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According to Facebook, there are now more than 3m active Facebook Pages on the world's most popular social network. A growing number of them belong to businesses that are trying to tap into Facebook's massive audience.

For some of those businesses, a Facebook Page represents a significant investment, and for those with a substantial number of fans, a significant asset. But having a web presence on Facebook also creates some challenges. One of them: determining whether or not to promote the company website or the company's Facebook Page.

An interesting post on Marketing Pilgrim discusses a recent campaign by pen giant Uni-ball, in which Uni-ball's own website was completely ignored and viewers were directed to Uniball's Facebook Page, where the company was giving away 10,000 pens.

Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital, who first wrote about the campaign, was fairly critical of it on multiple fronts:

For starters, when marketers promote their social network hubs over their URLs they risk that more savvy consumers will see right through it. People could perceive it as a flat attempt to look cool and hip. Consumers already skeptical of advertising and this just adds to it.

More importantly, he notes that many businesses, especially larger brands, have truly optimized their Facebook Pages (and Twitter accounts, etc.). As Rubel's notes, "Most are devoid of humans - e.g. employees - and many look like faceless companies that are trying to check off boxes or slap shiny logos on their site."

In my opinion, most Rubel's criticisms are valid. I see five big problems with directing users to a Facebook Page:

  • There's no ownership. A business doesn't really own its Facebook Page. A Facebook Page is really just leased space in a social media mall. Facebook could change its policies (which it already has), it could lose data, or it could one day go out of business. Perhaps the risks of some of these things are quite small, but businesses should still be strategic when it comes to driving traffic to properties they don't really own.
  • Not everyone is on Facebook. It may seem hard to believe, but the world's population is still significantly bigger than Facebook's userbase. Depending on who you're trying to engage, an ad that directs viewers to Facebook may be exclusionary.
  • A Facebook Page URL isn't any more appealing. It may seem that, in theory, there should be less friction in driving traffic to a Facebook Page because lots of people are already on Facebook, but businesses shouldn't assume this. Without compelling ads (or calls to action), a Facebook Page URL isn't any more appealing than a website URL. Case in point: even after promoting a Twitter account URL on its menus in 1,500 locations, the restaurant chain Denny's didn't drive more than 200 people to follow the wrong person. I suspect a Facebook Page URL would have been similarly unappealing if promoted without a strong enough call to action.
  • You miss out on SEO benefits. If you push a Facebook Page URL with a campaign that takes off virally, all of the link love you receive will be shared with Facebook (and your Facebook Page) -- not your own website. Depending on your current status in the SERPs, a handful of inbound links from the right websites can have a lasting impact on your SEO efforts.
  • A great website is far more powerful than a Facebook Page. Facebook's massive audience is appealing to businesses for good reason. So finding a way to tap into it makes a lot of sense. But businesses shouldn't underestimate the power of their own websites. A stellar user experience and compelling content/functionality are worth their weight in gold. A Facebook Page has inherent limitations, and businesses have far less ability to create unique experiences on Facebook.

Are there ever times in which it's acceptable to drive traffic to a Facebook Page? Sure. If you've developed a campaign that is designed to take advantage of the 'social graph', for instance, promoting a Facebook Page may make a lot of sense. But without such purpose, mindlessly directing your customers and potential customers to Facebook isn't going to be effective. The laws of effective advertising still apply, URLs be damned.

Photo credit: Global X via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 2 March, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2367 more posts from this author

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Anik Sumon

I agree with all the points. Although Facebook is a huge network but for big companies it is vital to drive traffic to their websites. Facebook campaign can take place in certain occasions, seasons etc. but not all year round.

over 6 years ago

Lily Somerville

Lily Somerville, Internal New Business Sales Manager at Ad.IQ Global

While I think Facebook pages are a great idea for some - although not all - brands, I don't think it should be promoted over a normal webpage.

For those that do have Facebook, I think you also need to consider how many will instantly click away from it if what they're trying to access is during working hours, or they just assume it's "just another fan page". I've done that before now - clicked through a few times from a Twitter feed and seen it's a link to Facebook - because I don't want a big old "FACEBOOK" logo appearing on my computer when I'm trying to work. And, despite my best attempts to read it later, I never remember to revisit it afterwards.

