Summary

In the last 20 years, Google has gone from serving up 18 million searches per day, to over 5.6 billion.

Some think tanks have benefited tremendously from this growth in the power of search, seeing hundreds of thousands or even millions of monthly visitors from search results.

Yet others see relatively little traffic. Their research can’t have the impact it might otherwise simply because it’s not being found.

What explains this wide variance in think tank search performance?

We sought to answer this question the way a policy wonk would, by looking at data.

We compared the search engine performance data of 308 US think tanks and developed two metrics that reveal which think tanks are performing best given their budget and scope.

First, with a metric called “Search Efficiency,” we measure how efficiently a group grows its search traffic.

Second, with a metric called “Domain Efficiency,” we measure how efficiently a group grows its domain rating, a key determinant of search traffic.

Using this data, we show that groups with modest budgets regularly outperform their higher-budget peers in both metrics. 

Based on our analysis, we found three methods high-ranking think tanks use to get outsized search performance results.

We also discuss how these findings underscore why search matters for think tanks, how think tanks can improve their rankings, and provide our data sources.

The Rankings

Search the ranking below and then read on for our explanation and analysis.

Note: You can find a specific group or filter results using the search box located above either table.

Search Efficiency Rankings

Search Efficiency measures how much more search traffic your think tank gets than would be expected given your expenditures and whether it is state or national in scope.

Monthly search traffic figures are estimated based on keyword ranking and estimated click through rates.

Here are the top ranking think tanks in Search Efficiency:

