What job makes the most money?

“We’ve started to develop a really nice software model,” said John O’Neil, chief product officer of the site, which has 500,000 clients.

One thing they love: making money when they have no business plan.
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“Everything has to make a certain amount of money,” said Mr. O’Neil.

Most sites run a free trial. Others get paid as soon as they hit a certain number of searches. There are no fixed charges for a site or website visitor.

“All those things are very interesting,” said John Mihalovic, vice president of the Chicago area market research firm MarketingMetric. “They’re all good ideas – even Google has said something along these lines. I don’t think they actually have any good alternatives.”

Yet, for all of the talk of search engines, they remain an obscure and ineffectual element of the U.S. business landscape.

The most recent numbers, obtained by The Washington Times under a public records request, show that in 2013, Internet companies accounted for more than half of all searches (51.8%) for which the United States Copyright Office gave a dollar value.

Among the largest search engines, Google was second at 49.7%; Yahoo generated 24.2%; and Bing at 21.3%. And yet, in the United States, companies such as Google and Yahoo were paying about 5% of their annual revenues to copyright-friendly search engines (excluding the fees Google pays to its search partners) – a far cry from the 35% that was paid by online retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Target Corp. (TGT) and Best Buy Co. (BBY) for Google.

“It could be that in the short run some people will use this tool or this service for search and then when they need to find a store, they go to the Google or Yahoo,” said Matt Cutts, chief privacy officer at Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL.O) Google Inc., on the sidelines of the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas and a panel organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That’s a fact. That’s how the system works.”

But, Mr. Cutts warned, the fact that these companies are paying for access to a search engine that competes with them makes the problem all the more complicated.

“At the end of the day, it’s not really fair and it’s not real competition because