Tunisia Online Marketing Country Profile
Tunisia is one of the most promising markets in the Middle East and North Africa region right now, with an open market, low competition, and Web-savvy population. Marketers looking to expand their business into Tunisia will be met with great opportunities for low-cost and high-visibility advertisements and high chances of success. In this Tunisia Online Marketing Country Profile, we will demonstrate the potential offered by the Tunisian market by giving a quick description of the country’s background, exploring SEO competition and PPC advertising, and providing insight into the business and consumption culture of Tunisia.
Basic Overview of Tunisia
Following is a short description of the demographics, economy, and social pressures of Tunisia, accompanied by brief descriptions of how this information can help you structure and focus your marketing efforts in the country.
Of Tunisia’s population of just over 11 million (as of July 2016), over 98% identifies as Arab and about 99.1% are Sunni Muslim. Minority groups in the country include Europeans and Jewish groups of varying nationalities (each makes up just under 1% of the country’s population). Due to its low birth rate and the high migration rate caused by recent political turmoil, this population has been growing at a very slow rate for the past several years. Tunisia also has one of the largest unemployment rates in the world, with the youth population close to 38% unemployment. Based on these demographic statistics, advertisements should be targeted in a way that is respectful to the Muslim community and avoids potentially offensive content. Marketers should also be aware of the poverty of the country reflected by the high unemployment rate and the dependency ratio of nearly 45%.
Although Tunisia was once considered hugely successful in terms of economic growth due to its diverse market economy, the corruption under the Ben Ali regime greatly increased employment, worsened living conditions, and decreased tourism. GDP growth has slowed to less than 1% as the new government tries to re-establish trust in business and investment and make the country more attractive to tourists. As of September 2016, the quarterly growth rate in Tunisia was only .2%. In 2015, Tunisia’s GDP had declined to 43 billion from 47.6 billion the year before. This information shows digital marketers that they need to build great trust to be able to successfully market online in Tunisia, and that they need to be aware of adverse economic and social conditions.
Although Tunisia’s official language is Arabic, French is very commonly used for business, commerce, and trade. English and German are also somewhat common in larger cities. Searches on top Tunisian websites seem to be conducted mostly in French, though a significant number of Arabic-language websites are prominent on top website lists. Marketers should focus on French-language keywords as well as targeting Arabic keywords using the classical language in the Arabic alphabet.
Although Freedom House classifies the Internet in Tunisia to be only “partly free”, it appears that mistrust in the Net arises primarily from difficulty of access rather than a high prevalence of government censorship. Since the overthrow of Ben Ali four years ago, censorship has been extremely low – although it is speculated that many users self-censor in fear of legal prosecution, Tunisians have become much more active online and are more open to discussing sensitive issues such as the government, the army, and religion. Censorship and legal sanctions are limited to content deemed as defamatory. This status may change in the future, as many citizens are pushing for stricter filtering and more expansive censorship to remove extremist content and websites that promote acts of terrorism. The government has not implemented these reforms, claiming that filtering would do little to prevent users – who are guaranteed privacy on the Net – from accessing this material. It is unlikely that marketers will run into censorship or legal issues with their advertisements in Tunisia, as long as they veer from defaming the military and government.
Tunisia Internet Country Codes
Tunisia has one top-level domain, written in Latin characters, and several second-letter domains. Domains can be registered to Tunisian citizens and businesses, as well as foreign companies with a valid Tunisian trademark. The Tunisian Internet agency offers several registrars, listed on their website here.
Popular Websites in Tunisia
Following is a list of the top 10 most popular websites in Tunisia in January 2017, followed by an explanation of what this list means to marketers.
One of the main takeaways from this list is the heavy prevalence of France and the French language in Tunisia, as the few region-specific websites in the top 10 were all written in French and google.fr was high on the list along with google.tn and google.com. This list was made up mostly of internationally popular websites and search engines. However, the high position of Youtube.com on the list suggests that online display advertising may be very successful in Tunisia. It is also important to note the surprising lack of social media websites on this list – suggesting that advertisements on search engines might have a much larger viewer base than those placed on sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
Popular Region-Specific Websites in Tunisia
Following are the top 10 most popular region-specific websites directed towards Tunisia or MENA.
There are a number of interesting websites on this list. One of the most noticeable aspects of the list is the high position of radio and TV websites, as well as a Tunisian community forum website and two news websites. These sites indicate that Tunisians are not only well informed, but well connected. Two other very surprising websites for this list are planetwinall.net, a betting website for which over 70% of its visitors are Tunisian, and tayara.tn – a popular site for online advertisements within Tunisia. The prevalence of these websites show that Tunisians are Web-savvy and, more importantly, feel comfortable looking for products and using money online.