RankNameScopeBudgetTrafficSearch Efficiency Score Domain Rating Referring Domains Referring .gov Domains Referring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksTop-100 Ranked KeywordsPages Indexed By GoogleGoogle Pagespeed Insight Mobile ScoreGoogle Pagespeed Insight Desktop Score
1BallotpediaNational●●●3,622,68011.8238226,955504184,487,5662,150,471401,0001655
2Federation of American ScientistsNational●●663,81610.3788562,4122171,2727,876,4541,042,74078,2004958
3Pew Research CenterNational●●●●●●1,302,53610.34191139,1742162,00231,675,6071,429,89539,0005571
4World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●1,809,65910.25791113,4924562,2887,637,4341,617,787237,000562
5Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●1,130,21210.1148131,618416103,493,788335,36132,1003638
6Human Rights WatchNational●●●●●●954,9239.9108888,2071491,53712,893,7161,100,544214,0006585
7Tax FoundationNational●●●516,7869.8828121,707602221,892,494264,38612,2005266
8Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●373,5969.7298138,853226074,298,613597,583597,0007587
9Brookings InstitutionNational●●●●●●829,2359.6958883,8932791,9158,189,7061,565,441153,0006274
10Council on Foreign RelationsNational●●●●●●627,1369.4818344,751871,0268,038,525723,59948,0002633
11Heritage FoundationNational●●●●●●483,9929.1908350,1971108878,643,948674,86370,4003846
12Bill of Rights InstituteNational●●●184,9938.882704,58932131339,869115,7543,550162
13Cato InstituteNational●●●●●●252,5078.7608243,705718627,381,146522,34786,5005991
14Foundation for Economic EducationNational●●●●166,7638.7197715,984102255,459,346339,90643,3007788
15Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesNational●●●●●●246,6628.7178122,189764361,884,982288,00624,1006583
16CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●392,7728.7118211,331207551,338,408217,16955,4005474
17Center for American ProgressNational●●●●●●256,3988.6838443,604916895,190,896637,83847,7004352
18Guttmacher InstituteNational●●●●●218,7298.6617917,52750426522,583182,78514,800637
19Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●114,2078.6068218,321335862,723,328123,19914,300484
20Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●282,1648.5888637,8041508852,560,502407,42973,7004259
21Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●213,9378.5048225,9401088421,917,061357,71966,800446
22Economic Policy InstituteNational●●●●138,5638.4898125,190576282,526,807262,74413,400-15
23National Bureau of Economic ResearchNational●●●●●●191,1888.4268750,2391581,85313,609,794798,110284,0003747
24Union of Concerned ScientistsNational●●●●●●158,2988.2788334,198717612,642,539212,88612,4004137
25RANDNational●●●●●●255,6188.2578645,0552361,6168,872,458651,452107,000455
26Migration Policy InstituteNational●●●●102,0318.2007814,417636321,033,884172,56914,6005982
27Peterson Institute For International EconomicsNational●●●●●113,2468.1227812,135534401,058,564119,84016,7002367
28Prison Policy InitiativeNational51,0978.091757,66525165250,88596,4926,0206578
29Institute for Family StudiesNational53,6128.088724,43446070,68560,0202,1702527
30Brennan Center for JusticeNational●●●●●94,7237.8957813,80648230787,780159,10217,0004953
31Atlantic CouncilNational●●●●●96,2247.8157814,185443101,261,920260,40568,0005278
32American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●108,3307.8048233,313616626,573,237293,00584,8002832
33Middle East Media Research InstituteNational●●●●67,1277.7857312,34051302,492,123120,12581,8001-
34Population Reference BureauNational●●●●69,3437.7247914,10638808330,612138,0408,3206455
35Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●86,3487.6437816,868386849,831,737232,52347,7005764
36Center for Voting and DemocracyNational●●●47,7337.605746,52012171232,08866,1536,0203135
37Sentencing ProjectNational●●40,1777.566758,25431267686,91640,0411,2703952
38New America FoundationNational●●●●●●79,2827.5657912,00533326560,766139,14423,7006582
39Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●78,6217.5468015,152110457900,156125,69621,3006581
40Center for Public IntegrityNational●●●●49,8777.5157820,867272952,841,571191,67013,8004665
41World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●90,2477.4898426,9731441,0573,297,024221,63930,1005866
42Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●65,2937.3967415,6766583,236,43132,65545,0003534
43Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●81,5497.3918427,2121718482,723,246292,02645,9005346
44Illinois Policy InstituteState●●●●115,6427.381704,0471630500,838132,86312,9005566
45Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsNational●●●40,2747.341768,197553254,339,20447,4142,9604661
46Independent InstituteNational●●●37,3987.3317210,85942322,259,427164,41122,700272
47Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●61,5927.3308025,271536072,038,764108,4857,6604356
48Foreign Policy Research InstituteNational●●34,3007.302685,18213205449,346100,39012,0003238
49Environmental and Energy Study InstituteNational●●29,9097.300723,1222111147,27052,7105,8107-
50National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●67,5957.286754,18313223210,443,933104,76912,9004759
51Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●91,8267.2508535,8841718217,049,712339,26036,3003134
52Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●47,8237.223757,28721239222,627107,68611,7005153
53Common CauseNational●●●●36,9877.135758,58018185822,16935,10510,8005877
54Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●68,2337.1308115,00884770722,381125,34337,8002223
55Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●46,5257.111736,29811174271,16244,8138,0801317
56International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational●●22,8387.074738,29237333808,07551,4393,400554
57American Conservative Union FoundationNational●●●27,4547.050685,221562494,2896,9652,4102825
58Student Free Press AssociationNational16,1027.042707,6913995,569,52127,32020,1005772
59Heartland InstituteNational●●●●31,0287.0307513,246182191,047,21159,25045,4001317
60Hispanic American Center for Economic ResearchNational13,2937.003441,828040232,82713,1977,8404759
61DemosNational●●●●●35,4326.999746,76315139984,29454,0328,4705979
62Middle East InstituteNational●●●●30,2486.991726,155132972,117,22283,89513,000445
63Project on Government OversightNational●●●27,4246.982715,644785483,92865,0139,2704964
64Carter CenterNational●●●●●●54,4606.966779,18636362784,80063,16911,0006363
65Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●32,4296.8737210,102102051,455,56192,99419,1003845
66Public CitizenNational●●●●25,2666.7967817,880353171,472,38778,69021,100598
67Manhattan Institute for Policy ResearchNational●●●●●30,9796.764759,738181631,086,68558,2038,5202425
68Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●29,1156.7507811,304354571,156,496102,09830,60054
69Discovery InstituteNational●●●●23,5816.740726,24741121,491,43728,56412,000561
70Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●21,3416.728737,76381941,536,14875,81119,8005374
71Century FoundationNational●●●22,1186.721746,81019232533,54383,3635,2705477
72Human Rights FirstNational●●●●●26,6876.720738,488161971,034,80542,73810,6006891
73Bipartisan Policy CenterNational●●●●●30,1176.720777,64344214269,27853,1975,8708494
74Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●28,0966.717738,45824230742,96865,30010,4002425
75Jamestown FoundationNational●●16,1406.6967210,270182171,675,41780,86546,9004557
76Mercatus Center National●●●●●31,2896.693759,876351761,093,287109,83525,100563
77Americans for Tax ReformNational●●●19,9826.670727,951747585,81152,83127,100598
78Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●28,8236.643703,405068189,00220,0134,9203935
79Institute for Women's Policy Research  National●●●18,2696.635767,64138378552,59733,8745,840224
80Institute for Local Self-RelianceNational●●15,6596.619757,31138117457,73552,4569,640843
81Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●19,8766.602713,3225104251,10745,34910,2006772
82Competitive Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●21,7626.5857311,005121461,967,89275,73438,2006853
83American Action ForumNational●●●18,8006.554724,267856130,87150,2119,550485
84Empire Center for Public PolicyState30,7346.538591,4462560,41126,4144,4506784
85Acton InstituteNational●●●●●21,1596.498717,52051793,760,90469,39123,5004859
86Center for a New American SecurityNational●●●●19,9796.466736,81116156969,55945,4539,9507468
87Roosevelt InstituteNational●●●●17,1786.385714,215695268,53631,4756,5403236
88Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●21,3126.382759,00416821958,11284,77928,0006576
89American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●●18,5426.381725,6452473514,57229,6186,9304853
90EdChoiceNational●●●●17,3476.376662,485643213,88324,4213,780224
91Institute for Science & International SecurityNational9,7176.309654,070380259,22510,3932,8806352
92Mackinac CenterState●●●●37,0626.301704,8985721,933,65181,51929,500769
93Santa Fe InstituteNational●●●●●17,0336.287768,8018794510,38724,66119,2006584
94R Street InstituteNational●●●●15,1856.267692,76284147,48047,15910,3006579
95Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●19,3356.257737,53225741,167,69546,39717,7004543
96Economic Innovation GroupNational●●●12,4816.243722,911553618,32614,6193,1803436
97National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●13,1786.232664,311741308,74620,6433,6202127
98MDRCNational●●●●●●23,4586.193722,8783818447,04035,1615,9104254
99International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●26,8466.191788,642475821,936,13566,14562,900681
100Association of American Educators FoundationNational8,1156.1845991428334,98410,8441,560447
101American Press InstituteNational●●●11,9286.179754,8515210212,89333,8454,5305564
102FreedomWorksNational●●●11,4186.140697,074546733,44729,71823,4006576
103Capital Research CenterNational●●●11,7316.106633,599430227,36922,9085,9602934
104Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●22,2766.095755,31962197261,91343,5825,7504655
105Coaltion for Environmentally Responsible EconomiesNational●●●●●14,9106.082776,28331180268,87615,1834,2004213
106Christensen InstituteNational●●●10,4646.072732,692118095,53514,3353,3005648
107Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●13,0526.059692,74276671,83726,5421,4006847
108Center of the American ExperimentState●●22,0476.012471,146010202,51870,98711,300--
109California Policy CenterNational●●8,2106.0114984213476,73615,1385,6003236
110Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●11,3626.010703,78510209290,11630,0189,6607472
111Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsNational●●●9,9045.981715,1215318484,17035,94613,1003334
112Third Way InstituteNational●●●●11,8275.974734,638892308,68337,6522,4705473
113Institute for Energy and Environment ResearchNational6,1785.974561,850261266,9607,3492,0405364
114Oakland InstituteNational6,2005.972582,51914186,94910,1353,3705268
115Institute for New Economic ThinkingNational●●●●●13,2925.952715,31932451,014,83223,9779,870811
116Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●12,3625.948642,767543222,79029,9947,1006373
117German Marshall FundNational●●●●●14,7235.944746,81250273391,04632,46113,500667
118Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainable DevelopmentNational5,4585.926632,3611111683,59013,8046,900447
119Institute for Transportation & Development PolicyNational●●●●10,8405.892712,9441583568,20316,8917,2903152
120Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●12,3515.869724,07721162431,05428,25628,500671
121SPURNational●●●●10,2765.868712,8841741138,28830,4655,9006156
122Center for Economic Policy and ResearchNational●●7,7665.8617714,703242832,392,30941,45312,1005164
123Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●12,3565.852612,4441319445,7028,6651,26038
124Truman National security ProjectNational5,4565.84054879025156,1995,3592,0602324
125James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TheNational5,9665.835582,0422692,208,80316,6324,2704752
126Food Research & Action CenterNational●●●●●10,8055.809765,40849164197,42422,0122,9805433
127National Review InstituteNational●●●●8,9565.79637478191,361,6331,6941386985
128Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●12,6015.781561,35417431,86015,4567085921
129Breakthrough InstituteNational●●6,4305.758704,2114116211,79911,6581,870--
130Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●13,6375.755776,76723169372,43533,39611,200-26
131Christian Coalition of AmericaNational3,8995.746582,42027844,8437,4804,3405157
132Arab American InstituteNational●●6,7455.738652,56989664,87119,1945,5603323
133Reason FoundationNational●●●●●10,0185.725726,627261252,019,69346,33712,6004768
134Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational4,7935.711591,22793348,92912,5848454957
135East-West CenterNational5,4595.697724,676354183,096,41122,8889,490677
136Institute for Agriculture & Trade PolicyNational●●6,3395.680715,0219153462,19143,24916,700595
137Center for Democracy and TechnologyNational●●●7,7405.6708111,261273831,292,57419,9105,780566
138Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●6,1015.663648525234788,6659,2851,8804757
139Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●10,3145.643733,57546231140,93444,58719,4006539
140Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●9,9045.608705,75610381,475,3088,1893,2705169
141Resources for the FutureNational●●●●●8,9615.591744,98326449214,29124,09712,0006259
142Ethics and Public Policy CenterNational●●●6,8185.591613,2391103327,55842,6856,1206274
143Center for Education ReformNational●●6,0785.579622,106771167,9798,6194,560--
