This week we have a guest post from Adam Henshall. He writes about business process management for Process Street and is COO of the language learning application Idyoma. Based in Sevilla, Adam’s current hobby is learning Spanish.
According to a report from Adjust, 2/3 of all mobile app downloads are organic – this is huge! Particularly as TechCrunch reported that 2017 saw a grand total of 175 billion app downloads worldwide. You can spend money on ASO but there is also a lot you can do without breaking the bank. Building a solid ASO profile and not having to rely on paid installs through Facebook ads or Adwords is crucial to having a successful app. When customer acquisition costs for paid installs can range anywhere between $2 and $10, having people find your app themselves in the store starts to look like a bargain!
In this article, we’re going to discuss the importance of making your app accessible to the world.
We’re going to show you how to get that internationalization set up in detail.
- Recognizing the size of the non-English speaking market
- The ease of getting translations
- How to do ASO research in different languages
- How to optimize your Apple App Store listing for different regions
- The processes involved in internationalizing your ASO
Recognizing the size of the non-English speaking market
English language apps tend to fare pretty well in many parts of the world. English is to some extent the lingua franca of business – which I’ve always thought to be an ironic statement. English language apps perform best in English language countries, closely followed by countries across Africa where US and UK based apps hold a 50% or larger market share.
However, most of the world don’t speak English 🧐
Most of the market aren’t searching in English
The vast majority of the people don’t speak English as their first language. These people are a lot less likely to be searching in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store in English, and are much more likely to first search in their own language.
The nature of digital spaces also means that geographical boundaries can be swept away and you could – for example – target speakers of one language in a country which typically speaks a different language. In the report from Caribou Digital and Mozilla, they find an interesting case study whereby language is often more important than geography when competing for online spaces. They found that apps produced in Spain were considerably more popular in South America than they were in Europe.
Now, that’s pretty obvious. Spanish speakers want to use Spanish language apps. But it also shows that there are apps out there which are hugely popular and have value, yet they’re hardly used in vast swathes of the world simply because no one could be bothered to hire a translator.
Does your product only have value in English?
So, as the first step to internationalizing your app, you have to ask: Does your product only have value in English? If it is only available in English then there is a good chance you’re answering “yes” to that question. But the core purpose of the app is unlikely to only have value in one language – some exceptions, of course like Puzzle games or similar. Certain apps that I have on my phone could function perfectly for a whole new market with a simple translated version applied:
- A scanner app
- A to-do list app
- An authenticator app
Other apps would need more than just translation to enter a new market; they may need communities of users building, or specialist knowledge of the local area.
But, internationalizing your app, at least opens up these opportunities for further growth.
You need to use country appropriate keywords
The Caribou Digital report states, in its Key Findings, the following:
“The segmentation of the global market into national app stores improves visibility of a wider variety of producers, and may therefore be a key driver of local content consumption.”
The report sees this as a positive source of diversification and as a way to aid and stimulate local digital economies. However, being cynical, as startups this is exactly the kind of opening in the market we would want to take advantage of in our country and in all others.
The geo-blocking of the different store listings presents a segmented market opportunity. If we can get in there quickly, then we may gain an early entry advantage over our competitors by establishing a strong localized ASO profile, even if some of our more established competitors have a better general ASO profile. This involves:
- Creating specialised store listings for each market you want to operate in.
- It means finding the right keywords for each of those markets.
- And it means adapting your application to be usable by the local people in that location.
The ease of getting translations
You might look at getting translations as an unnecessary extra expense – it could be. If you don’t put the effort in to grow your app in a different location then the money spent on the translations might look like it has been wasted.But translations are pretty much a one time cost: you simply write out all the content you want translating and submit that to the translator to work through page by page.
The route I take when adding new languages is to create a large document which contains all the English language copy. The translator is given the instructions to reproduce the translated segment under the original segment, so we know what corresponds to what.
The translator is also shown character counts next to specific segments where relevant. If you don’t speak Spanish or French, you’ll be surprised how many more characters might be used to express the same meaning. It’s much better for your translator to edit that down than for you to make guesses about French grammar as you enter the text into the AppStore, trying to shave off those extra 20 letters. I structure the document like so:
- A breakdown of all the app’s language content
- Copies of the store listing with character counts
- Extra marketing copy we have used in the past or plan to use in the future
- A big list of the kind of English keywords we think are relevant to us
As long as the translator has a good understanding of the app and you have briefed them thoroughly, then the content should come back in pretty good shape.
