The Year in Review
Assessing the Best SEO companies in Ireland for 2020 should start by reviewing the year as this was an extraordinarily difficult year for many companies and a year where on-line was no longer just a ‘nice to have’.
Many businesses suffered losses in Revenue, staff reduction and even closures not only in Ireland but throughout the world in 2020. This was especially true for high street businesses where footfall is vital for sales and lockdown restrictions coupled with a fear of COVID-19 had a big impact on the customer base for many of these companies.
On the other end of the scale, revenues soared for many established online businesses as purchases, that typically would have gone to high-street companies, moved to these on-line companies. For example, Amazon Sales shot up and Amazon reported Net sales of €96 Billion for the third quarter of 2020 which is a huge 37% increase over the same period in 2019 (Forbes).
If ever there was a time to be on-line, 2020 was it. Governments recognised this need and offered a range of grants and information services to help companies get online. Many companies leapt on the opportunity of improving sales through online trading and took advantage of any available grants and services offered by the Digital Services sector.
Never was this sector more important than in 2020 as companies specialising in design, development, digital marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, hosting and other on-line services struggled to meet the demand.
The start of 2021 is not much different. While there is light at the end of the tunnel, there still is some way to go before things return to the ‘New Normal’. There still are opportunities for companies increase their on-line presence and to trade online, there still are grants and there still is pressure on the Digital Services sector to meet the demand.
It is important to embrace the fact that there will be a ‘New Normal’ and that things will never be the same. More people will work from home; more people will buy online; more companies will compete across borders. This should be seen as an opportunity for not only the digital community but for all other sectors that need to boost their sales.
This ‘Best SEO in Ireland’ assessment should encourage companies in the digital space to grow their customer base; should help companies understand the opportunities available to them and help these companies to realise their potential through the online services that they can offer.
The purpose of this analysis
Every year we evaluate performance in order to reflect on what SEO / Digital companies have done in the past year, as a means of revealing what is happening in the competitive space and as a way of identifying and exploring new and exciting opportunities.
This assessment follows on from our best-seo-in-ireland-2018 and best-seo-in-ireland-2019 reports. The approach to measuring SEO performance is much the same as it was in the previous years with a few small improvements like the inclusion of lead generation, competitor assessment and technical contribution.
What makes an effective SEO company?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is continually improving and evolving as Search Algorithms change. The boundaries between design, development, content writing, page optimisation and even security are becoming less clear. Gone are the days when SEO consultants only had to focus on key terms and backlinks in order to improve site ranking on major search engines. Modern-day SEO requires a good technical understanding in order to deal with speed improvements; mitigating against the impact of a hacked page on ranking; configuring rich text tags; dealing with syndicated content and localization of content.
Then of course there are parallel disciplines like Social Media for traffic generation and visit assessment for lead generation and conversion. Everything ties together in the end where the ultimate goal is to increase web presence and revenues through the website.
With this in mind, assessing the best profile of services that an SEO company can offer needs to cover all these bases.
There are also other ways of generating traffic which involve paid services like Adwords, Facebook Adverts etc. that could be considered. However, this assessment is focused on the organic traffic. Here, the skill of the Digital Marketer of SEO specialist is not about the advertising budget, but is about optimising the infrastructure and content to improve ranking and convert visitors into paying customers.
In order to judge the performance of the SEO company, we will therefore look at keywords, links, interaction on the web, technologies and expertise offered, social media and so on.
As SEO companies are offer services that apply to their own success, what better measure could there be than to measure the SEO companies against their own performance as we have done in previous years.
The way to find the best SEO company is to search for them on the web.
Once again start with the same 3 categories used in 2018 2019 for measurement of success:
- Performance – how well does the company rank in Ireland (SERP)?
- Engagement – has the company engaged with the interested community in Ireland? and what SEO or digital information has the company shared in the form of presentations, news, sales information etc?
- Technical Ability – can the company claim any technical SEO expertise? have they stretched the boundaries or displayed any good technical knowledge in the field?
Ranking in Ireland for search phrases in their own search space was the start point for this assessment. Again ranking was restricted to searches on Google as Google commands a 95.5% market share for search in Ireland (according to Statcounter Jan – Dec 2020 Ireland).
Once a list of companies was identified from the search results, an assessment of blog postings, news, social engagement, training or anything else that the company may have provided to advance SEO in Ireland or to improve the knowledge of web site owners in Ireland during 2020.
Technical ability was be assessed through technical articles written, software and tools offered and contributions to technical sites like Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow etc.
Performance: Organic Ranking
The list of search phrases used to identify the primary SEO companies in Ireland was as shown below. This list of phrases is identical to the list used to assess SEO performance in 2018 and in 2019.
These search terms were monitored throughout 2020 and the top 9 Search Engine Ranking Positions were extracted for each of the search phrases listed. The assumption was made that each position was twice as difficult to achieve as the previous position (and was twice as likely to be clicked by visitors than the preceding ranking position). In other words. position 1 is twice as valuable as position 2 and 4 times more valuable than position 3, 8 times more valuable than position 4 and so on until position 9. This weighting was applied to all the rankings and the values accumulated to get the results shown in the Search Performance Ireland pie chart below.
This multiplier value of 2 in the calculation is arbitrary and a higher value or a more complex function may make more sense. However, this approach is fair works well for identifying the leading SEO companies in Ireland.