144Center for Law and Social PolicyNational●●●●7,3835.543723,6633916368,18826,7577,1705637
145Inter-American DialogueNational●●●6,5785.531702,9988142139,45127,89519,300538
146Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●8,8145.529561,346023244,0474,4693,3902628
147Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●5,1425.510601,59574177,6499,3733,0007285
148Data & Society InstituteNational●●●6,2585.495744,26210170216,17520,7433,2703445
149Property & Environment Research CenterNational●●5,4445.477662,5576112191,36418,4573,300--
150Center for the National InterestNational●●●5,9895.4514368121969,1571,6463764449
151Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●7,4135.432602,208048663,83616,6505,6504312
152Environmental Law InstituteNational●●●●5,9765.378712,37540201232,12317,91913,400674
153International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●7,0585.375713,1049190138,01216,0423,3604753
154Center for an Urban FutureNational●●4,2555.356692,028731146,41016,8581,4704263
155Smart Growth AmericaNational●●●●6,1255.351745,610114142136,28619,8658,4806442
156Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●5,4555.333651,662981151,55221,8902,9802712
157Center for Security PolicyNational●●●5,4165.305635,385356840,2058,6738,950148
158National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●5,6455.301602,2884311,345,9115,6503,7106276
159BecketNational●●●●5,5805.292642,827251198,94913,4694,22014
160Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●5,2815.243486965105,1733,8052,1204961
161Eagle ForumNational●●3,7855.225645,050052744,3352,5123,1406276
162Independent Women’s ForumNational●●4,1845.220633,511654721,97114,71521,9002935
163Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●4,6135.203644,351339301,81610,0864,770--
164Students For LibertyNational●●●4,6175.175622,084134207,9114,9414,6004165
165John Locke FoundationState●●●10,4105.174572,325035470,18727,98720,000354
166Information Technology & Innovation FoundationNational●●●4,4205.154766,19447158208,35930,2559,8706179
167Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●●4,4625.059612,531843756,64117,0783,430--
168Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●4,7625.047551,07113739,6318,1191,8904257
169Eno Center for TransportationNational●●3,5815.044641,312144014,85314,2725,2305866
170Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & PolicyNational●●3,2144.954631,139748129,6079,1962,8804145
171Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●3,5324.917601,9486240374,8314,7942,4305672
172Institute for War & Peace ReportingNational●●●●3,8074.865705,65113165533,89419,26439,700546
173Employment Policies InstituteNational●●2,8814.850561,570445531,0169,3521,2503481
174Freedom FoundationNational●●●●3,3954.829448331619,9103,4522,210789
175Center for Progressive ReformNational2,2244.819541,14356043,7387,7424,7405471
176First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●3,6034.783571,4491878,0005,6572,6402529
177World Policy InstituteNational2,1684.767715,67714222573,29813,2664,06036
178America’s Future FoundationNational2,1794.75541871018140,8285,6133,650253
179Energy and Environmental Research CenterNational●●2,3834.748558391254238,3526,30693781
180International Peace InstituteNational●●●●3,3784.693641,8011011740,07815,0598,8503544
181Concord CoalitionNational●●2,1044.629571,478352116,3955,7472,5201621
182Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●3,5944.613651,4671361251,22712,6696,160617
183Institute for Free SpeechNational●●2,2034.60746885016150,8318,5265,0703644
184Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●7,5844.600632,374933169,45132,73711,4006279
185Goldwater InstituteNational●●●●2,7764.590612,34393355,93710,3852,8802529
186Buckeye Institute, TheState●●4,9154.56346925214235,2396,381930--
187Lugar CenterNational1,5714.554537925244,6322,0507226577
188EastWest InstituteNational●●●●2,8654.550631,22636133,1587,3225,2306257
189Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●4,5174.51647715211120,60116,9742,8104155
190Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●2,1324.5124836631493,3282,928902629
191Archbridge InstituteNational1,3454.49933119227824,4222176478
192MacIver Institute for Public PolicyState3,4894.492491,498291,204,45914,1588,5504152
193Free the PeopleNational1,6174.48854332048,2592,5171,2005846
194Lexington InstituteNational●●1,9564.479571,63731796,01712,3753,7204956
195Institute for Higher Education PolicyNational●●●2,0594.459692,82815201351,0486,2701,9306683
196Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●2,5454.431642,297754175,4159,4332,250334
197Institute for Policy InnovationNational1,3874.377561,18642963,9456,5432,6704752
198Women's Environment & Development OrganizationNational●●1,4874.338631,489611246,1804,6332,05024
199Washington Policy CenterState●●●4,2674.337561,530616381,17817,5145,580729
200W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●2,7334.331702,35015128152,95121,85313,4004547
201Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●1,8644.319511,0161419,0457,7593,4507189
202Massachusetts Budget and Policy CenterState●●3,5514.3195589142381,82325,8465,5906172
203Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●1,5984.3104385804265,042736291445
204Civitas InstituteState●●3,9024.296601,20601271,35614,1126,270-5
205Global IntegrityNational●●●1,7064.284611,447165488,1852,7853,2606783
206Policy Matters OhioState●●3,2984.269521,29851719,46924,3324,5406476
207Independence InstituteState●●●4,0114.263602,010230197,62415,4434,680626
208Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchState●●3,5994.212601,667103485,86917,2794,9504235
209Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●2,5904.1976089712268,96811,2783,640-2
210Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational1,0254.18939271282,0644,59434144
211Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●2,1004.1825058726945,1833,6123,7105258
212Show-Me InstituteState●●3,1324.15846855115317,87018,4437,1901518
213Ignatian Solidarity Network National1,0574.1525181806834,2032,1691,9205968
214Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●2,2144.098642,0509112265,5265,2985,9905461
215Employee Benefit Research InstituteNational●●●1,5064.076776,72530141142,2057,3663,850536
216Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational8894.0344785714205,5073,2853,140374
217Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●3,2033.958661,3511411822,5058,5692,5302726
218American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●1,1743.936511,242483183,2091,9251,610--
219Steamboat InstituteNational8423.90526161045,133831501141
220Campaign Finance InstituteNational8253.862551,083362154,2513,7092,0504656
221Liberty Justice CenterNational7963.85532177143,113851357567
222Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●2,5033.776491,137111147,9647,2084,160912
223Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●9343.76149570267478,3708913104267
224Young VoicesNational6013.7363234002121,7161,2851,8405446
225Idaho Freedom FoundationState1,7203.712383561246,0707,2154,390624
226Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●1,8873.680364263529,5904,8531,0704244
227James Madison InstituteState●●1,8713.639456170957,5257,3112,9003952
228Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●1,9403.617447085861,1277,7832,3104752
229Libertas InstituteState●●1,7593.531514461111,7197,3271,5006878
230Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational5973.52937502044,3852,9342,1504855
231Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●8363.526463855534,7861,1436294954
232American Council for Capital FormationNational●●6983.521548232153,8333,2867827579
233Galen InstituteNational6023.509511,13239112,4417131,1206884
234Kansas Policy InstituteState1,4273.506362880619,1905,6851,4205263
235Beacon Hill InstituteNational4293.5014893581413,8992,4686656277
236Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●1,0533.4935378745238,2983,3423,090--
237Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●7973.4515642401432,0951,3701,430443
238Ethan Allen InstituteState9573.406293311314,7315,7061,7404451
239Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState1,2753.40239345153,6378,4761,2304969
240Bluegrass InstituteNational4113.332354420436,3793,1925,6502729
241National Foundation for American PolicyNational4113.325662,116112210,0873,190646263
242Badger InstituteState●●1,2483.3124482121033,57111,7131,0805362
243Alabama Policy InstituteState●●1,2343.266435044935,4013,8239411312
244Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●1,3663.210374801734,1258,0443,3206276
245Joint Center for Political & Economic StudiesNational●●4763.165661,55812107396,0102,0987695364
246Public AgendaNational●●●●6353.154715,20018379302,8062,1814816138
247Commonwealth InstituteNational4083.131542,264110753,6002,4021,9308591
248Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState9093.1063949627120,6595,7092,52021-
249Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational●●4093.065471,34202645,8523,550418--
250Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational●●4173.0324424252729,9821,265582978
251Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●1,0322.9745184953089,0193,9583,440-12
252Policy Circle, TheNational3172.9482162034931,7954116176
253Georgia Public Policy FoundationState6622.856374231914,1432,8151,730787
254Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState5522.65131218013,2892,63793885
255Cascade Policy InstituteState5652.6484281912734,5854,1512,1004866
256American Consumer Institute, TheNational1932.584518500749,2892,0652,0006977
257Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●6372.53739158061,8154,987640116
258Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●2892.524383682637,7136653425776
259Nevada Policy Research InstituteState5562.516458421445,6092,5602,2104638
260National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●●2872.5003641221050,7078803067591
261Rio Grande FoundationState3952.4633637301142,4025,2452,3805466
262Public Policy Institute of New York StateState3812.46231265146,2232842286978
263Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational●●2372.432493534292,5921,3399547178
264Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●4692.403683,1066178780,1276452275265
265Benjamin Rush InstituteNational1642.38922681410,8914115005669
266Worldwatch InstituteNational●●2222.3527815,78532564974,3161,085617--
267Jesse Helms CenterNational●●2032.34729191154,2284681115979
268Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational1822.303405050236,6141,9382,870333
269Maine Heritage Policy CenterState3752.2123535205277,7302,9221,4204966
270Political Research AssociatesNational1632.184563,789182165,24929937591
271Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState3612.116312112459,8213,017847313
272Leadership Program of the RockiesNational1482.06726102012,5491142225667
273Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState3261.97535170153,6158113839999
274Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState2371.932291671037,3191,0981,320677
275Sutherland InstituteState●●3141.928375213166,4871,0847296475
276Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational●●1461.87756761184866,4449637963751
277Maine Center for Economic PolicyState2811.856423402710,1652,5412,2403757
278Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState2271.80640462310128,2122,40872269
279Forge Leadership NetworkNational721.7791026001393153365972
280Center on Global InterestsNational1001.7703221001419,2115435199999
281School Choice WisconsinState●●2571.71430166211,0943051005176
282Palmetto Promise InstituteState2091.6692597014,6231,069845--
283Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●2191.52328137039841,0258675267
284Families and Work InstituteNational831.515711,819178328,8672751291821
285Garden State InitiativeState1421.4921956001,3279193505979
286George C. Marshall InstituteNational681.437471,181130188,571136682532
287Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState1231.30435256033,7947755126677
2881851 Center for Constitutional LawState891.07029202017,0448481754251
289Free State FoundationNational531.0573830921119,4503372165783
290Empower Mississippi FoundationState1061.03127111101,5186713285874
291Caesar Rodney InstituteState880.979171120121,679270429--
292Center for International PolicyNational●●●570.875572,386198246,2896119611
293Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyState730.812281580111,7176197261217
294Think Freely MediaNational●●460.81121420126930915876
295Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState690.798243220414,6542993607286
296Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●410.664631,09666611,1441181,2106581
297Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational320.575485793154,8584988756677
298Indiana Policy Review FoundationState470.530261331225,8313636195558
299Franklin News FoundationNational●●320.4373356915203,45362235952
300National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●260.28624760177,4551662755162
301Center for Independent ThoughtNational170.15210430042,595167195359
302Arkansas Policy FoundationState26-0.03713430358,201409210774
303Institute for Global Ethics National15-0.07550866587158,30763539999
304Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●22-0.2165567674439,040185685394
305Montana Policy InstituteState24-0.451152220151354206141
306Louisiana Family ForumState16-0.82736257129,5892071391
307Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●1-2.877653,3664121259,085237,6505669
308Center for Independent EmployeesNational●●0-2.958130024296184

