Egypt Online Marketing Guide
Egypt is the largest and most strategic market to target in MENA. Having the highest number of internet users in the region, over 20 million people and over 200 thousand internet hosts, Egypt is a country that would offer wide access to a broad audience. These figures account for less than a quarter of the population and only a 20% e-commerce penetration.
In addition to the high potential for growth in the Egyptian market, there has been a lot of activity over the last couple of years. Startups are springing up and funds are growing and becoming both more visible and more accessible. Incubators are seeking to bridge the gaps between startups and funds; and competitions are regularly taking place to discover new talent. Most importantly, Egypt is the media hub of the Arab world, so reaching that market successfully will allow for an easy and smooth expansion into the rest of the MENA region.
Basic information on the Arab Republic of Egypt
It is necessary to have some background knowledge on Egypt before launching an online marketing campaign there.
Egypt is by far the most populated and condensed country in the MENA region. With over 87.5 million people, the opportunities in this country are endless and society offers a wide array of target audience and user groups. The country’s economy depends mostly on oil and gas, followed by tourism. Although GDP per capita is fairly low, Egypt is among the top 4 importers in MENA. The largest share of imports comes in from China and the US, followed by Germany Russia and Ukraine.
The recent Egyptian revolution has taken a toll on the Egyptian economy, but has given birth to new opportunities in its online market as well. Effective marketing in Egypt will involve capitalizing on the hotspots of such new prospects, while avoiding the hot pockets of controversy the revolution has bred.
Roughly 90% of the population is Muslim, and the rest is mainly Christian, but all are primarily Arabic speakers who carry similar conservative ideals.
In addition to its significant cultural, political, and military influence in MENA and the Muslim world, Egypt is also the media hub of the Middle East and Arabic-speaking countries. This combination makes this country an excellent gateway to the rest of the region.
Censorship in Egypt has been recently defined and redefined repeatedly in the context of the revolution. On one end, the 2011 revolution has been coined on many accounts to be a virtual or internet revolution, as it was mostly mobilized and organized online via Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. On the other end, it revealed the shortcomings of freedom of expression in Egypt, and the ways to address those limitations.
The level of online traffic and activity was so high and threatening, that in the days leading up to the revolution, the Egyptian government took some drastic measures in hopes of impeding upon the masses. First Twitter was blocked, followed by Facebook and then by January 27, the Egyptian government ordered all service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet, causing a minimum cost of $90 million.
Egyptians speak the Arabic language, and mostly using the Egyptian Dialect. Most Egyptian websites use the Modern Standard form of Arabic so they can be read and understood by all Arabic speakers worldwide. Some more contemporary websites geared towards a younger audience use lingo that is specific to the Egyptian Dialect of Arabic.
Although the wide majority of Egyptians are inclined towards Arabic content, English is the most commonly used foreign language, so having both would secure a wider audience in Egypt.
Egypt Internet Country Codes:
Egypt has both an Arabic and an English based country code top-level domain (ccTLDs) available. Although it may be lucrative to purchase a domain name ending with one of the more popular ccTLDs, it is important to note that such a domain would require either a local presence or for the domain name to be hosted on Egyptian DNS servers.
Country Code Top Level Domains
Second Level Domains
Most Popular Sites in Egypt
The 10 most popular websites in Egypt do include a couple of Egyptian based ones; however, most of them are the typically internationally popular ones. The next section will highlight the most popular websites in Egypt among those specific to the Middle East region.
Most popular region specific sites
The following is a list of the top 10 regional websites in the Middle East most visited by Egyptian residents—sites that are specifically geared towards the region and Arabic speakers in general:
E-Commerce in Egypt
Despite some challenges, like the limited number of banks that allow users to buy products online using credit cards, Egypt remains a very attractive market for e-commerce companies. The cost of doing business is low and Egyptians simply love to buy things online.
Over 22.4% of internet users in Egypt use e-commerce services, which amount to at least 3 million people. Those range from buying products and services to paying bills online. Electronics are the most popular products purchased online in Egypt, followed by software, whereas website subscriptions and airline-ticket bookings are the top services paid for online.
The overall penetration rate of e-commerce among internet users has reached 8%, and Egypt’s online purchases are expected to more than triple by 2016; with an estimated $447.3 million worth of spending on e-commerce.
Rising internet penetration—up to 44% by 2013—is also promising; as is the growing mobile penetration, which reached a staggering 115% in 2012, in addition to the smartphone penetration at 26% in 2012.
