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The UK's Cabinet Office is using paid-for search engine placements to promote public awareness of the Freedom of Information Act.

Directgov, the government’s central internet portal, has been using Yahoo!’s Overture sponsored links service to direct web users to its FOIA page.

The government has revealed that it pays 10p per click to Overture for the sponsored link, which comes up under searches for the term "Freedom of Information Act".

This information itself came to light following a Freedom of Information request made by Steve Wood, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, who runs the award-winning Freedom of the Information Act Blog.

In total, between July last year and February this year, 1,917 click-throughs were registered to the page through Overture sponsorship using the term "freedom of information act" and 1948 using "freedom of information".

In total, the government has spent £386.50 on sponsored links since last July.

And the number of views of Directgov’s FOIA page has increased considerably since the Overture service began, rising from 400 in July 2005 to a peak of over 6,700 in October last year. In January this year, 3,895 views were made.

Directgov’s use of Overture is not the first time the public sector has used sponsored links to generate more traffic.

Last April, eGov monitor revealed that Bristol City Council had become the first local authority to use pay-per-click advertising to generate more web traffic when it launched a sponsored links through Google and Yahoo! to attract visitors to its e-democracy initiative, AskBristol.com.

Cabinet Office response to FoI request (PDF: 68KB)

A break down of the click-through statistics (Word: 69KB)

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