SEO in Dubai. How to handle SEO in the United Arab Emirates

SEO in Dubai. How to handle SEO in the United Arab Emirates

In recent years, the Middle East became attractive for entrepreneurs who seek new ways to grow their businesses. At the same time, the United Arab Emirates, one of the richest countries in the world, has been perceived as oil- and gas-based economy for a long time now. It’s worth taking into account, though, that the economic structure has undergone a significant transformation and, since recently, also becomes competitive in other market segments. These changes favour international investors, who can now benefit from doing business in the Emirates.

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The United Arab Emirates as a market – Characteristics

Not without reason, the UAE market is associated mainly with the oil and gas industry. The Emirates holds seventh place when it comes to the largest confirmed natural oil and gas reserves, and their processing is still significant for the economy. It’s worth mentioning, though, that contrary to common perception, oil represents now only 18% of the national GDP. Financial transactions, on the other hand, make up a substantial part of the national economy.

What do the Emirates owe the growth to? Apart from Abu Dhabi, which remains the main source of oil extraction, Dubai takes the lead. In the 90s, its natural resources were almost entirely exploited, which means that the emirate had to find a new way to grow. The decision was to focus on becoming a modern economy, with substantial investments in new technologies, improved educational standards, and the booming service sector. It had to be the right decision since Dubai quickly became one of the most important trades and finance hubs in the world.

UAE attractive to investors

The Persian Gulf, including the Emirates, imposes a specific business model, which relies on personal contacts. It means that when doing business in the Middle East, you should do so in person. If that is not possible, you should work with a trusted, local intermediary – a so-called “Sponsor”. This requires an actual business partnership with a UAE-citizen, who should hold a share of 51% of the company’s capital. There are even proper lists of professional sponsors, recommended by organizations that advise on choosing the right legal structure for a business. In this case, asking for help and partnering up may be necessary if you want to ensure the highest possible security and transparency of your venture.

SEO for United Arab Emirates - Dalante

Free zones for the entrepreneurs

Special economic zones called “free zones”, play a significant role when it comes to attracting both local and foreign investors. There are nearly 50 of them in the whole UAE, with 20 being located in Dubai alone. What’s interesting is that each of the free zones has its own administrative system, which, in turn, means different conditions for the registration process, rules for doing business, as well as any fees associated with it.

Nonetheless, all of the special economic zones offer attractive financial benefits and simplified procedures for those who want to start their businesses in the Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates on the web

The rapid development of modern technology influenced the visible presence of IT companies in many free zones. UAE are said to be one of the most Internet-dependent countries in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa). Because of that, there’s a high demand for web services and digital marketing. Recently, website creation, video production, mobile app development, as well as SEO/SEM became one of the most required services in the e-commerce industry.

E-commerce and a typical Internet user in UAE

When taking the state of e-commerce into account, it’s doing extremely well in the Emirates. It is developing fast, each year growing by almost 300% and investing more in digital marketing. It’s worth to mention that it’s one of the market segments that grow the fastest – mostly because it’s fueled by mass adoption of modern technology and the promotion of a so-called “mobile lifestyle”.

Internet users willingly share and consume content on their mobile devices that make them a great target for digital marketing efforts. That’s precisely why websites should be responsive. Because of the fondness for technological advancements, that people in the Emirates seem to have, the fetishization of the latest Apple or Samsung smartphones is quite visible.  When it comes to social media, though, Facebook is an undeniable leader (similarly to other countries, actually).

E-commerce devices in UAE
source: http://gs.statcounter.com/

How do people in the Emirates shop?

Similarly to many other countries, entrepreneurs doing business in the UAE already noticed the benefits of online selling. Savings are the key aspect when it comes to e-commerce. Companies save money due to the lack of the necessity to keep the brick and mortar stores, whereas customers benefit from it when buying products at lower prices and saving time since shopping online takes a few clicks.

