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“War, Genocide, And Other Real Estate Scams”

I had just put down a wonderfully written book that kept me turning the pages due in no small part to the cleverly written chapter titles. Then I opened up my feed reader to catch up on some real estate blogs and *blech* uber-crappy blog titles cluttered the screen.

How’s a real estate blog to survive with dead titles?

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The Survivalists Guide to Writing Blog Post Titles

I had just put down a wonderfully written book that kept me turning the pages due in no small part to the cleverly written chapter titles. Then I opened up my feed reader to catch up on some real estate blogs and *blech* uber-crappy blog titles cluttered the screen.

How’s a real estate blog to survive with dead titles?

Take a look at some of the titles found in my page turner:

“How To Become Immortal In One Easy Step”
“Why Knocking Up A Brazilian Woman Can Save Your Life”
“War, Genocide, And Other Real Estate Scams”
“Life Advice From The World’s Friendliest Nazi”
“A Cross-Dresser’s Guide To Combat”

There’s no one that can read those titles and not say “WTF is that all about?” and then proceed to read the article to find out. Heck, you’d go crazy if you didn’t read the article because your mind would keep spinning on it.

The Problem With Being Clever

The reason these headlines are so damn compelling is also their biggest problem. See, it’s the curiosity factor that makes these so effective.

On your blog, where folks are searching for specific information these titles don’t do much to tell your readers what they really stand to gain by reading. Those clever examples actually work best as email subject lines or sub-headlines in your blog posts.

For your actual blog post title, you’ll want to shed more light on topic specific benefits.

“5 Ways To ‘Systemize’ Your Blog”
“How To Improve Your Blog When You Have No Access To The Internet”
“13 Things I’ve Learned About Successful Blogging”
“Why StumbleUpon Sends More Traffic Than Digg”
“9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People”

Reading those titles, you get a clear picture of what’s discussed in the article. If someone’s looking for a specific bit of info, then these titles are still compelling but, more importantly, are actually helpful to your readers.

Clever is fun. Helpful is valuable.

Terrorized By Textbook Titles

Now, compare the previous titles with ones I found on Realtor blogs…

“Buying A Bank Foreclosure”
“Real Estate Market Report For May 2009”
“Best Time To Sell A Home”
“Open House: 123 Happy Street”
“When You’ll Need Money To Buy A Home”

Clearly, there’s a huge difference between these titles and the previous examples. While the previous sets of titles were compelling and pulled people in, this set of titles are about as boring and dry as *yawn* a textbook. No wonder so many real estate bloggers have a hard time connecting with readers.

Boring is death.

How Blog’s Survive

Here’s the thing: you may have some great content but if you aren’t selling it in your post title then you’re content isn’t helping anyone, especially you. If you want your blog to survive then you need to spend more time on your blog post titles.

What type of blog post titles are you most fond of as a writer? as a reader?

And if you have more examples of killer or crappy blog post titles, post them in the comments.

Oh, and since you just have to know “Why Knocking Up A Brazilian Woman Can Save Your Life” then you should check out the book Emergency by the ever-so-talented Neil Strauss about his quest to survive an an uncertain world.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    June 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Mark,

    I confess to perhaps being in the boring column, and your post now has me addressing that issue. The title is the intro – but you better have something compelling to get me to click through.

    Just after your post, Benn pops one with this title:

    Real Estate Agents Rotting Like Dinoraurs- The Smell of Death Looms

    I definitely will be reading that next.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Mark, you and I must by synced up because this post was burning on my mind. Because we do not tell writers how or what to write, we often have palm forehead moments when we read titles on AG.

    There’s two types of titles, one for instant gratification, and one for longterm longtail life, there is an art at blending the two- great tips here for all to read, including me.

  3. Ken Brand

    June 15, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I’m afraid I’m a repeat offender. When it comes to instant/self gratification, I’m my own best friend. When it comes to choosing a blog title I mean.

    Do you think it’s sorta like laughing at your own jokes, I do that – arg.

    Then again, I’m more interested in the being “Immortal” title, I think the “Brazilian” life-saver method would generate too many unhealthy consequences and repercussions.

    Helpful – thanks.

  4. Lani Rosales

    June 15, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    @MarkEckenrode KILLER article! You know why most blog titles suck? Because five years ago, there was only ONE way to do SEO and it included jam-packing every part of of a site with keywords which has led to a dry boring world where much of this philosophy is practically regurgitated like cow cud. With Google’s ever changing algorithm, you nailed it when you said:

    “Clever is fun. Helpful is valuable.”

