Rolling Stone has updated its top 500 songs of all time, so it’s only fitting that Tallest Tree release its second annual think tank SEO rankings.

In 2021 we debuted our list to great fanfare (from a very, very niche audience), and thanks to that recognition we’ve been able to help dozens of think tanks and research centers grow their search traffic through webinars, consulting, and one honest-to-goodness in-person event thanks to our friends at the Mercatus Center.

And that’s been the goal from the start—helping think tanks share their public policy ideas with a wider audience through search. The ranking isn’t about jockeying for position or outdoing your rivals (at least it’s not only about that) it’s really about benchmarking your think tank’s performance against your peers so you can see if you’re falling behind and how you might improve.

How it Works

Our rankings seek to answer a simple question: Which think tanks have the most domains linking to them or the most search traffic coming to them every month after controlling for budget (based b990 expenditure reporting) and scope (state or national).

We have to control for budget and scope otherwise the rankings would heavily favor large-scale, national think tanks and leave smaller and state think tanks at the bottom of the list.

But thanks to the magic of regression analysis courtesy of our dear friend and Director of the St. Anselm College Center for Ethics, Jason Sorens, we’re able to create a ranking that shows which think tanks are performing well on a dollar-for-dollar basis and list national and state-based think tanks side-by-side.

New Additions for 2021

This year we’ve added more technical information to the rankings. You can now see:

  • The CMS (content management system) a site uses
  • If a site uses the Yoast SEO plugin
  • If a site uses Google Analytics (GA)
  • If a site uses Google Tag Manager (GTM)
  • And if a site uses a CDN (content delivery network)

This has allowed us to see if there’s any correlation between the technologies being used and more search engine traffic.

Now that we’re on the second round of this study, we can also measure changes from 2020 to 2021. Unsurprisingly, most of the high-ranked sites from last year continue to hold high positions in the rankings.

However, some organizations have skyrocketed out of mediocrity thanks to a variety of factors we’ll unpack in the sections below.

Other groups have sunk like stones, indicating a major problem has occurred since our last ranking.

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 average click-through rates per position.

Here are the top-ranking think tanks in Search Efficiency:

2021 SE RankChange from 2020NameScopeBudgetTotal TrafficTop-100 Ranked Keywords2020 Search Efficiency RankDomain RatingUnique Referring DomainsReferring .gov DomainsReferring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksPages Indexed By GooglePagespeed DesktopPagespeed MobileCMSYoast SEOGoogle Tag Manager (GTM)Google Analytics (GA)Content Delivery Network (CDN)Domain EfficiencySearch Efficiency
10BallotpediaNational●●●6,567,2063,371,16618351,206706074,354,595452,00059%18%unknownnoyesyesyes18.7316.994
20Federation of American ScientistsNational●●866,3231,485,02428576,2382191,43117,274,68897,20084%27%WordPressnoyesyesyes27.3835.990
3+5Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●368,743748,16588158,535236097,965,536448,00078%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes22.0054.925
4+3Tax FoundationNational●●●●808,128347,69878235,700612791,874,84616,50083%26%WordPressnoyesyesno16.4334.700
5+24Institute for Family StudiesNational66,615107,07329736,5871079137,2792,52095%59%unknownnonoyesno21.9964.441
6+22Prison Policy InitiativeNational62,153122,360287814,02734278443,3257,46096%83%WordPressnonoyesno26.6654.321
7-4Pew Research CenterNational●●●●●●2,499,2851,979,924391209,6092642,621103,111,02349,90037%10%WordPressyesyesyesno12.7133.876
8+4Bill of Rights InstituteNational●●●●214,176263,00812726,28837166425,7426,51078%38%unknownnoyesyesno7.0323.464
9+28Sentencing ProjectNational●●54,60469,872377712,20332360698,0711,28063%36%WordPressyesyesyesno19.7103.277
10+26Center for Voting and DemocracyNational●●●83,94899,59436748,58911190301,33013,60065%21%unknownnonoyesyes13.0563.145
11+45International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational19,39762,87456739,89638358609,8684,62071%38%Sitecorenoyesyesyes21.4543.124
12+68Institute for Local Self-RelianceNational●●46,8591,504,53180759,30639126491,20727,70068%23%WordPressnoyesyesno17.5493.099
13+100Institute for Energy and Environment ResearchNational5,60617,450113551,980368282,5241,94095%67%WordPressyesnoyesno11.2623.081
14+61Jamestown FoundationNational●●33,848126,981757415,536202762,128,515105,00088%47%WordPressyesyesyesyes18.3903.056
15-10Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●2,154,002223,20958340,741497764,286,92528,40080%60%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.3353.055
16+6Economic Policy InstituteNational●●●●211,568390,900228336,528607452,631,20215,20056%21%WordPressnonoyesyes15.4223.051
17+27Illinois Policy InstituteState●●●●123,153102,94944716,5511039315,43017,20081%30%WordPressnoyesyesyes16.1152.973
18+174MacIver Institute for Public PolicyState10,03522,204192502,205312592,05716,40080%33%WordPressnonoyesno11.4022.967
19+30Environmental and Energy Study InstituteNational●●34,43684,11949745,0382516262,3298,34052%52%ExpressionEnginenonoyesno17.0312.865
20+38Student Free Press AssociationNational13,84622,49958719,84021123,000,44525,40075%34%WordPressnoyesyesyes18.9822.714
21-12Brookings InstitutionNational●●●●●●1,597,9912,425,421990130,0573142,2438,440,036155,00054%26%WordPressnoyesyesno6.8902.688
22-16Human Rights WatchNational●●●●●●1,361,2301,608,102687128,0501611,70711,504,232259,00080%45%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.5922.635
23-4Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●38,247105,567198219,600505923,286,24215,40095%90%unknownnononono22.6382.602
24+2Migration Policy InstituteNational●●●●104,714226,795267920,53864774966,41617,10093%68%Drupalnonoyesyes12.8922.573
25+23Foreign Policy Research InstituteNational●●32,166120,65348718,35712281574,55815,90074%50%WordPressnoyesyesno11.0802.343
26+186Show-Me InstituteState●●15,00911,476212431,26411765,7696,02081%37%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.3622.330
27+3Brennan Center for JusticeNational●●●●●229,793262,211308022,579483671,224,76821,40080%26%Drupalnoyesyesyes6.0302.152
28+86Oakland InstituteNational5,8415,919114593,21224794,9893,43053%27%Drupalnoyesyesyes8.7762.126
29-19Council on Foreign RelationsNational●●●●●●688,6471,028,719108373,696951,2007,539,42468,80035%17%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.2122.049
30+27American Conservative Union FoundationNational●●●41,4005,69157706,875668415,4051,78070%25%WordPressyesyesyesyes6.5082.047
31+31Middle East InstituteNational●●●●49,819185,978627311,851173825,071,2318,28044%21%Drupalnoyesyesyes7.7441.961
32+2Population Reference BureauNational●●●●●101,359217,369347926,21940860760,5139,49085%46%WordPressnoyesyesno9.1131.960
33+51Empire Center for Public PolicyState6,13219,91284623,07241255,4054,25054%27%WordPressyesyesyesno20.0271.956
34-20Foundation for Economic EducationNational●●●●57,791211,647147826,485102784,028,00044,50091%47%unknownnoyesyesyes11.4401.910
35-8Peterson Institute For International EconomicsNational●●●●●104,163153,379277915,54045420563,84014,70080%29%Drupalnoyesyesyes8.5101.895
36-19Center for American ProgressNational●●●●●●370,644942,882178558,865998254,662,18863,70036%18%WordPressyesyesyesyes5.9871.856
37-24Cato InstituteNational●●●●●●232,327547,326138251,229879468,140,78257,30072%50%Drupalnonoyesyes5.8891.834
38+7Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsNational●●●37,75285,262457810,69447386696,8443,06073%53%WordPressnonoyesno13.5911.814
39+147Buckeye Institute, TheState●●12,8107,785186471,139214112,26696556%22%unknownnoyesnono-0.7821.800
40-22Guttmacher InstituteNational●●●●●204,350205,807188021,64155470597,49213,00091%36%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.4681.795
41+59Association of American Educators FoundationNational5,9159,707100611,129310256,0143,19031%16%Joomlanonoyesno8.4641.784
42-27Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesNational●●●●●●277,820380,513158231,831714842,449,85832,10096%54%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.0871.736
43-Fordham InstituteNational●●●27,01268,488-725,39918157300,37816,00060%27%Drupalnoyesyesyes9.2011.727
44+38Competitive Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●42,00745,587827413,034141552,300,59830,00085%30%WordPressyesyesyesyes8.0121.678
45+80James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TheNational4,48419,422125602,9332761,076,9085,64058%18%WordPressyesyesyesno8.5491.674
460Independent InstituteNational●●●26,57885,987467212,66652522,882,91025,50070%34%unknownnoyesyesyes8.9311.669
47-36Heritage FoundationNational●●●●●●403,125536,091118359,8341159767,298,73954,00057%17%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.1251.500
48+87East-West CenterNational5,55837,139135715,097314391,821,50611,10086%18%Drupalnonoyesyes16.9031.482
49+82Christian Coalition of AmericaNational1,245903131562,363264116,65434866%27%WordPressnononoyes11.4641.454
50-29Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●227,141485,580218233,5361139932,821,25575,20025%8%Drupalnoyesyesyes3.5151.447
51+20Century FoundationNational●●●25,113109,742717610,76226299651,4207,14087%63%WordPressnoyesyesyes11.6731.419
52+31American Action ForumNational●●●20,29566,02083736,8281280150,78023,00084%61%WordPressyesyesyesyes9.8691.390
53+126Energy and Environmental Research CenterNational7763,476179548671153281,95464259%22%unknownnoyesnono11.4681.289
54+64Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainable DevelopmentNational3,34817,835118622,608712581,7326,89092%51%WordPressnonoyesno9.7021.251
55+11Public CitizenNational●●●●25,12482,994667820,617333351,396,63722,20089%46%WordPressyesyesyesno12.4761.236
56-33National Bureau of Economic ResearchNational●●●●●●149,763644,819238763,5921732,0745,791,435145,00079%65%Drupalnoyesyesyes9.6611.206
57+34Institute for Science & International SecurityNational3,3368,08191644,225590195,3572,82081%74%ExpressionEnginenonoyesno11.4171.204
58-18Center for Public IntegrityNational●●●●26,896150,666407824,239273422,861,88120,50087%28%WordPressyesyesyesyes11.8091.202
59+77Institute for Agriculture & Trade PolicyNational●●7,46750,937136726,02412173628,50326,00075%38%Drupalnonoyesyes14.1341.198
60+84Center for Law and Social PolicyNational●●●●39,86747,115144734,6294118788,8947,98086%33%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.1891.193
61+192Georgia Public Policy FoundationState1,7247,207253415821818,0942,34092%73%WordPressnonoyesno2.3211.193
62+148Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational3,6377,086210561,679423365,78179575%41%unknownnonoyesno2.6331.170
63+118Concord CoalitionNational●●4,91010,705181561,81455690,9574,02063%21%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.5281.147
64-12Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●71,213119,825527511,24822266396,44118,10053%9%WordPressyesnoyesno2.0991.145
65+93National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●27,54311,578158632,6046271,019,8345,10053%14%WordPressyesnoyesno-3.8151.129
66-35Atlantic CouncilNational●●●●●●128,590394,670318032,662744502,220,5822,530,00085%42%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.0791.118
67-63World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●1,048,6681,487,689491199,6324922,84113,122,825337,00062%16%unknownnoyesnoyes0.3261.105
68-29Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●134,536202,359398122,946110526989,37920,30078%46%Drupalnoyesyesyes3.6481.097
69+32American Press InstituteNational●●●14,84232,668101755,8739242129,8114,58087%73%WordPressyesyesyesno11.8661.076
70-7Project on Government OversightNational●●●●21,73075,07963728,03112107553,6126,87074%35%Craft CMSnoyesyesyes6.3731.075
71+181Policy Circle, TheNational●●4,04323,09325223203031,29586458%19%WordPressyesyesnono-31.8741.044
72+25National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●●20,27028,85397674,956442187,0564,78071%44%unknownnoyesyesno1.5481.032
73+89Independent Women’s ForumNational●●●10,83422,430162654,0673571,888,88814,60083%45%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.5171.015
74+34Center of the American ExperimentState●●●7,99920,183108632,351213244,1857,02090%47%WordPressnoyesyesyes13.0951.003
75+89Students For LibertyNational●●●14,97221,192164592,333035194,59832,00040%3%WordPressyesyesyesyes-4.7490.991
76-6Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●15,56564,321707310,69382211,258,69718,50086%37%WordPressyesyesyesno8.4690.909
77-42Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●111,313365,652357925,039448524,280,83459,20089%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.5540.893
78-54Union of Concerned ScientistsNational●●●●●●112,850238,283248341,891737881,792,8865,62067%25%Drupalnoyesyesyes5.2030.853
79+127Policy Matters OhioState●●3,08218,680206562,20742425,6456,30098%83%unknownnonoyesno11.3080.850
80-21Heartland InstituteNational●●●14,16931,366597414,895202231,457,14532,40058%24%unknownnonoyesno9.3780.801
81+94Center for Progressive ReformNational2,43814,199175571,315461124,5256,61073%11%Wagtailnoyesyesno3.7500.788
82+153Beacon Hill InstituteNational5121,7962354997171411,9351,10048%46%WordPressnononono5.8740.782
83-6Americans for Tax ReformNational●●●8,89412,27977728,485844587,20753,10086%25%Drupalnonoyesyes10.2370.775
84-46New America FoundationNational●●●●●●96,366181,876388016,06446425885,04623,80087%52%Wagtailnoyesyesno2.6260.760
85+104Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●3,10213,373189451,3032781,9163,99067%41%WordPressnoyesnono-0.5470.725
86+3American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●23,51235,37089716,9702487424,8376,72069%43%WordPressnoyesyesyes2.5210.716
87-34Common CauseNational●●●●21,92626,669537610,61820224762,20215,00044%8%WordPressyesyesyesyes7.9740.715
88+111Washington Policy CenterState●●●6,23421,783199591,954422345,4587,57069%45%unknownnoyesnono8.8040.709
89+76John Locke FoundationState●●●6,48530,572165583,595143600,74023,80063%33%WordPressyesyesyesyes7.3980.686
90+203Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyState3631,892293392741414,7221,04074%42%WordPressyesnoyesyes6.9970.660
91-5Center for a New American SecurityNational●●●●●27,61545,24486748,56220191788,01511,70084%62%Craft CMSnoyesyesno4.0700.654
92-27Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●33,609137,551657313,342132561,347,66037,30088%19%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.5700.620
93-26Manhattan Institute for Policy ResearchNational●●●●●45,09872,968677614,903252021,092,87411,20065%9%Drupalnoyesyesno2.6200.614
94+97Archbridge InstituteNational6243,64519137348231,77426581%21%WordPressyesyesyesno-8.5170.613
95+130Idaho Freedom FoundationState1,2737,438225477230024,0027,70072%44%WordPressnoyesyesyes6.5110.611
96+142Ethan Allen InstituteState4362,433238323881466,1512,12075%33%unknownnonoyesyes-1.5200.610
97-25Human Rights FirstNational●●●●●23,66451,992727410,28119228319,28822,30054%21%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.7680.606
98+49Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●3,54611,023147601,78974265,8998,55090%55%Drupalnonoyesno2.9750.583
