Competition for ad space in the Middle East is low due to fewer companies advertising online than in other regions of the world. Therefore, Cost Per Clicks (CPC) remain low. This is good news for advertisers, right? Well, yes and no. If companies can’t execute ads that ensure they are getting value for their media spend, it’s no advantage. A real pit fall I’ve observed across search engine results is poorly written ads with little use of ad extensions or best practices. I’ve listed some areas below to focus on that can make a real difference to the performance of your digital advertising.
Split testing is standard in the digital marketing industry. It’s how we improve and seek that extra bit of performance from our marketing activities. However, split testing is not common practice in the Middle East, especially for search ads. As an agency, Latitude audits many accounts and it is very common to see just one ad running in each adgroup, with no evidence of split testing. Whilst this does provide us with a business opportunity as an agency, it’s important to remember that this directly impacts the experience for the everyday user. By only showing one ad, users will repeatedly see the same messaging from a company and can become disillusioned, reducing their likely hood to click.
Refreshing the ad copy is another practice not widely adopted in the Middle East. ‘Shop now’, ‘Enquire now’ and ‘Register Now’ are commonly seen on US and European ads, but the Middle East rarely shares this practice. Ad copy writers tend to focus on what they want to say, rather than what their users want to hear. It is vital to keep the objectives of the ads front of mind, i.e. to get clicks and if possible, qualify the user.
I’m a big fan of ad extensions – they give an ad an additional dimension, provide extra information and make it an all more appealing proposition for the user. Sadly, this is another under used element in the region. Basic site links aside, it’s rare to see full use of Google ad extensions despite them increasing CTR and effecting the quality score. Google brings new extensions into Beta on a regular basis that agencies are given access to. Beta product access is a great way of getting a quick competitor advantage on the SERPs. Whilst not all will be successful, they’re usually worth trialling to see what impact they have.
The digital marketing industry in MENA as a whole is still developing to an extent, with the exception of the retail and travel/hospitality industries. Both markets have a growing audience, so it’s no surprise that Google have invested heavily in the region for these sectors, offering some great client side (and agency) support. With an established and experienced retail team, Google are able to ensure that a market that is still primarily offline and ‘bricks and mortar’ adopts the transition to online and is able to use online advertising to its full potential. All of this goes to show the relative immaturity of the market and the steps that must be taken to catch up with other regions around the world. However, the current rapid growth in the MENA region will mean this gap in knowledge will catch up, probably sooner than we think!