App localization: how to enter the international market?
Any developer or ASO specialist faces the issue of app localization. What to begin with, how to adapt your app (text elements, graphics, content) and compete outside your own territory — read in our article.
Why localize an app
Maybe you don’t get it right now why spend your time and money on localization. With this in mind, we’re offering a short checklist for you. If your answer to at least one item is ‘yes’, then it’s about time to think of a plan; otherwise, you may lose thousands, or maybe even millions of new users.
Here’s the checklist
- you’ve noticed that your competitors are becoming more proactive in this direction;
- you understand that you have a small user base and low ARPU (Average Revenue Per User);
- you’re dreaming of getting featured on the App Store’s page;
- you’d like to increase your profits.
After the first yes, your doubts should’ve disappeared by now since someone has already been faster than you and is already winning over the smartphones of Spain, Poland or the Netherlands. An English-only interface won’t work if you decide to engage in a serious promotion worldwide.
Localization an app includes a set of actions to make all content international and relevant for other countries. The users should have a clue why they install your product, and you should speak their language in terms of both linguistics and culture. Add relevance and modern context here as well.
Localization vs. Culturalization
The concept of app localization is broader than it seems. In this block, we asked the Senior ASO manager Anastasia Baranchikova to share her experience of working with foreign languages.
Culturalization is about preparing materials for a group of people who share the same culture. Usually, we are talking about residents of one country in this case. It involves not only translating texts, but also finding the ways to convey the value of the app in a language and graphics that the target users will understand (using local expressions, appealing to cultural values). For example, different countries prefer different colors. Finding these preferences is the gist of culturalization.
How to collect data on a new country for culturalization
- Research your competitors, niche and the app store in a country in general.
- Study advertising materials of the target country (ad contests, newspapers).
- Scrutinize articles, comparisons and monographs on the cultural peculiarities.
Cultural values are just as important in the process of text optimization as in optimization of graphics. For example, it can be a word-play that might be lost during translation or doesn’t match the text in the picture. Or sometimes, some concepts, even translated correctly, are just not that popular in the target country.
To deal with this, we show the ready screenshots to the localization team and ask them to point out what catches the eye or seems to be wrong for some reason. Often text mistakes can be noticed only on the screenshot.
Localization and culturalization approaches and strategies
- Work with native speakers to whom you explain your product, marketing strategy and goals in detail. Based on their hypotheses, you create materials and together with them check the correctness of the texts.
- You do your own research, come up with hypotheses and work on the basis of the information you got about the country.
- Work with a custom listing focused strictly on the country, and not on the entire localization. Your hypotheses may be right, but your target audience is wrong.
- Transfer ideas of one country to another, historically and culturally close to each other, for example, you can test Mexico and Brazil or the USA and Canada, as well as Asian countries.
- If any of the screenshots order doesn’t work, try to change it. Sometimes the value of features in one country may differ from another. It’s good if you can find out how your app is used in different countries, and what’s more popular there.
Text optimization of the app page for localization
In this section, we will walk you through the basic optimization and strategy in case you don’t have the opportunity to do extensive research.
Step 1. Collect the semantics
The first thing to do is to translate the most popular queries using Google or DeepL and check the keyword popularity in the selected location. Then use the Keyword Explorer section to check what auto-prompts the translated keywords have, and add them to your list. Please note that you need to focus on values with SV (Search Volume) of 20 and above, because of the traffic. You can, of course, use lower SV values if there are no alternatives.
Step 2. Analyze the competitor keywords
At the semantics step, it is also important to analyze which keywords your competitors use. Just add the keywords to the Keywords Analysis tab, then go to Propose Keywords. Below are the keywords of competitors that may enhance your keyword base.
Step 3. Select the synonyms
Next, look for synonyms to your queries using synonymizers or Google and DeepL that could provide some more translations. Then look at the auto-prompts with those words and add queries of SV 20 and above to your list. Keep in mind that meanings of words may change if other words are added to the context and double-check the translations of collocations to make sure those are the queries you need.
Step 4. The next step is to come up with a concise app title while keeping the keywords
Ask a professional translator or a native speaker for tips on how to use a collocation right. Once you’re ready with the steps, you can start using the principles of basic text optimization.