99+117Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational1,0432,973216469400475,5243,41083%58%unknownnononono-3.0640.582
100+161Rio Grande FoundationState4904,5802614846001129,9652,00049%20%WordPressnonoyesno13.4420.567
101+129Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational1,2421,14423037569035,3682,46054%13%WordPressyesyesyesyes-13.2990.567
102+142Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●●4,95414,421244471,1340697,5584,28078%51%Craft CMSnoyesyesyes-2.7460.549
103+46Property & Environment Research CenterNational●●●6,08216,355149623,0296114187,2743,38079%32%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.2290.547
104-31Bipartisan Policy CenterNational●●●●●44,70386,692737710,08647252269,7926,50090%70%WordPressnoyesyesyes3.1500.533
105+137Badger InstituteState●●1,5969,4722425299031433,7071,43072%50%unknownnoyesyesno9.4110.515
106-14Mackinac CenterState●●●●12,23759,47392686,8204881,986,80830,00099%81%unknownnoyesyesno12.0460.499
107+31Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●4,1363,881138619075233628,1701,20049%36%unknownnoyesyesno2.3350.485
108-39Discovery InstituteNational●●●●14,00127,81969716,90711181,388,91513,60082%39%WordPressnoyesyesyes4.3850.483
109+34Center for Education ReformNational●●4,94111,276143632,430974278,5945,59033%20%WordPressyesnoyesno3.1340.478
110+1Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsNational●●●8,37047,105111706,1879323330,38511,60077%48%unknownnonoyesyes6.6640.473
111-21EdChoiceNational●●●●17,00519,51190662,932456121,6463,26070%31%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.0060.464
112-31Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●15,88458,77381726,42010155409,8749,80077%48%WordPressyesyesyesyes4.4100.460
113-45Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●38,336125,312687817,22436560694,88531,30071%25%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.5690.444
114+23Center for Democracy and TechnologyNational●●●●13,89821,8101378011,74538406698,7337,90095%75%WordPressyesnoyesyes13.1200.435
115+30Inter-American DialogueNational●●●8,69148,682145705,5201020284,46519,70093%48%WordPressyesyesyesno6.1140.426
116-84American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●101,578258,912328236,050657452,880,49291,30093%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes2.0670.420
117+145Public Policy Institute of New York StateState3451,48226231296137,58732998%88%unknownnononono-2.2730.414
118+109James Madison InstituteState●●2,24314,234227491,17731228,7142,14034%7%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.4210.396
119+42Eagle ForumNational●●2,8531,921161624,896358718,9673,35056%18%WordPressyesnoyesyes4.7030.324
120-73Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●79,423166,710478034,221597383,350,90333289%40%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.0370.323
121-60DemosNational●●●●●18,79044,12961748,928151411,162,3337,97080%59%Drupalnononoyes4.2670.299
122-16Christensen InstituteNational●●●6,60215,957106733,4291012580,0864,18090%54%WordPressyesyesyesyes10.0220.290
123+116Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState9746,89823942664145,6341,55083%60%WordPressnonoyesno1.0870.279
124-5Institute for Transportation & Development PolicyNational●●●●13,87529,216119713,77216102219,4637,33032%14%WordPressyesyesyesno2.6760.212
125+94Steamboat InstituteNational1,1741,26121932404073,35574378%39%WordPressnoyesyesyes-20.2810.206
126+61Lugar CenterNational1,1223,069187541,11732711,9621,35088%80%unknownnonoyesno1.9900.202
127+86Ignatian Solidarity Network National1,0573,7162134879216139,1413,27087%38%WordPressyesyesyesno-3.6930.191
128+115Alabama Policy InstituteState1,0452,875243416242841,8531,21062%14%WordPressyesyesyesno-0.9710.187
129+119Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState7154,650248428941758,1613,22059%23%WordPressnoyesyesyes2.4130.173
130-21California Policy CenterNational●●3,44312,651109491,46513131,2495,11080%41%WordPressyesyesyesno-10.5040.173
131-52Institute for Women's Policy Research  National●●●6,30117,64979779,05443427380,3085,33048%2%WordPressyesyesyesyes13.5590.172
132+72Civitas InstituteState●●1,7508,407204511,47301179,9305,23078%28%WordPressyesyesyesno5.5440.167
133+44World Policy InstituteNational1,33211,618177706,17311231336,6228,55080%41%WordPressnononono16.5280.149
134-118CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●449,865227,869168215,043308271,669,00612,00057%12%Microsoft SharePointnoyesyesno-9.5780.120
135+31Information Technology & Innovation FoundationNational●●●6,54541,358166767,84844199214,95671698%64%Drupalnonoyesyes11.9260.113
136+90Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●1,5823,831226385081431,5001,47064%23%WordPressnonoyesno-7.1720.110
137-30Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●11,46830,038107703,44278464,2022,51084%56%Sitefinitynoyesyesyes2.2230.105
138-26Third Way InstituteNational●●●●●15,84157,659112735,83012121204,1725,60071%22%unknownnonoyesyes3.0910.101
139-119Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●330,621502,747208760,8191581,0772,675,06050,20079%24%WordPressnoyesyesno-2.7380.094
140+131Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState1,0365,038271333634435,2471,21090%54%unknownnononoyes-9.5390.091
141+93Kansas Policy InstituteState●●1,2534,967234384650714,7321,72091%46%WordPressyesyesyesno-5.7970.088
142+99National Foundation for American PolicyNational5172,480241672,73794012,17488958%50%WordPressnoyesyesno19.1040.059
143-47Economic Innovation GroupNational●●●4,85711,43196753,953655526,0813,74082%40%WordPressyesyesyesyes12.3900.040
144+59Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●2,3375892034293018112,89130691%46%WordPressyesnoyesno-16.0120.014
145-24SPURNational●●●●10,32730,001121713,6361861194,2107,80081%62%Drupalnoyesyesno3.2560.006
146-103Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●113,651389,991438536,2041699561,896,31572,90072%25%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.6070.001
147-114Middle East Media Research InstituteNational●●●●7,84812,740337213,71661602,309,09032,90057%20%Drupalnoyesyesyes5.977-0.004
148+21Eno Center for TransportationNational●●3,15414,533169671,885246217,3244,28076%47%WordPressnonoyesno6.898-0.007
149+110Nevada Policy Research InstituteState8493,134259439060639,2492,52088%59%WordPressyesyesyesno1.026-0.022
150+44Lexington InstituteNational●●2,30113,321194591,760329100,0813,97093%60%WordPressyesnoyesno0.846-0.023
151+47Women's Environment & Development OrganizationNational●●1,6305,118198641,547612752,6272,26069%20%WordPressyesnonono7.960-0.043
152-110Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●54,9976,537427316,8477633,040,30615,00042%23%WordPressyesyesyesyes-5.976-0.047
153+79American Council for Capital FormationNational6381,468232491,1074204,38682990%69%WordPressnonoyesyes-0.980-0.050
154-28Food Research & Action CenterNational●●●●11,05527,657126766,24053191276,2764,06083%46%WordPressyesyesyesyes7.333-0.068
155+23America’s Future FoundationNational●●1,3684,351178411,03002052,1763,75061%26%WordPressyesnoyesyes-14.190-0.088
156+45Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●3,98220,396201531,38416112,5624,06089%58%WordPressnoyesyesyes-9.160-0.090
157-63R Street InstituteNational●●●●●11,33540,20094714,41885762,97912,20080%44%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.954-0.101
158-2Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●4,95319,896156672,46499784,9345,19065%40%unknownnoyesyesyes3.035-0.149
159+11Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & PolicyNational●●●2,8386,694170671,817675176,8444,37087%59%WordPressyesnoyesyes6.658-0.149
160-67Santa Fe InstituteNational●●●●●13,15926,58093769,72710804287,49318,60084%41%unknownnonoyesno5.616-0.157
161+79Bluegrass InstituteNational2883,370240387691954,98512573%28%Squarespacenononono-7.984-0.232
162-8Center for an Urban FutureNational●●1,32113,327154712,773647177,6592,14089%38%ExpressionEnginenonoyesno15.078-0.235
1630Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●3,72210,621163614,496339304,1026,09059%43%Drupalnonoyesno-1.689-0.239
164+1241851 Center for Constitutional LawState15192128832336017,72822360%17%WordPressnononono-0.236-0.253
165+109Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState2011,377274303060172,5451,13084%36%WordPressyesnoyesno-4.133-0.258
166-88Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●23,50328,84478644,640170193,8224,47051%18%WordPressyesyesnoyes-11.038-0.292
167-19Data & Society InstituteNational●●●●5,38518,908148765,8361725390,3484,19090%57%WordPressnoyesyesyes10.556-0.292
168-29Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●18,63978,032139734,26658272160,39019,80054%25%Drupalnoyesnono-0.590-0.302
169+38Independence InstituteState●●●2,3487,854207552,396233243,8084,25067%23%WordPressyesnoyesno4.506-0.313
170-29Resources for the FutureNational●●●●●12,83647,508141746,63829459197,30910,30096%70%Wagtailnoyesyesyes2.585-0.341
171+124Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState104351295253490316,69237966%29%WordPressnoyesyesno-5.437-0.350
172-147RANDNational●●●●●●286,185881,370258659,2322481,7725,267,433121,00089%50%Adobe Experience Managernononono-5.745-0.358
173-88Acton InstituteNational●●●●●9,06448,93285718,62031823,885,2924,35056%16%Drupalnononono1.645-0.372
174-22Environmental Law InstituteNational●●●●5,37027,028152712,96739218265,57914,50072%24%Drupalnonoyesno4.897-0.396
175+49Young VoicesNational373650224333550295,9351,36067%32%WordPressyesyesnono-15.784-0.403
176-88Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●18,21580,928887510,80618925843,85228,10096%72%unknownnoyesyesno0.821-0.415
177-67Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●7,71247,028110724,81519251218,06011,40061%8%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.404-0.417
178-76FreedomWorksNational●●●●7,01510,828102697,0434441,247,95512,00026%15%Drupalnonoyesyes0.931-0.431
179-Institute for New Economic ThinkingNational●●●●●12,54937,079-736,9724290739,0797,75028%17%Craft CMSnonoyesyes1.044-0.446
180-47Reason FoundationNational●●●●●10,47851,593133728,016271212,165,65915,10095%41%WordPressyesyesyesno1.153-0.456
181+88Maine Heritage Policy CenterState4102,964269405010686,6062,18032%12%WordPressnoyesyesno-0.106-0.463
182-53Breakthrough InstituteNational●●●2,12112,975129704,8065140183,5692,17058%9%Craft CMSnonoyesno9.508-0.464
183-16Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●3,52311,864167612,917852304,8734,74063%18%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.902-0.480
1840Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●8,74423,423184643,6481235132,51616,20055%18%WordPressnoyesyesyes3.857-0.480
185-30Smart Growth AmericaNational●●●●4,98617,996155747,983112191370,0317,81099%75%WordPressyesnoyesyes7.486-0.534
186-91Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●16,83155,251957310,00220881,287,84325,00058%18%WordPressyesyesyesyes-1.439-0.534
187-111Mercatus Center National●●●●●●21,15583,482767612,700312471,146,72219,70072%35%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.040-0.539
188-17Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●3,3645,658171591,9228233311,4922,28095%56%unknownnonoyesyes-5.095-0.556
189-57Arab American InstituteNational5481,078132652,852610466,87827952%19%Squarespacenoyesnono12.629-0.570
190+97Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState11978428730324044,77466792%96%unknownnononono-2.879-0.590
191+65American Consumer Institute, TheNational3903,343256509900950,0353,89097%67%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.369-0.602
192+1Free the PeopleNational●●9471,578193355830510,8261,20079%41%WordPressyesyesyesyes-21.195-0.610
193+40Galen InstituteNational526966233511,365211109,46499273%57%WordPressnononono-1.637-0.652
194-78Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●10,46730,883116663,882443235,3458,66072%21%WordPressyesyesyesno-6.113-0.652
195-71Truman National security ProjectNational4121,230124531,047134130,48221078%41%unknownnoyesyesno1.837-0.669
196-141Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●●20,57137,76555758,35414206242,01211,90081%22%WordPressyesyesyesno-1.751-0.688
197+25Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●1,9117,281222531,34421597,1833,72061%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.256-0.711
198-111Roosevelt InstituteNational●●●●4,11711,37287725,8339126306,0521,85092%38%WordPressyesyesyesno5.488-0.725
199-79Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●9,90521,991120724,7392118794,4464,10066%14%Drupalnoyesyesno-0.434-0.756
200+2Massachusetts Budget and Policy CenterState●●5692,965202541,341425287,2132,32064%17%WordPressyesyesyesno9.848-0.756
201+48Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational4693,886249511,37922948,49238857%43%unknownnononono-1.594-0.760
