If your company has an app, or your business model is an app, sooner or later you’ll have to localize your app for different markets. App localization is not a small task and should definitely never be an afterthought. With close to five billion mobile subscribers worldwide predicted by 2017, it’s pretty clear:
You’re missing out on a huge slice of the pie if your app isn’t localized for different worldwide markets.
Smartphone users spend around 85% of their time using apps on their phones, rather than browsing the net. But your app needs to be extremely well thought out in terms of functionality, usability and localization. Competition in this high-growth area is burgeoning daily as everyone clamors to join the app party. So, there’s no room for a sloppy foreign market version.
If you produce time management software, fitness programs, or making white noise for babies, you should probably focus on your key business. Call in an expert team for your app localization. Once you’ve selected the right partner, App Store Optimization (ASO) needs to be factored in from the start. If you want your app to be seen among the millions (actually, billions!) of others in the App Store, ignore ASO at your peril.
What Is App Store Optimization (ASO)?
As you’ve guessed by now, App Store Optimization (ASO) is a lot like Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The main common thread between the two lies in the concept of content optimization. You want to make sure that your localized app’s assets are optimized, which basically means that you make the most out of them.
Your app’s content, descriptions, text and images should be primed to gain more visibility. What does more visibility lead to? Greater downloads. What do more downloads mean? Bigger sales. After all, what’s the point of styling your hair and putting on your best suit if you’re going to stay at home? Why waste time and resources designing the perfect app, if it’s going to be the wallflower at the party?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a way of ensuring that your app meets ranking criteria and rises to the top of search results in the App Store or Google Play. If you know that customers are looking for a weight loss app and you haven’t included the keywords “weight loss”, you’re going to flunk your first ASO class.
But if you’ve primed your app for iOS and Android in your home country (good for you!), you’ll also need to do the same for your localized app. Why? Because they don’t say “weight loss” the same way in Colombia, France, or Morocco. Users won’t be searching for the same terms.
Even if your app is nicely localized to respect cultures, languages and ideology, if you haven’t concentrated on international ASO for both platforms, then you’ve failed your second class. It might should like a lot of hard work, but if you consider your foreign language clients at all times, you’ll maximize your sales and ROI.
So, if you’re listening and ready to take notes, let’s go! Here’s the ultimate guide to app store optimization for localized apps:
1. Know Your Customer
Knowing your customer is pretty well covered in Marketing 101, but it’s super important when it comes to app localization. After all, if you don’t know and respect your foreign clients’ cultures, how can you design an app to meet their needs? A well planned ASO strategy revolves around knowing your customers well in their different markets. Which means that if you’re not au fait with the lingo used on the streets of Colombo, or the local slang in the gin joints of Paris, you’d better start finding out.
App localization is about so much more than simply translating your texts. You have to discover the keywords and search terms that your foreign customers use. You’ll also need to know that these vary over countries that speak the same language. The Spanish in Spain isn’t the same as the Spanish in Argentina or Peru. The French in France varies greatly from that used in parts of northern Africa — and so on.
Find out how local people speak and how they would describe your app. Then use this vital information in your localized descriptions. How you do this will depend on your budget and timeframe. It would be pretty awesome to take a sabbatical and travel to the markets you want to compete in and carry out firsthand research.
But if you don’t have the time or your boss won’t write that into your app localization budget, you’ll need to work with highly skilled native translators. Put together a team of people who know your industry in each place you want to do business. App localization begins and ends with your customers, and app store optimization naturally follows that trend.
2. Know Your Competition
Another textbook lesson, but an essential one (there’s a reason they’ve written books about it). Knowing your competition is essential, especially when it comes to app localization. Not only are you competing with other international companies, but you’re also battling it out with local apps that are killing it in their home market. Spy on them and find out what keywords they’re competing for, how high the competition is for certain search terms, and if you should compete for the same ones, or not.
