This is a guest post by Doug Pierce, the co-founder and Head of Research at Digital Due Diligence, a boutique research firm focusing on in-depth analysis of Internet properties.

It’s a curious yet common practice at the bottom of Chinese websites. A selection of curated hyperlinks that go by many names – “friendly links”, “cooperative partners”, “enterprise promotion” – but have one purpose: to manipulate search engines.

While ostensibly there to help visitors navigate the web, the evolution of the Chinese Internet has turned this otherwise benign footer element into a commodity bought and sold by savvy web entrepreneurs and shifty SEO consultants for their own gain and to the detriment of the Chinese Internet as a whole. While it’s easy to blame shortcomings in the algorithms, a more well rounded explanation for their persistence is a fundamental attribution error by search engines toward individual expression that doesn’t deliver the same utility when applied to China.

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TechNode Guest Editors represent the best our community has to offer: insight and perspective on how technology is affecting business and culture in China