202-103International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●73,801113,957997711,354506431,587,70051,40050%11%Drupalnoyesyesno-8.592-0.769
203-162World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●63,536236,132418432,4421541,1902,535,75912,30080%23%Drupalnoyesnoyes-0.624-0.770
204-28First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●5,7258,096176592,220212105,8664,65070%24%WordPressyesyesyesyes-9.954-0.770
205+16Liberty Justice CenterNational●●1,3692,30122136411144,0401,65044%28%WordPressyesyesyesno-23.641-0.771
206+72Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState2142,575278395092945,5481,25067%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.066-0.779
207-10Institute for Policy InnovationNational4802,572197561,27353357,4562,18091%83%unknownnoyesyesno3.017-0.796
208-66Ethics and Public Policy CenterNational●●●1,95215,547142644,3551103347,1347,32093%65%WordPressyesnoyesno1.769-0.814
209-69Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●8,5806,795140716,2321543919,8564,51077%40%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.956-0.826
210-87Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●9,35210,300123642,6441309228,2351,30054%31%WordPressnoyesyesno-8.712-0.856
211-26Goldwater InstituteNational●●●2,5157,935185612,61184060,7493,61046%16%WordPressyesyesyesno-3.291-0.876
212+8Campaign Finance InstituteNational3633,394220541,123370146,9871,99085%61%Sitefinitynonoyesno2.280-0.882
213-54BecketNational●●●●3,17613,517159653,106151275,4034,27069%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.978-0.902
214-97German Marshall FundNational●●●●●●15,39047,508117759,37343324967,48314,70093%46%Drupalnoyesyesyes-1.316-0.912
215-161Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●64,993176,289548221,16498884924,41642,10082%29%WordPressyesyesyesyes-3.810-0.929
216+2American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●1,1932,908218501,9372111255,4802,08061%43%ExpressionEnginenononono-9.791-0.931
217+56Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState3331,31427334193184,67658898%90%WordPressyesyesyesno-7.806-0.932
218-168National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●33,79773,30450765,0631282649,332,46213,60077%41%Squiz Matrixnonoyesno-5.617-0.939
219+26Joint Center for Political & Economic StudiesNational●●5643,329245682,03971217,432,6181,33086%57%WordPressyesyesyesno12.974-0.949
220+62Palmetto Promise InstituteState2022,16228228289015,0751,12073%46%WordPressnoyesyesyes-10.694-0.954
221+36Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●8514,71225741227152,3511,03020%12%WordPressnononono-7.117-0.963
222+25Commonwealth InstituteNational5103,856247542,302011953,6811,770100%100%WordPressyesnoyesno-0.503-0.969
223+32Cascade Policy InstituteState2687672554289912333,77561277%33%WordPressyesyesyesno1.333-0.974
224+61Garden State InitiativeState12367628515103013,83739063%21%Squarespacenoyesyesno-20.637-0.980
225-51Freedom FoundationNational●●●●3,0374,614174481,6741721,1113,83081%35%WordPressnoyesyesyes-18.251-0.989
226-36Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●1,5523,1811904640021350,43796247%11%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.972-1.003
227+59George C. Marshall InstituteNational2461,024286501,1880344,212,97213785%53%WordPressnonoyesyes-0.029-1.011
228-45Institute for Free SpeechNational●●1,0866,683183541,475121155,7424,21083%16%WordPressyesyesyesno-5.754-1.019
229-56Employment Policies InstituteNational●●7367,204173582,246442172,7171,31095%64%WordPressyesyesyesyes0.661-1.038
230-84Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●7,8004,610146571,602125251,6004,61094%39%unknownnoyesyesno-15.931-1.072
231-3Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●●7863,652228491,34691174,2892,10073%19%WordPressyesyesnono0.617-1.083
232-52International Peace InstituteNational●●●●●4,23522,248180652,2851316332,0376,53084%34%WordPressnonoyesno-4.032-1.083
233+44Maine Center for Economic PolicyState●●3793,9212774961421218,4551,98093%43%WordPressyesyesyesno5.172-1.113
234-74Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●3,2335,101160501,21641210,8842,41081%37%WordPressyesyesyesno-17.489-1.116
235-53Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●5,25720,115182661,9471273249,0468,26086%60%Drupalnonoyesyes-4.727-1.128
236+15Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●7404,540251521,019434114,5052,12070%22%WordPressyesnoyesno3.708-1.129
237-65Institute for War & Peace ReportingNational●●●●3,75233,335172706,24891781,118,16345,40037%17%Drupalnononono1.457-1.129
238-88Center for the National InterestNational●●●1,6168271504268822935,49459793%58%WordPressnonoyesno-21.200-1.151
239+67Louisiana Family ForumState127276306382671310,16828362%20%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.020-1.155
240-89Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●5,34717,242151613,670058240,5705,54056%20%unknownnoyesyesno-10.068-1.163
241-American Council of Trustees and AlumniNational●●●1,3017,051-571,48128087,5022,42060%20%WordPressnononono-5.048-1.191
242+37Forge Leadership NetworkNational11745727910610134848750%29%WordPressyesnonoyes-36.484-1.210
243+33Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational2161,06427655758175372,40463258%11%WordPressnonoyesno4.348-1.237
244+58Arkansas Policy FoundationState345063028580235,68522656%32%unknownnononono-20.948-1.239
245-194Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●107,947440,459518545,68419390412,910,02249,70052%31%Sitecorenoyesyesyes-6.190-1.248
246-172Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●6,35241,003747410,550322591,106,77045,30088%55%unknownnonoyesyes1.236-1.251
247-183Carter CenterNational●●●●●●36,84085,951647711,494403971,452,72814,20069%43%unknownnoyesyesyes-7.468-1.291
248-60EastWest InstituteNational●●●●2,5677,034188581,37137823,0724,83068%28%Drupalnonoyesno-9.281-1.315
249-81Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●●4,35111,590168581,70425423,8071,75047%29%WordPressyesyesyesno-12.778-1.325
250-35Employee Benefit Research InstituteNational●●●1,2526,911215777,09126144123,2353,96078%62%Sitefinitynoyesyesno14.224-1.341
251-94Center for Security PolicyNational●●●1,3703,010157656,2144701,780,81410,30061%23%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.520-1.359
252-99International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●3,51715,876153723,7151422689,0784,33081%52%WordPressyesyesyesno2.219-1.384
253-30Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●5361,62922347629275803,25943568%16%unknownnononono-10.565-1.389
254-17Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●1,1231,5882374179201728,0581,63075%31%unknownnononono-21.457-1.401
255-5Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational2761,3892504725362130,83952083%24%Wixnononono-6.373-1.409
256-152Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●35,91566,684104767,54974256325,0987,44086%35%Craft CMSnoyesyesyes-9.098-1.413
257-130National Review InstituteNational●●●●1,6901,65112736651081,336,91792488%25%WordPressyesyesyesyes-29.307-1.430
258-155Capital Research CenterNational●●●●1,6615,909103575,047432193,6626,57074%32%WordPressnoyesyesyes-8.307-1.447
259+31Empower Mississippi FoundationState1491,05129030252102,40255278%36%WordPressyesyesyesno-9.956-1.452
260+4Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●11,12113,525264673,41014182222,8192,18056%23%WordPressnonoyesyes-11.032-1.500
261+22Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●30772528328190031,1611,33066%26%Joomlanononono-17.028-1.508
262-134Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●3,97910,558128622,13017748,81480658%31%WordPressyesyesyesno-9.468-1.520
263-Center for Growth and OpportunityNational●●●●1,2205,553-394740143,22296993%70%WordPressyesyesyesyes-25.889-1.692
264+17School Choice WisconsinState●●19721128128191121,20410262%13%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.469-1.712
265-34Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●7242,028231465096576,77772258%21%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.627-1.713
266-55Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●3,1975,919211511,03927846,3336,63089%33%WordPressyesyesyesyes-20.307-1.714
267-71Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●1,63611,500196653,0171281144,3463,17077%44%ExpressionEnginenonoyesno-2.203-1.754
2680Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational1843,183268581,01713022,4828,73076%31%unknownnonoyesno4.555-1.826
269-4Benjamin Rush InstituteNational48675265261440614,90897186%57%WordPressyesyesyesyes-19.451-1.942
270-172MDRCNational●●●●●●11,92134,42498723,2754020954,2279,74082%38%Drupalnoyesyesyes-9.469-1.958
271-141Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●9,68632,722130789,55240229264,55535425%11%Drupalnoyesyesyes-2.136-1.961
272-77Institute for Higher Education PolicyNational●●●●8944,522195662,7099208237,5654,37077%58%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.201-1.989
273-27Public AgendaNational●●●4732,163246715,45113353313,37882576%43%WordPressnonoyesno9.320-2.146
274-65Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●●3,85515,328209661,461242131,4294,16050%18%unknownnoyesyesyes-9.898-2.232
275-170Coaltion for Environmentally Responsible EconomiesNational●●●●●2,34217,817105777,19332204340,5002,93041%12%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.160-2.261
276-71Global IntegrityNational●●●●9094,282205611,515166194,8003,00046%6%WordPressyesnoyesno-5.740-2.270
277-63Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●3,2729,012214652,37511111123,8647,87081%50%WordPressyesyesyesyes-10.108-2.275
278-78W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●2,57020,313200723,3122018194,5512,45070%30%Drupalnononoyes-1.781-2.312
279-145Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational●●●3761,927134571,20774048,47275285%23%WordPressyesyesyesno-4.416-2.335
280+17Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational126627297486003144,99087991%80%unknownnoyesyesyes-6.386-2.349
281-45Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●1,3024,1092365790745111,97246631%14%Joomlanoyesyesno-12.615-2.353
282-19Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational110210263463976344,9442090%45%GoDaddy Website Buildernonoyesno-8.316-2.474
283-11Leadership Program of the RockiesNational●●13619727223104001,7519875%42%WordPressyesyesyesyes-32.933-2.510
284-17Jesse Helms CenterNational10362526736285153,34917880%40%Squarespacenononono-18.463-2.562
285-15Political Research AssociatesNational●●118168270563,730174140,7671100%95%unknownnonoyesno-1.734-2.929
286-32Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState●●85424254334030113,29767085%42%unknownnononoyes-12.994-2.940
287-29Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●●1911,365258395422727,20966280%25%WordPressyesyesyesno-22.323-2.998
288+6Think Freely MediaNational33602942078014811387%55%WordPressnoyesyesyes-32.392-3.383
2890Free State FoundationNational42587289383611717,94258177%59%WordPressyesnonono-16.223-3.423
290+9Franklin News FoundationNational●●87902993458014194,7192078%69%WordPressyesyesyesno-24.977-3.425
291-31National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●872202603848621419,50228284%62%WordPressnononono-22.196-3.612
292+8National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●43112300151130264,06118645%17%WordPressyesnonono-41.276-3.714
293-9Families and Work InstituteNational28199284701,694178820,1828841%41%Sanitynoyesyesno16.503-3.717
294-77Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●2,61710,916217661,7231913625,4683,38096%61%Sitecorenoyesyesno-23.297-4.677
295-3Center for International PolicyNational●●●32154292552,3104105119,19316399%99%unknownnonoyesno-9.326-5.246
296+5Center for Independent ThoughtNational28930114600250,0751760%21%Squarespacenononono-36.874-5.953
297+6Institute for Global Ethics National253035181058029,5801100%100%unknownnononono-0.515-6.051
298+6Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●131173045259053581,28874562%30%WordPressyesyesyesyes-15.311-6.605
299-177Center for Economic Policy and ResearchNational●●043,4321227617,001313172,295,09813,50053%20%WordPressyesyesyesyes16.005
300-92Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchState●●020,354208622,669643112,9808,12046%18%WordPressyesyesyesno14.062
301-5Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●089296581,0996638,8642,57089%60%WordPressnoyesyesno-0.144
302-73Libertas InstituteState●●0797229406201416,40786380%31%WordPressnoyesyesno-6.469
303-28Sutherland InstituteState●●01,671275386045146,98969152%22%WordPressyesyesnoyes-7.458
304+3Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●00307623,1533117218,7997,80038%28%unknownnoyesyesyes-12.252
305-14Caesar Rodney InstituteState0398291181640115,61672053%21%unknownnoyesyesno-15.737
306+2Center for Independent EmployeesNational05308280042684%39%Squarespacenononono-47.284

