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2021 Google updates round up: everything businesses need to win at search

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2021 Google updates round up: everything businesses need to win at search


30-second summary:

  • There have been three core updates in 2021, released in June, July, and November, while another was rumored but unconfirmed in October
  • Featured snippets that fell under the YMYL algorithm were unexpectedly removed in February, then restored in March
  • Product reviews came under the microscope in April, with marketing and sales-centric language penalized in favor of expertise on review-centric websites
  • Multiple spam updates unfolded throughout the year, though these updates should not impact any website that follows Google’s guidelines

Successful SEO strategy is akin to dancing the tango with Google updates. Unfortunately for copywriters, the Big G can be an unpredictable partner at times. In addition to daily algorithm tweaks that go unnoticed, we all brace ourselves for core updates that have a sizeable impact on page ranking and performance. Throughout 2021, Google has confirmed a handful of updates.

Further updates have also been speculated by experienced web-based professionals, reporting these to aid others in remaining on the right side of an adjustment. Throughout this guide, we’ll discuss the updates rolled out by Google in 2021 to date.

Complete list of 2021 Google updates

As promised, let’s review all the algorithm updates issued by Google during 2021, major and minor alike. Some of these are official, confirmed by Alphabet themselves. The core updates are an obvious example of this. Others were noticed by webmasters of influential brands and discussed online. These unconfirmed updates are marked in red below.

1. Passage indexing (February)

The passage indexing update, announced in October 2020, is probably better described as passage ranking. The purpose behind the update is simple and noble. It will pick out one particular sentence or paragraph from a long-form article, aiding a niche web query and avoiding irrelevance.

Essentially, this update seeks out keywords and terminology in an entire article rather than focusing primarily on titles and subheadings. At the time of writing, Google projects that this will impact around 7 percent of search queries. At this point, the passage indexing update also only applies to copy written in US English, though this will eventually become global and translingual policy.

Now, you may be wondering how this differs from a featured snippet. The short answer is that a snippet is chosen based on the whole web page, seeking relevance to the subject at hand in all aspects of the query. The passage indexing update can pick up on a small element of a broader discussion that would otherwise be banished to the mid-page and beyond. Speaking of featured snippets, however…

2. Featured snippet drop/featured snippet recovery (February and March)

In mid-February, MozCast noticed that featured snippets vanished from countless SERPs on Google. This involved a decline of some 40 percent, the largest in over six years. Snippets that revolved around medical or financial advice were particularly impacted. Some of the keywords and terms that experienced this plummet included:

  • Acne
  • Autism
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Investment
  • IRA
  • Lupus
  • Mutual funds
  • Pension
  • Risk management

As you’ll see, the YMYL broad algorithm appeared to be a particular bone of contention. We’ll never know for sure, as this update – if indeed there was an update – has never been confirmed or denied by Google. What’s more, around a month later, these snippets returned as though they had never been away.

Without any explanation behind the mystery, it’s impossible to offer advice to webmasters on how to avoid a future unwarned absence of featured snippets. The fact that YMYL was hit so hard suggests that it was a deliberate action, though. Whenever working within this niche, proceed with caution – especially if relying on SERPs for ecommerce opportunities.

3. Product review update (April)

April’s product review update was also critical to ecommerce sites and those that collate product insights. Google is adamant that this has not been a core update. However, the approach that content marketers must now take mirrors the core updates that arose later in the year.

Following the review update, it’s more important than ever that product reviews remain strictly factual. That means discussing a product’s qualities (or lack thereof) without clear and obvious attempts to push for a sale from an affiliate. Sites that used their copy to talk up the qualities of a product using popular keywords and directing consumers toward Amazon were typically penalized.

Thin copy, as always, captured Google’s attention too, and not in a positive manner. Meaningless, fluffy words designed to pad out a page, along with repetition, will see a page slide down the rankings. A product review site that hopes to remain in good stead with Google must remember the fundamental rules of E-A-T. You can still attempt to make a sale, but not at the expense of demonstrating expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

4. Multitask Unified Model aka MUM (June)

June was a busy month for Google, starting with the Multitask Unified Model update, better known as MUM. This update could be considered a logical extension of the previously discussed passage indexing update. MUM also used AI to improve the search experience for users, replacing BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).

