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Google Panda Update Winners, Losers, and Future Considerations

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Google Panda Update Winners, Losers, and Future Considerations
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So the controversial Google Panda update is now live throughout the world (in the English language). Since Google’s announcement about this, data has come out looking at some of the winners and losers (in terms of search visibility) from both SearchMetrics and Sistrix. Hopefully we can all learn from this experience, as search marketing continues to be critical to online success.

Has Panda been good to you? Comment here.

Throughout this article, keep a couple of things in mind. The SearchMetrics and Sistrix data are limited to the UK and Europe. The Panda update has been rolled out globally (in English). It seems fair to assume that while the numbers may not match exactly, there are likely parallel trends in visibility gain or loss in other countries’ versions of Google. So, while the numbers are interesting to look at, they’re not representative of the entire picture – more a general view.

Also keep in mind that Google has made new adjustments to its algorithm in the U.S. In the announcement, they said the new tweaks would affect 2% of queries (in comparison to 12% for the initial Panda update). Also note that they’re now taking into consideration the domain-blocking feature in “high confidence” situations, as the company describes it. So that may very well have had an impact on some of these sites in the U.S.

As there were the first time around, the new global version of Panda has brought with it numerous interesting side stories. First, let’s look at some noteworthy sites that were negatively impacted by the update.

eHow

eHow managed to escape the U.S. roll-out of the Panda update, and actually come out ahead, but the site’s luck appears to have changed, based on the SearchMetrics/Sistrix data. According to the SearchMetrics data, eHow.co.uk took a 72,30% hit in visibility. eHow.com took a 53,46% hit. Sistrix has eHow.co.uk as its top loser with a -84% change.

eHow Hit by Panda in the UK

In the U.S. after looking at some queries we tested before, it does appear that eHow has lost some positioning in some areas – most notably the “level 4 brain cancer” example we’ve often referenced to make a point about Google’s placement of non-authoritative content over more authoritative content for health terms.

EzineArticles

EzineArticles, which was heavily impacted the first time around got nailed again, based on the data. SearchMetrics, looking at UK search data has EzineArticles with a drop in search visibility of as much as 93.69%. Sistrix, looking at Europe, has the site as its number 2 loser with a change of -78%.

This is after an apparently rigorous focus on quality and guidelines following the U.S. update.

Mahalo

You may recall that after the U.S. update, Mahalo announced a 10% reduction in staff. “All we can do is put our heads down and continue to make better and better content,” CEO Jason Calacanis told us at the time. “If we do our job I’m certain the algorithm will treat us fairly in the long-term.”

Since the global roll-out, we’ve seen not indications from Calcanis or Mahalo that more layoffs are happening. “We were impacted starting on February 24th and haven’t seen a significant change up or down since then,” he told us.

Still, the SearchMetrics UK has Mahalo at a 81.05% decrease in search visibility. The Sistrix data has the site at a -77% change.

“We support Google’s effort to make better search results and continue to build only expert-driven content,” Calcanis said. “This means any videos and text we make has a credentialed expert with seven years or 10,000 hours of experience (a la Malcolm Gladwell).”

HubPages

HubPages was hit the first time, and has been hit again. SearchMetrics has the site at -85,72%. Sistrix has it at -72%.

An interesting thing about HubPages is that a Googler (from the AdSense department) recently did a guest blog post on the HubPages blog, telling HubPages writers how to improve their content for AdSense.

Suite101

Suite101, another one of the biggest losers in the initial update, was even called out by Google as an example of what they were targeting. “I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101,” Matt Cutts said in a Wired interview.

Suite101 CEO Peter Berger followed that up with an open letter to Matt Cutts.

This time Sixtrix has Suite101 at a -79% change, and SearchMetrics has it at -95,39%. Berger told us this week, “As expected by Google and us, the international impact is noticeably smaller.”

Xomba

Xomba.com had a -88,06% change, according to the SearchMetrics data. They also had their AdSense ads temporarily taken away entirely. This doesn’t appear to be related to the update in anyway, but is still a terrible inconvenience that got the company and its users a little bit frantic at a time while their traffic was taking a hit too.

