Morocco Online Marketing Country Profile
Morocco is often thought of as a very modernized and business-focused country, an ideal spot for marketers to target a tech-savvy and curious population. We will examine the realities of Morocco’s background and the possibilities of return on investment in this country profile to see if this country is a worthwhile online marketing location. This Morocco internet marketing profile will offer a look at the population and infrastructure of Morocco, along with SEO metrics, prevalence of PPC and mobile advertising, and Internet penetration rates, as a way of analyzing the potential benefits and costs of expanding digital marketing efforts into Morocco.
Basic Overview of the Kingdom of Morocco
Following is a quick summary of Morocco’s demographics, political situation, and economy. This background information is important because it will allow you to effectively target the population in a culturally appropriate way.
Morocco is a Northern African country with a parliamentary democracy, and the oldest ally of the United States. As of July 2016, Morocco’s population was estimated at 33.6 million. Although these numbers make Morocco the 40th most populated country in the world, experts predict that population growth will continue to shrink in coming years due to emigration and women having fewer children. 99% of the population is Arab and Sunni Muslim. The first Moroccan Islamist party is currently leading the government after democratic reforms made in 2011 by King Mohammed VI.
Since the early 200s, Morocco’s economy has been fairly stable with gradually falling inflation and unemployment. Although over 25% of the population is young adults, many are unemployed due to slow job creation. The unemployment rate among young adults was approximately 20% in 2014. This high rate is compounded by a low literacy rate – as of 2015, it was estimated that less than 70% of the population above the age of 15 could read and write. Most of the labor force is employed in agriculture and service. As of 2015, Morocco’s GDP was estimated at 100.36 billion USD.
Morocco’s two official languages are Arabic and Berber (Tamazigh), though most business, government, and diplomatic efforts are conducted in French. The OIF (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie) estimated in 2007 that over 33% can speak French and that 13.5% of the Moroccan population speaks only French. Nearly 90% of Moroccans spoke Arabic according to the 2004 census, making it by far the most common language in the country. We found by looking at common keywords used to search for top sites in Morocco that Moroccans generally search in both Arabic and French. Moroccan websites typically offer both languages, but the primary result for most is in Arabic. Marketers should use this information to know that they should target keywords in both Arabic and French, with a focus on Arabic – using both Arabic and Latin letters.
Internet Censorship in Morocco
The state of Internet freedom in Morocco has greatly improved in the past few years due to constitutional reforms and popular demonstrations. In 2014, rapper Othman Atiq was jailed for insulting the state and promoting drugs through music videos and news sites were targeted for content defaming the government. The rise of social media triggered a higher amount of censorship and state monitoring of citizen activity on the net. However, due to the February 20th Movement that used Facebook to organize rallies and publicize ideas for political reform, King Mohammad VI introduced a reform package that increased civil liberties and halted political filtering. For this reason, the once dubious state of Internet liberties and freedom of press and speech in Morocco have become much more free. As of 2016, Freedom House reported that there were few limits on Internet content and fewer obstacles to access the Internet (the primary obstacle of access being the low Internet penetration rate of 57%). Though the government has stopped blocking websites, journalists can still be punished for criticizing the government and its officials and many VoIP services have been blocked. While the Internet is still not completely free, marketers should feel secure operating on Moroccan websites as long as they avoid inflammatory language on the government or state policies.
Morocco Internet Country Codes
Morocco offers one top-level domain written in Latin characters. Domains must be registered through MTDS, and the contact setting up the domain must be located in Morocco. Domains can, however, be registered by anyone. There is typically a two or three-day waiting period to register a domain name, at a start-up cost of $85 for one year. More information about pricing and naming can be found here.
Popular Websites in Morocco
Following are the 10 most popular websites in Morocco as of November 2016:
One of the most surprising things about this list is the relatively low ranking of the Morocco-specific Google site. This low position could indicate a lack of trust in the security of Moroccan Internet services, such as fear of censorship or the government acting as a watchdog. Another surprising feature of the list is the popularity of Moroccan websites. Whereas many countries’ top ten lists include a greater number of internationally popular websites (e.g. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), Morocco seems to have a great focus on country-specific news sites. This suggests a population highly interested in the state of the country and its politics that uses the Internet primarily as a platform for information.
