I’ve been in Dubai for almost 3 years working in my capacity as an SEO expert and have seen some interesting changes in my time here.
I noticed that SEO was not understood nearly as much as PPC was and that the understanding has somewhat improved but nowhere near the levels you would expect in a market like Dubai.
The reliance on display advertising, particular offline, is something to note – as this is a primary marketing tool for most businesses. Often, these displays fail to include website addresses or some sort of call to action relating to the internet. In fact, du once ran a billboard about their special ‘double’ deal but only about 2 weeks after launch did they modify the billboard to use a target url (du.com/double).
I find that PPC trumps SEO due to there being very clear indicators of input and output. You see how much you spend, what sort of activity there has been and what sort of results have been achieved. The intangible nature of SEO is often what holds it back.
The struggle in Dubai is not entirely unique to the local market. You still need to justify ongoing investment in SEO, especially due to changes in how linkbuilding works right now. There are still many small players who insist on promoting and using low level, black hat tactics with equally low prices – which is what draws in many business owners who don’t know any better.
Big agencies tend to lean towards PPC quite heavily and no one really does SEO very well. They usually sign up clients on their PPC strengths and then shoehorn in SEO services.
Simply put, SEO is not seen as a vital part of the marketing mix. I expect the struggle to continue in 2016 however what is needed to overcome this is more education on the need for SEO, the need for ongoing SEO activity and a very clear picture needs to be painted showing how SEO is part of ongoing business marketing and promotion and not just something done once and forgotten.