Adventure’s with Google’s New Philanthropy Search Engine

Google Custom Search (Logo)Here’s a quick news alert to make your lives a little easier. Did you know that Google has a new customized search engine for philanthropy? Let’s test it out.

Testing Google’s Philanthropy Search Engine

As an experiment, I type “Jewish” into the philanthropy search engine for the following top five hits:

Not a bad haul, although in the future, I’d like to see a Jewish philanthropy blog getting big hits on the first page. The first blog hit is Philanthropy 2173 at #7. The JTA’s Fundermentalist, authored by Jacob Berkman, comes in as the first Jewish blog reference at a respectable #8, having been scooped by The Chronicle of Philanthropy for last weeks’ coverage of the 2009 Jewish Funder’s Network conference. This, however, does not meet my criterion for an independent blog hit, “independent” meaning a blog not connected to a foundation, and “hit,” meaning a link to the blog itself. So I keep scrolling.

—– What a Cliff Hanger. Read on to Find Out If a Jewish Blog Makes Google Philanthropy’s Top Hit List —–

Bullseye (Credited to Axel Buhrmann via Flickr)I find myself mentioned on page 6 at #54. One of my very first posts was picked up by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, giving me a nice boost at the beginning of my blogging career. The article in question is titled, “The Nonprofit Employees Top 5 List of Must Haves in the Workplace.” It’s still one of my favorites.

I go all the way through to the last entry at 13 pages and 121 hits. The Jewish blogs that I expect to see are not there. Is is because we aren’t getting the hits overall to our websites to warrant high Google marks or are we not using search engine optimization to the fullest?

Continuing my experiment, I type in “Jewish philanthropy blogs,” which I figure is a no-brainer. “Philanthropy” appears in my name, as well as eJewishPhilanthropy’s, and is in the URL of the Fundermentalist. Curiously, 8 pages and 72 hits later, I come up empty.

Do We Get Repeat Results on

I move on to to see if my results from Google Philanthropy and regular Google align. Typing in “Jewish Philanthropy,” gets me the top five hits:


From this exercise, I see that in terms of search engine optimization, the gauntlet has been laid. If Jewish philanthropy blogs do not come up under a simple eponymous search, we must be doing something wrong. I pledge to myself to review my findings of top Jewish philanthropy hits and determine what can be done to move The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy higher in the rankings to get the attention of those who seek its resources.

Hat tip to Sean Stannard-Stockton of Tactical Philanthropy for his Twittered tweet that lead me on this search. I look forward to writing to you about my first week of Twittering in the near future.



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29 Responses to Adventure’s with Google’s New Philanthropy Search Engine

  1. Dan says:


    re your search: you also need to realize it depends on your own browser, your ip, geographic area etc.

    If you want a more complete picture, you need to do both of the following: check on two different browsers in at least three very separate places – i.e. Explorer and Mozilla; Israel, Massachusetts, Illinois.

    As an example, when I was in Boston a few months ago, CJP was at the top of my search results on both Mozilla and Safari.

    More interesting, I was at a client on the other side of Jerusalem (from where I live) recently. They use IE and the search results for Jewish philanthropy showed minor differences with my results on Mozilla an hour apart.

    Were any of these significant? Statistically no – but when playing to an international audience you need to realize they may not see exactly what you do.

    Shavuah tov,

    • Maya Norton says:

      Thanks, Dan. I didn’t realize that geography was taken into the metrics of Google’s ranking system, but when you explain it like that, it make sense that they are. Interesting example.

      Hope you are well. All the best and Shavua Tov,

      ~ Maya

  2. Dan says:

    Google’s ranking system considers if you search for kosher bakeries and your IP address indicates New York, the top results will not be in LA.

    Hence, the CJP example I mentioned. BTW, when I did some checking in December (via a NYC IP address) neither your site or mine were on the 1st page. As they say in retail, location, location, location.

