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This 131 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 131 ( 1 [2] 3 4 5 > >     
Anatomy of an EPC Collapse
Building a List of Causes
martinibuster




msg:3271231
 6:14 am on Mar 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

This discussion is NOT about Smart Pricing
There are many reasons for an earnings collapse, and it's important to list them. If you cannot diagnose a problem then you cannot cure it. Smart Pricing is not the only cause, so let's make a list of what causes earnings to dive.

  • Too much inventory
    As more people enter a space, the EPC is going to drop. MFAs in some cases may be a symptom of a niche with inventory that's under strain. MFAs may not be the problem, just the symptom of the underlying problem.

    If there are so many publishers that they're cannibalizing inventory by advertising on each others site, then that niche may likely be suffering from too much inventory.

    Speaking from experience, this can affect an older site, too. The bottom falls out, it's not smart pricing.

  • Wrong idea of what constitutes a normal range.
    Too many newbs complain about having been smart priced because their earnings collapsed after their first couple of months. The base amount they're comparing is not large enough if it's only one or three months. If five months out of six you're earning six cents per click, six cents is normal. Twelve cents per click for a month is a newb advertiser that didn't know his content network was turned on.

    And this can affect older sites too. As inventory expands we're going to see lower and lower benchmarks for what represents an average EPC. Let's face it, the content network plays second best to the search network, and it may always earn significantly less than what advertisers are paying per click for search.

  • Newb advertisers
    Newbs can cause prices to go up and stay up until they run out of money. If no one is stepping in to keep up the pace then your EPC is going to collapse.

  • Savvy advertisers
    Everybody suspects that a contextual click is generally not as good as a search click. Whether that is true or not is besides the point, that's the general perception. As advertisers become smarter they're going to adjust their prices accordingly.

    I suspect that all it takes is one or two bidders dropping their bids to cause a collapse and let the air out of a high EPC gravy train. This is not fact, and I admit it. However, this conclusion comes from anecdotal evidence from watching how the same advertisers dominate certain channels makes me aware of how much my EPC is dependent on these advertisers propping up the cost of bidding on my site.

Okay smarty pants... put on those propeller hats. :)
Let's hear what some of you think may be non-smart pricing reasons why EPC can collapse. I'm certain I haven't listed all the non-smartpricing reasons. What else, apart from Smart Pricing, do you think will cause EPC to collapse?

 

annej




msg:3273328
 12:56 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Googles advertiser reports will begin listing the sites where each ad runs. Advertisers will "soon be able to bid on contextual ads on particular Web sites" instead of taking potluck as they do now.

This could be huge. When they see the list of sites where their ads will go will they also be able to see which sites are converting best?

night707




msg:3273353
 1:05 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something like a publisher's network would be nice to give advertisers a good selection of sites and the ability to communicate and to develop custom build campaigns.

With Google in the middle like it is now, results might even become poorer for all. Adsense and G are great, but for many publishers revenues have not developed well.

Adsense revenues and Google traffic are nothing but jumping up and down like never before.

europeforvisitors




msg:3273407
 2:14 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Adding to the list: New features that let advertisers bid on just the websites they want. Watch your EPC collapse when a couple of big, savvy advertisers figure out they can get more bang for the buck by paying higher EPC to just a handful of websites, and dropping out of the rest of the content network that happens to include your website.

But can big, savvy advertisers get more bang for the buck by paying higher EPC to just a handful of Web sites? I think that's potentially a bigger issue with site-targeted CPM advertising than with contextual advertising, simply because "a handful of sites" probably can't deliver enough keyword-targeted impressions for those big, savvy advertisers.

I'd guess that site-targeted contextual advertising may not be great news for really small publishers (especially in big, crowded categories where it's hard for a mom-and/or-pop publisher to be noticed), but it should benefit the reputable, established medium-size niche publisher whose potential advertisers are familiar with the Web sites in that niche. IMHO, developing a brand identity and building for the long term will become more important than ever when advertisers can pick and choose where their ads appear.

andrewshim




msg:3273409
 2:15 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Anne :
This could be huge.