The following are some major successful e-commerce players in Egypt
Major Egypt-based e-commerce websites
First group-buying website in Egypt (founded 2011)
100% Egyptian company operated by Web Technology Company (founded 2008)
Search Engine Marketing in Egypt:
Google currently remains in 2014 as, by far, the most popular leading search engine in Egypt—taking up 95% of the search market. Other international players include Yahoo! at 2.48% and Bing at 1.66%. Other, more local, search engines in the market are Arabo (in Arabic) and 4Arabs (in English), which are the leading sites among the Arabic-speaking market.
Google’s search engine for Egypt has two versions: a right-to-left Arabic version and a left-to-right English version. They are both found at www.google.com.eg.
Google Zeitgeist’s annual search trends 2016 report list the most common search queries in Egypt as follows:
State of SEO in Egypt:
Egypt comes in second, after Saudi Arabia, in terms of number of search queries in the country. More than three quarters of those searches are in Arabic—followed by English, then French—making Arabic the dominant SEO language by a long shot in Egypt.
The following is a comparison of organic search metrics for the first position ranking websites in Egypt and the US, respectively, for the keywords “Hotels” and “Cars for Sale”—on Google. We made these comparisons to give you an idea of how link authority metrics for local websites that rank high in Egypt fair, in comparison to those in the USA—the most competitive online market in the world.
Hotels in Egypt vs. Hotels in the US
Cars for Sale in Egypt vs. Cars for Sale in the US
Comparing the domain authority and other metrics of the top websites in Egypt and the US respectively, provides a good general understanding of the number and quality of backlinks that a website would require to rank well in Egypt in the most competitive terms.
Taking a closer look, one can see that a website in Egypt can rank very well with a limited number of quality links and a relatively low domain authority. This means that companies looking to embark on SEO efforts in Egypt will have the advantage of needing far fewer links to be successful and rank well, than they would in more competitive markets around the world.
On the other hand, there are difficulties in acquiring quality links within Egypt in comparison to many other markets in the world. Lack of proper source citing and linking out to other websites is quite common in the region, even on large Arabic publications, which makes content promotion challenging.
Although, keep in mind that all other competing websites are also facing those same challenges in organically acquiring links. Thus, even a small success in gaining some regional links can go a long way with your Egyptian SEO campaign(s).
State of paid search in Egypt (PPC)
Google AdWords dominates the Egyptian Pay Per Click advertising market, and the potential for online advertising is on the rise. Considering it has over 20 million users, Egypt is the largest online market in MENA. Having said that, with the exception of the travel, electronics and software markets, there is little competition in most other industries, and plenty of room for new comers. Such a combination of a massive audience and little competition makes Egypt an incredibly appealing market for online advertising.
Analyzing the PPC Difference between Egypt and the US:
Using google.com.eg, we searched for two popular products widely searched for in both Egypt and the US. The first keyword is “Toyota”, the car manufacturer. When searching for the term in Arabic in Egypt, we only get one advertisement, which is located above the organic listings.
Plugging in that same keyword in English in the US displays completely different results. There are 7 ads that show up for this search query; so much that the average lap top will only show one organic search result above the fold of the page without having to scroll down. 2 of the ads show up at the top of the page and 5 on the right, and some of them include site link ad extensions, which take up even more of the space on the page. This demonstrates the stark difference in the competition levels for popular search queries in those two countries respectively.
The second keyword is “iPhone 6”, the world-renowned Apple cellular device. Considering the dominance of the electronics industry online in Egypt, coupled with the increasing smartphone penetration rate, we expected to see more than just one ad for this search query in Arabic. It is worth mentioning that even this one ad does not actually lead to a source that sells the product. It simply provides detailed reviews on heavily advertised products, such as the iPhone6, to help consumers in their decision-making process.
Plugging in that same keyword in English in the US, displayed very different results as well. Again, we see that the page is full of ads (both, above the organic search results and on the right side of the page), including Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which are not yet available in Egypt.
In summary, although Egypt has a couple of competitive industries, even those have more than enough opportunities for new entrants to reap the early rewards. There is still so much more potential in this barely touched, massive online market.
Geo-targeting Opportunities throughout Egypt
Egypt is quite the diversified country made up of many different cities. This allows for numerous opportunities to come out of targeting different cities with their own unique digital marketing strategies, most suitable for each respective user group or audience.
The following are brief overviews of some cities you may want to target.
