Category: Google Ads

Google Ads

Google Ads vs. AdSense: We Break Down the Differences

When it comes to generating traffic and brand awareness, digital advertising is the way to go. It’s surpassing traditional advertising, and Google is a huge reason why. As one of the biggest digital advertising platforms, Google is responsible for 37.2% of total U.S. digital ad spending alone.

But how can you take advantage of the advertising opportunities on Google? By knowing how each of its programs — Google Ads and Google AdSense — work and evaluating which is right for you (or both).

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Google Ads (Search and Display)
  • Google AdSense
  • The Differences Between Them

What Is Google Ads?

Google Ads — formerly known as Google AdWords — allows advertisers to make bids for ad placements to drive traffic to their websites. These placements can be in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) or the Google Display Network (the network of sites, apps, and more that show Google display ads).

Search

The search ads that appear in the SERPs are a great option if you know there’s a demand for your product and your audience is using search engines to satisfy it.

Display

The Google Display Network ads — also known as banner or display ads — are more visual, perfect for grabbing attention as you “rent” space where your audience hangs out online.

Banner Ad Example from Popeyes

Google actually has another advertising program that they released three years after Google Ads’ inception. It’s called Google AdSense.

What Is Google AdSense?

Google AdSense allows publishers to place ads on their websites and other “real estate” in exchange for a “commission.” These publishers make up a portion of the Google Display Network that advertisers can leverage through Google Ads.

In the image below, the recipe website uses Google AdSense to allow 2 advertisers to place banner ads on their site. The recipe site is paid by Google for the success of these ads. (More on this later.)

Google AdSense Ads on Recipe Website

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Google AdSense is perfect for website publishers who are already getting traffic and want to monetize it.

Read on as we go over the main differences between Google Ads and AdSense, for whom they’re geared toward, and what their cost structure is like.

Below, we’ve highlighted some core differences between the Google advertising options so you can make decisions on how best to distribute your ads budget.

Purpose

Platform Purpose
Google Ads (Search) Generate traffic to your own site from Google as a search engine.
Google Ads (Display) Generate traffic to your own site from the Google Display Network of publishing partners, mobile apps, and video.
Google AdSense Generate traffic for other sites as a Google Display Network publishing partner.

 

Strategy

Platform Strategy
Google Ads (Search) You know that your audience searches for your products or services on Google, and you want to show up in the SERPs for those queries. 
Google Ads (Display) Your audience may not know about your product or service and aren’t searching for it on Google. However, a visual ad may catch their eye if you can show up on the sites where they do hang out.
Google AdSense Your site is generating traffic, and you want to monetize it. You don’t mind “renting out” real estate on your site to advertisers that your audience may find interesting.

 

Cost Structure

Platform Cost Structure
Google Ads (Search) You pay a fee every time a user clicks on one of your ads. This cost per click (CPC) can vary based on how much you bid, your ad rank compared to the competition, and your quality score. For this reason, more competitive keywords can have a higher CPC.
Google Ads (Display) You can choose the right pricing for your goals: Paying by cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM), or cost-per-action (CPA). CPC is better for generating traffic, CPM is better for generating awareness, and CPA is better for conversions. 

According to Google, you bid for placement, and “the winner of the auction pays the minimum amount necessary to outrank the next advertiser in the auction.” Competition drives up bidding, so industry and highly sought-after publications may cost more.

Google AdSense Participation in AdSense is free, and you receive commission for the clicks, impressions, and other interactions the ads on your site receive from users. For this reason, your audience, the ad placement, and the ad quality will all be factors in how much you can make with AdSense.

As you can see from the table above, cost structure depends on a number of variables. We’ll go more in-depth on it below, starting with Google Ads.

Google Ads (Search)

Naturally, there’s enormous demand for the top ad rankings, so Google triggers an auction anytime there are at least two advertisers bidding for keywords that are related to search queries that users consistently enter into Google.

Google Ads Keywords

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Advertisers can then categorize keywords and their corresponding ad copy and web page into groups, pick the group they want to bid on, and choose their maximum bid. Next, Google will select a keyword from the advertiser’s ad group that they deem most relevant to users’ search queries and enter it into the auction.

