How Saudis search online: the importance of search intent


The importance of search in the consumer journey cannot be taken lightly. Consumers in this region are very technologically adept and want more out of their brand experiences online.

When looking at Saudi Arabia specifically, according to Global World Index, 79% of the respondents picked mobile as their most important device for getting online (the global average is 62%). According to that same report, 98% owned a smartphone (that is 4% more than the global average), and the daily time spent online on mobile is 03:35, exceeding the global benchmark by 32 seconds.

We’re seeing a population that is discerning and has increasing expectations. Purchase cycles are becoming shorter, and online product research is being done almost at every stage– either if it’s the initial research or if you’re looking up reviews when you’re considering a purchase. According to research from Google, 56% of Saudi internet users looked for inspiration on their smartphones before making a purchase.

Yet brands, particularly in this region, still do not invest in SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, it seems that Saudi consumers are paying more attention to search than brands are.

According to an auto brand study conducted by Google, 57% of consumers in Saudi Arabia start their research on search when they’re buying a new car. This wouldn’t have been a consideration 10 years ago, but it’s a channel that consumers increasingly rely on.

When you bring mobile into the equation, the search journey becomes even more complex. In the same study, 91% of Saudi smartphone users researched their new car on their mobile. It isn’t only about the search experience anymore but the mobile search experience. For the typical Saudi consumer, using search engines is one of the top three activities they do on the smartphone. Yet, we see brands spending on paid media and disregarding more pull-based marketing activities. Marketing is ultimately about creating seamless experiences for consumers across all touch points. If users in Saudi are embracing search and are constantly on the go, then it’s imperative for brands to invest on optimizing this online experience or they’ll risk losing potential customers. User behavior online is constantly evolving, and we must evolve with them.


We’ve spoken at length about the importance of local intent in the past. What does this mean? In simple terms, it refers to search terms that are location based.

Google indicates that in Saudi, 83% of internet users use their smartphone to find local information. Segmenting by local business categories, this number hikes up to 91% for tourism related businesses.

As search has advanced, so has user behavior. With the growth of mobile, location-based search has become increasingly common.  Only optimizing for brand terms isn’t enough anymore.

Based on an analysis of trending terms in Saudi Arabia last year in the food category, brand terms did not dominate this category. Most search terms were related to ordering food, aggregator sites or recipe questions. In fact, many of the queries are also location based. For example, one of them specifically was “restaurants in baqaa”. With that in mind, are you optimizing your content to include location-based keywords, down to very specific areas? When looking at F&B brands this is of particular importance as you’ll find users abandoning search if the content isn’t easily available to them. As user behavior continues to change, brands and agencies must be ready to change as well. Local intent is now a fundamental part of any search strategy, especially considering that consumers in this region are ready for it.


In short, intent optimization will ensure more relevant traffic translating into higher conversion rates in the case of transactional pages. In the case of informational pages, it will boost the engagement metrics of your content. Bounce rate will drop, because you are showing users what they came to you for. Additionally, if they find the landing page useful and relevant, it’s more probable that they will engage with more pages in your website, increasing page views. Google is also smart enough to understand multiple queries as having the same intent, showing your optimized pages will show for a lot more searches, widening your audience reach.

Last, but not least, make sure to have your content selected for Google’s feature snippets, because this allows it to position above the first search result, giving your pages a head start.

Are you already optimizing your pages for search intent? With a thorough SEO audit, we can identify content that already matches user intent and identify opportunities to create optimized content. To learn more about local search or SEO in general, get in touch with us.

Category: SEO