Guide to Arabic SEO for MENA
What and where is the MENA region?
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a term used primarily as a broadcast region for media planning, military planning, business writing, academia and disaster relief. There is no universal understanding for which countries are within the MENA region, however, the UNICEF website mentions that there are 20 countries in the MENA as of January 2021 (Yemen, UAE, Tunisia, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, Egypt, Djibouti, Bahrain and Algeria).
First things First : Knowing the Arabic Culture
It is vital to make sense of the Arab culture prior to starting a marketing campaign or any type of SEO aimed at the MENA region. If correctly understood, then it can help you use your time and money in a more efficient manner.
Arab consumer behavior
The following is a list of the Arab consumer traits to bear in mind:
- Brands are important to them.
- Consumerism is a social activity; word of mouth is key.
- Status is important to them, therefore products that are like a status symbol succeed.
- They like to ‘keep up with the trends.’
- Pleasing other people is in their nature
- Negotiation is always a part of their business culture.
- They enjoy ‘window shopping’ (browsing without the intent to make a purchase).
- Their decisions are greatly influenced by honor and shame.
- They’re mostly religious and expect everyone to respect this.
- They generally only speak Arabic (maybe basic English), therefore everything would need to be translated.
- Far from an ageing population, with an average age of just 27.7 years old.
Mobile Traffic & SEO
92-96% of Arab traffic has been traced to have come from mobile devices. This is a large downfall for many digital marketers as they focus too much on their desktop audience. Historically, the key factors of a successful mobile site are ‘fast loading’, ‘light’ and ‘simple to use’. Another mistake that is widely seen is through how the website is translated. The use of machine translation can be very detrimental, as it has been known to damage certain elements of the mobile site, making it a lot more difficult for users to make a purchase. CSS styling and translation should always be done by a native Arabic speaker.
Google ranking in the MENA
- Traffic that converts: There isn’t as much competition in a lot of Arabic industries, therefore it is easier to rank for many keywords with high levels of search volume. It may be more beneficial for you to target keywords not purely based on their search volume, but look more towards keywords that initiate an action. Begin with keywords that are used to secure conversion actions (purchasing, registering etc.). After these kinds of keywords have been covered, then you can focus more on the search volume. Only use this method if it suits your monetization strategy.
- Researching keywords in Arabic: Arabic keyword researching is similar to doing it in English, however, a lot of the 3rd party software (such as Google Ads Keyword Planner) may be limited in certain areas. There are many unique implications to Arabic keyword researching that are mentioned below.
These are tags used to help determine which pages on a website are only intended to be seen by certain regions and countries. These tags are vital if your website is translated into different languages on the same domain. The following are the correct Hreflang tags that should be used if you are targeting Arabic speakers globally (home page):
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ArabicSEO.com” hreflang=”en” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ArabicSEO.com/ar/ ” hreflang=”ar” />
Each page of a website will require a different tag for its alternate language version. Please note that these tags aren’t targeted at a specific country, just Arabic speakers globally. If you are looking to target a specific country, then you will need more unique pages which requires speaking to an Arabic SEO expert.
Links and URL's for Arabic SEO
Links are vital for Arabic SEO success. Although it takes a lot of effort to attain, regional links/anchor texts from the MENA will be very beneficial to your site. However, the MENA generally fails to enforce copyright laws, therefore, websites are happy to copy content without any referencing. This makes it incredibly difficult to get links, but luckily, we have devised a series of tactics for attracting links from the MENA region:
- Links from other regions still count: A widely seen mistake is that firms will take out links from other regions when developing their alternate language version. If both versions are on the same domain, then links from other countries will still be very beneficial to your ranking.
- Regional hosting: Many larger websites like to host their website in Europe and use a CDN in order to maintain fast loading speeds for their alternate language website versions. However, AWS is now increasing its MENA hosting options, so there may be a switch to hosting in the Middle East soon.
- Arabic URLs: There are a few factors to bear in mind. Firstly, it’s rare to find anyone manually typing them in (easy to make a mistake). Secondly, if they cause problems for your CMS and other On-page SEO areas then it’s advisable to avoid using them. Thirdly, keep them short (3-5 words as a maximum). Finally, they may cause tracking problems for some of your 3rd party tools.
- Googles knowledge graph optimization in Arabic: The algorithm for this type of ranking is the similar for both English and Arabic. It is displayed at the top of a page as a fast answer to a person’s search query. This text is very concise, so including lists, short definitions, summaries and rich snippets into your content will help you rank. Make sure to check a query you’re aiming to rank for to see what type of answer comes up and use a similar format.
The challenges with Google SEO in the MENA region
- Short term tactics: In this region, SEO has a lot of people looking to make a quick buck, without any long-term perspective. Many of ‘SEO specialists’ will use methods that don’t comply with Google’s webmaster policies and may get your website deindexed from Google (such as keyword stuffing, link purchasing, illegal content copying, automated links etc.).
- Spam/low quality content: A lot of this regions content is low quality and spammy, so MENA based users now look for content differently to Westerners. If your site looks at all spammy, then you are unlikely to see Arab users discovering your website.
