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:

SE RankNameScopeBudgetTrafficTop-100 Ranked KeywordsDomain Efficiency Score Domain Rating Referring Domains Referring .gov Domains Referring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksPages Indexed By GoogleGoogle Pagespeed Insight Mobile ScoreGoogle Pagespeed Insight Desktop ScoreSearch Efficiency Score
1BallotpediaNational●●●3,622,6802,150,47117.5568226,955504184,487,566401,000165511.823
2Federation of American ScientistsNational●●663,8161,042,74028.1328562,4122171,2727,876,45478,200495810.378
3Pew Research CenterNational●●●●●●1,302,5361,429,89512.76491139,1742162,00231,675,60739,000557110.341
4World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●1,809,6591,617,7870.31291113,4924562,2887,637,434237,00056210.257
5Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●1,130,212335,3610.1988131,618416103,493,78832,100363810.114
6Human Rights WatchNational●●●●●●954,9231,100,5446.1338888,2071491,53712,893,716214,00065859.910
7Tax FoundationNational●●●516,786264,38616.7508121,707602221,892,49412,20052669.882
8Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●373,596597,58321.9278138,853226074,298,613597,00075879.729
9Brookings InstitutionNational●●●●●●829,2351,565,4413.8898883,8932791,9158,189,706153,00062749.695
10Council on Foreign RelationsNational●●●●●●627,136723,5990.8548344,751871,0268,038,52548,00026339.481
11Heritage FoundationNational●●●●●●483,992674,863-0.0968350,1971108878,643,94870,40038469.190
12Bill of Rights InstituteNational●●●184,993115,7546.574704,58932131339,8693,5501628.882
13Cato InstituteNational●●●●●●252,507522,3475.5478243,705718627,381,14686,50059918.760
14Foundation for Economic EducationNational●●●●166,763339,90611.7817715,984102255,459,34643,30077888.719
15Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesNational●●●●●●246,662288,0063.9608122,189764361,884,98224,10065838.717
16CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●392,772217,169-9.2368211,331207551,338,40855,40054748.711
17Center for American ProgressNational●●●●●●256,398637,8384.7768443,604916895,190,89647,70043528.683
18Guttmacher InstituteNational●●●●●218,729182,7853.8987917,52750426522,58314,8006378.661
19Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●114,207123,19924.7798218,321335862,723,32814,3004848.606
20Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●282,164407,4291.0238637,8041508852,560,50273,70042598.588
21Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●213,937357,7192.8368225,9401088421,917,06166,8004468.504
22Economic Policy InstituteNational●●●●138,563262,74414.4538125,190576282,526,80713,400-158.489
23National Bureau of Economic ResearchNational●●●●●●191,188798,1108.8688750,2391581,85313,609,794284,00037478.426
24Union of Concerned ScientistsNational●●●●●●158,298212,8866.0768334,198717612,642,53912,40041378.278
25RANDNational●●●●●●255,618651,452-5.9608645,0552361,6168,872,458107,0004558.257
26Migration Policy InstituteNational●●●●102,031172,56911.9687814,417636321,033,88414,60059828.200
27Peterson Institute For International EconomicsNational●●●●●113,246119,8406.4847812,135534401,058,56416,70023678.122
28Prison Policy InitiativeNational51,09796,49226.503757,66525165250,8856,02065788.091
29Institute for Family StudiesNational53,61260,02021.961724,43446070,6852,17025278.088
30Brennan Center for JusticeNational●●●●●94,723159,1025.0077813,80648230787,78017,00049537.895
31Atlantic CouncilNational●●●●●96,224260,4052.1517814,185443101,261,92068,00052787.815
32American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●108,330293,0052.2378233,313616626,573,23784,80028327.804
33Middle East Media Research InstituteNational●●●●67,127120,1257.0747312,34051302,492,12381,8001-7.785
34Population Reference BureauNational●●●●69,343138,04010.2537914,10638808330,6128,32064557.724
35Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●86,348232,5230.2137816,868386849,831,73747,70057647.643
36Center for Voting and DemocracyNational●●●47,73366,15312.922746,52012171232,0886,02031357.605
37Sentencing ProjectNational●●40,17740,04117.938758,25431267686,9161,27039527.566
38New America FoundationNational●●●●●●79,282139,1441.4457912,00533326560,76623,70065827.565
39Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●78,621125,6962.1198015,152110457900,15621,30065817.546
40Center for Public IntegrityNational●●●●49,877191,67012.8797820,867272952,841,57113,80046657.515
41World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●90,247221,6390.2518426,9731441,0573,297,02430,10058667.489
42Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●65,29332,655-2.8127415,6766583,236,43145,00035347.396
43Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●81,549292,0260.3448427,2121718482,723,24645,90053467.391
44Illinois Policy InstituteState●●●●115,642132,86314.694704,0471630500,83812,90055667.381
45Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsNational●●●40,27447,41412.085768,197553254,339,2042,96046617.341
46Independent InstituteNational●●●37,398164,41110.0167210,85942322,259,42722,7002727.331
47Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●61,592108,4852.9588025,271536072,038,7647,66043567.330
48Foreign Policy Research InstituteNational●●34,300100,3907.727685,18213205449,34612,00032387.302
49Environmental and Energy Study InstituteNational●●29,90952,71015.814723,1222111147,2705,8107-7.300
50National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●67,595104,769-6.141754,18313223210,443,93312,90047597.286
51Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●91,826339,260-6.4548535,8841718217,049,71236,30031347.250
52Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●47,823107,6862.355757,28721239222,62711,70051537.223
53Common CauseNational●●●●36,98735,1057.433758,58018185822,16910,80058777.135
54Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●68,233125,343-5.1308115,00884770722,38137,80022237.130
55Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●46,52544,813-2.170736,29811174271,1628,08013177.111
56International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational●●22,83851,43918.112738,29237333808,0753,4005547.074
57American Conservative Union FoundationNational●●●27,4546,9656.843685,221562494,2892,41028257.050
58Student Free Press AssociationNational16,10227,32024.657707,6913995,569,52120,10057727.042
59Heartland InstituteNational●●●●31,02859,2509.5637513,246182191,047,21145,40013177.030
60Hispanic American Center for Economic ResearchNational13,29313,1973.275441,828040232,8277,84047597.003
61DemosNational●●●●●35,43254,0323.644746,76315139984,2948,47059796.999
62Middle East InstituteNational●●●●30,24883,8956.171726,155132972,117,22213,0004456.991
63Project on Government OversightNational●●●27,42465,0137.838715,644785483,9289,27049646.982
64Carter CenterNational●●●●●●54,46063,169-7.290779,18636362784,80011,00063636.966
65Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●32,42992,9940.5287210,102102051,455,56119,10038456.873
66Public CitizenNational●●●●25,26678,69011.7157817,880353171,472,38721,1005986.796
67Manhattan Institute for Policy ResearchNational●●●●●30,97958,2031.620759,738181631,086,6858,52024256.764
68Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●29,115102,0986.0717811,304354571,156,49630,600546.750
69Discovery InstituteNational●●●●23,58128,5646.093726,24741121,491,43712,0005616.740
70Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●21,34175,8119.755737,76381941,536,14819,80053746.728
71Century FoundationNational●●●22,11883,3639.445746,81019232533,5435,27054776.721
72Human Rights FirstNational●●●●●26,68742,7382.784738,488161971,034,80510,60068916.720
73Bipartisan Policy CenterNational●●●●●30,11753,1973.131777,64344214269,2785,87084946.720
74Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●28,09665,3001.133738,45824230742,96810,40024256.717
75Jamestown FoundationNational●●16,14080,86516.2017210,270182171,675,41746,90045576.696
76Mercatus Center National●●●●●31,289109,835-0.832759,876351761,093,28725,1005636.693
77Americans for Tax ReformNational●●●19,98252,8318.966727,951747585,81127,1005986.670
78Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●28,82320,013-4.866703,405068189,0024,92039356.643
79Institute for Women's Policy Research  National●●●18,26933,87414.613767,64138378552,5975,8402246.635
80Institute for Local Self-RelianceNational●●15,65952,45617.769757,31138117457,7359,6408436.619
81Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●19,87645,3496.089713,3225104251,10710,20067726.602
82Competitive Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●21,76275,7344.8437311,005121461,967,89238,20068536.585
83American Action ForumNational●●●18,80050,2117.320724,267856130,8719,5504856.554
84Empire Center for Public PolicyState30,73426,41418.212591,4462560,4114,45067846.538
85Acton InstituteNational●●●●●21,15969,3911.096717,52051793,760,90423,50048596.498
86Center for a New American SecurityNational●●●●19,97945,4533.849736,81116156969,5599,95074686.466
87Roosevelt InstituteNational●●●●17,17831,4753.966714,215695268,5366,54032366.385
88Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●21,31284,7791.384759,00416821958,11228,00065766.382
89American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●●18,54229,6182.537725,6452473514,5726,93048536.381
90EdChoiceNational●●●●17,34724,421-1.621662,485643213,8833,7802246.376
91Institute for Science & International SecurityNational9,71710,39312.801654,070380259,2252,88063526.309
92Mackinac CenterState●●●●37,06281,51916.444704,8985721,933,65129,5007696.301
93Santa Fe InstituteNational●●●●●17,03324,6616.272768,8018794510,38719,20065846.287
94R Street InstituteNational●●●●15,18547,1592.115692,76284147,48010,30065796.267
95Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●19,33546,397-1.469737,53225741,167,69517,70045436.257
96Economic Innovation GroupNational●●●12,48114,61910.294722,911553618,3263,18034366.243
97National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●13,17820,6432.327664,311741308,7463,62021276.232
98MDRCNational●●●●●●23,45835,161-10.196722,8783818447,0405,91042546.193
99International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●26,84666,145-8.318788,642475821,936,13562,9006816.191
100Association of American Educators FoundationNational8,11510,8448.4725991428334,9841,5604476.184
101American Press InstituteNational●●●11,92833,84512.739754,8515210212,8934,53055646.179
102FreedomWorksNational●●●11,41829,7186.863697,074546733,44723,40065766.140
103Capital Research CenterNational●●●11,73122,908-0.976633,599430227,3695,96029346.106
104Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●22,27643,582-8.599755,31962197261,9135,75046556.095
105Coaltion for Environmentally Responsible EconomiesNational●●●●●14,91015,1835.109776,28331180268,8764,20042136.082
106Christensen InstituteNational●●●10,46414,33511.447732,692118095,5353,30056486.072
107Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●13,05226,5420.423692,74276671,8371,40068476.059
108Center of the American ExperimentState●●22,04770,9870.385471,146010202,51811,300--6.012
109California Policy CenterNational●●8,21015,138-7.1004984213476,7365,60032366.011
110Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●11,36230,0184.101703,78510209290,1169,66074726.010
111Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsNational●●●9,90435,9468.381715,1215318484,17013,10033345.981
112Third Way InstituteNational●●●●11,82737,6524.824734,638892308,6832,47054735.974
113Institute for Energy and Environment ResearchNational6,1787,3497.346561,850261266,9602,04053645.974
114Oakland InstituteNational6,20010,1359.195582,51914186,9493,37052685.972
115Institute for New Economic ThinkingNational●●●●●13,29223,977-1.361715,31932451,014,8329,8708115.952
116Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●12,36229,994-6.304642,767543222,7907,10063735.948
117German Marshall FundNational●●●●●14,72332,461-1.662746,81250273391,04613,5006675.944
118Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainable DevelopmentNational5,45813,80416.638632,3611111683,5906,9004475.926
119Institute for Transportation & Development PolicyNational●●●●10,84016,8912.976712,9441583568,2037,29031525.892
120Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●12,35128,256-0.649724,07721162431,05428,5006715.869
121SPURNational●●●●10,27630,4653.851712,8841741138,2885,90061565.868
122Center for Economic Policy and ResearchNational●●7,76641,45318.0607714,703242832,392,30912,10051645.861
123Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●12,3568,665-12.174612,4441319445,7021,260385.852
124Truman National security ProjectNational5,4565,3595.06254879025156,1992,06023245.840
125James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TheNational5,96616,6326.237582,0422692,208,8034,27047525.835
126Food Research & Action CenterNational●●●●●10,80522,0125.573765,40849164197,4242,98054335.809
127National Review InstituteNational●●●●8,9561,694-28.15937478191,361,63313869855.796
128Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●12,60115,456-19.890561,35417431,86070859215.781
129Breakthrough InstituteNational●●6,43011,65813.653704,2114116211,7991,870--5.758
130Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●13,63733,396-2.064776,76723169372,43511,200-265.755
131Christian Coalition of AmericaNational3,8997,48016.349582,42027844,8434,34051575.746
132Arab American InstituteNational●●6,74519,1946.602652,56989664,8715,56033235.738
133Reason FoundationNational●●●●●10,01846,3371.316726,627261252,019,69312,60047685.725
134Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational4,79312,58410.093591,22793348,92984549575.711
135East-West CenterNational5,45922,88818.758724,676354183,096,4119,4906775.697
136Institute for Agriculture & Trade PolicyNational●●6,33943,24912.740715,0219153462,19116,7005955.680
137Center for Democracy and TechnologyNational●●●7,74019,91016.4248111,261273831,292,5745,7805665.670
138Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●6,1019,2856.363648525234788,6651,88047575.663
139Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●10,31444,587-1.033733,57546231140,93419,40065395.643
140Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●9,9048,189-3.860705,75610381,475,3083,27051695.608
141Resources for the FutureNational●●●●●8,96124,0972.639744,98326449214,29112,00062595.591
142Ethics and Public Policy CenterNational●●●6,81842,685-2.142613,2391103327,5586,12062745.591
