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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot clickfire's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Boost Rankings With Keyword-Rich Heading Tags

    These comments are in regards to the SitePoint.com article 'Boost Rankings With Keyword-Rich Heading Tags'.

    I'm a recovering font tag user. Last month I switched all my headings to H1. The Google results for several of my pages improved for the keywords I was targeting, some as high as 12 notches and onto page 1! Thanks for spelling it out, Grant.

    Emory
    Clickfire - A Resource for the Digitally Outspoken

  2. #2
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    I would like to see if someone knows whether using heading tags but then modifying them with css has any impact. h1 is great but its huge. Anyone know or have any experience with a comparison of the two?
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    Sidewalking anode's Avatar
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    Google doesn't spider external CSS files, so it shouldn't be an issue. However, if you modify <h1>'s to appear as normal body text(as opposed to still making it a headline, just a different looking one), you may not survive a hand check(and they do happen.)

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    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    I haven't yet seen a search engine that understood CSS like that. Additionally you can put your css file in a directory that is protected via robots.txt and that way you can be sure they won't view it.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot
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    What about internal?

    Such as:

    <h1 class="paragraph"><strong><font color="#000000" size="2">Text</font></strong></h1>

    where paragraph is defined in the page itself?
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  6. #6
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    CSS modification of H1, H2, H3

    First off, the article was okay ... I'm still trying to figure out where all the <p> marks went ... that <br><br> stuff confuses me. Plus, many search engines extract text by paragraph -- plus the <p> provides better layout and rendering.

    Anyway, I use CSS to modify H1, H2, H3 size so things look okay in my browser. However, I found that changing anything other than the font face really made a mess in other browsers with different screen sizes.

    If H1 is too big, then reduce it's size in proportion to the body text using for example 14pt H1, with 12pt body. Otherwise, things don't layout right in everyones browser.

    The comments about making H1 show as body text to improve search engine rankings is stupid. When you cheat a search engine you are cheating yourself -- the search engine people aren't stupid, usually figure things out and make it harder on everyone to get good rankings.

    The key to top ranking is quality content relevant to the needs of your visitors. In fact, I've got top ranking for every keyword in my marketplace, however, they don't produce much traffic. My concern is sales first, traffic second. (I guess I should explain that in my upcoming book.)

    Anyway, use heading tags logically and you'll get the best results -- okay article, but a little misleading to those who read in methods to cheat.

    Best regards,

  7. #7
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    Hi Justin,
    I'm the author of the article. It is actually 1 of about 9 chapters in my eBook, "Google Ranking Secrets Revealed". Of course heading tags are not the only thing that you need to be concerned about for top SE positions, but they do count.

    There are many other things (including quality content -- at the top of the list) that you need to optimize, such as:

    - Page/domain names
    - Keyword density
    - PageRank/Link Popularity

    etc... so please try and remember that the article was just 1 of many chapters
    Need GUARANTEED top 20 rankings on Google? If so, checkout my web based guide:
    Google Ranking Secrets Revealed!

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by Grant_Neilson
    It is actually 1 of about 9 chapters in my eBook, "Google Ranking Secrets Revealed". Of course heading tags are not the only thing that you need to be concerned about for top SE positions, but they do count.
    Grant, I apologize if I sounded critical. In the context of the articles it was confusing, and I am sure you understand the importance of content, keyword density, and other factors that contribute to great rankings.

    However, what about the man on the street, maybe someone who is new to developing websites -- Could misconceptions created by the original articles lead them down the wrong path? They may not have taken the effort to acquire your ebook and may be mislead.

    While I'm not critical on your work as a whole, for those less discerning, the article presented could cause trouble.

    Thank you for the introduction, wishing you all the best in the future.

    Sincerely,

    Justin

    Ps. For those of you reading this message, remember, cheating search engines hurts all of us -- don't consider Grants article outside the context of your entire site. Provide your potiential visitor the best value possible and you will be ranked by the quality of traffic.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Zealot 19nine78's Avatar
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    Code:
    <p>  <h1>Hello Today!</h1></p>
    *cough*valid html*cough*

    C'mon its not rocket science


  10. #10
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    Grant:

    You're right in pointing out that soooo many sites don't use headings, and it hurts their rankings. Headings and titles are the most often overlooked, and they are the most basic steps you can take.

