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The Crazy Egg Guide to White Hat Link Building

by Josh Snow

Link building is one of the most essential aspects of SEO, yet also one of the most misunderstood and difficult pieces of the search marketing equation. We all know that acquiring high-quality links to your website is one of Google’s primary ranking factors, but not all links are created equally and link building has changed considerably in recent years.

Gone are the days of link farms, article directories and blog comment links designed to boost your sites’ rankings. With each tweak of the algorithm, Google has grown considerably smarter in how it evaluates and values links. In today’s landscape, if a link is not providing value to the users of a website, it’s not likely to be of much help for your SEO.

Yet, if you are looking to increase rankings and drive traffic, you will need a consistent strategy to acquire these “white hat” links — which is easier said than done. Link building is a complex, and frequently difficult, task.

That’s where this guide comes in! Whether you are a link building novice or a seasoned pro, we hope that this guide will help you build links confidently and effectively. In it, you will find a little of everything you might need as a link builder including: best practices, examples, tools, and explanations of the how and why of link building.

What is Link Building Anyway?

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Link building is the practice of encouraging — and sometimes persuading — humans with relevant websites to link to a page on your site. Google’s core PageRank algorithm was founded on the premise that links online represent a vote of confidence. Their algorithm uses links as a primary ranking factor in determining which pages to return for a search.

The more relevant links you have pointing to your own site, the more authoritative Google (and all search engines) considers your website. The more authoritative you are, the more your own links “count.”

In fact, Google was the first search engine to use links as a ranking factor, which led to markedly better results. The original PageRank algorithm revolutionized search engines, and helped make Google the dominant force it is today. Now, all search engines use links as a primary ranking factor.

So links are important. But how do you convince a website with a relevant audience to link to your own site? The fact is there are many methods to acquire a link back to your client’s website, which we will cover in this guide.

Does Link Building Work for Everyone?

The short answer is no. If your site is poorly optimized or has bad content, links may not make any difference.

An on-site technical audit should be performed to ensure the website is a good candidate for link building. You should also know beforehand which keywords you want to rank for, and ensure you have pages that truly deserve to rank.

All of the links in the world won’t help your website perform well if your pages don’t answer searcher intent.

Another important ingredient in link building campaigns are “linkable assets.” A linkable asset is a page or piece of content that is informational, non-promotional in nature, and provides demonstrable value those who might click on it. This can be content, images, resources, and more.

The goal is to have pages that serve as a valuable resource to your audience, which other websites in your niche will be willing to link to.

The History of Link Building

PageRank Examples

Prior to the launch of Google in 1998, no search engine used links as a ranking factor. Links played no role in search engine optimization.

Google’s search algorithm relied heavily on links as a ranking factor, and this use of links in part helped Google return better results than any other search engine. Google soon became the dominant search engine.

SEOs took notice of Google’s use of links, and the link building began.

SEOs soon learned they could reliably manipulate Google’s results with easy to produce, low-quality links.

Search engines, at their core, are extremely advanced information retrieval systems. Like any advanced technology, search has evolved quickly based upon innovation in both hardware and software–particularly when there is a threat to the integrity of the technology.

Google introduced drastic improvements in their search algorithms which have changed–arguably for the better–how they determine which sites are the most relevant for a given search. In 2012 Google released the Penguin algorithm, which marked the beginning of the end for manipulative link building spam.

Search engine algorithms continue to grow more advanced and refined. Google is closer to their goal of returning the best results than ever before. All of this means if you want your site to sustainably perform well in search, you need to answer searcher intent. You need to deserve to rank, and then secure links.

Acquiring natural links that make sense, provide value, and are ethical is part of a sustainable search strategy.

Link Building Strategies

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There are many different tactics to secure a backlink to your client. Tactics continue to grow and evolve, but each should be designed around value.

No matter how you’re attempting to secure a link, the link needs to be deserved. Ask yourself “why would another site link to mine?”

To help you better answer this question, here is a list of the most successful tactics commonly used to acquire links. Each is predicated on a different form of value, which may work better for your website and skills.

