Arabic SEO and Localization
April 02, 2010
Arabic Internet e-commerce and on-line media is a significant, expanding market segment with great potential for localized, Arabic search engine optimization (SEO) and Arabic search engine marketing (SEM). The majority of websites aimed at Arabic markets are still in English, which means that you have less competition and an opportunity to dominate your sector if you localize your web content into Arabic with optimized Arabic SEO. If you follow the right SEO strategy when localizing your website, you will achieve the highest ranking with Arabic search engines.
Growing E-Commerce in Arabic Countries
The Arabic Internet market is much larger than many people outside of this region realize; it is experiencing rapid growth. Recent research indicates that there are currently 56 million Arabic-speaking Internet users and this number will increase to 82 million by 2013. That will be a 46.4 percent increase in just over two years!
Although English is widely spoken in the business world throughout the Middle East, many companies outside of the region still have the misconception that they can continue to keep their web content in English-only because it is "the international language of business". Most global companies have launched products and businesses in the Arabic region via English-only websites with the assumption that Arabic-speaking customers can simply search and find services using English keywords.
Arabic SEO Strongly Preferred by Consumers in Arabic Countries
Research has progressively revealed that in most cases Arabic Internet users prefer to search using Arabic keywords to find more specific and accurate results. This is especially true when the search is related to regional topics, cultural-related words, local news or events, and regional products or services. Consumers in Arabic-speaking markets prefer to select Arabic keywords as their first option. Naturally, this requires companies to localize all content on their website in Arabic, and have a culturally appropriate user interface. For specific examples of cultural and regional issues specific to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates, see our blog on Arabic Website Localization for the UAE.
Many Arabic consumers don't speak English; in some Arabic countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, English is not as commonly used as French. This further underscores the need to have the Arabic language as a primary choice for this region.
Arabic Website Localization
Your first step is selecting the right translation agency as a partner to properly structure your website and provide suitable Arabic website localization, as well as create effective SEO optimized for this language and market. Your localization partner will need experience in the Arabic region and Arabic language for several reasons:
- There are six major Arabic dialect groups.
- Arabic SEO is unique and will require different keyword and tag strategies for various markets, like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Egypt, etc.
- Some graphics or images may carry negative cultural connotations that are not obvious to consumers outside of the region; your localization agency partner must be well versed in all of these issues.
A localization company that fully understands these issues and has appropriate depth of experience with regional Arabic markets will provide the most accurate content and optimal presentation for your Arabic website, empowering you to reach the right target users in Arabic countries.
Arabic Search Engine Optimization
Arabic search engine algorithms and position techniques are quite different from their English counterparts. It is critical for web developers and localization engineers on your project to have a full grasp of all issues specific to the Arabic language in order to obtain optimum Arabic search results. Appropriate experience with these project requirements can "make or break" your success with Arabic speaking consumers.
Recent Trends with Arabic Search Tools
Google has announced significant improvements in the way users search in Arabic on Google search. Google has also provided a new tool for Google Arabic Transliteration. Other Search Engines, like Bing and Yahoo, are also providing many enhancements for Arabic search. All of these initiatives will help raise the bar in terms of Arabic SEO quality and effectiveness.
How can your website get ahead of the competition in this high growth market and get top ranking in Arabic search results?
As an Arabic speaker, user of Arabic websites and specialist in Arabic SEO and localization, I can answer this question. SEO strategies have various tasks and manageable functions to achieve your SEO goals. However, we also need to talk about specific points more related to Arabic language and Arabic SEO, not just the regular tasks of general content optimization, web analytics, link building, etc.
To select correct keywords for your Arabic website content and Meta tags, you need new "organic" research on selected keywords. You cannot afford to simply depend on translated keywords: you are often required to create original Arabic keywords related to your product or services.
Here is an example of the importance of culturally customized keyword. The Arabic culture is different than western culture and this sometimes affects the meaning of keywords when you translate from English into Arabic.
"Hospitality" is a keyword referring to the hotel business, however when you translate this keyword into Arabic the proper translation would be "ضيافة". Although the translation is accurate this keywords would not help your ranking if you work in Hospitality industry and are looking for Arabic customers in the Middle East.
