SEMrush vs Ahrefs: Which Tool Offers the Best Value?

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semrush vs ahrefs
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SEMRush vs Ahrefs 2020: Which Tool Offers the Best Value?

SEMrush and Ahrefs are the two most popular search engine optimization and digital marketing tools on the internet.

They’ve both been around for years and are loaded with lots of fantastic features that every veteran marketer and SEO will need to grow his online business.

So, if you’re looking to know which tool to choose between SEMrush vs Ahrefs, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we’re going to deeply compare both SEO tools so you can easily decide which one is ideal for you.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Overview

Starting with Ahrefs…

Ahrefs is one of the most popular search engine optimization and marketing tools out there and was formally known as a backlink analysis tool.

They’ve really innovated over the years, adding a bunch of new features to the tool.

A few years ago, there wouldn’t be anything like SEMrush vs. Ahrefs comparison as Ahrefs was purely focused on links.

But today, Ahrefs has a truckload of features, making it a direct competitor to SEMrush, including:

  • Competitor analysis tool
  • Keyword research features
  • Keyword competitor analysis
  • Rank tracking tool
  • Technical SEO tools
  • Etc.

And coming to SEMrush…

SEMrush’s major strength is on its ability to easily spy on your competitor’s rankings and see what they’re doing.

With that, you won’t just sit and be brainstorming for keywords ideas. Just enter a competitor’s site into the tool, and it’ll instantly generate a list of all the keywords they’re ranking for.

Ahrefs also has a similar feature at the moment (more on this later). It’s, however, worth noting that SEMrush started their journey as a keyword research tool but recently upgraded and added more features.

Today, you can use SEMrush to:

  • Analyze competitor PPC campaigns
  • Analyze competitor keywords and traffic
  • Monitor your website’s Google rankings and backlinks
  • Optimize your content for SEO
  • Reverse engineer a website’s top traffic sources
  • Etc.

SEMrush announced about a massive update to its link index some time ago, which is also something to be proud about:

semrush link index update
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Bottom line: SEMrush and Ahrefs have similar features, but we still need to know which of them is the best overall.

Let’s get started.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | User Interface and Ease of Use

I’d say that Ahrefs has a relatively cleaner interface than SEMrush; its menus are logically laid out for ease of use, and its dashboards seem to coherently group pieces of information together without getting the user confused.

Ahrefs lets you have a pretty quick understanding of the SEO data you’re looking for. But with SEMrush, you often must do a few diggings or clicking around to get your desired data.

I’m not mainly saying that SEMrush has a complicated interface, and to be honest, the reason for the complexity in SEMrush’s usability is perhaps because it often delivers more data than Ahrefs – in terms of PPC data, graphs, pipelines, etc.

And you’ll undoubtedly love SEMrush’s approach if you like data visualization.

semrush interface
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On the ease-of-use comparison, one area that SEMrush really performs better is its auditing feature. It’s easy with a pretty much easy to follow set of instructions that’ll enable you to dramatically improve your performance in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Therefore, if you love the idea of performing a broken link building without having to export a bunch of spreadsheets, then SEMrush is undeniably a great choice.

If you want to always dive in and quickly get the data needed for your project, Ahrefs is the better option. But for outreach and project-based jobs, I will always choose SEMrush.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Keyword Research

First, let’s see which of the tools does better in the area of keywords research.

Keyword research primarily consists of four things:

  • Figuring out the number of people searching for a particular keyword per month
  • Discovering those that are already ranking for that keyword
  • Finding out how difficult or easy it is to rank for the keyword
  • Getting other keyword suggestions

Interestingly, both Ahrefs and SEMrush make it very easy for you to find out all the above information.

SEMrush Keyword Research

SEMrush allows you to see every keyword your competitor’s site currently ranks for.

semrush keyword research
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SEMrush basically has the same keyword research feature as Ahrefs with a few differences.

For instance, the ways through which they estimate the amount of organic traffic a website gets from their first page rankings differ.

One thing that makes SEMrush unique is that it provides a lot of more detailed keyword data:

semrush 2
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With Ahrefs, you’ll see the search volume, competition, and CPC. But SEMrush displays a lot more data on each keyword you searched for, such as the search volume, number of results, and keyword trend.

