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What does your Google PageRank mean? And how does it matter?

Google PageRank is a popularity score that effects everyone with a web site. Here’s a high level overview of what PageRank is and what your PR means.
Written Jan 18, 2011, read 32709 times since then.
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9/1/11 NOTE: Google PageRank evolves as much as Google's algorithm and search services evolve. This recent post by Neil Patel offers some more information and new insight.

Google PageRank is a popularity score that can potentially confuse everyone with a web site. It’s one of the many ingredients in the recipe that contributes to good search engine optimization (SEO). Most folks don’t need to know what this is. You’ve got enough to take care of, just growing your business. But for those of you who want to know why it gets mentioned, here’s a high level overview of what PageRank is, and some thoughts on what your PR score means.

SEO is as much an art as a science, and in the case of optimization on Google's search engine, it's always evolving. In true Google fashion, Google found a cool way of ranking all the sites in the world based on how important they are. The result is a numerical score on a scale of 0 to 10 called Google PageRank. The algorithm includes many elements like traffic and keywords, but it is primarily made up of the number and authority of the inbound links to your site - that is, other sites posting a link to yours. In other words, it's a measure of how popular you are on the web. 

For the lay person, PageRank is simply another ingredient of SEO.

Interesting Little Tidbit #1: Contrary to popular belief, the term "PageRank" is not a literal label that describes the rank of a web page; rather the term is named after Google cofounder and author of the algorithm, Larry Page.

Interesting Little Tidbit #2: The PageRank algorithm is often confused with Google's super secret search algorithm. In actuality, the PR algorithm was published's in Page's Stanford dissertation and is available to the public. 

Interesting Little Tidbit #3: A PageRank score is applied a page not a whole site, which means your web site will collectively have multiple PR scores. Most people are interested in the PR of their home page. (Which is what I'm referring to throughout this article.)

Why does this popularity contest matter?

The reason people care about PageRank is because one way to boost the organic search engine placement of your web site, is to get an inbound link to your home page from a site with a high PageRank. Not much has changed from grade school. If a sixth grader invites a third grader to be in the 6th grade kickball game, the whole school will notice and it can increase the third grader's cool-factor. In the Google world, an inbound link from a highly ranked site, such as CNN.com or Yahoo.com will impact your own PageRank score, which in turn will increase the relevancy of your site, causing Google to place it higher in the results.

Looking at it another way, each time a page links to another page, they're casting a vote for that page. Votes from sites with a higher PageRank have more weight. Both quantity and quality matter. So the more votes that are cast for your site, the more important it must be. The more important your site is, the higher Google will place you in their search results. This is not the only factor Google uses to rank pages or search results, but it’s an important one.

If you’re interested in an in depth explanation and analysis of the formula, this excellent article by Phil Craven breaks it down: Google's PageRank Explained and how to make the most of it.

How do you find your Google PageRank?

The PageRank of all sites is published on the Google Toolbar. The Google Toolbar is a free plugin for Internet Explorer or Firefox, that is available for download directly from Google. Embedded inside the Google Toolbar is the PageRank icon (a green thermostat that runs horizontally.) Mouse over the icon to view the pop-up tooltip with the score inside. To view the PageRank of any web site, simply go to their homepage and mouse-over the PageRank icon in the Google Toolbar. If no PageRank information is available, you may not be on the site’s home page. Worse, Google may not know about the page - this is often referred to as being “indexed by Google”. Indexing is simply storing your site’s pertinent information in a big database, so it can be compared to other sites with similar data.

What do the scores mean?

The scale runs from 0 to 10, with a 10 being the highest score given to the most popular sites in the world. It should be noted that a PR of 8, 9 or 10 is nearly impossible to obtain. But they’d be great sites to get linked from! ESPN.com and MSNBC have a PR8. Only a handful of sites are bigger than MSNBC with a PR9, Yahoo, Twitter and The New York Times are among them. Ten's at the top. Three came to mind: Google, Facebook and CNN.com.

