How to choose a great business name

By | In Internet Marketing | 85 Comments

Your business name can make a big difference – positive or negative – to the branding or positioning of your business, and ultimately to your marketing results.

But how should you choose a business name? I’m sometimes asked by clients to help with the naming of a new venture, and I’ve assembled a list of ideas and concepts that I like to draw on to assist the process.

Quirky or Functional?

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to business naming.

1. New and Quirky: The Googles, Odeos, Flickrs, Del.icio.uses, Yahoo!s etc.

Quirky neologisms have the advantage of being memorable and unique. This type of name can work well for a mass-market product or service – especially when it’s a first-of-its-kind offering.

If you’re in a non mass-market industry, I recommend that you avoid quirky names and go for a name that is descriptive and functional instead – something that a prospect can understand immediately.

2. Descriptive and Functional:

A good descriptive name should communicate in 1 to 3 words as much as possible about what your business does, and if possible, communicate your unique difference.

Examples:

Marketing Results [Internet marketing consultancy]
BetterEdit.com [Online proofreading and editing business]
Loans Approved [Mortgage broker]
Customized Stickers [specialist sticker retailer]

It’s hard to come up with a truly magnificent name, but it’s not so difficult to think of one that’s fairly good.

Other factors to consider

Focus: Apex Bookkeeping is better than Apex Business Services.

Uniqueness / USP: Expert Plumbing is better than Century Plumbing.

Cadence: The way your name sounds when spoken aloud. Does your name flow off the tongue, or is it difficult to say? This point may sound slightly strange, but it can have a big effect on memorability.

Keywords: As mentioned above, functional keywords contain more communicative power than neutral words. Functional keywords may also have positive search engine optimization effects in the online arena.

Common naming mistakes to avoid

Unfoccussed or irrelevant names: e.g. a florist called ACME Global Products.

Hackneyed names: e.g. Smith Building Services

Obscure aconyms: e.g. WDS Marketing. [IBM was International Business Machines before it became IBM. Only by being first was it able to later gain traction with the name IBM.]

Over-long names: e.g. Quintessential Management Consulting and Marketing Services.

Conclusion

The above guidelines should help you come up with a great business name. Even if you bend a few guidelines above (as you sometimes have to do), starting off with a strong name is the first step toward making your marketing work.

Will Swayne
Marketing Results

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  1. Melbourne And Marketing Results Blog

    Not much time for a long post today because I’m in Melbourne having too much fun, which means I’m not sitting in front of a computer all day for change. Having a trip away from home reminds me how much fun it is to just hang out and see fr…

    Trackback by Internet Marketing For Small Business - Entrepreneur's Journey — January 16, 2006 #

  2. Nice post Will!

    I’m actually in that stage of coming up with good domain names for a few upcoming websites.

    The problem with domain names these days is that all the regular worded domains are taken. So if you want a short, memorable, and possible brandable/trademarkable (is that a word? :D) domain you need to make up a domain by either combining words or altering words or meanings etc.

    And I can tell you, it’s not easy! Sometimes a really good possible domain name will come to you and at other times there’s just nothing.

    I’m actually trying to come up with a good domain name for a general school community/resource site… any ideas?

    cheers
    Nathan Waters

    Comment by Nathan Waters — January 17, 2006 #

  3. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for your comment. You make a very good point – short, quirky domain names can be good because they’re

    A) available and
    B) memorable
    C) trademarkable

    I agree with you that it’s not easy to find a name with all these qualities – only in retrospect.

    I’m not quite sure exactly what your school / community resource site is about or who it’s targeted at, but I think it’s normally just a huge brainstorming game.

    By the by, I think http://www.LinkedIn.com is a good domain name – memorable but also suggestive of what it is (a social networking site).

    Everyone always says that “all the good domain names are taken”, and I suppose many of the obvious choices are. But there’s still plenty of potential winners out there.

    Good luck – let me know when you find a winner!

    Will

    Comment by Will — January 17, 2006 #

  4. Good article! While I like most of it, I would also stress that keywords and focus are not necessarily important. If you have the money, coming up with a brandable name such as “Google,” “Amazon, “eBay,” “Apple,” etc., may even be better. I wrote an article that touched on naming your business as well.

