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The world of search engines is changing fast. In the last two months there has been a significant increase in the numbers of them imposing charges.

GoTo, the pay-per-click bidding engine, has just launched a UK version which feeds ‘sponsored’ links to Altavista, Lycos and Hotbot. Inktomi which supplies listings to many of the best known search engines is now charging for its spider to visit. Looksmart, Splut and Realnames are also happy to take your money. Google works on a different system with prices for text ads which blend with search results.

All eyes are on Yahoo’s business express submission program currently running on the US version and likely to reach the UK. Paying Yahoo merely ensures that the site is reviewed but there are no guarantees that this will result in a listing.

Dixon Jones of, the web traffic generating specialist, says: "It seems that the portals are now preparing to recoup their initial investment. They’re looking at ways to generate revenue and cashing in now on the market share they’ve built in the last four years.

"How this market will develop is anyone’s guess, but my hunch is that the principle of some free listing by search engines and directories will continue for the foreseeable future. Without it the top rankings will simply go to the highest bidder and the internet will become the exclusive province of multi-national players.

"Despite multi-million pound off-line marketing budgets, TV sponsorship and PR campaigns feeding us web site addresses, 75% of people still use search engines for finding the information they want. "
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