Many believe that the PageRank scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale. The Richter scale used to measure the seismic energy in an earthquake is also a base-10 logarithmic scale. So an earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0. For Google PageRank this means that moving up at the lower end of the scale is much easier than moving up at the higher end. Jumping from PR5 to PR6 is much harder than jumping from PR3 to PR4.

Note there are no decimal points in the scale. Therefore a site’s PR is only an indication of a range. One PR5 page may be at the low end, another may be at the high end. Either score may fluctuate during one of Google’s regularly re-indexing. Here’s one way of looking at what the scores mean to you.

PR0 - Stinker. Google knows you exist, but that is about it.

PR1 - Could be better. Your site’s getting indexed by Google, but you may want to work on this.

PR2 - Below average on the world wide web. Above average amongst Bizniks. (But most sites belonging to Biznik members have PR below 1.)

PR3 - Average on the web. Most sites you see on the web have a PR3.

PR4 - Above average. You’ve likely been conscious about getting your site out there a bit.

PR5 - Good. A PR5 may land you on the first page of some search results, pat yourself on the back.

PR6 - Great. You've obviously done some work on your SEO. You'll be able to contend for some top positions.

PR7 - You're big! If you’ve got a PR7, consider yourself a top site. Most medium size businesses would do well to dream of a PR7.

Remember that bit about the Ricther scale? If jumping from a PR5 to a PR6 is hard, jumping from a PR7 to a PR8 is 100-times harder.

PR8 - You’re huge. MSNBC.com and ESPN.go.com have a PR8.

PR9 - Your bigger than MSNBC, like Yahoo.com, Twitter.com and NYTimes.com.

PR10 - You’re at the top, we all know it: Google.com, Facebook.com and CNN.com are in your posse.

How can you improve your ranking?

As I mentioned above, one's PageRank is only one factor contributing to one's seach optimization. One way to boost the search engine placement of your web site, is to get an inbound link from a site with a high PageRank. A quick and easy start is to get on Biznik. Biznik.com has a Google PR6. The minute you create your Basic member profile on Biznik and add your website address, you've created an inbound link to your site from a highly ranked site.

Next, tell everyone you know about Biznik. (Not for ours sake -- but for yours!) The maximum amount of PageRank in a site increases as the number of pages in the site increases. The more pages that a site has (especially relevant pages about small business topics with keywords we’re all interested in getting optimized for), the more PageRank it has. When Biznik.com achieves a PR7, every single Basic, Pro and ProVIP profile will benefit.

Summary

When it comes right down to it, making little improvements to your Google’s PageRank is going to have relatively little impact on the growth of your business. However, understanding what PageRank means, may bring clarity to one of the benefits of Biznik (Biznik’s SEO), and provide insight to your marketing and networking strategy.

Thank you…

To the following resources that inspired and informed this article:

Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin

Where else will you find other indie business people connecting online & offline, locally & globally, focusing on collaboration over competition? Biznik is business networking that doesn't suck.

Learn more about the author, Lara Feltin.

Comment on this article

  • Certified Public Accountant 
Seattle, Washington 
Laura Dodson, CPA
    Posted by Laura Dodson, CPA, Seattle, Washington | Jan 18, 2011

    I just checked, I have a page rank of 2 for my website. I'm still happy with that number, but I am looking to improve it.

  • Tax Professional and IRS Representation 
Blaine, Washington 
Bill Bradfield, EA
    Posted by Bill Bradfield, EA, Blaine, Washington | Jan 18, 2011

    Great article as usual Laura. Just checked and I am a 2. I would like to improve that, but an satisfied for now.

    Bill

  • Head of Development 
Seattle, Washington 
Justin Parra
    Posted by Justin Parra, Seattle, Washington | Jan 18, 2011

    It's also useful to note that different pages on your website can have different PageRanks. Your website is not just one PageRank. I'm pretty sure this article is talking about your homepage which is the most important.