Interestingly enough, it’s men who buy more frequently than women. Actually, nearly ¾ of the customers are male. This result is very different from global trends, where the division by gender in terms of online shopping is pretty much equal. What’s also interesting is that UAE citizens browse the Internet primarily to find plane tickets, book hotels, trips or spots to various events, such as concerts and galas, buy smartphones and computers, jewellery, and then clothes, e-books and music. It may seem slightly surprising since the food and clothing industry usually takes the lead when it comes to e-commerce in other countries. Such a difference can result from the love for luxury that the country is known for. Frequent travels or nights out are typical for this kind of lifestyle.

SEO in Dubai? The SEO strategy in the United Arab Emirates

In the last five years, the e-commerce market has grown by 1500% only in Dubai alone. This can easily be recognized as one of the fastest and most impressive growth rates around the world. The increasing number of online stores, though, means that those stores have to compete with one another, also for the visibility in search engines (and all over the Internet, for that matter). Interestingly, most of the UAE citizens choose local e-commerce sites more willingly than the global giants, such as Amazon – and that’s precisely why it’s important to focus on local promotion within the UAE.

As for the popularity of search engines in that country, Google definitely takes the lead – which means that the SEO in Dubai should revolve mainly around it.

Search Engines in United Arab Emirates
source: http://gs.statcounter.com/

Acting locally or globally – How SEO in Dubai works?

Arabic is the official language of the UAE, but since the country opened for international investments and entrepreneurs, English is now used frequently as well. Basically, it binds all people from more than two hundred countries that live and do business in the UAE. Even though Arabic still dominates when it comes to legal matters, English is more popular in business, as well as on the Internet. The SEO will, therefore, be conducted also in English. When preparing a digital marketing strategy for the UEA market, it’s always worth emphasizing the “locality” of your business. It will increase trust towards it. If you own an office or an actual shop in the UAE, you should also take care of its visibility in Google My Business, Google Maps, and Apple Maps.

Off-site: where is it worth to build links?

When increasing the visibility of your site in the search engine results pages, it’s worth knowing what sources will be the most valuable for the UAE websites. Taking into account the loyalty of UAE citizens to local ventures, it’s a good practice to online catalogs with local businesses. Being included in such places should increase the credibility of your online store or any other business that you own. Plus, you can easily build links this way.

Yellow Pages - Emirates
source: https://www.yellowpages.ae/
Catalogues in Emirates
source: http://www.uaewebsites.com/

As for the online stores that don’t have any premises, such catalogs might not be the best choice. Still, there are certain lists or rankings dedicated to e-commerce, as well as Q&A and social networking sites that simply let you post about your business and promote it this way. You can also find new partners and build relationships with influencers or entrepreneurs who have a similar profile to yours.

Show everyone that you exist! Social media profiles

In order to increase the authority of the domain, it’s recommended to post on company pages within social media regularly. Surprisingly, Pinterest is considered to be the second most popular social network in the UAE. Even Instagram takes the sixth place, with Twitter, YouTube and Reddit being used more willingly and frequently. It means that these networks are worth investing your time and effort into. Actually, well-managed social media profiles increase the trust of potential customers and make it easier to “stay in touch” with your company.

Social Media in Emirates
source: http://gs.statcounter.com/

That’s why you should include links to your social media profiles on your website and place the no-follow attribute to those links.

Social Media links on the webpage
source: https://www.vouchercodesuae.com/

Proper website optimization – key elements

Building links doesn’t necessarily have to go together with website optimization done on-site. Still, it’s worth remembering about a user-friendly UX that affects how clients navigate through your online store. The better the user experience, the lower the chances that potential clients will quickly leave the website and feel irritated by it. One of the most important issues here is also the quality and well-optimized content on your website, which includes the right number of relevant keywords.

Since English happens to be a popular language in the UAE, you can use well-known tools in order to find the best keywords used for SEO purposes in Dubai. Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush or Majestic – all of them will do perfectly fine when searching for relevant phrases.

Summary

UAE market, which is newly opened to international investments, offers a lot of possibilities that are worth taking advantage of. The IT industry, including SEO/SEM, is growing rapidly – and the interest in such services can be noticed easily. What should be interesting for international companies is that many corporations based in MENA countries are subject to so-called downsizing, which means that many different tasks and services are being outsourced, especially when it comes to marketing, as well as SEO and design. Since English is widely used, international contractors can easily work with such companies, planning and executing SEO strategies that can be as successful as the ones at the national level.