    Google has pulled CSS files in the past, and they also have search quality people who look at suspicious sites. They aren't going to penalize you for making H1 smaller than the default, as far as I know, but if you try to trick them, the consequences can be pretty extreme.

    If you're going to use CSS to define your headings, it's probably safest to make sure H1 is larger than H2, etc. H1 and H2 should, in my opinion, be set larger than body text.

    Nothing about optimizing your HTML is rocket science, comrades... in fact, optimizing web pages is the easy part. When you've worked at this as long as Grant and I have, though, you know that the basics (including valid HTML) are more often ignored.
    Last edited by rtfmnews; Jan 9, 2003 at 23:39.

  11. #11
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    Originally posted by rtfmnews
    [B]Google has pulled CSS files in the past...[B]
    I haven't personally looked into this, but I'm wondering if you can prove it?
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    If I felt like sending you my logs, yes, I could prove it. Not gonna do that, of course. I have no idea what they did with them, if anything, but they did pull them.

    There are a lot of possible reasons why they may have pulled them. They do a lot of experiments, so they may have been just "testing out" a process for reading or caching CSS files and wanted some real world examples.

    Some reasons Google might be interested in your CSS file:
    1. They serve up cached versions of pages - CSS can be an essential part of making the page viewable.
    2. Search quality - there is nothing that would prevent them from parsing the CSS file to determine if you had, for example, made H1 0 pixels high.

    Even if they haven't pulled any CSS files lately, that doesn't mean they won't do so again in the future. If they see manipulation of headings via CSS as a "spam" tactic, they are more than capable of doing something about it.

    Blocking access to the file via robots.txt might stop the spider from pulling it, but it doesn't mean you're "home free" if you're trying to trick them. If they like, they could flag any site that blocks robot access to its CSS file, and queue it up for review by their (human) search quality team.

  13. #13
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    1. They serve up cached versions of pages - CSS can be an essential part of making the page viewable.
    I'm not arguing with you that they don't do this, if you've personally observed it then fine, but this is not a reason.

    Google inserts a base tag like this:

    <BASE HREF="http://www.domain.com/">

    When serving a cache, they don't actually cache anything other than your source code.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    I know what they do to display cached pages, and I also know that it doesn't work as well as it could if they would start caching CSS files.

    Let's say you make major changes to your CSS file and redesign your page. Google has the old HTML cached, but your browser loads the new CSS file when you view the cached page. Maybe it looks okay, and maybe it looks all wrong - who knows. The only way to get it right is to cache *everything*

    Like I said, they do a lot of experiments. I don't know why they pulled my CSS files. I was just suggesting two reasons why they might want to start pulling CSS files. They don't do either of those things now, but like I said, they do a lot of experiments. I wasn't the only person who reported having their CSS files requested by Google at the time.

    Who knows what they did with them? Who cares?

    The main point I was making, and I will repeat myself, is that you should not assume that you can use CSS to spam the search engines. They could start pulling CSS files and parsing them at any time.

    The other point is that hiding stuff with robots.txt does not stop their search quality team from seeing exactly what you are doing, because human beings don't follow the robot exclusion protocol. Robots.txt tells *googlebot* to stay away, but it won't stop *Google* from looking at your site. In fact, it might well prompt them to do so.
    Last edited by rtfmnews; Jan 10, 2003 at 13:46.

  15. #15
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    On the topic of spamming the engines I think it'll be difficult, even with CSS.

    Undoubtedly they look at percentages. If you have 10 words in your <h>eader tags, and only 1 is your keyword, then that's much worse than having 1 word in your <h>eader tag and having it be your keyword.

    So you can't do something like use CSS to make all of your body text <h1>. By looking at percentages they effectively negate this type of cheating. So, unless you just singled out every instance of your keywords in your body text and put <h1> tags around them but then used CSS to make them look exactly like your body text, there isn't really much else you could do to cheat like this.