  • Realtor in Seattle 
Seattle, Washington 
Conor MacEvilly
    Posted by Conor MacEvilly, Seattle, Washington | Jan 18, 2011

    My site has a page rank of zero but ranks consistently 3rd on google for "north Seattle homes" and 2nd for "buying a home in north Seattle". However, if you search for "Seattle homes" I'm no where to be seen. Maybe next year!

  • Web Marketing Strategist 
Bellingham, Washington 
Gary Pickering
    Posted by Gary Pickering, Bellingham, Washington | Jan 18, 2011

    PR is not an accurate indicator of a sites ability to rank on the first page Google results. I have dozens of clients that have first page results with a Google PR of less than 5 including a couple of my own PR1 sites that have the #1 spot in Google.

    Interestingly, I focus very little on Google PR as a technical measure for my Search Engine Marketing services.

  • Executive Coach, Motivating Speaker, Leadership Team Specialist 
Olympia, Washington 
Tammy Redmon
    Posted by Tammy Redmon, Olympia, Washington | Jan 19, 2011

    Thank you Lara. You broke this down into terms that I can really grasp. You analogy of the school yard was fantastic.

    "Think about it. Nothing’s really changed from grade school. If one of the sixth graders on the playground invites you, a first grader, to be in their kickball game, the whole school’s going to notice and it will increase your cool-factor"

    So I am off to look for more of the really 'cool' kids to engage with in my Hollywood Squares and see if that will give me a boost. Well, during the time I will be looking for help on boosting my SEO with an authentic expert in the area.

    Thanks for the knowledge boost.

  • eLearning, Presentation Design, Web Video, Voice-over 
Mercer Island, Washington 
Jim Dickeson
    Posted by Jim Dickeson, Mercer Island, Washington | Jan 19, 2011

    I'm a 2, too!

    Let's see if this helps:
    Export Compliance Training
    Import Compliance Training

    But remember, there's more at work than page rank. It's important to know your audience's search phrases. Not search words; search phrases. The word combinations people actually type in. Single search words are too competitive - too many other sites, sites with higher page rank, are already using them. Search phrases are what searchers use to narrow their results. And that's where YOU want to show up, in those narrowed results. Hence my two primary key search phrases above.

    Then, after Google culls their database for sites with those search phrases, THEN, it applies page rank. So, you can beat out sites with higher page ranks by having just the right phrases that people actually use to search.

    Are we having fun yet?

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Jan 19, 2011

    @Justin, correct. In an attempt to keep things simple and at a high-level overview I was speaking of your homepage. I will see if I can add something to the article that will make that more clear.

    @Gary, thanks for your comment. I agree PR is one of the many factors that Google uses. Im glad to hear of sites with low PR scores ranking well. Further evidence, in my opinion that SEO is as much an art as it is a science. :)

  • eLearning, Presentation Design, Web Video, Voice-over 
Mercer Island, Washington 
Jim Dickeson
    Posted by Jim Dickeson, Mercer Island, Washington | Jan 19, 2011

    Ooh, maybe it does help.

    Here's where I landed yesterday in Google search results for these phrases:

    export compliance training: 7
    import compliance training: 6
    export compliance: 34
    import compliance: 19
    export training: 4
    import training: 5

    And here is where I am today:

    export compliance training: 3
    import compliance training: 2
    export compliance: 2
    import compliance: 2
    export training: 4
    import training: 1

    So let's do it again:
    Export Compliance Training
    Import Compliance Training

    On the other hand, maybe it's just a Google thing, and I'm not meant to understand.

    By the way, about my prior comment on search phrases versus single search words. I just Googled the single word "export", and I didn't even show up in the first 770 sites - that's 77 pages. Compare that to the results for search phrases above.

  • Photo Retoucher 
Evanston, Illinois 
Eric Basir
    Posted by Eric Basir, Evanston, Illinois | Jan 21, 2011

    Sounds really cool. But I still don't get it. I got stuck on the Google Toolbar. There's no such thermostat rank on mine. Oh well. At least I tried.

