Kuwait Online Marketing Country Profile
Kuwait is a key market for those looking to target the gulf region with their online marketing efforts. With an active internet population of 2.1 Million and 87% of internet users on social media networks it has rapidly become a very web savvy country in the past 5 years. Kuwait also has the second highest GDP per capita in the GCC, right behind Qatar at $56,367 per year. This makes it an extremely lucrative market for those interested in marketing in the Middle East. This Kuwait online marketing profile will get into various different aspects of the digital marketing landscape in Kuwait. Feel free to skip to the section that suits your interests.
Basic Information about the Kuwait
It’s important to know some of the basic facts about Kuwait before you embark on an internet marketing campaign to this country.
Kuwait has an estimated population of 4.04 million people which has nearly doubled in size since the 2005 census that put the country at 2.2 million. Petroleum products are the main source of income for the Kuwait economy. With an estimated 6% of the world’s known oil reserves the country is consider to be the 5th most wealthy country in the world per capita. The Kuwaiti Dinar is said to be the currency with the highest value in the world.
Kuwait is similar to the United Arab Emirates in that a more the half of the population in the country are expatriates. Kuwait is a conservative society in which the majority of the population is Muslim. Successful marketers will have a good understanding of how to respect conservative cultures and values while still appealing to interests of this rapidly changing society.
Kuwaitis speak Arabic and specifically they speak the Gulf Dialect of Arabic. Most websites written in Arabic are written in the Modern Standard form of Arabic so they can be read by Arabic speakers across the Middle East and around the world. Some newer websites geared toward attracting a larger gulf audience are starting to write and have video content that uses more Gulf dialect specific vocabulary.
Some well-educated Kuwaitis speak and read English as well but their preference is usually for Arabic content. Having a well written Arabic website is key to success online in Kuwait.
Kuwait, like many other countries in the GCC does practice censorship on the internet. Internet service providers throughout the country are required to block various forms of elicit content, content that criticizes religion, content that attacks traditions and state security. The intent of this censoring is typically seen as a way to preserve and protect morals and to protect naïve citizens of Kuwait like youth.
It should be noted that many internet users in Kuwait try to subvert censorship on the internet through the use of VPN’s and proxies like Hotspot shield.
Kuwait Internet Country Codes
Country Code Top Level Domains
Second Level Domains
Most popular sites in Kuwait
Of particular noteworthiness is the fact that of the 10 most popular websites in Kuwait, not one of them was a Kuwait based website or for that matter a website based in the Middle East. In the next section we will look at the website specific to the Middle East region that are most popular in Kuwait.
Most popular region specific sites
Below is a list of the top Middle East regional websites frequented by Kuwait residents, i.e. sites that are specifically geared to the region and Arabic speakers:
As with many of the other countries in the Gulf region Kuwait is served by many of the most popular E-commerce websites in the region including:
There are also some Kuwait specific ecommerce websites like
Clothing and apparel items are the most purchased item category online in Kuwait.
It is also worth noting that many Kuwaitis are able to order products through international websites like Amazon.com through an Aramex forwarding address in the United States or the United Kingdom. With services like Amazon prime and Aramex Kuwait residents can buy products from the US and receive them in as little as 3-4 days at times. Certain items may incur additional custom duties though.
Search Engine Marketing in Kuwait
In 2014 Google owns the lion’s share of the search engine market. Though specific statistics on exactly how much of the search engine market Google has in Kuwait aren’t available, other countries in the region like Saudi Arabia have a 95-97% Google market share percentage.
Google has two versions of its search engine for Kuwait. A right to left Arabic version and a left to right English version. They both reside at www.google.com.kw.
Many search engine marketing opportunities exist in Kuwait from SEO to Pay Per Click marketing opportunities.
State of SEO in Kuwait
Given that about 60% of Kuwait’s population is Arab (both Kuwaiti and other Arab expats) Arabic is the main language for search in the country followed by English.
