Every Google Update in the Last 5 Years and So Far in 2024

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Key Insights

  • Google’s Continuous Improvement: Google updates its algorithm to improve search relevancy and quality, emphasizing content originality and user experience.
  • March 2024 Core Update: A significant update introduced new signals for assessing content helpfulness, aiming to reduce low-quality content by 40%.
  • Innovative Search Features: Recent features like Circle to Search and AI-powered multisearch enhance the intuitiveness of finding information.
  • Evolution Through Updates: Google’s history of updates shows a commitment to refining search results, with notable shifts in ranking criteria over time.

The internet must change to fit user needs and the digital environment.

Logo redesigns may grab our attention, but tiny yet significant changes to Google’s search algorithm demonstrate its continuous relevance and effectiveness in generating appropriate search results.

The internet must change to fit user needs and the digital environment.  Logo redesigns may grab our attention, but tiny yet significant changes to Google's search algorithm demonstrate its continuous relevance and effectiveness in generating appropriate search results.

What Are Google Algorithm Updates?

Google algorithm updates are adjustments made to the complex system that retrieves data from its vast index in order to deliver the most relevant results for a given search query.

Such updates are necessary to ensure that Google remains responsive to its users’ changing needs and behaviors.

The update’s primary objective is to improve the quality and relevancy of search results, ensuring users find accurate, reliable, and valuable information that aligns with their search queries.

This objective is achieved through various means, including refining algorithms to better comprehend and interpret web content and prioritizing factors such as content quality, user experience, and website security.

For example, websites offering high-quality, relevant content characterized by originality, depth, accuracy, and relevance to the search query tend to perform better in search rankings.

History of Google Algorithm Updates

Officially formed on the 4th of September 1998, Google has continuously evolved as a company, culture, and its technology.

From core updates refining the fundamental ranking criteria to targeted updates addressing spam and product reviews, Google has implemented various changes over the years.

Let’s explore the history of Google algorithm updates in recent years and see how these confirmed updates have shaped the search engine.

Google’s 2024 updates so far, plus the previous 5 years
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March 2024

Google’s core update, announced on the 5th of March 2024, represents a significant evolution in how the search engine identifies and ranks helpful content.

It involves changes to multiple core systems and introduces innovative signals and approaches to improve result relevancy.

While previously, only a single signal or system was used, this update utilizes various methods to assess content helpfulness.

Due to being this complex, its rollout may span up to a month, leading to more fluctuations in rankings than usual as different systems are updated and reinforced.

Google expects that combining this update and its previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

Recent findings have already illuminated its impact.

Out of 49,345 sites examined, a significant 837 websites were entirely removed from Google’s search index during the March 2024 core update, accounting for approximately 1.7% of the websites within that database.

Number of Websites Entirely Removed from Google's Search Index

Alongside this update, in March, Google introduced new spam policies to combat practices that degrade search result quality.

These policies target expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse, aiming to prevent the manipulation of rankings by hosting low-value or manipulative content.

February 2024

In February, Google rolled out some minor algorithm updates, albeit with some setbacks.

An indexing bug surfaced around February 1, lasting approximately seven days, impacting the search engine’s ability to index and display web pages correctly.

Despite this hiccup, Google continued its efforts to enhance search functionality, particularly in European Economic Area (EEA) countries, in preparation for the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

As part of these preparations, Google introduced new search result experiences tailored for users in EEA countries, focusing on providing richer and more visually engaging content.

Search queries such as “hotels near me” may yield more visually appealing and entity-focused results, featuring carousel-rich results showcasing price, rating, and images on the page.

Google also created aggregator units and refinement chips to help people find the best results for destinations, jobs, flights, and products.

January 2024

At the beginning of the year, Google introduced two significant updates that aimed to revolutionize the search experience: Circle to Search and an AI-powered multisearch experience.

Circle to Search enables users to search for information directly on their Android phone screens without switching apps by simply circling, highlighting, scribbling, or tapping images, text, or videos.

This feature, launched globally on select premium Android smartphones starting January 31, streamlines the search process, allowing users to find relevant information seamlessly while performing other tasks.

Additionally, Google enhanced its multisearch experience in Lens, enabling users to ask more complex questions about images captured with their camera.