Facebook has surprised me with quite how giant it's become - I noticed in a Wetherspoons the other day that "Follow Us On Facebook" was printed on their beermats! While it's a great idea, I'm not sure how much reach it gives you? Will be great to see the other comments on here to see what you all think, and how many of you have found positive results with it?

over 6 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

In my opinion big brands use Facebook Fan pages trying to artificially generate that referral groundswell so that consumers feel that they are discovering something for themselves. But it is usually transparent as a promotion in most cases. Facebook can generate a segmented demographic relevant audience – all good points - BUT Facebook itself is so full of distractions and competing noise that it is not a good environment to be in. Perhaps more importantly when people are using Facebook it is real “me time” and they least receptive to intrusive adverts then. The only real long-term winners on Facebook are Facebook themselves.

over 6 years ago

Daryl Irvine

Daryl Irvine, Digital Creative Director at The Walker Agency

I think it's pretty obvious really. If you build a great online destination or make great content or incentives available on your own platform initially...the user will decide where and how to shout about it! Why second guess that FB is the right platform if you can create a honed, useful destination URL and simply empower them share it, comment on it or link to it.

The real isue with this approach is that it only works if what you are promoting has real value in the communities you are trying to penetrate - you can't fake that!

over 6 years ago

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Brent Nau

Were we discussing this internally prior to a presentation on Social Media. You have put this in the Threats column when looking at venturing into Social Media. Do you really want your traffic to be captured on a social media site versus your own site?

over 6 years ago

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Akash Sharma

True, I think use of Facebook fan pages should be just to find and target the right kind of audience and make it easy for them to go on the main website.

That is what you call a funnel model, where everything you do on all the social sites gets stacked up to a single source i.e your firm's home page.

Looking at the other side, something like redirecting a normal URL to a fan page can also work in some cases.

over 6 years ago

Sascha Ehrentraut

Sascha Ehrentraut, Activation Director at MEC Global

In terms of SEO.

What if your site was not able to rank for whatever terms that facebook page is targeting. then this would be an opertunity to get visibility for you company on those terms?

over 6 years ago

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Michelle Lonsdale, Senior Planner at Arthur

Erm... can't you do both?

No-one remembers a URL (especially a long-winded campaign one). Look at the investment in TV spend the aggregator sites  make just to keep their brand front of mind. People will google regardless. So make sure the content is find-able.

However a 'find us on Facebook' gives people another choice and diseminates content to which ever is the prefered platform. Alot of people spend alot of time on Facebook. Surely the benefit of digital is that you can have multiple entrypoints and content can be scattered across the internet ideally with functionality (e.g. databases) being served from a central place.

Surely its better to go where the eyeballs are rather than trying to drive the eyeballs to a marketing microsite? (I'm talking about non-digital brands rather than online products or services, then the goal should be to drive awareness of the brand URL).

I'm of the view that we need to separate the content from the platform, and get that content in as many places and spaces as possible.

over 6 years ago

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selina howells

Not good business practice to put any business other than yours between you and your customer.

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Morning all,

I think Steve's key point (my interpretation having read his article a few times) is not that sending people to a social media URL is necessarily a bad thing but that doing so without any genuine engagement plan for that traffic, linked back to your main eCommerce platfrom or content website, is.

Having seen some poor attempts at social media presence (Ebuyer's Facebook fanpage that had let the tumbleweed set in, Twitter accounts like the early days of New Look when all they did was push tweets about their products), I think he's bang on the money.

However, look at the success of intelligent social media from Compare The Meerkat. They drove huge volumes of traffic to a separate domain and heavily promoted the social media element. However, behind this were real people (albeit via a character) engaging with customers and creating a community. The brand advertising created the link with the main website. The key difference is that CTM didn't just push a Facebook fanpage and Twitter account, they integrated them with a content website.

I'm with Michelle on this. Make your content visible across all your online and offfline channels. Optimise your primary website to capture search traffic for campaign relevant searches and then use your social media presence to engage with customers who prefer those channels. Drive traffic from social channels back to your primary website.

I think the final transaction (whether financial or not) should be conducted on your primary website as much as possible but don't exclude those who would rather interact with you via the social channel. It's not either/or, surely it's a case of using all available, relevant communication channels in a complimentary manner to maximise impact? However, behind all this should be a careful consideration of how you measure this activity. If you give gifts away to people via Facebook, Twitter etc how do you track whether or not they come back to your main site and purchase in the future?

Thanks

james

over 6 years ago

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veiko herne

Assuming that we are talking here business registered domain forwarding to facebook page rather than building their own website?

