By 2008, industry research firm eMarketer expects $7.4 billion to be spent on search engine advertising, up from just $108.5 million in 2000.
The success of search engine advertising has substantially raised prices, too. In mid-1999, advertisers paid Overture an average commission of 11 cents per click. By the end of last year, advertisers were paying an industrywide average of $1.70 for the hundreds of keywords tracked by Fathom Online. The cost of prized search terms runs much higher. For instance, the top price for "mesothelioma", a cancer that spurred scores of lawsuits linking the illness to asbestos exposure, recently stood at $51 per click, Fathom said.
Higher prices have turned click fraud
into a cottage industry.