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MediaWiki documentation:

To give a footnote a unique identifier, use <ref name="name">. You can then refer to the same footnote again by using a ref tag with the same name. The text inside the second tag doesn't matter, because the text already exists in the first reference. You can either copy the whole footnote, or you can use a terminated empty ref tag that looks like this: <ref name="name" />. The quotes are not required (but still correct) if the name contains no embedded spaces. The space before the closing "/" may be omitted.

I understand how to use the same footnote several times, but not how to create a reusable footnote in the first place. What is the exact syntax?

example reference:

<ref>{{Cite web|url=http://stackexchange.com/sites?view=list#traffic|title=All Sites - Stack Exchange|website=stackexchange.com|language=en|access-date=2017-04-01}}</ref>
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Use <ref name="name"></ref> with the footnote you intend to reuse. For the example reference:

<ref name="name">{{Cite web|url=http://stackexchange.com/sites?view=list#traffic|title=All Sites - Stack Exchange|website=stackexchange.com|language=en|access-date=2017-04-01}}</ref>

Insert your own title inside quotation marks (").

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