How to Build an Arabic Content Marketing Strategy

The main concept behind content marketing is filling the gap between what the company produces and what the consumer is searching for. Arabic content marketing strategy will always be one of the top marketing activities for companies to grow in the Middle East.

Middle East North Africa’s (MENA) online audience is currently one of the fastest growing online segments with high rates of growth. Although the demand for Arabic content is growing, the online Arabic content is still way behind.

Only 2% of worldwide content is written in Arabic. And 5% of Fortune 500 websites have an Arabic language version. The gap between the size of the market and the percentage of the content available online is huge. Although there is a gap in content, there is a bigger gap in the distribution, topics varieties, and specialized websites. Social media is playing a big role in the region but would you do if you need you need to discover your content marketing opportunities beyond the social media? What if you want to enhance your organic search results through inbound links? The answer is Arabic content marketing.

Do I really need to create a content marketing strategy for Arabic?

When it comes to the Middle East region, companies rely heavily on Paid Ads and Social Media as an effective tactic to accelerate their results. Since Arabic content creation is one of the biggest challenges, the marketers would not recommend it as one of the top approaches. Over the years, clients used to ask me why you always recommend Arabic content marketing. The answer is; simply because it is underestimated!

As I’ve learned from the market, not only do you need an Arabic content, you also need to market it to go viral.  Now, let’s try to find out the most important practices for an effective Arabic content marketing strategy.

Define Your Business Goals for Each Local Market

What is content going to do for you? Create awareness? Generate leads? Improve loyalty and retention? Those are all important question you’ll need to answer with your strategy. Yet, the most important goals for the regional market would be tricky.

It is very important to define first your goals for each local market separately. Avoid the common concept that since all those countries speak Arabic so it takes one strategy. Well, that’s not true! The dialects are different; the trends are tricky; the channels are specific. To get the right conclusion, you will need to divide your goals in the region by countries.  Your KPIs and analytic reporting should be defined for each local market accordingly. Separate the KSA market from the Egyptian market to get real insights and to enhance your approach.

Research, Customize and Adapt

Forget about the standard principles and drive your researches further into the market. Based on the insights you’ll need to adapt and build a customized strategy. Learn as much as possible about the target segments, their preferred channels, their top sites, their search behavior and the competition. The market is full of gaps and it is a golden chance for those who are willing to take advantage. An effective Arabic content marketing strategy should be fully customized for the local culture.

Enhance Your Arabic Content

Investing in quality content is one of the most critical issues. Some would imagine that translating their English content is all that it takes. In fact, this would never help you reach your audience in the region.

Enhance your content quality and originality. Avoid translating your marketing materials from English to Arabic and start creating original and localized content. Bring in native copywriters, designers, and creative artist to create engaging content. Include the trends into your content calendar. Get the local team involved in the process of content creation. Take the advantage of creating different types of content. There is no enough infographics, video reviews and presentation slides in Arabic and that’s a huge chance.

Finally, investing in Arabic content is profitable and very effective in growing your Arabic SEO SERPs.

Open Up Your Network

Content marketing is challenging in Arabic. One of the major issues is the lack of specialized websites. If you exclude social platforms and global websites, almost 90% of the traffic in the region is dominated by news portals. If you are trying to market your products, you should think of creating a new story around your product. It might sound tricky but the Arabic news portals are trying to cover all the Arabic readers’ interests from light news to product reviews.

The practices of discovering content marketing channels are not the same as in the USA or Europe market. You will have to dig for different approaches. Partner with startups who are taking initiatives of creating content platforms and specialized website. Open a platform for contributions and content creation contests. Get your PR and Social Media teams busy with pushing the content into your network and top influencers. Maintain a very solid relationship with press and media in the local market.

Finding Arabic channels for content distribution is not hard after all. It is all about team effort and in-depth researches.

Build it to Grow

Content marketing is an ongoing effort. It is very important to have the seeds for growth and to get all the team involved. Building content and marketing it requires effective online communications as well as offline events. Explore for partnership opportunities on content creation and marketing. Benefit from your internal team and partners feedback to enhance your content marketing plan. As long as your network keeps expanding, your content exposure will grow over time.