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:

2021 DE RankChangeNameScopeBudgetDomain RatingUnique Referring Domains2020 Domain Efficiency RankTotal TrafficTop-100 Ranked KeywordsReferring .gov DomainsReferring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksPages Indexed By GooglePagespeed DesktopPagespeed MobileCMSYoast SEOGoogle Tag Manager (GTM)Google Analytics (GA)Content Delivery Network (CDN)Domain EfficiencySearch Efficiency
10Federation of American ScientistsNational●●8576,2381866,3231,485,0242191,43117,274,68897,20084%27%WordPressnoyesyesyes27.3835.990
20Prison Policy InitiativeNational7814,027262,153122,36034278443,3257,46096%83%WordPressnonoyesno26.6654.321
30Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●8219,600338,247105,567505923,286,24215,40095%90%unknownnononono22.6382.602
4+2Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●8158,5356368,743748,165236097,965,536448,00078%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes22.0054.925
50Institute for Family StudiesNational736,587566,615107,0731079137,2792,52095%59%unknownnonoyesno21.9964.441
6+5International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational739,8961119,39762,87438358609,8684,62071%38%Sitecorenoyesyesyes21.4543.124
7+3Empire Center for Public PolicyState623,072106,13219,91241255,4054,25054%27%WordPressyesyesyesno20.0271.956
8+5Sentencing ProjectNational●●7712,2031354,60469,87232360698,0711,28063%36%WordPressyesyesyesno19.7103.277
9-1National Foundation for American PolicyNational672,73785172,48094012,17488958%50%WordPressnoyesyesno19.1040.059
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80+39Eno Center for TransportationNational●●671,8851193,15414,533246217,3244,28076%47%WordPressnonoyesno6.898-0.007
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92+5Beacon Hill InstituteNational49971975121,79671411,9351,10048%46%WordPressnononono5.8740.782
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102-12Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●7817,2249038,336125,31236560694,88531,30071%25%Drupalnoyesyesyes4.5690.444
103+169Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational581,0172721843,18313022,4828,73076%31%unknownnonoyesno4.555-1.826
104-61Independence InstituteState●●●552,396432,3487,854233243,8084,25067%23%WordPressyesnoyesno4.506-0.313
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106-18Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●726,4208815,88458,77310155409,8749,80077%48%WordPressyesyesyesyes4.4100.460
107-20Discovery InstituteNational●●●●716,9078714,00127,81911181,388,91513,60082%39%WordPressnoyesyesyes4.3850.483
108+103Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational557582112161,064175372,40463258%11%WordPressnonoyesno4.348-1.237
109+11DemosNational●●●●●748,92812018,79044,129151411,162,3337,97080%59%Drupalnononoyes4.2670.299
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114-23Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●643,648918,74423,4231235132,51616,20055%18%WordPressnoyesyesyes3.857-0.480
115+38Center for Progressive ReformNational571,3151532,43814,199461124,5256,61073%11%Wagtailnoyesyesno3.7500.788
116-17Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●521,019997404,540434114,5052,12070%22%WordPressyesnoyesno3.708-1.129
117+28Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●8122,946145134,536202,359110526989,37920,30078%46%Drupalnoyesyesyes3.6481.097
118+4Independent Women’s ForumNational●●●654,06712210,83422,4303571,888,88814,60083%45%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.5171.015
119+12Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●8233,536131227,141485,5801139932,821,25575,20025%8%Drupalnoyesyesyes3.5151.447
120+35James Madison InstituteState●●491,1771552,24314,23431228,7142,14034%7%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.4210.396
121-10Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●724,8151117,71247,02819251218,06011,40061%8%WordPressyesyesyesyes3.404-0.417
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124+23Center for Education ReformNational●●632,4301474,94111,276974278,5945,59033%20%WordPressyesnoyesno3.1340.478
125-21Third Way InstituteNational●●●●●735,83010415,84157,65912121204,1725,60071%22%unknownnonoyesyes3.0910.101
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127+38Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●672,4641654,95319,89699784,9345,19065%40%unknownnoyesyesyes3.035-0.149
128-18Institute for Policy InnovationNational561,2731104802,57253357,4562,18091%83%unknownnoyesyesno3.017-0.796
129+1Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●601,7891303,54611,02374265,8998,55090%55%Drupalnonoyesno2.9750.583
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131+122Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational561,6792533,6377,086423365,78179575%41%unknownnonoyesno2.6331.170
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135+2American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●716,97013723,51235,3702487424,8376,72069%43%WordPressnoyesyesyes2.5210.716
136+27Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState428941637154,6501758,1613,22059%23%WordPressnoyesyesyes2.4130.173
137-57Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●61907804,1363,8815233628,1701,20049%36%unknownnoyesyesno2.3350.485
138+26Georgia Public Policy FoundationState415821641,7247,2071818,0942,34092%73%WordPressnonoyesno2.3211.193
139-16Campaign Finance InstituteNational541,1231233633,394370146,9871,99085%61%Sitefinitynonoyesno2.280-0.882
140+30Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●703,44217011,46830,03878464,2022,51084%56%Sitefinitynoyesyesyes2.2230.105
141+32International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●723,7151733,51715,8761422689,0784,33081%52%WordPressyesyesyesno2.219-1.384
142-2Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●7511,24814071,213119,82522266396,44118,10053%9%WordPressyesnoyesno2.0991.145
1430American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●8236,050143101,578258,912657452,880,49291,30093%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes2.0670.420
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148+9Acton InstituteNational●●●●●718,6201579,06448,93231823,885,2924,35056%16%Drupalnononono1.645-0.372
149+23Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●8536,204172113,651389,9911699561,896,31572,90072%25%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.6070.001
150+18Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●7313,34216833,609137,551132561,347,66037,30088%19%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.5700.620
151+27Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●7925,039178111,313365,652448524,280,83459,20089%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.5540.893
152-11National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●●674,95614120,27028,853442187,0564,78071%44%unknownnoyesyesno1.5481.032
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155-46Cascade Policy InstituteState4289910926876712333,77561277%33%WordPressyesyesyesno1.333-0.974
156+11Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●531,3441671,9117,28121597,1833,72061%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.256-0.711
157-1Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●7410,5501566,35241,003322591,106,77045,30088%55%unknownnonoyesyes1.236-1.251
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163+19Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState426641829746,898145,6341,55083%60%WordPressnonoyesno1.0870.279
164-56Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState395091082142,5752945,5481,25067%38%unknownnoyesyesno1.066-0.779
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166-37Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●8034,22112979,423166,710597383,350,90333289%40%Drupalnoyesyesyes1.0370.323
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168+16Louisiana Family ForumState382671841272761310,16828362%20%WordPressyesyesyesyes1.020-1.155
169-94FreedomWorksNational●●●●697,043757,01510,8284441,247,95512,00026%15%Drupalnonoyesyes0.931-0.431
170+33Lexington InstituteNational●●591,7602032,30113,321329100,0813,97093%60%WordPressyesnoyesno0.846-0.023
171-19Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●7510,80615218,21580,92818925843,85228,10096%72%unknownnoyesyesno0.821-0.415
172+41Employment Policies InstituteNational●●582,2462137367,204442172,7171,31095%64%WordPressyesyesyesyes0.661-1.038
173+21Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●●491,3461947863,65291174,2892,10073%19%WordPressyesyesnono0.617-1.083
174+1Concord CoalitionNational●●561,8141754,91010,70555690,9574,02063%21%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.5281.147
175+4Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●8340,7411792,154,002223,209497764,286,92528,40080%60%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.3353.055
176-2World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●91199,6321741,048,6681,487,6894922,84113,122,825337,00062%16%unknownnoyesnoyes0.3261.105
177+9Mercatus Center National●●●●●●7612,70018621,15583,482312471,146,72219,70072%35%Drupalnoyesyesyes0.040-0.539
178+32George C. Marshall InstituteNational501,1882102461,0240344,212,97213785%53%WordPressnonoyesyes-0.029-1.011
179+33Maine Heritage Policy CenterState405012124102,9640686,6062,18032%12%WordPressnoyesyesno-0.106-0.463
180-74Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●581,0991060896638,8642,57089%60%WordPressnoyesyesno-0.144
181+41851 Center for Constitutional LawState32336185151921017,72822360%17%WordPressnononono-0.236-0.253
182-75American Consumer Institute, TheNational509901073903,3430950,0353,89097%67%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.369-0.602
1830Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●724,7391839,90521,9912118794,4464,10066%14%Drupalnoyesyesno-0.434-0.756
184-35Commonwealth InstituteNational542,3021495103,856011953,6811,770100%100%WordPressyesnoyesno-0.503-0.969
185+7Institute for Global Ethics National518101922558029,5801100%100%unknownnononono-0.515-6.051
186-59Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●451,3031273,10213,3732781,9163,99067%41%WordPressnoyesnono-0.5470.725
187+1Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●734,26618818,63978,03258272160,39019,80054%25%Drupalnoyesnono-0.590-0.302
188-12World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●8432,44217663,536236,1321541,1902,535,75912,30080%23%Drupalnoyesnoyes-0.624-0.770
189-28Buckeye Institute, TheState●●471,13916112,8107,785214112,26696556%22%unknownnoyesnono-0.7821.800
190+28Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●716,2322188,5806,7951543919,8564,51077%40%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.956-0.826
191-22Alabama Policy InstituteState416241691,0452,8752841,8531,21062%14%WordPressyesyesyesno-0.9710.187
192+13BecketNational●●●●653,1062053,17613,517151275,4034,27069%38%WordPressyesyesyesyes-0.978-0.902
193+16American Council for Capital FormationNational491,1072096381,4684204,38682990%69%WordPressnonoyesyes-0.980-0.050
194+2German Marshall FundNational●●●●●●759,37319615,39047,50843324967,48314,70093%46%Drupalnoyesyesyes-1.316-0.912
195-2Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●7310,00219316,83155,25120881,287,84325,00058%18%WordPressyesyesyesyes-1.439-0.534
196+1Ethan Allen InstituteState323881974362,4331466,1512,12075%33%unknownnonoyesyes-1.5200.610
197+46Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational511,3792434693,88622948,49238857%43%unknownnononono-1.594-0.760
198+1Galen InstituteNational511,365199526966211109,46499273%57%WordPressnononono-1.637-0.652
199-39Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●614,4961603,72210,621339304,1026,09059%43%Drupalnonoyesno-1.689-0.239
200-61Political Research AssociatesNational●●563,730139118168174140,7671100%95%unknownnonoyesno-1.734-2.929
201+6Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●●758,35420720,57137,76514206242,01211,90081%22%WordPressyesyesyesno-1.751-0.688
202+12W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●723,3122142,57020,3132018194,5512,45070%30%Drupalnononoyes-1.781-2.312
203-8EdChoiceNational●●●●662,93219517,00519,511456121,6463,26070%31%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.0060.464
