The Complete 2015 Guide to Local SEO for Insurance Agents
Would you like 2015 to be the year your insurance agency finally starts showing up in local search results?
What follows is the complete 2015 guide to local SEO for insurance agents. This resource contains both the activities and tactics your agency should implement today, as well as our best guidance as to what you should be doing in terms of local SEO in 2015.
Local SEO is a foundational piece of your insurance marketing strategy. The following guide will help you dominate Local SEO in 2015!
Local SEO for Insurance Agents
Table of Contents
- On-Site Indicators
- Internal Linking
- Google Plus / Google Local
- Client Reviews
- Social Media
- Visitor Behavior
- Location-based Landing Pages
- Mobile Website
- Additional Resources
Most SEO tools and audits still focus on on-page SEO factors in grading website and/or web page SEO authority. By “On-page,” we’re referring to keyword usage and other factors on the actual page of your agency website that you’d like to rank (Learn more about effective website design).
On-page SEO is still very important, but in general it has lost some of its relevance to the other SEO ranking factors listed within this guide. Think of on-page SEO as the baseline for ranking your website, blog posts and landing pages. Without good on-page SEO, most of the other local SEO ranking factors will have little impact.
1) Keyword Placement
On every page, for whatever keyword term you are trying to rank for, it’s necessary to include that keyword in five places: Page title, URL, page body, image file name and image alt tag. To get a better understanding of this, let’s say you’re attempting to rank a blog post for the keyword phrase, “Albany Home Insurance.” The following elements would look as follows:
– Page Title – “How to Choose the Best Albany Home Insurance Provider”
– URL – http://www.youragencyname.com/best-albany-home-insurance-provider/
– Page Body – In the page body you reference, as appropriate, the keyword phrase 3-5 times. You could start the article like this, “Looking to find the best Albany home insurance provider?”
– Image Filename – best_albany_home_insurance.jpg
-Image Alt Tag – When you upload a photo to your agency website, you can add an “Image Alt Tag,” which is essentially the keyword attached to the image. You want the Image Alt Tag to match your keyword phrase, so in this case, “Albany Home Insurance.”
2) Keyword Frequency
As mentioned above, it’s important to use your keyword phrase in the body of the blog post. What you should NOT do is stuff the keyword into the post as many times as you possibly can. This makes the reading experience of your article terrible from an insurance consumer perspective. Additionally, Google may determine that your keyword frequency is “unnatural” and choose to not rank your page well.
Be strategic about using your keyword phrase, but always err on the side of the natural flow of the article.
3) Keyword Synonyms and Supportive Phrasing
Google is more concerned with the quality of the content from the reader’s perspective than from yours. Google is looking for the best possible solution to the problem or need that the searching went to Google for in the first place.
When attempting to rank for a keyword phrase such as “Albany Home Insurance,” we must create in the natural pattern of language. This means using synonyms and supportive phrasing to the keyword we wish to rank for.
Synonyms to “Albany Home Insurance” may include, “Albany Homeowners Insurance” and “Albany Insurance For Homeowners.” Notice that these are all different variations of the same keyword phrase.
Supportive phrasing will include terms like, “Protecting your home,” “Albany Home Builders,” and “House Fire.”
In general, this is a more advanced SEO tactic, but in the game of local SEO for insurance agents, it’s important to take advantage of every ranking factor you can.
4) Long-tail Keywords
5) Local Address Schema
Schema is HTML markup that helps search engines understand content and its relationships to other things. Webmasters can use Schema markup on all kinds of content including addresses, phone numbers, website URLs, logos, images, geographic coordinates and other data related to a business.
If your insurance agency website is built using WordPress, implementing local SEO Schema markup is relatively easy. There are many WordPress plugins that can do this for you. My personal favorite is Local SEO for WordPress by Yoast. It’s not free, but is incredibly easy to use.
If your agency website isn’t on WordPress, then you’re going to want whoever manages your website to add this markup from here: Schema.org
Don’t get lost in the technical side of Schema markup, just understand that it helps search engines better understand your business from a local SEO perspective.
6) Proper Phone Number Format
When adding your phone number to your website, use one of the standard punctuation formats composed of parenthesis and/or dashes or periods. This is important for two reasons:
1) Google uses your phone number to verify citations throughout the Internet.