Through AI-powered insights, users can now receive comprehensive information beyond visual matches, making exploring and understanding the world around them more accessible.

These updates represent Google’s ongoing efforts to make search more natural, intuitive, and accessible, with further advancements expected in the future.

2023 Confirmed Google Algorithm Updates

In 2023, Google underwent several updates, including four core updates, to refine and improve its algorithms for better search results.

November 2023 Reviews Update

The November 2023 Reviews Update, which commenced on November 8, 2023, and concluded on December 7, 2023, represents a significant shift in how Google evaluates reviews.

The goal of this update was to make it easier for people to find good reviews that offer original research and helpful insights, especially those that were written by experts or fans.

It evaluated content at a page level, focusing on articles, blog posts, or similar independent content that provides recommendations, opinions, or analysis.

November 2023 Core Update

This Core Update marked the search engine’s third major algorithm change in four months.

Its rollout extended nearly a month, concluding on November 28, deviating from the typical two-week timeframe.

The analysis of this update is quite complicated because of the November 2023 Review Update rollout, which concluded on December 7.

This overlap presents challenges in identifying which specific updates are causing ranking volatility, as it becomes difficult to distinguish between them.

However, compared to the October update, peak volatility rose in November, jumping from 5.8% to 7.9%.

This increase was particularly notable in the Health vertical, where peak volatility nearly doubled from 3.3% to 6.3% in November.

On the other hand, the average number of position losses during the November 2023 Core Update was only slightly higher, at 2.76 positions lost, compared to 2.62 in October.

Peak Volatility Changes in the November Update

It’s essential to acknowledge that using this metric alone has limitations.

For instance, 25% of URLs ranking in the top 20 post-update were not previously within the top 20 organic results before the November update, emphasizing the complexities of assessing rank volatility

October 2023 Core Update

The October 2023 Core Update introduced several changes to how Google ranks websites.

Firstly, there was a heightened emphasis on website quality, particularly focusing on content originality, relevance, and value.

Secondly, Google revised its backlink approach, giving more weight to links from high-authority and relevant websites.

Additionally, user experience factors such as site speed, mobile-friendliness, and usability gained more importance in determining rankings.

The update also targeted spammy tactics to reduce visible spam in search results across various languages.

Despite multiple previous updates, the October Core Update followed the traditional core update trend, with peak volatility on October 10 and a subsequent spike on October 20.

The October 2023 Core Update had an average gain/lost of 2.5 positions, compared to just over 3 positions in the August 2023 Core Update.

The overall increase in rank volatility was 8 points lower.

During the aftermath of this update, analysis revealed intriguing patterns regarding the URLs ranking among the top 20 search results.

Approximately 78.1% comprised old URLs, while 21.9% were new URLs, suggesting a notable composition shift.

Despite signs that the October update had a smaller impact than the August 2023 Core Update, fluctuations were still significant, similar of the previous major update.

Distribution of Old and New URLs in the Top 20 Search Results

October 2023 Spam Update

The tweaks made to Google’s spam detection systems targeted multiple languages and spam types.

It concentrated on eradicating various forms of spam that users had reported in languages like Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and others.

Its primary goal was to reduce the prevalence of spam in search results, especially concerning cloaking, hacked content, auto-generated material, and scraped content.

The update was implemented over a few weeks to ensure comprehensive coverage and effectiveness.

September 2023 Helpful Content Update

The Helpful Content Update introduced changes aimed at promoting quality content on search engines while minimizing the presence of content considered unhelpful.

Google guided in three key areas:

  1. Easing machine-generated content guidelines
  2. Allowing third-party content on subdomains (under one main domain)
  3. Extra advice and support for sites losing traffic due to the update.

This signaled a shift in Google’s approach to machine-generated content.

Google acknowledged AI’s potential benefits while remaining vigilant against spammy practices, reflecting its continuous efforts to balance promoting valuable content with combating spam.

August 2023 Core Update

Like most other core updates, this one also aimed to enhance overall search quality and combat spammy websites.

However, while previous updates targeted specific niches, this update emphasized adapting and evolving strategies to meet changing algorithmic demands.