Google ended up responding and saying they’d have their ads back soon. All the while, Google still links to Xomba on its help page for “How do I use AdSense with my CMS?”

A lot of price comparison sites were also negatively impacted. In the UK, Ciao.co.uk was a big loser with -93,83% according to SearchMetrics.

You can see SearchMetrics’ entire list of losers here.

The Winners

As there are plenty of losers in this update, somebody has to win right? The big winners appear to be Google, Google’s competitors, news sites, blogs, and video sites. A few porn sites were sprinkled into the list as well.

All winner data is based on the SearchMetrics data of top 101 winners.

Google properties positively impacted:

- youtube.com gained 18.93% in visibility.
- google.com gained 6.14% in visibility.
- google.co.uk gained 3.99% visibility.
- blogspot.com (Blogger) gained gained 22.8% visibility.
- android.com gained 33.92% in visibility.

Google competitors positively impacted:

- yahoo.com increased 9.47%
- apple.com increased 15.19%
- facebook.com increased 9.14%
- dailymotion.com increasd 17.80
- wordpress.com increased 18.62
- msn.com increased 8.13%
- metacafe.com increased 6.45%
- vimeo.com increased 18.85%
- flickr.com increased 12.39%
- typepad.com increased 43.86%
- tripadvisor.co.uk increased 7.81%
- mozilla.org increased 19.44%
- windowslive.co.uk increased 29.46%
- live.com increased 6.62%

News sites, blogs, and video sites positively impacted include (but are not limited to):

- youtube.com – 18.93% visibility increase
- telegraph.co.uk 16.98% visibility increase
- guardian.co.uk – 9.73% visibility increase
- bbc.co.uk – 5.46% visibility increase
- yahoo.com – 9.47% visibility increase
- blogspot.com (Blogger) – 22.8% visibility increase
- dailymail.co.uk – 12.72% visibility increase
- dailymotion – 17.8% visibility increase
- ft.com – 16.17% visibility increase
- independent.co.uk – 21.53% visbility increase
- readwriteweb.com – 152.46% visbility increase
- thegregister.co.uk – 13.47% visibility increase
- itv.com – 22.38% visibility increase
- cnet.com – 14.21% visibility increase
- mirror.co.uk – 24.87% visibility increase
- mashable.com – 22.61% visibility increase
- wordpress.com – 18.62% visibility increase
- techcrunch.com – 40.72% visibility increase
- time.com – 55.24% visibility increase
- metacafe.com – 6.45% visibility increase
- reuters.com – 36.82% visibility increase
- thenextweb.com – 3.85% visibility increase
- zdnet.co.uk – 34.04% visibility increase
- vimeo.com – 18.85% visibility increase
- typepad.com – 43.86% visibility increase

Bounce Rate Significance?

SearchMetrics sees a pattern in the winners, in that time spent on site is a major factor. “Compare the winners against the losers,” SearchMetrics CTO and Co-Founder Marcus Tober tells WebProNews. “It seems that all the loser sites are sites with a high bouce rate and a less time on site ratio. Price comparison sites are nothing more than a search engine for products. If you click on a product you ‘bounce’ to the merchant. So if you come from Google to ciao.co.uk listing page, than you click on an interesting product with a good price and you leave the page. On Voucher sites it is the same. And on content farms like ehow you read the article and mostly bounce back to Google or you click Adsense.”

“And on the winners are more trusted sources where users browse and look for more information,” he continues. “Where the time on site is high and the page impressions per visit are also high. Google’s ambition is to give the user the best search experience. That’s why they prefer pages with high trust, good content and sites that showed in the past that users liked them.”

“This conclusion is the correlation of an analysis of many Google updates from the last 6 months,” he adds. “Also the Panda US and UK updates.”

The Future

It doesn’t look like Panda is slowing down search marketing ambition:

Even Post Panda Search Marketing To Reach $19.3 Billion In ’11, Mobile On Rise http://bit.ly/e5PsgH #Mediapost 2 hours ago via web · powered by @socialditto

Well, SEO isn’t getting any easier, so that makes sense. Beyond the Panda update, it’s not like Google is going to slow down in its algorithm tweaks. As webmasters and publishers get used to the latest changes, more continue to pour out.