A Google auction isn’t like your typical auction for antiques, though. They want to level the playing field when it comes to leveraging the size of their reach, so instead of the highest bidder always winning the auction, the bidder with the highest Ad Rank always wins.

AdRank is calculated by multiplying your maximum cost-per-click bid with the quality score of your ad, which is calculated by measuring your page’s relevance to the keyword, user experience, and click-through-rate. This means organizations can’t acquire the top ranking for any keyword they want just because they have the biggest ad budgets. Their content has to be engaging.

Google Ads AdRank

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Google Ads wants to incentivize the best advertisers to advertise the best content on their search engine results pages, so they reward ads that have high quality scores with higher ad rankings and lower cost-per-clicks.

In the same vein, they also want to discourage bad advertisers from advertising bad content, so advertisers with low quality scores will usually only acquire a high ad position if they pay a huge cost-per-click bid. If they want to pay lower a cost-per-click, they have to settle with stooping at the bottom of the ad rankings.

If you win a Google auction, your actual cost-per-click is calculated by the second highest ad rank divided by your quality score, plus one cent. The only time you’ll pay your maximum bid is if you’re the only bidder in the auction or if you make the highest bid in the auction, but you have the lowest ad rank. In this case, you’ll acquire the last ad rank.

Google Ads Bid Pricing

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Google Ads (Display) / Google AdSense

For display ads, just as with search ads, advertisers bid on publishers’ ad space in the Google Ads auction. They bid on certain keywords, and if a publisher’s content has the same or similar keywords, Google will sell their ad space to the highest bidder and pay the publisher a small portion of the bid whenever people click the ad on their website.

However, AdSense doesn’t optimize the ads that they display on publishers’ website for a maximum return on investment like Google Ads does for its search advertisers when they want to optimize their ad campaigns. So, essentially, the amount of money a publisher can earn with AdSense hinges on how well they place the ads on their site and how well advertisers can craft their ads.

Publishers do have control over the types of ads that are displayed, though. They can choose from text ads, display ads, rich media ads, and more. They can also customize their ad’s style or create their own, which gives them the ability to change the size, color, textual, background, and border details of the ads that display on their website. Additionally, they can only place three content ads, three link ads, and two search boxes on each of their web pages.

Google Ads (both Search and Display) and Google AdSense are effective ways to generate revenue with digital advertising methods — the former as you drive traffic to your site and the latter as you use your site to drive traffic elsewhere.

Once you choose the program(s) that are right for you, you can begin your strategy and execution.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Google Ads

The Comprehensive Guide to Impression Shares

Online advertising is booming.

But, when you’re launching digital campaigns, you want to be sure you’re maximizing your efforts — and your profits — by boosting your ad’s impression share. Your impression share tells you how well your ad is performing compared to its total potential audience, and boosting it can help increase engagement as well as profit. 

If you’re only engaging a small portion of your target audience, then analyzing your impression share is usually a good place to start. Increasing this value will help you propel ads to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and ultimately generate more engagement for your campaigns.

In this post, we’ll explain what impression share is as well as the different types that your marketing team can track during your online ad campaigns.

Each time your ad is displayed on a webpage, that’s counted as an impression. Ads have the potential for more impressions for different reasons, especially when they’re keyword-savvy, attractive, and relevant.

When you track impression share, you have a clear representation of how well your ad is performing and how you can improve it over time particularly through keywords. While there are plenty of metrics that can track how well your ads are doing, impression share helps you identify the shortcomings of your ad so you can fix it and make it more engaging to your audience.

Read on to learn about the different types of impression share that your business can track to generate more engagement for its ad campaigns.

Types of Impression Share

Search Impression Share

Search impression share is your ad’s impression share on a search network. According to Google, a search network is “a group of search-related websites where your ads can appear,” including Google search results, Google apps such as Maps and Shopping, and on Google search partners’ websites. This metric divides the impressions that your ad receives by the number of impressions it could receive on the search network.

This metric is greatly impacted by budget. If you have a low daily budget on Google, your ad will no longer be shown once you hit your budget. This means your ad might be getting impressions, but it’s still missing out on more engagement because of this daily limit.

