8 Tips for Building a Wildly Successful Arabic Website

by Maya Rahal, January 3, 2013

After Arabic women's portal Nawa3em grew to one million monthly unique visitors during its first year, its CEO Rodolph Jabr and Editor-in-chief Zoya Sakr Jabr have continued to replicate its popular model. Their latest site, Chababs, targets Arab youth with games, music and technology.

Under the umbrella of their Dubai-based digital media and branding company 2 Pure, the Jabrs have found a formula that works for gaining traffic; Nawa3em, a women's site that focuses that focuses on entertainment and beauty, has reached 60,000 hits per day, while Ra2ed, a lifestyle site for men has reached 45,000, and Gheir, also targeting women, has reached 40,000, they report. Chababs is newly on its way at 20,000 hits a day- numbers other websites dream of. But what is their secret?   

Identifying user needs

Before launching any of these sites, the team performed extensive research to accurately identify the needs of today's digital user,  primarily addressing the following questions: who spends more time on the internet nowadays? What are the most repetitive Arabic keywords on search engines? What are women looking for on the internet? Based on relevant conclusions, the adventure began. Subject categories for Nawa3em and Gheir were set and agreed upon.   

By looking closely at the success of all four "Jabr duo" websites, eight critical elements stand out:

  1. A pioneering idea. The four platforms are somewhat unique. In the past, there were no Arab websites tackling Arab women’s subjects of interest, from health and beauty tips, and local and international celebrity news, to user interaction through an open forum where visitors can publish their thoughts and ideas. Women used to have to search international sites for this news, but now the Jabrs are now providing it in Arabic with a focus on the Arab world. 
     
  2. Exclusive information. News websites typically update their news by the hour, within a 24-hour cycle. To cover global topics and events in a timely manner, the Jabrs assign 12 reporters to every website.
     
  3. High-quality content. “Every article is reviewed by 4 people before publication- a proofreader, a head of section, an editor and the editor-in-chief," says Zoya, who reveals that she also reads every article on each website to ensure they are up to par. The team is well aware that high-quality Arabic content is a rarity on the internet, particularly when it comes to entertainment and not educational or academic content. 
     
  4. Shareable content. Today's online users love to share content with friends and followers via social networks; the Jabrs didn't miss this element in their design but rather made their content as shareable as possible. 
     
  5. Interactive features. Nawa3em recently featured a special forum where women could interact by sharing opinions and ideas and publishing photos and blog posts. Creating a sense of belonging is central to the founders' visions, as it incentivizes the user to visit the website daily, or perhaps several times a day, in order to check comments or interact with followers. The team invested in opening up user forums, turning consumers into content producers.
     
  6. An analysis-driven content approach. the team analyzes statistics on user visits in terms of geographic location, visit hours and time spent on the website by page, with the goal of correctly catering directly to their needs, maintaining their loyalty and guaranteeing repeat traffic.
     
  7. A long-term vision. “We are not only looking to expand our userbase; we’re also trying to build well-known brands, which will eventually help us build an even larger loyal regular audience,” says Rodolph.
     
  8. Mobile applications. A mobile app is an obvious next step these days, and the Jabrs have already taken it, building mobile apps for each site.

The websites’ success has drawn the attention of international companies such as Tiffany’s, Hermes, Chanel, Cartier, to name a few, who seek to enter the Arab market through the platforms and experiment with the Arab digital market in terms of marketing strategies, before investing in their own Arabic language platforms (which companies like Nervora also help to create).

As much as 50% of visitors are residents of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, all falling in the 20-40 age category, a segment which has a healthy appetite for e-commerce as well. It’s not surprising that the founding duo has now decided to consider going into e-commerce, Rodolph Jabr confesses; it might not be immediate, but the team is staying dedicated to following the most popular trends in the digital world today.  

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Maya works as the managing editor at Wamda. You can reach her at maya[AT]wamda.com, find her on Twitter @RahalMaya or connect with her on LinkedIn or Google+.

 
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