At Sandstorm we’re fortunate to work with some of the region’s/world’s best known brands.
Recently, we worked on a couple of SEO projects that involved localisation of the brand’s web presence.
Many questions (some common) arose from various clients about this so I thought I’d write up a series of Arabic SEO blogs posts over the next few weeks.
I’ll be addressing various elements of Arabic SEO here and invite you to ask questions in the comments below.
Here we go…
Part 1: Targeting Website to Specific Middle East Countries
Google uses domains as one of their many signals to rank websites.
If a domain has a local country extension (such as .sa for Saudi) it is more likely to be prioritised by Google (et al) for the Saudi Arabian market. This signal helps search engines improve the quality of search results in different countries.
Here are the various elements used to determine a website’s target country:
1. ccTLDs (country-code top-level domain names)
ccTLDs should be used to target websites for specific countries(e.g. .sa for Saudi, .ae for United Arab Emirates). ccTLDs send a very strong signal to search engines that a website is intended for a specific country. ccTLDs also offer users from that country a clear signal that the website is local in nature, this may offer an added peace of mind for local shoppers.
A Note on regional TLDs, .me & other vanity domains
Since some regional TLDs such as .asia are not specific to a single country, Google treats them as gTLDs.
The .me TLD
The .me does not refer to Middle East. It’s a ccTLD for the country of Montenegro. It’s also been used generically for personal websites. So be careful before you decide to use it as a Middle East regional hub website.
The .ly TLD
The .ly TLD is for Libya but has been commonly used as a vanity url by various sites including bit.ly (the url shortener).
Other ccTLDs that fall within this list include: .tv, .it. These are refered to as gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains).
Google’s Webmaster Tools allows you to “geotarget” your website to a specific country.
This is only really necessary if your site is a gTLD (generic top-level domain name) such as a .com website targeting Saudi Arabia for instance.
A very important note here: Do not use this tool if your site targets more than one country. For example, it would make sense to set a target of Egypt for a site about restaurants in Cairo; but it would not make sense to set the same target for a site that targets Arabic speakers in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon .
3. Server location (through the IP address of the server)
The location of a server may be used as a signal that your website is targeting a certain country or region. However, Google et al. also recognize that some websites may be hosted in countries with more reliable infrastructure and/or cheaper web hosting so this is by no means a definitive signal.
There are various other signals search engines look for when deciding domain targeting. These include:
- addition of local addresses and phone numbers to the footer of the page (also a good place to add your target cities (e.g. Saudi .com eCommerce site targeting multiple Middle Eastern cities, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, etc).
- use of local language in content and urls.
- use of local currency such as Dirhams, Riyals, Dinars, etc.
- links from local sites, authoritative directories and local government trade and industry entities.
- use of Google Places (where applicable).
Note: Google does not use “locational meta tags” (e.g. geo.position or distribution) or HTML attributes for geotargeting.
Part 2 of our Arabic SEO series coming your way very soon…
Want us to address a specific Arabic SEO question in future posts? Let us know. If you have questions about this post, ask below…