Below you can find a comparison of organic search metrics for the first position websites that rank in Kuwait and the United States respectively for the keywords “Hotels” and “Cars for Sale” in Google. We have made these comparisons in order to give you a good understanding of the differences between link authority metrics for local websites that rank in Kuwait verses more competitive websites that rank in the most competitive online market in the world, the US.
Hotels in USA VS. Hotels in Kuwait
Cars in USA VS. Cars in Kuwait
SEO Comparison Explanation
The charts above highlight the differences between trying to get a website to rank in Google.com in the US verses Kuwait, based on the links pointing at those websites. What does this mean? In general it means that a website can rank in Google in Kuwait much more easily than it can in rank in Google in the US. It requires far fewer high quality links to rank in Kuwait. Moz’s domain authority metric highlights the vast difference between the number one ranked site in Kuwait vs the number one website ranking in the US.
In summary a website can rank well with far fewer links than in Kuwait so a website geo-targeted at Kuwait can be at a significant advantage and have a much easier time ranking than a website that is targeted more globally.
One additional note is that quality links in the Middle East are much more difficult to acquire than they are in other parts of the world. This is because many of the top websites in the region rarely link out to other websites and little attention is given to citing sources. Often times content is outright plagiarized on some websites, which can make content promotion difficult. You should be aware that all other websites in the region are in the same situation though. If it’s a challenge for you to attract links to a Kuwait focused website, it will be a challenge for your competition as well.
State of paid search in Kuwait (PPC)
Google Adwords dominates the Pay Per Click advertising market in Kuwait. For most niches there is little competition but some industries like travel and apparel have become much more competitive over the past 3-4 years. Since Kuwait is the 3rd largest market in the GCC, more and more advertisers are opening up to running ads on Google in this country. In light of the good relations between GCC countries e-commerce retailers in the region find advertising in Kuwait advantageous because they can easily ship goods to Kuwait.
Analyzing the PPC Differences between the US and Kuwait
We used Google.com.kw and Google.com to do a comparison of two popular search terms around the globe. The first keyword we looked at was Toyota. When we use this search query in Arabic in Kuwait we discover there are no ads that show up for this keyword. Though Toyota is a broad keyword and doesn’t show a clear search intent we would expect to see at least one ad in Kuwait. Instead we see a knowledge graph result, regular organic results, and news results.
When we do the same search in English in the US we get entirely different results. There are so many Adwords ads that show up for this search query in the US that the average laptop will only show one organic search query above the fold of the page without having to scroll down. In total the English result has 7 ads, some of which include site link ad extensions that significantly increase the page real estate taken up by the ad. This denotes a clear difference in the level of competitiveness for popular search queries when comparing these two countries.
Our second search query was for the globally popular Apple iPhone 6. Since we know that Kuwait has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world we expected to see more ads in Arabic for this search query.
There was one ad for the iPhone 6 in Arabic in Kuwait but that was it. Interestingly the ad itself was for the iPhone 5s not the iPhone 6.
For the same search query in the states we got very different results. Again we see that all the spaces available for Adwords ads are taken up for this search query. Additionally you see that Product Listing Ads (PLAs) show up in the states as well. This ad format is still not available in Kuwait.
Geo-targeting Opportunities throughout the country of Kuwait
Though Kuwait is a relatively small country when compared to the likes of Saudi Arabia or Egypt, there are still some geo-targeting opportunities in the country. The majority of the population lives around the center of one city but there are opportunities to tailor your offering to specific parts of the country.
You may want to consider targeting the following:
Kuwait City is by far the largest city in Kuwait and has a significant population of 2.38 million when you include the surrounding outskirts of the city. Kuwait City is the center of business and trade in the country and contains several ports. With more than 40 suburbs the city is essential to target if you are considering reaching this market on a local scale.