How do you get any analytics out from Facebook page? Without analytics, how you can measure your online traffic so I think, it's a stupid idea.

over 6 years ago

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Facebook Pages

Facebook Page URL certainly has its benifits in converting customers but it is really foolish to concentrate entirely on a facebook URL than on their own Business web-page. I remember on of the facebook members saying," in order to easily promote your facebook page add it to your corporate website". What does it mean? Because everyone concentrate more on their own websites popularity, when social media profiles are added they can be easily shared. That's the reason. However, when someone wants to promote via social media profiles it works as a fetching point to your main business!

over 6 years ago

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Alison Groves

THANK YOU!  

over 6 years ago

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Melanie Mackie

I think this article really highlights the fact that having a Facebook business page does not suddenly build a community and in fact many businesses that I have spoken to recently are totally against having a company Facebook page because they see it as a social site and not a business site. LinkedIn totally the best place to be for professionals and Twitter has come along leaps and bounds for businesses and networking.

But for many I speak to they are yet to be convinced and at the moment I think I agree!  

over 6 years ago

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Megan Firth

The view looks different from wherever we're standing. There are many levels of online permutations. I have found UK and USA big on website and soc media and in RSA huge on soc media and mobile. What we must remember is : to be present on every platform of our existing and prospectful clients. Facebook is meant to be a social site and no-one should be trying to sell there. It could be used for branding, database mining and driving messages or intentions. Many companies use the site, much to previous statements' dismay. The only time they are unhappy is when they've not quite understood why they're there. Many corporates are in control of every strategy and still can't understand the consumer being in the marketing driver's seat.

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Melanie,

Are you talking about B2B or B2C companies? It's an important distinction.

LinkedIn can be a more relevant networking site but not if you are trying to reach a B2C audience. B2B companies use LI effectively by creating discussion groups and basing conversation around themes relevant to their business. Others participate in the groups and discussions to make contacts.

However, if you want to build a B2C community, LI is not the place. Facebook is just one option, albeit one with a huge potential global audience. Some business owners are using Facebook effectively to build engagement and conversation around their brand and then drive commercial value via seeding offers and promotions that link back to their primary eCommerce website. Wiggly Wigglers is a great example and they send regular newsletters to their fans via Facebook to maintain the relationship.

Megan - I think it is a mistake to say that social and business don't mix; there is evidence to show they do if you have a sensible strategy. Why can't you give special offers to your Facebook audience? Niche retailers like Accessories Online are using Facebook and Twitter effectively to drive traffic/sales because they have built up a relationship with the audience first to establish trust.

We need to move past blanket statements - find out what your customers are interested in by asking them and running tests. There is a big difference between brand push hard selling and driving sales via intelligent engagement strategies and communication. For me its like email marketing; lazy generic broadcasts get high unsub rates and poor click through, targeted personalised content outperforms. 

The challenge is to make your presence relevant and to add value. Facebook can act as a good traffic driver to eCommerce websites in the same way that Twitter can but nothing is guaranteed - you need to work out where your audience is, how they want to engage with you and then give them the tools. It won't necessarily work for every business but then neither does TV advertising.

On the topic of selling via Facebook, has anybody got any stats for the 1-800 Flowers facebook shop tab?

Thanks

james

over 6 years ago

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rRafael Garcia

I am in accordance that is more effective to promote a webssite than a facebokk link, because the customers are directed to the website and there be in touch directly with company

In my case i can have customerss coming to my page for sel them travel services on line and they can select options and inclusevely to pay for them inmediately to get a good price and also get discounts and benefits on line

Also their puechaes are safe and have a guarranty and operations can be made worldwide inmediately

In Tourism is very important to be in the moment because prices and conditions change in every moment and so intermediates are not good option

Fecebook I find userful to contact new customers depending of ther bahavior or purchase preferences or to promote an event or social meeting because I can tell my friends and contacts and thier refer to many other

My websites are:

www.fjtravelsmart.com/afiliados   Codigo: Rafaelgc

www.tout.com.mx

over 6 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

In competitative SERP situations you can use your social media assets to take up Sponsored link real estate - pretty good way to block out your competitors.

Maybe a bit mercanary but why not. Also costs little/nothing especially if your FB etc pages are well set up and link back to your site so your users can perform a conversion.

over 6 years ago

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Sam Andrews, Creative Director at Snow Valley

If brands are using their Facebook pages appropriately and not as some sort of "oh, I better do it everyone else is" or "I can use this like Twitter for positive feedback" then the Facebook pages would be perfectly valid for promotion for that segment. If you have have fans that trust you, and for whom main online interactions are through Facebook (most teens use FB for private messaging than email, after all), why not promote those pages?  In a rather tenuous real-world analogy, you'd advertise your local branch to those nearby as well as your flagship store in Bluewater.

Of course, most retailers aren't actually generating revenue directly from their FB pages, but that will change over a short period. There's more on that here: http://snowpatrol.snowvalley.com/2010/03/15/facebook-as-a-credible-e-commerce-channel/

over 6 years ago

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Danny Denhard

Facebook is becoming very clever on how they are opening up and allowing companies to use their technology to promote their product. 

