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How to Create a Content Plan in 5 Easy Steps

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How to Create a Content Plan in 5 Easy Steps

Content planning is the process of deciding what you’ll publish and when. Its main role is to prioritize content creation based on a marketing and content strategy.

If you regularly create content (as you probably should), you need proper content planning to prioritize the creation based on what makes the most sense for your business at a given time. That’s because the resources required to realize content ideas that you come up with or are thrown at you usually far exceed the resources you have.

In this guide to content planning, we’ll go through five steps.

1. Plan for each content distribution channel separately

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Do you want to create a content plan for your social media accounts, newsletter, YouTube channel, or your own website? You can do that for all of them—but you should do so separately. That’s because each channel has its own objectives, and there are many ways to achieve them.

Some channels also don’t necessarily require their own content plans. For example, it is enough for most businesses to schedule social media posts a few days ahead of time in a tool like MeetEdgar, and there’s rarely a need for high-effort plans.

Generally speaking, the more resources you invest into creating the content, the more you should invest into efforts to plan it properly. This will naturally have the biggest payoff for long-form articles, blog posts, landing pages, and videos.

For this reason, we’ll mainly focus on content planning for websites here. That’s what most people are looking to learn anyway. Let’s dig into it.

2. Create and maintain a list of topics to cover

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Having a sizeable list of topics you’ll like to cover someday is essential to content planning. How else will you be able to prioritize what’s best to work on at a given time? We want the list to minimize the opportunity cost of not covering highly valuable pieces of content that you’re not aware of.

This is when keyword research comes into play. It’s the process of understanding the language your target customers use when searching for your products, services, and content. It then involves analyzing, comparing, and prioritizing the best keyword opportunities for your website.

Keyword research is the best method to find out which topics are popular with your audience. It also allows you to later prioritize the list based on provided metrics (more on that later).

For example, we can brainstorm a few seed keywords that characterize the niches we’re in. Then plug the keywords into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Here’s what you’ll be looking at:

Keyword research in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

See the check marks on the left of each keyword? That means the keyword is part of a list that you created. It’s an easy way to keep all relevant keywords in one place. Here’s what expanding on a “coffee” keyword list looks like:

Adding keywords to a keyword list in Keywords Explorer

The process of discovering and selecting relevant keywords will take hours, but it’s well worth it. After you’re done, export your keyword list to Excel or Google Sheets because you’ll have to add your own input besides all the Ahrefs-provided metrics. Here’s an example from a subsection of our own list of topics:

Excerpt from our list of topics

Not everything revolves around getting search traffic that converts into customers, though. Of course, that’s the most common SEO goal. But you can write about topics with no or little search demand that can be highly valuable for SEO too. I’m talking about link baits: content designed to attract backlinks that can pass their link equity to your other pages.

You can find what type of content gets the most backlinks in your niche by looking up any website in the Best by links report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. What works the best in our case is unique data studies:

The Best by links report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is where you let your creativity shine. You can even plan content pieces that you want to go viral as part of a PR campaign. Those naturally have their SEO benefits in the form of links and mentions too.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m too focused on SEO. Yes—but that’s because search engines are usually the best, constant source of traffic. 

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But there are cases where it makes sense to publish content without any SEO goal in mind. Think about important announcements or product updates, for example. We have a separate section on our blog for these, and they’re as important as any other part of the blog:

Our product blog

3. Add important content metrics

When you’re done with keyword research, you’ll find that 2 out of 3 metrics we’ll be talking about here are already available to you in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer: Traffic Potential (TP) and Keyword Difficulty (KD). The last metric you need to fill in manually is something we call “business potential.”

Let’s look at each one of them.

Traffic Potential (TP)

Just targeting a keyword with high search volume isn’t enough. You need to look at the overall TP because one piece of content can rank for thousands of different keywords.

For example, the keyword “how to make cold brew coffee” has a search volume of 29K in the U.S. But its TP is estimated to be 93K, and the main keyword responsible for most of that traffic is “cold brew”:

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Traffic Potential metric in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Looking at the box above, you may have already guessed how we calculate the TP metric. It’s the sum of organic traffic that the #1 ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for.

Consider it a search volume on steroids.

Keyword Difficulty (KD)

This metric is an estimate of how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the strength of link profiles of the top-ranking pages. The lower the score, the easier it is to rank at the top for the keyword.

If you were to target the “cold brew” keyword from above, you’d likely need quite a lot of backlinks to have a chance of ranking in the top 10 search results:

Keyword Difficulty (KD) metric in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Business potential (BP)

To attract the right audience that drives conversions, you need to focus on writing content that highlights your product as a solution. To quantify the degree to which you can pitch your own products, we came up with this BP metric. Here’s how we work with it at Ahrefs:

How we score topics by their business potential

4. Prioritize the list based on these metrics

Now comes the most important part of content planning: prioritization. Unless you’re in a narrow niche, you’ll likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of content ideas if you follow our process.