In an AFP interview, Google’s Scott Huffman says his team tested “many more than” 6,000 changes to the search engine in 2010 alone. 500 of them, he said, went on to become permanent changes. What are the odds that number will be lower in 2011?

Huffman also told the AFP that plenty of improvements are ahead, including those related to understanding inferences from different languages.

And let’s not forget the Google +1 button, recently announced. Google said flat out that the information would go on to be used as a ranking signal. Google specifically said it will “start to look at +1s as one of the many signals we use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, including social signals from other services. For +1s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality over time.”

Make friends with Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Have you been impacted by the global roll-out of Panda? For better or worse? Let us know in the comments.

Google Panda Update Winners, Losers, and Future Considerations
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  • http://www.sinteniki.net Fajar

    Thanks for Google Panda Update, all of my client stable and keep moving up on page 1 for better rank position in search result

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Where did they get their information on bounce rates? Most of the sites you list above are sites where I typically look at one article and move on.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I asked them, and the quotes above were their response.

  • http://www.weightnormal.com Weight Loss Study

    Most of my sites are either unchanged or some of them have moved a little higher in the rankings. I like the way you illustrated the changes on different sites ranking status along with the exact percentage in loss and gain. It’ll be very helpful for me to plan my future strategy. Thanks.

  • http://www.creativebox.ltd.uk Brian

    Well done google, another bunch of black hatters now looking for a new job.
    Anyone ethical in their SEO will been untouched and untroubled by any Google update.

  • http://www.purityringsonline.com Brandon Young

    Personally, I think Google changes things up on us to keep their results fresh (obviously), but also to see what websites (webmasters) can adapt to their changes and stay on top of things. The webmasters consistently updating and conforming to Google updates are the ones that probably deserve to rank better.

  • http://www.kpaulmedia.com K. Paul Mallasch

    Great round-up … the bounce rate is interesting …

  • http://www.greencareersguide.com Ezra Drissman

    I loved the Panda update. The first day of rollout hit us hard, but since then our traffic has increased about 15%. The update helped move us up on many of our keywords. Fresh content will always win out.

  • http://www.boatcoversonline.com John

    Weird. After the initial rollout, our site went up in the rankings. Now with the latest tweaks, we’ve been hit negatively. Guess we just need to keep on plugging….

  • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed “Koine Greek” Rude

    My site is rather new, but after the first bout of changes my site moved up in rankings for two key words, and now, after the second bout of changes it moved up in eight more key words.
    I would say that Panda has been good for my website, but that makes no commercial difference since all my website is really for is to help people learn Biblical (Koine) Greek, and of course it does not actually sell anything.

    I wonder how different the results would be if my website sold things or did affiliate marketing.

    So, thank you Panda.

  • Thomas Sullivan

    Loved the Panda update, and subsequent tweaking. Looks like Google has finally found a way to determine quality content, above and beyond number and quality of inbound links. Good job Google. Send the black hatters to their grave. Quality content wins out.

  • http://www.gastric-banding-surgery.co.uk geoff Lord

    Hi guys

    Thanks for the info and the updates. As a UK SEO enthusiast I have Just done a few checks on my position in the Search engines and for my main Keywords I appear to have survived the “panda” update relatively Unscathed.

    My main Keyword has now placed me in postion 2 just ahead of Wikipedia who had been ahead of me for some time. Most of my other Keywords are showing virtually no movement with just a few losers and few gainers but overall a pretty uneventful change.

    Geoff Lord

  • http://www.fungamesarena.com fun

    I love panda :) Its a required update. I did right things and I got!

  • http://www.practicalsports.com Camping Tent Dude

    Overall, No Problems

  • http://www.woodiesdiecast.com dana

    Seem to help our traffic I like it

  • Marvin

    I’m thankful for Panda. Before the update Google search results were irrelevant for personal use because I kept finding duplicate ‘articles’ everywhere. If ‘article marketing’ means re-posting someone else’s page with a link to the real author, I say the thieves deserved de-listing. Re-spin software? Some never learn it takes more effort to be lazy than productive.