It’s claimed that MUM is at least 1,000 times more powerful than its predecessor. In addition to providing greater, much more insightful data for users, MUM works to eradicate language barriers, including misspellings, leaning upon nuance to meet the expectations of a search.

Perhaps more importantly, MUM means that irrelevant content, picked up through a questionable use of keywords to game the SEO system, will soon disappear from the top of the page in favor of more appropriate content. The core update that came later in the month garnered most of the headlines, but don’t sleep on the impact of MUM.

5. Spam updates (June)

Next in June came a spam update, which took place over two weeks. In theory, this update should not have impacted any website operating under white hat SEO rules. It was designed purely to keep content relevant and appropriate, battling against sinister tactics.

As always, though, there was room for error with this update. It’s always advisable to keep on top of the latest webmaster guidelines laid out by Google. This way, a site is considerably less likely to fall foul to a misunderstanding and accusations of black hat traffic-hoarding.

Updates to Google’s Predator algorithm could also be considered a crucial part of this update. Google has been taking lengths to protect people from harassment online, and a big part of this is downgrading sites that seemingly exist purely to denigrate a reputation.

6. Page experience update (June)

Page experience update sounds like a grand event, comparable even to a core update. In reality, this was a pretty low-key affair. It was also a slow procession, kicking off in June and rumbling on until August. All the same, there will be a degree of ebb and flow as a result. Discuss the update with your UX designer and ensure it remains at the forefront of your thinking.

One of the biggest takeaways from this update is that AMP is no longer essential to rank as a top new story. That could make a sizeable difference to any reporting site. The usual caveats still apply, though – sticking to the established policies of Google News is non-negotiable. Although AMP is no longer critical, ensure your news articles remain mobile-friendly, hosted on a fast and secure server, and unfold devoid of interruptions such as intrusive advertising.

7. Core update (June and July)

Here’s the big kahuna that has every web admin across the globe on tenterhooks – Google’s major summer core update. In 2021, Google announced two updates over June and July, both of which would be connected.

As always, there were winners and losers from this update. In a recurring theme, YMYL sites appeared to lose a great deal of traffic throughout the update – especially in June, when the changes were most volatile. Thin content in any niche also seemed to be a particular focus of this update, with such sites pruned cautiously.

However, some sites that were previously heavily penalized may have experienced a little bounce back. It has been claimed that the biggest priorities of the June and July updates, other than thin copy, have been domain age and the use of backlinks.

Review the traffic of any old sites that you wrote off after the game-changing updates of 2019. These sites may have experienced a revival in page ranking and could be worth reinvestment. Just be mindful that Google may consider this an oversight and reverse the decision at any moment.

8. Link spam update (July)

Another spam-detecting algorithm rolled out in July, this time focusing on backlinks. What’s interesting here is that Google referred to this update as ‘nullifying’ spam links, not penalizing them.

Essentially, Google will just stop counting inappropriate links toward a page ranking and quality score. Naturally, though, it would feel like a punishment if a site relied upon these links previously – this is an important Google update for link-building professionals to pay attention to.

Keep an eye on the links on your site if you have seen a drop in traffic, ensuring that they meet Google’s link scheme standards. It could be all too easy to fall foul to this update based on outdated copy that has not been updated in some time and now links to an altered and irrelevant online location.

9. Page title rewrites (August)

Here’s an interesting update from August. Google started to adjust carefully selected page titles, leading to different ‘headlines’ in search results. This may have SEO consultants across the world wailing and gnashing their teeth, seeing meticulously curated messaging adjusted according to Google’s whims.

Rest assured, the page titles are not undertaking complete rewrites. We are talking about adjustments, not wholesale changes, to title tags. All the same, it could be enough to leave a webmaster frustrated with the outcome. Nobody wants to be accused of click-baiting, especially when the news industry has a questionable reputation with a cynical population segment.