  5. Matt Stigliano

    June 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Mark – Some days I look forward to reading every word you write, others I dread it. Today was the latter once I realized where you were heading with the post. I struggle with every title I write – here and elsewhere. One of my big problems is that I’m wordy in general, so my titles tend to start dragging on as well. At times the title hits me before I even know where I’m heading with the post and sometimes the opposite.

    One thing that I think might have helped the article a little more (not that you asked) would have been to take the second and third sets of titles and tie them together…ie, a good example of a title about buying a foreclosure and a bad example of one. Just would have helped me get a glimpse into what is great and what is so-so and may have helped hammer the point home a little bit more.

    You definitely have me thinking about titles now. I’ve been guilty of clever, helpful, and textbook titles. Now I need to clean up my act.

  6. Steve Beam

    June 15, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    It’s amazing how reading an article like this can make me realize how boring I’ve become in blogging. Thanks!

    I need to spice it up a bit and get a little more creative.

  7. Jason Sandquist

    June 15, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Lani is right… down with keyword titles. me included

  8. Dean Ouellette

    June 16, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Mark, as you know I am a fan of your stuff, but not sure I agree with you on this one. If I am trying to attract readers to my blog to find out information on how to do a short sale so I can get the listing I can come up with a creative name, or I can come up with a name that let’s them know right away this post will contain the information they are looking for and also pack it with keywords for some google juice.

  9. Mark Eckenrode

    June 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

    @joe: that benn fella is good. he knows that folks make a judgement call based on the blog post title… if the title is not compelling, then that’s how they judge the content of your article. and they won’t even read the article to find out otherwise.

    the easiest way to ensure you have a good post title… write many of them before you even write the article.

    @benn: yes, the art is in blending the two. which i didn’t do in this post’s title… i went straight for shock value to get more eyeballs on the issue

    @ken: i also laugh at my own jokes very much like the alien ALF “Ha! I kill me!”

    @lani: yeah, thank god the net’s evolved beyond keyword stuffing (mostly). the best optimization is that done for people – especially in the world of social media where folks share links. a keywrod stuffed title that’s not compelling is NOT going to get shared before a btter writeen more compelling one

    @matt: umm… thanks for saying you dread my writing. i’m going to go shoot myself now 🙂

    but, i agree that writing titles can be challenging. i’ve found that banging out the title before i write the content helps the whole thing go faster. i’ll often come back and tweak the title when i’m done but the orignial pass helps set the tone and keeps me on point.

    and yeah, you got me. i had planned on making that title mix but time constraints got the best of me so i cheated and left em out. BUT… how would you re-work the boring ones? that’s the real point…

    @steve: it’s easy to get boring when something becomes routine. we all need to shake it up every now and then and refocus. glad this helped

    @jason: get the pitchforks and torches!

    @dean: i’m not advocating being vague or overly clever with your titles. just to make them more attractive…

    for example:

    “buying a bank foreclosure” is a boring title. re-worked to “how to buy a bank foreclosure when you’re a real estate newbie” is far more compelling and will even draw in a targeted audience. keywords are still included, it’s simply a better title.

    the highly clever titles, like i said, work best as email subject lines or sub-heads in the article itself.

    filtered down, the rough formula to follow is this:

    topic matter + benefit = good title

    topic matter (buying foreclosures) + benefit (tips and experiences) = 13 Things I’ve Learned About Buying Bank Foreclosures

    heck, if you want to get granular with it make it “…Phoenix Bank Foreclosures” or whatever

  10. Mark Eckenrode

    June 16, 2009 at 9:23 am

    actually, a better title formula is: topic matter + audience + benefit = great title

  11. Benn Rosales

    June 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    @loomerjoe Real Estate Agents Rotting Like Travel Agents- The Smell of Death Looms didn’t quite capture it, and besides I can’t take credit for the dinosaur sentiment as much as I’d like to

    @markeckenrode I never question your titles, ever

  12. Matt Stigliano

    June 16, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Mark – I actually wrote the most brilliant comment, but I tried to post just as AG went are weird on me this morning. Of course, I was smart enough to copy my reply. Then as the time drew on and I couldn’t get back onto AG, I starting doing some work. Most of which required cutting and pasting. The thought never even crossed my mind until I noticed AG was back up. I will try my best to recreate my brilliance.

    As for dreading your posts, please know that it’s a compliment of the highest order. You typically challenge me (and the rest of the readers) in your posts and although I dread it on one hand, I relish it on the other. I dread a lot of things in life, but for all the best reasons.

    I’m sort of glad you didn’t cross-reference the titles (good vs. bad). It’s a challenge and I accept it. In fact, I see this as a great exercise and look forward to hearing your (and others’) thoughts.