I fear the worst for small site owners.

ronburk




msg:3273504
 4:08 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

But can big, savvy advertisers get more bang for the buck by paying higher EPC to just a handful of Web sites?

It's a big network. All possibilities should emerge to a greater or lesser degree.

This removes market inefficiencies on both
sides of the bargain. Publishers with high-value,
low-traffic pages that can't afford to
allow "site targetted" ads with their $.25
per 1,000 impressions would be able to
enable site targetted PPC ads that could
easily pay them 10 times as much.

Advertisers who can't afford to target
high-traffic, low-value sites because
the $.25 CPM would exceed their return
on investment would be able to afford
site-targetted ads that pay a healthy
CPC, but cost them nothing for impressions
that produce no clicks.

The devil will be in the details, however.
Google could screw it up by, for example,
requiring publishers who allow CPC site
targetting to also allow CPM site targetting,
thus poisoning the well. They could screw
it up by requiring such a high minimum
CPC that advertisers get no advantage
over CPM.

But the potential is there for a real shakeup of the content network.

anxvariety




msg:3273654
 9:48 am on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

We should create an excel file that allows us to import our 'all time' earnings logs and normalize everyones earnings somehow - like assign everyones biggest day to $1000 and have all other TOS permissable stats indiciated.. then we can combine our de-personalized/relative stats and see if any patterns emerge... I suppose it could be a line chart as simple as date and earning relative to $100 or $1000 or something and see if there was any average big drop off around or after certain dates... just an unrefined idea to toss out there...

europeforvisitors




msg:3273906
 2:03 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

The devil will be in the details, however.
Google could screw it up by, for example,
requiring publishers who allow CPC site
targetting to also allow CPM site targetting

I agree that the devil is in the details, although I don't think CPC contextual site targeting and CPM general site targeting are necessarily in conflict with each other.

It's possible that contextual site targeting won't be as important as the ability of advertisers to see where their ads are running. That knowledge, combined with the new unlimited domain filter, could be bad news for publishers who deliver low-quality traffic to advertisers.

fearlessrick




msg:3273932
 2:28 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Anatomy of a Screw Job

1st 6 days of March 2006:
Clicks: 320
Earnings: $38.03

1st 6 days of March 2007:
Clicks: 559
Earnings: $33.36

75% more clicks, 12% less money.

It's the new math.

Content_ed




msg:3273970
 2:53 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

The new math from the perspective of advertisers is explained pretty well in "The Ulitmate Guide to Google Adwords" by Perry Marshall and Brian Todd. I'm a little more than halfway through (although we haven't done any advertising in a couple years) and it's a very interesting and well written book. The bottom line focus is the bottom line, how advertisers can get more bang for their buck, which unfortunately, means publishers will get less bang for their content. Maybe advertisers are just getting educated about how to use Adwords, or outsourcing campaign management to companies that are saving them money.

fearlessrick




msg:3274001
 3:24 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yeah, then why are so many of them (advertisers) complaining about higher priced keywords and leaving AW to go to Yahoo and elsewhere?

I think the EPC collapse many of us have been or are experiencing can be attributed to Google's squeezing every last penny from both publishers and advertisers to satisfy the needs of Wall Street.

Let's get real, people. If you have to keep turning higher and higher profits and your single source (almost, about 95%) of income is your ad network, unless that continues to grow at an adequate rate, you have to squeeze more out of what's there.

Like just about every other company that's gone public, eventually the only ones who benefit are the shareholders (and sometimes, not even them as the stock tanks), while the clients (in this case advertisers and publishers) - and especially the small clients - are maginalized. Google's on a path to implosion, just like Ebay and Yahoo.

There's only so much you can sqeeze out of your client base before there's nothing left. And that's when the competition becomes a viable alternative and absolutely buries you.

I don't think there's anything to stop this ball from continuing to gain momentum and roll downhill, unless Google wants to suffer the slings and arrows of Wall Street if they miss their quarterly numbers.