This also gives you a range of foreign language keywords for your ASO investigation!
You can find translators online in loads of different places. My recommendation is not to be cheap – you get what you pay for. Good sites to find translators might include:
How to do ASO research in different languages
In this section I am going to explain you how I carried out the ASO keyword research for my app Idyoma in different languages with TheTool. I’ve opted for the iOS version and set the primary country to Spain as our results are more interesting in Spain where there is high demand in multiple languages, than the US or UK.
Add your app and enter your competitors. The setup wizard will suggest some keywords for you to start off with to track, but you can enter in other keywords manually too. I’m going to enter 10 keywords similar to: Meet English, language exchange, intercambio, idioma, idyoma.
In the App Metrics section you can navigate to Search: this will show you how you are performing for the different keywords you have entered. Here you can add new keywords one by one, or you can import keywords. That big list of keywords you made for each country can then be uploaded into the platform. Without showing you too much information, the keyword scores will be shown like in the image below. I’ve cropped the image so that the keywords are chopped off the left hand side.
As you can see, the platform suggests similar or related keywords where possible, which helps you expand and evaluate your list. It also shows:
- the difficulty score,
- the expected traffic score,
- the efficiency score,
- the number of competing apps,
- and your app’s rank for that keyword.
You can do this with as many keywords as your plan allows. Once you have analyzed the keywords, you can reduce the list down by deleting poor or unattainable keywords. TheTool will then track those keywords over time to give you more in depth metrics.
By connecting your account to your iTunes Connect you gain even more valuable data – this data above is all localized to the Apple App Store for Spain. But we want to be multilingual and target a range of localities. To do this, once you have completed your Spain section and whittled down your keyword list, you can click on the location button in the top right of your screen to assess a different geographical area: I’ve opted for Turkey.
Now I can do the exact same process again. Importing a large list of keywords and then removing the poor performers allows me to monitor my favored keywords into the future.
On the Startup plan you can track up to 200 keywords or 20 across 10 countries. Of course, if you’re serious about growth and expanding to new markets, it’s worth upgrading to the Growth or Ninja plan (view all plans) to track a larger number of keywords across a larger number of countries.
It depends on the stage your mobile business is at.
Once you’ve analyzed your keywords and picked your best performers, it’s time to start tailoring your AppStore listing.
How to optimize your Apple App Store listing for different regions
It’s pretty easy to create your different Apple App Store listings. Having undertaken the other steps in this article, you should have all the language content which you will use for the store along with the specific keywords you want to target – likely a mix of English keywords plus ones from the domestic language.
You’re pretty much all set – you just need to plug it all in and get it working!
- Create a copycat listing for each region you want to target. In your iTunesConnect account, you’ll see in the top right hand corner of the screen where you configure your app listing, a little dropdown menu which specifies the region and language. If you’re in the US, it should say: English (U.S.). This is where you can toggle between the different listings you’ve configured.
- To add a new localized listing navigate away from the Ready for Sale live listing to the App Information section above. Now that top right drop down bar should show you your localized listings (the ones you’ve already configured) and it should show the not-localized options. If you hover over one of the top not-localized options like Chinese Simplified, there should be a little blue plus sign – just click this plus to add a listing for that region or region and language combo. When you’ve done that you can plug in your translations. Make sure everything fits nicely into the word count – as we’ve mentioned, French will always take up more space!
- Then, go through and check the right keywords have been entered, the right images are being displayed, and all other details are up to scratch.
Now you’ve made a new listing! Congrats!
The processes involved in internationalizing your ASO
Of course, to do this properly and to do it well requires systemizing your approach. One way to do so would be to document the process for each step. You could have a process for:
- Preparing and managing translations
- Initial keyword research by region
- Keyword tracking process over time
- Creating and updating store listings
These are four simple processes which you could document and then optimize as you repeat them. Once the processes are well documented, you could hand them off to an employee to manage and coordinate while you focus on other areas of the business. If you use a tool like Process Street to manage these processes, then you’ll find they are easy to iterate and improve, simple to run, and each task in the process can be completed sequentially via the checklist UX.
Being stored in the cloud means you and your team can collaborate on the processes and even use the checklists to automate other actions via internal automation capabilities or Zapier integrations.
Internationalizing your app is surprisingly little work considering the potential gains.
Build and follow these processes for your business and open up markets all over the world 😉