If you’re not looking to spend more on your campaign, another way to improve search impression share is to focus on the quality score, target, bid, and conversion rate of your ads. These metrics gauge the effectiveness of your ad and improving them will lead to more engagement.

Display Impression Share

Google defines its Display Network as a group of over two million websites, videos, and apps where ads can appear. Display Network sites reach up to 90% of internet users and can show your ads in a particular context, or to a specific audience.

With display campaigns, you can increase your ad placements to improve impression share, but you’ll need to adjust your budget to accommodate this increase as well. Or, you can decrease your number of placements to make your campaign more cost-effective, but this will reduce the frequency of your ad’s display. The best approach is testing the number of placements until you’ve reached a point where you’ve optimized impression share without going over your campaign’s budget.

Target Impression Share

Target impression share provides an automatic approach to bidding on ads. With this tool, you can set automated bids for your campaign, which gives your ad a better chance of reaching the top of the SERP. And, with a more prominent position on a search results page, your ad is likely to gain more impressions over time. 

Although impression share is only available per campaign, you can track target impression share for all of your campaigns at once. There are plenty of options for customizing it, too. For example, you can set it to bid for a certain section of the page — like the top half — or for certain times and places.

Adwords Impression Share

Wondering how to access your impression share data in Google Ads?

Once you’ve logged into your Ads account, just go to Campaigns > Columns > Modify Columns > Competitive Metrics > Impression Share, then click Save.

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Now, your impression share will appear in a table that you can download.

Exact Match Impression Share

Exact match impression share is just as it sounds. This metric compares the impressions your ad received compared to how many it was eligible to receive for searches that exactly match your keywords. You can use exact match impression share to hone in on your keywords and improve your ads.

Search Lost Impression Share

The “Search Lost Impression Share (budge)” column shows you the percentage of impressions that you’re missing out on because of your budget. A high percentage here may mean that investing in a larger budget could boost your advertising efforts and sales in the long-run.

The “Search Lost Impression Share (rank)” column shows you the number of impressions you’re losing based on a low rank. If this percentage is high, advertisers should consider how to boost rank through quality score and cost-per-click rates. Quality score evaluates your keywords’ past performances, ad relevance, landing page experience, and expected clickthrough rate.

Consider making adjustments to your campaign’s keywords and creative assets if your search lost impression share (rank) is high. A relevant ad with great keywords will rank higher on the SERP, which can lead to more impressions, clicks, and sales.

If you want to manually determine the impression share for an ad, below is a formula that can help you calculate it.

As Google explains, “Eligible impressions are estimated using many factors, including targeting settings, approval statuses, and quality.” Once the maximum number of impressions is determined, all you have to do is divide the number of impressions that the ad receives by the maximum number of impressions that Google decides it’s eligible for.

We can see how this formula is written in the example below. 

Impression-share-formula

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We can also modify this formula to find the total number of impressions that our ad is eligible for. For instance, if we already know our impression share, we can reformat the formula to look more like this. 

impression-share-available

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Impression Share Formula Example

Let’s say we created an ad and Google says there are 5,000 potential impressions available. After monitoring our ad’s performance for a month, we recorded about 4,000 impressions. This would mean that our impression share is 80% (4,000 recorded impressions / 5,000 available impressions =  80% impression share). 

Impression share is a handy metric for determining how well an ad campaign is doing and what your team can do to help it reach its full potential. By tracking impression share, you can automate bids, fine-tune your budget, and track keywords and quality score to reach your targeted audiences more often and generate greater brand awareness and profits.

For more ways to boost online ad engagement, read this list of helpful SEO tips.

Google Ads

The Straightforward Guide to the Google Display Network

Millions of dollars are poured into the Google Display Network (GDN) every day. But why? Google offers endless options for marketers to promote their products, so how is this network different?

Frankly — because it works.

When industry competitors’ congest search engines, the GDN can be a great alternative. With it, there’s less competition for inflated keyword bids, so you’re more likely to reach users actively searching for your products and services. Though the audience intent is not as strong, you get a much lower cost-per-click and many more impressions.

Here, we’re going to explore why you should use Google Display Network (GDN), how GDN differs from search ads, and how you can target your GDN ads to reach the right people in the right places.