    I'm also sure that repetition of the sort described above isn't as beneficial as one might think. A page with 1 header tag that contains keywords and a page with 2 header tags that contain the same keywords probably aren't going to be that different in rank.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    I'm not talking about using CSS to make everything on the page H1... But I have seen pages where they used hidden layers to put a fully optimized page of text behind an image or a form, etc.

  17. #17
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    Ah yes, that's very naughty of them.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
    Featured Article: Free Comprehensive SEO Guide
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  18. #18
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    what are some other tags besides H1 that will result in higher rankings?
    Google, Inktomi, and AltaVista ranking report!
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  19. #19
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    Long story, short answer, my opinion only your mileage may vary based on actual use:

    <TITLE>, <H1>, <H2>, <H3> are the biggies. The point is to make it clear what the page is about. The title and top heading are the greatest indicator, but you want the headings to read like a summary of the key points. This is good design for people as well as search engines.

    Text that is <STRONG>, <B>old, <I>talic, <U>nderlined, or <EM>phasized may also be given greater weight, depending on the search engine. Use common sense, and make your pages make sense to the visitor.

  20. #20
    MadCool Webmaster MadCool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rtfmnews
    Long story, short answer, my opinion only your mileage may vary based on actual use:

    <TITLE>, <H1>, <H2>, <H3> are the biggies. The point is to make it clear what the page is about. The title and top heading are the greatest indicator, but you want the headings to read like a summary of the key points. This is good design for people as well as search engines.

    Text that is <STRONG>, <B>old, <I>talic, <U>nderlined, or <EM>phasized may also be given greater weight, depending on the search engine. Use common sense, and make your pages make sense to the visitor.
    So if I was to use H3 instead of H1 it'll be the same thing right? Or does H1 get more weight?
    Last edited by MadCool; Apr 22, 2003 at 09:36.

  21. #21
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    cool, thanks!
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  22. #22
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    Exclamation Little Followed Secret Of #1 Search Engine Ranking

    Little Followed Secret Of #1 Search Engine Ranking

    In the wee hours of yesterday morning, I added a new page to my website. Just 24 hours late, I had top ranking on every major search engine FOR THAT PAGE! I'm talking about Google, Yahoo!, AOL Search, Inktomi, and MSN.

    Now, I'm not going to try to sell you anything. Don't get defensive, I just tired of listening to all this B.S. about "tricks to cheat the search engines." I haven't needed them, nor do I use them.

    In fact, I know several prominent webmasters who HAVE NEVER USED TRICKS NOT ONCE, but continue to have top rankings for their keywords. Keywords that lead to sales, not idle traffic.

    Thank about it, do you want VISITORS or BUYERS! I manage 6 websites that takes quite a bit of my time. Plus, I have regular consulting assignments helping my customers to build stronger business relationships.

    I don't have time for tricks, but THIS LITTLE FOLLOWED SECRET KEEP ME #1 ON EVERY SEARCH ENGINE I'm listed for my customers who want to buy from me!

    One individual who had a great idea about improving search engine rankings started this entire thread -- but tricksters who wanted quick rankings quickly swamped his great idea with B.S.

    Sure, much of that was probably just curiosity, or even some of it was desperation. However, you know who you are, and that is okay. I just get tired of everyone trying to get a quick fix -- it's just A WASTE OF YOUR TIME.

    Now the "great idea" that started this thread was "use relevant headings within your <H1> level headings because search engines are more likely to read them." REAL SIMPLE WASN'T IT.

    That's not even the secret I use to get top rankings. In fact, that page I was telling you about, that wasn't even available 24 hours ago. Get this, for my keyword phrase it's top ranked ON ALL SEARCH ENGINES except a few paid systems. All I did was posted the page -- LESS THAN 24 HOURS AGO!

    If you think I'm yelling, you should see me stomping around the office. Like an evangelist on Sunday morning with a room full of sinners! I'm raising high heaven because I get what I want (for all 6 of my websites) and haven't done a single thing other than this one secret.

    You're probably pissed by now, that I haven't shared that secret with you. Are you ready?

    PROVIDE A QUALITY WEBSITE WITH RELEVANT CONTENT YOUR BUYERS WANT TO SEEK OUT AND VISIT

    I can hear you mumbling. Now if you already know that, then why aren't you doing it?

