Google Trusted Photographer Interview – Mark Robinson


The Google Trusted Photographer program allows business owners and marketing managers to get quality images and walk throughs of their business loaded on to their business Google map listings. If you have a business where you rely on people finding you and coming to your location to purchase or to do business with you then you should start with this Google listing before spending a cent on other marketing.

In this interview Mick talks with a local photographer Mark Robinson about the Google Trusted Photographer program and what it means to business owners.

If you know a business owner that is struggling with their online presence then please forward them the link to this interview. It will point them in the right direction.


Mick: G’day folks, welcome back. It’s Mick from Redcliffe Marketing Labs. In the interview today I’ve hooked up with a local Brisbane photographer. Mark Robinson has got a title as a ‘Google Trusted Business Photographer’. He works with his company Kwik Clicks Photographics here in Brisbane.

If you’re listening to this interview and you want to also follow along on the web and do a background check, you can head over to to see what Mark does as we’re chatting. Hey Mark, thank you for being able to chat with us today.

Mark: It’s a pleasure to be here Mick.

Mick: I was just alerted to this Google Trusted Business Photographer program from a forum. It’s the first time I’ve heard about it. I’ve been working with Google Local Listings and Map Listings for a while. This looks like a really interesting program. I’m pretty keen to dive in and find out what it’s all about.

Mark: Yes, it’s been going in Australia now for just over a year or so, probably in the US about two years, thereabouts. It’s a very unique way of getting businesses to be able to show who they are, where they are and what they have in their store. In exactly the same way as people are used to going into Google Street View and navigating through the streets, they can navigate through the business. It’s got a whole bunch of other side effects that benefit businesses as well.

Mick: We’ll get stuck into some details. What we will do initially is, I guess, backtrack and look at the big picture because a lot of people listening to this won’t really be all over the whole Google Map Listing thing. I just want to give it some framework so that people can listen to and work out what’s going on, and that’s going to make a lot more sense when we get into the details.

The whole background here is, especially in the Australian market, Google probably has about 95% plus of the search market. If you want to be found, people are going to go put their questions into Google and look for answers. As a business, ideally, you really want to be at the top of Google so that people are going to contact you first. Second page, third page of Google, not many people actually go that far. If they can’t find a solution in top 10, then they’re in trouble.

As far as getting on the first page of Google, there is really three main ways: one is the AdWords program that Google runs. This is paid advertising to get your ads listed on the front page.

The second one is what they call the Organic Listing; this is where Google tries to match up the search query that someone types in with the most relevant websites that will answer that query. This is where you want to be creating really relevant content on your business. If you’re a vet, you want to have a lot of information about different vet services and different animals up on your website.

It’s also where you get companies like Redcliffe Marketing Labs with search engine optimization(SEO) where you work with the structure and content of the website and backlinks to make your website appear as relevant as possible and get the highest ranking.

The third one is the Google+ Local or the Google Map Listings. You’ll see this if you trigger a search which has a location name and a service. It could be ‘Brisbane coffee’, it could be ‘Sydney car cleaning’, when you do those types of searches which have a place name and then a service or a product, quite often what happens is Google will trigger a local map listing with results.

You’ll see a map on the right hand side with little pins and then you’ll see a list of businesses listed there with their address and contact details. This is the part, the things that we’re talking about today, is the actual Google Map Listings and how that relates.

Quickly, we were talking Mark before we started the interview about the difference between a Google+ Local which is the map listing and the Google+ pages. Did you want to carry on from there or do you want me to chat about this?

Mark: Its just important to understand that the two things are absolutely different. It’s probably good to have both. The Google+ Local is clearly where we’re focusing, and that’s where it will come up in your map results. You’ve probably got a better take on how that might affect people’s businesses from their own search results and things. From my perspective Google+ Local is where I focus.

Mick: I think this is terrible branding as far as being confusing for small business owners. Google+ is Google’s equivalent to their social media network. They’re trying to tie everything together under this one Google+ umbrella.

The easiest way I want to tell people is that Google+ Local used to be called Google Places and these are the map listings like a directory listing. The Google+ pages are very similar to a Facebook page. You go and create separately for your business. Two things: today we’re talking about Google+ Local Listings and Mark, the great thing about all this, is how much does the listings cost?

Mark: They’re absolutely free (laughs).

