A young and Internet-savvy population, low competition rates in PPC marketing, and growing e-commerce market are all promising benefits to marketers looking to expand into Jordan. In this report, we will examine the culture and policies of Jordan as they relate to successful marketing and provide a guide to the advantages and disadvantages of digital advertising in Jordan and how to successfully appeal to the Jordanian market online. We will look at Jordan’s state of online marketing as it relates to SEO, PPC advertising, mobile marketing, and more.
Basic Overview of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Here we will outline some basic information about Jordan to help you successfully target your internet advertising campaigns in Jordan in a cultural and context-appropriate manner.
Jordan is a small and relatively “new” country, having gained its independence only 100 years ago. Despite the newness of Jordan, its total population is quite large for a small country – hovering around 8 million in 2015 – due to the influxes of refugees from nearby Palestine and Syria. 97% of this population is Muslim, with the remaining 3% mostly comprised of different Christian sects. Jordan’s population is also primarily a young one, with almost 42.2% of the population under the age of 15. The country’s economy is one of the smallest in the Middle East and depends greatly on foreign support and tourism. Jordan has very few natural resources. It is currently a member of the UN Security Council and has a GDP of $37.52 billion in 2015.
Marketers looking for an audience in Jordan should structure their digital campaigns while bearing in mind the young age of the country and population, large Muslim majority in the state and the emerging economy of the country, with the official unemployment rate 13% and the unofficial rate estimated at 30%.
Jordan’s official language is Arabic, but English is a common second language among the middle and upper classes of society. Knowledge of English is required to pass Tawjihi, Jordan’s national exam for finishing high school and entering university. This high penetration of the English language notwithstanding, most searches in Jordan are written in Arabic using Arabic characters rather than the popular “Arabizi” (writing the Arabic language using the Roman lettering system). This information was found by examining the top keywords on Jordan-specific websites such as Google.jo, Garaanews.com, and Ammonnews.net. Marketers hoping for high visibility on their ads should focus on creating relevant keywords and advertisements written in the Arabic language with Arabic characters, with a lesser focus on English and Arabizi in the Levantine dialect.
Freedom Houses’s 2015 edition of its annual “Freedom on the Net” report for Jordan listed the country as “partly free”, with a score of 50 out of a possible 100. It reported that the Jordanian government has been sharply increasing censorship on the Web in the past few years with new laws and broader definitions of terrorism and inappropriate content. One of the key issues that earned Jordan this score was the blocking of news information deemed harmful by the government. Journalists in Jordan regularly practice self-censorship of criticism of the Jordanian military, jury, religion, and royal family to avoid prosecution or the removal of their content. Under Jordan’s Press and Publication law, prohibited content includes all “material that is inconsistent with the principles of freedom, national obligation, human rights, and Arab-Islamic values”. This definition includes the slander and defamation of any religions or prophets. Marketers in Jordan should keep in mind the broad and toughly enforced restrictions on content in Jordan and focus on making advertisements that are respectful to the country and culture – specifically in terms of religion, political freedom, and the Jordanian government and royal family.
Jordan Internet Country Codes
Jordan has one top-level domain with a variety of domain extensions. All domains must be applied for through the National Information Technology Center (NITC) using English-language documents. Domains are restricted to Jordanian entities (the business must reside and/or operate in the country itself) and domain names must comply to Jordanian social norms (e.g. no inappropriate language, names that violate Jordanian laws, names that provoke instability in Jordan). Yearly renewals of .jo domain names range between 17 and 71 USD, with starting fees ranging between 17 and 141 USD. Further information on prices can be found at the NITC website here.
Guidance on which Jordanian domains would be most appropriate for your business can be found here.
Popular Websites in Jordan
Following is a list of the 10 most visited websites of July 2016 in Jordan:
The most notable thing about this list is the high prevalence of news websites among the top visited sites in Jordan. These news sites focus on information on trade and the economy as well as current issues in Jordan. This list indicates that the Jordanian population is highly informed, and has concerns about the economic and societal stability of their country. Jordan is a bit of an anomaly in this way, as most countries typically have more social media pages and search engines (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing) featuring in their top 10 listing. Even further down in the rankings, news websites receive the most daily hits.
Popular Region-Specific Websites in Jordan
Following is a list of the 10 most popular region-specific websites in Jordan. These websites are focused and directed towards the populations of Jordan and MENA.
Again, almost all of these sites are news websites. Jordanians in general seem to be very concerned and informed about issues facing the Middle East today. Marketers should use this insight to focus their advertisements toward a curious and knowledgeable group with high interest in the future of their country.