The capital city, pronounced “Al-Qahira” by Egyptians, is the largest, most populated and oldest city in Egypt. It is also the largest market for online advertising in the country. With a population of almost 8 million people, it should be a primary target for any online marketing efforts in Egypt and the MENA region as a whole. The city has a sizeable lower class that is in desperate need for products and services at economic prices. A company supplying products en masse, at a bargain price, would best befit Cairo’s unique online advertising market, and would substantially increase its chances of success.
Alexandria is the second largest and second most metropolitan area in Egypt. With a population of over 4 million people, and the largest seaport in the country, serving roughly 80% of Egyptian imports and exports, it is a market definitely worth targeting. It should be especially of interest for those online companies offering shipping services or delivery of their products.
Egyptians pronounce the hometown of the world famous pyramids “e’Giza”. With a population of over 2.5 million people located on the west bank of the Nile, it is certainly amongst the most appealing markets in Egypt. Its global tourist attractions—the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and large temples—bring in massive traffic annually. Companies that are marketing products on the internet targeting student populations would excel in Giza, as it is the home of one of the largest universities in the world and hosts over 200 thousand students.
Port Said was once an international port and remains one of the most important in Egypt, because of the large quantity of both imports and exports across the port. With over half a million people living along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Suez Canal, this strategic location allows for broad market exposure that ranges from local residents to visitors, merchants, shop keepers, international travelers and all other passersby. On top of having a wide target audience, a company that intends on marketing its products there benefit from Port Said’s official duty-free zone status. The city’s economic base is fishing and industries like chemicals, processed foods, and cigarettes.
Suez is also another seaport city with over half a million residents. It has extensive port facilities with three harbors: Adabya, Ain Sokhna and Port Tawfiq. The city has a bit of an industrial metropolitan feel to it; it has highways and railway lines that connect it with Port Said, Ismailia end even Cairo. It also has a petrochemical plant and oil refineries that extend pipelines all the way to Cairo. Businesses that are interested in Egypt as a whole, could find Suez a good segue market to re-transfer their products nationwide.
Tourist Hot Spots
Egypt has long been dependent on its high profits from tourism in the country. This opens up yet another geo-targeting opportunity for companies interested to market their products in Egypt and beyond—the high tourist influx.
Egypt has accommodated more than 32 million tourists in the past 3 years alone, 80% of which were not Arabs. Winter season is the high season in Egypt, and many Europeans particularly spend their Christmas and New Year holidays there. The majority seem to be coming from Germany, Russia and Italy.
Below are some cities in Egypt that regularly host a potential audience or user group that is broader than just the local Egyptians.
Sharm El Sheikh
Although home to very few Egyptians, Sharm El-Sheikh is one of the most popular tourist destination in the Arab world—in both foreign and domestic tourism. Even those who reside in it are mostly involved in the tourism sector. Sharm’s biggest attractions are its long stretches of natural beaches and its proximity to European tourism markets. It has made a reputation for itself in watersports, and especially scuba diving and snorkeling. Companies targeting this city would do well to capitalize on its primarily touristic character, from the perspective of both the tourists and those providing tourism services. Since there are large numbers of English speakers at this destination online ads should be in English or potentially in Russian in some situations.
Hurghada’s population is much greater than that of Sharm’s, is the third largest city on the Red Sea coast, and a main tourist site. Like Sharm, it is popular for its watersport activities, warm weather and nightlife. Common tourists are those interested in sailboarding, yachting, scuba diving and snorkeling. It is known to be a cheap place to get a scuba license or go on diving trips and see some shipwrecks like El Mina or the Rosalie Moller. To reach locals and foreigners you might consider tailoring your online marketing efforts in Hurghada to Arabic, English, and Russian speakers.
Social Media in Egypt
Egypt is a leading country in social media usage in the MENA region and even on a global scale. Due to the limited modes of communication and conservative culture and regime in Egypt, social media networks introduced new ways of communication and self-expression both locally and abroad.
The impact of social media was seen in the ripple effect of the virtual Arab Spring that took place in 2011. It is after that historic revolution, which made it now commonly accepted and celebrated in Egypt, that Facebook can change a country’s regime!
Penetration of social networks among Egyptian internet users reached 89% by 2013, 67% of them use social media on a daily basis—over 3 hours a day. Egypt dominates MENA’s Facebook usage with the largest number of users across the region. Over 99% of social network users have a Facebook account, and these numbers are only rising. Being the single most accessed website in Egypt, it is no wonder that local businesses use Facebook as a portal for retail. Twitter is also widely used in Egypt. Egyptians produced 12% of all tweets in the Arab world in 2013 (coming in second place after Saudi Arabia).
