How Search Ranking Works at

Virtual volunteer opportunities may not be showing at

Lots of questions have come up since my post last week about making sure your listings show up at, the new volunteer opportunity aggregation service (powered by Google) that’s behind the scenes at

According to John Lyman, an All For Good program manager who works for Google, the software is still somewhat in flux and fixes are being made all the time. So the expectation is that more listings will appear under the right searches as time goes by.

However, there are also a few things to know about how All For Good lists opportunities which are unique to their system.

Without overloading you all with technical details, I’m reproducing much of his advice here:

There are a number of different reasons a specific opportunity or two might not be showing up.:

  • We favor nearby locations over locationless listings, [Editor: At VolunteerMatch we call these “virtual volunteering opps”] and locationless listings over far away ones.
  • We favor listings whose start date is near in the future (one hour to one week), penalize listings that are further in the future, and (by default) don’t show listings ending in the past.
  • We favor listings with exact keyword matches over less exact matches, much like a common web search.
  • We favor listings whose titles and descriptions seem to be higher quality.
  • To avoid gaming, we don’t directly incorporate the number of “likes,” clicks, etc.
  • As it becomes a problem, we will penalize people who game the system: in plain terms, as a provider you should worry about the basic things like getting your data into the system, making sure it matches on the keywords, locations and dates are correct, etc.

So like any search engine, there’s logic to the system and the All For Good team is making it better every day.

Virtual Volunteering? Not So Much

That said, for many nonprofits a disturbing finding from this may be that their virtual volunteer opportunities aren’t really discoverable in the system!

As many nonprofits have already noticed, All For Good users are prompted to put in a location to proceed with their search. There’s no way to start by searching for virtual opportunities — which means community organizations that rely on volunteers from afar might not benefit from the activities at and elsewhere.

What’s the impact of this? Well, more than 5% of the opportunities in the VolunteerMatch network fall into this category — that means close to 2,800 active listings.

More than just numbers, for volunteers in house-bound situations, seniors, the disabled, and those who prefer to volunteer from their workplaces or over the Internet, this could be a barrier to their participation in United We Serve.

This also may make it difficult for many of the most innovative volunteer programs — that is, those social enterprises which are putting technology to new uses in service to nonprofits — to find the folks they need.

We’ll keep tracking this issue.