The Ins and Outs of Keyword Research

What is Keyword Research

As the culture of shopping in the UAE continues to shift online, keyword research is an SEO component that small businesses must recognize. Despite its polarizing nature—how much research is too much research?—keyword research acts as a compass for your SEO campaigns.

Performed well, keyword research can point your strategy in the right direction and put your business in front of the right people. However, UAE-specific keyword research differs from Western techniques in its focus and execution.

If your small business is new to keyword research, this guide will tell you what you need to know.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing search terms users input into search engines for a specific purpose. For instance, a user might input “fragrance shops Dubai,” which can be helpful for businesses that sell perfumes.

Through keyword research, marketers can pinpoint popular queries, how difficult they are to rank for, and the volume in which they are used on search engines.  

Why Keyword Research Matters

Users can’t find what they’re looking for on search engines without keywords. Thus, keyword research plays an imperative role in inbound marketing.

In addition, keyword research can bring you closer to potential customers in the following ways.

Contextualizes Your Competitive Landscape

The better-performing the keyword, the higher the chances are that you already have others competing for it. Keywords rank for a reason—other businesses are already using them.

As such, knowing how these keywords rank can indicate how easy or challenging it will be to compete for them. If a keyword is easy to rank for, keywords with low competition can increase the odds of your content ranking highly.

In addition, you can discover what keywords are not worth targeting. 

Provides Better Understanding of Search Intent

When a user searches for something on Google, it presents them with results most relevant to their query. To rank for relevance, you’ll need to understand the intent behind each search term.

For example, suppose you run a nail salon. If you want to rank for “acrylic nails,” you’ll have to be more specific. Do you want to rank for acrylic nail salons? Acrylic nail services? Put these search terms into context.

Generates New Content Ideas

Contextualizing relevant keywords can generate new content ideas you may not have thought of otherwise. Plugging in competitor domains can provide context into trends and hot topics you can feature on content channels like blogs and social media.

Improves Customer Acquisition

People use keywords to find accessible solutions online. If you can successfully place your content in front of the people seeking these solutions, expect your acquisition numbers to rise.

In line with inbound methodology, keywords enable you to create content people want to discover, not what your business wants to communicate.

Anatomy of a Good Keyword

The Anatomy of a Good Keyword

What makes a “good” keyword? Below are a few elements to prioritize.


Understanding search intent helps you keep keywords relevant. Remember, Google ranks keywords according to how well they meet searchers’ needs. After all, high-value content ranks highest.


Unfortunately, relevance won’t get your keywords to rank if no one’s looking for them. As the saying goes, an idea is only as good as whoever invests in it. As such, using keywords with a healthy monthly search volume can help you rank on Google.


Some keyword sources are challenging to compete with. For instance, smaller shoe brands may need help earning top spots for keywords frequently used by enterprises like Nike or Adidas.

Instead, use keywords that you already have authority over. Enrich your site with keywords that position you as a dependable resource. Doing so will earn you positive signals and backlinks. 

How Does Keyword Research in the UAE Differ from Everywhere Else?

Primarily made up of expatriates, the impact of keyword-driven marketing campaigns in the UAE differs drastically from that of western approaches. Advertising your brand in English can benefit an expatriate audience—but what about the locals?

Many UAE-based startups overlook the value of conducting keyword research in Arabic, Dubai’s native language. Despite the country’s primarily English-using consumer base, the localization industry continues to thrive for a reason. 

72% of online shoppers prefer to buy products from websites written in their native language, while 87% wouldn’t shop with an English-only site. Considering the ever-growing presence of eCommerce websites in the UAE, keyword research in English and Arabic can boost your SEO tactics. 

Tips for Performing Keyword Research in the UAE

Now that you know the value of keyword research as part of your marketing campaign, it’s time to curate your process to suit UAE-based audiences.

Use the Country Name Correctly

Today’s internet users value instant gratification. As such, the keyword “UAE” trumps “United Arab Emirates” for volume and usage. After all, three letters are far easier to thumb in on your mobile device or laptop.

In addition, “Dubai” tends to earn more traffic than “UAE”. Famous for its lavish culture and extravagance, Dubai is often a clever starting place for marketers new to keyword research.

Have a Specific Audience in Mind

No single pitch or piece of content will appeal to every audience. Whether advertising to younger UAE-based shoppers or business professionals, cater to a specific group and base your efforts on those demographics.

Consider that most expatriates seek services from professionals from the same country. For instance, an overseas Thai worker living in Dubai might search for, “Thai catering services in Dubai,” instead of just, “catering services in Dubai.”

In addition, a younger audience on a budget might search for, “affordable catering services in Dubai.” Keep your audience’s objectives in mind when shortlisting keywords for your website.

Target Local UAE Backlinks

Garnering backlinks from authoritative sites is one thing—obtaining UAE-based backlinks tells Google you’re a reliable source in Dubai. 

However, getting links from regional websites is highly competitive and occasionally limited. You can combat this “link shortage” by focusing on international links outside the region. Consider the following website types that rank well in the UAE:

  • News and media
  • Community pages
  • Events pages
  • Job postings
  • Resource pages
  • Educational institutions
  • Fashion brands
  • Luxury brands
  • Business clubs

Observe Your Competitors

Every business has competition, including the keywords you want your website to rank for. If you’re eyeing high-volume keywords popular within your industry, chances are your competitors are doing the same.

Strike a balance between using keywords your competitors are already ranking for and less popular ones you can claim. 

Start Small and Expand Gradually

When doing keyword research in the UAE, you aren’t going to achieve success overnight. Thus, exerting your efforts into ranking for as many keywords as possible may be more wasteful than strategic.

Instead, focus on ranking for a few keywords—limiting the scope of your niche can keep you from getting distracted. In addition, vital parameters will encourage you to get the most out of these keywords, and your research will pay off in the long run.

Don’t Forget UX

Even the most well-researched keywords are only helpful to a sizable audience. Your website must be readable and easy to use for your keywords to rank.

Consider this—mobile usage accounts for half of all internet activity worldwide. In Dubai, 90% of traffic is thanks to mobile users. To ensure your keywords rank, you’ll want to make these mobile experiences seamless and enjoyable.

Before applying your keyword research, test your website for load speed. Mobile sites should load in a mere one or two seconds—take any longer, and you risk losing 53% of all your mobile visits.

If you run your website in English and Arabic, ensure that both versions function well. Lately, local server options for UAE-based websites have expanded, enabling business owners to increase page load speeds.

Tips for Performing Keyword Research in the UAE

Geo-Target Your Keywords

Keywords that rank highly in Dubai may not rank as well in other UAE cities, such as Abu Dhabi and Ajman. When conducting keyword research in the UAE, ensure that you use them in the correct context, depending on your location. Target your keywords according to the following UAE cities.

  • Dubai: The most populated city in the Emirates, Dubai is home to millions of expats who shop in English and Arabic. SEO landscapes within Dubai are highly competitive.
  • Abu Dhabi: This wealthy Emirate is known for its oil reserves. Marketers tend to target business professionals and high-ranking stakeholders.
  • Sharjah: The third-largest Emirate, Sharjah is known for its tourism and commerce sectors. Its population is primarily Emirati, making Arabic keyword research a must for your business.

The Bottom Line

As the UAE becomes an increasingly popular destination for SEO marketers, having a specific set of goals for your keyword research efforts can improve your bottom line. When targeting a UAE-based audience, ensure that your keyword research includes local results tailored to a specific demographic.

If you’re new to keyword research in the UAE and need an expert perspective, collaborate with our specialists at Igloo today. We have ample experience in every industry and have worked with some of the biggest enterprise names in the country.


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