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.