From an SEO point of view it would be much better to receive back links to your domain sure, but you would rather a low cost alternative that has an audience of 400 million people. They could then engage while they are already on Facebook.

One perfect example of advertising well on Facebook is Marmite, it nails it perfectly, either love it or hate it they allow video uploads, international buzz about their product and uses the status updates as actual news updates and more importantly can interact with fans. 

The one thing people are forgetting if a company was that worried about domain names etc they would create a redirect to the Facebook group. 

over 6 years ago

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Element Investing

Isn't one of the main purposes of the Facebook page to drive traffic to the website? It seems odd to try and drive traffic to something that is designed to drive traffic. On the other hand, if the Facebook page is more intended for the community benefits, I see no reason why one wouldn't want to drive traffic there, even if the traffic comes from the website itself!

over 6 years ago

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Amanda English

I am going to take the website Alex for $800.  Much more effective than a FB page.  You can lease online, view many more pictures, take virtual tours, look at events etc.

over 6 years ago

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Chris McLaren

Love the article and most of the comments. A point that may bear enforcing here is that FB traffic MUST be linked back somehow to the website to be optimally effective as part of an overall marketing program. The website is still the best long-term answer for which platform is best suited to serve as the "hub" or fulfillment center, of your online marketing efforts. As a hub, the website has survived (thus far): blogs, FB, etc. and probably will continue to do so because it has the greatest flexibility of both presentation and functionality, and because search marketing is so closely mated to it (esp. if you embed a blog in the site). In our opinion at Gage Marketing, FB's popularity represents a challenge to marketers to think differently about how to reach target audiences online. FB visits tend not to start via a search page - they start directly. In other words, people start web sessions at FB, which means the ubiquitous "front door" of internet sessions has shifted somewhat away from search and toward Facebook. That means clients need to consider shifting resources away from search (or adding resources) to capture eyeballs and minds via Facebook. How they do that, is a book unto itself and partly how agencies like mine make a living. But what most everyone in online has realized through early failed experiments is that creating EFFECTIVE Facebook presences cost time and money and require skill and experience as well (surprise). And they have to be supported continuously. Clients tend to discover this the hard way. Some interpret failure as the fault of the platform, most correctly realize it takes effort to make good use of it.

over 6 years ago

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David White

I don't personally have a Facebook page for my business because I target businesses mainly. My initial thinking after reading this article would be that it is very simply to use your Facebook page to drive the traffic into your website if you apply the right tactics.

over 6 years ago

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Paul Oz

One point not accounted for here, and a BIG benefit of facebook fan pages - ongoing communication. If someone joins a facebook fan page (obviously dependant on having a message/product/service than users will want to become a fan of) then you have an ongoing communication channel with them, if managed correctly.

Facebook adverts and pay per click link to a website - and that is often the end of the line. Yet users will join a fan page on a whim and think nothing of it - and status updates are posted straight to their news feed, encouraging engagement, and drip feeding brand awareness.

Long and short of it - I've effectively paid £215 for 500+ fans on www.facebook.com/paulozartist, and have had a couple of sales from there which more than cover the investment. About a 13% click through to fan result. Linking to my website I would have paid the same, but thats the end of communication unless they re-visit themselves.

Once at a certain level its proven self sustaining, as every time a user comments on something on the page, its listed on their news feed for their friends to see. Yes I've seen some drop offs - often after I've posted something and 'reminded' a fan that I'm there I think - but numbers are now rising on themselves without any investment other than my time.....

over 6 years ago

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Shel Holtz

What I find interesting about the post and subsequent conversation is that the focus is on the tactic employed but nobody seems interested in even considering what Uniball's goal might have been. In a strategic planning exercise, you start with the goal, the business result you want to achieve. What if the goal had been to attract a particular demographic that research shows is not buying your pens? What if the research showed that this demographic fit the "joiners" category on Forrester's technographic ladder and that they were buying pens from a company seen as hipper and cooler? If you know what you're trying to achieve, it drives the strategies, objectives and tactics you employ.

While I don't disagree with some of the general observations made here, I'd be reluctant to criticize Uniball without knowing the goal. For all any of us know, the campaign was an unparalleled success, which would be defined as achieving the goal that drove the campaign. Keeping in mind that research shows that people join Facebook fan pages to be notified of special offers, promotions and deals, the decision to center the campaign on Facebook could have been a brilliant one. 

