SEMrush report: Mixed search trends for GCC property market
Words by: Adam Zeidan, Corporate Communications Manager for MENA Region, SEMrush.com
The GCC represents a truly diverse property market landscape, with each country facing numerous challenges both in common, and unique to the reliant economics. To fully understand these challenges and how they impact consumer sentiment, property marketers must first analyse online search engine patterns and their volumes.
This is essential in marketing research in order to reveal market patterns and divergence, as well as garnering insights on where, when and how to spend the marketing dollars.
The common denominators that influence the overall picture in the GCC include legislation, visa laws, expatriate communities and the price of oil. These are in addition to the traditional demand and supply factors.
Drilling down into the local Arabic/English online search trends in GCC markets over the last three years through SEMrush’s own digital marketing tools has allowed us to view trends for residential real estate rentals versus purchasing of apartments or houses. A number of patterns can be seen in each local GCC market for search terms related to “rent apartment/flat”, “rent villa/house”, “apartment/flat for rent”, “villa/house for sale”, and “apartment/flat for sale” et cetera.
With the exception of one GCC market, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the majority have a trend of higher local online search volumes for residential rentals versus purchasing residential property. As is the case with most GCC real estate markets, local online searches for residential rental is far ahead of searches for property purchase. In the UAE, online search trends show us demand is clearly higher for residential property rentals and in the United Arab Emirates this has grown dramatically from 2,000 local online searches a month for rental of apartments and houses in 2015, to nearly 5,000 this year, projecting an upward search trend.
There are also noticeable peaks in rental local searches between January and March each year in the UAE. On the other hand, local online searches for residential property purchase has remained relatively stable over the last three years, fluctuating between 2,000 to 3,000 searches a month.
The largest GCC market is the only GCC market where local online searches for purchasing residential property overtakes local search for residential property rental. Over the last three years, local searches for property purchase in the Kingdom has fluctuated between 4,000 to just over 5,000 searches a month. Rental searches have witnessed a more significant fluctuation, while tracking increases, growing from an average of 2,000 searches a month in 2015 to nearly 4,000 this year. Both rental and purchase searches witness a peak around August each year in Saudi Arabia.
The picture in Kuwait is similar to the UAE in some aspects. Local online searches for residential rental is ahead of purchases in Kuwait City, but both have been growing steadily since 2015 where it was at the 500 local searches a month level, then in 2017 the gap between rent and purchase increased to reach around 800 local searches this year for property purchasing a month, versus nearly 1,400 for renting. There is also a noticeable peak in search for renting in August each year in Kuwait.
The smaller market in the Kingdom of Bahrain does not prevent it from projecting continued growth in online searches for both residential rental and purchase properties. However, local rental searches have grown much faster than searches for residential purchase since 2015. This year, the search stands at nearly 900 local searches a month for renting, versus 400 a month for property purchase.
Last but not least, the Sultanate of Oman, which represents the second largest country in the GCC geographically, is also rather unique in that it is the GCC market with the smallest gap between local online searches for residential renting and purchase. The local online search trends of the two have even overlapped and shadowed each other over the last three years with both in early 2016 being at nearly 700 local searches a month then dropping simultaneously in the middle of 2017 to 300, then again both later rising together side by side in the latter half of 2018 to just over 500 local searches a month.
From the above digital insights, we can conclude that a “one-size fits all” approach to real estate marketing in the GCC region would not be optimal. Simply having a website or placing a random property ad is not enough. It is clear that SEO and digital marketing tools have much to offer marketers in the Middle East to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
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