2) Proper phone number format is necessary for insurance consumers on mobile to be able to one-click call from search results.
Common examples of proper phone number format include:
– (123) 456-7890
Internal linking is a crucial part of local SEO for insurance agents for two primary reasons: First, it provides website visitors with a more valuable and manageable experience. Second, good internal linking allows search engines to travel deep within your website to index more of your content.
Though internet linking is incredibly important to local SEO, unlike most things that are incredibly important, internal linking is simple to do.
The process of internal linking will be an ongoing activity with each new blog article and page that you add to your agency website.
1) Pillar Posts
Pillar posts (or pages) are your deepest website resources. These are the pages you’ve spent the most time optimizing for SEO, for the keywords which attract your target insurance consumers.
The purpose of pillar posts is to position yourself as THE expert on the topic you’re writing about. This means longer than usual post length (think 1,500 – 2,500 words), multiple images, and possibly the use of video. Then using internal links, anytime you mention the topic of the pillar post, you link to it ensuring both humans and search engines know that your pillar post is important.
Probably the most important and most difficult part about internal linking is consistency. In order to accurately convey to both humans and search engines what the most important and relevant pages are on your site, we must consistently link to the same page for the same keyword phrases.
Let’s say you include the term “Albany Home Insurance” in an article. Every time you use this term in an article, you’re going to want to link it to your “Home Insurance” pillar post.
The mistake too many insurance blogs make is linking a term one article one time, and to another article another time. This confuses both humans and search engines as to which page should rank for the keyword phrase. The result is that neither page has passed the full “link juice” possible, and subsequently neither ranks as well as it should.
3) Deep Linking
There are two places you should avoid linking to from within your page content: the homepage and your “contact us” page. These links should be included at the top and bottom of your site in the header and footer sections.
For internal links to help with local SEO, you want them to reach far into the site to articles that humans and search engines may not have otherwise found.
Here is an additional resource on internal linking best practices from Kissmetrics.
If you’re using WordPress, a good plugin for helping with some of your more common internal linking keywords is SEO Smart Links.
Google Plus / Google Local
1) Google+ About Page
- Business Name / Information – Make sure your business name, address and other information is accurate and consistent with how this information is listed on your website and throughout the web.
- Description – Write a description for human beings. Do not write the description of your business filled with keywords. It’s best practice to include keywords, but make sure they fit the context of your business description. Think of this as the meta description for your Google+ / Google Local page.
- Profile Photo – Your Google+ profile image is used throughout the Google Universe as the primary visual identifier for your business. Make sure the logo graphic used is up-to-date and easily recognizable.
- Cover Photo – Your Google+ cover photo is used primarily on your Google+ business, and the Google+ profile badge can be used on your website or other web property if you choose. For purposes of human recognition and conversion, images of you or your staff or other recognizable community imagery works best.
- Additional Images – In addition to your profile image and cover photo, Google+ allows you to upload additional photos. These photos can show up in Google Search and the Knowledge Graph (included below is just one example of the Google’s Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph pulls answers to questions out of websites directly into Google Search).
2) Formatting Address
When adding your address to Google+, never use a P.O. Box. First, it’s against the guidelines of Google Local. Second, the purpose of putting your address on Google+/Google Local is to verify an accurate location for your business so that your agency shows up correctly in local search as well as on Google Maps.
3) Phone Number Match
Make sure that the phone number you use on your website is the same phone number you’ve listed inside of Google+/Google Local.
4) Google Maps
Ever wonder where Google Maps gets its information from? Primarily, the address, contact information, website link and other business information, such as hours of operation and business description, is pulled from your Google+ Business Page.
6) Google Local
“Google+ Local helps users discover and share places. Google’s 5-point scoring system gives you detailed insight into businesses before you visit.” Google+ Local
Think of Google Local as your Business Directory Listing on Google. That means it’s important. Your Google Local information (which you can find on your Google+ About Page) is one of the primary sources for the business listing served in Google Search.
As mentioned above, Google+ / Google Local is also a primary source for information placed within Google Maps.
7) Google+ Posts
Google+ social activity (i.e. creating posts, commenting, creating and growing Google+ Communities, etc) has a unique impact on local SEO versus other social networks. This is more specifically and obviously because of Google+ being owned by Google.