Content Links

A content link strategy revolves around the creation and use of content to place links on third-party websites. The links are placed within a piece of writing, such as an article, infographic, or press release.

In-content links can be an ideal method of gaining links, so long as the client has linkable assets, such as a guide (like this one), interesting or unique information, statistics or other useful data. You can further increase the client’s search ranking opportunity by using targeted keywords within the content.

This strategy hinges upon the ability to either create valuable content for your audience, or your client’s website already containing said content.

Resource Page Links

One of the most common reasons websites link is to direct their audience to helpful resources.

Resource page links hinge upon the concept of under promoted or undervalued resources on your client’s website. Your goal then is to go out and find other websites that have resource pages for their community and promote your client’s resource.

These links typically reside in the “links” or “resources” page. Ideally, a resource link would offer something of value to a reader, such as a calculator, widget, or other tool that is not advertorial in nature. There needs to be a reason for the person behind the website to include the link.

Broken Link Building

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The web is an ever-evolving mass of websites, pages, and links. As pages move, change, and go down links break.

This tactic relies upon finding broken links on a prospective website and then emailing to let the site owner know. You provide value to the website owner by pointing out the broken link and in exchange, a website owner is likely to add your link to their site with little opposition.

Make sure you scan every page you want a link on before emailing a site owner — even if the link isn’t relevant to your own page, you still add value to your outreach by letting the site owner know about a dead link on their site.

404 Reclamation

Similar to broken link building, this tactic relies upon no longer existing pages.

Look for 404 pages on both your client’s website as well as competitors’ sites. These are broken pages that no longer exist at that address. Once you’ve found a handful of 404 pages, run them through a backlink explorer to see if any other sites link to the 404.

For any 404 pages on your website, make sure you redirect to a similar page.

Compare any competitor 404 pages to pages on your client’s site for a similar page. You may also consider creating a new page if there’s enough link opportunity to justify it. The idea is to provide a better option than a dead link to a webmaster.

At this point, contact the website owner and let them know that they are linking to a dead page. Use the opportunity to provide your client’s asset to replace the dead link.

404 reclamation aides both the website owner and the link builder.

Fresh Mention (Unlinked Mentions)

Another reason websites link is to provide context when sharing information. This is the core idea in mention links: another website has mentioned your product, brand, or site, but failed to link.

Look for mentions of your client across the internet. Locate websites that mention your client’s brand or URL but do not link. Reach out to the website owner to thank them for mentioning your client and ask they include a link back to your client.

This technique has a fairly high return, assuming your client has gained popularity online.

Directory Listing (niche)

Directories existed before any search engines and were used as helpful hubs to direct people around the internet.

Unfortunately many directories exist today solely for SEO (as link farms), and should be treated with some caution.

If you wish to pursue this tactic, you will have to weed through less desirable directories to find directory listings that are niche specific to your client. When reviewing directories, look for relevance to your client’s niche, limited use of advertisements, and clear signs of editorial discretion.

You can get a good idea of a website’s authority using tools such as Moz’s spam indicator if you have any doubt.

Scholarship/Student Discount

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If your client offers (or would be willing to offer) a scholarship or student discount there’s an opportunity for them to earn high value .edu links.

You’ll need to create a static page, and consistently offer the scholarships. These links can be obtained by reaching out to educational websites, letting them know about the scholarship opportunity and request a link to the scholarship page.

Military/Special Service/Senior Discount

Similar to the scholarship discount, if your client offers military, community service (firefighter, teacher, policeman, etc.), and senior citizen discounts then you should be able to secure high value .mil, .gov or .org links.

Reach out to government websites and organizations, letting them know about the discounts your client offers.

Promotional Giveaway

If your client regularly runs promotional giveaways then you have an opportunity to secure links back to your site.

There are caveats, however.

Your client must continue giveaways regularly or redirect the old page to a relevant page, after the promotion is over. You’ll also want to be sure you’re not incentivizing others to link through the promotional giveaway — i.e. don’t require a link in order to win or be entered in the contest.

Wikipedia Link

Wikipedia links, while highly valuable, are not easily gained. Your client must be referenced on Wikipedia and cited as a source, or have the potential to do so, perhaps with newsworthy events.