143Center for Education ReformNational●●6,0788,6191.946622,106771167,9794,560--5.579
144Center for Law and Social PolicyNational●●●●7,38326,7575.033723,6633916368,1887,17056375.543
145Inter-American DialogueNational●●●6,57827,8956.149702,9988142139,45119,3005385.531
146Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●8,8144,469-16.738561,346023244,0473,39026285.529
147Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●5,1429,3732.916601,59574177,6493,00072855.510
148Data & Society InstituteNational●●●6,25820,74310.566744,26210170216,1753,27034455.495
149Property & Environment Research CenterNational●●5,44418,4576.218662,5576112191,3643,300--5.477
150Center for the National InterestNational●●●5,9891,646-20.4394368121969,15737644495.451
151Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●7,41316,650-10.430602,208048663,8365,65043125.432
152Environmental Law InstituteNational●●●●5,97617,9195.408712,37540201232,12313,4006745.378
153International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●7,05816,0420.315713,1049190138,0123,36047535.375
154Center for an Urban FutureNational●●4,25516,85812.972692,028731146,4101,47042635.356
155Smart Growth AmericaNational●●●●6,12519,8656.869745,610114142136,2868,48064425.351
156Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●5,45521,8900.815651,662981151,5522,98027125.333
157Center for Security PolicyNational●●●5,4168,673-1.823635,385356840,2058,9501485.305
158National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●5,6455,650-6.186602,2884311,345,9113,71062765.301
159BecketNational●●●●5,58013,469-2.106642,827251198,9494,220145.292
160Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●5,2813,805-17.931486965105,1732,12049615.243
161Eagle ForumNational●●3,7852,5127.557645,050052744,3353,14062765.225
162Independent Women’s ForumNational●●4,18414,7153.398633,511654721,97121,90029355.220
163Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●4,61310,0860.958644,351339301,8164,770--5.203
164Students For LibertyNational●●●4,6174,941-1.938622,084134207,9114,60041655.175
165John Locke FoundationState●●●10,41027,9877.732572,325035470,18720,0003545.174
166Information Technology & Innovation FoundationNational●●●4,42030,25512.745766,19447158208,3599,87061795.154
167Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●●4,46217,078-5.384612,531843756,6413,430--5.059
168Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●4,7628,119-13.698551,07113739,6311,89042575.047
169Eno Center for TransportationNational●●3,58114,2723.767641,312144014,8535,23058665.044
170Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & PolicyNational●●3,2149,1963.319631,139748129,6072,88041454.954
171Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●3,5324,794-3.626601,9486240374,8312,43056724.917
172Institute for War & Peace ReportingNational●●●●3,80719,2642.542705,65113165533,89439,7005464.865
173Employment Policies InstituteNational●●2,8819,352-3.505561,570445531,0161,25034814.850
174Freedom FoundationNational●●●●3,3953,452-21.098448331619,9102,2107894.829
175Center for Progressive ReformNational2,2247,7421.328541,14356043,7384,74054714.819
176First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●3,6035,657-11.256571,4491878,0002,64025294.783
177World Policy InstituteNational2,16813,26617.551715,67714222573,2984,060364.767
178America’s Future FoundationNational2,1795,613-12.98141871018140,8283,6502534.755
179Energy and Environmental Research CenterNational●●2,3836,306-1.878558391254238,352937814.748
180International Peace InstituteNational●●●●3,37815,059-5.043641,8011011740,0788,85035444.693
181Concord CoalitionNational●●2,1045,7470.282571,478352116,3952,52016214.629
182Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●3,59412,669-8.290651,4671361251,2276,1606174.613
183Institute for Free SpeechNational●●2,2038,526-12.77246885016150,8315,07036444.607
184Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●7,58432,7376.006632,374933169,45111,40062794.600
185Goldwater InstituteNational●●●●2,77610,385-5.227612,34393355,9372,88025294.590
186Buckeye Institute, TheState●●4,9156,3810.92146925214235,239930--4.563
187Lugar CenterNational1,5712,0502.812537925244,63272265774.554
188EastWest InstituteNational●●●●2,8657,322-5.376631,22636133,1585,23062574.550
189Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●4,51716,9743.06947715211120,6012,81041554.516
190Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●2,1322,928-12.6424836631493,3289026294.512
191Archbridge InstituteNational1,3454,422-14.172331192278221764784.499
192MacIver Institute for Public PolicyState3,48914,15812.100491,498291,204,4598,55041524.492
193Free the PeopleNational1,6172,5170.96254332048,2591,20058464.488
194Lexington InstituteNational●●1,95612,375-2.022571,63731796,0173,72049564.479
195Institute for Higher Education PolicyNational●●●2,0596,2707.833692,82815201351,0481,93066834.459
196Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●2,5459,433-4.383642,297754175,4152,2503344.431
197Institute for Policy InnovationNational1,3876,5434.231561,18642963,9452,67047524.377
198Women's Environment & Development OrganizationNational●●1,4874,6337.954631,489611246,1802,050244.338
199Washington Policy CenterState●●●4,26717,5148.378561,530616381,1785,5807294.337
200W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●2,73321,853-3.545702,35015128152,95113,40045474.331
201Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●1,8647,759-11.387511,0161419,0453,45071894.319
202Massachusetts Budget and Policy CenterState●●3,55125,84612.3665589142381,8235,59061724.319
203Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●1,598736-15.0424385804265,0422914454.310
204Civitas InstituteState●●3,90214,11213.847601,20601271,3566,270-54.296
205Global IntegrityNational●●●1,7062,7850.224611,447165488,1853,26067834.284
206Policy Matters OhioState●●3,29824,33210.095521,29851719,4694,54064764.269
207Independence InstituteState●●●4,01115,44312.014602,010230197,6244,6806264.263
208Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchState●●3,59917,27913.747601,667103485,8694,95042354.212
209Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●2,59011,278-15.9516089712268,9683,640-24.197
210Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational1,0254,594-9.33939271282,064341444.189
211Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●2,1003,612-20.1175058726945,1833,71052584.182
212Show-Me InstituteState●●3,13218,4432.29846855115317,8707,19015184.158
213Ignatian Solidarity Network National1,0572,1690.6475181806834,2031,92059684.152
214Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●2,2145,298-10.228642,0509112265,5265,99054614.098
215Employee Benefit Research InstituteNational●●●1,5067,36613.695776,72530141142,2053,8505364.076
216Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational8893,285-1.7114785714205,5073,1403744.034
217Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●3,2038,569-23.536661,3511411822,5052,53027263.958
218American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●1,1741,925-9.021511,242483183,2091,610--3.936
219Steamboat InstituteNational842831-24.96626161045,1335011413.905
220Campaign Finance InstituteNational8253,7093.343551,083362154,2512,05046563.862