  • http://www.dollarcounts.com/ TPJaveton

    What seems a little strange to me is that Google’s competitor have done so well Yahoo, Facebook, Apple and MSN all gained while many of the top losers had depended on the search engine to grow their businesses. I can’t identify what it is yet, but it certainly seems strange to me. Great work Chris.

    TPJ-

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    When there were only a few content farms and low quality article websites it wasn’t a problem. But once the SERPs became swamped with low quality results it was time for Google to act. I applaud the latest update being extended to UK and Europe.

  • http://www.byfchat.com byfchat

    My site is pretty much the same in the rankings, but it does appear I moved up in other countries for some terms like, free chat rooms, free chat, free chat sites.

    One thing that I did notice is that some sites in the “chat” arena lost rankings. These sites had several domains competing in the same audience market.

    It’s possible the Panda update was targeted towards these sites as well.

  • http://kercommunications.com Nick

    All is well here and with our clients. Kudos to Google for continuing the effort to keep its search engine useful.
    Interesting to note though, that low profile content scrapers (meaning smaller spam blogs, not one of the major farms mentioned in this article) are still doing OK. I did a very unscientific experiment where I posted a video with a unique title to YouTube and my own site at SEO video test
    By the next day, several sites which appear to pull their content from RSS feeds had the video in it and were also outranking the original. Most of the page one results were spam blogs.
    After a few days it seems to have stabilized so my site and the original video on YouTube are now at the top, but the RSS fed scrapers are still ranking very well. Of course, the 2 word search I have been testing, “SEO nipples” is not likely to yield anything other than one location of the video or another. Like I said, very unscientific, but shows that scrapers are not dead yet.

  • Melanie

    For me, Panda was a bit of an early birthday gift. As a long time freelance writer I have to admit that I was often undercut by less talented “re writers” and article spinning softwares, since I have always refused to go there. Since Panda I have been getting more work, based on the quality of my knowledge and writing skills, not on how many 500 word rewrites I could chug out in an hour.

  • http://www.parallelprojecttraing.com Parallel projects

    We have gone up four spaces this week now position 4 for our key words. Our site is all unique with lots of user generated comtent in forums.

  • http://www.seowebexpert.co.uk SEO Dave

    For a lot of the negatively impacted sites mentioned above, it seems fair enough. It’s really not right that eHow tops the rankings for “level 4 brain cancer” for example. Nice analysis by the way.

  • http://www.lisastewartlaw.com Lee

    Personally, Panda appears to have had a negative impact on my site. I lost ranking on several keywords. However, over the same timeframe, my rankings on Bing and Yahoo went up dramatically. In any case, I’ll redouble my efforts and recover the ranking that I lost.

  • Chinemere

    It is quite interesting to note here that many people have regained trust and confidence in Google after the new review of this unfortunate feline attack called “panda”.
    Though sites like EZA and Hubpages have been hit even harder, alot of people now believe in the update unlike the skepticism that it fists generated the week it was rolled out.
    In as much as many people have been converted to panda believers (this is obvious from the comments and opinions expressed here), I still feel the storm is not yet over even for almighty Google.
    If truly this update is to make quality content king(after it was deposed by black hatters), then the good ol’ days of online democracy which Google was chief advocate is finally back.
    Lets keep our fingers crossed…

  • http://www.loyaltics.com Dhana

    Thanks for the Panda update !

  • http://www.tallulahward.com Alec

    I have been trying to improve my ranking for a search phrase for the last few weeks and could not get above no 26 or so. Now I am no 6. It might be that my hard work has paid off or it might be Panda, either way I am pleased.

  • http://www.absolutewebworks.com/ Jesse

    I believe it has helped our clients.

  • http://exoticphilippines.info/ Gay

    Google panda has been good to my website but not to some people i know. I’m helping them out but no effects. Can they still regain their rank?

  • http://www.planfindesemana.es Jesus

    I work on several spanish websites and everything went crazy. Adsense incomes goes up and down as visits do. I guess we have to wait and see how things cold off.

  • http://www.spiralscripts.co.uk F Coulter

    I’ve always avoided spammy practices on my site, I’ve preferred to put the effort into making it a good site that people actually want to visit.

    So far the Google update hasn’t done me any harm at all, in fact I am optimistic that it will benefit me.