2040Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●789,5522049,68632,72240229264,55535425%11%Drupalnoyesyesyes-2.136-1.961
205+15Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●653,0172201,63611,5001281144,3463,17077%44%ExpressionEnginenonoyesno-2.203-1.754
206-25Public Policy Institute of New York StateState312961813451,482137,58732998%88%unknownnononono-2.2730.414
207-65Show-Me InstituteState●●431,26414215,00911,47611765,7696,02081%37%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.3622.330
208-50Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●8760,819158330,621502,7471581,0772,675,06050,20079%24%WordPressnoyesyesno-2.7380.094
209+48Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●●471,1342574,95414,4210697,5584,28078%51%Craft CMSnoyesyesyes-2.7460.549
210-75Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState30324135119784044,77466792%96%unknownnononono-2.879-0.590
211+17Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●612,9172283,52311,864852304,8734,74063%18%WordPressyesyesyesyes-2.902-0.480
212-14Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational469401981,0432,9730475,5243,41083%58%unknownnononono-3.0640.582
213+13Goldwater InstituteNational●●●612,6112262,5157,93584060,7493,61046%16%WordPressyesyesyesno-3.291-0.876
214-48Ignatian Solidarity Network National487921661,0573,71616139,1413,27087%38%WordPressyesyesyesno-3.6930.191
215+10Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●8221,16422564,993176,28998884924,41642,10082%29%WordPressyesyesyesyes-3.810-0.929
216+18National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●632,60423427,54311,5786271,019,8345,10053%14%WordPressyesnoyesno-3.8151.129
217+7International Peace InstituteNational●●●●●652,2852244,23522,2481316332,0376,53084%34%WordPressnonoyesno-4.032-1.083
218+1Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState303062192011,3770172,5451,13084%36%WordPressyesnoyesno-4.133-0.258
219-167Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational●●●571,207523761,92774048,47275285%23%WordPressyesyesyesno-4.416-2.335
220+26Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●661,9472465,25720,1151273249,0468,26086%60%Drupalnonoyesyes-4.727-1.128
221-19Students For LibertyNational●●●592,33320214,97221,192035194,59832,00040%3%WordPressyesyesyesyes-4.7490.991
222-American Council of Trustees and AlumniNational●●●571,481-1,3017,05128087,5022,42060%20%WordPressnononono-5.048-1.191
223-8Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●591,9222153,3645,6588233311,4922,28095%56%unknownnonoyesyes-5.095-0.556
224+13Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState253492371043510316,69237966%29%WordPressnoyesyesno-5.437-0.350
225+8National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●765,06323333,79773,3041282649,332,46213,60077%41%Squiz Matrixnonoyesno-5.617-0.939
226-49Global IntegrityNational●●●●611,5151779094,282166194,8003,00046%6%WordPressyesnoyesno-5.740-2.270
227+5RANDNational●●●●●●8659,232232286,185881,3702481,7725,267,433121,00089%50%Adobe Experience Managernononono-5.745-0.358
228+42Institute for Free SpeechNational●●541,4752701,0866,683121155,7424,21083%16%WordPressyesyesyesno-5.754-1.019
229-12Kansas Policy InstituteState●●384652171,2534,9670714,7321,72091%46%WordPressyesyesyesno-5.7970.088
230-22Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●7316,84720854,9976,5377633,040,30615,00042%23%WordPressyesyesyesyes-5.976-0.047
231+4Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●663,88223510,46730,883443235,3458,66072%21%WordPressyesyesyesno-6.113-0.652
232+6Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●8545,684238107,947440,45919390412,910,02249,70052%31%Sitecorenoyesyesyes-6.190-1.248
233+33Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational472532662761,38962130,83952083%24%Wixnononono-6.373-1.409
234-4Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational486002301266273144,99087991%80%unknownnoyesyesyes-6.386-2.349
235-142Libertas InstituteState●●406209307971416,40786380%31%WordPressnoyesyesno-6.469
236-7Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●412272298514,712152,3511,03020%12%WordPressnononono-7.117-0.963
237+2Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●385082391,5823,8311431,5001,47064%23%WordPressnonoyesno-7.1720.110
238-16Sutherland InstituteState●●3860422201,6715146,98969152%22%WordPressyesyesnoyes-7.458
239+3Carter CenterNational●●●●●●7711,49424236,84085,951403971,452,72814,20069%43%unknownnoyesyesyes-7.468-1.291
240-4Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState341932363331,314184,67658898%90%WordPressyesyesyesno-7.806-0.932
241+22Bluegrass InstituteNational387692632883,3701954,98512573%28%Squarespacenononono-7.984-0.232
242-55Capital Research CenterNational●●●●575,0471871,6615,909432193,6626,57074%32%WordPressnoyesyesyes-8.307-1.447
243+2Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational463972451102106344,9442090%45%GoDaddy Website Buildernonoyesno-8.316-2.474
244+32Archbridge InstituteNational373482766243,645231,77426581%21%WordPressyesyesyesno-8.5170.613
245+2International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●7711,35424773,801113,957506431,587,70051,40050%11%Drupalnoyesyesno-8.592-0.769
246+21Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●642,6442679,35210,3001309228,2351,30054%31%WordPressnoyesyesno-8.712-0.856
247+1Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●767,54924835,91566,68474256325,0987,44086%35%Craft CMSnoyesyesyes-9.098-1.413
248+13Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●531,3842613,98220,39616112,5624,06089%58%WordPressnoyesyesyes-9.160-0.090
249-22EastWest InstituteNational●●●●581,3712272,5677,03437823,0724,83068%28%Drupalnonoyesno-9.281-1.315
250-29Center for International PolicyNational●●●552,310221321544105119,19316399%99%unknownnonoyesno-9.326-5.246
251+38Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●622,1302893,97910,55817748,81480658%31%WordPressyesyesyesno-9.468-1.520
252+3MDRCNational●●●●●●723,27525511,92134,4244020954,2279,74082%38%Drupalnoyesyesyes-9.469-1.958
253-2Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState333632511,0365,0384435,2471,21090%54%unknownnononoyes-9.5390.091
254-2CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●8215,043252449,865227,869308271,669,00612,00057%12%Microsoft SharePointnoyesyesno-9.5780.120
255-6American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●501,9372491,1932,9082111255,4802,08061%43%ExpressionEnginenononono-9.791-0.931
256+25Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●●661,4612813,85515,328242131,4294,16050%18%unknownnoyesyesyes-9.898-2.232
257+3First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●592,2202605,7258,096212105,8664,65070%24%WordPressyesyesyesyes-9.954-0.770
258-8Empower Mississippi FoundationState302522501491,051102,40255278%36%WordPressyesyesyesno-9.956-1.452
259-1Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●613,6702585,34717,242058240,5705,54056%20%unknownnoyesyesno-10.068-1.163
260-4Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●652,3752563,2729,01211111123,8647,87081%50%WordPressyesyesyesyes-10.108-2.275
261-20California Policy CenterNational●●491,4652413,44312,65113131,2495,11080%41%WordPressyesyesyesno-10.5040.173
262-8Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●476292545361,629275803,25943568%16%unknownnononono-10.565-1.389
263+5Palmetto Promise InstituteState282892682022,162015,0751,12073%46%WordPressnoyesyesyes-10.694-0.954
264-5Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●673,41025911,12113,52514182222,8192,18056%23%WordPressnonoyesyes-11.032-1.500
265-42Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●644,64022323,50328,844170193,8224,47051%18%WordPressyesyesnoyes-11.038-0.292
266-22Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●623,153244003117218,7997,80038%28%unknownnoyesyesyes-12.252
267+18Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●579072851,3024,10945111,97246631%14%Joomlanoyesyesno-12.615-2.353
268+5Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●●581,7042734,35111,59025423,8071,75047%29%WordPressyesyesyesno-12.778-1.325
269-38Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState●●33403231854240113,29767085%42%unknownnononoyes-12.994-2.940
270+7Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational375692771,2421,144035,3682,46054%13%WordPressyesyesyesyes-13.2990.567
2710America’s Future FoundationNational●●411,0302711,3684,35102052,1763,75061%26%WordPressyesnoyesyes-14.190-0.088
272-10Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●525902621311753581,28874562%30%WordPressyesyesyesyes-15.311-6.605
273-8School Choice WisconsinState●●28191265197211121,20410262%13%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.469-1.712
274+9Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●465092837242,0286576,77772258%21%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.627-1.713
275+5Caesar Rodney InstituteState1816428003980115,61672053%21%unknownnoyesyesno-15.737
276-1Young VoicesNational333552753736500295,9351,36067%32%WordPressyesyesnono-15.784-0.403
277+7Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●571,6022847,8004,610125251,6004,61094%39%unknownnoyesyesno-15.931-1.072
278-9Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●464002691,5523,18121350,43796247%11%WordPressnoyesyesno-15.972-1.003
279-1Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●429302782,33758918112,89130691%46%WordPressyesnoyesno-16.0120.014
280+2Free State FoundationNational38361282425871717,94258177%59%WordPressyesnonono-16.223-3.423
281-2Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●28190279307725031,1611,33066%26%Joomlanononono-17.028-1.508
282+4Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●501,2162863,2335,10141210,8842,41081%37%WordPressyesyesyesno-17.489-1.116
283+9Freedom FoundationNational●●●●481,6742923,0374,6141721,1113,83081%35%WordPressnoyesyesyes-18.251-0.989
284+16Jesse Helms CenterNational36285300103625153,34917880%40%Squarespacenononono-18.463-2.562
285+14Benjamin Rush InstituteNational26144299486750614,90897186%57%WordPressyesyesyesyes-19.451-1.942
286+12Steamboat InstituteNational324042981,1741,261073,35574378%39%WordPressnoyesyesyes-20.2810.206
287+3Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●511,0392903,1975,91927846,3336,63089%33%WordPressyesyesyesyes-20.307-1.714
288-24Garden State InitiativeState15103264123676013,83739063%21%Squarespacenoyesyesno-20.637-0.980
289-15Arkansas Policy FoundationState858274345060235,68522656%32%unknownnononono-20.948-1.239
290-131Free the PeopleNational●●355831599471,5780510,8261,20079%41%WordPressyesyesyesyes-21.195-0.610
2910Center for the National InterestNational●●●426882911,61682722935,49459793%58%WordPressnonoyesno-21.200-1.151
292-52Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●417922401,1231,58801728,0581,63075%31%unknownnononono-21.457-1.401
293+4National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●384862978722021419,50228284%62%WordPressnononono-22.196-3.612
2940Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●●395422941911,3652727,20966280%25%WordPressyesyesyesno-22.323-2.998
2950Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●661,7232952,61710,9161913625,4683,38096%61%Sitecorenoyesyesno-23.297-4.677
296-9Liberty Justice CenterNational●●364112871,3692,301144,0401,65044%28%WordPressyesyesyesno-23.641-0.771
297-1Franklin News FoundationNational●●34580296879014194,7192078%69%WordPressyesyesyesno-24.977-3.425
298-Center for Growth and OpportunityNational●●●●39474-1,2205,5530143,22296993%70%WordPressyesyesyesyes-25.889-1.692
299+3National Review InstituteNational●●●●366513021,6901,651081,336,91792488%25%WordPressyesyesyesyes-29.307-1.430
300+3Policy Circle, TheNational●●232033034,04323,093031,29586458%19%WordPressyesyesnono-31.8741.044
301+5Think Freely MediaNational20783063360014811387%55%WordPressnoyesyesyes-32.392-3.383
302-1Leadership Program of the RockiesNational●●23104301136197001,7519875%42%WordPressyesyesyesyes-32.933-2.510
303+1Forge Leadership NetworkNational10613041174570134848750%29%WordPressyesnonoyes-36.484-1.210
304+3Center for Independent ThoughtNational14603072890250,0751760%21%Squarespacenononono-36.874-5.953
3050National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●15113305431120264,06118645%17%WordPressyesnonono-41.276-3.714
306+2Center for Independent EmployeesNational28308050042684%39%Squarespacenononono-47.284