Why Use the Google Display Network?

The value for GDN boils right down to reach and affordability. Prospecting, brand awareness, and remarketing can come with a hefty price tag when pursued for traditional search ads. GDN, by comparison, bypasses a lot of costly competition from other networks. There are also endless options for customizing your audience targeting.

Ultimately, you don’t need a fat wallet to set up a campaign through Google Display — you just need to choose the right targeting factors for your marketing goal.

With Google’s search ads, you’re essentially throwing out a wide net, which can be largely hit-or-miss, both with whom you’re targeting and with how you’re spending.

Google’s Display Network, on the other hand, allows you to define your audience in a way search engines can’t. Since you can target more than just keywords, you aren’t limited to the Google results page. Instead, GDN allows you to target websites by audience affinities, in-market segments, and custom intent keywords. You can even hand-pick website placements that fit your target audience.

The other differentiator is volume. Where do the fancy image ads appear when you market with GDN? Across millions of websites that your prospects are visiting every day.

But really — what’s the difference between GDN and a simple search ad? Let’s explore that, now.

Google Search vs. Display Network

You need a different mentality when using Google’s Display Network than when you’re using the search network and others available on Google Ads. Let’s define some use cases and expectations.

google ads - ppc google search ad example in the google serp

Your average conversion rate with GDN will be a minuscule 0.7%. Why? Because you’re targeting users that may not be familiar with your brand at all. The Google Display Network is first and foremost a tool for prospecting and brand awareness.

The standard CTR for this network is still under 0.5%. But, for targeting prospects outside of search engines and social networks, that’s still pretty good.

example of a google display network banner ad

The next key differentiator is the fact that the user’s primary interest is the website content itself — the display ad has an indirect, secondary role in the website’s appeal to the viewer.

Marketers are hoping the prospective user will view their GDN ad along their journey to fulfilling another purpose. That makes the user intent different than when an ad appears at the top of a Google results page for a high-intent search phrase. It should be no surprise that the click-through rate and conversion rate for GDN are below 1%.

Unlike with search, there is a variety of targeting options outside of keywords that span across a network of millions of websites. You can access the majority of internet users through website placements. Your number-one goal with GDN is finding the right audience size with strict targeting criteria.

There are ways to approach this network with tighter, more relevant targeting. Ultimately, remarketing is limitless — but it involves audience development outside the Google Ads platform. Let’s start by exploring the default prospecting options Google provides and work our way toward opportunities customized for your brand and those who have engaged with your website.

Google Display Network Remarketing or Prospecting?

On the GDN, you can target in two ways. First, you can target prospects on the internet who may have no previous knowledge of your website, brand, products, or services. Second, you can remarket to users who have engaged with your website in some form. Option two allows you to leverage the audiences you find in Google Analytics for your website. If you don’t have any Google Analytics website audiences built, doing so is incredibly easy — simply set up an audience for a user that completes specific actions.

options in google display network: demographics, affinity segments, custom interests, in-market, similar audiences, remarketing

Some of the most common remarketing audiences include:

  • General website visitors
  • Users who have submitted a form
  • Users who have downloaded content
  • Users who have viewed specific product pages
  • Users who have signed up for an account or trial offer
  • Users who have completed a transaction or purchased a product
  • Users who have begun any of the above actions but abandoned the page before completing it

Remarketing and prospecting are two vastly different initiatives that you can execute through GDN. Some businesses prefer to focus only on remarketing because reaching users familiar with one’s brand drives leads and sales for the most affordable cost. However, other businesses aren’t focused on the return as much as generating awareness of their products and services. It all comes down to your company’s marketing goals.

Google Display Ad Examples

Once you know how to target, you’ll want to create the collateral that gets the attention you need from your ad placements. Here are some great examples of Google display ads: 

1. SEMrush

semrush google display ad example that reads "do you want to skyrocket your marketing like our clients did?"

The copy of this ad does two things:

  1. States the value (“skyrocket your marketing”)
  2. Provides social proof (“like our clients did”)

It does this with large white font across an eye-catching blue background with bold oranges and pinks, making it colorful and stark enough to attract attention. 