    Comment by Spencer — January 18, 2006 #

  5. Welcome Spencer – thanks for your article link. There’s some good stuff there.

    I agree that good, brandable names are great, in the right industry. I’m primarily writing for bricks-and-mortar business owners who want to generate sales leads for their business using the internet.

    But hey, if you have the right concept and lots of ca$h, the big business branding approach is great. I just don’t have any experience with that yet. Maybe in future…

    Thanks again for posting.

    Will

    Comment by Will — January 18, 2006 #

  6. Hi Will.

    I think I played around with a short list of 10 potential names when I was setting up my website.

    Even after I short listed them I posted this list around to a bunch of friends and colleagues and the name was finally based on the majority vote.

    Mr. Roomfinder dot com was born and it’s all about finding Rooms be it apartments, offices, or hotels etc.

    To be honest, I was surprised a name like that was available as a .com.

    Cheers

    Aitch

    Comment by Aitch — January 19, 2006 #

  7. Great article. My site is AUTO APPROVED http://www.autoapproved.com (similar to Loan Approved cited). I think its a great name because of the double meaning auto as in car and as in automatically.

    Keep up the great work Will.

    Comment by Tyler Eastman — January 19, 2006 #

  8. Hi Aitch – Thanks for your comment. I recognize you from the old E-J crowd :). I think Mr Roomfinder is a great name. It’s functional and also catchy. You also provide yet more evidence against the “Every good domain name is taken” myth. Thanks for posting.

    Hi Tyler – Welcome! Yes, Auto Approved is a great name. Great keywords, good cadence and there’s some (semi) alliteration in there too which can enhance memorability…plus the layered meanings. You’ve got it all!

    Comment by Will — January 19, 2006 #

  9. Great blog!

    what do you think of the company name

    “the funding fathers”?

    fantabulous? so-so? super-duper? terrrible?

    thanks!! Izzy

    Comment by Izzy — January 23, 2006 #

  10. Hi Izzy – welcome!

    Well, I guess you’d have to think about what your business does, what your unique difference is and who your target market is.

    Is the business something to do with finance? If so the pun on “founding fathers” might be too flippant for your market – unless there’s some twist in your business model or positioning that makes that OK.

    This raises a good point that a business name doesn’t exist in isolation and that what may be great for one business might be no good for another.

    Will

    Comment by Will — January 23, 2006 #

  11. How to Choose a Business Name

    Will Swayne is a sales lead generation specialist and principal of Australian Internet consulting firm Marketing Results. I actually hopped on over to his website from Yaro’s Entrepreneur’s Journey after finally finding time to catch up on several of…

    Trackback by Websites Made Simple — January 23, 2006 #

  12. Nathan almost brought it up, but whether the domain name is available can also impact on what business/organisation name you choose.

    I didn’t mind too much with my first few sites but now I’d strongly consider purchasing the right name if it wasn’t available.

    Comment by Ross Hill — July 24, 2007 #

  13. Hey Ross — thanks for dropping by. You’re right, a lot of good domain names are taken now. For .com.au domain names, it’s not tooooooooo bad, but for .com names a bit more thought is often required.

    Will

    Comment by Will — July 24, 2007 #

  14. Good article, thanks Will.

    The name of the business / domain is so important.

    I have to laugh to myself at some of the names i see from time to time, like the domain names that make other less desirable words (we’ve all seen the lists of “fart” & “sex” combinations in inappropriate places.)

    Saw a good tool for picking domain names – be warned, this is addictive and you will probably buy a few names that you can’t beleive haven’t been snapped up!- http://www.bustaname.com

    Like Ross, i too would buy the right name if it was parked somewhere, having said that, one i really would like is just too expensive for me right now, if you can though, i would buy the right name at a premium

    Comment by Brennan Ryan — July 24, 2007 #

  15. Hi Brennan – yes, some domain names are rather unfortunate. Thanks for the bustaname tool — I like it!

    Comment by Will — July 25, 2007 #

  16. What about a sense of timelessness. We named RedBalloon Days after the 1956 Oscar winning movie. It is visual, memorable, colourful and has a sense of fun…and once you know it you remember it.