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?

Search Efficiency

Search traffic is matters because spreading good public policy ideas is part of the mission of any think tank.

What better way to spread those ideas than to serve them up to people who are actively seeking them out?

That’s why search traffic has a much lower bounce rate and a higher conversion rate than social media traffic—search serves up exactly what users are seeking out, rather than interrupting them while they attempt to do something else, which is how most advertising works.

Search also positions your think tank as an authority on a topic. When you search for “Florida Pension Reform” Google returns two results from the Reason Foundation at the very top of the search.

This transforms the perception of Reason from having an answer to this query to having the answer. Your think tank can similarly position itself as the authority on your issues of focus by ranking for relevant search terms.

Domain Efficiency

Unique domains pointing to your think tank website matter because domains are the strongest ranking factor in search. That is, among the 200+ factors that Google takes into account when ordering search result pages, links pointing to your site still appear to be the most powerful of those factors.

So, it makes sense to measure what’s probably the single biggest contributing factor to search ranking.

And while search efficiency measures how well you turn your site’s content and incoming links into traffic, your domain efficiency is more a measure of how well your PR team is doing in attracting media coverage—specifically media coverage with those all-important links.

How to Use These Measures

So using both measures—search efficiency and domain efficiency—you can see where your organization needs work. If you’ve got a lot of domains pointing to you, but you’re not doing well in search, you need to work on technicals, keyword targeting, and how you organize and structure your content.

If you’re not doing well in search and you don’t have a lot of domains pointing your way, you might need to work on those on-site factors, but you won’t know for sure until you attract more links to your site.

Most-Improved Sites

Now that we’ve got more than one ranking, we can track how sites are improving year over year. Overall, state think tanks were the biggest winners this year. Here are the top movers:

Josiah Bartlett Center

Given that we’re based in the Granite State, we were pleased to see the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, rocket up the Search Efficiency Ranking 203 spots from #293 to #90.

Looking at the numbers, it appears that new links have been driving much of this gain in search as Josiah Bartlett also rose 137 spots in the Domain Efficiency Ranking from #216 to #79 after nearly doubling the number of links points to their site.

Bartlett also grew their site by 300 pages and has improved their technicals, dramatically improving their Google PageSpeed score and utilizing Yoast SEO, a crucial SEO tool for WordPress websites.

Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Georgia Public Policy Foundation also moved up the Search Efficiency Ranking dramatically, moving 192 spots from #253 to #61.

Here too we see the number of unique referring domains growing, in this case from 423 to 582 domains, which is no small feat in the course of a year, especially for a state-based think tank.

GPPF also added roughly 600 new pages to their site and really improved their PageSpeed score, jumping from a score of 7 to 73 on mobile. In the age of mobile-first indexing, that mobile speed score can make a huge difference.

Show-Me Institute

The Show-Me Institute moved up 186 spots from #212 to #26 in our Search Efficiency Rankings but fell by 65 spots in our Domain Efficiency Ranking.

What explains this?

Search Efficiency improved because, according to organic traffic estimates from Ahrefs, Show-Me quintupled their monthly search traffic. They did this while reducing the number of pages indexed by Google by about 14%, which makes sense as often ridding your site of low-value pages can improve ranking. They also improve their PageSpeed scores dramatically year-over-year, suggesting they’ve been investing in their underlying tech.

Show-Me also grew its number of referring domains from 855 to 1,264. However, that growth actually put them at a lower domain ranking than in 2020, dropping from a Domain Ranking (DR) of 46 to a DR of 43.

Why did growing their unique referring domains by 47% lower their domain ranking? Because other domains grew faster. DR measures your domain’s authority compared to all other sites. While Show-Me grew at an impressive rate, they were outpaced by other domains and lost position overall.

This underscores the nature of competition in search. It’s not enough to do better than you did last year, you have to do better than your competition.

Show-Me has clearly made up for this little slip in Domain Ranking—they grew by 5x compared to 2020 from what looks like an effort to improve technicals and better organize their content—showing that Domain Ranking isn’t everything.

In a world of limited resources, this approach is sensible. Concentrate on aspects of SEO that will generate the largest return. For some, that may be link building, for others, it’s clear that shifting resources to improving site performance makes much more sense.