Depending on your needs, this might be a good thing. But personally, I like paying more attention to essential metrics – and I find SEMrush’s user interface somewhat cluttered and confusing.

However, if you’re a serious keyword researcher who needs to always analyze a bunch of terms as quickly as possible, then having everything in one place is super helpful.

Like most keyword tools, SEMrush’s traditional keyword research tool also shows you keyword’s competition and search volume:

semrush 3
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And you’ll also get a list of keyword variations based on what you typed in, including questions-based, and related keywords.

Clicking on the “view all keywords” button will reveal all the other related keywords you could go after:

semrush 4
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What actually differentiates SEMrush’s keyword research to most similar tools out there like Ahrefs is that it also shows data from Google PPC.

semrush ad history
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Therefore, if you’re combining SEO and Google Ads campaigns, then it can be super helpful to have both SEO and PPC data at your beck and call.

Ahrefs Keyword Research

Ahrefs basically features two main keyword research tools:

  • Organic keywords
  • Keyword explorer

Now, let’s see how each of them works.

Ahrefs keyword explorer feature is similar to most other keyword tools in the industry. Just enter a keyword in the search bar and get a ton of ideas.

ahrefs keyword ideas
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The unique thing about Ahrefs Keyword explorer is the fact that it doesn’t only show you keyword search volume, it also tells you the number of clicks you should expect if you’re able to rank for that keyword.

ahrefs clicks
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This is important because Google is loading the search results with features that tend to steal clicks from organic results.

google search
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And Ahrefs Keyword explorer considers this. For example, the term “Donald Trump age” gets 69,000 monthly searches:

donald trump age
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Just search for that keyword on Google, and you’ll find the answer in a Featured Snippet:

donald trump age 2
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No wonder why 9.6k people actually click on an organic result for the term.

donald trump age 3
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That’s very helpful, right?

Ahrefs keyword explorer also lets you spy on a competitor’s website via its “Organic keywords” report section:

ahrefs organic keyword
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As you can see, Ahrefs keyword research feature is almost the same as what SEMrush offers.

I’ll admit that SEMrush is better for this feature. Ahrefs undoubtedly have a better user interface, but you’ll get a lot more data (both PPC and SEO) with SEMrush, making it a more sophisticated keyword tool.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Rank Tracker

SEMrush and Ahrefs both feature reliable rank tracking tools.

But which one is the best?

Let’s find out!

Ahrefs Rank Tracker

Like most other rank trackers out there, Ahrefs monitors your Google ranking regularly for the keywords that you give it.

ahrefs rank tracker
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And if you check most of the keywords; you’ll see that the rankings somewhat match what the tool reported.

That’s it about Ahrefs rank tracker feature. It’s pretty easy to use and delivers reliable reports each time.

SEMrush Rank Tracker

Like Ahrefs, SEMrush rank tracker tool is also super accurate:

semrush rank tracker 1
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It’s, however, worth noting that SEMrush has some features that Ahrefs doesn’t in terms of rank tracking, such as the “Visibility” score, which is shown on the screenshot above.

Another outstanding thing about SEMrush is that your tracked keywords are updated daily, while that of Ahrefs are updated once or twice per week only, depending on your chosen plan:

ahrefs rank tracker 2
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Apparently, once per week may not be reasonable for someone who needs to frequently track his rank changes.

Therefore, SEMrush beats Ahrefs once again in terms of rank tracking. They both do the work of rank trackers, which is to track your search rankings. But SEMrush has more advanced features and also updates more often.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Competitor Analysis

Both Ahrefs and SEMrush can be used to carry out competitor analysis, so let’s see which of them is better in that regard.

SEMrush Competitor Analysis

As always, SEMrush does not disappoint when it comes to competitor analysis. The tool lets you test your competition, spying on them to know what’s working for them.

To start, we’ll look at SEMrush’s Keyword Gap feature, which allows you to compare your site (side-by-side) to multiple other sites. After which it’ll provide you with the most popular keywords those sites rank for.

That’s not all; it’ll also tell you which of the websites rank best for those keywords via a beautiful comparison table.

semrush keyword gap
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On the table, you’ll also see what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you are missing. For this example, we’re comparing shoutmeloud.com to four other blogs, including wpbeginner.com, themeisle.com, bloggingwizard.com, and makeawebsitehub.com.