Google also introduced the Search Generative Experience (SGE), which provides links to web pages within search results to offer users more information on topics.

Interestingly, the update’s rollout didn’t follow the typical pattern of a surge in rank volatility but displayed consistently high levels of volatility for over a month.

Still, the update demonstrated greater peak volatility levels than its predecessor, the March 2023 update.

Volatility Trends March 2023 vs August 2023 Core Updates

Regarding ranking shifts, the August core update was more significant than the one in March due to the following reasons:


  • The average position shift in August: ~3 positions.
  • The Average position shift in March: 2.7 positions.
  • Nearly 11% of the top 10 URLs fell beyond the 20th position In Google in the August update.
  • Over 8.5% of the top 10 URLs fell beyond the 20th position in the March update.

April 2023 Reviews Update

This update aimed to reward high-quality review content across a broader spectrum of topics.

Unlike previous iterations, it expanded its scope beyond product reviews to encompass all first-party website content, providing recommendations, opinions, or analyses on various subjects, including products, entertainment, services, or businesses.

Notably, the update transitioned from the Product Reviews Update (PRU) to a broader Reviews Update (RU), marking a pivotal milestone in the evolution of Google’s reviews system and indicating its integration into the core ranking algorithm.

March 2023 Core Update

The March 2023 Google core update, which completed its rollout in approximately 13 days and seven hours, aimed to prioritize web pages offering greater value over those previously ranking on Google.

Instead of penalizing specific content, the update focused on rewarding or promoting high-quality content that enhanced user experiences across all regions and languages, impacting various Google features such as Google Discover and featured snippets.

Semrush data revealed a significant increase in volatility compared to previous updates, reaching a peak of 8.2, marking a substantial rise from around 5 observed during the September 2022 core update.

Specifically, the March 2023 Core update exhibited 74% more peak volatility on desktop and 94% more on mobile compared to the September 2022 Core Update.

Volatility Trends March 2023 vs. September 2022 Core Updates

Moreover, following the March update, 8.7% of the top 10 search results on the SERP previously ranked beyond position 20, representing a notable increase from the 6.53% recorded during the September 2022 Core Update.

February 2023 Product Reviews Update

This update addressed Google’s product reviews system and provided clarification on evaluation factors.

These include the reviewer’s expertise, honesty, and content quality.

New ranking signals boosted search rankings for websites with high-quality, comprehensive product reviews.

Google’s new approach prioritized evaluations with solid knowledge and experience to weed out low-quality content.

Google revised and updated guidance to help publishers fulfill these criteria, stressing clear rating systems, detailed product information, and non-promotional language.

The update was released in eleven languages, demonstrating its global reach and importance in supplying product review content to users.

2022 Confirmed Google Algorithm Updates

Next, we’ll explore ten confirmed Google algorithm updates implemented in 2022, each contributing to the evolution and enhancement of Google’s search capabilities.

December 2022 Link Spam Update

The Link Spam Update was a vital step Google took to counter manipulative link-building techniques.

The update was designed to identify websites that bought links or facilitated link schemes using the SpamBrain AI-based system.

The objective was to eliminate spammy links and prevent any artificial boosts in search rankings generated by these links.

The update impacted all languages, once again demonstrating Google’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of its global search results.

The update sought to incentivize pages with authentic, top-tier, and contextually relevant links.

Website owners and SEO experts were encouraged to adapt by prioritizing high-caliber, natural backlinks.

Additionally, they were advised to conduct comprehensive audits to weed out inferior links, diversify their link profiles, optimize on-page SEO elements, and cultivate authentic relationships with reputable sources.

December 2022 Helpful Content Update

At the end of the year, Google also released an update to tackle the issue of web pages created primarily to rank well in search engines rather than genuinely helping or informing users.

This algorithmic adjustment prioritized high-quality content that was written to provide value to human users.

Google aimed to promote more useful and relevant content while demoting pages created solely for search engine optimization.

This reflected Google’s ongoing commitment to combating low-quality content and enhancing the search experience.

October 2022 Spam Update

The 2022 spam algo update focused on enhancing Google’s spam detection methods, following the previous similar update, which occurred in November 2021, approximately 11 months earlier.