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    When no thermostat appears, that means Google does not have any PageRank information for the page you're viewing. If you're working with an SEO consultant or web developer you may want to ask them about it.

  • eLearning, Presentation Design, Web Video, Voice-over 
Mercer Island, Washington 
Jim Dickeson
    Posted by Jim Dickeson, Mercer Island, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    Eric,

    In my case, it was turned off by default. (The pagerank thermometer, not the toolbar.) And it wasn't immediately evident how to turn it on.

    Click on the blue wrench near the right end of the Google toolbar. An options window opens. Then click on the Tools tab, and make sure the box for PageRank is checked.

    Then it appeared for me next to Bookmarks on the Google toolbar. For some reason, they didn't put a text name on it; you just have to know. If no rank, it is just a gray rectangle; rank shows up as a green bar.

  • SEO Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Brandon Na
    Posted by Brandon Na, Seattle, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    Please note that PR is not updated consistently. So, let's say you have a page rank of 0 or n/a after 5 months of hard work, it doesn't mean your site is worthless. It means it hasn't been ranked yet.

    The last "official page rank" by google was in April of 2010. Some say they noticed their PR change in October. Previously, it was almost quarterly. Google's gotten either a little lazier about this or they are placing less relevance or importance on ranking it.

    I'd put the url for the history of PR's, but I think I saw one of the administrators get angry when you put hyperlinks in comments. So, I'll opt not doing it. It's in an article on my blog though, just fyi.

    Anyway, this is a great article, but I hope for people who are not as familiar with SEO don't use it as the one and only main "grade" they use for their website. There are over 200+ factors in the algorithm and frankly, quality links with great anchor text is the highest most valued factor in improving your SEO.

    PR though may be good to just at least get a good swag on what sites you might want to link to you. However, there's also a recent theory being thrown around that the title of the page that links to you also has a some weight in what your site is equates to like what value you get in the anchor text in the link.

    Sorry, I'm sort of throwing a bit out there...my main point is please don't use it as the one and only guidance for your SEO. Just making sure people know that. ;)

  • Internet Marketer 
Seattle, Washington 
Kyle Alm
    Posted by Kyle Alm, Seattle, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    I agree Brandon, PR is a junk metric, it has ZERO correllation to your search engine ranking for a keyword.

    The backlink count is the best indicator for both PR and ranking for any given search term, so it is a very common misconception. Google has even stated publicly that PR is deprecated.

    Also, I think that PR updates differ depending on the site, Twitter profiles get updates faster than a new domain. That is theoretical on my part, but I haven't heard of Google updating PR more than once a year.

  • Professional Voice Over Talent 
Smithtown, New York 
Susie Schwarz
    Posted by Susie Schwarz, Smithtown, New York | Jan 21, 2011

    As I develop my business website with content, I will keep Google's pagerank in mind. Huummm, how did I get a link on CNN or yahoo? I need to work on that.

    Thanks!

    Fledging websiter, Susie

  • CTO - Chief Technology Officer At Large 
Seattle, Washington 
Andrew Lippert
    Posted by Andrew Lippert, Seattle, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    It is quite interesting to me to watch the Internet Marketing Professionals and SEO Experts weigh in on topics such as this. I think it critically important that you all take a look at the opening paragraph from this article. Lara's intent is to describe an often confusing topic for small business owners. To quote her directly, 'But for those of you who want to know why it gets mentioned, here’s a high level overview of what PageRank is, and some thoughts on what your PR score means.'

    This article is designed to help those with less experience parse the conversations the professionals oft times lob like flash bangs into a room seeing who they can dazzle with their brilliance. Lara is not describing the basis for Google's organic search results of your website for a given search term. Instead, I believe she is attempting to educate this community about a term that is thrown about rather casually.

    Ultimately, the basic information here is still germane.