Some other Districts in Kuwait you may consider targeting include:
- Al Farwaniyah
- Al Jahra
- Al Ahmadi
- Mubarak Al-Kabeer
Social Media in Kuwait
Kuwait has some of the highest social media usage rates in the world. Due to the relatively conservative culture in the region social media has opened up new avenues of communication and has allowed citizens to connect with each other and those outside the country in ways that weren’t possible before.
87% of internet users in Kuwait utilize social networks.* To add to this 88% of social media users in the country actively interact with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis.*
Surprisingly, though Facebook penetration was surveyed to be at 90% of social media users in Kuwait in 2012 only 83% reported using the network in 2013.* KSA a also saw a decline in Facebook usage percentage, though not as large.
Even though certain networks may appear to have seen a slight decline, some newer networks are seeing even more growth and locals are using these networks in creative ways. For example, the snapshot below is of a picture on Instagram used as an ad to sell sheep in Kuwait. Now that’s innovative.
Twitter usage is also up in Kuwait year over year and some report shifting from Facebook to Twitter.
The GCC has one of the highest YouTube usage rates in the world and Kuwait is no exception to this rule. YouTube is extremly popular in the country, especially with the advent of new types Arabic content springing up in the Arab world like some of the popular standup comedy shows in the Middle East.
*Social Media Statistics via: Ipsos
Mobile Marketing in Kuwait
Smart phone penetration in Kuwait is at about 69% and rising. Of those with smart phones 90% had mobile internet access. Mobile penetration in the country is said to be 100%. Just like the rest of the GCC if you plan on reaching Kuwait effectively with your online marketing efforts you have to utilize mobile. The top 3 mobile operators in the country include Zain, Ooredoo, and Viva.
Of particular interest is the fact that there are several Value Added Service providers that sell SMS updates to end users and companies in the region. These may include sports updates or updates on other types of news. In most other regions of the world this wouldn’t work as smart phone users can get sports updates via the internet but for some reason there are still several companies making significant revenues from SMS news updates.
As with other countries in the GCC it is very common for Kuwaitis to carry 2 or even 3 smart phones. Androids and iPhones have become the most popular mobile phones in recent years with improvements to Arabic text rendering on smart phones.
Online Display Advertising in Kuwait
Publishers of Arabic content are springing up left and right targeting the GCC and Kuwait is no exception to this rule. Due to turmoil in other parts of the Middle East many advertisers have more budget to spend in the GCC which drives the price of ad space up online. As more companies saw that only a small number of publishers were taking advantage of this demand other publishers started to pop up in the region. Despite this, CPM rates are still very high in Kuwait and most larger publishers need to be approached directly to advertise with them. Ad networks in the region are still very fragmented making it hard for smaller businesses to advertise on a variety of high quality sites in the region and see a return on ad spend.
Of course display advertising opportunities are available on Google and social media networks like Facebook. YouTube advertising can also be extremely cost effective with low CPVs and a higher likelihood that your ads are being noticed.
Top Advertising Categories in Kuwait in 2013 according to OOXmonitor
|Banking & Finance||11.7%|
|Health & Beauty||4.4%|
|Foods & Snacks||5.1%|
|Websites & Portals||3.4%|
|Restaurants & Bars||4.7%|
|Clothes & Accessories||2.2%|
Top Advertisers in Kuwait in 2013 were
|Johnson & Johnson||1.8%|
Seasonal Promotions Times
Potential times for seasonal ad promotions in Kuwait include:
- New Year’s Day
- Milad Un Nabi (The Prophet’s Birthday)
- Kuwait National Day
- Kuwait Liberation Day
- Lailat Al Miraj (The Prophet’s Ascension)
- Eid Al Fitr
- Eid Al Adha
- Al Hijra (Islamic New Year)
Since many of these holidays are on an Islamic calendar you should check the dates of these holidays during the current year.
There are many lucrative marketing opportunities in Kuwait. Companies wishing to test this market out with limited budgets and limited resources may find some success in this country. On the other hand companies that make a significant investment localizing their marketing to this region while investing sufficient time and resources in this market stand to see a much higher return on investment.
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