    Don't get me wrong, Search Engine Optimization has it's place. But the best SEO consultant won't tell you anything different than the statement I made above. In fact, the best SEO consultants are people with both a technical and customer understanding.

    You're probably saying, "Who does this guy think he is, He offers no proof of his greatness!" Believe me, I've been on the Internet since 1989 (yes, there was an Internet in 1989, it just didn't have as many pictures), I experienced the dot.com bubble, even lost a lot of money when a number of my clients went out of business.

    I know what I know, because I suffered through others screwing the Internet up.

    Now that I've got in your face and made a mockery of all the excitement about headline tags -- MY CREDIBILITY WOULD BE NOTHING UNLESS I PROVED MY SALT TO YOU. Of the following keyword phrases (in any of the topic search engines) at least one of my sites is listed in the top 10 ---

    business success newsletter
    search free business articles
    strategic relations consultant
    inside strategic relations
    search free educational resources
    definition business development
    organizational success network
    business to business advertising network
    ...

    I could give you at least 100 more SEARCH ENGINE PHRASES ACTUALLY USED BY BUYERS to visit my websites. If you don't believe me, that's your own fault. You can easily cut and past those terms in any search engine which has a large percentage of business-to-business users. (Yes, I've targeted my network of websites that specifically.)

    Interesting enough I get regular traffic from targeted 4 to 6 word keyword phrases from major business portals, search engines, and anywhere you can put in a search term. Sure, visitors aren't tripping over each other to come to my website, but BUYERS VISIT DAILY.

    For example, a few buyers found me using "business to business relationships consultant strategic" and "what do you want to be when you grow up" STOP FIGHTING OVER TOP KEYWORDS and target the desires of buyers!

    Best of all, I don't have to worry about these keywords being stolen, high-jacked or thieved. Why? Because they only pertain to my content as it is relevant to my designated niche market. In fact, I've studied my customers to know they are 92% more likely to use these terms to find what I provide.

    Guess what, All this relevant content stuff works for PPC engines like Google and Overture -- in some cases giving me 23% CTR ratings and average CTR around 17% for all campaigns. Now grant it, many of these campaigns weren't as profitable as I'd like them to be, but they all break even!

    So get off your "tricks for treats" search engine people are smarter than that. Start putting hard effort into understanding your customers behaviors, building quality websites with remarkable value, and serving the customers you already have.

    If you didn't know this little followed secret, then I forgive you, but you don't have any excuses anymore. EVEN BAZAARS OF THE EARLY 12TH CENTURY PUT THEIR CUSTOMERS' INTEREST IN MIND FIRST, building trade routes around the goods desired by buyers. Not who could trick the most people or yell the loudest.

    Now SUBSCRIBE TO SITEPOINT'S NEWSLETTER, and read what it gives you daily. Then test what you learn with your own website, tracking the results. If that sounds like to much trouble, then get a job and close down your website.

    What are you waiting for?

    Respectfully submitted,

    Justin Hitt
    Strategic Relations Consultant, Author & Speaker
    http://www.justinhitt.com/

    (Disclaimer: I don't work for SitePoint, I just think they are one of the resources people should be looking at to improve their website. I don't want you to hire me for anything, but test what you learn on your own site. If you don't learn about your ideal customers first, don't bother doing anything, because you'll fail.)

  23. #23
    SitePoint Columnist DanThies's Avatar
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    Re: Little Followed Secret Of #1 Search Engine Ranking

    Originally posted by hittjw
    One individual who had a great idea about improving search engine rankings started this entire thread -- but tricksters who wanted quick rankings quickly swamped his great idea with B.S.
    You're wading pretty deep into that swamp yourself, aren't you?

  24. #24
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    In the wee hours of yesterday morning, I added a new page to my website. Just 24 hours late, I had top ranking on every major search engine FOR THAT PAGE! I'm talking about Google, Yahoo!, AOL Search, Inktomi, and MSN.
    No you didn't.