  • http://wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    I’m curious about how an article website can be recognized when it is credible. Our site (town-court.com) has an article directory. The only people who can write articles are attorney members of the site, and I verify that all members are attorneys. The articles are all (or nearly all) about legal issues. That should be a sign of credibility but our articles pages seem to get very little love from Google.

    Unless, of course, attorneys are inherently not credible. :-)

  • http://dailyprayer.us Mason Barge

    Google continues to improve constantly. I do very little SEO but build a LOT of original content (not crummy articles written by the hundreds just to get SEO). I was happy to see this site rise to #2 from #3 on its primary search term, and also rise in other search terms.

    I hate getting high results on Google searches for sites that do nothing but aggregate, repackage or relink a bunch of actual websites.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    They don’t understand what “bouncing” means. Their analysis is ridiculous fluff.

  • http://www.webhostingrvw.com/ umar butt

    have been hearing a lot about this update but still don’t know exactly what is it. i am happy with this update because now my more than 1 year old website is now receiving more visitors. Agreed traffic trends including Bounce rate is also a ranking factor now.

  • Jon

    I’m a business owner who the Panda update hasn’t been so kind to. We’ve maintained a number 1 ranking for several of our keywords for years and then in the last couple of years noticed other companies joining the mix. We noticed that these companies were using many Black Hat techniques and for a while, they started toppling us from our position. We pushed our SEO, pure white hat, efforts in to high gear and slowly we began to see improvements until the Panda update. We’ve been crushed by this update and yet our competitors still remain on top of the standings?!? How can this be if we are the good guys and they are not??

    • http://www.guitarsongs.info P.J. Murphy

      I feel your pain, Jon! I have been providing original content for learning guitar players for 13 years, and have always been in top 5 for my target searches. I don’t use scraped or aggregated content, and only use ‘white-hat’ techniques to optimize.

      My site has now been pushed to page 2 for all target searches. For generic terms like “guitar songs”, there are numerous ‘sub-niche’ sites – Sinhala songs, Hindi songs, Bollywood songs, Nepali songs, etc.

      I’m sure these sites provide great content for those interested in these specialist areas, but certainly don’t think a searcher for “guitar songs”, “chords and lyrics”, “song chords” etc. would expect to see them at the top of search results. Obviously anyone would include the relevant qualifier ( e.g. Sinhala ) if they only wanted songs from that genre ).

      I’ve had the obvious few up-and-downs with previous G major updates, but was always able to regain positions by following their advice, and the advice on forums like this, but I really have no idea how to address this one, and would be delighted if anyone can help.

      Also – I agree with previous posts about the wisdom ( or lack ) of using Bounce Rate as a negative metric. Well-designed information sites will take the visitor to the content they want quickly, allow them to download the content and leave the site to process their new-found information. This metric ( if it is such ) rewards badly designed sites which have visitors wandering from page to page before reaching their goal.

      • http://www.guitarsongs.info P.J. Murphy

        Sorry – 2nd paragraph should end “occupying top SERPs”.

  • http://www.discountvouchers.co.uk Doug Scott

    If anyone wished for me to send them an image of our analytics then please contact me. Our traffic levels have not changed.

    I am pleased to say that our staff and customers are no longer worried. After Search Metrics published some false data I have had to calm fears. Maybe their data is not what they are stating. Check your facts guys.

    Regards

    Doug Scott
    MD
    www.discountvouchers.co.uk

  • Pissed Off

    Hell no. The Panda update is bullshit. We have the competitors beat in every one of the supposed ranking factors (inbound links, on-site optimization, even a damn DMOZ entry) and still, Panda bumped us down two spots.

    Yet every other single search engine has us listed as #1 for our most coveted key phrase.

    To Hell with Google, I can’t wait to see their empire crumble.

  • http://www.the-system.org The System

    As always interesting views Chris. The bounce rate theory is interesting.
    the point about panda is that by downgrading all these content hubs, link juice to all the sites that sap off these repetitive articles will consequently be downgraded. If you want web 2.0 link marketing to work for you, concentrate on the list above called ‘Google competitors positively impacted’
    the power of video eh!