At its core, Google is looking for topic authority. Traditionally, Google has done this through links, meaning the number and quality of links pointing at a website or particular website page determines that URL’s “Pagerank,” or authority on a topic.
Unfortunately, this system is flawed. Webmasters can game a system built on links. The piece that Google was missing (until Google+) was the human element. How do humans react to a piece of content in terms of sharing, commenting, etc? Google+ gives Google a deep look into how human beings, not just links, value a piece of content.
Google +1’s, comments, etc. do not have a direct relationship on Google Search. However, Google+ activity can and does have an incredible indirect impact on Google Search. Check out the Plus Your Business Community for a deep dive on Google+.
88% of clients have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business (via BrightLocal).
Client reviews are one of the most powerful and influential factors in local SEO. The insurance agents willing to implement and execute a consistent client review process, over time, will see major dividends in return for their effort.
Client reviews, both on your agency site and 3rd party review sites such as Google and Yelp, provide new potential clients with social validation that your agency is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Client reviews are a must for every local insurance agency, as a means of both protecting and promoting the reputation of your business.
1) Google Reviews
Google Reviews play an incredibly powerful role in Local SEO for insurance agents. Both the number of reviews (indirectly) and, to a certain extent, the words used within Google Reviews, play some factor in Google search rankings.
More importantly, high quality Google Reviews provide social validation for the quality of your independent insurance agency to new potential clients. As you can see in the screenshot below, insurance consumers who find my old insurance agency, The Murray Group, are treated to the fact that The Murray Group has 27 five star reviews.
That is incredible social proof that anyone who calls The Murray Group will most likely be very satisfied with their experience. Just think about your own buying habits, if one company has 27 five star reviews and its competitor has zero (like most independent insurance agents), you’re always going to pick the company with the 27 reviews.
Send clients to your Google+ About page and ask them to click “Write a Review.”
2) Yelp Reviews
One in five reviews shows up on Yelp. It is well documented that Yelp has some of the most aggressive review guidelines. Unfortunately, Yelp business pages also show up incredibly high in local search results. It’s a good best practice to only send Yelp users to review your business on Yelp, otherwise the review will mostly likely be caught in the Yelp review filter.
3) Reviews on Your Website
Client reviews on your agency website are solid gold. This is especially true when the review is accompanied by a picture of your client. This is doubly especially true when the client review is from a recognizable figure in your local community.
There are two reasons for adding client reviews to your own agency website:
– Mentioning a person or business community member by name that a potential client may be searching for helps local SEO.
– There is powerful social validation in reviews, which helps build trust in your agency with new potential clients.
4) TrustedChoice.com Reviews
NOTICE: A review feature is coming soon to TrustedChoice.com. We understand the power and influence reviews have attracting new personal and commercial lines leads to your Advantage Profile, and we will be adding reviews in an upcoming update to the system.
5) Review Filters
Search engines are aware of how incredibly powerful client reviews are to the success of local business both from a local SEO and client trust standpoint. Unfortunately, spammers are aware of this as well. Review sites, most notably Yelp, have had to come down with a heavy hand on the quality of reviews submitted to their site.
At a high level, the purpose of review filters is to make sure reviews are left by actual people, make sure reviews are left by actual clients of the business, and make sure businesses aren’t leaving reviews of themselves.
Unfortunately, review filters can also have a negative impact on the quality of reviews by blocking legitimate reviews, which can lead to less overall reviews and a skewed picture of the business.
When it comes to getting reviews through a review filter, there are few general rules to live by:
– Do not incentivize clients to review your business.
– Do not push a group of people to review all at the same time.
– Never pay a 3rd party to leave reviews for you.
Things you can do to encourage legitimate reviews:
– Let clients know during the sales process that you would appreciate a review on Yelp, Google, etc.
– Follow up via email with a link to your page on your review site of choice.
6) Review Acquisition Strategy
Acquiring client reviews, regardless if you’re looking for reviews on Google, Yelp or your own agency website, is not easy. This is especially true if you want to grow the number of reviews on Yelp. Yelp has strict guidelines forbidding businesses from soliciting reviews on Yelp in any fashion.