It’s worth noting as well that you can’t suggest edits or additions to Wikipedia without being a trusted community member.

Moving Man Method

Brian Dean of Backlinko developed this unique twist on 404 reclamations to gain high-quality backlinks without guest posting.

The tactic is a combination of broken link building and 404 reclamation that Brian first implemented when he found a competitor had gone out of business.

First, look for sites that no longer exist or has changed URLs. Then, backlink the old site to find any sites that are linking to it. Outreach to those sites informing them of the dead URL and offer your link as a replacement.

The difference between this and 404 reclamation is that you’re looking for an entire website that no longer exists, as opposed to just a single page.

Outreach Techniques

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Now that I’ve covered several tactics to obtain a link, let’s walk through the next important step: outreach.

All links should involve editorial discretion, which means you have to convince another person with a website to link. That means finding contact information and reaching out to them.

Again, value should be your goal. If the link makes sense for their website and their audience, convincing them to link is as simple as explaining why it’s in their best interest.

It’s a subtle mix of promotion and value propositions. Start with value, and the outreach message should come naturally.

Finding Contact Information

The first step in outreach is to find the site owner’s contact information. There are several ways of finding this information:

  • Look for profile pages of employees: often listed under “Meet the Team”, or similar pages.
  • Check the source code for email contacts: right click the website and selecting “View Source Code” in Google Chrome. Alternatively, you can use the hotkeys CTRL+U to view the source code. Then use CTRL+F to find any mentions of an email by searching for the @ sign.
  • Look in the footer: often times contact information is contained in the footer. If not, then the “About Us” or “Contact Us” page should be.
  • Advanced Google search: search operators such as inurl:www.crazyegg.com contact will help you find contact information directly from Google. This searches for the word contact within Crazy Egg’s site. You could also try using editorial staff, editor, webmaster, etc. Additionally, if know the name of the site’s owner/operator, search Google and locate any social media platforms.
  • WHOIS: if the website owner hasn’t privatized their contact information, then it is freely available for you to see. Utilize an extension like, Quick WHOIS to see if they are listed publicly.
  • Trial and error: often times you can locate a contact email by simply appending keywords like, info, webmaster, marketing, editor, contact in front of the domain name. Something like info@crazyegg.com. When you use this method, it is a good idea to verify it is a valid email with tools such as email HIPPO. Additionally, many domain email accounts are setup as catchalls, meaning any @crazyegg.com will, in fact, reach a legitimate email address.

Once you have the right contact information, you can send an email with your pitch or request.

Remember the value you are offering the website owner; approaching outreach from a value-first mindset establishes more confidence in your request. You should already know why it’s worth their while to link to you, so don’t try to be overly clever — simply explain why it’s in their interest (or their audience’s interest) to link.

When composing your outreach, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I going to compose a casual or formal email?
  • How can I bring value?

Immediately demonstrate the value of your request. Give them the WHY regarding your inquiry and be concise. You should establish why you’re contacting them within the first two sentences. Some examples include:

  • Explain you’ve found a mistake or broken link and have a suggestion for a replacement.
  • Share your client’s resource and why it belongs on their page, and will add value to their site and audience.
  • Pitch an article, infographic, or other content and describe how it will benefit the site’s readers.
  • Thank them for mentioning your client/product/brand, and ask they include a link for context.

I recommend always following up on your initial outreach as natural. Depending upon context, my limit is 3 times, 3-7 days apart. Be polite, not pushy. Also, be sure to thread your emails so your contact doesn’t have to dig for information.

You want to show clear, immediate intent, demonstrate the value, use an attention grabbing title and assertive language, and be sure to include a call to action.

When composing an email, remember to start with your request, then include the pleasantries. People respond when they feel you are sincere, thus the old saying “honesty is the best policy”.

Don’t forget to include a proper email signature at the bottom of all your outreach emails. Make sure to include your full name, a title, and any social media accounts you would like the site owner to know about.

