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I thought I read a while back that Google search rankings penalize pages with many links that go offsite. I believe the logic was that the content is deemed poor or less original if many links are found leading elsewhere.

So I implemented a system where all external links are replaced with an internal one with the link store in a database. A click to the internal link calls redirect.php which gets the link from the db and forwards the user off site. I don't send any headers with the redirect. The site is forum-like and can have posts from users, although most of the content is from me.

Now, years later, I know I was naive & inexperienced and now I am trying to really understand the impacts and do it the best way.

What is the impact of having anywhere from zero to a hundred (average 10) offsite links per page where quality of links can vary?

What is the SEO impact of having all links redirect in the way I've implemented it?

AND what is the best way to handle offsite links? I know I can track clicks with javascript, so that is not an issue.

I've read all the links which come up regarding this, but I haven't found a clear answer.

Thanks in advance.

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The way Google looks at this is whether the links you've added add up to the quality of the pages. It's a myth that linking out hurts, on the contrary, linking out to relevant authority sites helps improve your topical authority. Google sees this as an attempt to provide a better user experience.

However, if you have 10 links or a hundred links going out from each of your pages, that would look unnatural to Google and might invoke a manual review and possibly follow with a penalization if they deem that you're part of a link network and trying to manipulate the ranks of the sites you're linking to. If you do absolutely need to have those links for reasons other than trying to rank those sites, nofollow them, that rules out any penalization possibilities from Google. Things get especially bad if you knowingly or unknowingly link out to a site that has a bad reputation with Google. So nofollow is your safest bet

Back in the days, webmasters used to redirect links with JS so as to prevent loss of link juice and PR, but since Google has gotten very efficient with parsing JS and redirect links, I think it will have the same consequences as having a non-redirect link.

So my advise to you would be

  1. Keep the links that you absolutely have to.
  2. nofollow them

Google is getting more aggressive with link networks with every Penguin update and so you run a greater risk of running into hot waters if Google deems your website to be a part of a link network

  • My site is a teacher resources site - so, it will mostly have content with a smattering of links. Unfortunately, all the links are essential - that is the point. I then have a links summary page that take all the links from a section (e.g. third grade math) and list them for easy finding - that's the page with possibly 100 or more links and no other content. I guess I could noindex these pages. Does the ranking of one of my pages impact all the others in any way? – mseifert Jul 18 '16 at 6:48
  • noindex'ing won't help since Google is still gonna follow those links and associate them with your website. Noindex just means Google won't keep those pages in its index but will still follow the links on it. Your safest option is to nofollow each of those links – pro_ng Jul 18 '16 at 6:50
  • What about a cinema showtime listing website? Every external link is taking to the cinema booking pages, e.g. go2cinema.com/showtimes/westminster-sw1a-30UXC993101. I was thinking of implementing the same tactics suggested by @mseifert – create https://go2cinema.com/out/{session ID} that takes to the booking URL for that event. – Gajus Aug 6 '17 at 13:35

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