2. Conversica

conversica google display ad that reads "so many leads, so little time, 451 research examines how intelligent virtual assistants can increase sales capacity. get the research"

Conversica utilizes the large vertical format, which takes up a lot of real estate space on a page, enough to hopefully stir any website visitors out of “banner blindness.” Their strategy is not to promote their company but rather an offer: research on virtual assistants in sales.

3. E*TRADE

etrade google display ad example that reads: "$0 commissions. get up to $600."

This is one of the skinnier horizontal banners, and E*TRADE uses it to make a bold statement: “$0 commissions” in large letters across the center. The call to action (open an account) is much smaller than the value proposition so that they recognize the value first before taking action on it.

Google Display Network Audience Targeting

Here’s how to achieve success with prospecting and brand awareness GDN targeting:

1. In-Market Segment Targeting

In-market segments are Google users interested in broad categories of products and services, including real estate, education, home and garden, sports and fitness, and more. Google defines these segments based on users’ historical views, clicks, and conversions on previous content. There are sub-categories for specific types of each segment, but the criteria Google uses for these aren’t public. The size of each sub-category is easily millions — and sometimes billions — of users. It’s safe to say that testing a GDN in-market segment is a good starting point.

However, layering demographic qualifiers, device targeting, and other affinities is necessary to create a focused pool of users.

in-market segment for targeting

An easy way to control audience size for in-market segments is by comparing with Google Analytics data. The in-market segments on Google Analytics line up perfectly with those on Google Ads. Google Analytics should show you which in-market segments on your site have the highest conversion rates.

Educated guesses for targeting on the Google Ads platform can only go so far. Google Analytics has the tools for identifying and building data-driven audiences from which Google Ads can learn and optimize. Ultimately, using Google Analytics can help ensure you’re reaching highly qualified users.

2. Affinity Audience Targeting

Like in-market segments, affinity audiences are Google users with similar interests, including cooking, fashion, beauty, gaming, music, travel, and more. These are very expansive categories of internet users, so it’s equally important to find targeting criteria to narrow down the size of any one affinity interest, or its sub-categories.

affinity category for targeting

Strictly relying on the default options for in-market segments and affinity audiences within Google Ads can leave a giant dent in your budget for marketing spend. Google Analytics can be a huge help in pinpointing exactly which affinity audiences yield the highest conversion rates on your website.

Google Ads will also create a “similar” audience based on the Google Analytics’ audience created. These audiences are usually more focused in size, making them ideal for testing.

similar audience for targeting

3. Custom Intent Audiences

Custom intent audiences is another valuable contextual targeting method.

How does it work? Simply put, Google can show your ads to users who are “likely to be interested” in specific keywords and website URLs. It may also show your ads to people who have recently searched for your suggested keywords.

custom intent audience for targeting

The key difference between custom intent audiences and other targeting methods is that you aren’t targeting websites that use these exact keywords, and Google is not placing your ad exclusively on specified website URLs. Rather, Google serves your ads to users on various other websites that have some contextual connection to the website URL or keyword given to Google.

4. Placement Targeting

Google can show your ads on specific websites when provided with placement URLs. This option offers tighter, more controlled targeting because it limits display ad placements to custom websites selected by the marketer.

You could be saving money by being so specific, but you could also be missing out on mainstream websites that your target audience is more actively visiting.

placement targeting

Simply put, users who visit your website also visit other websites. With custom affinity (interests) and custom intent (keyword and URL) audiences, Google can target these users at other online destinations. Picture your specified website as the center of a digital spiderweb — Google uses the central URL to target the users in other URLs within the spiderweb, amplifying your reach to include websites you may not know about.

These websites may or may not have content related to your suggested keyword or URL, but Google knows that these websites are sites that users of your suggested keywords and URLs also visit.

5. Topic Targeting

Google can show your ads on web pages only about your specified topic. Some of these topics could be similar to interests or affinities, or they may fall outside the default categories that Google offers (e.g., they may be along the lines of hiking, camping, or agriculture).

This targeting is an alternative to researching and selecting website placements for one interest without knowing the impact of those placements.