Mick: (Laughs) People are blown away by that as well, because this whole system has pretty much just wiped out Yellow Pages. This has now replaced a full-page ad on Yellow Pages is now free essentially through Google. It’s a pretty awesome system.

Mark: The other thing to note, Mick ,is also that sometimes businesses may have a Google+ Local page or a Google Places page and not know it. Some of them have been created automatically through business listings that were available on the net. I think Google went through and linked up with Yellow Pages and did some creation of pages. It’s not uncommon for, if someone’s not ever looked before, for them to come across their business with a basic listing on a Google Places page.

Mick: Yes absolutely. For many of them there’s already reviews on their business that they have no idea about it.

Mark: It’s good practice to be aware of what your web presence looks like, and to be on top of those things because if you get a couple of bad reviews, it’s very difficult to get them off unless you’re encouraging people to give good reviews.

Mick: Absolutely. I think this is an example towards the bottom, towards the end of this interview, we’ll look at something like that. It’s free, it replaced the Yellow Pages. The hard thing is that Google is always changing it (laughs). It’s hard to keep up with sometimes. If you’re listening to this, just picture in your mind, this listing when you go there and have a look for your business or another business, it’s going to have your business’ map location, it’s going to have a text description about your business. It’s going to have contact details; website address, phone number.

You can be listed in up to five different categories. If you’re a coffee shop or whatever business you are, you can list yourself in five categories. Up to 10 photos, the last time I looked you have five YouTube videos on the listing. If you’ve got videos up on YouTube you can pull them into your Google+ Map Listing. The geographic area of your business covers, your opening hours, your payment methods, you could actually … you could run coupon deals like Groupon. Instead of paying Groupon 50%, you can take 100% of the profit.

Mark: Yes, there’s a thing to note there. That is with the content and the categories, it’s really important to make sure that the categories are relevant to your business and what your business does. The first three categories are critical in terms of your net search results. Google will rank you based on your categories.

Mick: I’m assuming that differentiates between the first three. I know the first one has to be a Google-provided category, and then the other four you could freestyle or you could write your own for those. Have you seen something that makes those first three critical?

Mark: Yes I have. I’ll probably have a little chat with you after this about a few other things that have just prompted my mind.

Mick: No worries. The last one which you touched on was the customer reviews; that people are going to jump on and leave you a review. They actually then count towards a scoring system; business is out there. Again one of the changes, Google pulled in … they bought a US business called Zagat which is a large review system.

In many cases once you get enough reviews you’ll get a score out of 30 on what Google thinks your business rating is. That’s something a lot of people just don’t know, but your Google score is out there. It gives you a score out of 30 on how you’re going. Do you want to … Mark, did you want to cover anything else about what’s on a local page?

Mark: Just two things that I’ve got to…  Mick quickly talked about the categories. Also the description, the first five or six words of the description that you put in there is critical. It will improve your results. You need to combine categories and descriptions.

Mick: Excellent. Verification, do you want to cover that one?

Mark: Yes, verification is usually done by postcard. There is some phone verifications, from what I’ve been hearing around the traps is that it’s less phone calls these days and more postcards. Once you claim or create a page, Google wants to verify that it’s not bogus, therefore it is at the address and they will post it to the address that’s on the map.

Once you get your postcard it will have a pin number, you insert the pin in the page where you created it and it will go live. Up until that time, it’s in a pending state. You can edit it, you can add content, you can build it, do whatever you like, it just won’t go live until the postcard verification has been done.

Mick: Which is a hassle because a postcard could take a while to arrive.

Mark: There is a way around it as well which I’ll talk to you about Mick. There is some ways of speeding it up.

Mick: Okay, because yes, I normally try to use the phone call one. If you haven’t done it before, as soon as you hit that submit button, whatever phone number is on your listing will ring within a couple of seconds. If you’re not at that phone, and you’ve got a staff member there, you need to warn them out that the phone call is coming. They’ll call and give a pin. They need to write that down and you can grab that.

Mark, you talked about the ranking a few bits and pieces here and there, and Google doesn’t really come out and say this, but there’s plenty of evidence that if you get your listing as full and complete as possible. As you said, maybe tweak the categories and the text description, it does actually improve your ranking in those local search results.