221Liberty Justice CenterNational796851-18.79132177143,1133575673.855
222Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●2,5037,2080.544491,137111147,9644,1609123.776
223Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●934891-9.41549570267478,37031042673.761
224Young VoicesNational6011,285-13.9113234002121,7161,84054463.736
225Idaho Freedom FoundationState1,7207,215-1.100383561246,0704,3906243.712
226Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●1,8874,853-6.832364263529,5901,07042443.680
227James Madison InstituteState●●1,8717,3111.182456170957,5252,90039523.639
228Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●1,9407,783-1.561447085861,1272,31047523.617
229Libertas InstituteState●●1,7597,3275.778514461111,7191,50068783.531
230Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational5972,934-14.93837502044,3852,15048553.529
231Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●8361,143-16.141463855534,78662949543.526
232American Council for Capital FormationNational●●6983,286-2.873548232153,83378275793.521
233Galen InstituteNational602713-1.799511,13239112,4411,12068843.509
234Kansas Policy InstituteState1,4275,685-3.674362880619,1901,42052633.506
235Beacon Hill InstituteNational4292,4685.1364893581413,89966562773.501
236Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●1,0533,342-17.0685378745238,2983,090--3.493
237Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●7971,370-6.9845642401432,0951,4304433.451
238Ethan Allen InstituteState9575,706-1.681293311314,7311,74044513.406
239Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState1,2758,476-0.41839345153,6371,23049693.402
240Bluegrass InstituteNational4113,192-11.659354420436,3795,65027293.332
241National Foundation for American PolicyNational4113,19019.142662,116112210,0876462633.325
242Badger InstituteState●●1,24811,7132.5314482121033,5711,08053623.312
243Alabama Policy InstituteState●●1,2343,8230.467435044935,40194113123.266
244Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●1,3668,044-10.265374801734,1253,32062763.210
245Joint Center for Political & Economic StudiesNational●●4762,0989.909661,55812107396,01076953643.165
246Public AgendaNational●●●●6352,1815.910715,20018379302,80648161383.154
247Commonwealth InstituteNational4082,4021.504542,264110753,6001,93085913.131
248Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState9095,7090.8513949627120,6592,52021-3.106
249Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational●●4093,550-7.538471,34202645,852418--3.065
250Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational●●4171,265-12.1294424252729,9825829783.032
251Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●1,0323,9585.0745184953089,0193,440-122.974
252Policy Circle, TheNational3171,795-29.43421620349341161762.948
253Georgia Public Policy FoundationState6622,8150.845374231914,1431,7307872.856
254Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState5522,637-5.85831218013,289938852.651
255Cascade Policy InstituteState5654,1514.3634281912734,5852,10048662.648
256American Consumer Institute, TheNational1932,0654.494518500749,2892,00069772.584
257Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●6374,987-5.59339158061,8156401162.537
258Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●289665-22.398383682637,71334257762.524
259Nevada Policy Research InstituteState5562,5603.853458421445,6092,21046382.516
260National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●●287880-24.9153641221050,70730675912.500
261Rio Grande FoundationState3955,2453.5353637301142,4022,38054662.463
262Public Policy Institute of New York StateState381284-0.39831265146,22322869782.462
263Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational●●2371,339-8.223493534292,59295471782.432
264Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●469645-10.577683,1066178780,12722752652.403
265Benjamin Rush InstituteNational164411-25.48822681410,89150056692.389
266Worldwatch InstituteNational●●2221,08520.3187815,78532564974,316617--2.352
267Jesse Helms CenterNational●●203468-26.15529191154,22811159792.347
268Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational1821,938-13.205405050236,6142,8703332.303
269Maine Heritage Policy CenterState3752,922-3.4573535205277,7301,42049662.212
270Political Research AssociatesNational1632992.506563,789182165,249375912.184
271Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState3613,017-9.208312112459,8218473132.116
272Leadership Program of the RockiesNational148114-28.13426102012,54922256672.067
273Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState326811-6.37535170153,61538399991.975
274Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState2371,098-4.126291671037,3191,3206771.932
275Sutherland InstituteState●●3141,084-4.687375213166,48772964751.928
276Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational●●146963-3.44056761184866,44479637511.877
277Maine Center for Economic PolicyState2812,5411.473423402710,1652,24037571.856
278Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState2272,4084.37640462310128,212722691.806
279Forge Leadership NetworkNational72315-31.30710260013933659721.779
280Center on Global InterestsNational100543-19.3643221001419,21151999991.770
281School Choice WisconsinState●●257305-12.12230166211,09410051761.714
282Palmetto Promise InstituteState2091,069-12.2812597014,623845--1.669
283Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●2191,025-15.058281370398486752671.523
284Families and Work InstituteNational8327517.525711,819178328,86712918211.515
285Garden State InitiativeState142919-12.0251956001,32735059791.492
286George C. Marshall InstituteNational68136-2.927471,181130188,5716825321.437
287Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState1237752.59335256033,79451266771.304
2881851 Center for Constitutional LawState89848-0.79529202017,04417542511.070
289Free State FoundationNational53337-15.9693830921119,45021657831.057
290Empower Mississippi FoundationState106671-9.18727111101,51832858741.031
291Caesar Rodney InstituteState88270-15.205171120121,679429--0.979
292Center for International PolicyNational●●●5761-4.613572,386198246,289196110.875
293Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyState73619-3.670281580111,71772612170.812
294Think Freely MediaNational●●4630-36.2012142012699158760.811
295Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState69299-6.411243220414,65436072860.798
296Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●411184.769631,09666611,1441,21065810.664
297Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational32498-5.651485793154,85887566770.575
298Indiana Policy Review FoundationState47363-1.146261331225,83161955580.530
299Franklin News FoundationNational●●3262-24.8053356915203,4532359520.437
300National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●26166-32.31824760177,45527551620.286
301Center for Independent ThoughtNational17167-38.14310430042,5951953590.152
302Arkansas Policy FoundationState26409-13.87313430358,201210774-0.037
303Institute for Global Ethics National1563-1.44750866587158,307539999-0.075
304Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●22185-11.5955567674439,040685394-0.216