Get ready for more bad news, lower earnings, clicks that pay fractions of a penny.

ronburk




msg:3274218
 5:46 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yeah, then why are so many of them (advertisers) complaining about higher priced keywords and leaving AW to go to Yahoo and elsewhere?

Because Google is continually increasing the price differentiation for both advertisers and publishers. In both cases, the winners in this price differentiation (advertisers who see lower CPC and publishers who see higher EPC) are silent, while the losers are vocal and public. If you were savvy enough to buy the cheapest ticket on a plane, you won't make many friends by standing up and announcing how little you paid relative to everybody else. Ever-increasing price differentiation is perhaps the biggest economic effect of the Internet, in all markets, everywhere.

In both cases, Google will be happy to see the losers go to other ad networks, where they will contribute to overall less effective advertising than the Google network, thus driving more of the "best" business to Google.

In both cases, there will be collateral damage, since the differentiation can only be done algorithmically, and the algorithm can never be perfect.

In both cases, there will be plenty of folks who think they are unfair victims of collateral damage when, in fact, they really need to (publisher) increase the ROI they offer advertisers or (advertiser) increase the conversion rate of their advertising copy/landing page.

fearlessrick




msg:3274252
 6:15 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why do you believe that lower EPC by publishers necessarily equates to lower ROI for advertisers? I realize that is the official Google line, but where's the proof? Do we get to see the proof? And why was my (and others) EPC (and, ergo, conversion rate) better 6 months or a year ago, when I haven't made dramatic changes?

How could it possibly be that the same people who clicked in March of last year, plus 75% more, are clicking and not converting at roughly the same rate. I find all of Google's explanations more doublespeak and snake oil than anything else.

Sure, there are some winners, but as I have expressed in the past, is expecting increased earnings from increased clicks too much to ask?

Publshers thrive when their content attracts more attention from more readers. In the Google (bizzaro) world, better content is punishable by death of EPC.

Today is turning out to be nothing short of a sick joke. My eCPM has sunk to a level I have never seen before (0.53). My average over the past year has been over $3.50, so please tell me, how is this explained by the algo and market forces?

A more plausible explanation is that MFAs have infected the system and real advertisers are fleeing to such an extent that realistic expectations are now impossible.

This is a horrible system that cannot even rectify higher # of clicks to higher earnings. That is economics 101 and if Google (and you) think they'll rewrite the rules of economics with computers, they're in for a rude awakening.

I don't believe a word of the gibberish that comes from the Googleplex and if you read some of the adwords threads, you'll see I'm not alone. If Google and Yahoo want to weed out the smaller advertisers, so be it, but they've disrupted the level playing field that the internet was supposed to provide. Fine, let the big boys make all the money. Eventually, there will be no need to build web sites, create or share information or do anything but pay homage to corporate America.

You can have that. Google, and anybody who blindly accepts and agrees to blind contacts without questioning the writer of such contracts, are basically FOS.

You can say all you want about me not understanding this or that, and you're entitled, but I've grown a little tired of watching $$Billions flow to Google supported by my pennies.

mzanzig




msg:3274300
 6:40 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Did I mention that my EPC has been pretty constant for a long while?

Sure, there are swings, and the daily swings are annoying, but I can not confirm "the new math" for my sites. Especially the eCPM seems to be affected by seasonal and niche-related swings. Looking at my 31-day-averages I can say that eCPM is more or less stable.

P.S.: Please note that I said "constant", not "good" or "great" or "high" - just constant, and almost predictable. :-)

martinibuster




msg:3274302
 6:44 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

My eCPM has sunk to a level I have never seen before (0.53). My average over the past year has been over $3.50

1. You're earning $3 less per thousand visitors. That's not a huge swing. My sites can swing five dollars either way. That's called a normal fluctuation.

2. What causes these fluctuations? That's what we're discussing, but limited to non-smart pricing causes.

europeforvisitors




msg:3274347
 7:39 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yeah, then why are so many of them (advertisers) complaining about higher priced keywords and leaving AW to go to Yahoo and elsewhere?

Q: Which advertisers are leaving AdWords for Yahoo and other networks because of higher-priced keywords?