Sites That Fell in Ranking

While we love highlighting individual success stories, we don’t single-out organizations that rank low or have lost ranking in the last year because we think it’s unkind and unproductive. However, we will point out the trends we’ve seen that have caused some sites to lose ground so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Lost Unique Referring Domains

Some sites saw significant drops in the number of referring domains. This can be caused by natural link attrition as newspaper and magazine sites often archive their older material behind paywalls, so these links are no longer part of the public web and therefore aren’t crawled by Google.

But link loss can also be caused by poor stewardship of your existing webpages. As sites are upgraded, migrated, and reorganized URLs get changed. So an article that may once have been at /2020/state-sales-tax may now be at /2020/03/state-sales-tax, reflecting a change in the URL structure. Links to that point to the old URL need to be redirected to the new URL, or they will result in a 404 error or otherwise not be counted toward that page.

To avoid this, make use of tools like Yoast SEO or Redirection for WordPress to create 301 Redirects that will preserve your incoming links and pass them along to new page locations. There are similar tools for Drupal or other content management systems.

Incoming links represent countless hours of work from your policy and PR staff creating content and convincing journalists and bloggers to link to your site. That sort of investment needs to be protected through thoughtful strategies for preserving incoming links.

Many sites slipped in ranking not because they aren’t improving, but simply because they aren’t improving fast enough. Falling behind your peers means losing ranking in Google and therefore losing traffic.

Remember that getting links from the same handful of sites over and over again does nothing for your ranking, that’s why we talk about unique referring domains, rather than total backlinks. This means getting links from a diverse array of websites is in your best interest.

This may mean creating content that addresses new audiences or takes on policy issues from a different perspective. This sort of practice is valuable in itself, as policy organizations shouldn’t be aiming to preach to the converted and should always be seeking to widen their appeal.

One way of doing this is to challenge others to a debate or create a series of point/counterpoint essays like Cato Unbound or Law & Liberty’s Forum. You’ll end up reaching audiences who might be open to your message but have rarely heard it, and you’re sure to generate links to your site from domains that aren’t already on your list.

Budget Growth

Growing your budget is a positive, but because our rankings are based on how well your site does per dollar your organization spends, big growth years can harm rankings. In other words, if your budget expands faster than your incoming links or search traffic, your ranking will suffer.

But this is a nice problem to have because it means you’re growing!

As we continue to produce these rankings year after year, we expect we’ll see more fluctuations like this as organizations expand and their online marketing has to catch up with the rest of their growth.

Large Groups are Volatile, Under-Leveraged

Some of the groups with the largest volatility in rankings are those in the highest two tiers—those with budgets over $10million per year.

This seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t these groups have the biggest, most diverse portfolio of both incoming links and website content? They should grow with the market like bluechip stocks.

This should be the case, but when we delve into any one of these groups more closely we often see that only a handful of pages are generating 50% or even 80% of their traffic. This leaves these groups vulnerable to huge drops in traffic due to changes in search patterns or new content from competitors displacing their top-performing pages.

Though we can’t say for sure, this doesn’t seem to be because of a failed strategy, but rather a complete lack of strategy.

Large groups pay little attention to SEO and only enjoy the traffic they do because of their incredible link profiles.

These groups consistently fail to:

  • Make their content indexable: By solely publishing their best work inside PDF documents, which are often uncrawable and almost always disfavored by Google, think tanks are ignoring that old Sunday School song hiding their good works from the world. While making PDF downloads available is fine, think tanks need to make their research available as fully searchable webpages complete with data tables.
  • Create relationships between content: Related content like a publication, the podcast episode about that publication, and the video of the panel discussion about that publication often aren’t connected on websites. This means each piece of content is judged on its own, rather than as part of a bundle. Bundling usually helps to boost rankings as it connects otherwise disparate pieces of content and signals to Google that you may be an authority on that topic.
  • Surface their most relevant content: Instead these groups style themselves after newspapers, preferring to privilege recency over all else. This leads to high-value, well-linked studies being buried within internal site navigation, which means they can’t pass along link equity to recent publications. This means recent publications, which are more likely to get searched simply because they’re more topically relevant, don’t enjoy the link boost they might if link-laden studies were made part of high-level issue pages and were used to link to recent content.
  • Build on past success: Annual studies are often posted to new URLs, rather than using a consistent URL year after year. This means that every year groups start from scratch in search, rather than building up study pages with links like IISS does with its Military Balance report, which has been published at the same URL for seven years, accumulating 7,166 backlinks from 1,247 domains.
  • Engage in basic keyword research: Policy wonks use language that normal folks don’t, and that’s reflected in the titles of studies, white papers, events, and even blog posts. Even the most cursory of keyword research would reveal that while “infrastructure investment and jobs act tax provisions” may be the most accurate description of what you’re writing about, it doesn’t show up in estimated search traffic tools. Meanwhile, the cruder “biden tax plan” has been searched 33,100 times in the last month and therefore will generate more traffic to your site.
  • Implement a coherent SEO framwork. Whether its a content silo, the hub-and-spoke model, the skyscraper technique, or some other strategy, large groups would benefit from pursuing some generalized strategy, rather than adopting the post-and-pray approach. Creating an in-house SEO position who works with IT, PR, and policy teams to grow traffic could easily result in a 10x or 20x return on investment for the larger think tanks in our study. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is totally off the radar of these groups.

To borrow a phrase from Lily Tomlin, larger groups don’t care about SEO because they don’t have to.

They enjoy success in other areas of marketing and no doubt have an impact on the policy world, but these groups would doubtlessly expand their impact by taking SEO seriously. They’d reach a larger audience, influence those who care about the issues they cover and inform the wider policy debate.

Over the long term ignoring search ranking may become a deeper problem as Millennials lag behind other generations in both awareness and interest in politics. That may mean that when Millennials do have a question about public policy issues, they’ll turn to Google, if only because they don’t have a deep bench of trusted sources on these topics. What will appear in those search results? It likely won’t be the latest analysis from Washington’s blue-chip think tanks.

This year we also sought to answer some of the questions we get about specific software choices. So, we used Wappalyzer’s bulk lookup tool to identify the CMS of each of the websites we ranked.

We found that WordPress is used by 55% of think tanks. This isn’t surprising. According to W3Techs, a global authority on software market share (with a website that looks like it was designed in 1995), WordPress powers 40% of all the websites on the Internet and holds a 64% market share for content management systems on websites with a known CMS as of October 2021.

Curiously, Wappalyzer was unable to detect a CMS for nearly 18% of websites. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t using a CMS or even that they’re using a custom platform, it only means that their website displays no tell-tale signs of what software they’re employing. Many of these sites could be running WordPress or Drupal, they’re just doing so in a way that can be seen from the public web.

Others Web Technologies

We also looked for other technologies that think tanks might be employing, namely Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Content Delivery Networks (CDN), and Yoast SEO, a plugin for WordPress that provides a collection of search engine optimization tools.

Over 84% of think tanks are measuring their traffic using Google Analytics, while 65% are using Google Tag Manager, a tool that gives non-coders the ability to add and update tags for conversion tracking, site analytics, remarketing, and other functions. Tag Manager also allows those tags, which are usually JavaScript, to only run when needed, helping to speed-up site load times.

Unfortunately, only 46% of think tanks are using a content delivery network. CDNs are networks of servers that are spread around geographically, allowing web assets to be delivered faster both because they distribute the load that might otherwise be placed on a single server and they place data close to the user.

CDNs like Cloudflare have free pricing tiers and are pretty simple for a web developer to set up. Not using a CDN puts think tanks at a disadvantage as their competition is likely using them and could be using the consequent speed advantage to outrank think tanks in search results.

Finally, Yoast SEO, a WordPress plugin, is being used by 100 of the 169 organizations using WordPress. This plugin, which creates an XML sitemap, offers SEO advice inside the WordPress editor, and manages internal redirects, is a must-have tool for any think tank that wants to compete in search and should be adopted by more organizations.

How does CMS affect search rankings?

For years we’ve had clients come to us saying:

Our website is terrible, we need to switch from WordPress to Drupal

While other clients say:

Our website is terrible, we need to switch from Drupal to WordPress.

So who’s right? Is Drupal or WordPress or some other CMS actually better than the others?

Here are our Search Efficiency Rankings above broken into six tiers from the highest-ranked to lowest-ranked websites with the CMS detected by the Wappalyzer bulk lookup tool shown by color:

You can see that WordPress sites make up the bulk of websites at all levels of search efficiency rankings. There’s a bunch of sites with an “unknown” CMS—systems that Wappalyzer can’t detect. And then Drupal is the second-largest CMS in the group.

Drupal is used by many more of the higher-ranking sites, but it’s important not to confuse correlation with causation. Those higher-ranking Drupal sites belong to organizations with budgets large enough to afford a Drupal development project, so their rankings likely have more to do with the volume of content they produce and their ability to afford a large, professional PR staff than their choice of CMS.

Overall, this distribution suggested that it’s not your CMS that matters, it’s how you use it.

Right-of-Center Gains

Last year we showed that right-of-center think tanks lag behind left-of-center and non-ideological think tanks when it comes to search performance.

However, over the last year, that gap has tightened. The graph below shows right-of-center groups in blue or green (indicating national or state scope respectively) and unaffiliated groups in grey.

While the unaffiliated groups are still trending above the right-of-center groups, you can see that the trendlines have moved more for right-of-center groups, especially state-based think tanks.

While this trend is positive, it’s not enough. Right-of-center groups still have to make up ground in the search space so that when users search for laws, policies, and concepts they see results from advocates for free markets and constitutionally limited government.

We Can Help

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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 306 think tanks.

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 gather the following:

  • Domain Rating: Shows the strength of the website’s backlink profile compared to the others in the Ahrefs database of 3.1 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 “Pages Indexed By Google” figure. We used a script that leveraged 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 July 2021.