Getting your website to rank high in search engines in the Middle East is a common challenge these days. With many viable market opportunities across the Middle East and North Africa online businesses want to take advantage of these opportunities. However, getting visibility in Middle East search engines isn’t as easy as just setting up a well designed website. In this post I will outline some of the major factors that go into determining whether or not a website will show up in the Middle East.
As with just about any region of the world a country code top level domain (ccTLD) is possibly the strongest signal for getting a website to appear in a specific country. The MENA region is no exception to this rule. If you want to target a specific country like the UAE you would want to purchase a .ae domain name. If you were targeting just Arabic speakers in that country it might even be worth while to purchase the Arabic version of the ccTLD for the UAE which is امارات. Depending on the country you want to focus on in the region these domain names can vary in price and difficultly to attain. If however your website offer is specifically tailored to one specific country in the Middle East it makes a lot of sense to have a country specific ccTLD. In addition its preference to search engines many residents of the country you choose to target will prefer to click on a website with a country specific domain because of its increased relevance to them.
Though it is not a huge ranking factor in getting a site to appear high in Middle East search results it is still worth mentioning that the location of your website hosting does play a role to search engines. The fact that a website is hosted in Saudi Arabia for example could be a small factor in helping that website rank in any of that country’s major cities like Jeddah or Al Riyadh. However, search engines like Google have mentioned they don’t put a lot of weight into this factor given the fact that website hosting may be more affordable and reliable in other countries besides the country you are targeting.
Your website content goes a long way toward helping search engines determine if it is relevant to searchers in the Arabian Gulf. If you’re targeting consumers or businesses in the MENA region your website should contain keywords that contain Middle Eastern words and phrases in them. For example if you are selling t-shirts online and want to target the consumers in Egypt you would want to have a page or multiple pages on your site dedicated to helping Egyptians buy and find t-shirts that interest them. One page could be the top selling t-shirts among Egyptians and could contain information about how residents of Egypt could purchase these t-shirts.
The title is one of the most important on-page ranking factors for any given page. Having a title tag on important pages of your site that includes keywords relevant to the region you are targeting will help that page show up in Google in that region. If you own a company that helps Qatari residents and other nationalities get visas to the UK you might consider having a page on your site entitled “UK Visa Services for Qataris”.
Do you have a physical office or location in the MENA region? If so including your regional address and phone number on your website can help search engines identify your site as relevant to the region. Be sure to use the <address> html tag to mark up your address in the Middle East.
It’s no secret that a majority of the population from Morocco to Oman speak, read, and write in Arabic. To target the MENA region most effectively your website should have an Arabic version. As the Internet evolves search engines try to serve up more and more relevant content to their users and language plays a huge part in this. Searchers want content in their own language. Also, it is worth noting that despite Arabic being the fifth most spoken language in the world only about 1% of content online is in the Arabic language. Given this fact some of the largest online opportunities yet to be taken advantage of exist in Arabic speaking countries. Having your content in Arabic will allow you to take advantage of these opportunities and show up in Google across the Middle East.
Alternate Language Tags
If you own a site that has pages and sections in multiple languages it would be advantageous to use the rel alternate tag on these pages. This tag allows you to inform search engines that there is another version of a page for a different language or dialect. More information about these tags and how to set them up can be found here.
Regional links can be another strong signal that a website should show up across the Arab world. Google considers links from other sites on the web to your website like a vote of confidence for your site. The more links you get from sites with a good reputation and authority on the web the more authority your site has. This in turn helps your site rank better. This same principle applies to links from sites that are relevant to the Middle East. The more authoritative sites that link to you from the region the more Google will see your site as an authority in the region, which in turn helps it rank better across North Africa and the Middle East.
In conclusion there are several ways that you can optimize your site to appear in North Africa and the Middle East that I have highlighted here. Each of these recommendations also probably deserves one or more separate posts to go deeper into each recommendation. For the sake of keeping this post a reasonable length we will have to cover those topics at another time.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Confused at where to start and how to make this happen while continuing to do what you do best? Let IstiZada take over your online marketing efforts in the Middle East. Contact us today to find out how we can help your company get more visibility in the MENA region among both Arabic and English speakers.