Its primary targets were websites employing spam techniques that violated Google’s policies.

Consequently, sites found in violation could experience a decline in search engine rankings or even removal from search results entirely.

This update had a global impact, affecting all regions and languages.

For websites affected by the update, Google recommended reviewing its spam policies, auditing their profiles, running detailed link profile analysis, and follow their guidance on link disavows. 

September 2022 Product Reviews Update

In 2022, Google launched the fifth iteration of its product review algorithm update, which targeted English-language product reviews.

The objective was to prioritize and promote high-quality product reviews that provide valuable insights and original research documented by experts or enthusiasts with in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

This update’s ultimate goal was to ensure that such high-quality reviews are more prominently featured in search results rankings.

September 2022 Core Update

This Core Update assessed content based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) criteria.

It aimed to promote or reward high-quality web pages that met these criteria.

Compared to previous core updates, the September 2022 update showed relatively lower rank volatility increases.

The volatility was 53% less drastic than that observed during the May 2022 Core Update.

The peak volatility levels during the September 2022 update were notably lower than those of typical core updates, indicating a divergence from the usual trend.

To summarize the impacts of the Google 2022 Core Update:

  • Average ranking change: 2.5 positions (gain or loss).
  • Compared to November 2021 Update: 3.2 positions (gain or loss).
  • After September 2022 Update: 14.52% of URLs entered top 20.

August 2022 Helpful Content Update

With the August 2022 Helpful Content Update, Google prioritized satisfying user experiences.

It urged content creators to adopt a people-first approach and focus on valuable content rather than SEO tactics.

It also introduced a new site-wide signal to assess content quality, emphasizing expertise, relevance, and user satisfaction.

The update utilized a machine-learning-based classifier to automatically identify unhelpful content, which would impact the rankings of websites with a significant amount of such content.

July 2022 Product Reviews Update

The July 2022 Product Reviews Update by Google sought to spotlight in-depth and insightful product reviews, setting them apart from the commonplace generic content online.

This move aimed at boosting high-quality reviews in search rankings, rewarding depth over mediocrity.

May 2022 Core Update

This core algorithm update was broad in scope, targeting all types of content and specifically focusing on E-A-T.

Shortly after the official announcement, Semrush detected significant fluctuations in search rankings, indicating the beginning of the update.

However, this initial surge in rank volatility subsided after just one day, mirroring patterns observed during previous core updates, such as the July 2021 and November 2021 updates.

The average level of volatility on both desktop and mobile platforms was 9.4.

Moreover, when analyzing the top 20 search results, it was revealed that over 17% of URLs ranked within this range had previously held positions beyond position 20.

On average, URLs that lost ranking positions fell 3.8 places, while those that improved gained 3.4 positions.

March 2022 Product Reviews Update

This update, though not as significant as December 2021’s, focused on rewarding product reviews with thorough research and insightful analysis over mere summaries.

It aimed to highlight content that transcended common internet templates without directly penalizing low-quality reviews.

However, less detailed and original reviews saw a dip in rankings when outshone by more informative counterparts.

February 2022 Page Experience Update (Desktop)

This update for desktop aimed to enhance user experience by incorporating page experience signals into desktop search rankings.

It mirrored the page experience signals already implemented for mobile devices earlier in the year.

Similar to mobile, the desktop update focused on three Core Web Vitals metrics:
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Additionally, page experience signals such as HTTPS security and the absence of intrusive interstitials continued to be essential for desktop ranking.

2021 Confirmed Google Algorithm Updates

In 2021, Google introduced several algorithm updates, which served as foundational pillars and set the stage for the subsequent advancements we’ve explored thus far.

December 2021 Product Reviews Update

The December 2021 Product Reviews Update introduced two new guidelines to supplement existing ones.

The aim was to provide more straightforward criteria for SEOs and content creators to create high-quality product reviews.

This update favored reviews that provided firsthand accounts and experiences with the product.

Its first additional guideline required product review pages to show evidence of personal experience with the product.

The other guideline introduced was the inclusion of links to multiple sellers.

This aimed to enhance user experience by offering consumers various purchasing options, enabling them to make informed decisions based on availability, pricing, and other factors.