There is little anybody can do to prevent this. To retain some measure of control, though, keep your H1 headings short and readable, and be mindful of your H2 headings. These may be used, in part or whole, to adjust the title of a search result.

10. Speculated core update (October)

We previously discussed how, back in February, MozCast acknowledged some strange patterns pertaining to featured snippets that Google never acknowledged. Something similar unfolded in October when various significant webmasters noted sizeable changes in traffic and performance. This led to claims that Google had engaged in another core update.

Much like February, these changes remain unconfirmed. However, as we’ll discuss in a moment, there was a reasonably seismic core update in November. Given that the previous update unfolded over two months, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Google adopted the same practice this time around.

11. Spam update (November)

Another spam update occurred in November 2021, once again targeting infractions that break Google’s general content guidelines. A website that does not contravene basic regulations or cut SEO corners should remain unaffected. Do keep an eye on your traffic and performance, though. If you notice any fluctuations, it could be time for a refresh of your content.

12. Confirmed core update (November)

Finally, we had another core algorithm update in November. At the time of writing, this was still a very recent development. As a result, the impact of the update will become more apparent over time. Some early responses and acknowledgments have been noted, though.

The most significant adjustment appears to be mobile searches, which were declared 23 percent more volatile than the previous update. Again, much like earlier in the year, featured snippets and ‘quick answers’ in the YMYL niche seem the most heavily impacted. Health and real estate, in particular, have seen a big change in performance.

Now, it’s worth noting here that Google felt compelled to address the timing of this update. Danny Sullivan took to Twitter and accepted that an update just before Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season is not ideal for ecommerce sites – especially those that already adjusted their copy based on previous updates.

Source: Twitter

It will be interesting to see if this will change how Google approaches algorithm updates in 2022 and beyond.

This concludes our trip through the Google algorithm updates of 2021. Just remember, more tweaks and changes are made each day. Most of these adjustments have little to no impact on the performance of your website. If you have spotted a change in fortunes, though, review when this occurred. You may find the answer lies above.


Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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Making Python Scripts Work In Browser For Web App Creation

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Making Python Scripts Work In Browser For Web App Creation


Making Python Scripts work in a web browser involves handling web app functions inside a web page via Python Programming Language.

Since JavaScript is the main programming language for making a web browser work, and a web page interactive, Python is usually used for data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Even if we have back-end infrastructures like Django, and Flask, or static-site-generators like Jekyll, Python is usually behind JavaScript for web development.

But thanks to the latest improvements, JavaScript’s future is open to discussion. “PyScript” allows Python Scripts to work easily within web components.

According to PyScript.net:

“PyScript is a framework that allows users to create rich Python applications in the browser using HTML’s interface and the power of PyodideWASM, and modern web technologies. The PyScript framework provides users at every experience level with access to an expressive, easy-to-learn programming language with countless applications.

In this column, you’ll learn what PyScript is, see an example, learn about alternatives, and also find how to create a custom web app with Python and PyScript.

What Is The JavaScript To Python Migration?

Python is a human-readable programming language.

Thus, there are many Python intermediary program languages to help JavaScript and Java modules and packages are being used in the Python environment.

For example, “TensorFlow” is mainly a JS Package, or Plotly and Selenium.

There are even special packages to make JavaScript code turn into Python code, such as Js2Py.

Why is understanding JavaScript behind Python important?

Because using Python Scripts inside the web browser doesn’t mean that the age of JavaScript is ending for web development.

JavaScript is still functioning behind the Python Scripts in the web browser.

What Is PyScript & How Can You Use It For Creating Web Applications?

PyScript is a framework for making web browsers use Python Scripts.

PyScript turns Python code blocks into Javascript equivalents behind the scenes.

To use PyScript inside a web browser, follow these steps.