A: Advertisers who have been hit with higher minimums because of low AdWords quality scores. What's more, those higher minimums ($10 in some cases) are intended to make such advertisers shape up or ship out. Google has made that abundantly clear.

One thing is for certain: Google's AdWords earnings, AdSense revenues, and payouts have continued to grow from quarter to quarter.

creepychris




msg:3274369
 8:07 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Advertisers will "soon be able to bid on contextual ads on particular Web sites" instead of taking potluck as they do now.

I think one of the best thing a site can do under this upcoming regime is become a well-known and respected site within your niche (which does not necessarily mean a colossal giant).

Direct ROI is only one of two main criteria that bigger advertisers will look at. That is why it will be important to be respectable as well. I imagine there could be high converting sites that are passed by because their content is objectionable.

fearlessrick




msg:3274371
 8:09 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Let's get this back on topic. EPC. Earnings per click.

Last February I made 12 per click.

This February I made 7 per click. The number of clicks more than doubled. My earnings were higher, but not by 100%, more like 28%. While that is all well and good, it is not 100%.

What changed? All anyone can tell is that I made only 7 cents per click, instead of 12. Everything else is conjecture.

Has my site devalued over the past 12 months? If anything, I'd say it's worth more. There are more pages, with more content, better design. But instead of the benefit flowing to me, I feel that my work has benefited either the advertisers who are paying less per click or to Google who is keeping more for themselves, or a combination of those two. No matter how you slice it, I made less per click and I am sure most people's stats would show the same.

You can talk market saturation and dynamics all week long. The bottom line is clear. Build your site, grow your traffic and make less and less per click. At least with CPM networks there is a baseline. It seems, with AS, there is none, or it is very, very low.

I challenge you all to compare your EPC from last February to this February and post them here. Any takers?

[edited by: fearlessrick at 8:27 pm (utc) on Mar. 7, 2007]

fearlessrick




msg:3274389
 8:26 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

1. You're earning $3 less per thousand visitors. That's not a huge swing. My sites can swing five dollars either way. That's called a normal fluctuation.

Maybe for you. My normal ranges are as high as $5 and as low as $2.00. In any given month, I'll have one or two days above the high mark and one or two below. The number I quoted (0.53) was, as I said, never before seen for a full day (and today's not over). However, in February, I had 1 day over $5 and FOUR days under $2. Out of normal range. Obviously, earning less per click is eventually going to bring all my metrics down.

Hobbs




msg:3274399
 8:33 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Advertisers will "soon be able to bid on contextual ads

Yep, I called that the MFA backdoor in another thread.. Some people here don't agree that we publishers should have the right to refuse an advertiser direct ppc targeting of our sites.

Well, back to topic,
I am neither with the theory that Large corporate evil Google is pocketing the difference (left wing), or the all trusting Google can do no wrong and survival to the fittest and it's your content that's worth less (right wing)

Excuse the wing analogies but had to borrow some political label since this discussion is stretching towards both ends of the spectrum leaving those in the middle homeless and unrepresented, which is pretty much how things are in politics nowadays but that's for another forum.

Simply put, Google is neither a thief, nor God!

I believe that Google is the a teenage stage, confused and confusing, testing its teeth the new way it knows how, playing with algorithms, making the ride bumpier that's all.

As for the cure to EPC downturn: Give Google less inventory and replace them with other networks or Referrals, that's what I have been doing every time earnings drop, reduce the size of Ad units from Leaderboards to banner, drop the extra link units, test and see if things pick up for you.. Worst case you will diversify even more with other networks, and usually with less inventory, Google starts to increase again the eCPM and EPC, I've never seen such an EPC drop before, but I am starting to see a slow, very slow inching in the up direction.

How about Liberal AdSensing? :)

netmeg




msg:3274469
 9:26 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I challenge you all to compare your EPC from last February to this February and post them here. Any takers?

'Kay.

Feb 2006 - .28
Feb 2007 - .41

I wasn't going to say anything, but you threw down the gauntlet

martinibuster




msg:3274492
 9:37 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Last February I made 12 per click.