November 2021 Core Update

The November 2021 Core Update marked Google’s third core update in 2021, showcasing increased volatility compared to the previous July update.

Data analysis revealed notable shifts in search engine result pages (SERPs): desktop SERPs experienced a 12% increase in volatility, and mobile ones were even more volatile, with a 23% increase during the November update.

The November update introduced higher volatility across various industries than its July counterpart.

Out of 17 analyzed verticals, 16 exhibited increased volatility in November, contributing to an average industry-wide volatility of 20% higher than in July.

Regarding ranking changes, approximately 7% of pages that entered the top 10 search results following the November update were not previously ranked within the top 20 positions.

Moreover, the distribution of gains and losses was relatively balanced, with the average number of positions lost at 3.34 and the average gain at 3.19.

November 2021 Spam Update

The November 2021 Spam Update represented a significant stride in Google’s ongoing efforts to combat harmful and dubious websites and those employing Black-Hat SEO tactics.

By integrating advanced AI techniques refined over several years, Google fortified its algorithm to effectively filter out such malicious entities.

With this update, Google intended to improve the quality and reliability of its search results by preventing low-quality or deceptive web pages from appearing in its search index.

July 2021 Link Spam Update

This update was geared toward identifying and reevaluating websites engaging in link spam practices across various languages.

Rather than penalizing B2B (business-to-business) websites for manipulative link-building tactics, the update focused on devaluing links flagged as spam by the algorithm.

Through this update, Google aimed to mitigate the influence of spammy links on search rankings, thereby promoting a more equitable and trustworthy online environment.

July 2021 Core Update

The July 2021 Core Update, introduced by Google as a subsequent installment following the June 2021 Core Update, stood out from typical updates due to its unique nature.

Technically considered part two of the June update, it addressed certain aspects that were not fully prepared for release during the June update.

On July 2, the digital landscape experienced notable fluctuations in search rankings, as evidenced by Semrush Sensor’s reporting of a significant volatility score of 9.4/10 for desktop and mobile searches.

In addition, Semrush analyzed the top 100 domains to determine the most impacted site categories and sites.

Their findings revealed that, on average, the top-ranking sites gained 19 positions, while those adversely affected experienced a loss of 20 positions.

June 2021 Page Experience Update

The June 2021 Page Experience Update focused on enhancing mobile user experience by prioritizing Core Web Vitals as key ranking factors.

These included:

  • Cumulative Layout Shift
  • First Input Delay
  • Largest Contentful Paint

This update emphasized faster loading times and smoother interactions for mobile users.

Additionally, Google introduced a Page Experience report in the Search Console in order to help website owners monitor and improve their pages’ performance.

June 2021 Spam Updates

In June 2021, Google implemented a series of spam updates aimed at enhancing search result quality.

The first phase was initiated and completed on the 23rd, with a second phase scheduled for the following week.

These updates were part of Google’s continuous efforts to combat spam and improve the relevance and reliability of search results.

June 2021 Core Update

Google officially announced the June 2021 Core Update on June 2, and changes started to manifest on search engine results pages by June 4.

At its peak impact on June 4, SERP volatility across various sectors reached significant levels, scoring 9.2 for desktop and 9.3 for mobile searches on average.

Sites that benefited from the update saw an average gain of 23 positions, while those that suffered a negative impact lost an average of about 16 positions.

April 2021 Product Reviews Update

This update was one of the first to mark a shift towards prioritizing high-quality and informative product reviews.

The main aim was to better serve users seeking genuine guidance and assistance in purchasing decisions.

It aimed to elevate product reviews that provided valuable, in-depth insights and unique content detailing the product’s usage, physical attributes, benefits, drawbacks, and distinctive features compared to competitors.

Thoughtful reading: SEO Revenue Graphs, how much do SEO’s make?

February 2021 Passage Indexing (US/English)

The Passage Indexing update introduced a groundbreaking technology to Google’s algorithm, enabling it to evaluate and rank individual passages within a web page in search results.

This innovative approach allows the algorithm to assess the relevance of content at a granular level, aligning with users’ search queries more effectively.

Passage indexing works in conjunction with existing ranking factors like BERT and Link Analysis, enhancing the search experience without significantly altering the appearance of SERPs.