When first starting out, it may make more sense to focus on growing your Google reviews, and also reviews for your website. Here are a list of best practice strategies for increasing the number of client reviews:
– Link from your website to your Google and/or Yelp business page. Using the sidebar of your website is a good location. Another best practice would be using a graphic that lets people know you’d like them to review your agency.
– Give a copy of the Whitespark Review Handout Generator to every new client as part of their onboarding materials. This handout shows new clients step-by-step on how to leave your agency a review on Google.
– Train your CSRs and receptionist to encourage clients who haven’t left a review to do so. Subtle reminders over time add up, and ultimately lead to action.
– Use an email follow-up after a new sale with a prompt for your client to review your agency.
There is no one catch-all method for attracting more online reviews of your agency, but including a combination of the methods listed above, and any others you can come up with, will pay dividends.
From a straight local SEO standpoint, there are just a few features of Facebook that we want to make sure are set up correctly. It goes without saying, for local independent insurance agencies, having a Facebook page is a must. Facebook isn’t necessarily as easy as it once was, but especially for personal lines agencies, there are few tools with as much access to your clients.
The first is that we have a link on Facebook in the About Section pointing to our website. This isn’t a game-changer tactic, but it is a solid (albeit no-follow) link to your website. This also makes it easy for anyone interested in learning more about your agency that finds you on Facebook to travel to your website.
Second, make sure that your name, address, phone number and all other agency vital information is both completely filled out and accurate.
Twitter doesn’t play a major role in local SEO in any direct capacity. However, traffic driven from Twitter can help indirectly in terms of human behavior factors (i.e. bounce rate, time spent on site) and additional social shares.
Twitter allows for a link in your Twitter profile and a link in your About Section. Consider adding a link to your homepage in the standard profile section, and also a link to a landing page or product page in your About Section.
When Pinterest first launched, I thought it seemed like a cool idea and generally useful from a social media user standpoint, but I struggled to find its relevance to an independent insurance agent. Today, my opinion has changed 180 degrees, as Pinterest begins to show up higher and higher in Google search results.
If you’re unfamiliar with Pinterest, please start with this Guide to Pinterest Marketing from BufferApp which will explain all the basics you need to know.
The quick and dirty description of Pinterest is this: Pinterest users can “Pin” images from around the web to “Pin Boards” (think collections). Each of these images creates a link back to the site where the image originated.
The power of Pinterest, in terms of local SEO for insurance agents, lies in the prominence of Pinterest Pin Boards in Google search. Well-optimized Pin Boards (meaning a keyword rich title, relevant description) filled with relevant pins can show up quite high in search results.
So the action item for Pinterest could be building a Pin Board for your local community and filling it up with images from your geographic area. Share with members or your community to encourage them to share and like your pins.
Over time, this can give you a highly relevant, well-positioned property in addition to your website ranking for local search terms.
Below is an infographic from Social Buzz Lab to help you better understand Pinterest and how it can help your agency:
LinkedIn is not at the top of the list in terms of social media platforms which will help with local SEO, unless your agency does not have a blog. In the case of producers or agency staff who would like to begin building a presence in local search results, but do not have access to agency blog, the LinkedIn Publishing Platform is a great place to create content.
When optimizing your LinkedIn posts for local SEO, scroll back up to the top of this post and follow the same guidelines and best practices in terms of keywords that you would if you were creating content on your own site.
There are limitations and drawbacks to LinkedIn Publishing, but for those insurance professionals without access to a blog, LinkedIn Publishing is a fine alternative.
YouTube is another incredibly powerful social media tool for the local SEO insurance agents game. We could do an entire 5,000 word article on YouTube itself (that’s how important YouTube is as a tool for independent insurance agents marketing online), and depending on when you read this may have created that resource.
Listed below are five high priority tactics and strategies to ranking YouTube video in local search:
1) GeoTag Videos – When uploading a YouTube video, click to the “Advanced Settings” tab. One of the options will be “Location.” Enter the video location. This does not guarantee your video will show up, but it serves as another piece of evidence to Google as to which geographic region this video should be shown highest in the search.
2) Include Name, Address and Phone Number – Both in the video itself and in the video description, include your agency’s name, address and phone number. Make sure these pieces of information are consistent with your standard name, address and phone number used throughout the web.