    “Buying A Bank Foreclosure””
    “Real Estate Market Report For May 2009”
    “Best Time To Sell A Home”
    “Open House: 123 Happy Street”
    “When You’ll Need Money To Buy A Home”

    Let’s see what I can do to these:

    “Bank Foreclosures – The Ins, The Outs, The Ups, And The Downs” (not the greatest, but it definitely defines this as a thorough look at foreclosures)
    “What The Real Estate Market In 78250 Is Telling You.” (thanks to AltosResearch I like to go by zip code)
    “It’s Not Just About Marketing Your Home, It’s About Timing The Sale To Work For You.” (little lengthy I feel)
    “Matt Bonner Of The Spurs, Free Ice Cream, And Real Estate – This Saturday!” (one I actually used)
    “Preparing Financially To Buy A Home, Step By Step Help For Buyers.” (this would slightly more encompassing in scale, but I view it as a “contract to close” type flow-chart to describe the process on the financial side)

    Well Mark, what do you think? Any pointers?

    I have a question to go with this discussion. Do you think provocative works better amongst your peers (such as here at AgentGenius), but more “traditional” titles would work better for speaking to consumers? For example, your title certainly made me wonder what was inside, not sure I would read it if I was reading a blog about cars (of which I am a consumer).

  13. Mark Eckenrode

    June 17, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    @matt: man, i’ve suffered the same misfortune more often than i care to remember. now, i just write everything in notepad rather than online forms and then just cut-paste over. saves me the heartache 🙂

    okay, you’ve definitely beefed up the titles to elaborate on the post content. now, i’m just going to tweak your titles a bit…

    “Discover How Realtors Really Buy Bank Foreclosures” (oohhh an inside look!)
    “What The Real Estate Market In 78250 Is NOT Telling You” (what am i missing out on?)
    “How To Sell Your Home The Timex Way” (oddly curious and paired with a highly reputable business)
    “10 Reasons You Don’t Want To Miss Matt Bonner of The Spurs Handing Out Free Ice Cream This Staurday” (since i don’t know the context i’m not sure what to do with this one 🙂 but tried to make it curious and fun)
    “The Financial Mis-steps Of Buying A Home And How To Avoid Them” (i don’t want to make a mistake, what do i need to know?)

    each of these is simply a tweak of what you wrote but with the intention of triggering some sort of emotion in the reader.

    and to answer your question, i admit to going for shock value with this post’s title purely to draw more eyeballs to the issue. now, this blog title works well here and would also work on a blog targeting consumers. it’s got the “what the…?” factor. if it was a blog about cars it would be “war, genocide, and other car scams”… would that appeal to car enthusiasts? sure.

    however, i do advocate using a more descriptive title in your blog posts rather than purely clever or provocative ones. you want to help your readers find information on your blog and clever/provocative don’t always facilitate that.

    now, i’m going to cut-past this reply from notepad into AG 🙂

  14. Matt Stigliano

    June 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Mark – In this case, it was just my own stupidity. I had the forethought to copy it, I just forgot that copying something else ruins all that work.

    I like your titles and see where you’re coming from with them. Interesting to me that 4 out 5 of them contain some form of negative (not “negative” in the “bad” sense).

    “Discover How Realtors Really Buy Bank Foreclosures” (we haven’t told you all of our secrets – we’ve been holding back)
    “What The Real Estate Market In 78250 Is NOT Telling You” (obvious negative)
    “How To Sell Your Home The Timex Way” (this one’s clean)
    “10 Reasons You Don’t Want To Miss Matt Bonner of The Spurs Handing Out Free Ice Cream This Staurday” (obvious negative – will give side story below)
    “The Financial Mis-steps Of Buying A Home And How To Avoid Them”

    I can see how negatives can have a strong impact, but I have to wonder – was this on purpose, a tool you use, or just coincidence?

    As for the Matt Bonner open house ad, just for a little story…Matt Bonner was appearing at a local HEB (our grocery store in town) and they were giving out free samples of their ice cream that weekend. I had an open house right next door to a very new HEB, so I thought combining the three would be great. Of course, that was the day my car battery went dead on me and I spent all afternoon trying to get either a jump or a tow truck so I could get to the open house (a builder, not one of my direct clients). Neither happened. The house was still “open” but I wasn’t there to greet anyone. Rough day.

    I think I’m guilty of over-simplifying my titles. Not in length, but in statement of what they are. They tell you what you’re going to get in the post, but they lack the attention grab that I think I need to work on.