Examples Emails Pitching An Article

pitch

Subject: I loved your post [INSERT ARTICLE TITLE HERE]

Body:

Hello (name),

I recently read your post [POST NAME] and really loved your point [POST MESSAGE]. [ADDITIONAL CONTEXT].

I’m a writer myself and would love to take a crack at a small business piece for your site. Do you accept outside contributors?

I have three different pieces I think would be a good fit for your audience:

  • [TOPIC ONE]
  • [TOPIC TWO]
  • [TOPIC THREE]

I am free next week and would love to put together an outline for your review.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Here are a few recent examples of my published works:

Best Regards,

Joshua Snow

Subject: Guest Posting

Body:

Hello [NAME],

I’d love to write a guest post for your audience at [SITE]. The topic I have in mind would be an article titled [ARTICLE TITLE]. Is that something you’d be interested in featuring on your site? It offers your readers [UNIQUE VALUE].

Look forward to hearing from you!

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Quick question regarding guest posts

Body:

[NAME],

Good afternoon, my name is Joshua Snow.

I am a writer here in beautiful Boise, Idaho and a self-declared computer nerd who would love to write more on programming in Excel.

I would love to give back and contribute some additional knowledge that I have picked up along the way, working with [CLIENT NAME].

To give you an idea of my voice, here’s a recently published article I wrote:

https://www.experts-exchange.com/articles/28850/Automated-Link-Checker.html

Let me know! I would love to work with you.

Best Regards,

Joshua Snow

CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and Cisco certified

Subject: Regarding my previous email

Body: Hope you had a great weekend! Following up on the email I sent last week regarding a guest post.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Best Regards,

-[YOUR NAME]

Note: It’s extremely important to thread your emails so your contact doesn’t have to dig for information.

Subject: Are you getting my emails?

Body: I wanted to touch base and see if you received my last email — read below to see my writing samples. Let me know what you think and if you’re interested in a guest post.

Thanks,

-[YOUR NAME]

Note: It’s extremely important to thread your emails so your contact doesn’t have to dig for information.

Subject: Need help contacting someone at [WEBSITE NAME]

Body: I’ve been trying to get in touch with someone at [WEBSITE] regarding a contribution, but I haven’t received a response. Is this a good contact email address? If not, do you have an email address where I can reach the editor or site owner?

Thanks,

-[YOUR NAME]

Example Emails Promoting A Resource

Subject: Sharing some business management guides

Body: I came across your [PAGE NAME] and would like to suggest some business-related guides from [YOUR BUSINESS CLIENT].

We have a couple of guides that cover how to start/run a business in depth. Also, a comprehensive guide that explains how the new EMV Liability Shift impacts businesses.

You can see them here: [GUIDE LINK].

I believe these would be a fantastic addition to the resources you already provide, and can help your audience better manage their small business.

Thanks, and have a great day!
P.S. If you’re not the right person to reach, can you direct me to the person responsible for updating this page?

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Sharing a [CLIENT NICHE] resource

Body: I hope you’re having a good week so far! I came across your [PAGE NAME] and wanted to share [YOUR CLIENT] as an additional [CLIENT’S NICHE] resource.

We offer [WHAT YOUR CLIENT OFFERS], and the site offers some great [CLIENT NICHE] tips to help out your readers.

Please let me know if you’d like more information and I’ll send some pages your way!

Have a great day!

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Sharing a [CLIENT NICHE] resource

Body: I hope this week is treating you well so far! I looked through the sites on your [LINKS PAGE NAME] and was wondering if you’d like to include some information about [CLIENT NICHE].

We have [DESCRIBE WHAT YOUR CLIENT HAS TO OFFER IN ONE SENTENCE]. You can see them here: [CLIENT RESOURCE].

P.S. If I’m contacting the incorrect email address, could you help me reach the person responsible for handling requests like this?

Thanks!

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Trying to reach someone at your site

Body: I sent a few emails to your [POSITION/NAME] but didn’t receive a response.

I’m looking to reach someone to discuss the possibility of including some business management guides from [YOUR CLIENT] on your [PAGE NAME].

Are you the best person to contact about this? If not, can you help me reach the correct individual?

Thanks, and have a great day!