3) Add Video to Google+ / Google Local Listing – Your Google+ / Google Local listing gives you the option to upload videos and images associated with your business. Adding your most popular and relevant videos to your Google Local page can add SEO value to both your Google Local page and the video itself.
4) Link to Your Website in Video and Description – YouTube now allows us to link (through Annotations) directly from inside our YouTube videos out to our website. This is known as the Associated Website Annotation. Additionally, link to your website in the description of the video as well.
5) Embed YouTube Videos – Embed your YouTube videos on your website (making sure your website page is also properly optimized for local search) to make an additional connection between your YouTube video and geographic region which you’d like it to rank.
There have been many articles written since Google first dropped the Penguin and Panda updates preaching the death of backlinks. This is nonsense. Backlinks, meaning links from other websites pointing to your insurance agency’s website, are still extremely important in ranking your website for local SEO.
What has changed is that unlike five years ago, when links were essentially the only main factor, today there are over 200 search engine ranking factors that Google takes into account. Additionally, shady or “Black hat” SEO activities can now be penalized.
Don’t let this scare you. When it comes to backlinks, the important thing to remember is that Google wants to see natural-looking backlinks. The more natural-looking backlinks you have, the higher your site will climb in the search.
Here are a few places your agency can secure natural backlinks that will help improve your local SEO:
1) Local Publications
Build relationships with the local newspaper reporters. Make sure they know that you are available to comment whenever they have a question about insurance. Many times, the online version of the newspaper will link to an information source, in this case you.
2) Industry Publications
Consider contributing to insurance industry trade publications like PropertyCasualty360 or IA Magazine. By sharing your expertise on topics within the insurance industry, you’ll receive a healthy and relevant link back to your agency website.
3) Client Sites
Ask clients if they’d be willing to place a link from their website to your agency website as a way of showing support for your business and the work you do. An even better idea might be to create a cool little graphic that says, “Insured by [Insert Agency Name]” (or even just your logo) and have your clients link that image to your site.
4) Local Organizations
Local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or Not-for-Profit organizations that you participate in usually have a listing of members and links to their websites. Because of the philanthropic nature of these types of organizations, Google can sometimes give a slight boost in “Juice” to these types of links. Make sure you have a link from each organization you participate in.
Advantage Subscribers to TrustedChoice.com receive a backlink to their agency website. The backlink from a well-optimized TrustedChoice.com profile will definitely provide local SEO value to participating agencies. Click here if you’re not yet a TrustedChoice.com Advantage Subscriber.
1) Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the page they entered without interacting with the page). As Google refines it’s algorithm, human factors such as bounce rate are being given more weight in overall search engine rankings.
Factors that contribute to high bounce rate include: poor website design, difficult to navigate website, slow page speed, and shallow content or content that isn’t relevant to the visitor’s search.
2) Time Spent on Site
Time spent on site helps Google better understand the value being delivered to visitors of your website. There is debate as to whether or not time spent on site is a direct or indirect ranking factor in the search. What’s important in terms of local SEO for insurance agents is understanding that deep, easy-to-navigate sites provide more value to potential clients, which ultimately yields potentially higher search engine results.
3) Page Speed
The time it takes your website to load plays a significant role in the success of your website, not just from a local SEO standpoint, but in terms of new client acquisition as well. This is why webmasters and SEO professionals work so hard to keep website load speed as low as possible.
Think about your own Internet usage. If you visit a website and it takes forever to load, what do you do? Hit the back button!
This creates an increase in bounce rate as we discussed above. Additionally, Google does use actual page load speed to some degree in their ranking algorithm.
There are many different factors that go into page speed, including the server your site is hosted on, the type of website you have, and if your website is using a caching mechanism. We’re not going to dive into all of these factors in this article. For now, use Pingdom Page Speed Tester or Google Page Speed to check where you currently stand.
In a study done by ConstantContact, it was found that more than 50% of small businesses have inaccurate local business directory listings. That’s a big problem, because in simple SEO terms, a local citation is simply where your company is mentioned on other websites and places found on the Internet. Local citations are used heavily in helping you to rank in local search results (per Moz Local Citations).
1) Business Directories
There are four major business directories, and it’s vitally important that your business be listed correctly on all four: Acxiom, Localeze, Expressupdate and Factual. DO NOT ASSUME THESE LISTINGS ARE ACCURATE.