    I see you point about the post on cars, I just think it might be easier to accept when amongst your peers (and many who know you already) to throw out a topic like that. For example, I’m not sure if I think titles like that would build you a great readership in the first few months as a real estate blogger…perhaps they would for the curiosity factor, but I wonder if those readers would remain as you shifted into more normal titles? I think peppering them in occasionally could work, but you need to be prepared to deliver. Provocative for provocative’s sake probably won’t get a blogger far in the long term.

  15. Mark Eckenrode

    June 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    @rerockstar: some of them i intentionally supplied a negative connotation but the others were more from the angle of “there’s more here than meets the eye”… like transformers 😉

    the whole idea with titles is to describe what’s ahead, and to “tease” the reader’s mind/emotions so that they just can’t pass by.

    the title gets the first sentence read. the first sentence gets the second sentence read and on and on. with this we get into the science and art of copywriting.

    the evening news does a great job of this… “how simple ingredients found in your refrigerator can make you a bazillionaire. tonight at 11.” again with the “what the…?” factor

    “Provocative for provocative’s sake probably won’t get a blogger far in the long term.” without a doubt, there needs to be something of value with it. you can’t tease and not deliver … after a while, people will hate you for it.

  16. Mark Eckenrode

    June 17, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    @rerockstar: BTW, thanks for the really good comment discussion

  17. Matt Stigliano

    June 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Mark – I’m was in a good conversational mood. Thank you for supplying the starter.

    I think I know why I struggle with title thanks to your example. I hate the way news broadcasts tease you for three or four commercial breaks before getting to the info you want to hear. Of course, I still fall for it every time. Perhaps I’ll have to keep that thought stuck in my head over the next few days to see if I can utilize it.

  18. Mark Eckenrode

    June 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    @rerockstar: yeah, i hate the news for that too… “how an everyday household item can kill you. tonight at 11.” umm, shouldn’t you be telling that to me now?

    however, with titles, you’re not keeping folks from that info. it’s a click away. another way to look at it is the cover of Men’s Fitness or Cosmo… all that teaser text to get folks to flip open and check out the real article.

  19. Matt Stigliano

    June 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    @MarkEckenrode – “Is your home a ticking time bomb? Watch the 11 o’clock news for this must-see report.” (checks watch)…”Um, it’s only 4:32…can you tell me now, so I don’t blow up?”

    Good point about the “click away.” I have trouble with the internet at times, because I’m not your typical surfer. I don’t go many places and just click or scan. I go, I read, I look, I follow links. I’m a web designer’s dream.

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?

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nostalgia

Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

Here’s how one employer was able beat an age discrimination lawsuit

(MARKETING) Age discrimination is a rare occurrence but still something to be battled. It’s good practice to keep your house in order to be on the right side.

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Jewel age discrimination

In January, the EEOC released its annual accounting for reports of discrimination in the previous year. Allegations of retaliation were the most frequently filed charge, which disability coming in second. Age discrimination cases accounted for 21.4% of filed charges. As we’ve reported before, not all age discrimination complaints rise to the level of illegal discrimination. In Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., the federal court dismissed the claims of age discrimination, even though seven (7) plaintiffs made similar claims against the grocery store.

What Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores was about

In Cesario, all but one of the seven plaintiffs had spent years with Jewel Food building their careers. When Jewel went through some financial troubles, the plaintiffs allege that they began to “experience significant pressure at work… (and) were eventually forced out or terminated because of their age or disability.” Jewel Food requested summary judgment to dismiss the claims.

The seven plaintiffs made the same type of complaints. Beginning in 2014, store directors were under pressure to improve metrics and customer satisfaction. Cesario alleges that the Jewel district manager asked about his age. Another director alleges that younger store directors were transferred to stores with less difficulties. One plaintiff alleged that Jewel Food managers asked him about his retirement. The EEOC complaints began in late 2015. The plaintiffs retired or were fired and subsequently filed a lawsuit against their company.

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA). The ADEA prevents disparate treatment based on age for workers over 40 years old. However, plaintiffs who allege disparate treatment must establish that the adverse reactions wouldn’t have occurred but for age. Because none of the plaintiffs could specifically point to age as the only determination of their case, the court dismissed the case.

A word to wise businesses

Jewel Food was able to demonstrate their own actions in the case through careful documentation. Although there was no evidence that age played a factor in any discharge decision, Jewel Food could document their personnel decisions across the board. The plaintiffs also didn’t exhaust all administrative remedies. This led to the case being dropped.

Lesson learned – Make perssonel decisions based on performance and evidence. Don’t use age as a factor. Keep documentation to support your decisions.

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