SEO for Arabic websites is an effective strategy to improve your online presence in the Middle East. You’re running a multilingual website, and your content has been localized into three or more different languages. Given all the effort and time that went into the translations, you pat yourself on the back, awaiting an influx of customers happy to engage with a website that speaks their tongue.
Might it be that you’re celebrating a bit too early?
How Does Translation Influence SEO?
Newsflash: having your website translated into several languages doesn’t guarantee that its will appear on the first page of Google for the people who speak these languages. So, the impact of translation on search engine optimization (SEO) is something that your business will have to consider at some point.
Indeed, having a multilingual website means dealing with different search engines in different countries, therefore, some additional website optimization is not only recommended – it’s a must if you want to rank. If you are targeting customers in the Arab World, you need to employ the different practices of SEO for Arabic websites to get better results.
Studies on the influence of different languages on eCommerce businesses have long established that translations play a critical role in business success. Here are some interesting outtakes from a study published by CSA Research several years ago, which polled over 3,000 people from 10 countries:
- 30% of respondents never buy from English-only websites, and 29% rarely do
- 56% of respondents spend more time on the websites in their native language or boycott English-only websites altogether
- automotive and financial products are among those that consumers are the least likely to buy if the website isn’t in their native language
- among the biggest concerns is the lack of payment information in the native language
- 50% of the respondents also say they prefer at least the navigation elements of the website to be localized
However, a translation itself isn’t enough for a high ranking in Google and the local search engines. Optimizing the translated content is also critical to getting your SEO right – i.e. avoiding pitfalls such as lack of clear localized content structure, which leads to weak search positions, which in turn has an immediate negative impact on customer engagement rates and therefore sales.
What About Auto-Translation?
Some companies avoid investing in professional translation, resorting to auto-translation with tools such as Google Translate.
Google Webmaster Central advises against this practice, saying that ‘…using automated translation tools to directly create content for your site would be seen as creating auto-generated content, which is against Google Webmaster Guidelines’.
And that’s G-speak for ‘you will be punished hard, SEO-wise ‘.
Thus, using auto-translation tools, the abundance of which is offered not just by Google, but by different WordPress plugins as well, negatively impacts SEO results. On the contrary, getting your website professionally translated improves SEO ranking and user experience in general.
Getting Serious About Localization
To translate your website with search engine optimization in mind, we need go beyond word-switching and look at localization as a coherent discipline that is specifically designed to target an Arab audience.
Localization is more extensive than simple translation since it involves adapting the many aspects of your content and products to the target market:
- converting currencies into local equivalents if applicable – this includes both the sums, the symbols, and the word order
- localizing units of measurement in case the target country uses a different unit system (e.g. metric vs imperial)
- changing date formats to those commonly in use by the native speakers of the language
- using proper formats for geographical and other data such as addresses and phone numbers
- adjusting images and graphs according to local cultural norms and expectations – including, but not limited to, colors, forms, symbols, etc
If these elements are localized improperly, the search engine algorithm may not recognize them, consequently bringing a negative impact on your SEO results.
So, since localization has a profound impact on SEO, let’s take a look at the Arabic language and some of the effective practices of SEO for Arabic websites.
Website Localization and SEO for Arabic Websites
According to the above-mentioned Statista ranking, Arabic is in the top 5 languages used on the Internet, with ca 168 million Arabic-speaking Internet users worldwide.
Nevertheless, there’s still a rather large gap between how many Arabic-speaking people use the Internet, and how much web content is available in Arabic (e.g. compare the above 5% with the 0.9% of Arabic content on Wikipedia). In addition to this, Arabic has many dialects and variations, which may impact localization in surprising ways:
- Numbers and dates – ironically, while people in Europe and the Americas use the numeric symbols referred to as the Arabic numerals, a large part of the Arab world uses a different notation which is formally called the Eastern Arabic numerals.
- Phonetic peculiarities – vowels, for instance, can have signs above or below characters in Arabic. Although there’s a simplified spelling, like in Chinese, the correct use of the Arabic alphabet has a significant impact on SEO results.
- Right-to-left writing – Arabic uses the right-to-left writing system, which will impact the infrastructure of your website during localization
Due to the peculiarities of the phonetic system, many international businesses do partial localization into Arabic. Zara, for instance, has the website navigation, payment information, and notifications localized while keeping product names and the names of their collections in English:
Languages Are Fun, but Require Attention to Details
Trying to reach an international audience in their native tongue is a great strategy that has propelled more than one business to new heights. However, any such undertaking will be less effective if the finer details of the language are not taken into account.
And it’s not just about looking trustworthy and authentic to the native speakers –
Your growth in the new segment of the web will be much more sustainable (and cost-efficient!) if you always keep in mind the implications on search engine optimization – from keyword research to on-page SEO such as meta-data.
Planning (or already executing) a localization or SEO for Arabic websites? Contact us, we’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have about optimizing your efforts for sustainable SEO growth!