305Montana Policy InstituteState2454-22.0361522201513206141-0.451
306Louisiana Family ForumState1620-0.73336257129,58971391-0.827
307Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●123-8.172653,3664121259,0857,6505669-2.877
308Center for Independent EmployeesNational●●02-53.76513002496184-2.958

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:

DE RankNameScopeBudget Domain Rating Referring Domains Search Efficiency Score Referring .gov Domains Referring .edu DomainsTotal BacklinksTop-100 Ranked KeywordsEstimated Monthly Search TrafficPages Indexed By GoogleGoogle Pagespeed Insight Mobile ScoreGoogle Pagespeed Insight Desktop ScoreDomain Efficiency Score
1Federation of American ScientistsNational●●8562,41210.3782171,2727,876,4541,042,740663,81678,200495828.132
2Prison Policy InitiativeNational757,6658.09125165250,88596,49251,0976,020657826.503
3Electronic Privacy Information CenterNational●●8218,3218.606335862,723,328123,199114,20714,30048424.779
4Student Free Press AssociationNational707,6917.0423995,569,52127,32016,10220,100577224.657
5Institute for Family StudiesNational724,4348.08846070,68560,02053,6122,170252721.961
6Center for Responsive PoliticsNational●●8138,8539.729226074,298,613597,583373,596597,000758721.927
7Worldwatch InstituteNational●●7815,7852.35232564974,3161,085222617--20.318
8National Foundation for American PolicyNational662,1163.325112210,0873,19041164626319.142
9East-West CenterNational724,6765.697354183,096,41122,8885,4599,49067718.758
10Empire Center for Public PolicyState591,4466.5382560,41126,41430,7344,450678418.212
11International Institute for Strategic StudiesNational●●738,2927.07437333808,07551,43922,8383,40055418.112
12Center for Economic Policy and ResearchNational●●7714,7035.861242832,392,30941,4537,76612,100516418.060
13Sentencing ProjectNational●●758,2547.56631267686,91640,04140,1771,270395217.938
14Institute for Local Self-RelianceNational●●757,3116.61938117457,73552,45615,6599,64084317.769
15BallotpediaNational●●●8226,95511.823504184,487,5662,150,4713,622,680401,000165517.556
16World Policy InstituteNational715,6774.76714222573,29813,2662,1684,0603617.551
17Families and Work InstituteNational711,8191.515178328,86727583129182117.525
18Tax FoundationNational●●●8121,7079.882602221,892,494264,386516,78612,200526616.750
19Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainable DevelopmentNational632,3615.9261111683,59013,8045,4586,90044716.638
20Mackinac CenterState●●●●704,8986.3015721,933,65181,51937,06229,50076916.444
21Center for Democracy and TechnologyNational●●●8111,2615.670273831,292,57419,9107,7405,78056616.424
22Christian Coalition of AmericaNational582,4205.74627844,8437,4803,8994,340515716.349
23Jamestown FoundationNational●●7210,2706.696182171,675,41780,86516,14046,900455716.201
24Environmental and Energy Study InstituteNational●●723,1227.3002111147,27052,71029,9095,8107-15.814
25Illinois Policy InstituteState●●●●704,0477.3811630500,838132,863115,64212,900556614.694
26Institute for Women's Policy Research  National●●●767,6416.63538378552,59733,87418,2695,84022414.613
27Economic Policy InstituteNational●●●●8125,1908.489576282,526,807262,744138,56313,400-1514.453
28Civitas InstituteState●●601,2064.29601271,35614,1123,9026,270-513.847
29Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchState●●601,6674.212103485,86917,2793,5994,950423513.747
30Employee Benefit Research InstituteNational●●●776,7254.07630141142,2057,3661,5063,85053613.695
31Breakthrough InstituteNational●●704,2115.7584116211,79911,6586,4301,870--13.653
32Center for an Urban FutureNational●●692,0285.356731146,41016,8584,2551,470426312.972
33Center for Voting and DemocracyNational●●●746,5207.60512171232,08866,15347,7336,020313512.922
34Center for Public IntegrityNational●●●●7820,8677.515272952,841,571191,67049,87713,800466512.879
35Institute for Science & International SecurityNational654,0706.309380259,22510,3939,7172,880635212.801
36Pew Research CenterNational●●●●●●91139,17410.3412162,00231,675,6071,429,8951,302,53639,000557112.764
37Information Technology & Innovation FoundationNational●●●766,1945.15447158208,35930,2554,4209,870617912.745
38Institute for Agriculture & Trade PolicyNational●●715,0215.6809153462,19143,2496,33916,70059512.740
39American Press InstituteNational●●●754,8516.1795210212,89333,84511,9284,530556412.739
40Massachusetts Budget and Policy CenterState●●558914.31942381,82325,8463,5515,590617212.366
41MacIver Institute for Public PolicyState491,4984.492291,204,45914,1583,4898,550415212.100
42Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsNational●●●768,1977.341553254,339,20447,41440,2742,960466112.085
43Independence InstituteState●●●602,0104.263230197,62415,4434,0114,68062612.014
44Migration Policy InstituteNational●●●●7814,4178.200636321,033,884172,569102,03114,600598211.968
45Foundation for Economic EducationNational●●●●7715,9848.719102255,459,346339,906166,76343,300778811.781
46Public CitizenNational●●●●7817,8806.796353171,472,38778,69025,26621,10059811.715
47Christensen InstituteNational●●●732,6926.072118095,53514,33510,4643,300564811.447
48Data & Society InstituteNational●●●744,2625.49510170216,17520,7436,2583,270344510.566
49Economic Innovation GroupNational●●●722,9116.243553618,32614,61912,4813,180343610.294
50Population Reference BureauNational●●●●7914,1067.72438808330,612138,04069,3438,320645510.253
51Policy Matters OhioState●●521,2984.26951719,46924,3323,2984,540647610.095
52Center for Public Policy PrioritiesNational591,2275.71193348,92912,5844,793845495710.093
53Independent InstituteNational●●●7210,8597.33142322,259,427164,41137,39822,70027210.016
54Joint Center for Political & Economic StudiesNational●●661,5583.16512107396,0102,09847676953649.909
55Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●737,7636.72881941,536,14875,81121,34119,80053749.755
56Heartland InstituteNational●●●●7513,2467.030182191,047,21159,25031,02845,40013179.563
57Century FoundationNational●●●746,8106.72119232533,54383,36322,1185,27054779.445
58Oakland InstituteNational582,5195.97214186,94910,1356,2003,37052689.195
59Americans for Tax ReformNational●●●727,9516.670747585,81152,83119,98227,1005988.966
60National Bureau of Economic ResearchNational●●●●●●8750,2398.4261581,85313,609,794798,110191,188284,00037478.868
61Association of American Educators FoundationNational599146.18428334,98410,8448,1151,5604478.472
62Carnegie Council for Ethics in International AffairsNational●●●715,1215.9815318484,17035,9469,90413,10033348.381
63Washington Policy CenterState●●●561,5304.337616381,17817,5144,2675,5807298.378
64Women's Environment & Development OrganizationNational●●631,4894.338611246,1804,6331,4872,050247.954
65Project on Government OversightNational●●●715,6446.982785483,92865,01327,4249,27049647.838
66Institute for Higher Education PolicyNational●●●692,8284.45915201351,0486,2702,0591,93066837.833
67John Locke FoundationState●●●572,3255.174035470,18727,98710,41020,0003547.732
68Foreign Policy Research InstituteNational●●685,1827.30213205449,346100,39034,30012,00032387.727
69Eagle ForumNational●●645,0505.225052744,3352,5123,7853,14062767.557
70Common CauseNational●●●●758,5807.13518185822,16935,10536,98710,80058777.433
