Research: The Demand for Digital Marketing Skills in 2017

In times of great rise of digital spending, shaping strategies and budgets offer an opportunity to shape the digital marketing structures.

Companies were more likely to hire digital performance experts than social media and creative professionals last year, and that trend looks set to repeat itself in 2017.

According to the research from McKinley Marketing Partners, digital advertising, and content appear to be the most in-demand skills required in the market.

The new research shows that the demand for digital advertising professionals is 46%, while content creation & curation had a share of 38% and content strategy 34% skills.

The Rise of Digital Advertising and Performance Marketing

Due to the ongoing increase in ad spending budgets, performance marketing is playing the main role for the e-commerce and online businesses.

The ROI-focused department is the top priority for managers who are highly investing in human capabilities.

Content is Getting Bigger

There will be always a huge gap between the demand and suppliers when it comes to content creators. According to the research, the demand for content expertise is rapidly high this year.

Analysis and Automation

Interestingly, the survey is showing a slow growth in analysis and automation hiring. That might be due to the low supply of talent in those areas. In comparing demand for marketing expertise against those at least occasionally looking for job opportunities, the study found that traditional marketing was one of the only areas in which active supply outweighed demand.

Digital Marketing Jobs

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 314 marketing professionals who are working in a marketing role (246) or have experience in one (68). Employed respondents work at various roles across a mix of company types and sizes. Questions about hiring practices were only asked of those who have influence over hiring decisions.

How to Overcome The Challenges of Your Digital Marketing Department

It takes a lot of what ‘not to do’ before you are able to shape an idea of what you need ‘to do’.

I have been there witnessing how the digital marketers started back in time with just couple of us sitting in the corner with no idea what we do and often treated as internet geeks.

Now digital marketing has become one of the core foundations of the business. It is becoming the department that can drive ROI and has huge ability to shape the business with real-time statics. Yet, it is becoming more and more complicated and the biggest headache for CEOs.

Technically, if money cannot buy happiness then money cannot buy the best digital marketing achievements or teams.

1. Starting with the function of digital marketing

Commonly known as the most critical loop that leads nowhere. CEOs expect direct ROI profitability and growth hacking charts rising up while digital marketers believe that their role is more revolutionary inside the organization.

So what is the bottom line for this debate? Both parties are right, I would say. There are many functions your digital marketing can drive inside your organization and there is no ultimate recipe for that. Digital marketing function will be always built according to the company’s strategic business objectives.

The role of the department should serve the core values and client relationship as well as driving ROI. Looking at digital marketing function as acquisition factory will turn it into another sales representative which is a narrow view of the picture.

In a world dominated by the internet and online communication, digital marketing can affect and functionally drive value to the brand awareness, sales quality, customer relation, retention, product development and even HR.

The conclusion: Digital marketing can bring value to the organization when it is positioned to serve the strategic business objective. Startups do understand this and that’s why they rely on digital marketing to serve the overall business objective.

2. Then what are the capabilities?

Digital marketing is hugely powerful but it is not a straightforward machine to feed with money and expect the profit on the other end.

Let’s forget the magic and try to imagine digital marketing capabilities as the financial assets for investors. There will be long-term profitable assets and short-term ones. If you expect to sell the long-term profitable assets immediately, you will end up with zero profit.

Digital marketing is not all in one tactic to acquire clients that have the same lifetime value. You cannot simply put inbound marketing, content with paid channels in one basket and expect the same results from all.

Scenario #1 “The CEO is again shouting when he is looking at our budget and conversion. These will the 3rd time after one thousand for me to go on mission impossible of explaining how each channel has it is a different function. He wants to see the relation, pushing for the language of numbers and the direct impact on conversion. A few months more till the results started to build up and visible trend finally arrived. The inbound marketing was something hard to push on with the limitation of the budget he forced but it finally paid off. Now he gets the picture of the long-term tactics such as content”

3. Considering technology with the market environment

In digital we are growing massively. Machine learning, digital clouds, automation, and programmatic are taking us to a great level of targeting and monitoring. Yet, the online market environment is getting more and more competitive. From SEO, social media to search bidding and Ad placement we are struggling with more and more challenging space for converting the value conversions. Or in business: “The ROI”.

In the old golden days of marketing, the size of the company and market share used to play a big role while now small startups with gorilla marketing joined the game. The competition is getting wider and highly competitive and doesn’t rely only on your budget size or the USPs of your product. One smart social media strategy designed by a small startup can go viral and beat the big firm massive paid campaigns.

4. What about the consumer?

Along with the big flood of online content, communication, and technology, the consumer habits and behavior are evolving to be more complicated. With all the current competition going on the consumer keep developing different habits online. The data analysts in marketing teams are solely focused on finding the patterns and we all know by now that it is getting how challenging it is.

With the use of advanced analytic tools, CRM, marketing clouds, attribution models, social listening and campaign management platforms, we can learn have advanced knowledge and deeper insights of the consumer, but we also eventually learn how it is important to develop more of strategic funnel journey.

5. Setting the KPIs

Getting to the most important part where we need to define the KPIs for the digital marketing department. The majority of KPIs should be optimized to serve the business strategy. There are several factors you should consider when setting up the KPIs metrics

  1. The department functions inside the organization: For companies with branding objectives they use upper funnel metrics while companies who are customer focused they use social listening and social proof metrics.
  2. The direction of business: KPIs should be always clear for the digital team and doesn’t have a conflict or overlap with other internal departments or process.
  3. The reliability and stability: Chasing everything would lead to nothing. If the KPI focus is stable and not swinging this would help the team to be more strategic and focused.