Mark: Yes, that’s right. Google doesn’t want to say that it promotes one business over another. Clearly, the amount of content that you have, good content, and rich content that you add to your listings, the better they will be.

Mick: It makes total sense if you’re a Google or another company and you’ve got a listing service, when you have people go through your listings, you want them to look good and have heaps of information there. Rather than having these really empty, deserted listings, it just makes sense that if you’ve gone to the effort of filling it out, you’ve got photos, you’re buildings trust that you’re a real business, there’s other things called citations out there.

By filling it out and claiming it, you’re telling Google that you’re a real business and you’re making their listing look better. It’s just in their own interest to promote your listing over others if you’ve taken that effort. That’s my take on it anyway (laughs).

Now, that you’ve got your head around all that. We’re talking about the local listings that turn up when you search for a location and a service and a map listing. This is where Mark now comes into the picture. Mark, how did you get started in photography?

Mark: I was, many years ago as a keen amateur, and then about … I bought my first DSLR camera in about 1978, that was quite some time ago. I was a keen amateur for 20 odd years. About five years ago I decided that rather than live in the corporate world and keep doing the things that I was doing, I wanted to do something I loved and that I was passionate about. I started a photography business and I haven’t looked back. It’s been an absolutely fabulous journey. I got out of the corporate rat race.

Mick: Did you always do business photography or you’d done real estate what’s your speciality?

Mark: Mostly… I do real estate. I try not to do weddings or pets. I like the idea of businesses because you can build relationships. You get ongoing referrals. It’s just better to build a business, I think, with business contacts rather than with the retail world. That’s where I feel it works for me. I do a lot of real estate. I’ve got, I guess, 80% of what I do is real estate.

About 18 months ago, I saw that Google were launching the Google business photos and they were after photographers. I contacted them, when it came to Australia, they got in contact with me. I went through their training process and certification, and here we are.

Mick: There’s not many of you is there? Within Australia there’s only about 20, I think from the look?

Mark: Yes, there’s about 20 or 30 in Australia, there’s two in Brisbane at the moment. There’s a few more in Sydney and Melbourne. They’re all over the country. We’ve got them in Perth and Adelaide, and even some regional and rural towns. As you say, there’s not a lot of us at this point.

Mick: I saw in some of the photos too for the cafes and things like that where faces are blurred out. Is that, that’s all part of training you have to go through?

Mark: Yes that’s right. With the tours of … there’s two different types of photos that are included in the package. We have what we call point-of-interest images. They are typical business photos that if you’re running a restaurant, it could be a dish. It will be your opening hours, if you’ve got them on the door, what payment methods you use. A front-of-store shot, interior shots to show the space.

These are just still photos that can be used by the business owner in brochures or their websites or anything they like. There’s usually about 10 of those that are included in the package. Those photos generally you don’t have people in, and they’re fairly standard photos. High resolution though, so they can be used in other places.

The tours; they aren’t allowed to have people’s faces in them. If the faces are in them, they have to be blurred, number plates have to be blurred. There are some tricky things that I’ve seen people do. For instance, there’s a real estate agent up in Port Douglas, Century 21, who had the shoot done and they wore masks.

Some people play around with the concept. I’ve seen offices where people are laying on top of the filing cabinets and have got their faces covered. That type of thing, just to create some kind of viral effect. That’s, it’s all part of the fun.

Mick: There’s two types, the walkthrough ones, you initially said that it’s like a street view. So, I guess in a car showroom, you can actually then jump from place and move around?

Mark: Yes you can. It works exactly the same as street view. When we do the tours, there’s two parts to it; there’s the physical taking of the photographs and then there’s the moderation and the processing of that within the Google system. We can choose which tour and which panorama and which direction it’s facing for an inside view and an outside view.

If you’ve looked at them and seen ‘see inside’ you see the little photo come up. We can select which one of those panoramas and which way it’s pointing as the image that comes up on the Google searches.

Mick: That’s obviously something that as a business owner, you can upload your own photos or you can take your own photos. You can’t actually upload this walk throughs because I know there’s iPhone apps out there where you can do 360-degree panoramas, but you can’t actually put that up in the system, can you, unless you …?

Mark: No, the issue is around quality. We go through … there are specified cameras and lenses and panoramic heads that have to be used to get the quality level that Google is happy with. You wouldn’t be able to achieve that holding an iPhone. That’s where the differences come into it.