Domain Efficiency Rankings

Domain Efficiency measures how much higher a think tank’s domain rating is than would be expected given its expenditures and whether it is state or national in scope.

Domain rating is an industry-standard score ranging from 0 to 100 based on the quantity and quality of incoming links from other web domains.

Here are the top ranking think tanks in Domain Efficiency:

RankNameScopeBudget Domain Rating Domain Efficiency ScoreReferring Domains Referring .gov Domains Referring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksTop-100 Ranked KeywordsEstimated Monthly Search TrafficPages Indexed By GoogleGoogle Pagespeed Insight Mobile ScoreGoogle Pagespeed Insight Desktop Score
1Federation of American ScientistsNational●●8528.13262,4122171,2727,876,4541,042,740663,81678,2004958
2Prison Policy InitiativeNational7526.5037,66525165250,88596,49251,0976,0206578
3Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●8224.77918,321335862,723,328123,199114,20714,300484
4Student Free Press AssociationNational7024.6577,6913995,569,52127,32016,10220,1005772
5Institute for Family StudiesNational7221.9614,43446070,68560,02053,6122,1702527
6Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●8121.92738,853226074,298,613597,583373,596597,0007587
7Worldwatch InstituteNational●●7820.31815,78532564974,3161,085222617--
8National Foundation for American PolicyNational6619.1422,116112210,0873,190411646263
9East-West CenterNational7218.7584,676354183,096,41122,8885,4599,490677
10Empire Center for Public PolicyState5918.2121,4462560,41126,41430,7344,4506784
11International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational●●7318.1128,29237333808,07551,43922,8383,400554
12Center for Economic Policy and ResearchNational●●7718.06014,703242832,392,30941,4537,76612,1005164
13Sentencing ProjectNational●●7517.9388,25431267686,91640,04140,1771,2703952
14Institute for Local Self-RelianceNational●●7517.7697,31138117457,73552,45615,6599,640843
15BallotpediaNational●●●8217.55626,955504184,487,5662,150,4713,622,680401,0001655
16World Policy InstituteNational7117.5515,67714222573,29813,2662,1684,06036
17Families and Work InstituteNational7117.5251,819178328,867275831291821
18Tax FoundationNational●●●8116.75021,707602221,892,494264,386516,78612,2005266
19Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainable DevelopmentNational6316.6382,3611111683,59013,8045,4586,900447
20Mackinac CenterState●●●●7016.4444,8985721,933,65181,51937,06229,500769
21Center for Democracy and TechnologyNational●●●8116.42411,261273831,292,57419,9107,7405,780566
22Christian Coalition of AmericaNational5816.3492,42027844,8437,4803,8994,3405157
23Jamestown FoundationNational●●7216.20110,270182171,675,41780,86516,14046,9004557
24Environmental and Energy Study InstituteNational●●7215.8143,1222111147,27052,71029,9095,8107-
25Illinois Policy InstituteState●●●●7014.6944,0471630500,838132,863115,64212,9005566
26Institute for Women's Policy Research  National●●●7614.6137,64138378552,59733,87418,2695,840224
27Economic Policy InstituteNational●●●●8114.45325,190576282,526,807262,744138,56313,400-15
28Civitas InstituteState●●6013.8471,20601271,35614,1123,9026,270-5
29Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchState●●6013.7471,667103485,86917,2793,5994,9504235
30Employee Benefit Research InstituteNational●●●7713.6956,72530141142,2057,3661,5063,850536
31Breakthrough InstituteNational●●7013.6534,2114116211,79911,6586,4301,870--
32Center for an Urban FutureNational●●6912.9722,028731146,41016,8584,2551,4704263
33Center for Voting and DemocracyNational●●●7412.9226,52012171232,08866,15347,7336,0203135
34Center for Public IntegrityNational●●●●7812.87920,867272952,841,571191,67049,87713,8004665
35Institute for Science & International SecurityNational6512.8014,070380259,22510,3939,7172,8806352
36Pew Research CenterNational●●●●●●9112.764139,1742162,00231,675,6071,429,8951,302,53639,0005571
37Information Technology & Innovation FoundationNational●●●7612.7456,19447158208,35930,2554,4209,8706179
38Institute for Agriculture & Trade PolicyNational●●7112.7405,0219153462,19143,2496,33916,700595
39American Press InstituteNational●●●7512.7394,8515210212,89333,84511,9284,5305564
40Massachusetts Budget and Policy CenterState●●5512.36689142381,82325,8463,5515,5906172
41MacIver Institute for Public PolicyState4912.1001,498291,204,45914,1583,4898,5504152
42Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsNational●●●7612.0858,197553254,339,20447,41440,2742,9604661
43Independence InstituteState●●●6012.0142,010230197,62415,4434,0114,680626
44Migration Policy InstituteNational●●●●7811.96814,417636321,033,884172,569102,03114,6005982
45Foundation for Economic EducationNational●●●●7711.78115,984102255,459,346339,906166,76343,3007788
46Public CitizenNational●●●●7811.71517,880353171,472,38778,69025,26621,100598
47Christensen InstituteNational●●●7311.4472,692118095,53514,33510,4643,3005648
48Data & Society InstituteNational●●●7410.5664,26210170216,17520,7436,2583,2703445
49Economic Innovation GroupNational●●●7210.2942,911553618,32614,61912,4813,1803436
50Population Reference BureauNational●●●●7910.25314,10638808330,612138,04069,3438,3206455
51Policy Matters OhioState●●5210.0951,29851719,46924,3323,2984,5406476
52Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational5910.0931,22793348,92912,5844,7938454957
53Independent InstituteNational●●●7210.01610,85942322,259,427164,41137,39822,700272
54Joint Center for Political & Economic StudiesNational●●669.9091,55812107396,0102,0984767695364
55Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●739.7557,76381941,536,14875,81121,34119,8005374
56Heartland InstituteNational●●●●759.56313,246182191,047,21159,25031,02845,4001317
57Century FoundationNational●●●749.4456,81019232533,54383,36322,1185,2705477
58Oakland InstituteNational589.1952,51914186,94910,1356,2003,3705268
59Americans for Tax ReformNational●●●728.9667,951747585,81152,83119,98227,100598
60National Bureau of Economic ResearchNational●●●●●●878.86850,2391581,85313,609,794798,110191,188284,0003747
61Association of American Educators FoundationNational598.47291428334,98410,8448,1151,560447
62Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsNational●●●718.3815,1215318484,17035,9469,90413,1003334
63Washington Policy CenterState●●●568.3781,530616381,17817,5144,2675,580729
64Women's Environment & Development OrganizationNational●●637.9541,489611246,1804,6331,4872,05024
65Project on Government OversightNational●●●717.8385,644785483,92865,01327,4249,2704964
66Institute for Higher Education PolicyNational●●●697.8332,82815201351,0486,2702,0591,9306683
67John Locke FoundationState●●●577.7322,325035470,18727,98710,41020,000354
68Foreign Policy Research InstituteNational●●687.7275,18213205449,346100,39034,30012,0003238
69Eagle ForumNational●●647.5575,050052744,3352,5123,7853,1406276
70Common CauseNational●●●●757.4338,58018185822,16935,10536,98710,8005877
71Institute for Energy and Environment ResearchNational567.3461,850261266,9607,3496,1782,0405364
72American Action ForumNational●●●727.3204,267856130,87150,21118,8009,550485
73Middle East Media Research InstituteNational●●●●737.07412,34051302,492,123120,12567,12781,8001-
74Smart Growth AmericaNational●●●●746.8695,610114142136,28619,8656,1258,4806442
75FreedomWorksNational●●●696.8637,074546733,44729,71811,41823,4006576
76American Conservative Union FoundationNational●●●686.8435,221562494,2896,96527,4542,4102825
77Arab American InstituteNational●●656.6022,56989664,87119,1946,7455,5603323
78Bill of Rights InstituteNational●●●706.5744,58932131339,869115,754184,9933,550162
79Peterson Institute For International EconomicsNational●●●●●786.48412,135534401,058,564119,840113,24616,7002367
80Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●646.3638525234788,6659,2856,1011,8804757
81Santa Fe InstituteNational●●●●●766.2728,8018794510,38724,66117,03319,2006584
82James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TheNational586.2372,0422692,208,80316,6325,9664,2704752
83Property & Environment Research CenterNational●●666.2182,5576112191,36418,4575,4443,300--
84Middle East InstituteNational●●●●726.1716,155132972,117,22283,89530,24813,000445
85Inter-American DialogueNational●●●706.1492,9988142139,45127,8956,57819,300538
86Human Rights WatchNational●●●●●●886.13388,2071491,53712,893,7161,100,544954,923214,0006585
87Discovery InstituteNational●●●●726.0936,24741121,491,43728,56423,58112,000561
88Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●716.0893,3225104251,10745,34919,87610,2006772
89Union of Concerned ScientistsNational●●●●●●836.07634,198717612,642,539212,886158,29812,4004137
90Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●786.07111,304354571,156,496102,09829,11530,60054
91Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●636.0062,374933169,45132,7377,58411,4006279
92Public AgendaNational●●●●715.9105,20018379302,8062,1816354816138
93Libertas InstituteState●●515.7784461111,7197,3271,7591,5006878
94Food Research & Action CenterNational●●●●●765.5735,40849164197,42422,01210,8052,9805433
95Cato InstituteNational●●●●●●825.54743,705718627,381,146522,347252,50786,5005991
96Environmental Law InstituteNational●●●●715.4082,37540201232,12317,9195,97613,400674
97Beacon Hill InstituteNational485.13693581413,8992,4684296656277
98Coaltion for Environmentally Responsible EconomiesNational●●●●●775.1096,28331180268,87615,18314,9104,2004213
99Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●515.07484953089,0193,9581,0323,440-12
100Truman National security ProjectNational545.062879025156,1995,3595,4562,0602324
101Center for Law and Social PolicyNational●●●●725.0333,6633916368,18826,7577,3837,1705637
102Brennan Center for JusticeNational●●●●●785.00713,80648230787,780159,10294,72317,0004953
103Competitive Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●734.84311,005121461,967,89275,73421,76238,2006853
104Third Way InstituteNational●●●●734.8244,638892308,68337,65211,8272,4705473
105Center for American ProgressNational●●●●●●844.77643,604916895,190,896637,838256,39847,7004352
106Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●634.7691,09666611,144118411,2106581
107American Consumer Institute, TheNational514.4948500749,2892,0651932,0006977
108Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState404.376462310128,2122,40822772269
109Cascade Policy InstituteState424.36381912734,5854,1515652,1004866
110Institute for Policy InnovationNational564.2311,18642963,9456,5431,3872,6704752
111Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●704.1013,78510209290,11630,01811,3629,6607472
112Roosevelt InstituteNational●●●●713.9664,215695268,53631,47517,1786,5403236
113Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesNational●●●●●●813.96022,189764361,884,982288,006246,66224,1006583
114Guttmacher InstituteNational●●●●●793.89817,52750426522,583182,785218,72914,800637
115Brookings InstitutionNational●●●●●●883.88983,8932791,9158,189,7061,565,441829,235153,0006274
116Nevada Policy Research InstituteState453.8538421445,6092,5605562,2104638
117SPURNational●●●●713.8512,8841741138,28830,46510,2765,9006156
118Center for a New American SecurityNational●●●●733.8496,81116156969,55945,45319,9799,9507468
119Eno Center for TransportationNational●●643.7671,312144014,85314,2723,5815,2305866
120DemosNational●●●●●743.6446,76315139984,29454,03235,4328,4705979
121Rio Grande FoundationState363.53537301142,4025,2453952,3805466
122Independent Women’s ForumNational●●633.3983,511654721,97114,7154,18421,9002935
123Campaign Finance InstituteNational553.3431,083362154,2513,7098252,0504656
124Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & PolicyNational●●633.3191,139748129,6079,1963,2142,8804145
125Hispanic American Center for Economic ResearchNational443.2751,828040232,82713,19713,2937,8404759
126Bipartisan Policy CenterNational●●●●●773.1317,64344214269,27853,19730,1175,8708494
127Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●473.069715211120,60116,9744,5172,8104155
128Institute for Transportation & Development PolicyNational●●●●712.9762,9441583568,20316,89110,8407,2903152
129Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●802.95825,271536072,038,764108,48561,5927,6604356
130Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●602.9161,59574177,6499,3735,1423,0007285
131Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●822.83625,9401088421,917,061357,719213,93766,800446
132Lugar CenterNational532.8127925244,6322,0501,5717226577
133Human Rights FirstNational●●●●●732.7848,488161971,034,80542,73826,68710,6006891
134Resources for the FutureNational●●●●●742.6394,98326449214,29124,0978,96112,0006259
135Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState352.593256033,7947751235126677
136Institute for War & Peace ReportingNational●●●●702.5425,65113165533,89419,2643,80739,700546
137American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●●722.5375,6452473514,57229,61818,5426,9304853
138Badger InstituteState●●442.53182121033,57111,7131,2481,0805362
139Political Research AssociatesNational562.5063,789182165,24929916337591
140Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●752.3557,28721239222,627107,68647,82311,7005153
141National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●662.3274,311741308,74620,64313,1783,6202127
142Show-Me InstituteState●●462.298855115317,87018,4433,1327,1901518
143American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●822.23733,313616626,573,237293,005108,33084,8002832
144Atlantic CouncilNational●●●●●782.15114,185443101,261,920260,40596,22468,0005278
145Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●802.11915,152110457900,156125,69678,62121,3006581
146R Street InstituteNational●●●●692.1152,76284147,48047,15915,18510,3006579
147Center for Education ReformNational●●621.9462,106771167,9798,6196,0784,560--
148Manhattan Institute for Policy ResearchNational●●●●●751.6209,738181631,086,68558,20330,9798,5202425
149Commonwealth InstituteNational541.5042,264110753,6002,4024081,9308591