This February I made 7 per click. The number of clicks more than doubled.

That would be more meaningful if you compared it with the top twenty keyword phrases from February last year and February this year.

Then you compare your top twenty non-search referrers.

The above may shine a light on the quality of your traffic and offer a clue as to why your increased clicks aren't counting as much.

For instance, if people are coming to your site riding queries for Red Widgets, while Blue Widgets are the ones with higher paying ads, then increased clicks are going to reflect a change in your traffic (an increase in Red Widget tire kickers). Makes sense?

Other possible reasons:

  • Too much inventory
  • Not enough advertisers entering contextual for your space
  • Economic pressures squeezing margins this year on products advertised on your space, reflected in lower bids
  • Advertisers that are smarter this year than they were last year

The reason I started this thread is because I want to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, to suggest things you can do today to understand why your clicks may not be paying as much as before.

It's unhelpful to simply throw your hands in the air, and unhealthy. It's better to do some research and get to understand what's really happening on your sites.

netmeg




msg:3274514
 10:03 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is my slow season; I'll know better come June and July if my epc stays up. I attribute the rise to assiduously weeding out the garbage ads, but mostly to much better targeting on Google's part. I got a lot of randomly silly ads for the first 18mos I was in AdSense; I'm of the opinion that it can sometimes take some time for Google to start sending really decent, well-targeted ads to a site - whether that's on Google or on the site owner, or just requires time to establish some kind of trust factor, I don't know. But that's how it looks to me across my particular sites.

Fuzzyfish1000




msg:3274530
 10:21 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

feb 06 - 0.69
feb 07 - 0.34

:-( It's all true!

europeforvisitors




msg:3274532
 10:26 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I challenge you all to compare your EPC from last February to this February and post them here. Any takers?

Not among those of us who abide by Google's TOS.

In any case, this thread isn't about whether any given memeber's EPC is up or down; it's about the possible causes of the "EPC collapse" that some members have experienced. I'm inclined to think that two likely causes (aside from smart pricing) are:

- Separate bidding for the search and content networks, which was introduced in 2006, and how advertisers have learned to exploit this new option over the past year;

- Fewer high-paying ads per publisher, on the average, due to expansion of Google's content and search networks that may have outstripped growth in advertiser budgets.

More recently, Google's introduction of an unlimited domain filter for advertisers may have been a contributing factor in some (not all) cases of "EPC collapse."

MsHuggys




msg:3274566
 10:54 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Feb 2006 compared to Feb 2007
Double digit ecpm category

February 2007
imp - down 18%
ctr - up 12%
ecpm - down 14%
earnings - down 29.5%

But, we began tanking in spring last year, the earnings for this past February are a major recovery for us.

But, let's talk our peak month to peak month. This is the real disappointment.

Nov 2005 compared to Nov 2006
Double digit ecpm category

November 2006
imp - down 51%
ctr - down 12%
ecpm - down 12%
earnings - down 61%

As you can see, we have been recovering, even though our February stats are down. This is largely because of increased search engine ranking. We took a big hit with supplemental results in Google.

trinorthlighting




msg:3274583
 11:13 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are way to many variables when your talking about money and here is just a few of them.

1. Site traffic
2. Quality of traffic, are they bouncing or clicking on ads
3. Advertiser bids, companies come and go out of adwords daily
4. Quality Scores
5. Smart Pricing
6. Site targeting
7. Your sites theme (Is it a popular site this year, but less the following year) Good example is Myspace, popular now but a competitor with a new virtual world myspace called kaneva is coming in the market, so myspace might not be so popular next year.
8. Keywords that traffic is sent on
9. What part of the world your traffic comes from, if your a US site and you get a flux of traffic from China or Europe, guess what, the ads will be totally different.
10. You have a new competitor who is collecting on some advertising $$

These are just a few variables.