Popular E-Commerce Sites in Jordan
In 2015, the Jordan Times reported a study by MasterCard claiming that only about 5% of transactions in Jordan are e-payments, with 95% of transactions in the Kingdom being conducted in cash. This is despite a growing smartphone penetration in the country, which the same article reported as approximately 55% in 2015. These e-payments were not for typical ecommerce, but for smartphone purchases such as games and applications. The reason cited for the low amount of ecommerce in Jordan – both online and with mobile payments in stores – was cited as anxiety by merchants about potential fraud, and the relative safety of receiving immediate cash. The MasterCard Market Manager claimed that due to the young age of the population, most Jordanians are tech-savvy and ready to increase usage of credit cards and e-payments. Ecommerce in Jordan grows every year due to the increasing knowledge of the Internet and increasing Internet and smartphone penetration among the Jordanian youth. The only problem that limits the spread of ecommerce is this fear from Jordanian merchants of fraud. To address this problem, MasterCard has begun encouraging partnerships with merchants and expects that the use of ecommerce in the nation will soon greatly improve as a result.
Another development that has encouraged the rise of e-commerce in Jordan is the creation of CashU, an online payment method that uses prepaid cards instead of credit cards so that both merchants and shoppers feel safer shopping online. With the growing popularity of CashU brings in increase in the number of Jordanians comfortable in shopping and buying online
Here is a list of some of the most popular region-specific e-commerce websites in Jordan:
Search Engine Marketing in Jordan
Google claims nearly 95% of the market share in Jordan, according to a 2014 report by Statsmonkey. Other well-known search websites such as Yahoo and Bing receive less than 2% of the market. This enormous monopoly by Google over the Jordanian search engine market shows that marketers might do best to concentrate their ads on Google for the greatest amount of impressions.
State of SEO in Jordan
Here we will compare the relative states of Search Engine Optimization in the United States and Jordan. We will do this by comparing the metrics of top pages for the popular searches “hotels” and “cars” in the two countries – searching in English for the U.S. page and Arabic for the Jordanian page. The number of equity-passing links and the amount of trust in the landing pages will show us the relative competitiveness of SEO between the U.S. and Jordan.
Although the top result website for this search was the same in both countries, there is a large SEO difference between the two landing pages. The amount of trust in the landing page was much higher for the U.S.-based site than the Jordanian one, and had thousands more equity-passing links. Jordan’s site (ar.hotels.com) had shockingly few. This indicates the far higher level of competition in the United States for top-placing ads.
Cars in USA vs. Cars in Jordan
This search again demonstrated the greater level of competition that exists in improving SEO and attaining top ad placement in the United States. While the Jordanian site (jo.opensooq.com, a Middle Eastern online market) held moderate amounts of trust in the landing page and boasted thousands of equity-passing links, the American website had millions more links and a more reliable landing page that earned the highest pay-per-click ad spot. These search comparisons demonstrate that marketers skilled in SEO could potentially receive many more impressions in Jordan, where the level of competition is not so steep as it is in America.
State of PPC in Jordan (Paid Searches)
Due to fewer companies engaging in paid searches and lower thresholds for the SEO of a website to rank high in Google Jordan, marketers engaging in PPC in Jordan will see lower bids and less stiff competition for top-ranking advertisements than they would in the United States. There is a lot of opportunity for beginning and low-budget companies to increase their impressions and conversions through advertising in Jordan.
Analyzing the PPC Differences between the US and Jordan
We will now look at the differences in the states of paid searches in the U.S. and Jordan. We will search on both websites using searches that are both popular and demonstrate intent to buy in order to find pay-per-click ads and compare their number and type.
We will start the comparison by searching “cheap flights to London”, in English for the U.S. and in Arabic for Jordan:
While the U.S. search for cheap flights to London shows the maximum number of 4 PPC ads at the top of the page, all for flight comparison websites, the Jordanian search only shows two – one advertisement from Qatar Airways and one from a flight comparison website. This search shows the low competitiveness for SEO and top ad placement in Jordan – while the U.S. manages to fill its ad search, Google Jordan can only find two ads – one of which from a foreign country.
We’ll next search for “apartments for rent” in the U.S. and Jordan:
In this search, the number of paid advertisements in each country is equal and surprisingly low. Both advertisements are sponsored by large, well-established businesses. Both these searches demonstrate that a marketer that engages in pay-per-click advertising and carries out good practices in SEO can expect a higher-ranking ad and many more impressions in Jordan than in the U.S.
