Localization in Middle East

If you still think that English is the Lingua Franca, then you have to reconsider it, because more and more languages are appearing on the scene.
To get more users all over the world you need to consider speaking their own language.
Not only language, but also culture. This process of getting language and culture in one pot has been given a name which is (localization), but why localization? and why all people are talking now about it?

1. More buyers
Localization gives the impression that your product/ service is global. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, because you have new buyers, new approaches and that means more adaptation for your product/ service to suit the market. If you speak their own language, they are welling to stay more on your website and therefore buy more of your product. Buyers are more attached to those who are caring about delivering the message in their own language, to those who are engaged to their culture. That’s why you can find that big brands are spending lot of time, money, efforts to customize their products to the different markets.

2. The SEO crowd
If you might notice, every day the number of websites, blogs etc. are booming.
Feeding the search engine with translated keywords will help you to appear more frequent on local and regional search engines.
3.Low hanging fruit
Not so many competitors with high quality localized content. To save costs some companies translate only certain pages of the site or build localized microsites. Full localization would  give your costumer best experience, to navigate your website in their native language, that means translated images, video captions and downloadable content.

Why the Middle East?
- Big population: There are 245 million Arabic speakers there.
- Internet penetration: 67% of citizens use the internet, with a rapid growth rate of 11%.
- Big pool: Only 15% of companies have full Arabic content.
- E-commerce: There are 90 million users. The KSA only makes $22 in e-commerce revenue (2016).
- SEO: There are 100 million Google searches per day. Get your keywords ready in Arabic and millions will find you.

If you decide to go for Arabic localization, you should consider the following:

a. Formatting
RTL language makes many problems in terms of word growth, direction, numbers etc., check this for more details.

b. Cultural concerns

The same as every other big community or culture on the planet, they have their own tastes with a list of dos and don’ts. The ME is conservative and it is the land of the three heavenly religions, so you need to carefully plan your localization into Arabic, if you want a smooth ride without any unexpected jolts and bumps!

Due to its important role in the region, you have to pay attention to what is allowed and what is forbidden according to the different faiths. This will have a big effect on your localization strategy, but not necessarily a negative one. Not everything should be localized: For example, if your services include products like alcohol or pork, you may have to adapt them to the market. Hotels should preferably keep such items untranslated on their menus. 
Things like gambling and nudity could be offensive for people in the Middle East.

On the other hand, you can benefit from cultural differences. For example, there is UBER for women in the KSA, because the Saudi people have certain reservations about male drivers. 

Middle Eastern societies are changing. The dominant male culture still exists, but there are more and more stones being thrown in the water. This is an advantage for localization, as you can now speak to women in the ME, as their voices are becoming stronger. For example, Ford stepped in when women were first allowed to drive in the KSA, by promoting their cars for a female audience there.


The Middle East has its own holidays and special occasions and this could be a great opportunity to boost your localization experience. Ramadan and Eid are the most important feasts,
so this could be great chance to make your clients feel that you are engaged in their culture and you really want to talk with them in their language.

c. SEO
To stand out from the crowd with an RTL language is not an easy job.
A letter can change everything, for example,
أبو ظبى and ابو ظبى, It’s only the Hamza on the Aleph أ, but this could make a difference in the search.  The different dialects make it harder, as you have to decide which language variant you should go for. In this step, it's always better to ask for help from a native speaker. 

d.On-site search
Website visitors would like to search in their own language, so it’s important that your search databases support the localized versions of your website.

e. Websites/social media channels
When it comes to localization in the Middle East, it’s not just about websites. Social media play a very important role. 118 million mobile social users is a number worth considering when you localize, especially as this number is increasing by 2% a year.

f. Internet speed/infrastructure
Yes, it may not seem directly related to translation and localization, but, if we are talking about making customized content, you need to take care of one simple thing, namely that internet infrastructure is not the same in all Middle Eastern countries. While the KSA and UAE for example have a very strong infrastructure (31.4 MBPS average internet speed for the KSA), countries like Egypt, with a 6.7 MBPS average internet speed, are developing their internet connections.
How this can be apply to you? When you localize your content, try to make it lighter and smaller, so it can be loaded faster and will also be mobile friendly, as almost half of internet users (44%) use their mobiles to connect.


       Localization is such a process with multiple elements, where you have to pay attention to details,
yeah that takes time, costs and effort, but the result is cultural customized experience.