    From Google's website:

    No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
    Beware of SEO's that claim to guarantee rankings, or that claim a "special relationship" with Google, or that claim to have a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is by using the page at http://www.google.com/addurl.html. You can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
    So unless you are talking about paid listing, which anyone can do and which is misleading, you didn't do it.

    Also from Google's site:
    Be sure to understand where the money goes.
    While Google never sells better ranking in our search results themselves, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEO's will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section of the engine rather than in search results. A few SEO's will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they "control" other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam does not work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you're considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
    MSN's primary results, after Overture, are from LookSmart. To be listed there you either pay, or if non-commercial you can get in via Zeal.com. MSN only updates off LookSmart every couple of days, so even if you could get into Looksmart within hours after publishing a page, you probably wouldn't get into MSN for a couple more days.

    Google does a main update once a month. In between those updates they crawl frequently updated sites and new sites. So it is possible for you to be crawled by Google within a day or so of publishing, and it is possible to be temporarily listed within another day or so. However when Google finds a new page during one of their mid-month crawls they only temporarily list it. Additionally they do not compile a PageRank for it, and end up guessing, so chances are it will not be listed very highly except perhaps on some obscure search terms.

    Google of course powers AOL and Yahoo.

    Then there is Inktomi, which provides secondary results to MSN and thats about it not. How you got to #1 with them when they only provide secondary results....

    So I'm with Dan, it's pretty obvious you're wading deep in your own swamp of BS.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
    Featured Article: Free Comprehensive SEO Guide
    My Guide to Building a Successful Website
    My Blog|My Webmaster Forums

  25. #25
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    Thumbs up

    Originally posted by aspen
    No you didn't.
    I'm pretty sure, for my keywords (some of which where listed above), I have top ranking on the major search engines listed -- plus, top ten ranking for my sites. (To be specific "as of January 17-18, 2003")

    I wouldn't make such a bold statement without first being my own skeptic and double checking my statements. In my business, I can't afford to make statements that are not supported by fact.

    The point of the article seems to be missed:

    • 1. The original article about headline tags was very good and made a point about their value,

      2. My concern was with people trying to cheat search engines with tricks,

      3. Quality relevant content gets ranked quickly because its what people are looking for,

      4. Establish a keyword strategy that targets specific keywords relevant to what buyers are looking for,

    Perhaps my excitement overshadowed the simple points about how to get top rankings in search engines. I didn't use paid inclusion, and this isn't the first time new page changes have been seen in this many engines within 24 hours.

    Originally posted by aspen
    day or so of publishing, and it is possible to be temporarily listed within another day or so. However when Google finds a new page during one of their mid-month
    Now I'm not saying I could do this for other people who are not serving my same customer base. I just know my visitors don't care about page rankings, or anything other than finding exactly what they are looking for.

    Again, I wouldn't post such a bold post if I had not consulted with others who have experienced similar happenings, saw the results as consistent, and was able to provide a test case that you too could check out. But you don't have to agree with me, just try the advice on your own site -- improve quality of content relevant to buyers desires and see where it takes you.

    Are you arguing that this doesn't work to improve your search engine ranking?

    Show me the search engine that doesn't want its visitors to receive high quality content (search results relevant to their request) and won't have algorithms in place to find it. That's where keyword density and all those other derivative terms come from.

    Originally posted by aspen
    So I'm with Dan, it's pretty obvious you're wading deep in your own swamp of BS.
    You have a right to your own opinion. Personally, I know what is working for me and I'm going to keep doing it whether you like it or not. Perhaps my method wasn't up to most peoples liking -- but the hard facts are:

    • It's about buyers, not visitors.

      Quality content relevant to customer needs wins.

      Customers use their own behavior in search process.

      Page ranking is relevant to specifics of search terms to topic.

      Cheating search engines hurts all website owners.

    It's going to be difficult to argue with these facts (stated within original post.) My claims are verifiable. You are always welcome to prove I didn't do what I claimed -- or see for yourself by improving your own value to prospective customer, as well as mapping their behavior in your site design.

    If I'm deep in any swamp, I'm on vacation in Florida and enjoying the scenery.

    Thanks Aspen and Dan, I'm enjoying the whole conversation.

    Sincerely,

    Justin


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