I'd point you to the Ernst & Young recruiting campaign that was conducted entirely on Facebook a couple years ago. It was so successful it attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. The rationale, as articulated by an Ernst & Young representative: E&Y wanted to capture job-seekers -- particularly those in college or just out of college -- in their lair, where they were already spending much of their online time. And one of the tangible results of the effort? It drove traffic to the ey.com website from people who might never, ever have visited it without first visiting the Facebook page.

Shannon Paul and I have both written about the need to be strategic in the use of social media. Based on the original post and comments here, I think it's a lesson that's sorely needed.

over 6 years ago

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Will

No one mentioned that you would be sending people to your website FROM Facebook (and other sites like Twitter, etc). All these sites are like tentacles. So it depends what the source is, essentially all 3rd party sites lead back to your main site.

I point people to my fan page when someone posts an interesting question or there is a discussion, or other promotions. It's like cross linking, not everything is in one direction only.

over 6 years ago

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m a r c o

While I agree with a lot of what was written in this article, I can also understand and appreciate why Uni-ball or any other big company like that would want to promote their Facebook page over their website: Facebook is a place where people are invited to join the conversation. Building up your fan base, engaging them to share their opinions, even share some new ideas for products, offers, improvements, etc. is better accomplished through Facebook rather than a company's website. If you add to that the possibility to have those comments shared across the number 2 website on the internet, then even better... Smaller companies, of course would benefit a lot with the use of Facebook, but would probably need more links pointing to their website where they have more control over the information and design.

over 6 years ago

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Aloysius Carl

Not to mention that you're building up the power of a page that you do not own or ultimately really control.  

I've been watching the Facebook/business angle for quite some time because I'm confidetn that somewhere along the line Facebook will begin charging businesses for some basic services that are given free to individuals.  It's only a matter of time as Facebook works on their monetization efforts.

As far as running a spcecifically targeted campaign as someone mentioned eariler, yes it can have some merits utilizing Facebook and other social media, but what about looking at the best long term impact and affect?  Wouldn't the best long term benefit be to work with the social tools to consistently build the power and draw of an asset that you do own and control like your own website?

over 6 years ago

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Biljana Pesevska

It most certainly depends on your target audience as well as the goals of the campaign. If for ex. the goal is to generate word of mouth then Facebook is the place for your URL. Or if the target audience are professionals and you offer them something to improve their work then your website is the place for your URL. 

On the other hand, Facebook has the right to introduce policies that will restrict the brands or even charge the brands for their presence their whether we like it or not. :-)

over 6 years ago

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SEO Manchester

Facebook is becoming very clever on how they are opening up and allowing companies to use their technology to promote their product.

over 6 years ago

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Lekan Adetifa, Head Online Acquisition at Moi

What if I said we suddenly had our Facebook profile of over 20,000 fans banned momentarily for over 3 days or so because of some Facebook internal "misunderstanding" (as they called it)

Nay, intention is not to alarm but it does make sense to try not to put another company between you and your clients as far as you can help it.

Tell me if Uni Ball won't have had the same success if they had created a bespoke landing page- offer, call to action above the fold, big and attraction buttons to attract clicks and for users to share etc and the obvious social network buttons including email harvesting (create facebook list)

To my mind, it should have utilized main website for many reasons mentioned (SEO, link juice) and made use of the the platforms and tools for creating "a conversion" with there target market.

Facebook packs a big punch and its getting bigger

about 6 years ago

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Internet Marketing Tools

Each and every time when you're tempted to promote anything other than your site, think again - your own site is something like an HQ. Your FB Page, your Twitter Account and all other stuff would be meaningless without the HQ, it is therefore somehow absurd to promote the means instead of the main thing.

over 5 years ago

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Nick Larson

I would agree that Facebook can represent certain aspects of your business for the fact that it allows you to engage with potential customers. But certainly not all of your business, you could be missing out on branding which is an integral part for any project based exposure that you might have in longterm.

over 4 years ago

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Weis

The jeep parts and jeep accessories are some of those.
A huge the main allure for jeep lovers, particularly off-road enthusiasts, is that the CJ7 accessible in 1986 was
basically the just like the CJ for sale in the
mid-1950s.

about 4 years ago

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Lafleur

What's the difference between SEO writer and Freelance writer?

almost 4 years ago

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Whittaker

I'm not sure exactly why but this site is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I'll check back
later and see if the problem still exists.

almost 4 years ago

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Glenn

Also, getting it repair on timely manner which is a
big job itself. Saving 75% repairing your phone is saving real money. Well, look on the bright side, by waiting awhile you've missed out on the ridiculously long release-date lines and the astronomically high prices.

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Hensley

Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

over 3 years ago

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