  3. philanthropy411 says:

    Thanks – this is very interesting. Do we know anything more about how google narrows the field of philanthropy for this search? When I type “philanthropy consultant” in the regular google search, my firm comes up as the first hit. However, when I type the same thing in the google philanthropy search, we don’t appear anywhere. In fact, when I type our full business name “Putnam Community Investment Consulting” our website still does not come up!! Yikes! — Kris Putnam-Walkerly

    • Maya Norton says:

      Kris, the fact that Putnam didn’t come up on your searches shows that there’s a glitch in the system. That just doesn’t make sense. There’s no question that you should be able to find something that you are specifically looking for, regardless of all the other details. Similarly, when I searched under “Jewish philanthropy blogs,” I should have come up with a clear cut list– although searching for information via blogs is always problematic. There isn’t a search engine that can do this yet.

      Thanks for connecting with me on Twitter. One way to get your blog started with content is to tweak the information you already have available. For instance, see if there is anything in your newsletters that you are willing to re-print to get started. The formatting you use is already very blog-like, with easy to read formatting, highly digestible content, and links. (Reference to one particularly transferable example is your newsletter on youth philanthropy:

      Let me know if I can be of service in helping you get started. It’s a real high to communicate your ideas and ideals through this flexible medium.

      ~ Maya

  4. Dan says:

    “Do we know anything more about how google narrows the field of philanthropy for this search?”

    I wish. That, and the formula for Coca-Cola, are probably two of the biggest trade secrets in the world.

    • Maya Norton says:

      “I wish. That, and the formula for Coca-Cola, are probably two of the biggest trade secrets in the world.”

      It’s the lack of consistency between and Google Philanthropy that make it especially confusing.

      As for the formula for Coca-Cola, I’ll take the kosher for Passover recipe.

      • Dan says:

        It’s easily available in JTown year round (the bottles, not the recipe).
        Now Barton’s Chocolates, that’s another story.

        • Maya Norton says:

          Looks like it’s time for a visit then. (Although I admit that I’m not familiar with Barton’s.)

          Responding to your other comments shortly, am just checking on some background info as to what information is available on the custom searches.

          Dan, are you on Twitter? And how come you aren’t using your eJewishPhilanthropy logo? It looks great.

          ~ Maya

  5. Dan says:

    Just to further confuse the issue, (using Safari) I just typed both Jewish and Jewish philanthropy into Google’s new philanthropy search engine. Top 5:

    Fun and games!!

  6. Thanks Maya! Your suggestion to “borrow” previous content from my newsletters is exactly what I am doing. I have 3 draft blogs so far. Glad to hear that is not considered bad blogging behavior!! I really like the clean organization of your blog site, and modeled mine on yours. I think the “design” aspect of this is a bit challenging, but I am getting the hang of it. I look forward to staying in touch. — Kris Putnam-Walkerly

    • Maya Norton says:

      Kris, definitely not bad blogging behavior. Bloggers thrive on working with content at whatever stage in order to try to perfect the clarity and precision of their message.

      I’m really glad you like the organization of the blog. People do tell me that, but it drives me a little crazy after working with it for some time. The outside gray columns are nice on the eye, but I wish the central column allowed for more flexibility. (Of course I’m grateful to WordPress for such a nice set of templates in general.)

      My advice is to start simple, WordPress has some great templates to help you do this, and then get a designer to do some tweaking. It’s simple to do with a little bit of financial investment– and for a professional blog, more than worth the time and effort it will take.

      Can’t wait to see your new blog. Drop me a line about it. Also, once you get comfortable, I’d welcome a guest post on the successes and challenges of starting a philanthropy blog. Let me know if you’re interested.

      ~ Maya

    • Maya Norton says:

      Kris, another suggestion to get you going.

      Darren Rowse over at is having a “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” series. It’s is third time he’s done it and the first two have been triumphant successes. He opened the series yesterday and already have over 1,000 people signed up. Darren is known as one of the best bloggers out there and he is incredibly adept at transferring his knowledge and expertise. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

      Let me know if you’d like samples of really good blogs to look at as you are thinking about starting your own. I’m happy to oblige and can name 5 excellent and 5 really good ones off the top of my head. Once I had decided I wanted to blog, but before I started blogging, I did a ton of research, and can definitively say that nothing has been more helpful to me since.

      Okay, I have a tendency to gush when I get excited about these things. I’ll stop, but please do let me know if I can be of help in any way.