Popular E-Commerce Sites in Tunisia
Although the economy and job market have been slowing in Tunisia over the past few years due to the revolution in 2011, the country has adopted a new credit and consumption culture that resembles the habits of more developed countries and provides great opportunity to marketers. Tunisians generally use the Internet to search for information about products before buying, and like to buy locally or from companies that they trust. As of 2016, over 52% of the population has access to the Internet. Online marketers could expect great success from this enthusiastic and open market.
Search Engine Marketing in Tunisia
The 2014 usage statistics published by Statsmonkey for search engine market share in Tunisia indicate that Google holds the overwhelming majority of the Tunisian market, with less than 10% of searches going to other, varied websites. Although advertisements might have a better chance of being seen on websites such as Yahoo and Ask Jeeves due to lower competition, the much lower audience numbers may significantly hinder their success. Marketers would do best to focus their energy on Google advertising for search engine ads in Tunisia.
State of SEO in Tunisia
In this section, we will compare the relative Search Engine Optimization metrics (looking for competition in the market) in Tunisia and the United States through Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer tool. We will perform searches for the basic keywords “books” and “cars” on both google.tn and google.com and then analyze the metrics and trust of the top link on each country’s search results page. These searches will be conducted in English for the United States and in both French and Arabic for the Tunisian site. Specifically, we will compare the relative amounts of trust in each link and the number of equity-passing links hosted by each top result. Through this analysis, we will see the relative market competition and the amount of search engine optimization required to obtain the top organic link in each country.
Books in USA vs. Books in Tunisia
In this chart, the leftmost result is the top link from the U.S. site, followed by the results from the French and Arabic searches on the Tunisian Google page. Across the site results, the U.S. page demonstrated greater trust and held more equity-passing links than those found in the top Tunisian links. However, the trust levels were close for the three searches and the majority of links on each page were equity-passing. It’s interesting that the Arabic-language page held thousands more links than the French-language search for Algeria. This could be a result of higher competition within Tunisia for Arabic keywords and a higher amount of Arabic-language content. The search in French resulted in a France-based website. These results make it clear that France has a large influence on the Tunisian market, because top results go to French rather than Tunisian websites. The results make a strong case for marketers to target using French keywords as well as Arabic – there is a lower level of SEO competition while searching in French, and the results are not as relevant (not location-specific). Savvy marketers utilizing SEO and marketing towards Tunisia could easily obtain top search placements as well as clicks due to the low competition and a greater relevance.
Cars in USA vs. Cars in Tunisia
The search for “cars” in the U.S. and Algeria demonstrates much closer competition between French and Arabic. The Arabic page demonstrates more MozTrust as well as MozRank, though both sites host thousands of equity-passing links. However, there is still a large disparity between the SEO required for the American and Tunisian sites. Marketers looking to bring their business to Tunisia can quickly obtain high placement on Google searches through savvy search engine optimization.
State of PPC in Tunisia (Paid Searches)
We will use this section to demonstrate the potential for obtaining top placement and low cost paid advertisements in Tunisia. We will use two different searches to demonstrate how the Tunisian PPC market compares to that of the U.S.
Analyzing the PPC Differences between the US and Tunisia
We will now examine the relative success and ease of obtaining top placement paid searches in Tunisia and the United States. We will look at the use and relevancy of pay per click ads in each country through searching for popular phrases with tails that indicate intent-to-buy. In this way, we can find search pages that are likely to have a large number of paid advertisements. The amount and relevancy of the ads we find for these searches will give us insight into the competition and likely expense of engaging in this type of advertising in Tunisia.
Our first search will be for “cheap flights to London”, in English for the U.S. and in both French and Arabic for Tunisia:
These result pages from the “cheap flights to London” search demonstrate the differences between the online markets in the U.S. and Algeria. The U.S. results page exhibits all four possible pay per click ads, and each result is relevant. The French result in the Tunisian search page also manages to fill all four ad spots, but not all of the paid ads are relevant. The fourth result advertises flights from Paris rather than flights from Tunis. The Arabic results page holds only two paid advertisements – one advertising from Beirut and in the English language. There is clearly room for more relevant paid ads in the Tunisian market.
The second search will be for “apartments for rent” in the U.S. and Tunisia:
This search for “apartments for rent” clearly reiterates the “cheap flights to London” search by clearly showing the open market for pay per click advertising in Tunisia. In both French and Arabic searches, the results on the Tunisian Google search showed very few paid results, and the results for the searches were not always relevant. The third result in the Arabic search suggests apartments in Beirut instead of Tunisia. The U.S. shows a greater popularity of using paid searches and a much more focused market. These searches demonstrate that marketers could very easily obtain top placement and highly visible paid advertisements in Tunisia for low cost.