    Whats in a name

    Comment by Naomi Simson — August 23, 2007 #

  17. Hi Naomi,

    Thanks for stopping by! “Red Balloon Days” is indeed a great business name that speaks to the senses and conjures up a sense of fun. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” examples that is difficult to dissect but just works.

    Comment by Will — August 29, 2007 #

  18. Its the name that sells but the business name is most difficult to create. The problem comes when you have choosen one domain name and then you realize it has been taken by someone else. I must say that this article is really a good piece of advice for all the businessman who are striving to get their business name and are making the list but are tearing them apart. I hopefully feel these tips will really help you in choosing your domain name.

    Comment by Dean — November 22, 2007 #

  19. These are no doubt very useful tips. Obviously without business name, no business can survive. You are recognized by your business name and it’s your business name that creates your place in the market. So it is best for you that you should choose your business name very carefully and with planning

    Comment by marketing reviews — November 28, 2007 #

  20. I think you do not have to be an expert on marketing to have a suitable name in your business.
    Just a bit of imagination, originality and functionality are required.

    Thank you.-

    Comment by business mortgages — March 7, 2008 #

  21. Great ideas about choosing a name, thanks. I feel one should chose a name that immediately tells your prospects what your business is about. And a possible suggest excellence too. I liked your example of “Expert Plumbing”, as a prospect immediately knows what you’re about.

    Comment by Riggie — September 29, 2008 #

  22. @Riggie – for SMEs, I agree that a name that communicates what you’re about is the way to go. High-sounding names that are ambiguous to the potential prospect/customer are the equivalent of pouring money down the drain. As if small business wasn’t competitive enough already!

    Comment by Will — October 1, 2008 #

  23. Do not forget colours, think about them when you’re choosing a business name. They’ll be an important component of your business logo and other business promotion materials and your business web site, and colour have strong emotional associations, too. Red, for instance, is an aggressive colour; its fiery elements are associated with speed, excitement and passion while green is a calming colour associated with growth, renewal and nature. Have a nice day.

    Comment by Increase Traffic — January 15, 2009 #

  24. Nice article — it seems as though the “new and quirky” are becoming more and more commonplace these days. For example, # flickr (63470 overall)
    zamzar, kuler, etsy, hulu . These are cool names but are becomming more of a dime a dozen. Plus you have no idea what they do without visiting the sites.

    Comment by Kerry — March 3, 2009 #

  25. Hi Will, this is a very good article. I am in the process of selecting a good “IT Business Name”. Whatever I have chosen taken already by ASIC and the domain names. I know IT/Tech Support is a very common thing nowadays but this is what my passion is and I am really looking to progress in this field. I am a network engineer by profession. Can you suggest me some of the names for my startup business which are short but have a very good meaning and stand out from others. Like one name came in my mind was ITWise but that’s been taken and the domain is also taken. Anybody reading this blog please feel free to tell me what would a suitable name for my startup or home/small business. Thanks and much appreciated.

    Comment by Ash — March 19, 2009 #

  26. I think when choosing a business name, you should also consider how it might fit in with a domain name as keywords in the domain name help from a SEO point of view. It’s nice to have the business name, the same as the domain name.

    Even doing keyword researching before finalising your business name and domain name, may seem like a step too far but could prove lucratitive in the long run.

    Lee

    Comment by Small Business — April 14, 2009 #

  27. Ash, when you start up will you be giving away IT services? Or do you just want business name consultants to help YOU for free? That said, if you’re going to do this on your own why not incorporate your name…how about: AshITWise

    Comment by Dave — April 15, 2009 #

  28. Also, another good idea for a business name is that you want something catchy that people will remember. Great work on this article!

    Comment by Pandora Battery — April 17, 2009 #

  29. Very well written! I chose the name searchenginerankings.com.au because it is descriptive and easy to remember!

    Comment by Anup — May 1, 2009 #

  30. One method i’ve employed is using translated words from other languages. Works for the quirky ones anyway and can usually guarantee availability.

    Comment by Neil Duckett — May 20, 2009 #

  31. Interesting post. I have stumbled and twittered this for my friends. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

    Comment by Craigslist Phone Verified Accounts — June 13, 2009 #

  32. Good idea for a business name is that you want something that people will easy to remember. Thanks for the article.

    Comment by Ber2 — June 16, 2009 #

  33. follow similar rules when choosing your business domain name & you won’t go far wrong..