Generally speaking, the best keywords (topics) to target are those with high traffic, high business potential, and low keyword difficulty. In reality, you’ll almost never find such opportunities, so you’ll have to make compromises.

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The easiest compromises are made on the KD metric. This is because, in the long term, you’ll likely want to cover pretty much every topic with solid TP and BP. 

Also, the sooner you tackle high-KD topics, the more time you have to accumulate the links you need organically. That’s because the content can rank for long-tail keywords, you point more internal links to it over time, or you get eyeballs on it through content distribution.

As for TP and BP, we can often see an inverse proportionality for these two metrics. Usually, the more search demand there is for a given non-branded topic, the further away those searchers are from making a purchase.

The distance from making a purchase is portrayed in this customer journey illustration:

The buyer's journey

Someone searching for a high-TP topic like “what are backlinks” isn’t likely ready to become our customer yet. But that person may later search for something like “link building tools,” which has lower TP but much higher BP.

The best solution for this lies in a balance between everything. If you plan your content according to your customers’ journeys, you’ll have a nice mix in the end. We give the highest priority to BP. So if that and all other things are equal, we then select topics based on lower KD and higher TP.

A good approach may also be to focus on one topic at a time, such as the “link building” example from above. We have 42 articles on this topic on our blog as of now, and many of them drive a good amount of search traffic:

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Our posts about link building and the traffic they drive
Screenshot taken from Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool.

This is relevant to creating topic clusters, also known as content hubs, which are sometimes used as an effective SEO tactic:

What a content hub looks like

5. Put it into a content calendar

Now that you’ve picked topics to focus on first, it’s time to put them into a content calendar. It’s a system that organizes, manages, and schedules content production to give you an overview of everything that will be published in a specific time frame. Here’s a sneak peek of our own content calendar:

Our content calendar

It’s created in Notion, with each card in the calendar structured like this:

How we structure our content calendar in Notion

I recommend planning content one to three months ahead. If you’re just starting out with everything, don’t sweat it if you can’t meet your initial plans and deadlines. It takes time to get used to estimates of content production based on your resources (writers, SEOs, designers, etc.).

Here’s one thing to point out. Choosing quality over quantity is usually the right decision, so don’t rush it at all costs. Creating great content takes a lot of time, so adjust accordingly.

Recommended reading: How to Create a Content Calendar That Works for You

Final thoughts

Content planning isn’t rocket science and is something you should do at all costs if you’re serious about content marketing. Your prioritization criteria will likely evolve over time; you’ll add more keywords, topics, etc. Content plans aren’t one and done.

As you publish more and more content, you’ll inevitably have to take into account updating older content as well. You’ll get to the point where doing so will give you a higher return than creating new pieces of content.

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At Ahrefs, we’re exactly at that stage. And as you can see, 20% of our articles published this year so far (29 out of 144) are republished posts:

Our newly published vs. republished posts on the Ahrefs Blog, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer
Screenshot taken from Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.

Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

The world of search has seen massive change recently. Whether you’re still in the planning stages for this year or underway with your 2024 strategy, you need to know the new SEO trends to stay ahead of seismic search industry shifts.

It’s time to chart a course for SEO success in this changing landscape.

Watch this on-demand webinar as we explore exclusive survey data from today’s top SEO professionals and digital marketers to inform your strategy this year. You’ll also learn how to navigate SEO in the era of AI, and how to gain an advantage with these new tools.

You’ll hear:

  • The top SEO priorities and challenges for 2024.
  • The role of AI in SEO – how to get ahead of the anticipated disruption of SGE and AI overall, plus SGE-specific SEO priorities.
  • Winning SEO resourcing strategies and reporting insights to fuel success.

With Shannon Vize and Ryan Maloney, we’ll take a deep dive into the top trends, priorities, and challenges shaping the future of SEO.

Discover timely insights and unlock new SEO growth potential in 2024.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

10 Successful Ways To Improve Your SERP Rankings [With Ahrefs]

Reserve your spot and discover 10 quick and easy SEO wins to boost your site’s rankings.

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E-E-A-T’s Google Ranking Influence Decoded

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E-E-A-T's Google Ranking Influence Decoded

The idea that something is not a ranking factor that nevertheless plays a role in ranking websites seems to be logically irreconcilable. Despite seeming like a paradox that cancels itself out, SearchLiaison recently tweeted some comments that go a long way to understanding how to think about E-E-A-T and apply it to SEO.

What A Googler Said About E-E-A-T

Marie Haynes published a video excerpt on YouTube from an event at which a Googler spoke, essentially doubling down on the importance of E-A-T.