- Issues with tracking ranks: There is a bit issue with the rank tracking tools in the region not being able to give an accurate result of where a website ranks for an Arabic word in Middle Eastern countries. Tools like AWR cloud, Ahrefs, Moz and some others have a tendency to say that a keyword ranks in a certain position, but in reality, customers that reside in the particular region can’t see it on their side. Due to this, it is suggested that you always double-check with a different program or get someone in a given country search for the keyword and make sure they can see it. Tools such as isearchfrom.com are a good way to double check, using more than one source to check will provide decent accuracy.
- Experience difficulties with pixel tracking: Marketers run into a recurring problem of conversion tracking. If you chose to have Arabic URLs for all your pages that are set in Arabic to improve ranking signals, then you will surely run into the issue of marketing tools not being able to track due to a problem with Arabic URLs because of foreign characters. This will not happen with Google Analytics, but it may be a problem if you attempt to set up tracking exceptions in Google Tag Manager or other third-party tools. The fastest way to overcome this issue in our experience is to use English URLs on your conversion pages; such as your lead form, shopping cart and thank you pages. Most of the time these pages don’t need to be optimized for SEO anyway because they won’t receive too much direct traffic coming from search engines. These are often the pages that you want to add extra tracking to, so it would make sense to have URLs in English.
- Video SEO: Arabs are some of the highest consumers of YouTube content in the world. For many organic search results, videos will be the first and foremost result on the page, so if you are able to gather resources to produce Arabic videos, it is highly likely to produce a good ROI.
- Local SEO in Arab countries: If you have physical locations in the Middle East and want them to rank in Google Arabic, then make sure to do some research regarding what would be the best way to optimize your site for an abundance of Arabic visitors. This is essential if you have Google my business listings in Arabic.
Advantages of Arabic SEO
- Low competition in Arabic: The competition in Arabic across many industries is exceptionally low in comparison to English, for now. Sometimes Arabs prefer to search in English because the websites that come up in Arabic do not appear to be trustworthy or credible, or just because there a too few to choose from.
- Websites with an Arabic version are translated without SEO: Many Arabic website version both inside and outside the region are run by no or a few Arabic speakers on their team. Because of this, the optimization on the Arabic version of the website is usually just a quick translation without any consideration for SEO.
- PPC ads less competitive than SEO: In the majority of verticals in Arabic, we see far less PPC adverts. This generally means that more of the pages real estate above the fold is taken up by organic page results. This means more traffic for well-optimized websites.
- Short term focus: There is a trend that a lot of companies doing SEO in Arabic are looking for shortcuts to get high rankings but ones that are extremely risky in the long run. Marketers who have not been through a major Google update will take on their campaigns to only get a website de-indexed for violating Google policies. There are definitely less marketers in the region who will play the long and safe game with white hat SEO in Arabic.
- Less digitally savvy marketers: It is a challenge to find digital marketing staff who have plenty of experience. In most cases, we have found that we have to hire and train up talent rather than finding someone who already possesses the skills. Many of the marketers who get interviewed are found to have rather outdated training on SEO. There are far fewer digital marketers who speak Arabic as a percent of the population than there are in the English-speaking world.
How SEO contrasts for different types of websites in the region
- Ecommerce: Being able to rank for ecommerce keywords in Arabic is much easier due to less competition in the region. The challenges are usually on the logistics side since there are cross-border transactions, customers and shipping to have to handle, marketing is the easier part.
- Lead generation: Lead generation websites are able to perform greatly in Arabic and you may usually find keywords that increase traffic and leads that you can rank for will likely be on mobile devices so forms should be optimized for mobile and the right to left languages.
- News and media websites: Websites of all sorts can do well in Arabic because of a shortage of Arabic content online. Nonetheless, it is essential for a website that is monetized with ads to target the right keywords because a lot of traffic in the Middle East has a low CPM payout. It is crucial to pick keywords that are more likely to attract the right demographic of Arabs with high CPM and CPC payouts.
Arabic SEO Vs Arabic PPC
Advantages of SEO
Since competition across many Arabic keywords is often quite limited, SEO usually has a very good ROI when the right keywords are selected. We have seen lots of cases where a website is optimized and then left alone for over 5 years, but would continue to rank in the highest positions in their industry. This means that making an upfront investment that continues to pay dividends for years. Numerous Arabs are skeptical towards ads and would prefer organic results so they are more likely to click and organic results are more likely to convert to a customer when going through an organic listing on google. As a lot of the Middle Eastern population is in the lower class, ads might attract some unqualified clicks with to sales. If you invent in getting your website to rank in Google organically in Arabic, you will still have unqualified clicks but you will not have to pay for them.
Advantages of PPC
Arabic PPC ads might start getting you traffic and sales right away, whereas SEO takes months to see results if you are starting from scratch. Arabic pay per click is also much more trackable and can give great insights regarding popular keywords that lead to sales. Arabic SEO is less trackable and is usually harder to measure exactly which keywords lead to conversions.
List of Countries in Mena and the capitals that will help your SEO efforts.
|Kuwait||Kuwait City الكويت|
|UAE||Abu Dhabi ابو ظبي|
|Saudi Arabia||Riyadh الرياض|
|Isreal||Tel Aviv تل ابيب|
Hubac SEO Services Amman Kuwait City Egypt Rabat Doha Dubai Abu Dhabi Manama Tunis Muscat Algiers Riyadh jeddah Casablanca Beirut
Hubac Offers Search Engine Optimization SEO Services throughout Mena region. We are full service Digital Marketing Services Agency with focus on SEO. If you are looking Arabic SEO or want to target the Middle East region, we are here to help.
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