So Bing and Google rode the waves of trend for last week. talk to people online People still have some mixed reactions for Microsoft (should they be bothered with But It’s Not Google excitement). Although it’s too early to tell, it’s good to finally have that friendly (or maybe not) competition out there. I loved the part where Matt Cutts was bashing the Bing Team at Twitter.
Anyways, so last week, another interesting article came up on TheNational.Ae – “UAE internet users prefer global Google”. Husni Khuffash, Google’s Business Development Manager in the UAE, has an interesting take on UAE’s online business and end-users.
“It’s a big sign that we need more content over here,” he said.
Mr Khuffash was speaking on the second day of a two-day conference in Dubai aimed at educating advertising agencies about the possibility of search advertising and search engine optimisation to increase business in the region. He said he believed education was the key to breaking the Arab world out of its current pattern of having 5 per cent of the world’s population but only 1 per cent of its online content.
“Companies are not taking the right tools to be online and to show that you are there,” he said. “If you are not there, I cannot help you.” Some UAE companies, particularly in the technology and travel sectors, had been using search advertising in a sophisticated way, he said.
I also met Mohammad Zaher, author of Irrelevant Combinations, and I’ve asked him if I can feature an article of his blog here and he was generous enough to permit me. In his post, Google Survey in UAE, and an Agency Day, he has the following interesting stats:
Search engines are the most used source of online research information (81% of respondents). Manufacturer websites (49%), Directories and local listings (27%), retailer websites (26%), and online auction websites (25%) are also very popular.
Search engines are used most for research in relation to technology (67%) and travel (48%) products.
Google is the preferred search engine in the UAE with (58% preferring google.com and 38% preferring google.ae)
While one third of UAE respondents say the current economic crisis has not changed their shopping habits, an almost equal proportion say the recent financial turmoil has led to less of their shopping being done online. This may be related to the fact that many of their online purchases may have fallen more into the ‘non-essential/leisure’ categories (i.e. travel and event tickets) which people choose to cut out during difficult economic times
In the UAE, English (76% of respondents) is by far the most popular ‘search’ language (likely to be related to the highly multinational nature of UAE society) vs. 23% preferring to search in Arabic.
So instead of replicating the thought of what I had in the previous post on Dubai needing SEO, I think I should lay down tips on how to increase search engine visibility for businesses online. These are not technical SEO / organic optimization processes but simple you-can-do-it-without-technical-knowledge kind of things.
Excellent & Informative Content – I still believe in the school thought of Content Is King (yeah, yeah I know that’s old school). People look for information through the search engines, and You have the responsibility to give them what they want. Keep your content unique and fresh. Tell your audiences what makes your business stand out from the others. If you want to read more about good copywriting for your audience and for the search engines, you can read CopyBlogger.
Translate – Okay so you have a good content on your site so what’s next? Help your audience a little bit. If you’re serving your website for UAE, obviously it would be beneficial if you have an Arabic translation option for your website. Although English may be the universal business language, you still have that significant percentage of internet users that prefer have content in their local language. If you don’t have a team in-house, you can source translation services from other companies.
Choose the right Keywords – Sorry this would involve a little bit of technical skills especially when doing keyword research. But this part is really necessary. You’ve probably heard that search engines have specially designed bots (spiders) that can crawl into your website to know the niche/topic of your business. Now these bots won’t be able to read other elements of your website except for texts. With this mind, place keywords in your URL, Title, and body text of your website. If you have “Brand” as your name of your company, include keywords that describe your business such as “Brand | UAE Cleaning Services”. Again don’t limit your keywords to your title of your site, include them at the content, and if possible at your domain name. If you want to get a more in-depth keyword analysis for your business, you can contact me (oh shoot, I hope that was not a cheap shot sales pitch).
List your business on Google Maps – This has been a growing trend in local organic optimization. Although, I haven’t seen any Local Business Results (like the ones you see on the top image) yet within my searches for UAE specific terms, but I’m very positive we’ll be having that soon. Add your business to Google’s local listings and help your customers find where you are. Although Bing has their own maps, I’m not sure yet if they do have listing services.
Contact Information – In addition to having your listings on Google maps, be sure to have your physical address and phone number within your contact or about page. This information breeds trust and value for your customers.
Yellow Page listings & Local Directories – Do not underestimate the significance of your regional yellow pages and local directories for your websites. Listings from these places on the internet actually gives the validation for the search engines that your business is where it should be or which region you are targeting your website.
Domain Name & URL – Sometimes re-writing your URL can be a tedious task. So I suggest you should not take this on top of your to-do list. But if you can add your important keywords to your URL, do so strategically with those that best describes your business and the region where you are located or targetting. If you are an international organization serving different countries around the globe, you can have a URL similar to dubai.brand.com or brand.com/dubai.html.
Links from Neighbors – How do I link thee? Let me tell you the ways. Well actually not all of them, it’ll take us one whole post for that. So naturally you would want links to your website in two different categories:
a. From websites relevant to your industry
b. From websites within your region.
c. There’s actually a 3rd set which is links relevant to your industry within your region. Let’s say your website is focused on recruitment. You would want to look at websites which offer management training, human resources information, resume tips, career advice, etc. Keyword research will actually tell you more of relevant topics that are great for your link hunt.
Network in Your Area – Hey, you’re on Twitter right? Facebook junkie? Or a LinkedIn professional? You’ve probably knew already what these websites are for. But please, in the name of professionalism, do not spam them with every promotional pitch you have for your website. Be “human” online, talk to people, get to know them and engage in conversations. Once you get to contribute significantly within your network, people will notice that link on your profile and they’ll certainly click it-read it-like it-and-eventually-buy-it.
Customer Service – You have contact forms, forums, and social media channels to communicate with your customers. The next step is to take care of them. You may have excellent online strategies working 24/7 for your business, but it only takes one unsatisfied customer to spread that negative experience offline. And you know negative reputation spreads faster than positive reviews. Be prompt in handling irate customers but don’t also forget to ask for more suggestions to gain that extra value from your loyal customers.
So there you go, I just wasted on Saturday afternoon for this post. Kidding! Of course I enjoyed doing this. I just hope I added something valuable to your arsenal of online strategies. But of course, comments and violent reactions (I surely hope not) are most welcome.
If you would like to get to know more about in-depth local organic optimization strategies for your company, just email me at dave [at] click-dubai.com or you can use the contact form. Or coffee somewhere at the Marina maybe? Just let me know.