By leveraging Passage Indexing, Google aims to deliver more accurate and tailored search results to users, reflecting their specific information needs with greater precision.

2020 Confirmed Google Search Algorithm Updates

Lastly, in 2020, although there were fewer confirmed updates overall, the significance of this year lies in the occurrence of three core updates by Google.

December 2020 Core Update

Semrush Sensor data indicated that the December 2020 Core Update exhibited considerable volatility in SERPs, reaching a score of 9.4.

This update significantly impacted larger domains, with nearly half of the most affected domains boasting traffic exceeding 1 million monthly visitors.

Notably, one in three domains experiencing visibility declines were sites with over 10 million monthly visitors.

Amidst these fluctuations, the top performers in SERPs gained an average of 20 positions.

In comparison, sites in the most affected industries suffered an average loss of 23 positions, underscoring the substantial shifts brought about by this core update.

October 2020 BERT Expands

The Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) Expands update expanded Google’s search algorithm by leveraging a neural network-based natural language processing (NLP) pre-training technique.

This update helped improve the understanding of user search queries by interpreting their intent more effectively.

Unlike previous approaches that analyzed search queries word by word, BERT enabled Google to comprehend entire phrases comprehensively, leading to more precise search results.

Even slight modifications or minor words in a query could significantly impact search intent, and BERT helped mitigate this issue.

May 2020 Core Update

Semrush reported that the May 2020 Core Update had high volatility rates in almost every category, with scores ranging from 9 to 9.4 points.

Particularly impacted categories included Travel, Real Estate, Health, Pets & Animals, and People & Society, observed across both desktop and mobile searches. 

Moreover, the update notably affected numerous prominent domains.

Approximately half of the significant ranking fluctuations occurred among websites with monthly traffic exceeding 1 million visitors in the United States.

January 2020 Core Update

The January 2020 Core Update closely aligned with the trends observed in the preceding three updates.

Notably, websites in the YMYL (your money, your life) niches experienced substantial impacts. 

Described as a substantial update, it resulted in significant shifts at the top of the search engine results pages, particularly affecting the Health and Finance niches.

Overall, there were remarkable fluctuations across all niches within the top 10 search results.

How Google Algorithm Updates Impact Websites

Google algorithm updates have a profound impact on websites by directly influencing search engine rankings and visibility.

By adjusting various ranking factors, Google aims to ensure that users receive the most relevant and high-quality search results.

This way, these updates also alter websites’ positions in search engine rankings. 

Websites that adhere closely to the updated ranking criteria and provide valuable, authoritative content are rewarded with higher visibility and traffic.

Conversely, websites that fail to meet these criteria may experience a decline in search visibility, potentially resulting in decreased organic traffic and user engagement.

Therefore, website owners must stay informed about algorithm updates and continuously optimize their sites to align with Google’s evolving standards.

Top Tips for Surviving Google Algorithm Updates

To survive Google algorithm updates and mitigate any negative impacts on search visibility, website owners should focus on several key strategies:


  • Prioritize creating high-quality, relevant, and engaging content that meets the needs of your target audience.
  • Post content that is informative, well-written, and optimized for relevant keywords.

  • Enhance the user experience on your website by ensuring fast loading times, easy navigation, and mobile responsiveness.

  • Regularly monitor and audit your website’s backlink profile to identify and address any low-quality or spammy backlinks.

  • Stay on top of the latest SEO trends, algorithm updates, and best practices to ensure your website remains optimized for search engines.

  • Invest in other marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, and paid advertising, to expand your online presence and reduce your vulnerability to fluctuations in search rankings.


All in all, Google algorithm updates in recent years have helped make the search engine more user-centric, relevant, and efficient in delivering high-quality search results.

By refining ranking criteria, combating spam, and prioritizing user experience, these updates have enhanced the overall search experience for users worldwide.

Furthermore, they have incentivized website owners to provide valuable content, optimize user experience, and adhere to best SEO practices.

Adapting to Google’s evolving criteria can help you improve your site’s visibility and ranking, ultimately enhancing its online presence and reaching its target audience.

Therefore, staying informed about the latest updates and making necessary changes is imperative to stay ahead of the competition.

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