The Arabic online market is already changing

Over the years, the online market in the region is continuously changing. 8 years ago the forums took the control of Arabic content. Later on and due to Arab Spring, the news portals started to dominate. Now and as we speak, all this started to change again. The startups are taking huge steps in creating platforms for Arabic quality content (check startups like 7awi and Wamda). Video bloggers and independent YouTubers started to generate huge demand vs TV shows, especially in Morocco, KSA, and Egypt. With increasing funds and digital investing the region is a hot spot for content marketing.

The Art of Arabic PPC Management

The Arabic language becoming the 4th language on the Internet and the need for targeting the Arabic consumer is rapidly increasing. Marketers always believe that launching a paid search campaign is one of the most effective ways to generate online sales in as little as few days. Yet, the Arabic PPC management is technically not an easy task and could be sometimes very tricky.

To localize your search engine advertising campaigns, you will need to understand many factors such as the difference between Arabic slangs and popular keywords for each country, landing pages optimization for campaigns and Arabic copywriting for the ads.

How to Manage the Arabic Search Engine Advertising

There are several important tips and variables to consider before targeting the Middle East markets with Arabic search engine advertising campaign such as Google AdWords.

Outsource or In-house?

The first question that might get you confused; what is best option to run a campaign, professional agency or in-house? To answer this question, I have to declare some terrifying facts about this business.

  • I have seen some of the advertising agencies managing campaigns for two or three competitors and not telling about it. There is a conflict in this situation and it is not secure to share data with the agency.
  • Some of the clients don’t have KPIs and they don’t really screen the service provider carefully.
  • In-house teams are not having enough expertise with PPC practices or sometimes they are expats with no in-country experiences.
  • There are numerous PPC advertisers in the market and some of them claim to offer the best services, but not all of them live up to their own promises.

Practically, there is no ideal choice for this situation. My best advice for you is: Get involved! Don’t just hire an agency without understating the market or the results. Your marketing team should be involved in the process of keywords research, target segmentation and even the Ads copywriting. And most importantly, set your KPIs and ROI properly based on your research.

Study the Local Competition

It is no secret that the competition in Arabic AdWords is not highly competitive in many sectors. There is an open opportunity for businesses. The most competitive firms are limited to real estate, hotels, automotive, e-commerce, and electronics while there is no real competition in other firms. The good news about this, that with a small budget you can drive successful results in the local market. However, studying the local market might lead you to drop PPC and go with another approach. Based on the results you can determine even if you need an Arabic paid search or not. I had a B2B company tried Arabic PPC for a while but when I recommended an English campaign targeting the region, they were able to generate 300% increase in the leads. My recommendation was based on the market research that indicated English as the favorite language for business in the Middle East.

Arabic Keywords Research

The Arabic language has almost three times more words than English. The Arabic keywords may sometimes have multiple meanings which generate a major challenge for keywords and relevancy. Another problem with using the Arabic language online is that different regions within the Arab World use different words to explain the same thing. This might be tricky in finding and retrieving relevant keywords that help to target your consumer. For example, for the term “properties” could be “عقارات”, “منازل”, “مساكن” or “بيوت”. Each Arabic market is different; KSA is not using the same Arabic keywords like Egypt. Based on local search volume, consumer behavior, and market nature you have to determine which keyword would benefit your campaign.

Set the Right Settings

Don’t target the whole region as one big chunk. After you study the market and conduct a solid keywords research you will need to set different settings and bidding strategy for each country. Devices, Seasonal Occasions, demographics, and budget could be very different for each Arabic market. Pay attention to the local trends in the market and as well the public holidays and traditions. Target your local segmentations effectively with separate personalized campaigns. Make sure you use the extensions and you are ready with local salespeople to engage with customers. Pay attention to Mobile advertising as most of the market users are using mobile internet.

Original, not Translation

If you are translating your keywords and Ads into Arabic, then you are screwed. Trust me, don’t fall for such huge mistake. Remember always that you are paying for each click. Your list of keywords needs an advanced local research in order to generate the right leads. Invest money and time in researching the search volume for the local market and create original Ads with from the scratch.

Surprisingly, most of the Arabic paid Ads I see every day are too generic and trashy. Advertisers repeat the same Ads over and over with few tweaks. As well, some are just providing translated copies that make no sense. The quality of the Ad copy is a major step to win the competition.