Sometimes you’ll find that lower competition keywords and secondary categories are the best way to compete in app saturated markets. You’ll also need to decide if you want to rank among the top ten competition keywords, or in the top place for lower competition words. The key here is getting noticed and rising above your competition. Being in ninth place for “weight loss” may not be as lucrative for you as being first on “boot camp” (for example.)
See what colors and images your competitors are using for their icons, so you get an essence of what’s working and what isn’t. Also, so that you can design your app’s icon to be original and stand out from the crowd. More on that later.
3. App Localization Is All In A Name
Choosing the right name for your app is fundamental. Your name will have a huge effect on how easily it can be translated and localized for international markets. In some cases, you won’t need to translate your name, if your app has an invented or arbitrary name, like “Skype” or “Flickr.” But if you choose a generic name for your app, let’s say “weight loss app” – you’ll a harder time getting the translation and localization just right. You may decide not to translate the name of your app, as you can risk diluting your brand.
As with so many things in life, less is more, so keep your app’s name short, sweet and to the point. You can include your keywords in the app’s title, if your company or app name don’t involve a relevant keyword.
4. And In A Title
If translating your app’s name is off the table, instead, you’ll need to optimize your app’s content and embed keywords in the title. This will give potential users a clearer idea of what your app is about and why they should download it. Apps with at least one relevant keyword in the title rank 10.3% higher than apps without keywords in the title.
Take a look at the example below. You can see that apps like Duolingo, Scholly, Udemy, Rosetta Stone Ltd, and more, make use of their titles to add in a keyword and describe their app.
Remember to keep in mind the right length for your title. If you’re familiar with SEO, you’ll know all about meta data. The same applies in app store optimization. In the App Store, titles are normally truncated (spaces included) at the 23rdcharacter. In Google Play, you have a little more room, as truncation occurs after the 30th character. Downloaded on a mobile device, the title will be cut off at 11 and 14 characters. The moral of the story? Put all your keywords at the front.
When it comes to foreign characters, avoid them at all costs! Use only URL-friendly characters within your title. iOS is particularly sensitive to characters. Sometimes iTunes will refer to your app’s numeric ID, if it can’t understand your title or scan for relevant keywords. This will have a negative impact on your ASO strategy, so make sure your characters are friendly to both platforms. You need to tailor your ASO to each operating system, as they both work differently.
IOS/The App Store
It’s important to consider that the App Store has a 100-character keyword field limit. This exclusively includes your app’s title and keyword phrases. Taking this into account, when it comes to ASO for iOS, you’ll need to make every character count if you want to maximize the organic traffic for your app.
Google Play’s approach to ASO is much more like its approach to SEO, which gives you a lot more room for flexibility. Being Google, it scans your entire description and detects the keywords within. You have up to 4,000 characters to describe your app, but you’ll still need to use them wisely, with the right keyword density.
Just as with your web copy, keyword stuffing doesn’t pay off. In fact, it’s important to remember to write for your customers and not for the algorithm. Keyword stuffing will not get you ranked higher and may turn customers away with your repetitive wording.
5. Write A Captivating Description
Write a captivating description, but don’t write an essay or a murder-mystery. Remember that people have limited time. They don’t want to be left waiting to find out what the best feature of your app is. They won’t read chunks of text to get to the twist in the tale.
So, don’t keep it a secret. Put all your best information up front. Go against all the first date advice your Mom gave you and give everything away at once. Even if Google Play scans your entire description, that doesn’t mean that your customers will read it.
Once you have your description optimized and ready, you’ll need to get it translated. But, depending on the type of text you need translated, it may be better to work with translators who can apply techniques of transcreation.
Transcreation allows your translators the freedom to take local keywords and search terms and come up with a description that is both optimized and appealing to local customers. They will still stay faithful to the original, but where certain phrases and idioms can’t be translated world for word, they will adapt them for the target audience.
Using the right translation management software, your programmers will be able to give your translators context, so that they won’t be working string by string. This is particularly important in app localization, where they need to see screenshots to understand the whole picture easily. You can also give your translators a list of keywords to include, to ensure maximum visibility.