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I think there are two ways of citing sources in an article: links distributed in the article body, or links listed at the end of the article.

Example with links in the article:

This is some text that will have links here and there, wherever they are relevant. This style is commonly used in blogs and news sites. It seems very common. I guess it's not bad for SEO at all, or nobody would be using it. However links in the body might sometimes be distracting, making visitors feel curious, click, land on a different site, and get sidetracked.

Example with links at the end:

This is some text that will only list the sources (1) at the end, at the bottom of the article. This style is commonly used in more formal documents (2), like research papers, books, etc. The links (3) won't be evenly distributed inside the article (4), there will just be a list of links at the end, one after the other, and I wonder if Google (5) likes that.

Sources:

  1. https://www.example.com/whatever
  2. https://www.example.com/something
  3. https://www.example.com/example
  4. https://www.example.com/source
  5. https://www.example.com/other

I don't think there are any other common and sensible styles to cite sources. Wikipedia seems to use both at the same time: links in the body for internal content, and a list of links at the bottom for external sources.

What I'm asking is: how does that affect SEO? Are there pros and cons for each style? How many links are going to be too many? I might have to write articles that will require citing a lot of sources. The more sources I have, the longer the article text will be, so I don't think I'd have problems with link density or link/text ratio. The problem is that I'm not sure Google might like lots of links listed one after the other at the end. A possible solution to play it safe might be to just list the URLs without actually linking them with an anchor tag, although I'm not sure how good this idea is (will Google not like that anyway? Will users find it annoying they can't click directly on a source?)

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There are many different citation styles of which easybib covers 3 and so how you wish to cite material which supports your claims in your article depends on the method you wish to use.

Academic articles mostly use the APA style of citation where (for example) you put the author's name and year in brackets and list the references at the bottom. My new blog (sample article) follows that style and I personally feel it is more intuitive. You can choose to link to internal pages and articles within the main body of the article if you wish, or you can follow the same convention as external references. Normally speaking I follow the same convention. You would find that in scientific and scholarly articles. I would just link within the main body only when linking a definition of any jargon or acronym.

The benefit of using the APA style to me is that you know what the article is referring to and the article's name along with where to go to read it. The reference list is easier to follow too in my mind as the copyright year of the material is near the beginning of the reference so it is more immediate how recent the material was produced. Many citation styles have the copyright year in the middle of the reference making it awkward to find by the human eye.

As for SEO, Google will recognize when you have linked to material off your site. I asked a similar question here on how to best support search engines and worked out an answer to it.

To summarize, Google's web developer's guide indicates that structured Schema data is best for SEO.

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    "When linking to other sites, use rel="nofollow" within your <a href=" "> to stop any unwanted SEO ranking issues." -> As far as I can tell, this is an SEO myth. Source. Using nofollow here is not useful because it tells the search engines "I don't trust any of the sites I am linking to", but in reality that's not the case because you are citing them. If your references are real references and indeed link to high-quality resources that are relevant to your article, then there is no risk of looking like a farm. – Maximillian Laumeister Jun 5 at 19:03
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    Wow I stand corrected @MaximillianLaumeister and will have to go and remove the nofollow from a my outgoing links to reputable sources in my articles. I have removed the myth from my answer too – Chris Rogers Jun 5 at 20:21

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