They’re all high-resolution images. They are using fish-eye lenses that are specifically matched to cameras. Within the Google system, it does corrections and things based on the focal length, the focus points, there’s a whole bunch of different things that come into account to make it work.

Mick: It’s a pretty pro thing, it’s not something that business owners can go and do?

Mark: Not generally.

Mick: How long does it take? What’s the process? You just rock up at whatever places you’re going to. How long does it take and what’s sort of the steps to how you do it?

Mark: The process starts first of all having a Google Places or Google+ local page so that we can build the photo shoot into the Google system before we turn up. There’s a contract that people have to sign. It’s quite a simple one, but it basically says that you give permission to Google to use the photos online, they can be used in marketing materials and things like that. It’s quite a simple contract. You sign that.

Then we take photos. The photos take, depending on the size of the business, it’s usually around about an hour. It’s generally not disruptive. Depending upon your business you can, you may want it at a quiet time or a busy time, it depends on what you want to try and do.

Once the photos have been finished, we go away and we do the moderation and uploading and creating the tours. Then it will appear live on your Google page. I like to say about a week, in practice, it’s probably a couple of days, depending upon how things go. As long as there’s no issues and the system is working the way it should and all that, it usually takes a couple of days.

Mick: The photos in the business, can you use those like standard commercial photos? Can you use them anywhere else?

Mark: Yes you can. The point-of-interest images, which are standard photos, they can be used on the website, their website, their brochures, anything like that. The other interesting thing is that the Google tours can be embedded in a customer’s website, can be embedded as a tab in a Facebook page, can be used in a lot of other places. It’s similar to a YouTube video where you can embed it in a website. You can do exactly the same thing with the virtual tours.

Mick: Is that like iFrame  from the back-end system or can you …?

Mark: That’s right.

Mick: You can’t grab that yourself off a Google listing?

Mark: No, it’s from an iFrame. There’s another little application that’s been built by another Google Trusted Photographer in Scandinavia, which is able to create a tab on a Facebook page and show virtual tour. When you click on it, it opens up a full-screen virtual tour of that business. You can put it on your Facebook page and people will be able to go and have a look straight inside your business from there.

Mick: That is brilliant, that’s unreal. When this first came in the US, I thought… was it subsidised by Google or was it free? There was some … I remember some news about that when it first came out.

Mark: Yes. What Google did was as a precursor to the full service, they sent a bunch of photographers around to do some free listings just to get the business, the whole process up and going and running. They were running around madly in different regions doing it for free just to build a bit of awareness. That finished in Australia probably a year ago. I don’t know when they stopped doing it in the States but that was what that was about.

Mick: It sounds pretty applicable with most businesses. In the ones you’ve done, is there particular businesses where it really does pull in on a return on investment, and some maybe not so much?

Mark: I could tell you ones I refused to do, not in a bad way, but I suggested to the business owner that it probably wasn’t a great idea. That was a bank.

Mick: Fair enough.

Mark: I didn’t think it was appropriate to do it in banks, only because my own personal feeling was that it’s like if someone wanted to case a bank, (laughs) you don’t want them doing a tour. I wouldn’t recommend that. Other businesses generally it’s pretty good.

There’s, it goes into … there’s so many different businesses that’s it’s applicable to. The ones that I think that it’s really worthwhile is where the business probably thinks to themselves, “If only I could get someone to have a look inside, I’m sure they would want to come in and buy something from me.”

There are supplement businesses that have got gyms inside that nobody knows about. There are florists that not only sell flowers but they sell gifts and gift wear, nobody knows about it. There are businesses that are competing with other businesses that are backyard operators. You want to show that you’ve got substance to your business, stand apart. “Not only do we have the products but hey, look at what we’ve got in our store and it’s really worth a visit.”

Mick: I can say anyone in shopping centers as well, because all you’re going to see is the outside, shops and street view and things like that of the shopping center.

Mark: People just don’t know what’s in there, that’s right, those types of things, anyone that wants to improve their Google ranking. There’s a whole bunch of different reasons why people like to do it. I’ve done a couple of car yards where I’ve done tours inside cars. I made up a little apparatus that I can put in the car and it does a 360-degree panorama inside the car.