Use the stylesheet and JavaScript in the <head> area of the HTML File.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://pyscript.net/alpha/pyscript.css" />

<script defer src="https://pyscript.net/alpha/pyscript.js"></script>
  • Use the Python Code inside the “<pyscript></pyscript>” web component.
  • Pay attention to the indentation.
  • Do not format the Python code inside the “<pyscript/>” web component.
  • Use the shortcuts and arguments of the PyScript for importing Python modules and packages.
  • Use the CSS Classes and IDs to insert the results into the HTML Documents’ specific Div.

An Example Of Running Python Script Inside Of Web Browser

An example of running a Python script in the browser is below.

<html>
<head>
     <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://pyscript.net/alpha/pyscript.css" />
     <script defer src="https://pyscript.net/alpha/pyscript.js"></script>
     <link href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.1.3/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet"
          crossorigin="anonymous">
     <py-env>
- numpy
- matplotlib
     </py-env>
</head>

The <head> area of the HTML File represents the most important resources.

We used the “pyscript.css” and “pyscript.js.”

We also used the “<py-env/>” web component to make the Python modules to be imported.

In this example, we have imported the “numpy” and “matplotlib.”

In the “<body>” section, we will use these modules to create a Python Line Plot inside a web browser.

<body>
     <h1>Let's plot random numbers</h1>
     <div id="plot"></div>
     <py-script output="plot">

At the beginning of the <body>, we used a “div” with the “plot” ID.

It is necessary for making the Python script’s output insertion.

The “<py-script output=”plot”>” is necessary to match the specific HTML Div’s ID value.

 import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

 import numpy as np
 
 x = np.random.randn(1000)

 y = np.random.randn(1000)

 fig, ax = plt.subplots()
 ax.scatter(x, y)
 fig
     </py-script>
</body>
</html>

The Python Script above is a simple line plot script. And you can see the result below.

Screenshot by author, June 2022

The example above shows how to create a line plot with the help of PyScript.

How To See The Terminal Output Of The PyScript

For every Python Script, there is always a terminal that works and outputs the messages from the computation process.

Pyscript ConsoleScreenshot by author, June 2022

The browser console should be read and followed by the developer to see how the PyScript works and what happens behind the scenes.

For example, the screenshot above shows the running process of the Python script that we have created.

It explains how the “numpy”, or “matplotlib” and their dependencies are loaded, and used by which resource.

How To Create a Custom Web App With Python And PyScript?

To create a custom Web App with Python and PyScript, follow these steps:

  • Import the necessary JS and CSS files from PyScript.
  • Create an HTML Document with proper HTML Tag syntax.
  • Use the “py-script” HTML tag with the “output” attribute.
  • Use an HTML Div with a specific ID to match the “output” attribute value.
  • Use “py-env” for the non-built-in libraries of Python.
  • Insert Python Script inside the “py-script” tag without syntax and indentation error.
  • Use “return” in a Python function, or “print” to end your script.
  • Refresh the web page to see the results.

An example of a Custom Python Web App for “random password generation” based on the given password length is below.

Python Web App CreationScreenshot by author, June 2022

The screenshot above demonstrates an example of PyScript in an HTML Document to generate custom passwords.

The Python script that I used is below.

import string
import random
characters = list(string.ascii_letters + string.digits + "!@#$%^&*()")
def generate_random_password():
    length = int(input("Enter password length: "))
    random.shuffle(characters)
    password = []
    for i in range(length):
        password.append(random.choice(characters))
    random.shuffle(password)
    print("".join(password))
generate_random_password()

And, the live version of the custom Python Web App is here.

Just write a numeric value into the input area.

Input AreaScreenshot by author, June 2022

And, it will give you a simple 45-character password.

SEJ Custom Python AppScreenshot by author, June 2022

You can use this technology for some of my other SEJ Articles for auditing sitemaps, or visualization of hot topics from news websites.

Or, in the future, we can demonstrate more sophisticated web apps via PyScript.

What Are The Disadvantages Of PyScript?

The main disadvantage of PyScript is the lack of support.

PyScript is announced during Pycon 2022 to Python developers.

It was a big and exciting event, but community expectations were higher than the current state of PyScript.

Due to weak community support, PyScript development might be slower in the future, but when we think of the journey of Python, it is not surprising.