Three Key Audience-Building Factors

Now that you know the basic mechanisms for targeting and creating an audience, let’s dive into three essential tips to ensure you build those audiences better. Here are some high-impact areas for tightening audience targeting where it counts.

1. Select the right devices.

When setting up a display campaign, it’s important to consider where the target audience will be using the product and how they will be signing up. If the user experience is compromised or not nearly as good on a particular device, consider excluding that device altogether.

For example, is mobile really the right platform for your landing page offer? Can your products or services be used easily on tablets and other small devices? If your company produces games or apps, mobile is ideal. But if you’re marketing business software used on desktop computers, mobile targeting could be costly and unnecessary.

device targeting

2. Choose the right demographics and locations.

Google lets you customize several demographics when targeting for a display campaign. For example, age and household income are broken out into seven different ranges. If you know your audience is not within 18-24 years of age, or the top 10% of household income, you can easily exclude those users when creating ad groups.

There could also be some states in the U.S. or territories internationally to which your business prefers not to drive sales. The bids of these locations can easily be adjusted to redirect your budget to more profitable locations.

location targeting

3. Mark the box for content exclusions.

Before launching a campaign on GDN, it’s easy to make the mistake of skimming past the additional settings for websites with explicit content. Some advanced content settings are available for preventing your site from appearing on parked domains, sites with sexually suggestive content, sites with sensitive social issues, and more.

Google doesn’t mark these boxes by default, so they must be manually selected to prevent your ads from appearing on undesirable sites.

content labels for targeting

Optimizing Your Google Display Network Results

Now that we’ve explored targeting methods as well as specific audience-building factors, let’s dive deeper into how you might optimize your GDN results.

1. Assess demographic performance, and then recalibrate if necessary.

Some of your audience demographics may be ideal for traditional marketing but could perform poorly in a digital setting. Even after setting up specific demographic and location targeting, it’s important to review the performance of what hasn’t been excluded. For example, there are some demographic categories (e.g., “unknown”) and ages (e.g., “65+”) that can become costly after launch.

demographics for targeting

2. Assess placement performance and use those analytics to continually improve.

Google makes it easy to review where your ads are appearing on a daily or weekly basis after campaign launch. You can find this information under “Placements -> Where Ads Showed.”

placements for targeting

Filtering placements by unusually high spend or CTR can quickly identify websites that are more of an immediate threat to your campaign’s health. If you’re considering bulk exclusions, you may find it helpful to export web placements within the timeframe of “all time”.

Focus on blocking the duplicate placements that yield no results, since repeat offenders are a higher priority than websites that appear once with only a few impressions. After identifying duplicates, review the relevance of these sites, how much they have spent, and whether they have led to any conversions.

3. Consider which ad style and location will yield the best results.

There are two main ad types available for a GDN campaign — standard image ads and responsive ads. Standard image ads have a number of formats, including square, rectangular, skyscraper, and banner. These ads are an image-only display option. Here’s an example:

example of a banner ad by webmechanix

Responsive ads, on the other hand, offer a combination of text and image options that display in a variety of formats, depending on where the ad appears. The complete ad is composed of three image types, up to five short headlines, one long headline, up to five descriptions, and a business name. The short headlines and descriptions rotate to find and show the best-performing combination. Here’s an example:

examples of banner ads by webmechanix

If you’re limited on time, budget, or creative resources, it can be tricky to know which display ads will work best for your campaign, and you might not want to risk time testing different ones. If this is the case, it’s important to note studies have shown that 300 x 250 and 728 x 90 receive more impressions than other ad formats. Half-page ads and large rectangles receive higher CTRs than other ad formats, as well. So if you’re not sure where to begin, try out the rectangular formats and leaderboards!

example of a banner ad by webmechanix

Figure Out Whether Google Display Network Is The Right Choice For Your Business

You can amass a very powerful reach on the Google Display Network with the right attention to targeting. The network’s affordability, as well as the separation from the competition, makes it a viable marketing option.

This guide has covered several audience-building and optimization factors to help you hit the ground running with Google Display Network campaigns. Whether you’re just starting out or have some room for improvement, check out the custom audience capabilities to see if one might work for your next campaign.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

 

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