2017 is well underway, January is just about over and you’re probably still wondering how to get through the year without letting everything slip away.
By now you should be executing on your 2017 strategy, which you hopefully formulated in late 2016. The thing is, a lot of people haven’t planned ahead. In fact, I’ve just met with some folks who have started the year with no clue and are vainly seeking out band-aid fixes for what can only described as a gaping flesh wound that is bleeding profusely.
It’s not pretty but it can be saved! And this is how you can take charge of the year ahead, even if you didn’t plan ahead!
Figure out what you want to achieve
Goals, objectives, blah blah. Look at your website and ask yourself: what do you want out of it? Is your goal more traffic? Do you want more ad clicks? Do you want people to spend more time on your site? Do you have an email newsletter and want more subscribers? Do you sell stuff and want more of those things to be sold? (technical jargon here). Whatever it is, work it out and make a simple list.
I want more traffic. I want more email subscribers. I want more people to buy my book….
Work out why you want to achieve that goal
Why do you really want more traffic? What difference does it make whether you have 100 people a month visiting your site or 1000 people visiting? Some goals are superficial and don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things (do you really care for pageviews?). Now for most websites, more visitors means more ad clicks which means more revenue which keeps the lights on. So that’s understandable. Same for sites that sell things. More product sales, more revenue etc. This is for simple sites, not eBay! When you really try and understand why you want to achieve something, you can figure out if its worth targeting.
I want more traffic because I can get more clicks on my ads which will bring in more revenue.
I want more email subscribers because I want to cement myself as a thought leader in my niche.
How will you achieve that goal
Now you may not have a whole range of tactics ready but you can at least put together a list of top level ideas on how you hope to hit your targets. If your goal is to get more email subscribers, I’d say a good place to start is checking to see how people are guided to sign up for your newsletter. Understand the process, identify blockers. I would say using something like Hotjar or Kissmetrics or similar can help you identify how people use your site and you can figure out why they don’t sign up. The next thing to look at is your current list and perhaps look at open and unsubscribe rates – there may be a pattern you can identify which gives you an idea of where to fix things.
If you want more traffic, look at your content. What’s resonating well? What’s topical? Use keyword suggestion tools and see if you’re writing about the things people are searching for. A friend runs a small business selling himalayan salt and himalayan salt lamps. So I suggested writing content like: ‘what is himalayan salt?’ and ‘what are the benefits of himalayan salt lamps?’ and even ‘debunking myths about himalayan salt’. This provides extra value to readers and can help turn visitors into buyers. Throw in some videos (I use Animoto for quick and easy video production using just the images in my asset library) and you’re really diversifying your content and appealing to a wider audience. The idea is that your content has to address all possible angles. You’re telling them what you sell, why its good and then addressing possible concerns. Boom. You get the idea.
For every thing you want to achieve, there’s a lot of ways to approach them and your results may vary but it’s worth exploring all ideas because you may be surprised by what sticks. Short Instagram videos may turn out to be the most valuable promotional tool in your arsenal – and how easy are they to make?!
How will you measure your success?
Once you know what you want to achieve, why it matters and how you’ll run towards achieving your goals, how will you know if you’ve been successful?
Sure, if your goal is more email subscribers, you’ll see more sign ups. And if you want more visitors to your site, traffic will increase. But it’s a bit more than that. You have to use the right tools to give you the right data so you can know for sure what is going on, whether you’re moving forward or not. Being able to see this clearly helps you decide how to proceed with the rest of your strategy. But just as important is knowing how to interpret the data your tools give you and not just simply to know what is working and what’s not.
You need actionable insights
I once saw incredible stats for a wedding videography business where there was apage that pretty much stole most of the traffic away from the homepage, service page and contact page. It was a simple page listing popular wedding love songs in alphabetical order. But interestingly it had a 90% bounce rate despite receiving 80%+ of the traffic to the website! You’re probably asking about time on page and that averaged around 7 minutes! It’s just a list from A to Z with no imagery, no links to videos or songs, or any sort of search or filtering option. So here we have a page that focuses on content that is in high demand, has a high dwell time but huge bounce rate. What does this tell us? Its popular, keeps people on the site for a long time but they may just leave the site completely without converting.
For me the next step would be to see user flow beyond this page to see how many people go beyond this page to contact the business for a booking. Because a page of this nature should be generating a tonne of leads. So with the data on hand, we can investigate further and make a decision.
The year is yours for the taking
I hope this helps put things into perspective so you can plan ahead for 2017. It may be a month in but the year is not lost. 2017 is yours for the taking – all you have to do is work out what you want to get out of it, why you want it, how to get it and when you’ll know you’ve got it. Simple enough, right?
Let me know how it goes for you. All the best for 2017!
Yes. Ideally, you should have Arabic URLs for the Arabic version of your site because it makes for the best possible user experience. If you’re an Arabic SEO or have to help with Arabic SEO strategy, read on.