Python wasn’t that popular until the last five years, because it wasn’t known.

Python Search TrendsScreenshot by author, June 2022

Above, you can see how Python suppressed the search demand of JavaScript overall.

The main reason for Python’s popularity growth is the “pandas” library.

That’s why, ML and Data Science are the main focuses of Python, but it doesn’t have to continue in that way.

Thus, PyScript should be taken into serious consideration for the future of web development.

Pyscript Search DemandScreenshot by author, June 2022

What Are The Alternatives To PyScript?

Alternatives to PyScript are not equivalent to PyScript since it directly runs on the browser, but still, there are different methods to use Python scripts inside a website indirectly.

These included “brython”, “pyodide”, “Appwrite”, “django-readers”, “appdeamon”.

Some alternatives to PyScript are for Firebase such as Appwrite, and some other work for Web Development such as Brython.

Bryhthon for Web App Creation

Brython is older than Pyscript, and it focuses on making Python the primary language for web development with “text/python” file type instead of “text/javascript”.

Can PyScript And Brython Affect Search Engines And SEO?

Yes, in the future, PyScript and Brython can increase their effect on the web development industry.

Changing web development technologies and industries affect search engine crawlers and protocols.

If a search engine starts to see “text/python” files, or “.py” scripts in the HTML source code, it should be able to make it work to see the web page as is.

At the moment, PyScript works via JavaScript, and Brython is already at the beginning of its journey despite its being older.

Other PyScript alternatives work via Node.js like back-end programming libraries, or Firebase like cloud-based systems.

Thus, in the future, Google, as a heavily Python-coded search engine, might need to render Python files for crawling and rendering web pages.

Conclusion For Python As Web Scripting

For people who love coding, it doesn’t matter whether you use Python or JavaScript for a certain task.

But, Python is the easiest programming language to learn as human-readable, it gives more functionality with fewer characters.

Most data scientists and ML (machine learning) Engineers know Python in a good way, and transferring their talents into web development would be similar to the unification of two different universes.

More resources:


Featured Image: TippaPatt/Shutterstock





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Does Google Crawl URLs In Structured Data?

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Does Google Crawl URLs In Structured Data?


Google’s John Mueller answered whether Google would use links in structured data for crawling. Getting links discovered, crawled, and then indexed is vital to SEO, so any available advantage for getting more pages crawled would be helpful.

What Does Google Use Links For In Structured Data?

The person asking the question wants to know if Google uses links discovered in structured data for crawling.

They also want to know if Google doesn’t use the links for crawling if they’re just stored.

Here is the question:

“Does Google crawl URLs located in structured data markup or does Google just store the data?”

Google Tries Crawling Many Kinds Of URLs

Mueller’s answer might seem a little surprising because, among other things, he mentions that Google might try to crawl a link that’s in a text file.

Another point of interest is that he says Google will crawl anything that “looks” like a link, followed up with examples of what “looks like a link” means.

Mueller’s answer:

“So for the most part, when we look at HTML pages, if we see something that looks like a link, we might go off and kind of like try that URL out as well.

That’s something where if we find a URL in JavaScript, we can try to pick that up and try to use it.

If we find a link in kind of a text file on a site, we can try to crawl that and use it.”

Mueller’s answer is a pretty good overview of what Google might do with alternative links, links that are not traditional HTML hyperlinks with anchor text.

What followed is Mueller’s reminder that all of these alternative forms of links should not be viewed as substitutes for actual HTML hyperlinks, what Mueller calls a “normal link.”

Mueller strongly recommends using a standard HTML hyperlink if you want something that performs like a link.

He continued his answer:

“But it’s not really a normal link.

So it’s something where I would recommend if you want Google to go off and crawl that URL, make sure that there’s a natural HTML link to that URL, with a clear anchor text as well, that you give some information about the destination page.

If you don’t want Google to crawl that specific URL, then maybe block it with robots.txt or on that page use a rel=canonical pointing to your preferred version, anything like that.

So those are kind of the directions I would go there.