This is what he said:

“You know this hasn’t always been there in Google and it’s something that we developed about ten to twelve or thirteen years ago. And it really is there to make sure that along the lines of what we talked about earlier is that it really is there to ensure that the content that people consume is going to be… it’s not going to be harmful and it’s going to be useful to the user. These are principles that we live by every single day.

And E-A-T, that template of how we rate an individual site based off of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, we do it to every single query and every single result. So it’s actually very pervasive throughout everything that we do .

I will say that the YMYL queries, the Your Money or Your Life Queries, such as you know when I’m looking for a mortgage or when I’m looking for the local ER,  those we have a particular eye on and we pay a bit more attention to those queries because clearly they’re some of the most important decisions that people can make.

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So I would say that E-A-T has a bit more of an impact there but again, I will say that E-A-T applies to everything, every single query that we actually look at.”

How can something be a part of every single search query and not be a ranking factor, right?

Background, Experience & Expertise In Google Circa 2012

Something to consider is that in 2012 Google’s senior engineer at the time, Matt Cutts, said that experience and expertise brings a measure of quality to content and makes it worthy of ranking.

Matt Cutts’ remarks on experience and expertise were made in an interview with Eric Enge.

Discussing whether the website of a hypothetical person named “Jane” deserves to rank with articles that are original variations of what’s already in the SERPs.

Matt Cutts observed:

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“While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.

Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.

They need to ask themselves what really is their value add? …they need to figure out what… makes them special.

…if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion.”

Matt then cites the example of Pulitzer Prize-Winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert as a person with the background, experience and expertise that makes his opinion valuable to readers and the content worthy of ranking.

Matt didn’t say that a webpage author’s background, experience and expertise were ranking factors. But he did say that these are the kinds of things that can differentiate one webpage from another and align it to what Google wants to rank.

He specifically said that Google’s algorithm detects if there is something different about it that makes it stand out. That was in 2012 but not much has changed because Google’s John Mueller says the same thing.

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For example, in 2020 John Mueller said that differentiation and being compelling is important for getting Google to notice and rank a webpage.

“So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.

…And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.

You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”

In 2021, in regard to getting Google to index a webpage, Mueller also said:

“Is it something the web has been waiting for? Or is it just another red widget?”

This thing about being compelling and different than other sites, it’s something that’s been a part of Google’s algorithm awhile, just like the Googler in the video said, just like Matt Cutts said and exactly like what Mueller has said as well.

Are they talking about signals?

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E-EA-T Algorithm Signals

We know there’s something in the algorithm that relates to someone’s expertise and background that Google’s looking for. The table is set and we can dig into the next step of what it all means.

A while back back I remember reading something that Marie Haynes said about E-A-T, she called it a framework. And I thought, now that’s an interesting thing she just did, she’s conceptualizing E-A-T.

When SEOs discussed E-A-T it was always in the context of what to do in order to demonstrate E-A-T. So they looked at the Quality Raters Guide for guidance, which kind of makes sense since it’s a guide, right?

But what I’m proposing is that the answer isn’t really in the guidelines or anything that the quality raters are looking for.

The best way to explain it is to ask you to think about the biggest part of Google’s algorithm, relevance.

What’s relevance? Is it something you have to do? It used to be about keywords and that’s easy for SEOs to understand. But it’s not about keywords anymore because Google’s algorithm has natural language understanding (NLU). NLU is what enables machines to understand language in the way that it’s actually spoken (natural language).

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So, relevance is just something that’s related or connected to something else. So, if I ask, how do I satiate my thirst? The answer can be water, because water quenches the thirst.

How is a site relevant to the search query: “how do I satiate my thirst?”

An SEO would answer the problem of relevance by saying that the webpage has to have the keywords that match the search query, which would be the words “satiate” and “thirst.”

The next step the SEO would take is to extract the related entities for “satiate” and “thirst” because every SEO “knows” they need to do entity research to understand how to make a webpage that answers the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

Hypothetical Related entities:

  • Thirst: Water, dehydration, drink,
  • Satiate: Food, satisfaction, quench, fulfillment, appease

Now that the SEO has their entities and their keywords they put it all together and write a 600 word essay that uses all their keywords and entities so that their webpage is relevant for the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

I think we can stop now and see how silly that is, right? If someone asked you, “How do I satiate my thirst?” You’d answer, “With water” or “a cold refreshing beer” because that’s what it means to be relevant.

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Relevance is just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with entities or keywords in today’s search algorithms because the machine is understanding search queries as natural language, even more so with AI search engines.

Similarly, E-E-A-T is also just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with author bios, LinkedIn profiles, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with making your content say that you handled the product that’s being reviewed.

Here’s what SearchLiaison recently said about an E-E-A-T, SEO and Ranking:

“….just making a claim and talking about a ‘rigorous testing process’ and following an ‘E-E-A-T checklist’ doesn’t guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better.”