Webclare.com rebranded to agiledigitalstrategy.com during 2020. The original site was the high ranking entity in 2020 and therefore is used in this appraisal. However, the new website also was considered for the social and technical assessments.
The company clutch.co was removed from the analysis as the core competency of cluch is not SEO or digital marketing. The 8 remaining companies for the analysis are:
- webclare.com (agiledigitalstrategy.com)
It is interesting to note that only 3 companies on the 2019 SEO Ireland list appear in the final 8 for 2020 and 5 new companies now appear in the list. This demonstrates the amount of competition for SEO consultancy in Ireland and the importance of actively maintaining a web presence.
Engagement: News, Blogs, Articles etc.
Engagement is about interacting with other members of the SEO community. It is about showing an interest in the community, contributing to the knowledge base and showcasing a level of expertise in the field of Search Engine Optimisation.
The information in this section does not need to be technical in nature but should be novel and regular posting is required (at least 3 posts in 2020). Information, direct marketing or sales information is acceptable in this section. Technical knowledge or articles that initiate debate is assessed in the Technical section.
Blog Posts, News and Articles
All the companies on the Top 8 had a Blog or News page, however only the first 4 in the list met all the criteria described above and only the top listed website had regular blog posts with relevant and regular posts.
While far from perfect, the results in 2020 are an improvement on the results in 2019 which in turn was a big improvement on 2018. We therefore can conclude that regular engagement appears to be considered an important activity for successful SEO vendors.
Active Social Media Presence
Social media plays an important role in promoting companies, building reputation and in generating referrals and links. It also is a means of driving traffic to the users’ site which in turn contributes to improved ranking.
This qualitative assessment involves evaluating whether each company has a social presence and is active (tick) whether the social account exists but is not active (dash) or there is no profile (cross). Potentially the results may be inaccurate if existing social media accounts were not found in this assessment. However, if the relevant information is not readily found then it is likely that the social media account is of little value anyway.
A semi-quantitative figure of merit value was calculated by assigning a value of 5 to a tick, 1 to a dash and 0 to a cross. The numbers were added together by company and normalised to the overall mean value. The final number can be interpreted as: higher is better, 0 is average and negative is below average.
The outcome of the Social interaction assessment is shown in the table opposite and the level of active social engagement is listed in order below:
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Search Engine Optimization has developed over the years to become more technical and SEO practitioners can no longer rely only on a knowledge of on-page SEO and link building. A good knowledge of the web infrastructure and computer network models is needed in addition to a knowledge of website development in order to be a leader in the SEO and digital marketing sectors.
We have found that the best way to assess the Technical ability of each company is to identify any physical evidence that the company presents on their website or social media or on news sites that indicates a good technical knowledge. This evidence can be in the form of:
- White papers, Patents, Articles on SEO that include some form of measurement, ranking or semi-quantitative analysis of factors that influence SEO performance. At least 2 technical papers or blog articles are required.
- Software tools developed by the company for measuring site performance, social engagement, competitor comparison, on-page tag implementation, page errors or other SEO variables.
- Discussions, help or advice on Open forums like Stack Exchange or Stack Overflow.
There was surprisingly little technical content offered through Blog Posts, White Papers or Reports. However the few papers that were available covered advanced technical areas like:
Our assessment indicates that CreatorSEO is the only company that contributes to relevant technical forums like Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange (WordPress Development).
The ability to develop and provide Tools for the measurement of SEO indicates a strong technical offering as well as a good knowledge of the complex technical aspects of Search Engine Optimisation.
CreatorSEO™ was the only company to in the Top 8 SEO Ireland list that provides a full suite of tools for Search Engine optimisation. These SEO tools cover not only the traditional aspects of SEO, but also include the newer technologies needed for digital marketing (like visit monitoring and lead generation). Some of the tools are offered as WordPress Plugins. The suite of tools include free and premium versions.
- Stand-alone SEO tools application (http://mysiteperformance.com/)
- WordPress Rank Plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/ranking-and-competitor-tracking/)
- Client SEO Dashboard (https://hub5050.com/)
- Visit monitoring and Lead generation (https://leads5050.com/)
- Visit monitoring plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/leads-5050-visitor-insights/)
Why include GDPR Compliance?
Compliance with GDPR regulations and DPC cookie rules is no longer optional in Ireland (and the EU). The deadline for meeting the requirements was 5 October 2020 and every company that has a web presence should at this stage be compliant. The minimum requirement is a cookie banner and advice on the type of cookies used along with the option to opt out of cookies being captured during a visit to the site.
SEO consultants should advise and assist clients to meet these requirements as they are fundamental to any web presence. With this in mind, we include an top-level assessment of the implementation for the websites shortlisted in this assessment as part of our technical review. A tick shows that the implementation was clearly in place and operational.
Apart from a few small improvements to our measurement system, the approach used to identify the leading SEO companies in Ireland in 2020 is similar to that used in 2018 and in 2019. On the plus side, this allows comparisons to be made with the assessments carried out in earlier years. It can be argued that the assumptions and assessment techniques used can be improved; and as with everything we do, we strive to improve our approach every year. Therefore, we are always open to suggestions, so please let us know if you have any ideas for assessing SEO companies in Ireland as these may be included in our 2021 assessment.
Best SEO in Ireland 2021
If you are a SEO company in Ireland and you never appeared on this list, you now know the criteria that we use in our assessment and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be on the 2021 list. All the links on this report are follow links so there should be good reason to compete if only for the value of the backlinks.