Here is the list of keywords these other websites are ranking for that are missing on shoutmeloud.com:

missing keywords
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This will give you a great idea of what keywords and topics to also go for based on the competitor analysis.

Another excellent competitor research feature in SEMrush is the Domain Analytics tool, which lets you enter a domain (your own or that of a competitor).

And it’ll give you a list of websites, articles, or keywords similar to what you typed in. You can easily track these companies and markets with the help of superior analytics:

semrush domain analytics
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This way, you can quickly visit each of the competing sites listed by the tool and steal what they are doing to grow your own site.

Ahrefs Competitor Analysis

Ahrefs also has an excellent domain comparison feature that is also similar to what SEMrush offers. Just enter up to five websites (four of your competitors’ sites and your own website) for a quick side-by-side comparison.

ahrefs domain comparison
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With Ahrefs domain comparison tool, you’ll get important metrics, such as backlinks, domain ratings, referring domains, images, nofollow and nofollow links, etc.

With this, you can easily compare your website’s overall SEO performance to other sites in your niche. However, the tool does not really give you any vital information on how to improve.

There’s also the Competing Domains tool in Ahrefs, which is located in the sidebar for your tracked websites is super handy. It gives you a detailed list of your major competitors with a keyword intersection graph that’s pretty cool.

ahrefs competing sites
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Just enter your domain and once it’s loaded, click on the “competing domains” tab to see your direct competitors.

Then, what I did next is to look up each of the domains on Ahrefs “site explorer” to see what they’re doing.

For example, after a quick search, I picked out the first competitor for ShoutMeLoud on the list, which is smartblogger.com. And I was able to analyze its organic keywords:

ahrefs organic keywords
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And top-ranking pages:

ahrefs top pages
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Now, the next step will be to analyze each of the keywords to ascertain how competitive they are. Of course, you can easily do this by checking their keyword competitiveness score (KD).

Overall, SEMrush is loaded with a bunch of useful tools specifically designed for performing competitor analysis. Not only does this tool allow you to compare your site against multiple other websites, but you can also get missing keywords ideas and track the overall market.

Ahrefs also performed well in this regard, but they can apparently do better.

Ahrefs vs SEMrush | Backlinks Analysis

Next, let’s see which of them has the best backlink analysis tool.

Both Ahrefs and SEMrush are excellent and accurate in terms of backlink checking. However, SEMrush seems to have a larger link index.

I used both tools to check the backlinko.com backlinks, and here’s what SEMrush reported:

semrush backlinks
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And this is for Ahrefs:

ahrefs backlinks
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As you can see, SEMrush found a total of 23,100 referring domains, and Ahrefs found 21,800.

And for the total backlinks, SEMrush found 1,600,000 backlinks, while Ahrefs found only 222,000.

From this report, you can see that SEMrush is better once again as they have a larger backlink index. However, apart from the index size, the user interface is another factor to consider.

Personally, I find Ahrefs link analysis feature much easier to use. It doesn’t take much clicks to see the pages with the most backlinks on a website and even a page’s best links.

Finally, I’d say that Ahrefs and SEMrush are tied in terms of backlink. SEMrush’s UI has come a long way, and their newly-expanded link index is fantastic and better than Ahrefs. But Ahrefs has a simpler and easier to use interface.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Technical SEO Audit

Both SEMrush and Ahrefs have technical SEO auditing features that lets a user determine how his website is doing from on-page SEO and technical SEO point of view.

While carrying out a website audit, both tools check for problems that might be negatively affecting your search ranking, such as:

  • Duplicate content
  • Slow-loading content
  • SSL problems
  • Overuse of keywords
  • Missing headers
  • Crawl errors
ahrefs audit tool
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With both tools, you’ll get a long list of really valuable suggestions to improve your sites SEO, but I’d admit that SEMrush comes first in the auditing feature.

This is mainly because its audit tool is somewhat easier to use than that of Ahrefs, and automatically gives you an actionable, easy-to-follow list.

semrush audit tool
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On the other hand, Ahrefs will ask you to manually create a to-do list of your own by analyzing your website’s audit reports and manually adding a task to it.