In Arabic region, the most common word would be "فندق" which means "hotels" in English while the translation of the word "hospitality" would refer to "generosity" in Arabic culture.
Google provides tools to search Arabic keywords, find related keywords and the most popular keywords used on Google's search engine. But that alone is not enough; additional assistance is required to successfully reach customers in Arabic countries.
Why is a localization or translation vendor your best option to provide you with Arabic keywords and content?
There are many reasons why a localization vendor or translation agency is your best solution:
- The right localization agency will have years of experience with the specific local and regional Arabic dialects, which can be quite different from one country to another.
- You should choose a localization agency that has demonstrated the ability to provide you with a large amount of Arabic glossary content for each specific country. Your vendor should have sufficient experience in Arabic markets to derive terms and phrases for your glossaries from previously translation projects. This will help you select or create the right Arabic keywords for each country and each target market.
- Choosing the right localization agency will also ensure that you write accurate content suitable for the local target culture and avoid any unsuitable website content that may be forbidden by religious or cultural customs.
Arabic Search Engine Challenges
I believe the Arabic language poses a unique challenge when it comes to content and keywords because the entire Arabic-speaking region contains very special traditions and regional differences. This challenge requires a partner with strong experience in the specific region you are targeting. Only a localization partner with solid experience in specific, regional Arabic translation and localization can ensure that your Arabic content is optimized and provide you with the right set of Arabic keywords to ensure that your target Arabic customers will find you.
Arabic Domain Names
Widespread support for Arabic domain names is a fairly recent development. An Arabic domain name pre-registration service has been launched and will solve many problems associated with domain names and SEO keywords in the future.
Egypt is launching the first Internet domain name to use the Arabic script, following ICANN's decision to allow non-Latin top level domains. Many other countries are following Egypt's lead, including the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
You will need to move quickly to register your Arabic domain name before it is taken. Arabic domain names are a big step towards achieving your highest ranking and best Arabic search results in market segments like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates.
Arabic URLs and Encoding
URLs are limited to a few set of characters, "the English alphabet, the numbers, dashes, and a few others". These characters are based on American English as defined by the ASCII standard for historical reasons. All other characters, like English punctuation and Arabic characters, have to be encoded.
Wikipedia, for instance, has a summary of international domain names and URLs that allow use of non-ASCII characters.
Focusing on Arabic URLs and using non-ASCII characters is becoming an essential step for Arabic website optimization and linkage. Implementing your Arabic keywords in your URLs and links will help to get better indexing in Arabic search engines.
GPI's Services in Arabic Localization and Arabic SEO
GPI has done extensive work with Arabic localization, including massive, scalable websites in Dubai. Other projects have extended into Arabic SEO and PPC campaigns for major hotels and digital agenices in the Arab Gulf region.
Arabic Translation Services in Middle East
GPI provide Arabic translation and localization services by Arabic native translators, proofreaders and copywriters who have solid experience with Middle East market requirements and cultures.
Check our Arabic Translation quick facts and resources for more information:
Further resources on SEO and SEM:
GPI's SEO and localization team will conduct your multilingual keyword analysis, ranging from terminology accuracy equivalents to keyword density factor evaluation and competition analysis. GPI also offers Global SEO and many other translation and localization services.
For some useful information about country-specific localization and SEO practices, please check:
- Multilingual SEO
- Customizing your Online Content Strategy for UAE Market
- International SEO and Translation Process
- Global SEO: 4 Top Factors
- Translation Services in UAE and Dubai
- Digital Media and Translation in the Middle East
Yasser Ahmed - Global SEO Specialist
Yasser is an Arabic web developer and SEO specialist for GPI. He is a native Arabic speaker originally from Cairo, Egypt. He holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and has 9 years' experience in localization, web development, SEO and desktop publishing. Yasser is a team leader with GPI's Global SEM Practice and is responsible for maintaining GPI's global SEM knowledgebase, which tracks developments in country-specific search engines, as well as the latest tactics and best practices for SEO.