71Institute for Energy and Environment ResearchNational561,8505.974261266,9607,3496,1782,04053647.346
72American Action ForumNational●●●724,2676.554856130,87150,21118,8009,5504857.320
73Middle East Media Research InstituteNational●●●●7312,3407.78551302,492,123120,12567,12781,8001-7.074
74Smart Growth AmericaNational●●●●745,6105.351114142136,28619,8656,1258,48064426.869
75FreedomWorksNational●●●697,0746.140546733,44729,71811,41823,40065766.863
76American Conservative Union FoundationNational●●●685,2217.050562494,2896,96527,4542,41028256.843
77Arab American InstituteNational●●652,5695.73889664,87119,1946,7455,56033236.602
78Bill of Rights InstituteNational●●●704,5898.88232131339,869115,754184,9933,5501626.574
79Peterson Institute For International EconomicsNational●●●●●7812,1358.122534401,058,564119,840113,24616,70023676.484
80Association for Public Policy Analysis and ManagementNational●●648525.6635234788,6659,2856,1011,88047576.363
81Santa Fe InstituteNational●●●●●768,8016.2878794510,38724,66117,03319,20065846.272
82James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, TheNational582,0425.8352692,208,80316,6325,9664,27047526.237
83Property & Environment Research CenterNational●●662,5575.4776112191,36418,4575,4443,300--6.218
84Middle East InstituteNational●●●●726,1556.991132972,117,22283,89530,24813,0004456.171
85Inter-American DialogueNational●●●702,9985.5318142139,45127,8956,57819,3005386.149
86Human Rights WatchNational●●●●●●8888,2079.9101491,53712,893,7161,100,544954,923214,00065856.133
87Discovery InstituteNational●●●●726,2476.74041121,491,43728,56423,58112,0005616.093
88Washington Center for Equitable GrowthNational●●●●713,3226.6025104251,10745,34919,87610,20067726.089
89Union of Concerned ScientistsNational●●●●●●8334,1988.278717612,642,539212,886158,29812,40041376.076
90Center for Global DevelopmentNational●●●●●7811,3046.750354571,156,496102,09829,11530,600546.071
91Texas Public Policy FoundationState●●●●●632,3744.600933169,45132,7377,58411,40062796.006
92Public AgendaNational●●●●715,2003.15418379302,8062,18163548161385.910
93Libertas InstituteState●●514463.5311111,7197,3271,7591,50068785.778
94Food Research & Action CenterNational●●●●●765,4085.80949164197,42422,01210,8052,98054335.573
95Cato InstituteNational●●●●●●8243,7058.760718627,381,146522,347252,50786,50059915.547
96Environmental Law InstituteNational●●●●712,3755.37840201232,12317,9195,97613,4006745.408
97Beacon Hill InstituteNational489353.50181413,8992,46842966562775.136
98Coaltion for Environmentally Responsible EconomiesNational●●●●●776,2836.08231180268,87615,18314,9104,20042135.109
99Massachusetts Institute for a New CommonwealthState●●518492.97453089,0193,9581,0323,440-125.074
100Truman National security ProjectNational548795.840025156,1995,3595,4562,06023245.062
101Center for Law and Social PolicyNational●●●●723,6635.5433916368,18826,7577,3837,17056375.033
102Brennan Center for JusticeNational●●●●●7813,8067.89548230787,780159,10294,72317,00049535.007
103Competitive Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●7311,0056.585121461,967,89275,73421,76238,20068534.843
104Third Way InstituteNational●●●●734,6385.974892308,68337,65211,8272,47054734.824
105Center for American ProgressNational●●●●●●8443,6048.683916895,190,896637,838256,39847,70043524.776
106Alliance for Health PolicyNational●●631,0960.66466611,144118411,21065814.769
107American Consumer Institute, TheNational518502.5840749,2892,0651932,00069774.494
108Maryland Public Policy Institute, TheState404621.806310128,2122,408227722694.376
109Cascade Policy InstituteState428192.64812734,5854,1515652,10048664.363
110Institute for Policy InnovationNational561,1864.37742963,9456,5431,3872,67047524.231
111Henry L. Stimson CenterNational●●●●703,7856.01010209290,11630,01811,3629,66074724.101
112Roosevelt InstituteNational●●●●714,2156.385695268,53631,47517,1786,54032363.966
113Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesNational●●●●●●8122,1898.717764361,884,982288,006246,66224,10065833.960
114Guttmacher InstituteNational●●●●●7917,5278.66150426522,583182,785218,72914,8006373.898
115Brookings InstitutionNational●●●●●●8883,8939.6952791,9158,189,7061,565,441829,235153,00062743.889
116Nevada Policy Research InstituteState458422.5161445,6092,5605562,21046383.853
117SPURNational●●●●712,8845.8681741138,28830,46510,2765,90061563.851
118Center for a New American SecurityNational●●●●736,8116.46616156969,55945,45319,9799,95074683.849
119Eno Center for TransportationNational●●641,3125.044144014,85314,2723,5815,23058663.767
120DemosNational●●●●●746,7636.99915139984,29454,03235,4328,47059793.644
121Rio Grande FoundationState363732.46301142,4025,2453952,38054663.535
122Independent Women’s ForumNational●●633,5115.220654721,97114,7154,18421,90029353.398
123Campaign Finance InstituteNational551,0833.862362154,2513,7098252,05046563.343
124Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & PolicyNational●●631,1394.954748129,6079,1963,2142,88041453.319
125Hispanic American Center for Economic ResearchNational441,8287.003040232,82713,19713,2937,84047593.275
126Bipartisan Policy CenterNational●●●●●777,6436.72044214269,27853,19730,1175,87084943.131
127Yankee Institute for Public PolicyState●●477154.516211120,60116,9744,5172,81041553.069
128Institute for Transportation & Development PolicyNational●●●●712,9445.8921583568,20316,89110,8407,29031522.976
129Freedom HouseNational●●●●●●8025,2717.330536072,038,764108,48561,5927,66043562.958
130Center for Effective GovernmentNational●●601,5955.51074177,6499,3735,1423,00072852.916
131Center for Strategic and International StudiesNational●●●●●●8225,9408.5041088421,917,061357,719213,93766,8004462.836
132Lugar CenterNational537924.5545244,6322,0501,57172265772.812
133Human Rights FirstNational●●●●●738,4886.720161971,034,80542,73826,68710,60068912.784
134Resources for the FutureNational●●●●●744,9835.59126449214,29124,0978,96112,00062592.639
135Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyState352561.304033,79477512351266772.593
136Institute for War & Peace ReportingNational●●●●705,6514.86513165533,89419,2643,80739,7005462.542
137American Legislative Exchange CouncilNational●●●●●725,6456.3812473514,57229,61818,5426,93048532.537
138Badger InstituteState●●448213.31221033,57111,7131,2481,08053622.531
139Political Research AssociatesNational563,7892.184182165,249299163375912.506
140Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaNational●●●●●757,2877.22321239222,627107,68647,82311,70051532.355
141National Taxpayers UnionNational●●●664,3116.232741308,74620,64313,1783,62021272.327
142Show-Me InstituteState●●468554.158115317,87018,4433,1327,19015182.298
143American Enterprise InstituteNational●●●●●●8233,3137.804616626,573,237293,005108,33084,80028322.237
144Atlantic CouncilNational●●●●●7814,1857.815443101,261,920260,40596,22468,00052782.151
145Commonwealth FundNational●●●●●●8015,1527.546110457900,156125,69678,62121,30065812.119
146R Street InstituteNational●●●●692,7626.26784147,48047,15915,18510,30065792.115
147Center for Education ReformNational●●622,1065.579771167,9798,6196,0784,560--1.946
148Manhattan Institute for Policy ResearchNational●●●●●759,7386.764181631,086,68558,20330,9798,52024251.620