Geo-Targeting Opportunities in Jordan
Jordan’s population is overwhelmingly urban, with 83.7% of Jordanians residing in cities. This high rate of urbanization provides great opportunity for geo-targeting advertisements both to specific cities and to certain districts within Jordan so that ads are specific and highly relevant to the audience. We will now explore some places in Jordan that could return a good investment on geo-targeting efforts:
Amman is Jordan’s capital, and holds 1.55 million people as of 2015 – roughly 14% of the country’s total population. This is the obvious first choice for geo-targeting, as it is the largest city in Jordan where most trade and business is conducted. Since Amman is such a large city, here are some specific districts within the capital that provide good geo-targeting opportunities:
Jebel Amman is the business center of Amman. It contains many of the largest hotels, international companies, and large Jordanian businesses.
Sweifieh is one of the business districts of Amman. It hosts many of Amman’s smaller companies.
Zarqa is Jordan’s second-largest city, with a population of nearly 793,000. USAID has recently embarked on a project to encourage the creation and growth of small and micro-businesses in the governorate of Zarqa, and it is expected that the economy in the city will soon be on the rise and that new local companies will soon start to form. However, the city is known now for its poor state of economy.
Social Media in Jordan
As of 2014, the Jordan Times reported on a Pew study showing that close to 95% of Jordanians own cellphones, with around 38% of this population using smartphones. The country has a high smartphone penetration rate as well as a ranking of 2nd in the Arab world in Internet penetration. Due to the high Internet and smartphone penetration, Jordanians are very active on social networking sites – according to the same study, 84% of Jordanians use social websites such as Facebook and Twitter with 28% accessing these sites on their phones.
According to this figure and statistics found in the 2015 Arab Social Media Report, which is researched by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program, Jordanians are highly active on various types of social media. Jordan had the greatest preference towards Facebook in the Middle East, but also showed high loyalty to Twitter – with 63% of the country subscribed and checking the site daily. This interest in a wide breadth of social media websites offers great opportunity for marketers to explore advertising on a variety of different platforms.
State of Mobile Marketing in Jordan
For a country with such a high rate of smartphone and Internet penetration, Jordan’s mobile market seems lacking. This is due, in great part, to the general distrust by merchants of online card payments and by Jordanians of giving out card information online. Most transactions in Jordan are conducted with cold, hard, reliable cash. Another cause of the underdevelopment of the mobile market is the lack of e-payment services in Jordan. According to “The Mobile Economy Arab States 2015” report conducted by GMSA Intelligence, penetration of mobile money (in the form of banking applications and e-payment services such as PayPal) is less than 30% in Jordan. This is very low compared to other Arab nations such as the UAE and Bahrain, which hold penetration rates of over 70% for these accounts. Even more striking is the lack of growth in Jordan in providing these services in recent years, especially considering the high growth of Internet penetration, smartphone usage, and presence on social media websites.
Another issue facing mobile marketing in Jordan is lack of “digital literacy” – approximately 29% of Jordanian phone owners reported that they needed help to use and understand mobile services. However, what is most likely the largest barrier to a thriving mobile market is the heavy taxation levied on mobile services. Taxes relating to mobile services are frequently changing and continuously increasing in Jordan, making entrance into the market uncertain and pricey. This affects not only mobile service providers but the Jordanian population as a whole – with the price of owning smartphones and using mobile data constantly increasing, and the economy worsening due to lack of resources and huge influxes of Syrian refugees, more and more of the population is driven away from using smartphones. While competition for the mobile market is currently low in Jordan, the current state of taxes and the economy may mean that the market will not prosper in the future and investments on mobile advertisements may not be returned.
Online Display Advertising in Jordan
There is a lot of potential for successful display advertising in Jordan, where investment in digital advertising is one of the highest in the MENA region with an ad spend of around $140 million in 2014. The popularity of a variety of social media websites, in addition to the 66% usage of YouTube across the country, provides a lot of locations for successful display advertisements.
Seasonal Promotion Times
Potential opportunities for seasonal promotion advertisements include:
- New Year’s Day (January 1st)
- Independence Day (celebration of Jordan’s independence from the UK, May 25th)
- Eidal-Isra (celebration of the Night Journey, date varies according to the Islamic calendar)
- Eidal-Fitr (end of Ramadan, date varies according to the Islamic calendar)
- Eidal-Adha (Islamic feast day, date varies according to the Islamic calendar)
- Hijri New Year (date varies according to the Islamic calendar)
Marketers may find great success running advertisements in Jordan due to the country’s low competition rates in PPC advertising, high Internet penetration rate, and young and increasingly technical population. However, marketers will run against stiff challenges including a lack of availability and trust in online payments and the increasing taxes which it difficult to own and use phones in a country with an already poor economy. Essentials to successful marketing in the country include a good understanding of the economic and religious culture in Jordan, ability to target to a young population, and a reliable and trustworthy site that will mitigate Jordanian fears of online fraud. Keeping these essentials in mind, marketing in Jordan could be a great success.