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Re: Sharing a business management resource

Body: I’m checking in to see if you had an opportunity to review the email I sent over on [DATE]. It was about including [CLIENT NICHE] resource from [CLIENT NAME] on your [PAGE NAME].

OR

It was about reaching the person who updates your [PAGE NAME] page to suggest a [CLIENT NICHE] resource.

I understand how easily emails get misplaced, so please let me know if you need the details of my original message.

OR

Can you put me in contact with someone more specific to discuss this in detail?

Thanks, and have a great day!

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Are you getting my emails?

Body: I’ve sent a few emails to this address over the last couple weeks but haven’t heard anything back. Do you regularly monitor this email?

Any response is greatly appreciated!

-[YOUR NAME]

Examples Emails for Mentions

Subject: Thank you for mentioning us!

Body: I was hoping to get into contact with someone in relation to an article titled [ARTICLE TITLE] dated [DATE].

The article references and provides insights from [YOUR CLIENT]. We are always honored to see our company mentioned in news publications, and would greatly appreciate it if the article could include a hyperlink to [YOUR CLIENT] website, here: [YOUR CLIENT’S WEBSITE]

We greatly appreciate the recognition. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your time.

Cheers,

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Re: Thank you for mentioning us!

Body: I wanted to check back with you and see if you received my last email regarding an article on your site that mentions [YOUR CLIENT]?

I’d love to discuss it with you further and look forward to hearing back from you.

Best Regards,

-[YOUR NAME]

Subject: Thank you for mentioning us!

Body: Good Morning!

I’m working with [CLIENT NAME] and I’d like to thank you for this article about our [CLIENT MENTION] We really appreciate it!

We are working hard to ramp up our online presence. I was wondering if you could add a link to our website with our brand name mention?

Please just let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Thanks for your time and hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

-[YOUR NAME]

Useful Tips and Tricks

Social Media

Social media should play a vital role in both your outreach and promotion of client resources.

Use social media to network with similar sites that share your client’s niche. For instance, if your client deals with metal detectors, follow other metal detector enthusiasts, ask questions, and contribute on forums, Twitter, Facebook, and others.

Build relationships in your desired niche and you will have a much better understanding of your client as well as a network of resources to pursue. Social media is a great channel to prospect for new link opportunities, and find engaged people with valuable sites.

More Info:

Content Creation

Know your client.

The best articles come from personal experience. For example, if you have a metal detecting client, buy a metal detector. One outing and you will have much more to write about, complete with original photos.

Be creative, and take stock of your skills. You might not know a thing about title loans, but you may know how to write scripts, so you could write a script that calculates interest, giving credit to your client. You could research what title loans are, interview your client, and then write an article about what you learned. What matters the most is value. Keep that in mind when you are creating content and you will do great!

Additionally, make to sure to include original or free-to-use images, graphics tend to generate more interest in your article. Content marketing graphics provide for more interest in stories than those that use text alone.

Further Reading:

https://www.quicksprout.com/the-advanced-guide-to-seo-chapter-7/

Nofollow Links

Pay attention to whether or not the prospective website has nofollow links. You can use an extension, like External Followed Link Highlighter to see if the links include the attribute rel=”nofollow”, or you can right click the webpage and view the source code, then do a search in the source code for follow by using the hotkey CTRL+F.

Nofollow links are designed to stop search engines from passing link equity, although nofollow links provide some SEO benefits as well.

Backlinking Competitors

To build strategic links, you’ll need to know what’s working in your client’s niche. The easiest way to understand the linking environment (where competitors are earning their links), and effective tactics is to review your competitors’ backlink profiles.

Use a tool like Google Similar Pages or SEMrush to locate competitors. Then use a backlink explorer like Majestic to see all the sites that are linking to the competitor.

That will give you a great list of prospective sites to start with. If the sites are already linking to a competitor, there is a good chance they would consider linking to your client as well.

Further Reading:

https://niftymarketing.com/competitor-link-building-nifty-way/

Slow Play

Developing relationships with high-quality sites doesn’t happen overnight.