Mick: Let’s, if you’re happy to, let’s jump into a case study that people can look up and see examples. The one I was going to suggest that you show me was the Coconut Noosa one. If folks go to to Google, and I’ll just double-check it now while we’re chatting. So… Coconut Noosa.

Mark: Yes, it’s best if, I think Google ‘Coconut Noosa, Noosa Heads’, and it will come up with a Google+ page. The map and you’ll see it like any other search term.

Mick: Yes, you’re right. It’s pulled up the photos on the right-hand side and as well as in the listing underneath the main organic listings, it’s got Google+ page review. Yes, you see there … one of them says ‘see photos’, it’s got a map listing and one says ‘see inside’. If you click on that, yes, it takes you to the internal 360-degree walk around. The pictures are pretty sharp.

Mark: That’s right. This operates on mobile devices as well as computers, so iPads, iPhones, androids of course, not a problem. You can zoom in. If you wanted to show people stock that you’ve got on the shelf, they can go up to the shelf and then the little buttons on the top, using either the mouse or the buttons on the top-left plus, and you can just zoom in and see what the product is.

Mick: Yes, I’m looking at handbags here and see, zoom in, you can always, you can pretty well see the thread on the zip on the handbags.

Mark: Yes, that’s right. As I said it’s all high-res stuff and you can navigate around exactly the same way as you do with Street Maps, where you can put the circle way up ahead and just jump across or just follow the arrows.

Mick: With the still shots, is there any limitations? Can you watermark the website address and things like that in there, or is Google … it has to be a clean picture or can you put logos and things like that on the actual still images?

Mark: You’re not supposed to blur things, but you could add a text to a photo, if someone wanted to have some … it would need to be inconspicuous, not plastered across the center of the photo. If you’re talking about something down the bottom, that would be possible, yes.

Mick: I’m just thinking if the photos are probably going to turn up in a few different places like I imagine it’s not just like a listing with the Google Maps and other places. I’m just thinking if you a have a photo online, it would sometimes be good to include your website address somewhere on that, just in case the photo …

Mark: Yes. The other thing we could do is we can include information in the metadata for the photo. That would ensure that it popped up where you wanted it to.

Mick: There’s a geeky term for the folks, what’s the metadata of a photo?

Mark: Photos, apart from just showing an image, inside digital images there is metadata and the metadata holds information about what camera it was, what lens it was, all sorts of things like that. Also it holds copyright information, it holds, if you’ve got GPS tagging, it will say where the photo was taken. You can put website links to who owns the photo. You can put comments about the photo. It’s all stored in this metadata. I’d say probably a lot of people don’t really realize that that type of content and information is stored in photos.

Mick: Yes, I think there have been a couple of crimes solved that way before, or lost people were found because a camera got stolen with things and then the photos turned up and track back serial numbers.

Mark: It’s got dates and time the image was taken. Most people probably see that when they look at their photos on the computer and it’s got a date and a timestamp, that date and timestamp is coming from the metadata.

Mick: As far as the services then, how are people finding out about it? The demand, what, it looks like a pretty good setup. How are people stumbling upon the service that you provide and things like that?

Mark: Mostly it’s walking the streets and talking to them about it. There are some that find out about it and then go searching for Google Trusted Photographers, and find them that way. It is generally an introduction to the business. I will in most cases talk to the business owners. What I find is that emails and phone calls are not great. What really blows people away is when they see it on an iPad. You walk into their store and you say, “Look at this.” It doesn’t take much convincing after that.

Mick: What about, is there any kind of risk reversal or guarantees as far as the service goes? If the photos go up and it’s not quite right. Do you go back and redo them or how is that?

Mark: Yes that is right. We go through a vetting process. Not only does the photographer go through a moderation process and processing it. Google also vet them and make sure that they’re up to their standard as well before they publish. If there are any problems with them, we’ll go back and reshoot.

Mick: In ballpark terms, what’s the prices? What does it start at?

Mark: We have three categories we call small, medium and large. It’s basically around the size of the premise and how many panoramas are required. At the small end, you’re talking a bit less than $400. In the middle it’s around about $650 and then at the top end, it’s a bit less than $1000.

Mick: $400 you start … how does that compare with real estate photos? When people list a house, they’ll get a photographer to do a set of photos. What costs are involved in a generic real estate package?

