How Dubai's Lockdown Affected User And Search Behavior On The Internet Looking at the shift in the days and times that people are browsing the internet, this could help one decide on the best times to run digital advertising campaigns or publish social media posts.

By Mazen Aloul

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This article has been built in collaboration with Young Arab Leaders, a not-for-profit organization founded by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, to develop the next generation of leaders in the Arab world through entrepreneurship, education, and employment.

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the Dubai government had imposed a lockdown to carry out a sterilization drive across the Emirate starting from March 15, 2020. With people in the city thus being forced to stay at home for longer periods than usual, we knew that their internet use would have likely spiked, and so, we decided to run a study on the impact of the measures taken by the government on user and search behavior on Dubai-based business websites. We did this research on 25 websites that operate in different sectors, and having obtained their permission to use the data anonymously for the purposes of this study, here are some of the main highlights that we learned:

1. CHANGES IN USER BEHAVIOR We came across a number of findings when it comes to changes in how and when people navigate websites.

More desktop traffic The vast majority of the websites studied showed a drop in traffic from mobile devices, and an increase in traffic from desktop and laptop devices. That's understandable considering that most people were at their homes during the lockdown.

Change in peak hours We also saw a shift in when people visit websites. This shifted from visiting websites during daylight hours to visiting sites either later in the evening, or very early in the morning. More specifically, the shifts happened towards the 9pm to midnight time slot, or the 4am to 6am time slot.

Weekends are busiest Another big shift we saw in the websites we studied was a shift away from visiting the websites during the week, to visiting them over the weekend. This could be for many reasons including online meetings during the week and home-schooling children for those with families. Ironically, this could also mean that a lot of internet browsing used to happen during office working hours.

Related: The Coronavirus Pandemic Versus The Digital Economy: The Pitfalls And The Opportunities

2. CHANGES IN SEARCH BEHAVIOR The second part of our study focuses on what were people searching for, and how has that impacted the different businesses we looked at. It's worth noting that not all businesses saw a drop in demand for their products/services.

Business that saw an increase in demand The following types of services witnessed an increase in demand:

  • Insurance services
  • Home appliances
  • Technology services

It's also worth noting that we saw an increase in searches for:

  • Games and toys for kids
  • Treatment for anxiety
  • Couples counseling

Business that saw a drop in demand B2B businesses were the ones that saw the biggest drop in demand for their services over the period of our study. These include:

  • Advertising services
  • Business services
  • Coaching services
  • Entertainment services
  • Home services
  • Marketing services
  • Medical (non-critical) services
  • Mental health services
  • Retail services
  • Training services


Looking at the shift in the days and times that people are browsing the internet, this could help one decide on the best times to run digital advertising campaigns or publish social media posts. Additionally, knowing what people are searching for on the internet can give businesses and entrepreneurs an insight into the questions they are asking, as well as the kind of problems they need help solving. You can find the full details of the study by clicking here.

Related: Here's How (And Why) You Should Get Your Enterprise's Customer Experience Ready For The Post COVID-19 World

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Mazen Aloul

Member, Young Arab Leaders, and founder and CEO, WebQuest DMCC

Mazen Aloul, an active member of Young Arab Leaders, is the founder and CEO of WebQuest DMCC, a digital agency based in Dubai that specializes in search engine optimization in English and Arabic. He has worked with hundreds of websites over the past six years, including some of the largest across the MENA region. He has also worked with the Ministry of Education in the UAE to teach programming to high-school students, forming the UAE National Youth Programming Team that participated in the International Programming Olympics.

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