To cite an example, at propertyfinder.ae, URLs for each language were at one stage all in English, with the Arabic versions containing /ar/ and English URLs /en/. Google is pretty smart at translations so even when we searched in Arabic, it was able to return the correct /ar/ URL despite having English in the URL (eg. https://www.propertyfinder.ae/ar/rent/dubai/apartments-for-rent.html). We saw incremental increases in traffic from Arabic queries as a result though we did also implement a number of other SEO fixes to the site afterwards so we can attribute success to that as well. The main thing is that we didn’t see any negative impact (not even a dip in traffic or rankings) so we know that what we did, to translate English URLs on the Arabic version of our site was the right thing to do.
In a country like the UAE where Arabic is the official language but where English is so widely spoken, you could probably get away with with English URLs for both languages and simply using /en/ and /ar/ to differentiate the content. In a country like Egypt where just about everybody is a native Arabic speaker, your website should aim to have Arabic URLs at a minimum. Saudi Arabia is an interesting example in this case because although native Arabic speakers make up the bulk of the population, there is a great number of expats who are mostly non Arabic speakers so having a website in both languages with URLs in each language makes the most sense.
I mentioned earlier that Google does a great job of translating queries and delivering the correct/best URL – and nothing changes that however if you truly want to create the best possible end user experience, then it would be best to have URLs that use the local language.
I should note that this is easy to handle during the build of a new website because you get to bake it in. For existing sites and in particular, large complex ones, you really need to work out the time cost trade off and whether this is the best use of your resources. Ultimately, you should aim for the best user experience and work towards localised language URLs but your situation may not make it feasible, at least for the foreseeable future. At propertyfinder.ae, we noted that the correct URLs were being returned in Arabic so it’s not like we were losing out on potential traffic. However since the company has a goal to be the best and provide the best experience, a decision was made to be as relevant to the local audience in each country where PF operates and thus began the major URL translation project of 2015!
One thing to note about Arabic (for non Arabic speakers) is that it is read from right to left. Now you can imagine how that might look and what complications arise when you combine English and Arabic in the one URL.
Here’s an example:
The syntax is: domain.ae/language/rent/location/apartments-for-rent.html
And here’s the equivalent Arabic URL:
With the syntax: domain.ae/language/apartments-for-rent/location/rent.html
Now this may seem like a problem but it actually works just fine in Arabic, because of the way the language is written and combined with English. I know this because my Arabic SEO counterpart said so (!) and because we haven’t seen this affect the site negatively. There’s a lot more to URL routing than I know but the devs have assured me this is how it’s meant to work and like I said, it seems to be working just fine.
If you were to do this for Spanish or French, you wouldn’t run into this issue because it uses the same script as English. You would omit special characters but essentially, the letters are the same. Arabic SEO has its own share of nuances and this is just one of many things I hope to explain so you too can enjoy great Arabic SEO success.
So TL;DR: be as relevant to your local audience as possible to create the most amazing end user experience ever by using URLs that make sense coupled with content that is brilliant. Arabic is a very widely spoken language and should not be underestimated in any Arabic SEO and Arabic website project.
I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a year filled with so many emotions and experiences that it may well be hard to figure out whether it was good, bad or ugly!
I know my 2016 has been all sorts of things and whilst I don’t wish to take away from the successes and plights of others around the world, I am writing this as an experience that is relative to me on how my 2016 has been. It’s not entirely SEO related or even tied to Dubai – it’s more of a personal reflection on the learnings from the year that appears many of us wish we could forget.
In 2016, I did surprisingly well to resist sales at Typo, MUJI, Daiso and any shop that sold ‘back to school’ supplies. My love for stationery and office supplies still exists but I realised that I didn’t need to feed it by buying more things. I realised that true joy is in actually using the many top quality pens, pencils and notepads I have. Buying more and more won’t make me happy.
In 2016, I realised how easily I let myself get knocked down, whether it’s someone shooting down my ideas to people coming at me with all guns blazing, totally unprovoked. It’s through this experience that I realised that from 2017 onwards, if I didn’t back myself up first, no one else would back me up. And even then, I still cannot expect or rely on anyone else to back me up. Confidence is of utmost importance and vital to survival and progress in 2017.
It reminded me of a mantra I once lived by in a time when I managed vBulletin forums and battled online trolls: always outnumbered, never outgunned. You will always be up against others and invariably more than 1 person but you win by ensuring you’ve got a better arsenal than them. Which leads me to the next realisation…
In 2016, I realised how important it is to be fully prepared when going into ‘battle’. Forewarned is forearmed as my father always taught me. Working at propertyfinder.ae and with a lot of people who lived to sweat the small stuff and nitpick taught me that details matter. If you can do a proper job the first time round, why not? I used to get so annoyed when people would pick out minor discrepancies that didn’t matter at a time when we were simply showing proof of concept. Like so what if the button said ‘submit’ instead of ‘send’? I’m showing you how a page would look and the text on a button shouldn’t matter when it doesn’t impact the overall layout of a page. And yeah, strictly speaking, it doesn’t really matter – but I’ve learnt that ensuring you have the right things in place at every point shows finesse. It puts your work on a higher level than others and it’s what gives you the edge.