    • PageRank is an indicator of a page's 'relative importance' - nothing more
    • Obtaining links to your page from a page with a high PageRank benefits you
    • Biznik pages have a relatively high PageRank, so create a link from your Biznik profile to your site - it can only help

    This isn't a conversation about the importance of your page's PageRank to search engine optimization. It is articulating the relevance of the PageRank of the page that links to your page in the broader context of relevance. Get the distinction?

    Participating in Biznik can generate additional, high-quality, business relevant, inbound links from a high PageRank page to your site. That is a good thing for your SEO. So get your Biznik on (and upgrade to ProVIP while you are at it)!

  • Illustrator 
Poulsbo, Washington 
Kathryn Ault Noble
    Posted by Kathryn Ault Noble, Poulsbo, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    Thank you for that fascinating information, Lara. I had no idea there was a way to view ranking numbers, I simply assumed that if I turned up within the first pages of a search, that was good enough.

    Now, I am afraid to look! Thank you everyone for those great tips. . .now I'll be off to check those numbers.

    Kathryn

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Jan 21, 2011

    @Kathryn, it's important to clarify, that if you're fine with your placement, that is "good enough" (to use your words).

    The point of this article is not to give you one more thing to keep track of. On the contrary, I think it's fine to ignore your PR score and spend your time building your business.

    This article is a high level overview of what PageRank means, for those who keep hearing about it and were wondering what the heck it is.

  • Graphic Designer 
Littleton, Colorado 
Lorraine Armgardt
    Posted by Lorraine Armgardt, Littleton, Colorado | Jan 22, 2011

    Although Biznik's home page has a PageRank of 6, the page that your site links from is most likely unranked. From what I understand, Google does not place much importance on your PageRank and SEO people I know do not consider it a good indicator of your importance in Google.

  • SEO Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Brandon Na
    Posted by Brandon Na, Seattle, Washington | Jan 24, 2011

    @Susie Schwarz, it's not easy getting links from sites like CNN or Yahoo without being profiled in a story or if you can find a really minor commenting section on their sites that doesn't serve you much. You can listed by Yahoo in their directory, but it's a bit pricey and not guaranteed. See what they say on their site:

    "With Yahoo! Directory Submit, your request to be listed in the Directory will be reviewed and the Yahoo! editorial team will respond to you within 7 business days, for a review fee of only $299 ($600 for adult sites). If your listing is accepted into the Directory, there will be a $299 recurring annual fee in subsequent years ($600 for adult sites) to maintain the listing."

    I don't think the admins here like links, so I can't show you where on their site it is, but I just did a search for "listed on yahoo directory" and it came up #3 in the organic listings on google. (funny how yahoo can't even optimize their own page to show up #1 where 42% on average click through for a keyword phrase that's somewhat intiutive) ;)

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Jan 24, 2011

    @Brandon, thanks for the those helpful tips. I'm sure we'd all appreciate a link to the Yahoo Directory Submission page. Please post it.

    You may be confusing Biznik's policy against link spam with your comment, "I don't think the admins here like links." Of course we like links! Especially links that advance the conversation and provide resources others can benefit from.

    We don't like link spam. Link spam are posts filled with links to your site(s) that offer little to the conversation. ProVIP members are offered a signature on every post they make, which includes an automated link to the URL of their choice. All member posts include a link back to the author's profile which can contain a description of their business and a link to their site.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Jan 24, 2011

    agreed biznik is def. link friendly

  • Internet Marketer 
Seattle, Washington 
Kyle Alm
    Posted by Kyle Alm, Seattle, Washington | Jan 25, 2011

    @Andrew Also from the first paragraph, "Google PageRank is a popularity score that effects everyone with a web site. It’s one of the many ingredients in the recipe that contributes to good search engine optimization (SEO). "

    Inaccurate at best.

    PR0 - Stinker. It’s possible that with a PR of zero, Google doesn’t know the page exists.

    PR1 - Could be better. Your site’s getting indexed by Google, but you may want to work on this.

    Totally false, PR 0 doesn't mean that a site hasn't been indexed.

    My biggest problem is that the post keeps the PageRank mythos alive. If you are looking for links, sure you want a link for a high PR site, but that's really the end of the conversation.