150Maine Center for Economic PolicyState421.4733402710,1652,5412812,2403757
151New America FoundationNational●●●●●●791.44512,00533326560,766139,14479,28223,7006582
152Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●751.3849,00416821958,11284,77921,31228,0006576
153Center for Progressive ReformNational541.3281,14356043,7387,7422,2244,7405471
154Reason FoundationNational●●●●●721.3166,627261252,019,69346,33710,01812,6004768
155James Madison InstituteState●●451.1826170957,5257,3111,8712,9003952
156Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●731.1338,45824230742,96865,30028,09610,4002425
157Acton InstituteNational●●●●●711.0967,52051793,760,90469,39121,15923,5004859
158Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●861.02337,8041508852,560,502407,429282,16473,7004259
159Free the PeopleNational540.962332048,2592,5171,6171,2005846
160Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●640.9584,351339301,81610,0864,6134,770--
161Buckeye Institute, TheState●●460.921925214235,2396,3814,915930--
162Council on Foreign RelationsNational●●●●●●830.85444,751871,0268,038,525723,599627,13648,0002633
163Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState390.85149627120,6595,7099092,52021-
164Georgia Public Policy FoundationState370.8454231914,1432,8156621,730787
165Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●650.8151,662981151,55221,8905,4552,9802712
166Ignatian Solidarity Network National510.64781806834,2032,1691,0571,9205968
167Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●490.5441,137111147,9647,2082,5034,160912
168Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●720.52810,102102051,455,56192,99432,42919,1003845
169Alabama Policy InstituteState●●430.4675044935,4013,8231,2349411312
170Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●690.4232,74276671,83726,54213,0521,4006847
171Center of the American ExperimentState●●470.3851,146010202,51870,98722,04711,300--
172Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●840.34427,2121718482,723,246292,02681,54945,9005346
173International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●710.3153,1049190138,01216,0427,0583,3604753
174World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●910.312113,4924562,2887,637,4341,617,7871,809,659237,000562
175Concord CoalitionNational●●570.2821,478352116,3955,7472,1042,5201621
176World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●840.25126,9731441,0573,297,024221,63990,24730,1005866
177Global IntegrityNational●●●610.2241,447165488,1852,7851,7063,2606783
178Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●780.21316,868386849,831,737232,52386,34847,7005764
179Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●810.19831,618416103,493,788335,3611,130,21232,1003638
180Heritage FoundationNational●●●●●●83-0.09650,1971108878,643,948674,863483,99270,4003846
181Public Policy Institute of New York StateState31-0.398265146,2232843812286978
182Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState39-0.418345153,6378,4761,2751,2304969
183Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●72-0.6494,07721162431,05428,25612,35128,500671
184Louisiana Family ForumState36-0.733257129,589201671391
1851851 Center for Constitutional LawState29-0.795202017,044848891754251
186Mercatus Center National●●●●●75-0.8329,876351761,093,287109,83531,28925,100563
187Capital Research CenterNational●●●63-0.9763,599430227,36922,90811,7315,9602934
188Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●73-1.0333,57546231140,93444,58710,31419,4006539
189Idaho Freedom FoundationState38-1.1003561246,0707,2151,7204,390624
190Indiana Policy Review FoundationState26-1.1461331225,831363476195558
191Institute for New Economic ThinkingNational●●●●●71-1.3615,31932451,014,83223,97713,2929,870811
192Institute for Global Ethics National50-1.447866587158,3076315539999
193Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●73-1.4697,53225741,167,69546,39719,33517,7004543
194Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●44-1.5617085861,1277,7831,9402,3104752
195EdChoiceNational●●●●66-1.6212,485643213,88324,42117,3473,780224
196German Marshall FundNational●●●●●74-1.6626,81250273391,04632,46114,72313,500667
197Ethan Allen InstituteState29-1.6813311314,7315,7069571,7404451
198Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational47-1.71185714205,5073,2858893,140374
199Galen InstituteNational51-1.7991,13239112,4417136021,1206884
200Center for Security PolicyNational●●●63-1.8235,385356840,2058,6735,4168,950148
201Energy and Environmental Research CenterNational●●55-1.8788391254238,3526,3062,38393781
202Students For LibertyNational●●●62-1.9382,084134207,9114,9414,6174,6004165
203Lexington InstituteNational●●57-2.0221,63731796,01712,3751,9563,7204956
204Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●77-2.0646,76723169372,43533,39613,63711,200-26
205BecketNational●●●●64-2.1062,827251198,94913,4695,5804,22014
206Ethics and Public Policy CenterNational●●●61-2.1423,2391103327,55842,6856,8186,1206274
207Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●73-2.1706,29811174271,16244,81346,5258,0801317
208Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●74-2.81215,6766583,236,43132,65565,29345,0003534
209American Council for Capital FormationNational●●54-2.8738232153,8333,2866987827579
210George C. Marshall InstituteNational47-2.9271,181130188,57113668682532
211Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational●●56-3.440761184866,4449631467963751
212Maine Heritage Policy CenterState35-3.45735205277,7302,9223751,4204966
213Employment Policies InstituteNational●●56-3.5051,570445531,0169,3522,8811,2503481
214W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●70-3.5452,35015128152,95121,8532,73313,4004547
215Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●60-3.6261,9486240374,8314,7943,5322,4305672
216Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyState28-3.6701580111,717619737261217
217Kansas Policy InstituteState36-3.6742880619,1905,6851,4271,4205263
218Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●70-3.8605,75610381,475,3088,1899,9043,2705169
219Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState29-4.1261671037,3191,0982371,320677
220Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●64-4.3832,297754175,4159,4332,5452,250334
221Center for International PolicyNational●●●57-4.6132,386198246,289615719611
222Sutherland InstituteState●●37-4.6875213166,4871,0843147296475
223Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●70-4.8663,405068189,00220,01328,8234,9203935
224International Peace InstituteNational●●●●64-5.0431,8011011740,07815,0593,3788,8503544
225Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●81-5.13015,00884770722,381125,34368,23337,8002223
226Goldwater InstituteNational●●●●61-5.2272,34393355,93710,3852,7762,8802529
227EastWest InstituteNational●●●●63-5.3761,22636133,1587,3222,8655,2306257
228Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●●61-5.3842,531843756,64117,0784,4623,430--
229Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●39-5.593158061,8154,987637640116
230Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational48-5.6515793154,858498328756677
231Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState31-5.858218013,2892,63755293885
232RANDNational●●●●●●86-5.96045,0552361,6168,872,458651,452255,618107,000455
233National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●75-6.1414,18313223210,443,933104,76967,59512,9004759
234National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●60-6.1862,2884311,345,9115,6505,6453,7106276
235Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●64-6.3042,767543222,79029,99412,3627,1006373
236Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState35-6.375170153,6158113263839999
237Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState24-6.4113220414,654299693607286
238Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●85-6.45435,8841718217,049,712339,26091,82636,3003134
239Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●36-6.8324263529,5904,8531,8871,0704244
240Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●56-6.98442401432,0951,3707971,430443
241California Policy CenterNational●●49-7.10084213476,73615,1388,2105,6003236
242Carter CenterNational●●●●●●77-7.2909,18636362784,80063,16954,46011,0006363
243Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational●●47-7.5381,34202645,8523,550409418--
244Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●65-8.1723,3664121259,0852317,6505669
245Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational●●49-8.2233534292,5921,3392379547178
246Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●65-8.2901,4671361251,22712,6693,5946,160617
247International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●78-8.3188,642475821,936,13566,14526,84662,900681
248Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●75-8.5995,31962197261,91343,58222,2765,7504655
249American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●51-9.0211,242483183,2091,9251,1741,610--
250Empower Mississippi FoundationState27-9.187111101,5186711063285874
251Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState31-9.2082112459,8213,017361847313
252CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●82-9.23611,331207551,338,408217,169392,77255,4005474
253Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational39-9.339271282,0644,5941,02534144
254Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●49-9.415570267478,3708919343104267
255MDRCNational●●●●●●72-10.1962,8783818447,04035,16123,4585,9104254
256Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●64-10.2282,0509112265,5265,2982,2145,9905461
257Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●37-10.2654801734,1258,0441,3663,3206276
258Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●60-10.4302,208048663,83616,6507,4135,6504312
259Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●68-10.5773,1066178780,1276454692275265
260First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●57-11.2561,4491878,0005,6573,6032,6402529
261Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●51-11.3871,0161419,0457,7591,8643,4507189
262Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●55-11.59567674439,04018522685394
263Bluegrass InstituteNational35-11.6594420436,3793,1924115,6502729
264Garden State InitiativeState19-12.02556001,3279191423505979
265School Choice WisconsinState●●30-12.122166211,0943052571005176
266Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational●●44-12.12924252729,9821,265417582978
267Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●61-12.1742,4441319445,7028,66512,3561,26038
268Palmetto Promise InstituteState25-12.28197014,6231,069209845--
269Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●48-12.64236631493,3282,9282,132902629
270Institute for Free SpeechNational●●46-12.772885016150,8318,5262,2035,0703644
271America’s Future FoundationNational41-12.981871018140,8285,6132,1793,650253
272Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational40-13.2055050236,6141,9381822,870333
273Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●55-13.6981,07113739,6318,1194,7621,8904257
274Arkansas Policy FoundationState13-13.873430358,20140926210774
275Young VoicesNational32-13.91134002121,7161,2856011,8405446
276Archbridge InstituteNational33-14.172119227824,4221,3452176478
277Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational37-14.938502044,3852,9345972,1504855
278Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●43-15.04285804265,0427361,598291445
279Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●28-15.058137039841,0252198675267
280Caesar Rodney InstituteState17-15.2051120121,67927088429--
281Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●60-15.95189712268,96811,2782,5903,640-2
282Free State FoundationNational38-15.96930921119,450337532165783
283Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●46-16.1413855534,7861,1438366294954
284Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●56-16.7381,346023244,0474,4698,8143,3902628
285Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●53-17.06878745238,2983,3421,0533,090--
286Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●48-17.9316965105,1733,8055,2812,1204961
287Liberty Justice CenterNational32-18.791177143,113851796357567
288Center on Global InterestsNational32-19.36421001419,2115431005199999
289Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●56-19.8901,35417431,86015,45612,6017085921
290Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●50-20.11758726945,1833,6122,1003,7105258
291Center for the National InterestNational●●●43-20.43968121969,1571,6465,9893764449
292Freedom FoundationNational●●●●44-21.0988331619,9103,4523,3952,210789
293Montana Policy InstituteState15-22.036222015135424206141
294Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●38-22.3983682637,7136652893425776
295Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●66-23.5361,3511411822,5058,5693,2032,5302726
296Franklin News FoundationNational●●33-24.80556915203,4536232235952
297National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●●36-24.91541221050,7078802873067591
298Steamboat InstituteNational26-24.966161045,133831842501141
299Benjamin Rush InstituteNational22-25.488681410,8914111645005669
300Jesse Helms CenterNational●●29-26.155191154,2284682031115979
301Leadership Program of the RockiesNational26-28.134102012,5491141482225667
302National Review InstituteNational●●●●37-28.159478191,361,6331,6948,9561386985
303Policy Circle, TheNational21-29.43462034931,7953174116176
304Forge Leadership NetworkNational10-31.3072600139315723365972
305National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●24-32.318760177,455166262755162
306Think Freely MediaNational●●21-36.20142012693046915876
307Center for Independent ThoughtNational10-38.143430042,59516717195359
308Center for Independent EmployeesNational●●1-53.765300242096184