Optimize the Landing Pages

Remember what we said about the original content? Now add to that the converting content. Don’t throw your money on clicks that don’t lead to a real action “hint; sale”!

If your Arabic Ads are leading to English landing page, don’t expect the right results. Your landing page is your sales desk, your display window, your sales numbers and your conversion hot spot. Optimize the Arabic SEO for each landing pages you are targeting in order to increase the quality score which would lead to better ranking and more cost-effective bidding.

Each group of Ads and keywords should lead to the relevant landing page with engaging content and call-to-action (CTA). Invest in creating compelling Arabic pages that would add a value and help in converting leads. Empty Arabic pages with just an image of the product and two lines, will not help your campaign. Optimize your landing pages for the Arabic user’s experience and step ahead of the competition. Always measure the pages analytics and the time spent on the page and don’t only rely on the PPC analytics.

Conclusion: Over the years, I have seen a lot of Arabic SEM throwing money on unworthy and irrelevant clicks. Having a budget for search engine marketing doesn’t mean you should simply launch one. There are many misconceptions regarding Arabic search advertising, which you have to fully address. The Middle East markets are very different in the terms of competition level, culture, and consumer behavior.

Get involved and do your homework to achieve successful sales results with your campaign’s budget. Put in mind that at the end of the day, ROI is what you’ll have to show to the investors and stakeholders.

Digital Marketing in the Middle East: Where is the Gap?

Digital marketing in the Middle East has been growing and expanding, but what about effectiveness? The Arabic consumers have changed. The digital experiences are no longer new in the local markets … They are expected to bring a value.

While there is a massive amount of digital campaigns in the region, the Arabic consumers are eagerly looking for something more specific, personalized and unique.  The gap will increase between the consumer and the marketers if the digital experiences don’t adapt to these changing expectations.

I have spoken to a large number of brands in the Middle East region looking to increase their digital marketing and while there is a definite desire for investing into digital, there is an equal lack of understanding in critical objectives such as how to measure and track the results, or how to personalize content. In most of the cases, they are more convinced with quantities and the short-term results. I have been watching digital agencies running everywhere on social networks to just fill the plate with numbers.

So what is next? We all know that the market will certainly have to consider new expectations or to be more accurate “the right expectations”. To put digital marketing in perspective, you have to implement it in your overall strategy. It is not anymore something you can just assign it to an agency or team and expect it to work like magic. Yes, digital marketing not anymore a “plug-and-play” tool.

The Evolved Customer

It is clear to everyone now that the evolution of marketing is moving beyond the goal of creating new customers to the concept of creating an evolved customer. No wonder that the content-driven experiences are now the natural-selection process that moves the customer along.

To succeed in the Middle East, marketing departments must themselves evolve. They must not only advertise the brand by describing the value that has been created in the product but also to create differentiated experiential value that is separate from that product.

Personalized Digital Marketing

Personalized digital marketing is no longer a luxury. Some would even say it is the future. I believe that the consumers in the region are more interested in relevancy more than anything else. With those multiple social networks feeds and buzz feed at every corner, there is a major need for personalization. Arabic content is still suffering from the lack of quality and quantity. Companies and brands are still relying on translating their marketing messages from English into Arabic instead of creating original content. Products are not providing enough content targeting the behavior of the Arabic users.

Personalization is one of the major gaps that digital strategists and content marketers should work on to achieve better results in each market.

Conversion Optimization

Conversion metrics are not only helpful for setting the right expectations and ROI, but it’s very effective to learn more about your consumer. Understanding the audience is always the key to creating a targeted message and digital experience that appeals to that particular audience. Put in mind that every local market in the Middle East should have a different conversion and metrics.  I always brought the conversion as the main topic for every campaign discussed with a client and with that I was able to set the right goals for the campaign.

Finally, digital marketing is not always about the top 10 practices or following the notes from speakers and gurus, it is all about innovation and testing. Middle East markets are not a major challenge if you get closer to your target segmentations and learn how to avoid the gaps.

If you want to start putting your Arabic digital marketing approach into the right action plan, contact me for consulting and discussing the opportunity.