YouTube is also a major social media player in Egypt, with 56% of internet users streaming videos online monthly, putting Egypt in 2nd place in highest number of YouTube playbacks, after Saudi Arabia. Top video websites after YouTube are cima4u.com, dailymotion.com, and imdb.com. Ads and promotions make up 29% of content streamed online! Others include movies and educational material.
Games are also a hot thing in Egypt; 17% of the Egyptian population play electronic games online. Top websites for games in Egypt are y8.com, travian.com, g9g.com, and travian.ae.
Other networking sites of interest in Egypt include religion sites and dating sites. Those are among the top 5 categories that Egyptians visit and spend time on per each visit. However, music websites have the highest reach, page views, visits, and time spent per visit in comparison to other countries.
It is important to note that the language interface of preference for Egyptian users is in Arabic for over 60% of them. They also appreciate local content not just language, as almost half of the Egyptian youngsters read blogs, mostly from Egypt. Fashion is the most viewed topic at 52%, followed by tech-geared topics at 31%.
Mobile Marketing in Egypt
Mobile internet marketing in Egypt continues to grow, driven by several factors:
- A rise in internet penetration, accelerated by a post-revolution Egypt
- Growth of smartphones, primarily driven by low-cost Androids
- A drop in data costs: abundant and permeating Wi-Fi, and cheap monthly plans
Although mobile adoption is lower in Egypt than other countries, it is certainly on the rise. The following are some figures from a most recent Google research report showing how smartphones effect people’s behavior in Egypt and what that indicates to marketers. These stats give insight to advertisers on how to best engage their customers using smartphones:
- Smartphone penetration grew to 26% in 2012, and is still on the rise
- 29% of smartphone users in Egypt access the internet from their devices daily
- Almost 90% of people in Egypt look for local information on their phones, and 90% of them take action as a result
- Almost 90% of the users in Egypt are multi-tasking while using their smartphones
Smartphones are critical shopping tools:
- 82% of users in Egypt have searched for products and services on their phones
- 41% of those users have made a purchase on their device, & 44% purchased via computer as a result to a search done on their smartphone
- 80% of smartphone shoppers, make mobile purchases at least once a month
- 90% of smartphone users notice mobile ads
- Traditional advertising is just as important on smartphones as 82% of users searched for products after seeing an offline ad
- 46% of users in Egypt expect to make even more mobile purchases in the future
It is just as important to note that the number one barrier to mobile commerce in Egypt is the lack of security people feel in the process of buying things on their phones. Therefore, a company interested to market their products in Egypt, would do well to apply security measures that instill that feeling of safety in their target consumers (SafePay or even Cash on Delivery, are both highly appealing in the Egyptian market).
Online Display Advertising
There is a growing preference for local Arabic content in Egypt, so the more local the content is, the more popular it will be with consumers. More than 60% prefer browsing in Arabic, 80% prefer watching TV in Arabic, and there is a high demand for internet content that is specific to and from Egypt.
The size of the ad market in Egypt was over $745 million in 2013, and that was after a 34% drop from the previous year. Even during the global financial crisis, Egypt showed strong resilience compared to other major advertising markets in MENA. Since 2009, the country represented 16% of total regional advertising spend—the second largest in the region. The overwhelming majority of advertising came from the public sector and the telecommunications industry.
Below are sample flash banners of one of the largest advertising campaigns organized by Egypt’s Tourism Authority, named “Where it All Begins”.
According to research, the most significant percentage growth in advertising in Egypt will come from the internet. This will become apparent as advertisers in the country shift their budgets to the internet not only to increase their audience share, but also to get a more accurate and measurable ROI.
Egypt is the largest online market in MENA, with the highest potential for growth. Companies that are willing to invest in this country will have access to a wide range of user groups; every business is bound to find the target audience of their interest. It is even more advantageous to be investing sooner than later, as the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (ICT) announced a new National ICT Strategy that aims to boost investment in the ICT sector to almost $8 billion.
To do so they plan to increase internet access, at higher speeds for better prices. Thus far, less than a quarter of small business and less than half of medium businesses have a web presence in Egypt. The competition is still very low for now, even though the majority of companies that have invested in online advertising in Egypt were able to grow their businesses by 20% or more annually.
The Egyptian online market is more ripe now than ever before, with all the right conditions for successful online marketing campaigns already in place. This market is thirsty for entrants to tap into it and take advantage of all it has to offer.
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