Budget Levels

The budget levels in the tables above equate to this ranges:

● = $100k to $1m

●● = $1m to $2.5m

●●● = $2.5m to $5m

●●●● = $5m to $10m

●●●●● = $10m to $30m

●●●●●● = $30m & Up

Why These Measures?

Why did we generate our efficiency rankings based on domain rating and estimated search engine traffic, rather than other available measures?

Estimated Search Traffic

Generating search traffic relies on ranking high in search results for popular keywords.

Search ranking is based on hundreds of factors, but we can use a simplified equation like this one to understand how we can improve it:

domain rating + content + other factors = search ranking

Domain rating is easily measured. Content quality isn’t. “Other factors” include things like technical implementation details, which are measurable, but not in a broad survey like this one.

So we can’t know all parts of the equation, but by examining the two parts we can know—domain rating and search traffic—we can at least determine what’s likely to be causing search performance issues.

High domain rating and search low traffic? You need to focus on content and technical factors.

Low domain rating but surprisingly high search traffic? You may have a very niche focus with little search competition.

Knowing both estimated search traffic and domain rating figures therefore helps us to analyze problems and determine where we can improve.

Domain Rating

Domain rating is a measure of website authority ranging from 0 to 100. SEO research companies like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush create domain ratings through mapping links across the entire Internet, assigning higher scores to more significant nodes in this network of networks. All of this is done in an attempt to reverse-engineer Google’s own method of measuring website authority.

Think tank leaders should be aware of domain rating because it is measurable and predictive of overall search performance.

We know this because Google’s own Andrey Lipattsev said that despite the growing complexity of Google’s search algorithm content and links remain the two most important search ranking factors. While it’s difficult to score the quality of website content, we can score link quality and quantity through domain rating.

Attempts to reverse-engineer Google search ranking also show that domain ranking is a significant predictor of success.

Creating the Rankings

How did we arrive at these two metrics of efficiency?

We started by using data from Ahrefs, an SEO research tool, which provided us with estimated search engine traffic and domain rating along with several other measures we’ve included in the tables above.

ProPublica’s Non-Profit Explorer provided annual expenditure figures.