149Commonwealth InstituteNational542,2643.131110753,6002,4024081,93085911.504
150Maine Center for Economic PolicyState423401.8562710,1652,5412812,24037571.473
151New America FoundationNational●●●●●●7912,0057.56533326560,766139,14479,28223,70065821.445
152Social Science Research CouncilNational●●●●●759,0046.38216821958,11284,77921,31228,00065761.384
153Center for Progressive ReformNational541,1434.81956043,7387,7422,2244,74054711.328
154Reason FoundationNational●●●●●726,6275.725261252,019,69346,33710,01812,60047681.316
155James Madison InstituteState●●456173.6390957,5257,3111,8712,90039521.182
156Hudson InstituteNational●●●●●738,4586.71724230742,96865,30028,09610,40024251.133
157Acton InstituteNational●●●●●717,5206.49851793,760,90469,39121,15923,50048591.096
158Kaiser Family FoundationNational●●●●●●8637,8048.5881508852,560,502407,429282,16473,70042591.023
159Free the PeopleNational543324.488048,2592,5171,6171,20058460.962
160Citizens Against Government WasteNational●●●644,3515.203339301,81610,0864,6134,770--0.958
161Buckeye Institute, TheState●●469254.563214235,2396,3814,915930--0.921
162Council on Foreign RelationsNational●●●●●●8344,7519.481871,0268,038,525723,599627,13648,00026330.854
163Grassroot Institute of HawaiiState394963.10627120,6595,7099092,52021-0.851
164Georgia Public Policy FoundationState374232.8561914,1432,8156621,7307870.845
165Committee for Economic DevelopmentNational●●●651,6625.333981151,55221,8905,4552,98027120.815
166Ignatian Solidarity Network National518184.15206834,2032,1691,0571,92059680.647
167Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesState●●●491,1373.776111147,9647,2082,5034,1609120.544
168Washington Institute for Near East PolicyNational●●●●●7210,1026.873102051,455,56192,99432,42919,10038450.528
169Alabama Policy InstituteState●●435043.2664935,4013,8231,23494113120.467
170Philanthropy RoundtableNational●●●●692,7426.05976671,83726,54213,0521,40068470.423
171Center of the American ExperimentState●●471,1466.012010202,51870,98722,04711,300--0.385
172Urban InstituteNational●●●●●●8427,2127.3911718482,723,246292,02681,54945,90053460.344
173International Center for Research on WomenNational●●●●●713,1045.3759190138,01216,0427,0583,36047530.315
174World Economic ForumNational●●●●●●91113,49210.2574562,2887,637,4341,617,7871,809,659237,0005620.312
175Concord CoalitionNational●●571,4784.629352116,3955,7472,1042,52016210.282
176World Resources InstituteNational●●●●●●8426,9737.4891441,0573,297,024221,63990,24730,10058660.251
177Global IntegrityNational●●●611,4474.284165488,1852,7851,7063,26067830.224
178Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceNational●●●●●●7816,8687.643386849,831,737232,52386,34847,70057640.213
179Southern Poverty Law CenterNational●●●●●●8131,61810.114416103,493,788335,3611,130,21232,10036380.198
180Heritage FoundationNational●●●●●●8350,1979.1901108878,643,948674,863483,99270,4003846-0.096
181Public Policy Institute of New York StateState312652.462146,2232843812286978-0.398
182Mississippi Center for Public PolicyState393453.402153,6378,4761,2751,2304969-0.418
183Chicago Council on Global AffairsNational●●●●●724,0775.86921162431,05428,25612,35128,500671-0.649
184Louisiana Family ForumState36257-0.827129,589201671391-0.733
1851851 Center for Constitutional LawState292021.070017,044848891754251-0.795
186Mercatus Center National●●●●●759,8766.693351761,093,287109,83531,28925,100563-0.832
187Capital Research CenterNational●●●633,5996.106430227,36922,90811,7315,9602934-0.976
188Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyNational●●●●●733,5755.64346231140,93444,58710,31419,4006539-1.033
189Idaho Freedom FoundationState383563.7121246,0707,2151,7204,390624-1.100
190Indiana Policy Review FoundationState261330.5301225,831363476195558-1.146
191Institute for New Economic ThinkingNational●●●●●715,3195.95232451,014,83223,97713,2929,870811-1.361
192Institute for Global Ethics National50866-0.075587158,3076315539999-1.447
193Institute for JusticeNational●●●●●737,5326.25725741,167,69546,39719,33517,7004543-1.469
194Wisconsin Institute for Law & LibertyState●●447083.6175861,1277,7831,9402,3104752-1.561
195EdChoiceNational●●●●662,4856.376643213,88324,42117,3473,780224-1.621
196German Marshall FundNational●●●●●746,8125.94450273391,04632,46114,72313,500667-1.662
197Ethan Allen InstituteState293313.4061314,7315,7069571,7404451-1.681
198Citizens’ Council for Health FreedomNational478574.03414205,5073,2858893,140374-1.711
199Galen InstituteNational511,1323.50939112,4417136021,1206884-1.799
200Center for Security PolicyNational●●●635,3855.305356840,2058,6735,4168,950148-1.823
201Energy and Environmental Research CenterNational●●558394.7481254238,3526,3062,38393781-1.878
202Students For LibertyNational●●●622,0845.175134207,9114,9414,6174,6004165-1.938
203Lexington InstituteNational●●571,6374.47931796,01712,3751,9563,7204956-2.022
204Milken InstituteNational●●●●●●776,7675.75523169372,43533,39613,63711,200-26-2.064
205BecketNational●●●●642,8275.292251198,94913,4695,5804,22014-2.106
206Ethics and Public Policy CenterNational●●●613,2395.5911103327,55842,6856,8186,1206274-2.142
207Center for Reproductive RightsNational●●●●●736,2987.11111174271,16244,81346,5258,0801317-2.170
208Judicial Watch Inc.National●●●●●●7415,6767.3966583,236,43132,65565,29345,0003534-2.812
209American Council for Capital FormationNational●●548233.5212153,8333,2866987827579-2.873
210George C. Marshall InstituteNational471,1811.437130188,57113668682532-2.927
211Northeast-Midwest InstituteNational●●567611.877184866,4449631467963751-3.440
212Maine Heritage Policy CenterState353522.21205277,7302,9223751,4204966-3.457
213Employment Policies InstituteNational●●561,5704.850445531,0169,3522,8811,2503481-3.505
214W.E. Upjohn InstituteNational●●●●●702,3504.33115128152,95121,8532,73313,4004547-3.545
215Foreign Policy AssociationNational●●●601,9484.9176240374,8314,7943,5322,4305672-3.626
216Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyState281580.8120111,717619737261217-3.670
217Kansas Policy InstituteState362883.5060619,1905,6851,4271,4205263-3.674
218Americans for Prosperity FoundationNational●●●●●705,7565.60810381,475,3088,1899,9043,2705169-3.860
219Rhode Island Center for Freedom and ProsperityState291671.9321037,3191,0982371,320677-4.126
220Center for Strategic and Budgetary AssessmentsNational●●●●642,2974.431754175,4159,4332,5452,250334-4.383
221Center for International PolicyNational●●●572,3860.875198246,289615719611-4.613
222Sutherland InstituteState●●375211.9283166,4871,0843147296475-4.687
223Young America’s FoundationNational●●●●●703,4056.643068189,00220,01328,8234,9203935-4.866
224International Peace InstituteNational●●●●641,8014.6931011740,07815,0593,3788,8503544-5.043
225Aspen InstituteNational●●●●●●8115,0087.13084770722,381125,34368,23337,8002223-5.130
226Goldwater InstituteNational●●●●612,3434.59093355,93710,3852,7762,8802529-5.227
227EastWest InstituteNational●●●●631,2264.55036133,1587,3222,8655,2306257-5.376
228Pacific Research InstituteNational●●●●612,5315.059843756,64117,0784,4623,430---5.384
229Georgia Center for OpportunityState●●391582.537061,8154,987637640116-5.593
230Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy StudiesNational485790.5753154,858498328756677-5.651
