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I've seen this more than often in many websites, that the webmaster avoids putting direct links on the page, instead they use a redirect such as following:

http://www.example.com/?url=http://sample.com
  1. I just wonder what is the reason for doing so?
  2. Is it for statistical purposes?
  3. Or is it harmful for the page's SEO ranking?
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Question. Something isn't clear from your question. Is the redirect domain different from the domain of the site you're visiting? (I was assuming you meant a third-party service was being used.) See addition to my response for a same-domain situation. –  Su' Sep 11 '12 at 10:02
    
My question is in general sense of the matter. Assume all we know is that the website uses redirector to redirect. We don't know if it's a third party service or just an internal simple script. –  Hamed Momeni Sep 11 '12 at 16:03
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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's done primarily for tracking purposes, and the format you describe is normally seen when the link is on a site like Faceebook or Twitter - i.e. the owner of http://www.example.com.

Without this redirection they'd have no way of tracking links so the owner of http://www.example.com uses this format to see where outgoing links end up. Reasons why you want to track:

  1. Making sure that the user of your service is adhering to your terms and conditions. You might only allow a certain number of links to be served.
  2. Analysing where people go after visiting your site.
  3. Making sure that you don't link to "unsuitable" sites (e.g. porn, mp3 downloads, etc.)
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One possibility is anonymizing/hiding the links. Not everybody cares to show up in referer listings.

If the redirect URL is on the same domain, some sites also use this kind of setup in order to show an intermediate page telling you you're leaving their site. This is sometimes due to legal demands and they'll include disclaimers they're not responsible for third-party content and such.

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But AFAIK even if you redirect a user, you still show up in referrer listings. Or am I mistaken and redirecting a user is not considered referring? –  Hamed Momeni Sep 11 '12 at 9:04
    
Yes, but consider the case in which the redirect is done by a third part service –  Aurelio De Rosa Sep 11 '12 at 9:51
    
@EdwinDrood Not necessarily. It depends upon the specifics of the redirect. See the "301 Redirect" section of this SearchEngineLand post for some information, as well as a table showing the differences between many URL shorteners. (Probably outdated[c. 2009], but informational.) –  Su' Sep 11 '12 at 9:59
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@Edwin your domain may show as referrer, but not the specific page. Google uses this to prevent webmasters seeing the exact query that led a user to the site. Facebook/Twitter could do the same to hide which user profile they came from. –  DisgruntledGoat Sep 12 '12 at 8:20
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Tracking is often the reason why links are redirected this way. Another reason that is common is to make implementing referral links easier. For example, if you can get a commission from a retailer using a referral link, you'll want to replace this link with the referral link before the user lands on their website. Suppose in 6 months time you want to change the referral link, you are no longer an affiliate or you sign up a new retailer, then you'd need to check potentially thousands of links on your website to update. Having everything run through a "redirector" may make maintenance a little easier.

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Nice point you've got there. I've not had a thought about it. –  Hamed Momeni Sep 11 '12 at 15:54
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Some websites do this in order to change the links into affiliate links or similar.

This way, for example, any link that a forum members posts to amazon will allow you get a piece of the action in the case that an item is bought.

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