      ~ Maya

  7. Dan says:

    You don’t know Bartons – what is/was the kosher chocolate of choice in Mass when you were growing up?

    Haven’t (yet) given in to Twitter. Perhaps someday.

    • Maya Norton says:

      “You don’t know Bartons – what is/was the kosher chocolate of choice in Mass when you were growing up?”

      If you can believe it, I didn’t know anyone personally who kept kosher– so I don’t know.

      As to Twitter, I had dismissed it myself as another web application designed to do something that I didn’t need, and then I read a series of posts on it by a blogger I really respect, and decided to try it out. Now I’m hooked. A post on my initial dealings with twittering is at the top of the queue. But, it’s important to note that I do it on the web, not on a phone, which makes for an entirely different experience, as I understand it.

  8. Tony Wang says:

    Hi Maya et al,

    I’m glad all of you have taken an interest to the new Philanthropy Search Engine – I happen to be its original architect. Sorry if there was some confusion – I’m actually not a Google employee (and this search engine is not an official Google product) but a research associate at Blueprint Research & Design, a philanthropy consulting firm.

    The search engine was created as a tool for a client project and then released in response to Sean’s post about the role of knowledge in philanthropy. As of right now, it’s still very much a work in progress and only has a limited number of philanthropy sites in its index – hence why this blog and Putnam Consulting may not come up in the search results. The initial tool was created with my limited knowledge of the philanthropy universe (I’ve only been in this space for a little over a year now) and Sean and I are brainstorming ways to create a more robust tool.

    Here’s my question: what sites would you have indexed in the philanthropy search engine? Currently, it indexes 193 sites, from an arbitrary selection of sources – compiled mainly from lists available from the Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations. I’d like to see the search engine become more useful as an index of everything in the world of philanthropy, but there needs to be a process for determining which sites should be included and which should not and I’m not exactly sure what that entails. Would love to have your thoughts and your feedback – thanks!

    • Maya Norton says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Tony. Let me think about your question. Maybe I’ll pose it to my readers. I’ve done some googling (ironically) on custom search engines and how they work. Can you lend anymore insight that might allow us to better answer your question?

      ~ Maya

      • Tony Wang says:

        Hi Maya,

        YouTube has some great videos on how to setup a Google Custom Search Engine (Google CSE). Here’s one that I found useful:

        I guess the heart of my question is this: what criteria should I use to determine whether sites should be indexed or not? Dan’s suggestion below is a good one – but even gleaning lists from sites like alltop (and in other cases, the Council on Foundations and Foundation Center) runs into a larger issue: the objectivity and exhaustiveness of 3rd party lists may not be high enough, necessitating the need for (pardon my business terminology) a more reliable supply chain of indexed sites. Currently, people have emailed me with suggestions, and I decide whether a site should be included or not (so far, I haven’t had to say no to anyone), but that seems far from the ideal.

        If this search engine does actually take off and becomes more widely used, it would seem that a clear set of established criteria should be used to determine which sites should be indexed and which sites should not. If you or your readers have thoughts on that topic or have any comments/suggestions for the search engine more generally, I would be more than happy to hear them.


        • Maya Norton says:

          Dear Tony,

          A follow-up to our discussion. A commenter below asked for the link to Google’s Philanthropy search engine, which I seem to have forgotten in the post. Now I’m having difficulty finding it myself (ironically, via Google, but also via Bing). Can you please redirect me?


          ~ Maya

  9. Dan says:


    As a starting point take a look at for sites to look at. You can also connect with me offline if you’d like (Lucy has my contact details).


  10. Courtney says:

    You’re back! Hooray!!

  11. Spirit says:

    What google philanthropy search engine?

    • Maya Norton says:

      Perfect. Thanks, Tony.

      By the way, from one blogger to another, I’d like to your blog, but find the colors of the text, background, and hotlinks hard to read.

      ~ Maya

  12. WiiBrew says:

    Hi, Just thought I’d let you know your blog is displaying weird in my K-melleon browser. Looks good from what I can see though.

  13. You can definitely see your skills in the article you write.

    The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how
    they believe. All the time go after your heart.

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