  • http://google.com Bin Goolge

    In any other industry there would be a mirriad of law suits. This update shows just how compramised general though is. I have tried thousands of searches over the last few weeks. Bottom line is this BIG NAME BRANDS WIN.. so much for an even playing field on the NET. Dont pretend to yourself its anythign else. I should know i was part of the thinktank involved. Your thoughts would be fun to read.

  • joseph b

    For those who are searching for products, comparison shopping sites produce the most relevant result. So why has Google downgraded comparison shopping sites in favor of news sites? The answer is pretty clear to me – to sell more google adwords to product based web sites who no longer rank. News sites don’t buy google ad words to begin with so.

  • Jon

    I am a little uncomfortable with the use of so called bounce rate being used in this manner.

    Basically the idea of getting the user to provide the signal is a good one as long as sufficient geographic and temporal scope is applied ( think here of negative spite campaigns betweeen competitors ).

    The problem is using “time of site”.

    Most of the time this will be a good measure but it aint necessarily always so…for instance a good example….

    I have been a software engineer since the days when PCs had green screens but even so I often use the web as a technical look up for a language keyword I have forgotten or need clarification on.

    These searches are very fast – I type, I search, I find a programmers website with a decent spec for the function, I read it fast ( because I am experienced and only need a refresher ) and BANG I am out of there within perhaps 50 seconds.

    The website was useful to me – indeed the faster I am out of there may be an indication that it delivered what I wanted with no chaff – just the core nugget of info I was after. I was never searching for a long drawn out explanation because I didnt need one – I just needed a quick reference or reminder.

    This is only one counter example to the assumption that time on site is a reliable measure of user experience.

    Another might be the weather – “good bright and sunny today – I will go to the beach”.

    Quick reference sites are in danger of being penalised here – not all are spammy.

    In principle I can see time on site is a good idea – for instance one site I run is for people to advertise hotels, B&BS and campgrounds for sale. Its hard to get links because no-one wants to help – people selling hotels are secretive and will not usually give you a link. People buying hotels do not generally help out other buyers on forums they are too busy looking for the ideal place for themselves – and guess what? Estate agents and realtors dont particularly like websites where the owner of a hotel can advertise it himself. The short of this story is that their are certain types of website that are very rewarding to the user but the nature of the business means that the user will never “pay back” with a link. Clearly another signal was required other than inbound links which is abused to hell.

    As far as I can see the only really reliable signal is not to measure things like time on site but to directly ask the user if the site was useful – even then there will be skews as not everyone buys into the program and it may only be certain types of people who offer feedback.

  • Jon

    My second post.

    Regardless of how well Google is performing – the basic problem here is that Google is a monopoly – its a dangerous world where a large percentage of commerce depends on Google and companies around the world depend so heavily on one entity.

    Sure Google should try and improve their algorithms and the Darwinian nature of the capitalistic world that most of us live in suggests that the higher Google raise the bar then the better will be the entity that one day overtakes them ( perhaps through a paradigm shift that Google didnt anticipate ).

    I am not against Google – just against (typically US) large corporations wielding such power. I look forwards to the day when it is broken up so that improvements to algorithms occur in different corporations and so we are shielded to some extent from monoculture.
    I cant see any mechanism bring Google down to size other than the inevitable processes that brought down Rome – no empire or kingdom lasts for ever. Kind of makes you wonder how the chinese will fit in here doesnt it?

  • onlinegal

    This update has been a blessing for web users who no longer have to weed through link farms like about.com to find original sources of content. Too many organizations have worked to game the system and profit from Google’s search market share, but the aggressive SEO tactics started an arms race of sorts, with web users and Google getting the short end of the stick.

  • http://www.journalonline.me Gary

    My clicking rate is up by 957%. thats all i can say.my website traffic is triple at moment

  • http://www.monkeyfishmarketing.com/ Phillip

    Wait until the next update, its always changing good job we can keep upto date

  • http://i-rank.co.uk seo doncaster

    Overall Panda is a great feature, it states that good fresh content, with elements of social bookmarking alongside quality links, are the initial steps to a good future. Not just buying links

  • http://mlmsecrets Kathlyn Ferrall

    Your blog is very well put together. I will keep reading all of your blog post.

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