6. Searching for the ROI

Businesses usually have a different formula to calculate ROI which I believe it is the trickiest task. While it is important for a manager to secure their results and to manage the budget, marketers are always struggling to prove their efficiency.

Over the years, I started to develop the idea that ROI is not one straightforward term. It is can be divided into three types:

A) The initial ROI: It is the rate you need to target so the digital marketing campaign starts to be profitable.
b) The maintained ROI: The rate the where you should plan to protect and stabilize
c) The future ROI: The strategic ROI where the digital marketing strategy should build up gradually.

Yes, we might have different types of ROI according to our strategy but we all know that calculating ROI is a very tricky thing when it comes to the digital world.

  1. You need attribution model to be able to understand the different impact of channels
  2. Each business will require a different approach to cross channels/cross-device journey
  3. The funnel is always different. You might have a shorter funnel in e-commerce and long funnel in business services
  4. ROI channels in B2B is different from B2C channels

I will leave you with the below statistics to have some more insights.

So what?

Conclusion: Let’s finalize some final points:

  • Defining the digital marketing function inside the organization is the first thing that should be done right and clear.
  • Digital department capabilities should be measured with a strategic metrics
  • Marketing technology is a part of the whole environment.
  • The consumer journey is a rollercoaster with common patterns to define.
  • KPIs is not few metrics to measure. It is how you define your digital marketing functions and outcomes.
  • There is no one road or straightforward formula to calculate your digital marketing ROI

That was my thoughts. If you have any points to discuss, please leave your comment or contact me.

What Do You Need to Know About Arabic SEO Conversion

What are the opportunities for increasing conversion by enhancing your Arabic SEO strategy?

That’s the most problematic questions now on the web. Everyone in the digital marketing field could have a different answer for this and even very unique predictions. I wouldn’t agree or disagree with people who consider the golden times of SEO will come to an end “very soon”. The debates would go on for awhile with every new strict update comes from Google. Yet, this buzz is mainly considering the English search results.

What about the Arabic SEO in specific?

I strongly believe that the Arabic SEO will live for a long time and I have my reasons for that. I can think of a lot of solid factors that will let you believe me, but I will in this post cut it short for you, right to the heart of the matter.

In the middle east online markets, Arabic SEO is still one of biggest survivor and certainly a winner. Yes, and it is even more effective than other digital marketing activities such as social media. I know that you might be following the trending fashions and putting several efforts on social media activities like the rest of competitors and might find SEO is an old fashion technic, but let me ask you this: How is your conversion rate doing? How much-converted clients do you get from Arabic social media?

We are not comparing Arabic social media marketing vs SEO here, but we are starting with the right question to get things sorted out.

The Arabic SEO conversion rate

The conversion rate is the main objective of all digital marketing activities. Increasing the conversion rate and creating opportunities are the real targets for all what you are doing online. Over the years most of the companies in Dubai, KSA, Egypt and other middle east markets would come to me asking for social media marketing and they insist on that considering it as the new fashion. They are stuffed with romantic ideas and successful social media cases they heard of.  I always try hard to explain to them that every company, field, and market is a special case when you come to online marketing and I always put the conversion as the top priority of doing things right. If you want the Facebook page that’s fine for branding but might not work for bringing new clients especially when you are a B2B company. Let’s give an example:

If you work in field like export/import or constructions, do you think that you will be able to get potential clients via social media channels? Well, let me suggest email marketing instead or to be more effective let’s focus on “Search”.. Yes, the SEO!

What do you think if we focus on your main keywords and services you offer? think of how much opportunities you can get from having a good rank on the results page? That’s what we are talking about!

Now, what about other fields that are focusing on B2C? Yes, social media marketing is really effective but yet if you consider an optimized website for search engines this will help you among your competitors especially if we are talking about Arabic users.

The Arabic Internet market is much larger than what most of the people expect; it is experiencing rapid growth over the last few years. Recent research indicates that there are currently 82 million Arabic-speaking Internet users. Research has progressively revealed that Arabic Internet users are using Arabic keyterms to find specific and accurate results when it comes to local services. The Arabic search queries are heavily used for fields like governmental services, financial services, law firm, mobile phones and real estate classified ads.

Why is Arabic SEO highly profitable?

To cut it short, let me lead you to the secret that everyone involved into SEO knows: “The competition is not high”. This definitely creates great opportunities for anyone who wants to get on top of the rank and increase his online visibility or catch some good fishes. Let me list for you some facts about this market and why you have a highly profitable chance with this market:

  • Most of the companies in the Arab region have launched their businesses via English-only websites with the assumption that Arabic-speaking customers can simply search and find services using English keywords.
  • The majority of Arabic websites still not optimized for search engines which is a good chance for any website with decent SEO to gain traffic and leads.
  • The quality of Arabic translated content is still poor and this certainly harm their chances with local markets and cultures. For instances, hospitality firms sometimes translate “hospitality” as “ضيافة” which is an accurate translation but not effective for search. This translated word can be related to other things in the Arabic culture and wouldn’t serve the services well.
  • Majority of results are generated from forums and personal blogs. Those are mainly articles or discussions and not service providers.
  • Most of the companies are investing in search engine ads (PPC) instead of organic SEO which requires a lot of money and the results can last for short time. I have been watching that for years and the mentality of the marketing teams is always about “spending the budget on fast and quick results”. Unfortunately, it was difficult to convince them something else.

The playground is yours when you really focus on building Arabic quality content and optimize it effectively for the Arabic users. Finally, Arabic SEO is very effective components of digital marketing strategies and you should always consider investing money and efforts in getting up in Google results.

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.