Initial Findings

At first, we asked a simple question: Which U.S. think tanks have the best domain ratings?

We got an obvious answer: Well-funded national think tanks.

Pew Research Center, World Economic Forum, and Human Rights Watch were the top-three on this list.

This makes perfect sense.

More money→more wonks→more content→maybe more links?

Even with a low success rates, the deadweight tonnage approach to content marketing will produce impressive domain rating scores over time.

Then we looked at estimated search traffic, which revealed a surprising leader:

Ballotpedia, a group with a modest budget, was outperforming every other think tank on our list.

Ballotpedia was getting 2x the search traffic of World Economic Forum with less than 2% the budget.

If small groups like Ballotpedia can punch this far above their weight class, what might a more sophisticated analysis of think tank search data reveal?

With that question in mind, we set out to create some new metrics.

Measuring Efficiency

For that deeper analysis, we turned to Jason Sorens, a quantitative political scientist and Director of the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance at St. Anselm College.

Working with Jason, we were able to arrive at two more sophisticated metrics:

  1. Search Efficiency: Measures how much more total traffic a think tank gets than would be expected given its expenditures and whether it is state or national in scope.
  2. Domain Efficiency: Measures how much higher domain rating a think tank gets than would be expected given its expenditures and whether it is state or national in scope.

Jason found that over half the differences in domain ratings and total traffic are explicable by considering budgets and state vs national focus.

So controlling for these factors is crucial in helping a think tank determine how well they perform given the type of organization they are.

Jason’s contribution made this entire report possible. As thanks, we encourage you to follow Jason on Twitter, check out his Freedom in the 50 States index, and pickup a copy of Secessionism.

Using these new metrics, which control for budget and state/national scope, we found a very different set of domain winners:

And a somewhat different set of search winners:

Using Domain Efficiency and Search Efficiency didn’t just reshuffle the top performers, it radically reordered both lists.

This approach revealed scrappy small-budget state think tanks that have outsized online reach like the Student Free Press Association, the Institute for Family Studies, and the Empire Center for Public Policy.

These rankings also revealed strategies for success and performance issues right-of-center think tanks should not ignore.

Speaking of performance issues, it’s important to note some issues with these measures themselves. These are not perfect indicators of relative performance as think tanks can and do spend money on things that aren’t easily reflected online.

Further, it’s important to note that think tanks with multiple domains are disadvantaged by our ranking. Though we have no way of combining domain scores, in the future we’d be glad to split expenditure figures between domains if provided with broken-out budgets.

3 Strategies for Success

We reviewed several top-ranking groups more closely, looking for trends and found three strategies that seem to be repeated again and again:

Strategy #1: The Definitive Report

Annual rankings or statistical snapshots that are easy to understand and contain well-design charts and graphs, drive search performance for many high-ranked think tanks.

For example, the Prison Policy Initiative has captured both links and search traffic using its “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie” report. This annual series has grown year by year with the latest edition attracting links from over 3,500 unique domains—more than many think tanks’ entire sites.

“The Whole Pie” series is readable on the webpage itself. Journalists, bloggers and academics—valuable potential link creators—are more inclined to link to content their audiences can access easily. This report doesn’t ask their readers to hunt through a PDF.

The Sentencing Project has had similar success with its 6 Million Lost Voters and The Color of Justice reports. Though not scoring the same number of links as “The Whole Pie,” these reports follow the same model, presenting easy-to-understand graphical information that is readable in a web browser.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is fittingly strategic in the way it deploys its definitive report. The Military Balance is published annually and uses the same URL each year. Older versions of the report are moved to archive URLs. This means every year the report only gains links, rather than starting over at zero—giving IISS an asymmetric advantage over its global rivals. It also means that existing links are always pointing to the newest edition of the report, which better serves users.

The Tax Foundation gets similar results by publishing basic tax information in an easy-to-understand format, like its 2019 Tax Brackets page. This involves no analysis, but it still drives hundreds of thousands of visits a month to the Tax Foundation website and has generated thousands of unique referring domain links.

None of this means that PDF-packaged wonkery is bad, it just means that your publication portfolio ought to include some web-native material with broad appeal—if only to attract the links. Links pointing to pages with broad appeal will help other pages reach a higher search ranking, helping it reach your key audiences.

Strategy #2: The Definitive Database

Ballotpedia, ranked #1 in Search Efficiency, is following a different model. Its incoming links and its search traffic are spread over a large volume of content.

Rather than a handful of pages with a thousand of links each, Ballotpedia’s domain rating and traffic are driven by roughly 500 leading pages, each with over 50 unique domains linking to them.

But each of the 100,000 pages in its database plays a role. In total, Ballotpedia has roughly 34,500 unique domains with 5.75 million links pointing to its deep catalog of pages.

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, has seen similar success. Also at over 100,000 pages, it enjoys 5.24 million backlinks from over 46,000 unique domains.

These sites don’t contain definitive reports, they are definitive reports.

In fact, they’re better than a report, because they’re a truly web-native, dynamic source of current information. This is exactly the kind of content Google wants to serve its users because its users love these sorts of resources.

Federation of American Scientists seems to owe much of its success to maintaining a tremendous back catalog of posts. FAS’s content retention policy puts its number of indexed pages at over 78,000, close to that of the databases cited above.

FAS is a careful shepherd of its links. By meticulously maintaining pages and redirecting links for over 25 years, FAS has built up 45,000 unique domains linking to its site.

And they maintain everything. For example, here are two of their most unique-domain-linked pages:

So we have a 90s time capsule and a copy of an FBI website. Not exactly great content, but they’ve been around a long time collecting backlinks.

How does this content connect to FAS’s current activities? That doesn’t really matter—incoming links raise the rankings of all pages regardless of content. Together these three odd pages are responsible for over 1,500 links from unique domains.

The Student Free Press Association has managed to do something similar, but in less than 1/3 the amount of time. Since 2011, thecollegefix.com has generated somewhere around 20,000 pages through consistent output.

None of these pages are a stand-out hit, but together they’ve generated 5.49 million backlinks from 10,000 unique domains. These also appear to be a carefully managed flock, maximizing their cumulative effect.

Right-of-Center Think Tanks

During the decade we’ve worked with free-market and right-of-center think tanks, we’ve been concerned that these groups have lagged behind their ideological counterparts when it comes to search performance.

Now we have the data to back that up.

This was revealed in our initial analysis, which consisted of a simple plotting of Domain Rating vs. Annual Expenditure.

On the graph below we plotted right-of-center groups in red/pink and left-leaning or unaffiliated think tanks in grey.

The trend lines show that right-of-center think tanks lag behind their non-ideological or left-leaning counterparts. At every budget level, grey Xs are outperforming the blue circles.

Right-of-center groups are also clustered in the bottom half of our rankings of Domain Efficiency and Search Efficiency.

Remember, that’s after accounting for differences in budgets and state vs national audiences. This means that right-of-center groups are performing worse on a dollar-per-dollar basis than their peers.

This should be a cause for concern for members of the free-market movement.

By failing to keep up with their ideological competitors, free-market think tanks are being left out of the search space, ceding ground in the public policy debate without a fight.

Why Does Search Matter?

If the primary objective of a think tank is to influence public policy decisions, then its research and policy prescriptions need to reach policymakers, journalists, and other elites who frame policy debates.

Traditionally, that’s been done through broadcast media—TV, radio, and print journalism. Email, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and social media have added to that list in recent decades, but the model remains the same:

You speak, they listen.

Search flips this model. Rather than pushing your message on your schedule, search provides your audience with the answers they want when they want them.

They ask, you answer.

That interaction is why search builds trust, authority, and reputation—exactly what think tanks hope to foster.

It’s easy to forget about search because it’s become reflexive—we do it without thinking. As a species, we search Google over 5 billion times a day.

Because search is so ubiquitous, it can put your research in front of journalists, academics, or policymakers you’ve never reached before.

Search isn’t limited to your list, your followers, or your network. Instead, you can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time who is looking for the answers you provide on questions of public policy.

How to Use This Data

If you find your Domain Efficiency is low compared to your peers, you should focus on boosting your domain rating through linking building (offsite SEO). You can do so using our four techniques for improving domain rating.

If your Search Efficiency is low, but your Domain Efficiency is high, we recommend focusing on changes to your website itself (onsite SEO). Those include technical details, site structure, keywords, and page formatting. Try our five techniques for improving search traffic.

If you’ve found that you rank low on both measures, then you need to focus on both link building and site optimization.

Tip: we strongly recommend that every think tank conduct regular automated technical audits of their website SEO. Technical problems can thwart optimization efforts and frustrate even the most professional policy shop. When it comes to bugs, squash early, squash often.

Improve Domain Efficiency

If your think tank ranked lower than you’d like on Domain Efficiency, you need to focus on boosting your domain rating through link building.

Here are four easy tactics you can use to build your domain rating quickly:

This method of link building is entirely within your control, because it’s simply reclaiming the authority from links already pointing to your site.

