading a blog article, clicking on an ad or an interactive asset, or liking/commenting on a social media post. While engagement indicates at least a passing interest in your content, it’s not a particularly informative indicator of why the content captured audience interest. It’s often best used to contextualize other metrics rather than as a definitive decision-making tool.


ADVERTISEMENT1651661024 12 Content Marketing Measurement Guide 23 Definitions To Know

The Definitive Guide to Content Analytics: Understanding the Data That Matters Most for Successful Marketing

Want to optimize your content? Start with the right metrics and measure how your content is engaging with your audience. Get the guide to learn more! 


Entrances/exits

Entrances are the number of times visitors enter your site through a specific page or set of pages. Likewise, exits indicate how often visitors end their site visit on that page. A page with a high entrance rate could indicate it’s well-optimized for search. However, neither entrance nor exit rates are clear indicators of content success (or failure) on their own. It’s a good idea to correlate this data with other insights – bounce rates, time on site, user flow, and referral traffic sources – to get a clearer picture of what it indicates about your content performance.

Goals

Goals are the desired business outcomes to be achieved through your content marketing strategy. While the stated goal of content marketing is to drive a profitable action, your goals should be more specific and quantifiable, such as increasing sales conversions, saving the company money, building (or growing) a subscribed audience, or driving greater customer loyalty and brand satisfaction.

#ContentMarketing goals should be specific and quantifiable, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

KPI

KPI stands for key performance indicators. They are standard, agreed-on measurements for assessing progress against your content marketing goals. Potential KPIs might be average conversion rates, number of leads, quality of leads, or revenue per new customer.

Marketing-qualified lead (MQL)

MQLs are leads generated by the marketing team that satisfy the criteria to pass along to the sales team for further outreach.

Metrics

In contrast to KPIs, metrics are the business-as-usual measurements for things that add value to your organization but aren’t focused on the most critical goals. They might include website page views or likes on social media posts. Think of these as the “what-needs-to-be-true” numbers that can help you achieve or optimize your KPIs.

Objectives and key results (OKR)

OKR is a method to determine which metrics best gauge performance against your goals. It starts with designing a measurement pyramid that includes goals, key performance indicators, and metrics. CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose details the OKR process here. The end result should be your business mission segmented into strategic objectives. Each segment should connect to the OKR pyramid and be a source tool for each metric that goes into it.

1651661024 399 Content Marketing Measurement Guide 23 Definitions To Know

An example of OKR architecture results, mapped out.

Click to enlarge

Open rate

An open rate is a metric related to content delivered via email. It measures the percentage of subscribers who opened the email regardless if they clicked on any of the links in that content. Already limited in value due to its narrow focus, its reliability has come into question even further with the advent of Apple’s iOS email tracking changes.

Page views vs. unique page views

Commonly used to gauge website traffic, page views are the total number of times a site page is loaded by all visitors over a set time called a session, usually lasting 30 minutes. If a visitor views the same page three times during a session, total page views increase by three.

In contrast, a unique page view tracks views based on the visitor’s unique IP address, device, and browser. In the example above, the visitor who viewed the same page three times in a session would count as one unique page view. However, let’s say the visitor viewed the page two times in a Google Chrome browser and one time in a Microsoft Edge browser from the same URL. That would count as two unique page views.

If your website content is configured for Google’s Universal Analytics, look for page views and unique page views for each of your site page URLs under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. If you’re working with Google Analytics 4, you’ll find the pages report under Engagement > Pages and screens, but will need to do some additional configuration to view data by page URL instead of the page title.

Referral traffic/rates

When a visitor reaches your domain through a third-party link (other than a search engine), it’s tracked by Google as referral traffic. In Universal Analytics, you can find referral data under Attribution > All Traffic > Referrals. For GA4, click on the Reports link in the left-side menu, navigate to Acquisition > Traffic acquisition, then type “referral” in the search box and hit enter.

You can see the sources that led visitors to your site, how many visits were referred from each source, and additional data on their behaviors after arriving on your site. As a metric, it’s a useful indicator of brand awareness and thought leadership. The more sources that send traffic your way, the more highly regarded your domain likely is – an outcome that leads to better domain authority and better rankings of your content on search.

The more sources that send traffic your way, the better domain authority and ranking of your #content on search, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Registrations/subscription numbers

While gaining subscribers is among the top goals for content marketing (particularly for content brands and entrepreneurs), it’s also a metric tracked to gauge progress toward other achievements in the marketing funnel.

It refers to the total number of people who completed a form or other action to gain access to your content – attend an event, download a lead-magnet asset, receive email newsletters, join your brand community, etc.

When registrants or subscribers renew, that renewal rate is a metric that can be used to gauge brand loyalty.

Return on investment (ROI)

Return on investment is a broad term to describe how a company’s marketing initiatives drive profitable actions and business growth. Knowing ROI for content campaigns enables marketers to determine appropriate budget allocations, maximize the efficiency of each marketing expense, and demonstrate the impact of their efforts to their executive stakeholders.

Though it’s (arguably) the most critical measurement of a marketing technique’s effectiveness, the complex nature of attributing conversions to a particular asset can make content ROI difficult to calculate precisely, let alone prove definitively.

Sales-qualified lead (SQL)

An SQL is lead qualified by the sales team as active in the market. These leads are more likely to become a customer than an MQL.

Subscriber count

Subscribers are defined as audience members who have taken an action around your content (and provided some personal data to do so) in exchange for an expectation of receiving ongoing value. It is a core metric for measuring content marketing value.

Time on site/time on page

These metrics indicate how long a visitor spends on the site or a page. Visits that exceed the average time on page (or site) are a positive indication of interest and engagement with that content. However, it’s impossible to tell using this metric alone whether the user actively engaged with the content all that time or simply left it open on their browser.

Video views/duration

Video views measure how many times a video asset is watched. Duration indicates the time the average viewer plays that video. Just because a video was viewed in its entirety does not mean the viewer actively engaged with all of it.

Visits/unique visitors

A visitor is any internet user who arrives on your website (or mobile website). Seems simple, right? But what’s involved in characterizing that visit and how it gets factored into content measurement is more complicated.

In Google Analytics, to track site visits, the user needs to have enabled tracking cookies. (This is why the end of third-party cookies was likened, at least at first, to the end of digital marketing.)

There also is a distinction between visits and unique visitors. Visits encompass any time a user visits your site. Unique visitors refers to the number of people who browsed your site during a session. A unique visitor who visited several times during that session would count as one unique visitor. If they returned after the session, that would count as another unique visit.

Know what’s in the measurement name

Every content marketing program requires a solid measurement strategy. By knowing the terms and understanding how they fit in your brand’s content marketing, you’re at the start of a successful evaluation of your content’s effectiveness.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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