    I agree with that the term "PageRank" gets thrown around too casually (inaccurately) and perpetuates the myth. And I believe that this post falls into that category.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Mar 03, 2011

    curious how long did it take biznik to get from pr 5 to 6 . . . Once you have a site with very high pagerank like biznik, does the strategy change to move it from 6 to 7 ?

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Mar 03, 2011

    @Elvis, I'm afraid it's impossible to say how long it took for Biznik.com to get from PR5 to PR6. We noticed the change around 2 years ago, so that gives you an idea of how long we've been at PR6.

    In terms of a strategy, I wouldn't say the strategy changes in general. For Biznik, our strategy for moving to the next tier is to increase new users (which will increase the quantity of the content), and ultimately increase traffic to the site.

  • thinkspace - Building a community of entrepreneurs. Thinkspace provides office space, virtual offices, & meeting rooms in the Seattle area. 
Redmond, Washington 
Peter Chee
    Posted by Peter Chee, Redmond, Washington | May 28, 2011

    I just looked at the pagerank for http://thinkspace.com and it's now a PR 6! Just so you guys know, it's taken me about three years to get to this point. I know that I was sitting at a PR 5 for about 1.5 years. My goal has always been to get to the same level as the 800 pound gorilla in my industry which I finally have!

    Does anyone on this thread know what the impact of social is going to be on something like this? Such as Facebook "Likes" or Google +1's? Does Biznik have any plan to also add a social measurement or B2B kind of endorsement button/badge?

  • Director 
Sydney, New South Wales Australia 
Peter Watson
    Posted by Peter Watson, Sydney, New South Wales Australia | Dec 22, 2011

    People should worry less about page rank and concentrate more on traffic and conversions. I have pr2 and 3 sites outranking pr5 sites for big terms. So page rank is useless.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Mar 29, 2012

    I wanted to get that toolbar on Firefox to check PR and got this: http://www.google.com/toolbar/ff/index.html

    Thanks for the conversation.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Mar 29, 2012

    Interesting. I just checked on the PR of my main office website (2) and my blog (2) and my Biznik profile (not ranked!)

    Interesting. BTW, I just Googled "pagerank" to find a site that did it for me:-)

  • SEO Engineer 
St Marys, Ontario Canada 
Bryon Henderson
    Posted by Bryon Henderson, St Marys, Ontario Canada | Jan 24, 2013

    This is a good list to figure out where you stand in googles eyes. Most people thought it was the other way around. Thank you for this

  • Realtor 
Cornelius, North Carolina 
Frank Free
    Posted by Frank Free, Cornelius, North Carolina | Jan 30, 2013

    Thanks for the background. I have a PR3. My website is 20 yrs old. I have tons of content and 641 Alexa back links, 3000 google indexed pages and I come up 1-3 in most search terms I value. However, a new competitor with PR0, a few back links, no content - just list of searches available - but his interior pages are coming up 1 or 2 in most searches. Don't understand. Could he be buying position in the organic section?

    Frank

  • Biznik Co-founder/CEO 
Seattle, Washington 
Lara Feltin
    Posted by Lara Feltin, Seattle, Washington | Jan 31, 2013

    I'm afraid I don't have an answer, Frank. Let's see if one of the SEO professionals here chimes in. This article was written over 2 years ago, and what I do know is that Google updates their search service often!

  • Life Coach + Life Enthusiast! Business Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Beth Siragusa
    Posted by Beth Siragusa, Seattle, Washington | Jan 31, 2013

    Frank,

    I would start with getting an SEO review of your website by a Google Webmaster especially since your website has been around for such a long time. This tells me there may be something in the html that needs some immediate attention.

    According to the Webmaster rules there are certain things that, if not done properly, will make the Google Algorithm that monitors and grades your site stop in it's tracks and say "this is an error" and it won't even look at the rest of your site! If this is happening on your homepage it might suggest your low Pagerank.

    Hope this helps :)

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