In 2016, I realised how much I underestimate myself and keep myself from achieving greatness. Not on the level of celebrities or politicians. I mean when it comes to work and the people around me. I realise that too often, people were looking at me to lead the charge because they didn’t know how to or were scared and I either did a half baked job of it or failed to lead from the front. I know I’m a wallflower. I have felt that if I push from the back and big others up, it would lead to progress. But it’s progress for others, not me. And this isn’t a ‘what about me’ plea for help. It’s just saying it’s time for me to progress too.
In 2016, I realised how important it is to keep maintaining bridges and never letting them crumble or burning them in a fit of rage. Like a lot of people, I get loads of messages on LinkedIn from people asking for job hunt tips, job referrals or just for a job. And whilst I’m not in a hiring capacity (in that I make the final call), I found that there’s no reason to flip people off. My answers have become standard but they’re no less helpful because everyone needs a hand and people will remember you for when you helped them out. After the year we’ve witnessed, this is something our world needs more of.
In 2016, I realised that my self worth is determined by me and me alone. My value is not limited by my salary certificate and by how much someone else thinks I should be paid. My sustenance and provision is preordained and I am my only limit to that. No one can hold me down if I don’t let them.
In 2016, I realised that my time management is something that hasn’t improved like it needed to. It means I go into the uphill climb that is 2017 with rollerskates instead of running shoes. But with the support of the great people I’ve befriended in 2016 and the knowledge gained through every experience, I know that I can and will make 2017 a year to remember.
It will be a year to defy those who have stood in my way and those who looked down at me when they should have been helping me up.
2017 is a year I become a stronger, more confident digital marketing professional. I will launch my mobile apps, I will host events and I will Become The Alpha Muslim.
In my time working in digital marketing, I’ve learnt a great deal about what can make or break a digital strategy. In fact, I’ve narrowed it down to 2 simple things that often get overlooked. What makes them even more interesting is that they don’t discriminate – they affect everyone equally no matter your budget, target market or whether you’re outsourcing or getting it done in house. If you forget these 2 important ideas when it comes to formulating your digital strategy, it is headed towards failure.
Consistency is vitally important for the success of a digital strategy and it applies across all channels in your marketing mix. And this doesn’t just mean having the same colours and logos – it reflects everything including:
– tone of voice
– use of imagery
– calls to action
– overall message in your copy
– design elements
Now granted, you may need to adjust elements of your strategy to suit segments of your audience but the idea is that you should still be consistent with your approach. Your message needs to be the same and should be clear without causing confusion. In Dubai, advertising and signage is mostly bilingual (English and Arabic) and whilst translations may vary slightly (to suit each target audience), the fundamentals are the same. I particularly like it when brands go the extra mile to get their English logos designed in Arabic in the same sort of style. Stuff like that really makes a difference because it shows far more consistency and breeds a great level of familiarity and trust with your target market which is what helps keep it all together. Which brings me to my next point.
Everything in your digital strategy has to come together as one and work as a complete unit. Similar to being consistent, the idea is that everything you have in your marketing arsenal to help execute your digital strategy should complement each other.
Your logo is a good starting point which also influences the design styles of your website and marketing collateral. A little deviation for a specific purpose is actually ok – for example if you’ve always used light hues but need to go a bit dark for an event promotion or product launch invite ,then that’s ok – provided you haven’t gone and used a different logo, font or tone of voice.
Think about using a billboard to promote a product or service – do you have a number for people to call? a landing page for people to visit? I’ve lost count of the number of billboards I’ve seen in Dubai where there’s no call to action or where people are simply sent to the homepage where there’s no mention of anything from that billboard. Ideally you should create a dedicated landing page but let’s say in your situation it’s not possible – you should have some sort of guide on the homepage that relates to that billboard message. My bank is Emirates NBD and one of their bridge banners states that my phone is now my credit card. Great. No landing page to go to and when I go to the Emirates NBD website, there’s nothing on there that promotes this new feature or hints at it. To me, that’s a wasted opportunity because the billboard and website haven’t worked together to achieve the end result which I would imagine woul dbe to get people to enable card payments via their phone.
So when you’re reviewing your current digital strategy or putting together a new one, keep in mind the consistency of your message and how cohesive everything is. When your digital strategy is consistent and cohesive and aligned towards the same goals, you’re more likely to improve your brand awareness, customer trust and ultimately your bottom line.