Now, how to counter these and make it grow:

1. Add Content
2. Add Content that talk about popular trends
3. Fix any broken or bad html, optimize
3. And last but not least, add some more unique content

sailorjwd




msg:3274604
 11:38 pm on Mar 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

CPM
Mar 06 50.00
Mar 07 13.00

Last year 80% visitors from crap long tail adwords ads.
This year 90% visitors from pure search/competitor links (mostly G)

This year 35% of last year's traffic and 15% of earnings and 25% of last year's clicks.

15% more content this year.

ps. this year $113 adwords spend vs $3200 last year Mar 1-7

dnx134




msg:3275006
 9:42 am on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's my belief that Google have some kind of 'rating' system for publishers in place, based on a number of factors including the perceived 'quality' of your sites and the length of time you've been in the AdSense program, and that the percentage Google pays you is based on this rating.

As an example, I've had reason to move a high traffic site from one AdSense login to another, and did this simply by chaning the publisher ID in the ad code. Nothing else changed.

Overnight, average EPC jumped 500%. Impressions and clicks remained the same, only the amount I was earning per click changed. Now it could be argued that changing the publisher ID forced Googlebot to re-look at the content of the pages, but this was an established site and the advertisers did not change noticeably.

Over time, earnings gradually declined back to previous levels, which is what leads me to believe your 'rating' is at least in part based on how old your account is. For the average user it won't be noticeable, but it looks to me like new users are given an encouragingly high percentage of revenue which gradually decreases over time - forcing you to work harder if you want to maintain - or increase - your earnings.

Of course, Google can handily hide behind the fact that they refuse to tell publishers how much they pay, which is franky ridiculous. I think it will probably take a legal challenge to get Google to reveal how it calculates publishers earnings before we'll ever know - and that's not likely to happen because people are scared of losing their accounts and livelihoods if they challenge Google.

Hobbs




msg:3275079
 11:40 am on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

it looks to me like new users are given an encouragingly high percentage of revenue which gradually decreases over time

Sounds reasonable, except that it clashes with my years of collected data and graphs showing a steady increase in EPC earnings (except that recent dark Friday that took me 2 years back). And from other's reports here too, there is an recognizable ascending pattern in earnings.

Even if a publisher wins a legal case and Google reveals their share of his advertiser's spend, it could very well be just that, his share not ours.

Looking back at historic data, I am observing something very strange, out of tens of thousands of daily ad impressions, when there are like 200 to 700 CPM impressions (a tiny percentage), overall CTR and earnings drop noticeably, although those CPM advertisers get only very few clicks and impressions to affect anything, not sure which is the cause and which is the effect: When I'm heading down, google fills in via CPM, or when I get even a tiny number of CPM my earnings go down (This still has nothing to do with the dark Friday EPC nose dive)

[edited by: Hobbs at 11:41 am (utc) on Mar. 8, 2007]

darkmage




msg:3275084
 11:48 am on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Overnight, average EPC jumped 500%. Impressions and clicks remained the same, only the amount I was earning per click changed. Now it could be argued that changing the publisher ID forced Googlebot to re-look at the content of the pages, but this was an established site and the advertisers did not change noticeably."

Googlebot is the exactly case - it is the same effect as deleting or changing a channel. My experience is that Google resets a page when a key parameter* changes. It takes a little time for 'correctly' targeted ads to return. Getting back to the thread, this can create substantial variance in the ads and CPC - sometimes good, sometimes bad.

*Key paramater - content update, same URL (Googlebot is slow to change the ads)
New URL - instant change (even if same content)
New Pub ID, Channel, layout type - Google can detect this straight away

sailorjwd




msg:3275162
 1:01 pm on Mar 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

DNX,

I noticed the account affect about 22 months ago when I switched over to a new corporate account. Changed all the publisher IDs over the course of a day.

Next day and for 1 week the EPC dropped 50%. SAME ADS were showing.

I got scared and switched ID back to original - instantly EPC returned - SAME ADS showing.

Contacted G support and the said essentially nothing and would not admit to a problem.

I ended up switch gradually over a two week time frame and lessened the drop but I think there was a permenant drop of some percent.

Hmmm.. maybe i should switch a few pages back to the personal account just to see what happens...

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