Digital marketing in the MENA region is growing at an increasingly fast pace. At the same time, digital marketing in a language other than English poses a significant challenge. Most, if not all, of the primary studies and information on the subject is created in English, with less than 1 percent of online content available in Arabic.
These are some of the points that come to fore in Red Blue Blur Ideas (RBBi) study ‘A strategy for success: Arabic digital marketing in MENA’.
“The past decade has seen a monumental rise in the number of Arabic-speakers going online. Egypt alone represents 20 percent of the online Arabic audience, while KSA holds 12 percent and the GCC countries together make up 22 percent,” pointed out Ammar Badr, Digital Marketing Consultant at RBBi, adding, “With the ubiquity of smartphones, most people now use search engines to find what they are looking for, making it essential for businesses to create an effective digital marketing campaign in Arabic.”
Findings show that being visible in customers’ native language on search and other discovery platforms is vital. Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world with a 41.7 percent internet penetration. Unlike the English and European markets, the number of Arab speakers online is still young and developing.
The content analysis shows that the Arabic language has unique requirements that need to be considered when used online. For example, auto-translation tools must be avoided at all costs because domain names, web server configurations, URL structure and more require translation only by a native Arabic speaker. Moreover, mediocre quality translation leads to high bounce rates, making it essential for native Arabic speakers to translate content. Spaces need to be included between the coordination and the word so that search engines consider this a new word.
The report also highlighted the importance of using the right words in Arabic, which sometimes have the same meaning. This influences the audience reach and website traffic. Words with Hamza need to be carefully considered in paid campaigns. Arabic speakers do not include Hamza when searching online, and this must be considered as well.
The study also revealed that businesses would profit from using an online Arabic spoken language like Arabizi, especially if addressing a young audience.
Language and cultural content strategy should be a fundamental part of any digital marketing strategy. High-quality content and SEO optimization provide a significant option for businesses to do this efficiently and accurately to ensure that they target customers with relevant messages.