FAQ

Each time a company enters a new market it faces the challenge of creating proper brand awareness. Given the fact that digital marketing plays a huge role in the brand creation process these days – it’s important to take care of your online visibility from the very beginning. To do so you’ll need SEO – properly optimized website and ranking high for relevant keywords that describe your business. It’s no different when it comes to the United Arab Emirates – when introducing your brand to the market you need to leave your mark in the consciousness of customers from the biggest cities. Try doing SEO in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and, let’s say Sharjah to attract more people.

Taking care of the SEO process can be tricky, but surely can be done. However, it’s extremely important to learn all the market specifics first. In the case of the United Arab Emirates, it’s vital to explore all the cultural differences. This particular market is very difficult in this regard. To make sure the whole digital marketing and SEO strategy works best you need to adjust it to the market specifics as much as possible.

If you’re don’t have experience with the UEA market yet it’s best to outsource SEO services and engage with an SEO agency that already worked with companies aimed at that market. Choosing an SEO company that has some experience with UEA customers can ensure that your SEO process will bring you better effects and your brand get the chance to appear real high in search engine results. They will already know what this particular market likes & have a proper base of resources dedicated to UEA.

Well, choosing the best SEO agency is not an easy task. There are a couple of factors that you should consider when looking for a company to deal with your UEA SEO. First, it’s important to mention that you don’t necessarily need to look for a UAE based agency. For example, if there’s no good SEO agency in Dubai – don’t worry! The key is to focus on the SEO company’s experience. If they already worked with a project aimed at the UAE market, you’re all set! Only then you can make sure they know all specifics of digital marketing for the market as they learned it in practice!

Make sure that the SEO agency you’re considering has a good understanding of your business and will be in constant contact with you to adjust the SEO process along the way. Top SEO campaigns are based on constant development and pay off in the long term! Then, with well-conducted keyword research, you should make sure that your SEO company has a solid base of local (UEA in this case) high-quality websites where they do your link-building process. It’s also good to find out whether they can do some technical SEO for the UEA market as well.

In addition, it’s good to check if the SEO agency offers also PPC campaigns. Paired up with High-quality SEO it can really boost your search engine results on the new market and with that will come the profit!

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Author
SEO Specialist - Kinga

SEO Specialist

In Delante from October 2018. Until recently a keen editorial student, now a happy graduate. She knows where to put a comma and where to eat in Krakow. A lover of sleep, chops with sage and Friends.
Comments (2)
  1. Friday is the day off for all the people working in UAE and it is the day when people pull out their long list of to do things a trot to the nearest departmental stores to do their shopping. However, the trend has changed now since the advent of online shopping people order stuff from websites rather than making long trips to the mall.
    When shopping online the most important thing to do is keep your eyes open for any sale or discount that you may sniff. Almost all of the online shopping portals in UAE offer some kind of discount or sale to their customers but the important factor to consider when purchasing things via online sale is the comparative price between different stores.
    I explored a lot of online shopping portals of Dubai and I came across some amazing sales and deals such as the crazy offers through which a large number of products are offered at a varying range of discounts. Then there was the bundle offers in which products were merged together in packets of least of 2’s to as high as of 20’s and more. The bundles were all in reasonable price ranges as well. Then I stumbled on shop Al Arab they had the crazy offers as well as the bundle deals, but this was just the tip of the ice berg. They also had 1 to 19 AED offer in which all the products were from 1 to 19 Dirhams. The most interesting feature of shop Al Arab in Dubai was their special weekend deal which starts on Friday every week. Since it is a limited time offer one can be sure to finding some really amazing products at the lowest premium possible.
    If you are planning to shop this weekend don’t forget to check out shop Al Arab and enjoy their amazing weekend sale in UAE.
    For Further details visit http://www.shopalarab.com

  2. Thanks, Kinga for writing this post for us it really provides me what I am looking for keep it up and we will see more from you which helps us in our things.

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