    Comment by manchester seo — June 27, 2009 #

  34. Yes i think your article is correct.I think its worth mentioning though that getting some mates in with a few beers and have a brain storming session on a name for yor new venture could be of great help.I have a question on freeindex asking for some ideas on a new name for my new venture and have seen some great ideas.This is free and the ideas come from people who are in that field,so it may pay to do that.

    Comment by Fused connection unit — July 24, 2009 #

  35. This is really helpful as I’m just budding another business…one for mothers in a mentoring/coaching fashion. From what you’ve written, my business name will be a-okay.
    Thanks

    Comment by Fluorescent strip lighting — July 24, 2009 #

  36. Creating a winning business name takes some thought but is one of the most important things you’ll do during the process of starting a business. Starting out with a weak business name is like trying to golf with only one club in your bag. You may sink some shots but it will be a whole lot harder.

    Comment by Electric Fires — July 30, 2009 #

  37. Any business name will fall into one or maybe all of the following categories:

    1.) A made up name. (two words joined to make one or a name adapted from an already existing word)
    2.) A real name (named after a person)
    3.) A symbolic name (one which expresses the business in the form of an idea)
    4.) What it says on the tin ( a name which simply says what the business is/does)

    Comment by Immoblilien — August 2, 2009 #

  38. how do you find out if a name is taken

    Comment by connie — September 14, 2009 #

  39. Think about how you want people to feel when they hear the name. Write down the words on paper and then categorize them by primary meaning.

    Comment by Tower Defense Games — September 26, 2009 #

  40. Hey I have been researching and working my but off on trying to find a new name for days & months now. Trouble is I need to find a name as we open our new clinic next week..!! Nuts hey

    Trouble is our first name was location specific and now we are growing.

    I run Denture Clinics in Perth Any ideas?

    Help.. Help …Help… All the really great names seam to be taken Arrhhh

    Comment by Jo — October 1, 2009 #

  41. Very good tips. When choosing domain names, i always tend to avoid the dashes.

    Comment by Themescope — October 4, 2009 #

  42. The post gives you a good ides on how to choose a bussiness name. In my opinion a name should be two words that can describe your bussiness!

    Comment by Miami Virtual Office — October 7, 2009 #

  43. A business name that is succinct, easy to pronounce, easy to write down and easy to recall should be the numero uno choice for selection.

    Comment by physiquebodywareusa — October 26, 2009 #

  44. Very nice post indeed! Choosing the right name for your Business is very important. I think one important factor is choosing a business name which people can easily remember it. This is a very big plus in your business and of course something nice to hear.

    Comment by Chris Ducker — October 30, 2009 #

  45. A business name that reflects the company for what it is should be the ideal. A quirky name, with some exceptions, may be difficult to pronounce and difficult to recall. For a new set-up that sort of name can sound the death knell.

    Comment by ebusinessuk — November 20, 2009 #

  46. Every company has hundreds of separate identities thriving under its organization. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with that company by its choice of a name.

    Comment by Health Beds — November 28, 2009 #

  47. What the Bard said about there being nothing in a name didnt apply to corporates. The Bard was not a corporate honcho either!

    Comment by Plastic Cards — December 1, 2009 #

  48. That giving a mere name can prove quite an exercise is intriguing. Once you have a product that sells, your business name become irrelevant.

    Comment by SEO — December 1, 2009 #

  49. If online is going to be a big part of your business, it would probably be better to somehow include keywords in the brand name as well.

    Comment by Call Center Services Outsourcing — December 3, 2009 #

  50. Worrying over a business name should be secondary to the emphasis to be followed for quality goods and services.

    Comment by 3D Architectural Rendering — December 3, 2009 #

  51. I think its better to go for a name which stands out from the crowd. Also businesses should have names which can stick into someones head – the worst thing for any business is a potential customer looking at them and forgetting the next day

    Comment by Armadillo on a Stick — December 5, 2009 #

  52. At times a wacky business name too has the potential to cling to one’s memory and have great recall ability.

    Comment by Website Design Corona — January 11, 2010 #

  53. I believe that searching keyword first, and then using that to help you come up with a good domain name is very important with SEO. Now, If you can do that and make it short and catchy, then you have got a winner!