SEMRush’s on-page SEO checker is especially groundbreaking. You can use it to scan your entire website, and it’ll arm you with helpful tips you can follow to enhance each of your pages (in order of priority).

The suggestions can be on:

  • The steps you can take to gain the ‘featured snippet’ of Google for a particular page
  • Which keywords to add to a page to beat the competition
  • The websites you should approach for backlinks
  • How to enhance your meta descriptions and body copy
  • Best internal linking strategies
  • Recommended length of content
  • Etc.
semrush audit tool 2
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This is really an excellent tool to have in your SEO toolbox – and it’s super easy to use.

Once again, I give it to SEMrush in the auditing department as it’s more robust.

Which of the Tools Has More Unique Features?

Now that we’ve compared the main features of SEMrush and Ahrefs, let’s quickly look at a few of their unique features.

Unique Features of SEMrush

As expected, SEMrush is fortified with some unique features that are missing on Ahrefs. For example, SEMrush has a handy paid search software suite, while Ahrefs has no PPC feature.

With the SEMrush PPC competitor analysis tool, you can take your Google Ads campaigns to the next level.

semrush ads research
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Aside from that, SEMrush also has a “listings” tool for those that are active with local SEO. The tool is designed to help you in setting up your NAPs correctly.

semrush local seo
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The tool will equally help you to find NAP opportunities that you’ve probably missed.

Unique Features of Ahrefs

One feature that differentiates Ahrefs from most other related SEO tools is it’s “Content Explorer” tool.

ahrefs content explorer
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If you’re familiar with BuzzSumo at all, then you should know how the feature works.

Simply enter a topic that you wish to write about into the search bar:

ahrefs content explorer 2
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And the tool will show you the content that has already performed well on that topic, in terms of social shares, backlinks, etc.

ahrefs content explorer 3
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The broken link feature of Ahrefs is also another handy tool I use most of the time as I mostly rely on that for broken link building.

With this tool, you can easily find dozens of broken links sources that you can use to gain a few links for your site.

ahrefs broken links
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For the unique feature section, I’m going to give it to SEMrush once again. Both SEMrush and Ahrefs have great, unique features that you won’t find on other SEO tools.

However, the unique features in SEMrush, especially the complete PPC software, are essential if you’re someone that runs both SEO and Google Ads campaigns.

Traffic to the Most Popular Pages

Both SEMrush and Ahrefs has a feature that lets you see the most popular pages of a site and the traffic it generates.

For SEMrush, you can find this feature under the “Traffic Analytics” section. It’ll show you the most visited pages on a website:

semrush traffic
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And on Ahrefs, you can find the most visited pages and the traffic it generates by clicking on the “Top Page” tab on the sidebar:

ahrefs traffic
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Mobile Data Comparison

SEMrush also features the mobile traffic data report.

A recent study projected mobile marketing spending to grow by up to 70% in the next couple of years. With this study, it’s now more important than ever to be analyzing mobile traffic of competing sites.

Here’s precisely what it looks like on SEMrush:

semrush mobile
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This enables you to compare the mobile vs. desktop traffic sources of a website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find such a feature on Ahrefs.

What About Customer Support?

Coming to SEMrush vs Ahrefs support, I honestly do not have much experience with their support teams, which I consider a good thing. This is because I’ve been using the tools without issues, and so I’ve never really needed much support from them.

However, I’ll still admit that SEMrush’s support department is somewhat better as the company offers three support channels, including live chat, email, and phone support.

On the other hand, there’s no phone support on Ahrefs, but they have a more visible support option.

On Ahrefs, you’ll always find a question mark icon at the bottom-right corner of the screen, which you can use to instantly chat with a support team member.

ahrefs support
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For SEMrush, the contact detail is located on their site footer. I like that SEMrush displayed the relevant phone numbers in a very prominent manner:

semrush support
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This way, you don’t need to spend a bunch of time on knowledge bases before contacting them, which is usually the case with most SaaS products.

Do They Offer Free Trials?

Yes, both SEMrush and Ahrefs lets you test the tool before deciding whether or not you’ll like to pay for their monthly plans.

However, Ahrefs still charges you $7 (for either its ‘Lite’ or ‘Standard’ plans) before you could try the tool for 7-days.