Popular Region-Specific Websites in Morocco
Following is a list of the 10 most popular region-specific websites in Morocco as of November 2016. This list includes websites targeted to Morocco, North Africa, and the Arabic-speaking world.
Avito.ma and le360.ma are the only two websites on this list that use French as their primary language. The rest of the list tends toward using Modern Standard Arabic. This list is almost entirely comprised of news websites, two of them having a specific focus on sports (especially soccer). Again, this highlights the tendency of Moroccans to use the Internet as a primary source of information. The only non-news website on this list is Avito.ma, which serves as an open advertisement/e-commerce site.
Popular E-Commerce Websites in Morocco
Though E-commerce in Morocco was at the low rate of only about 50% of the population in 2014, it has grown rapidly from its penetration rate of 15% just 3 years before. About a quarter of MasterCard survey respondents indicated that they would feel much more comfortable shopping online if they had more confidence in payment security and website safety. However, the largest impediment to the spread of E-commerce is the lack of Internet penetration growth – which in 2014 was less than 20% of the population. Though a growing emphasis on online security in the past few years has led to projections of a much higher penetration rate and more confidence in the market, the administrative procedures required to set up an E-commerce website and payment platform are difficult and expensive. The current penetration rate in June 2016 was nearing 60%, but this number is still low and indicates a lot of room for growth before Morocco can be considered a great targeting location for an online market.
Following is a list of the most visited Moroccan e-commerce websites:
Search Engine Marketing in Morocco
According to this table from the Statsmonkey Search Engine Market Share report on Morocco in 2014, Google controls the overwhelming majority of the market in Morocco. It might not be worth the investment to advertise on other platforms due to the strikingly low market share in each competing site. However, it is worth mentioning that advertisements should be targeted to both the Morocco-specific Google site and the American site. Google.com, rather than Google.co.ma, receives the largest amount of traffic from Moroccan users.
State of SEO in Morocco
This section will explore the relative Search Engine Optimization metrics in Morocco and the United States so that marketers can have a better idea of potential difficulties involved in entering into the online Moroccan market. We will conduct this exploration by using Moz’s Open Site Explorer to analyze the website trust and amount of equity-passing links in the top placement website of 2 searches on both google.com and google.co.ma. We will use very general search terms, “books” and “cars”, for these analyses. The searches will be conducted in English for google.com and French for google.co.ma.
Books in USA vs. Books in Morocco
Especially when compared with other Middle Eastern countries, the differences in SEO metrics between Morocco and the United States are very small. The top-ranking links for this search on google.com and google.co.ma have similar trust rankings from Moz and both possess high and similar numbers of equity-passing links. This is likely due to the high influence of France on the Moroccan market. Fnac.com is a French website and likely to have similar levels of SEO as American websites. This represents that perhaps due to French influence, the Moroccan market holds a similar level of SEO competition to the United States.
Cars in USA vs. Cars in Morocco
In contrast to the search for “books”, the top ranking result on google.co.ma for “cars” was a Morocco-specific website. The fact that the differences in SEO metrics are still very close between the U.S. and Moroccan pages indicates that Morocco – and not just France – holds a competitive online market that requires excellent SEO in terms of developing website trust and incorporating trusted equity-passing links in order to achieve top search placement on Google.
State of PPC in Morocco (Paid Searches)
The competitive SEO metrics of Morocco, similar to those of the United States, suggest that there is a large market and high competition for pay-per-click advertising. In this section, we will explore the space available for marketers to engage in this type of advertising by running searches that tend to result in PPC ads on Google for both countries and comparing the results.
Analyzing the PPC Differences between the US and Morocco
To analyze the state of competition in the online Moroccan market for PPC advertising, we will conduct basic searches that imply high intent to buy on the country-specific Google pages of Morocco and the United States. The number and content of PPC ads and top results will help us estimate the competition and price of engaging in this type of marketing.
We will start by searching for “cheap flights to London”, in English for the U.S. and in Arabic for Morocco:
It is clear from these searches that the similarities we observed in our comparison of SEO metrics and competition in Morocco and the U.S. hold true in PPC advertising. Both countries filled the 4 top ad placement spots offered by Google. All of the Moroccan ads are relevant to the search and the top 2 ads are region-specific.