    Comment by Make Money with Clickbank — January 13, 2010 #

  54. Have you tried alliteration in choosing your name? That’s a great way to get your name remembered by a prospective customer. Like Charlie Chase or something as your pen name.

    Comment by dog tags for dogs — January 27, 2010 #

  55. I went for a keyword name for my site, but am starting to regret it. So much harder to distinguish your brand from all the other keyword business names out there…

    Comment by Traduzione Inglese — February 13, 2010 #

  56. I think when choosing a name you should just go with your own guts and chose something you like, because its all about your mental attitude and if you feel great about your name you will be passionate about it and that will drive you to success. I don’t think people should do keyword research first and then pick the name based on that, with that you won’t have a name that you like and most likely you will just be less excited about the whole site creation.
    Anyways thanks great article!

    Comment by Twitter Skills — March 9, 2010 #

  57. Nowadays it is so difficult to get the domain name that correctly suits your business. I often do keyword checking and then finally chooses one which is close to your main keywords. Thanks for giving some more tips to use while searching for domain names.

    Comment by Types of Plants — May 4, 2010 #

  58. Great article. Another way to choose a unique business name is to make up a brand new word. That’s what I tried to do when naming my business… a word that was easy to remember but also didn’t really *mean* anything.

    I’ve noticed two minor drawbacks to my name:

    1.) Bloggers and customers often remember me as “olliegraphics” (with an “s” at the end). Luckily I still come up as #1 under the olliegraphics search.

    2.) There is a skateboarding term called an “ollie,” so when searching “ollie graphics” (two words) I don’t show up in the first page of results. My artwork isn’t skateboard-related, so I hope the likelihood of customer confusion is minimal.

    Comment by Removalists4u — May 8, 2010 #

  59. I think choosing a name is a storm in a tea-cup. The emphasis should be on quality goods and services.

    Comment by Louisiana Deep Sea Fishing — May 14, 2010 #

  60. Choosing a name is really important, sorry to disagree with some of the comments above. However, these days it is not really the business name, but your trading name that counts, especially your website name. I tend to pick a name that consists a keyword, though I make sure it stands out ( by choosing other words carefully in the domain name ) from the rest. I guess it all comes down to research. Check what names pick your competitors, then choose something that will give you an advantage in google SERPS, but make sure that when people read it, they will not confuse it with your competitor that has a name that i.e. differs only because it uses plural variation of your keyword.

    Comment by Late Hotel Deals — May 26, 2010 #

  61. They say, a brand name is perhaps the most important thing in a business, ofcourse apart from quality of products or services. But with all due respect to Shakespeare, name does matter. but the problem is, all the good names are taken so the idea is to come with something that comes easily on tongue and should also be indicative of what the site is all about.

    Comment by Positive Thinking — May 29, 2010 #

  62. I think its better to have a quality product rather than a good name. Handsome, as the cliche goes, is what handsome does.

    Comment by Festool Sanders — June 3, 2010 #

  63. A good domain name makes all the difference. And if someone is unable to get his preferred domain name, then choosing an unique name will require lots of promotion and quality content. Wonderful tips suggested by you here.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Indian Law — June 15, 2010 #

  64. I own a couple businesses and I have to say this is one of the toughest yet most fun parts of creation. The name. Its tough, I see companies all the time with weird or boring names that are really successfull and I see the same doing poorly. It feels so hit or miss sometimes. Maybe just go with your gut and let your services speak for themselves. Honestly you could name it (random sound) “Rockergon Boa” or something and if you do amazing work for your clients you will get popular and it will catch on. Just think about all the weird sounding popular companies out there.

    Comment by C Plus Electronics — June 17, 2010 #

  65. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but to be remembered the rose does require to smell sweet.

    Comment by Spas — June 22, 2010 #

  66. I agree that a good descriptive name should communicate in 1 to 3 words as much as possible about what your business does, that why my company’s name is Internet Marketing Solutions.