I would not blindly assume that just because it’s in structured data it will not be found.

Nor would I blindly assume that just because it’s in structured data it will be found.

It might be found.

It might not be found.

I would instead focus on what you want to have happen there.

If you want to have it seen as a link, then make it a link.

If you don’t want to have it crawled or indexed, then block crawling or indexing.

That’s all totally up to you.”

Alternative Links

SEOs have created many alternative forms of links, some of which (like “link mentions”) have no basis in reality and are pure conjecture and opinion.

Many years ago, SEOs began practicing something called Google Stacking, which included adding links to Google Sheets and then pointing links to that Google sheet believing that the practice would help rankings.

The idea was similar to Web 2.0 link building, where some SEOs had the mistaken notion that so-called “authority” from a Google-affiliated site would trickle over through the links on Google Sheets and Google Sites.

Adding this to Mueller’s answer about links in structured data, Mueller confirmed that Google might crawl links in structured data, JavaScript and text files. But he also said that regarding structured data, Google might not crawl those links.

Mueller affirms that it’s best to use actual links if you want the power of links.


Citation

Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 23:20 minute mark.

Featured Image: YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, June 2022. 





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The Four Day Work Week

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The Four Day Work Week


Thinking about implementing a four-day work week? It’s easier than you think.

In this episode, Joe O’Connor of 4DayWeek.com joined me to discuss implementing a four-day week and why CEOs and HR managers should consider trying it. We also discussed the global momentum around the shift in thinking amongst companies.

Offering flexible working or remote working used to be a competitive advantage. It’s not anymore. It’s now a standard expectation.–Joe O’Connor, 13:53

And part of the beauty around this is the quid pro quo. You know, it is the idea that this is for many leaders that have done this. They’ve described it as the cheapest, most efficient process improvement strategy we have ever deployed.–Joe O’Connor, 34:44

We’re going to be trying the four-day work week, and we’re going to be sharing how it’s worked for us. Just like we’ve been sharing things like being a digital-first company that has always been a virtual workplace.–Loren Baker, 40:32

[00:00] – A little about Joe and the four-day workweek.
[04:01] – Is a 3-day weekend a great incentivizing force?
[06:15] – Does it level the playing ground with gender equality?
[13:10] – Why is the four-day work week suddenly taking off?
[17:00] – How does it differ amongst countries?
[21:35] – Recommended tools for outdated ways of working.
[25:21] – How do you make the most of someone’s natural productivity.
[26:40] – Misconceptions about shutting down the company on a Friday or a Monday.
[31:53] – Learn from a study from a company that moved to a four-day work week.

People said their output, expectations, and responsibilities are the same as before we took reduced work time. And they’re the same as our five-day colleagues. So what does that tell us? It tells us two things. First, we’ve got a gender equality problem in the workplace. Secondly, Parkinson’s Law is the idea that the length of time that you’ve got available to complete a task that a task will expand to fill the time available for its completion. And that’s something that drives the philosophy behind the four-day workweek movement.–Joe O’Connor, 05:20

It seemed like the first one, and last one out was that indicator of who was working the hardest, and not necessarily the indicator of who was working the smartest.–Loren Baker, 15:15

People’s priorities have changed. For many people, the pandemic has forced them to realign how they value different things within their lives and what they think constitutes a reasonable life-work balance.–Joe O’Connor, 20:12

Resources mentioned:
https://www.4dayweek.com/

For more content like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/searchenginejournal

Connect with Joe O’Connor:

Joe O’Connor is a driven and dynamic campaigner with extensive leadership experience in campaign work and organizational transitions. His passion lies with social justice issues that pertain to economic empowerment for all people globally – he’s 4 Day Week Global CEO!

Right now, Joe is leading 4 Day Week Global’s pilot program, with 150 companies launching six-month coordinated trials of the four-day week in the first half of 2022 alone. These trials involve 7,000 employees from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

​​Connect with Joe on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-o-connor-81704287/
Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/joeoc99

Connect with Loren Baker, Founder of Search Engine Journal:

Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/lorenbaker
Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorenbaker





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