Research your client’s niche and network using social media. Participate in discussions, follow industry leaders, and create connections.

Although it may take time to establish yourself, you are much more likely to be able to secure links on high-quality sites when you have made a name for yourself.

Research your prospective site like you would prepare for an interview.

Local Meetups

people-apple-iphone-writing

Local groups and meetups provide great networking opportunities in your client’s industry.

The idea is to get involved.

Knowing your client makes it much easier to secure links. If your client sells metal detectors, get one, join some metal detector clubs, obtain a metal detecting license. Yep, I am licensed to metal detect at my local parks!

Join groups and leverage those relationships for high-quality links and amazing networking and referral potential.

Link Building Tools

Fortunately, there are many tools to aid you as you build links. Below is a list of some great tools for link building.

Majestic – Link intelligence tools for SEO and Internet PR and Marketing. Site Explorer shows inbound link and site summary data.

Buzzstream – BuzzStream is web-based software that helps the world’s best marketers promote their products, services and content to build links, buzz, and brands.

SEMrush – SEMrush is a powerful and versatile competitive intelligence suite for online marketing, from SEO and PPC to social media and video advertising research.

Moz – Backed by industry-leading data and the largest community of SEOs on the planet, Moz builds tools that make inbound marketing easy.

Ahrefs – Ahrefs is a toolset for SEO and marketing. We have tools for backlink research, organic traffic research, keyword research, content marketing & more.

Screaming Frog – The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a desktop program (PC or Mac) which crawls websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective.

Google Analytics – Google Analytics Solutions offer free and enterprise analytics tools to measure website, app, digital and offline data to gain customer insights.

Authority Labs – Track website rankings in Google, Yahoo!, and Bing daily. Our automated SERP tracking saves you time and helps you respond quickly to ranking changes.

SEO SiteCheckup – Find comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) tools for your site.

Useful Chrome Extensions

BuzzMarker – The BuzzMarker for Chrome Makes Prospecting Faster & Outreach Smarter by Bringing BuzzStream With You, Wherever You Go on the Web.

MozBar – MozBar is a free Chrome Extension that makes it easy to get advanced metrics and do all your SEO on the go! … Link Metrics – See Domain and Page Authority scores, plus numbers of linking root and subdomains.

Majestic Backlink Analyzer – Backlink checker from Majestic gives you a really fast way to see the strength of any page based on its backlink information.

Google Similar Pages – Now you can quickly preview and explore other pages that are similar to the one you are browsing — on the fly.

Check My Links – A Google Chrome extension which allows you to check webpages for broken links.

External Followed Link Highlighter – Checks all links on a page for any external links that do not have the attribute rel=”nofollow” and highlights them in a red border.

Open in SEMRush – Open in SEMRush adds a button to the toolbar which when clicked opens a new tab and passes the current URL to SEMRush for quick and easy viewing of both organic & PPC keyword traffic statistics for the given website.

Who.is Lookup – Easiest way to look up a domains’ Registrar Info, Important Dates, Name Servers & Raw Registrar Data!

Reload All Tabs – Reload all tabs using keyboard shortcut(ctrl + shift + r), context menu, or browser action button.

Redirect Link Checker – Redirect Link Checker is a tool to check your current page on chrome to look for redirects and broken links.

Domain Hunter Plus – Domain Hunter Plus (DHP) is an unobtrusive Chrome Extension that allows the user to quickly scan the current web page and check for dead links and available domain names.

Mention – Create alerts on your company, your brand, your competitor, and be updated in real-time about any mentions over the web and social web.

2 Comments

DON’T MISS OUT

Get updates on new articles, webinars and other opportunities:

Josh Snow

Joshua Snow works for Page One Power in Boise, Idaho as a Link Building Specialist. Coined The World’s Finest Link Building Firm, Page One Power employs dozens of the best link builders, continually training and educating its employees.

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  1. Justin Runes says:
    January 17, 2017 at 3:57 am

    Awesome information on link building! I’ve learned so much from the SEO community blogs. Appreciate you sharing techniques. Thank You! Justin

    • Joshua B Snow says:
      January 17, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks Justin!

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