    Comment by David — June 24, 2010 #

  67. I think this is the best page I’ve come across on the subject. Thank you for this and keep it up.

    Comment by Amy Denson — July 3, 2010 #

  68. If you are actually planning to name your business and consider creating a web site for it in the future, you may also consider the availability of the domain name. You would not want to create a web site that is far different from the name of your business. So I think it is also much better to establish both, the business name and the web site name, at the same time.

    Comment by Hazel — July 23, 2010 #

  69. If you are actually planning to name your business and consider creating a web site for it in the future, you may also consider the availability of the domain name. You would not want to create a web site that is far different from the name of your business. So I think it is also much better to establish both, the business name and the web site name, at the same time.

    Comment by reverse number — July 26, 2010 #

  70. i think choosing a business name should be made after doing a competitive analysis of the industry your in and then keeping the competitive keywords in mind, you should add some creativity and make a name.

    Comment by Sports News — August 19, 2010 #

  71. I think that while a quirky name may be more memorable in some situations, I think for general marketers it would be in their best interest to stick with very straight-forward keywords.

    Comment by Kitchener Real Estate — August 20, 2010 #

  72. In addition to above suggestions I would add, do some research on various websites that belongs to your business category, check out the best business names from the URL as well as from the main Titles, prepare a list of all such names, filter them according your main target business and finally you should get at least few right business names. :)

    Comment by Ash | SEO PPC Blogger — September 9, 2010 #

  73. Nice post. When I built my previous business I didn’t understand about name branding and I’m wrong to give the name and I failed.
    This is very inspiring article for me.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2010 #

  74. Interesting issue. When I started working for myself, I knew most of my business would come via my website, so I chose Content Writer as my domain and website name. That was a really good choice because I became a very busy web copywriter in no time and haven’t looked back since.

    However, Content Writer is just the name of my website and the name I trade under online, but our official company name is Triple W Communications Pty Ltd, and all my contracts and invoices show this instead, which can get a bit confusing sometimes. But it’s never given me any real problems and I’m glad I went for the search engine optimised name for my website.

    Comment by Content Writer — November 23, 2010 #

  75. In the ultra competitive real estate climate (for those of us still left), branding is so important. I’ve seen too many agents start branding a generic business name leading to a lot of pain down the road.

    Comment by Jacksonville Waterfront Real Estate — December 2, 2010 #

  76. You have discussed very good and meaningful points here about the what is the business name impact on your business.

    Comment by computer services bundaberg — February 21, 2011 #

  77. Do what it says on the tin with your name. Unless you are involved in hair and beauty side of a business then for some unknown reason out come the funny punns. Choosing a high ranked search engine keyword word as part of a business name is good business and has a proven track record.

    Comment by Fireplaces Liverpool — May 23, 2011 #

  78. The problem with being short and descriptive when choosing the business name is that most short and descriptive domain names are already taking (by businesses or by domain investors), leaving us with not-so descriptive or memorable names to choose from.

    Comment by Buy On Sale — June 6, 2011 #

  79. Finding a good company name can be difficult, but when unsure why not call the business by what it is you do. We Print loyalty cards, so called ourselves Customer Loyalty Cards.

    Comment by Loyalty Card Printing — July 21, 2011 #

  80. @Loyalty…. Simple and effective: I like it!

    Comment by Will Swayne — July 22, 2011 #

  81. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks a lot!

    Comment by Donald Clendening — November 15, 2011 #

  82. I’ve seen very good feedback on this page, but even after brainstorming I can not come up with a nice name for a Immigration Consultancy Firm (Canada) that I am about to launch. Could anyone suggest some names?

    I liked Immigration Matters and Imigration Wise but the domain names are already taken…

    Comment by Pepe — December 10, 2011 #

  83. Interesting article. It is much more difficult to come up with something now that we have to consider the Internet. It’s very easy to tread on someone’s toes with domain names and it’s amazing how many .coms have been taken now.

    Comment by web design lancashire — January 7, 2012 #

  84. What about a tradesman using “& son”? e.g johnson and son plumbing. Outdated or effective?

    Comment by tradie joe — August 18, 2012 #

  85. Some great points here!

    I also think its really important to research to see if any competitors have a similar name and if you can register the domain names and social media profiles.

    Comment by Flynn — August 27, 2012 #

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