231Pelican Institute for Public PolicyState312182.651013,2892,63755293885-5.858
232RANDNational●●●●●●8645,0558.2572361,6168,872,458651,452255,618107,000455-5.960
233National Center for State CourtsNational●●●●●●754,1837.28613223210,443,933104,76967,59512,9004759-6.141
234National Right to Work Legal Defense & Education Foundation Inc.National●●●●602,2885.3014311,345,9115,6505,6453,7106276-6.186
235Pacific Legal FoundationNational●●●●●642,7675.948543222,79029,99412,3627,1006373-6.304
236Oklahoma Foundation for ExcellenceState351701.975153,6158113263839999-6.375
237Virginia Institute for Public PolicyState243220.7980414,654299693607286-6.411
238Pew Charitable TrustsNational●●●●●●8535,8847.2501718217,049,712339,26091,82636,3003134-6.454
239Beacon Center of TennesseeState●●364263.6803529,5904,8531,8871,0704244-6.832
240Free To Choose NetworkNational●●●564243.45101432,0951,3707971,430443-6.984
241California Policy CenterNational●●498426.01113476,73615,1388,2105,6003236-7.100
242Carter CenterNational●●●●●●779,1866.96636362784,80063,16954,46011,0006363-7.290
243Institute for the Analysis of Global SecurityNational●●471,3423.06502645,8523,550409418---7.538
244Federalist SocietyNational●●●●●653,366-2.8774121259,0852317,6505669-8.172
245Pinchot Institute for ConservationNational●●493532.4324292,5921,3392379547178-8.223
246Natural Resource Governance InstituteNational●●●●●651,4674.6131361251,22712,6693,5946,160617-8.290
247International Food Policy Research InstituteNational●●●●●●788,6426.191475821,936,13566,14526,84662,900681-8.318
248Vera Institute of JusticeNational●●●●●●755,3196.09562197261,91343,58222,2765,7504655-8.599
249American Foreign Policy CouncilNational●●511,2423.936483183,2091,9251,1741,610---9.021
250Empower Mississippi FoundationState271111.031101,5186711063285874-9.187
251Platte Institute for Economic ResearchState312112.1162459,8213,017361847313-9.208
252CFA InstituteNational●●●●●●8211,3318.711207551,338,408217,169392,77255,4005474-9.236
253Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, TheNational392714.189282,0644,5941,02534144-9.339
254Center for the Study of the Presidency and CongressNational●●495703.761267478,3708919343104267-9.415
255MDRCNational●●●●●●722,8786.1933818447,04035,16123,4585,9104254-10.196
256Center for International Private EnterpriseNational●●●●●642,0504.0989112265,5265,2982,2145,9905461-10.228
257Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsState●●374803.2101734,1258,0441,3663,3206276-10.265
258Atlas NetworkNational●●●●●602,2085.432048663,83616,6507,4135,6504312-10.430
259Freedom ForumNational●●●●●●683,1062.4036178780,1276454692275265-10.577
260First Liberty InstituteNational●●●●571,4494.7831878,0005,6573,6032,6402529-11.256
261Arab Gulf States Institute in WashingtonNational●●●511,0164.3191419,0457,7591,8643,4507189-11.387
262Institute for Sustainable Communities, Advocay & LeadershipNational●●●●55676-0.21674439,04018522685394-11.595
263Bluegrass InstituteNational354423.3320436,3793,1924115,6502729-11.659
264Garden State InitiativeState19561.492001,3279191423505979-12.025
265School Choice WisconsinState●●301661.714211,0943052571005176-12.122
266Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-InternationalNational●●442423.03252729,9821,265417582978-12.129
267Institute for Humane StudiesNational●●●●●612,4445.8521319445,7028,66512,3561,26038-12.174
268Palmetto Promise InstituteState25971.669014,6231,069209845---12.281
269Freedoms Foundation at Valley ForgeNational●●●483664.51231493,3282,9282,132902629-12.642
270Institute for Free SpeechNational●●468854.607016150,8318,5262,2035,0703644-12.772
271America’s Future FoundationNational418714.755018140,8285,6132,1793,650253-12.981
272Nonproliferation Policy Education CenterNational405052.3030236,6141,9381822,870333-13.205
273Berggruen InstituteNational●●●●551,0715.04713739,6318,1194,7621,8904257-13.698
274Arkansas Policy FoundationState1343-0.0370358,20140926210774-13.873
275Young VoicesNational323403.73602121,7161,2856011,8405446-13.911
276Archbridge InstituteNational331194.499227824,4221,3452176478-14.172
277Energy & Environment Legal InstituteNational375023.529044,3852,9345972,1504855-14.938
278Institute for Religion And DemocracyNational●●438584.31004265,0427361,598291445-15.042
279Wyoming Liberty GroupState●●281371.523039841,0252198675267-15.058
280Caesar Rodney InstituteState171120.9790121,67927088429---15.205
281Center for Financial InclusionNational●●●●●608974.19712268,96811,2782,5903,640-2-15.951
282Free State FoundationNational383091.05721119,450337532165783-15.969
283Maureen and Mike Mansfield FoundationNational●●●463853.5265534,7861,1438366294954-16.141
284Leadership InstituteNational●●●●●561,3465.529023244,0474,4698,8143,3902628-16.738
285Potomac Institute for Policy StudiesNational●●●●●537873.49345238,2983,3421,0533,090---17.068
286Foundation for Government AccountabilityNational●●●●486965.2435105,1733,8055,2812,1204961-17.931
287Liberty Justice CenterNational321773.855143,113851796357567-18.791
288Center on Global InterestsNational322101.77001419,2115431005199999-19.364
289Charles Koch InstituteNational●●●●●561,3545.78117431,86015,45612,6017085921-19.890
290Fund for American Studies, TheNational●●●●●505874.18226945,1833,6122,1003,7105258-20.117
291Center for the National InterestNational●●●436815.45121969,1571,6465,9893764449-20.439
292Freedom FoundationNational●●●●448334.8291619,9103,4523,3952,210789-21.098
293Montana Policy InstituteState15222-0.451015135424206141-22.036
294Mountain States Legal FoundationNational●●383682.5242637,7136652893425776-22.398
295Institute for Defense AnalysisNational●●●●●●661,3513.9581411822,5058,5693,2032,5302726-23.536
296Franklin News FoundationNational●●335690.43715203,4536232235952-24.805
297National Institute for Public PolicyNational●●●364122.50021050,7078802873067591-24.915
298Steamboat InstituteNational261613.905045,133831842501141-24.966
299Benjamin Rush InstituteNational22682.3891410,8914111645005669-25.488
300Jesse Helms CenterNational●●291912.347154,2284682031115979-26.155
301Leadership Program of the RockiesNational261022.067012,5491141482225667-28.134
302National Review InstituteNational●●●●374785.796191,361,6331,6948,9561386985-28.159
303Policy Circle, TheNational21622.948034931,7953174116176-29.434
304Forge Leadership NetworkNational10261.77900139315723365972-31.307
305National Tax Limitation CommitteeNational●●24760.2860177,455166262755162-32.318
306Think Freely MediaNational●●21420.811012693046915876-36.201
307Center for Independent ThoughtNational10430.1520042,59516717195359-38.143
308Center for Independent EmployeesNational●●13-2.95800242096184-53.765

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 issues 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. Update: The site audit tool is part of Ahrefs webmaster tools, which is now free.

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

Want to improve your web marketing game? Call us for a free 20-minute consultation. We can help you identify the problems you should address to create the biggest return on investment.

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

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.