Companies, both big and small, have been using SEO for years to drive traffic to their websites and physical sales points.

But in today’s age of Google and smartphones, the $80 billion Search Engine Optimization industry is only cementing its position further in nearly all digital ad spends thanks to the high- conversion results it yields.

The smartphone penetration in the UAE has surged past 80% with other Middle Eastern countries also reporting a strong trend of smartphone ownership and mobile internet access.

For businesses, this can either mean a huge challenge or a big opportunity as a vast majority of users search for a business on Google before they visit, or even search while being inside a physical store to know more about a product before purchasing.

Businesses in Dubai and other parts of the UAE and the Middle East are investing handsomely on SEO as part of their digital marketing efforts.

From moving companies to restaurants, and from real estate firms to t-shirt printers, businesses of all sort and size in the region are capitalizing on SEO for traffic (and thus revenue) gains.

Local SEO is seeing a spike too in the region.

The search terms containing location or phrases like ‘near me’ are driving scores of potential customers to the right businesses.

But at the same time, many still are losing out even to a lesser competition as the latter is beating them in online visibility.

Seeing (online) is believing in today’s terms with the strongest conventionalists now scrambling to get their Google game strong.

“People trust and visit the places they see on the top of their Google searches,” says Zahir Shah, an SEO specialist from Dubai.

“Many people will not even go to a good café within their building if it doesn’t appear on search results. And most even won’t go past the first few results, let alone the other pages of search results,” he adds.

“That is the reason why we encourage businesses to make their online visibility strong, especially in local SEO terms. Nobody has the time to go out and search for the right places anymore. Plus, people act wiser now when it comes to spending money: reviews, ratings, and visibility of other information related to a business in top organic search results are crucial in today’s digital age,” Zahir adds.

Some interesting new Google stats also show us how important it is for a business to have enhanced visibility on search results.

On average, every smartphone or internet user in the world uses Google at least three times a day. In this digital age, the word-of-mouth has also been replaced by online search with Google accounting for half of the world’s product searches.

But, the word-of-mouth is not dead: people talk online now and their reviews and ratings make a huge impact on a business’s online health and search engine visibility.

Google factors in all these things to produce results that matter to the searcher.

What this means is that championing the search rankings is not enough for a business; the real goal should be to continually improve the quality of product or service.

This bodes well for the general consumer who can and does, trust these results to make a purchase that’s worth their money.

This free speech of the user, although troubling for some businesses, can actually serve a blessing in disguise as it prompts them to cater to the consumers better.

A weak spot in customer service or the quality of product or service will also negatively affect your online presence.

The UAE and the entire Middle Eastern region are seeing mushrooming of big, medium- and small-sized businesses as the population grow.

A big chunk of the population base in the region is made up of ex-pats from around the world who come here for reasons ranging from employment to business. Many spots in the region also draw global tourists in millions which also contributes to the burgeoning of providers of services and products.

But the investment in SEO or other ways of digital marketing is still not corresponding to the growing number of businesses.

If you need a moving company to relocate to Dubai from Sharjah, for instance, many of the good relocation providers will still not show in the results in spite of being ‘near you’.

This opens the market for those whose SEO game is strong with products/services that may not be as good as those who are left out in the SERPs.

While a strong local SEO is increasing footfall in my shops and stores, many don’t even need a physical space to call ‘office’.

With Google and social media sites, home-based businesses are seeing a sharp rise too.

Many stay-at-home moms are cooking and baking and making decent cash out of their micro-enterprises.

There too, the search game comes strong as that’s the only tool they have at their disposal in the absence of a physical shop. 

While some businesses would miraculously crawl up the search ladder organically, all others will need dedicated SEO efforts to cut through the relentless competition.

A good SEO services provider will audit your website and recommend you change and steps to follow to rank better for the service or product that you offer.

Since the times are changing fast with others investing heavy resources to level up their Google game, you too can look around for a reliable SEO partner if you haven’t already.

A thing to remember, however, is that SEO is no magic and it isn’t done overnight.

Moving up the ranking ladder could take months to even a year, depending on the competition that you have. The type and quality of the product or service that you offer, a general user sentiment about it, and the time and budget that you’re willing to invest, will all determine your SEO success.

The fact that about half of all Google searches are looking for local information makes SEO – especially local SEO – something businesses cannot afford to avoid any longer.

With very few people in the region lacking access to smartphones and mobile internet, the SEO industry is only set to get stronger in coming years with the digital ad spend of the MENA region, which presently stands at $3,008 million, projected to climb to $3,068 million by 2022.