But for SEMrush, you can try the tool completely free of charge for 7 days. I also consider the trial period duration to be very generous considering the amount of data you can access during that period.

Note: You must enter your card details upon registration before you can use the trial, which is somewhat annoying.

SEMrush vs Ahrefs | Pricing

Ahrefs and SEMrush offer a very similar pricing model. Although not cheap, they’re truly worth the price considering their truckload of features. It’s also worth noting that choosing their annual billing option will help you save a lot of money.

That said, let’s now look at how much both tools cost.

SEMrush Pricing

semrush pricing 1
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  • SEMrush Pro: The Pro plan costs $99.95/month, and it gives you 10,000 results per report, ranking result, traffic sources, social media results, 3,000 reports per day, etc.
  • SEMrush Guru: This plan goes for $199.95/month, and you’ll get all features in the Pro plan, plus 5,500 reports per day, extended limits, 30,000 results per report, branded reports, content marketing platform, and historical data.
  • SEMrush Business: For $399.95 per month, you’ll have access to all features in the Pro and Guru plans, plus 50,000 results per report, API access, 10,000 reports per day, extended limits, Google Data Studio integration, white label reporting, and sharing options.
  • SEMrush Enterprise: To use this plan, you’re required to contact SEMrush for custom volumes and pricing. But you’ll enjoy special add-ons, on-site training, custom limits, unlimited crawling for larger sites, and custom keyword databases.

Ahrefs Pricing

ahrefs pricing
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  • Ahrefs Lite: This plan cost $99/month for a single user, 500 tracked keywords, five projects, 25 domains for the site explorer, one site audit, 100,000 rows per report for the backlink index, 25 reports for keywords, and you can analyze the top 20 search engine rankings.
  • Ahrefs Standard: At $179/month for a single user, you’ll get 1,500 tracked keywords, 10 projects, 10 site audits, 1 million rows per report for the backlink index, 100 domains for the site explorer, 100 reports for keywords, and analyze the top 100 search engine rankings.
  • Ahrefs Advanced: For $399/month, the Advanced plan is meant for three users, and you’ll get 25 projects, 25 site audits, 5,000 tracked keywords, 5 million rows per report for the backlink index, 250 domains for the site explorer, 200 reports for keywords, and you can analyze the top 100 search engine rankings.
  • Ahrefs Agency: This is their highest plan, which costs $999 per month for five users, 10,000 tracked keywords, 100 projects, 100 site audits, 10 million rows per report for the backlink index, 1,000 domains for the site explorer, 1,000 reports for keywords, and analysis for top 100 search engine rankings.

Although there’s not much difference in pricing when comparing Ahrefs vs SEMrush; however, the Ahrefs Standard plan at $179 can still be considered cheaper than what SEMrush offers in its Guru plan. With this, users have a bit more flexibility when deciding what plan to choose.

And with Ahrefs, you would spend more for extra keyword tracking and reports, but SEMrush charges more for extra features. In most cases, this leads to you having to pay for features that you don’t actually use.

On one note, SEMrush offers a free trial, so you can decide if you truly need the tool, while Ahrefs charges $7 for seven days trial.

So if you’re someone that doesn’t want to spend a dime to test a tool, SEMrush might be your best choice.

Conclusion | Which Should You Choose Between SEMrush And Ahrefs?

If by now, you’ve not decided on what tool to go for between SEMrush vs Ahrefs, then I’d suggest you try both of them and decide for yourself. Remember that nothing beats frontline experience.

Therefore, if you would ask me to choose one tool for you, I’d surely go with SEMrush overall. This is indeed a difficult choice to make as I know that both tools are super handy and valuable.

Although I love how easy-to-navigate Ahrefs interface is plus all the unique features it offers. Still, I feel that SEMrush is more robust, especially if you’ll be combining SEO and Google Ads campaigns.

I hope you liked our SEMrush vs Ahrefs guide.

Try SEMrush Now (14 days free trial added) ››

Other articles in this series:

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Hi, I'm Swadhin Agrawal, founder & MD of Value Intent Media Pvt. Ltd. With DigitalGYD we aim at helping bloggers start, grow and scale their blogs to profitable businesses.

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