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What Do I Need to Know About SEO in the ME?

By shipa 22 Jul, 2019

The quickest, most effective and least labor-intensive methods to generate real traffic to your website are all actually the same method: SEO (Search Engine Optimization). But many in the Middle Eastern market still neglect Arabic SEO and English SEO for the Arabic region.

With nearly 150 million users online in the Arabic region, all using search engines with their native language and jargon to find the best products and services in their areas, it’s essential to become competitive in the Arabic SEO space as soon as possible. And with the growing e-commerce audience in the Middle East, more global brands are itching to penetrate the local market. Tough competition is just around the corner, meaning the time to optimize is now.

By making the most of what you can get out of geographic keywords, key phrases and localized targeting, you can push your site or store to the top of the search engine results for searches coming from the Middle East.

Start With a Strategy

No team ever succeeded without a consistent strategy tying their actions to a single goal. An SEO strategy can be divided into three parts. 

1. Knowing Your Audience

Localizing your SEO for the Middle Eastern audience is more than just getting the most popular keywords and adding locations to the phrase. Arab consumers have their own unique search habits, traditions, trends and local jargon and dialects, so understanding this market intimately is a necessity for successful SEO. 

It’s worth emphasizing the scope of this challenge: in a region with 22 countries, five major spoken dialects and a wide range of consumer habits, it’s essential to have the support of a native Arabic speaker who fully grasps your SEO goals and process. They’ll understand the differences between universal expressions and local or regional slang – the former is likely to be relevant to cross-border sales and the latter important for marketing inside a country – and grounding your strategy in that kind of knowledge is the only way to provide a truly effective counterpart to your English-language SEO. 

2. Industry Awareness

Apart from understanding your audience, you have to understand your industry and competition. Hire an SEO expert on your team and use SEO tracking tools find out the keyword rankings, backlinks and domain level of your competitors. It’s common to hear claims that the languages supported by a specific tool don’t matter, but especially for keyword rankings it’s best to use a tool like Topvisor that specifically supports Arabic. Figure out what they are lacking in and work toward filling that void. 

3. Market Research

Find the keywords and key phrases you need to optimize your pages for. This will include localized versions of popular global phrases but also phrases that might be unique to the way your audience asks questions or finds information. 

Make the Most Out of Your Location

Some might see it as a disadvantage to compete online as a small or growing store, but the reality is that, as a local business, you have something that large retailers and other websites simply don’t have: localization potential. Potential consumers and customers will almost always prefer to shop locally (although this depends on the product or service they’re looking for). Taking advantage of your location with native Arabic keywords and localized research is the best way to get to the top of searches in your area. 

The first step here is the data you already have. Check out the general terms that your customer support team and existing stable of clients usually use when interacting with your business. Divide these terms into certain categories to help with your targeting later.

Next, conduct research on localized keywords. Avoid simply taking popular English keywords and translating them into Arabic. In most cases, these translations aren’t exactly what people use when searching for what they need. Hire a native Arabic speaker to ensure that you’re rendering keywords accurately and taking local slang into account where necessary – as noted above, such slang may be more relevant to some forms of marketing than others – and follow a process like this one that keeps keyword types and categories, priorities and tracking top of mind.

Website Optimization

Now that you understand your market and you have your keywords, it’s time to optimize your site for Arabic content. There are two sides to consider: on-page and on-site optimization. Without a responsive and optimized website, you might as well shut it all down. 

On-Page 

  • Use an actual native copywriter to rewrite your meta data (titles and descriptions) into Arabic
  • Place your local keywords in your HTML content and tags
  • Localize all media, including the alt descriptions on images
  • If selling products, make sure even the smallest parts of the page are localized, such as product descriptions and calls-to-action 

On-Site 

  • If you’re running both an English and Arabic version of your site, it’s important to triple check everything
  • Check for broken links and study your sitemap; do not accidentally link back to English pages
  • Make sure you have no duplicate content on your own site
  • Use a local domain for your localized site

TIP: List and verify your business on Google My Business. This will give you more points with Google to rank on local searches.

Long-Term Blogging

When you want to get fit, you don’t go for one power session at the gym and then expect amazing results. It’s about doing it week in and week out, and when it comes to SEO, this means blogging. Over half of marketers say that blogging is the most important part of their content strategy.

Publishing regular blogs on your site (preferably at least once a week) keeps you ranking on your keywords and keeps your site fresh and alive for Google’s metrics. Articles are also a great way to specifically answer questions that potential customers use when trying to find out more about your product or service, and it’s an easy way to get a #1 ranking on a search. Make sure to produce compelling content that delivers added value for the reader and doesn’t feel like a pure vehicle for brand marketing.

Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

Keep track of Google Analytics and your chosen SEO tools — see what’s working, what’s not working and develop and shape your strategy moving forward around this information. 

Remember: SEO is not a static concept. As culture, trends and language evolve, so too will the most effective keywords. Saudi consumers, for instance, are notoriously fickle, shifting rapidly from one trend to the next, so the site you optimize today could be hopelessly outdated and ineffective in just a few months. It’s up to you as a responsible business to stay on top of your industry and figure out exactly what people are searching in relation to your product or service.

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