Next, we will search “apartments for rent” in the U.S. and Morocco:
The trend is not repeated in this search. Though the U.S.-specific Google site fills its 4 PPC ad slots, there are no paid advertisements in the Moroccan search. However, the top results are region-specific and relevant. This suggests that while PPC advertising is a growing and present influence in Morocco, there are many markets that offer space for effective, low competition and low price advertisement.
Geo-Targeting Opportunities in Morocco
Over 60% of Morocco’s population is urbanized, which makes its cities excellent locations for geo-targeting. We will take a look at the populations and demographics of Morocco’s 5 largest urban areas.
Casablanca has a population of over 3 million and is the commercial capital of Morocco. The city is a mix of high end boutiques, large markets, and areas of poverty. It serves as the country’s main port.
Rabat’s population is approximately 1.656 million. The city serves as the business capital of Morocco and houses the King and government. French is widely used in Rabat in addition to Arabic due to the business status.
Fes holds a population of just under a million and is considered the cultural capital of Morocco. The city is full of large Western hotels and modern shops as well as tanneries – Fes is most famous for its leather production.
Marrakech holds a population of about 840 thousand and is one of the largest cultural and touristic centers in Morocco. It is one of Morocco’s five capitals and lies at the foot of the Atlas mountains.
Social Media in Morocco
As of October 2016, approximately 12 million Moroccans were active users of Facebook. Although less than 60% of Morocco’s population were Internet users in 2016, this is still a relatively low percentage of the population using the most popular social media website of the country. However, Facebook statistics from these users can tell us a lot about what Moroccans look for on social media. Social Bakers ranked E-commerce as the largest industry on Facebook, followed by beauty, automobiles, food, and services. 73% of post types on Facebook were photos and nearly 10% in videos during October 2016. This indicates a preference toward visual, rather than text-based, marketing. The trend of using videos for marketing is a growing trend but does not yet have the popularity of image advertising.
Another very important insight for marketers looking to target social media websites in Morocco is the preferred language of Facebook. Moroccans are nearly 4x more likely to search and communicate in French on Facebook than in Arabic. English is also growing in popularity on social media among Moroccans, especially on international pages. Advertisements in French might have the greatest success on Facebook and other social media sites. Facebook is the most popular platform in Morocco according to the 2015 Arab Social Media Report, with nearly 87% of active social media users subscribed and a large majority of those users accessing the site daily. However, only 52% of active users have an Instagram account and only 41% are on Twitter – with only a third of those users accessing the site every day. Although Instagram and Twitter have potential to introduce an interested market, Facebook is certainly the largest and most popular platform in Morocco and the clear choice for social media ad targeting.
State of Mobile Marketing in Morocco
Although Morocco has a low smartphone penetration rate compared to other Arab states, according to data from “The Mobile Economy Arab States 2015” report by GMSA Intelligence, it has some of the best developing infrastructure for mobile users. Morocco is one of the only 5 Arab states with an advanced LTE network and a majority of citizens use IP messaging due to the availability of fast broadband. This has resulted in a very high mobile penetration rate, of over 113% in 2012. MasterCard reported a 47% increase in mobile shopping by Moroccans from 2013 to 2014. Their survey found that Moroccans appreciated the ease of shopping through apps, and shopped through their phone mainly for cosmetics, home appliances, electronic products, and apps. This information suggests that while smartphone penetration and mobile shopping may be currently at a low rate, Morocco has an excellent infrastructure for large future developments and a population eager to engage in mobile shopping.
Seasonal Promotion Times
Following is a list of Moroccan public holidays that can be used to plan seasonal promotions:
- New Year’s Day (January 1st)
- Eid Saghir (Celebrated at the end of Ramadan, date changes every year)
- Oued Ed-Dahab Day (August 14th, Allegiance Day)
- Eid Kabir (Feast of Sacrifice, date changes every year)
- Islamic New Year (October 2nd)
- Independence Day (November 18th)
- Eid al Mawlad (Celebration of Muhammad’s birth, date changes every year)
Although Morocco’s population contains a large number of Internet-savvy and young citizens, various issues in the country’s infrastructure and economy prevent us from classifying it as an excellent opportunity for marketing ventures. The currently low Internet penetration rate, low literacy rate, and high unemployment combined with high SEO and PPC competition to make marketing in Morocco potentially difficult, expensive, and not always worth the investment. With that said, by targeting high value audiences in less competitive niches there are still many ways to achieve a high ROI from digital marketing efforts in Morocco.