Search engines, such as Google, may use the information provided on these business directories to supply their own database with information. This makes it incredibly important to verify the accuracy of these local business directory listings.
Inaccurate information can override a search engine’s information or the worst case scenario, you’re not listed on these local business directories and then don’t rank in search engines at all.
In addition to the major search engines, there are hundreds of secondary or smaller search engines that are also valuable in driving traffic to your website. Most of these secondary portals get their data from the exact same places that Google and Bing do—the four major local business directories listed above.
You can go to each directory independently to check that your listing is accurate, or you can use a service like Moz Local which will verify and update all the major listings for you. Additional options for local business directory listings include Yext and Whitespark.
2) Other Local Citations
Business directories aren’t the only place your agency can receive citations. Other great sources of local citations include: Event Directories, Chamber of Commerce, Not-for-Profit Website, Trusted Choice Directory, etc. Any time your business name, address and phone number is listed online, Google is using that listing in ranking factors either for location or industry of expertise.
If you’re looking for additional local citation building strategies for your agency, visit: Citation Building Strategies – The Complete List For Local Businesses
Location-based Landing Pages
1) Address Accuracy
When creating a location-based landing page, the first and most important aspect of the page from a local SEO perspective is accurate business information, consistent with the address you’re using on other website properties for this location (if applicable). If the address and phone number are not accurate on specific location-based landing pages, there is no way for Google to accurately serve these pages in search results.
2) Image Use
Use different images for each location-based landing page. Duplicating images, just like duplicating content, is a bad idea. You’re not going to be penalized by Google for using duplicate images, but images that are not relevant to website visitors will not help with conversions.
3) Google Map Inclusion
Including an embedded Google Map with accurate pin placement gives Google a better idea of what address you’d like your landing page to rank for. Here is a resource to help with embedding the new Google Maps on your website.
4) Driving Directions
For brick-and-mortar insurance agencies, including driving directions on a landing page in addition to your address and Google Map gives Google the maximum amount of information possible to decipher the exact location and region that your agency serves.
Video is consistently found to help improve conversion rate on landing pages anywhere from 60%-80%. Use short, focused video on landing pages to help generate actual conversions from the traffic you attract.
8) Schema Markup
As mentioned at the top of this post, use address Schema.org markup to provide Google with an address format that is easy for search engine bots to read and decipher.
According to Google, one out of the every five searches has a local intent. As smartphones continue to increase in size and expand in web user experience, creating a high quality mobile web presence is no longer a luxury. Mobile is a necessity.
1) Mobile-Responsive Website
A mobile-responsive website is by far the preferred option because with a mobile responsive website, you don’t need to do any additional work besides everything that’s already been mentioned above. With a mobile-responsive website, the same website served to desktop visitors is served to mobile visitors.
2) Mobile Site
With the mass adoption of mobile-responsive websites what they are today, there is really no reason to have a separate mobile website (which usually has a m.yourdomain.com URL). However, if someone has convinced you that this is the way to go and you believe that person more than you believe me, make sure that person reads this article on Moz about mobile website local SEO before they build it.
Additional Local SEO Resources
- Moz 2014 Local SEO Search Ranking Factors
- How to NOT Suck at Local SEO
- Designing Location Based Landing Pages
- Bring your local business online
- 10 Smart Tips to Leverage Google+ for Increased Web Traffic
- How to Use Google+ for Social SEO
- SEO Simplified
- 12 Powerful Ways to Use Pinterest for SEO
- Open Site Explorer – Backlink tracking tool.
- SEMRush – Search engine rank tracker and keyword research tool.
- MozBar – Track domain authority and page rank.
- Google Keyword Planner – Research keyword terms.
- Ubersuggest – Find related keywords to rank for.
- Keywordtool.io – Research keyword terms.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it ten thousand more times, the money is in search marketing. That makes local SEO for insurance agents an absolute priority.
When insurance consumers, regardless of whether they are personal lines or commercial insurance leads, have a problem, question or need, they are turning to Google for the solution.
If you want to be the solution they find (and you should), then learning and implementing a local SEO strategy for 2015 is an absolute necessity.
Thank you and good luck,
P.S. If you found this article valuable, please subscribe to Agency Nation…
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