If you’ve recently redesigned your website, changed your domain, or dropped the “www” prefix from your URLs, your site could be leaving a lot of link authority on the table.

Use a free tool like the Ahrefs Site Explorer to find your broken links and then create redirects from the old addresses to where the content currently resides.

If you’re using WordPress, you can try the Redirection plugin to create redirects.

2. Lean on Your Scholars

The academic affiliations of your scholars hold incredible potential for your domain ratings because backlinks from academic domains are especially valuable.

Most universities enjoy domain ratings in the 80s. The best schools have domain ratings in the 90s.

These links are gold because domains are ranked on a steep curve. Of the 170+ million domains ranked by Ahrefs, less than 1000 rank over a 90. So these aren’t the top 10%, they’re the top 0.0005%.

These links don’t just move the needle for smaller think tanks. Richard Posner’s profile page at the University of Chicago is one of the top 1000 highest ranking pages linking to aei.org, a think tank with over 7 million total incoming links.

Richard Posner University of Chicago Law School

It can be a pain to get scholars to follow-up on things like updating their bio pages, but make it your pet project.

Do the work for them, email their assistant, contact their department—do what you have to do to get these powerful .edu links.

It’ll give your domain rating a huge boost.

Pro Tip: Make sure these links point to webpages, not PDFs, so they confer the most authority possible to your website.

3. Convert Unlinked Brand Mentions

If you’re doing a great job at PR, chances are Google Alerts are hitting your inbox daily or weekly filled with mentions of your organization and scholars.

Many of those mentions, however, won’t contain links.

Ahrefs offers a guide for finding unlinked brand mentions. It stars with a simple search query to find pages where your brand appears, but without a link to your domain.

The guide will then show you how to highlight only the domains that haven’t linked to you yet. Those are the only targets worth pursuing as they’ll add to your unique referring domains.

Start emailing contacts at the highest-rated domains and request that they add links. Remember, these are people who are already mentioning you, so taking notice of their work and asking for a link is likely to be met with appreciation.

4. Ask, Believe, Receive

That’s right, use The Secret (intentionally not linked).

We’re not sure if the “believe” part is necessary, but asking is crucial.

You’re probably already asking YouTube viewers to like and subscribe.

Maybe you ask ask podcast listeners to rate and review

Why not include asking for links in your newsletters, press releases, and emails to journalists?

Unlinked brand mentions are often the result of not making the explicit ask.

So just do it—ask for a link. Be shameless. If you’re working in PR, this should already be your superpower.

Improve Search Efficiency

If you find that your think ranks low for Search Efficiency, but ranked highly for Domain Efficiency, you’ve at least got the raw materials for improving your organic search traffic.

Here are five tactics you can use to convert that authority into more traffic:

1. Start with the Technicals

If Google cannot crawl your site or can’t make sense of your site’s content because of technical issues, your pages won’t rank well. There’s no sense in doing anything else until you’ve got these problems squashed.

To quickly determine if your site has glaring technical flaws, use Ahref’s site audit tool. It will check your site for over 100 SEO issue and creates a red-yellow-green prioritized list so you can triage any problems it finds.

At $7 for a 7-day trial, this tool is a ridiculously great value. It will either provide you with reassurance that your technical game is in order, or provide an easy-to-understand report you can present to your think tank’s leadership to demonstrate why further investment in your website is needed.

If you do find that you have technical problems, Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to Technical SEO can start you down the path to solving them. This guide is really technical, so it’s best used as a way to have a productive conversation with your web developer.

2. Leverage Internal Linking

If you’ve already got a great domain rating, your search traffic may be low because you’re not spreading the link love around to your other pages.

Ahref’s guide to Internal Linking for SEO is a great resource when taking this approach.

This guide will talk you through:

  1. Structuring your site’s pages
  2. Fixing internal broken links
  3. Strategically using your highly-linked pages

We also recommend the Brian Dean’s Internal Linking page on the Backlinko SEO Marketing Hub.

3. Optimize for Keywords

By researching keywords, you can find the search terms that people are actually using that relate to your think tank’s content.

But this doesn’t mean you have to change the content of reports or studies.

Instead, you can modify the title of the webpage, its meta description, and the executive summary of your publication to include keywords you want to target.

Keyword Research Ahrefs

Moz’s Guide to Keyword Research is a great place to get started. This page is part of a larger guide to SEO, but we think this guide does a particularly good job of explaining keyword research.

We also recommend Brian Dean’s Keyword Research Strategies page on the Backlinko SEO Marketing Hub. Be forewarned, Brian’s guide contains a lot of information and it may take a while for you make your way through his methods. Optimizing your content around keywords may be a months-long project.

4. Optimize Individual Pages

Backlinko’s Guide to On-Page SEO will teach you where to strategically place the keywords you find in your keyword research and provide you with several other changes you can make to improve the content and structure of your pages.

These are the page elements we pay attention to when we conduct SEO audits:

  • Title
  • Meta Information
  • Markup
  • Links
  • Keyword Use
  • URLs
  • UX Signals

Many of these items should be highlighted by audit tools like the Ahref’s site audit tool mentioned above.

5. Add Schema Markup to Your Pages

When added to your site, schema markup creates an enhanced description, or “rich snippet,” which appears in search results. You may have seen examples like this:

This is an example of the FAQ schema, one of the many schema options think tanks should be utilizing.

Rich snippets like FAQs can be a fast way to boost your content above regular search results and place them squarely at the top of Google.

When I say fast, I mean fast.

Neil Patel has shown that schema formatted content can appear in Google results in as little as 30 minutes.

Think tanks could use schema markup to turn an existing report or policy brief into an FAQ that could start ranking for several valuable keywords the same day it’s published.

We think this technique holds a ton of potential for the think tank world and is woefully underutilized.

Check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool or Google’s Rich Result Tester to make sure you’re implementing schema correctly.

We Can Help

If you’re interested in improving your search engine performance, you can call us for a free 20-minute consultation. We can help you identify problem areas and what should be addressed first to create the biggest return on your investment of time and money.

Don’t worry, this phone call won’t be “salesy.” Our call will be focused on learning about your goals and the problems you’re facing. That way, we can determine if our approach would be a good fit for your needs.

Book a free 20-minute consultation

Data Sources

Click to expand this section and view our data sources.

Think Tanks List

To begin our work, we had to arrive at a list of think tanks. Rather than invent one ourselves, we used lists from State Policy NetworkHarvard Kennedy School, and Regent University. We then removed:

  • Defunct or inactive groups
  • Groups without an accessible website
  • Non-US Think Tanks
  • Groups without an available EIN (this excluded many university centers)
  • Groups with less than $100k in annual expenditures
  • Groups without a separate domain (no subdomains or subdirectories)
  • State or local affiliate groups that used the same root domain

These exclusions allow for fairer comparisons. To control for huge disparities in budgets, we needed expenditure numbers. That’s why non-US groups and many university-based groups were excluded. We used only groups whose financial info we could easily query.

Groups without a distinct top-level domain were also excluded because measuring their performance was difficult if not impossible. So, our benchmarks include university groups like GMU’s Mercatus Center (mercatus.org) but not Michigan’s William Davidson Institute (wdi.umich.edu), despite it having public budget info.

This produced a list of 308 think tanks including:

  • 81 SPN-affiliated national groups
  • 53 SPN-affiliated state groups
  • 174 unaffiliated state and national groups

Financial Data

ProPublica Non-Profit Explorer provides financial information via annual 990 forms. We used “Total Functional Expenses” as a measure of money spent. The figure used is the most recent year available, which is not consistent from group to group.

Search Performance Data

Ahrefs quick batch analysis tool provides web performance components and outcomes. We used this tool to gathering the following:

  • Domain Rating: Shows the strength of the website’s backlink profile compared to the others in the Ahrefs database of 1.76 trillion external backlinks.
  • Referring Domains: The total number of unique domains linking to the target. We used “Do Follow” domains, which filters out “no follow” domains. This means we only include domains pointing to your think tank via value-passing links.
  • Government & Education domains: The number of unique governmental and educational domains linking to your think tank. WE used .gov and .edu as shorthand, but this figure also includes domains that Ahrefs consider to be governmental or educational. These tend to be high-authority domains, which is why we’ve broken them out.
  • Top-100 Ranked Keywords: The total number of keywords for which the target ranks for in the top 100 organic search results across all countries in the Ahrefs database. When the target ranks for a keyword more than once, it’s counted multiple times
  • Total Backlinks: The total number of links from other websites pointing to the target.
  • Estimated Traffic: The target’s estimated monthly organic traffic from search.

Google PageSpeed Insights measures are included, even though speed didn’t end up being a statistically significant contributor to Domain Efficiency to Search Efficiency.

Google Itself provided the the “Pages Indexed By Google” figure. We used a script that leveraged the the “site” search operator to get an indexed number of pages for each URL.

All of the data presented in this report was collected during the month of March 2020.