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Why Bilingual Marketing Is Important for Businesses in Arabic-Speaking Countries

February 20, 2019

An Arabic content marketing strategy presents a huge opportunity for businesses in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Whether you are looking to improve brand loyalty, increase sales, ramp up website traffic, or even reach a wider audience across the region, bilingual content will help you achieve results, faster.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), especially the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, are economic and cultural melting pots for individuals and businesses from different parts of the world. For this reason, companies are always looking to hire individuals with multilingual abilities.

Contrastingly, most of these organizations that value employees with multi-language skills do not care about how their online marketing efforts align with the multicultural tone of their environment. Worse still, we’ve found that most companies in the region do not consider creating content that appeals to the local community.

In this post, Mr. Sami Raja, the managing director of Sami Raja Consultancy, will be highlighting the importance of bilingual content marketing strategies and why firms in the GCC should take Arabic content marketing seriously.

1. Bilingual Content Improves Brand Loyalty/Sales

According to findings from the Common Sense Advisory’s 2014 Can’t Read, Won’t Buy research, 75% of online shoppers prefer to buy products in local languages. The same research also found that 30% of the 3,000 shoppers interviewed never buy from English-only websites.

75% of online shoppers prefer to buy products in local languages

This study may seem a little out of date, but human nature remains the same. People all over the world show a certain level of affinity toward culture and identity, and people from the Gulf region are not different in this regard.

If anything, the personalization game is on a whole different level in the digital marketing space. If a gesture as little as including a recipient’s name in an email can increase open rate, what do you think will happen when you communicate with people in the language they call their own? I leave you to decide the right answer to my question.

2. Bilingual Content Opens Up Opportunities for Cross-Border Business

The internet penetration rate in the Middle East is as high as 64% (about 10% higher than what is obtainable in other parts of the world), with countries such as the United Arab Emirates boasting a more than 79% internet penetration rate.

When you pair this with the humongous GDP per capita of the citizens of all the countries in the Gulf region, you will see that marketing in the Arabic language opens up a world of business opportunities.

Middle East internet penetration rate

Source: Statista

In addition to the favorable statistics, GCC countries enjoy free movement of goods and people across national borders due to a binding trade agreement existing in the region.

This presents an opportunity to use bilingual content to reach citizens of predominantly Arabic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and even Bahrain, irrespective of your company’s seat of operation within the region.

3. Bilingual Content Can Improve Your Website’s Search Rankings

The importance of bilingual content to SEO and content marketing cannot be overemphasized. A study by the European Commission in 2011 found that 9 out of every 10 internet users prefer visiting websites in their local languages when given the choice.

9 out of every 10 internet users prefer visiting websites in their local languages

This behavioral pattern is even more pronounced in the GCC, where locals find it difficult to learn other languages apart from Arabic. This is because the English language and Arabic have a totally different approach when it comes to speaking, reading, and writing.

For instance, Arabs write and read from right to left. English language, on the other hand, is written and read from left to right. This, among other factors, makes it difficult for citizens of the GCC to learn the English language.

Google, the leader in the search engine business, understands the importance of localized content and has continued to roll out updates to support multi-language content.

So, if you want to appeal to the more than 164 million internet users in the Middle East, Arabic content or a combination of Arabic and English will place you on a better pedestal.

4. Bilingual Content Is Important When Targeting Senior Citizens in the GCC

In countries such as China, Russia, France, Japan, and South Korea, none of the three big search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) are used as the default search engines. For China, it is Baidu, Acara in Japan, Yandex in Russia, Naver in South Korea, and French internet users prefer Voila.

Preferred search engines by country

Source: Bright Edge

While the same cannot be said of countries in the Gulf region, non-English speaking internet users in the GCC, especially the senior citizens, still perform product searches in their local language.

Apart from their inability to understand the English language to the extent of making buying decisions based on English-only content, communicating in Arabic can help to establish that feeling of safety, which will gear them toward connecting with your brand or business on a deeper level.

Moreover, the online marketing landscape is evolving, so who knows if we will have an Arabic-only search engine that will topple Google in the near future.

So, if your business caters to the elderly population or even a younger audience, creating content in the Arabic language can help you connect with more customers. Bilingual content marketing will also provide an extra layer of protection for your business should there be a shift in native search-engine preference in the future.

A Few Things to Keep In Mind When Using Bilingual Content Marketing

Effective marketing involves not only identifying the pressing needs of your customers but also communicating with them in a manner that appeals most to them.

But before you go ahead, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Hire a human being to take care of the translation tasks. Google translate and AI tools may seem like a cheaper alternative, but trust me, these tools have not gotten to the level where they are able to pick minute points that only native speakers understand.
  2. If you will be translating your entire website pages, make sure you hire a website design company knowledgeable in this area. This will help you avoid overlap that can lead to duplicate content.
  3. Avoid making things too complicated and cluttered. Keep your URLs simple, possibly in one language.  For instance, for English, you can have www.samiraja.com/en/business-consultant and for Arabic, you can have www.samiraja.com/ar/business-consultant. Using snippet of texts such as the ones below will help maintain simple URLs.

So, if you do business in the GCC, making the effort to incorporate the Arabic language into your marketing strategy will help you reach a wider audience.

About the Author

Headshot of Sami RajaSami Raja is the CEO of Sami Raja Consultancy, a Dubai-based business consulting firm providing client service offerings ranging from company formation to local partnership, business restructuring, tax management, and financial advisory. A visionary entrepreneur, Sami Raja has been in the GCC sales and marketing industry for more than six years and knows a thing or two when it comes to developing digital marketing strategies that work.