Here’s the part where SearchLiaison ties a bow around the gift of E-E-A-T knowledge:

“We talk about E-E-A-T because it’s a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content.”

E-E-A-T Can’t Be Itemized On A Checklist

Remember how we established that relevance is a concept and not a bunch of keywords and entities? Relevance is just answering the question.

E-E-A-T is the same thing. It’s not something that you do. It’s closer to something that you are.

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SearchLiaison elaborated:

“…our automated systems don’t look at a page and see a claim like “I tested this!” and think it’s better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals.”

A Better Understanding Of E-E-A-T

I think it’s clear now how E-E-A-T isn’t something that’s added to a webpage or is something that is demonstrated on the webpage. It’s a concept, just like relevance.

A good way to think o fit is if someone asks you a question about your family and you answer it. Most people are pretty expert and experienced enough to answer that question. That’s what E-E-A-T is and how it should be treated when publishing content, regardless if it’s YMYL content or a product review, the expertise is just like answering a question about your family, it’s just a concept.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

Google announced a new carousel rich result that can be used for local businesses, products, and events which will show a scrolling horizontal carousel displaying all of the items in the list. It’s very flexible and can even be used to create a top things to do in a city list that combines hotels, restaurants, and events. This new feature is in beta, which means it’s being tested.

The new carousel rich result is for displaying lists in a carousel format. According to the announcement the rich results is limited to the following types:

LocalBusiness and its subtypes, for example:
– Restaurant
– Hotel
– VacationRental
– Product
– Event

An example of subtypes is Lodgings, which is a subset of LocalBusiness.

Here is the Schema.org hierarchical structure that shows the LodgingBusiness type as being a subset of the LocalBusiness type.

  • Thing > Organization > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness
  • Thing > Place > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness

ItemList Structured Data

The carousel displays “tiles” that contain information from the webpage that’s about the price, ratings and images. The order of what’s in the ItemList structured data is the order that they will be displayed in the carousel.

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Publishers must use the ItemList structured data in order to become eligible for the new rich result

All information in the ItemList structured data must be on the webpage. Just like any other structured data, you can’t stuff the structured data with information that is not visible on the webpage itself.

There are two important rules when using this structured data:

  1. 1. The ItemList type must be the top level container for the structured data.
  2. 2. All the URLs of in the list must point to different webpages on the same domain.

The part about the ItemList being the top level container means that the structured data cannot be merged together with another structured data where the top-level container is something other than ItemList.

For example, the structured data must begin like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1,

A useful quality of this new carousel rich result is that publishers can mix and match the different entities as long as they’re within the eligible structured data types.

Eligible Structured Data Types

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  • LocalBusiness and its subtypes
  • Product
  • Event

Google’s announcement explains how to mix and match the different structured data types:

“You can mix and match different types of entities (for example, hotels, restaurants), if needed for your scenario. For example, if you have a page that has both local events and local businesses.”

Here is an example of a ListItem structured data that can be used in a webpage about Things To Do In Paris.

The following structured data is for two events and a local business (the Eiffel Tower):

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Paris Seine River Dinner Cruise", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 45.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.2, "reviewCount": 690 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location1" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 2, "item": { "@type": "LocalBusiness", "name": "Notre-Dame Cathedral", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "priceRange": "$", "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.8, "reviewCount": 4220 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/localbusiness-location" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 3, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Eiffel Tower With Host Summit Tour", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 59.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.9, "reviewCount": 652 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location2" } } ] } </script>

Be As Specific As Possible

Google’s guidelines recommends being as specific as possible but that if there isn’t a structured data type that closely matches with the type of business then it’s okay to use the more generic LocalBusiness structured data type.

“Depending on your scenario, you may choose the best type to use. For example, if you have a list of hotels and vacation rentals on your page, use both Hotel and VacationRental types. While it’s ideal to use the type that’s closest to your scenario, you can choose to use a more generic type (for example, LocalBusiness).”

Can Be Used For Products

A super interesting use case for this structured data is for displaying a list of products in a carousel rich result.

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The structured data for that begins as a ItemList structured data type like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Product",

The structured data can list images, ratings, reviewCount, and currency just like any other product listing, but doing it like this will make the webpage eligible for the carousel rich results.

Google has a list of recommended recommended properties that can be used with the Products version, such as offers, offers.highPrice, and offers.lowPrice.

Good For Local Businesses and Merchants

This new structured data is a good opportunity for local businesses and publishers that list events, restaurants and lodgings to get in on a new kind of rich result.

Using this structured data doesn’t guarantee that it will display as a rich result, it only makes it eligible for it.

This new feature is in beta, meaning that it’s a test.

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Read the new developer page for this new rich result type:

Structured data carousels (beta)

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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