Mark: Generic real estate packages vary again, depending upon a whole bunch of stuff, different things. You generally get a real estate package for a round about $150 thereabouts, depending upon how many images you require. The thing that a lot of people don’t understand about photography is that the cost of a photo is based on its usage, not what it takes to take the photo.

When we talk about usage, it’s, how long are you going to use this image for? What markets are you going to use this image for and what are going to … how are you going to use it? Am I going to put it on the web? I’m going to use it for brochures. I’m going to use it for books. I’m going to use it for six months, 12 months, a year, three years. I’m going to use it in Australia, New Zealand, the rest of the world, how and what am I going to do? Most real estate images have a lifespan of around three months.

Mick: That’s what I’m thinking, basically it’s essentially a one-off sale for that person and then it’s done and gone, that’s not the 360-degree views either, it’s just …

Mark: That’s right. They’re just still images. The other thing about the Google photos is, part of the requirements of Google is that we hand over the copyright to the images. You get the images for yourself. You own them.

Mick: There you go. Yes, that’s…you don’t often get that.

Mark: You don’t often get that but that’s the way it is with the Google images.

Mick: Let’s close up and give people a couple of steps they can do from here. As far as action steps if you’re listing this now, you’ve got your business, you want to know how to do this. The first thing I’m going to suggest you do is just Google your business, and you should be doing that once a week, once every two weeks anyway, just to see what is out there because whatever Google says about your business is your reputation.

Do a search as well for your location, whatever city or suburb you are and your service category. It might be Chermside Mechanic, whatever combination of location and what it is that you do. Just see what comes up and have a look for your listing.

The example I’m going to use here if you following on a computer is ‘Brisbane sailing’. If you type in ‘Brisbane sailing’, Google search results will come up with a map listing and several different listings. On each of the listings, you’re going to see the title of the business or the organization, underneath that will be the website, and then underneath that will be either a list of reviews, say three reviews, five reviews, or if there’s no reviews on the business, it will say Google+ page in the text. That’s what you want to click on to go through and look at your Google+ page. You’ll go, there’s the confusion between Google+ products here but it’s a Google+ local listing. You can then see your profile, whether it’s got no photos, whether reviews and things are there or not.

In that example, you’ll find ‘Sails Restaurant’. You’ll see it’s got a score of 14 out of 30. That’s what, when you get enough reviews, you’ll actually get a score triggered against your business. Obviously you want to have that as high as possible, because if people are looking at three different restaurants to go to, two are above 20 and one is below 20, then that one is going to struggle. You’re going to want to be looking at reputation management solution there.

Once you find your listing, you want to go in and fill out as many details as you possibly can. Do as much as you can as a business owner. At that point, it then makes sense to get the professional photos added or get a walkthrough of your business added, then it’s probably time to contact someone like Mark. Mark what’s the best way that folks can get hold of you?

Mark: They can ring me on 0425 899 009. They can email me [email protected] or they can search for Google Business Photos or Google Trusted Photographer, and I will come up in their Google listings. If they’re not even, if they’re not in Brisbane area, maybe they’re in Melbourne or Sydney or something, there’s a Google Trusted Photographer page that Google publishes. It shows all of the Trusted Photographers around Australia and their website and phone number and contact details are there.

Mick: Mark, I’m assuming that if folks have any kind of questions about how it works or all that sort of gear, you’re happy to field questions?

Mark: Happy to step them through the process. Also happy to engage with them in terms of sharing what I know about improving their Google rankings with regards to their Google local pages, and making sure that they’ve got it set so that we can get the photos done, if they’ve got any problems at all, happy to help.

Mick: Folks, it’s really good to get feedback in these sorts of interviews as well. If you’re talking to Mark and you do go ahead and get your photos done, please mention this interview. It just gives an idea of who is listening and how effective we are getting messages across. If you do, if you get it done with Mark, feel free to give me a call afterwards as well and we’ll have a quick look. If there’s anything I there that I can see that could be improved I can give you tips on how to improve the Google page for website ranking as well, I’m more than happy to do that.

Mark, thank you so much for your time. That’s a heap of information there and I think, anyone starting online, it’s the first place to start looking is that Google page because it’s free and it’s pretty much dessimated Yellow Pages. It’s where you want to be found.

Mark: Great, pleasure to be here.

Mick: Thanks Mark.

Mark: See you, bye-bye.

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