A new study has highlighted the importance of developing digital marketing in Arabic to target the growing base of native Arabic speakers online.
The study, by digital marketing consultancy Red Blue Blur Ideas, is the first MENA study on the use of the Arabic language in digital marketing.
Ammar Badr, Digital Marketing Consultant at RBBi said that almost all of the existing studies on digital marketing relate to the English language, but organisations need to understand how to create Arabic marketing efforts.
"The past decade has seen a monumental rise in the number of Arabic-speakers going online," he said. "Egypt alone represents 20% of the online Arabic audience, while the KSA holds 12% and the GCC countries together make up 22%. 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. We at RBBi, conducted a detailed study on the use of the Arabic language online in an effort to help businesses solve the digital challenges faced today."
The study, ‘A strategy for success: Arabic digital marketing in MENA', notes that Arabic language search is dominated by Google, which has 97% of the search market in Arab countries, meaning that being visible in customers' native language in Google is absolutely vital. Studies also show that around 88% of online shoppers prefer to buy products using their own language, increasing the need to provide websites in native Arabic, not translated versions.
RBBi said companies should avoid auto-translation and use best-quality human translation where possible. Poor quality translation leads to high bounce rates from websites and has a negative impact on a customer's perception of your brand.
Other issues with language include the use of the character ‘hamza' ‘ء' (glottal stop) which is commonly omitted from online Arabic use, but inclusion or omission can make a big difference in terms of the amount of searches. Similarly, the report also highlighted the importance of using the right words in Arabic, where sometimes different words can have essentially the same meaning, but may return much more or less search results.
The study also revealed that businesses would profit from using online Arabic spoken language like Arabizi, which was developed informally for use online and on mobile devices before Arabised interfaces became widely available. Young audiences in particular may prefer Arabizi.
Localisation is also important to consider in Arabic-speaking countries, to reflect local dialects.
A fully Arabic version of a company website is the best option, with the site optimised for search in Arabic, and with words and menu terms also optimised to get the best results in Arabic. An Arabic language URL is important, but for best results developers need build a coherent structure for the URL that makes sense to both users and to search engines, including putting carefully researched keywords in page URLs, one of the biggest ranking factors for Google, is also important.