Geo-Targeting Opportunities in Tunisia
Tunisia has a relatively low rate of population urbanization. Only about 67% of Tunisians live in cities, compared with an 82% urbanization rate in the U.S.. However, the larger cities offer great opportunity for geo-targeting. Below, we will quickly describe the population and main characteristics of Tunisia’s five largest cities.
Tunis is the capital and largest city of Tunisia, holding a population of 1.993 million in 2015 (nearly 18% of the population). The economy of the city depends primarily on agriculture, mining, and tourism.
Sfax is the major port town of Tunisia. Its economy relies on fishing and industry, as well as its use as a Tunisian transportation hub. The main exports of the city are olive oil and esparto grass. The population hovers around 277 thousand.
Sousse is a Tunisian commercial center and port town with a population around 173 thousand as of 2004.
Midoun is the largest city in the area of Monastir, an important tourist area and industrial center. It produces salt, soap, and olive oil and offers beach resorts and marinas to tourists.
Kairouan is a handicrafts and livestock center in Tunisia that has recently been developing its tourism initiatives. It held a population of almost 118 thousand in 2004.
Social Media in Tunisia
Many scholars would argue that social media is a large part of what has created the state of Tunisia today – posting videos and utilizing Facebook and Twitter to create events were crucial to the spread and success of the Tunisian Revolution of 2010-11. These tools of activism quickly spread throughout the country, and are still in frequent and eager use today – both by the younger tech-savvy generation and by those who joined social media to participate in reformation efforts. As of 2015, around 85% of Tunisian citizens held a Facebook subscription and 89% of those subscribers used the site daily. Now that the new government of Tunisia has lifted most of the censorship and content restrictions previously placed on the Internet, citizens have become much more vocal and free on social media.
Savvy marketers may greatly benefit from ads placed on social media websites such as Facebook as well as display ads on YouTube. With such a large majority of the population visiting Facebook every day, ads are guaranteed excellent visibility from Tunisians. Due to the large age range that visits social media websites, ads can also attract broader sectors of the population than in other countries where the majority of Facebook users are of younger generations. These platforms are ideal for easily connecting with a large portion of the population that m attaches great importance to social news and communication.
Most “Liked” Facebook Pages in Tunisia
Following is a list of the most popular Facebook pages among Tunisians:
- Santé+ Magazine
- ابتسم. فالله ربك
- Dorra Zarrouk
- Mosaique FM
- Elhiwar Ettounsi
- Jawhara FM
- Amani Swissi
The majority of Facebook pages that make this top 10 list are in the Arabic language, with the exceptions of Santé+ Magazine in French and Mosaique FM (which uses both languages equally). This list includes a number of musicians, as well as TV and soccer pages.
State of Mobile Marketing in Tunisia
Despite the increased activity of Tunisians online and on social media in the past few years, the infrastructure in the country is still poor and does not support extensive mobile marketing. Tunisia neither has or is planning to implement a 4G or LTE system, though it does have a 3G network. According to statistics from “The Mobile Economy Arab States 2015” report conducted by GMSA Intelligence, only 23% of Tunisians are connected to the Internet through smartphones. This is well below both the global average and average for MENA. Evolita claims that the statistic was actually 27% in 2015, but this number is still low compared to other countries. However, over 80% of Tunisians with smartphones regularly use apps – with Facebook and YouTube among the most visited.
Another severe issue that prevents advertisement success in the mobile market is the lack of ability to make purchases online or through a phone. The same “The Mobile Economy Arab States 2015” report demonstrates that in 2014, only about 25% of Tunisians held a bank account. The small amount of the population that would be able to pay online, combined with the low smartphone penetration and underdeveloped mobile infrastructure, demonstrates the questionable potential of success through mobile advertising in Tunisia.
Seasonal Promotion Times
In this section we will quickly list holidays that can be used to schedule seasonal promotions in Tunisia:
- New Year’s Day (January 1st)
- Revolution and Youth Day (January 14th)
- Independence Day (March 20th)
- Ramadan (time of the season varies according to the Islamic calendar)
- Islamic New Year (date varies according to the Islamic calendar)
Tunisia is a promising market for those looking to expand into the Middle East and North Africa. The low competition for search engine optimization and pay per click advertisements suggest that marketers can quickly and cheaply obtain high visibility in the online Tunisian market. In addition, the recent trend toward a culture of credit and high consumption demonstrates the eagerness of Tunisians for new business and greater amounts of advertising. The importance of social media and visual display to Tunisians means that marketers also offer great opportunities for marketers to get their ads seen and to develop trust. Although Tunisia has a poor infrastructure for mobile advertising, the online market shows great potential for rapid expansion. In all, marketing in Tunisia could be an extremely valuable investment.