The optimization of graphics for localization
The main idea is to immerse yourself into cultural peculiarities of the selected country to avoid fatal mistakes and understand how to reach the target audience. It’s necessary to examine the meaning of colors, symbols, images of gestures and animals.
Despite the fact that there are few universal colors, such as blue and white (pay attention to Facebook, Skype and LinkedIn icons), there are also significant differences in the perception of shades among residents of certain countries. For example: in China, red is considered a symbol of happiness, but in Japan – it’s a threat; Europeans perceive green as the color of luck, but in India green is hope.
There can be many hypotheses about how graphic ASO will convert into installs in a given region, but A/B testing is the decisive factor. We don’t just make two creatives to test the graphics, but we conduct a preliminary study of the cultural characteristics of the region and only then pass over the recommendations to designers. This way, during A/B testing, we can choose from two relevant variants, but not the best of the worst.
The EasyRun case shows how detailed the work on graphic ASO can be. Below you can see the US version while the second image is the version for Mexico.
Unlike the minimalistic design focused on weight loss that looks good in the US App Store, the graphic elements are adapted very differently for the Mexican audience. The difference is enormous as you can feel the dynamics in the screenshots. The design is bright-colored with an emphasis on a balance between exercise and nutrition. And, most importantly, just look at the girl. This is a Hispanic girl, that is, a ‘familiar’ person to Mexicans.
The outcome: after the localization, conversion to installs from the app page increased by 39.42%.
This case shows that you should work on ASO for other countries in a comprehensive manner, and you absolutely should pay attention to the needs of users, their interests, lifestyle, mentality, and even climate features first.
For graphic ASO analysis, you may want to use the Comparative Analysis section in Checkaso. The service makes it possible to study what your competitors change in their graphic ASO at different periods and for different locations. This way, you’ll get a clearer understanding of what else can be improved and you may find new insights for efficient graphic ASO localization.
Localizing mobile games and choosing a priority market
Anna Shopina, Head of ASO at Mail Group, told us about the nuances of mobile games ASO and choosing a priority market.
To choose a priority market for localization you should analyze its profitability. The number of installs is not always the determining factor, because installs convert into purchases not in every country. When localizing, it is better to consider the top countries with the highest revenue from mobile games/apps. Next, analyze your metrics and start localizing in the market that brings you the most revenue even before localization.
You should also consider the most popular languages for localization. Thus, French, Italian, German and Spanish (FIGS) are among the most popular. These languages show not only a large audience reach, but they also are spoken by a large number of people with high purchasing power.
If your app is already localized for FIGS, then there are the following languages: Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Turkish, Polish and Swedish. For developers, focused on the Asian market, it will be Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
There is no critical difference in the localization of gaming and non-gaming apps. It’s important to scrutinize the cultural characteristics of the new region and perform high-quality localization of texts and visuals, taking into account these features.
The difference in approaches will rather depend on each specific category. It’s easier to promote in some categories, as there are few local players. In others, local products are dominant, that’s why the localization requirements will be higher.
As for genre preferences, depending on the region, they change dynamically, that’s why, when choosing a genre, we rely on the latest research within each specific market. AppAnnie and Similarweb often provide such research.
The biggest problems arise when localizing in Asian markets and getting started with visual optimization. At this stage, we cooperate with local localization agencies. They help to draw the trendy, culturally appropriate graphics, making it as close as possible to local players.
What to keep in mind if you want to launch your mobile game in an international market
After analyzing the profitability of the market, you need to collect semantics with genre relevant keywords. Next, you should analyze the amount of installs which you can get by each keyword. Plus, it’s very important to analyze the competitiveness of the most popular keywords, check which competitors are in top 5 search results by relevant mid- and high-frequency keywords and analyze its total number of installs. If the top turns out to be very competitive, you may consider several top markets for profitability and opt for a less competitive option.
Depending on the choice of the market, you may need extra localization steps, for example, in Asia, you’ll need to translate the app name and integrate with local social networks.
How to deal with localization without knowing the language
The case study of the Little stories app.
Our Little Stories app has a strong emphasis on text. It’s quite difficult for us to do localization, because we need to keep all the nuances in mind. For example, the length of the sentences in a fairy tale should not exceed 145 characters per page, and ellipsis should consist of one character instead of three dots. The same problems we have with punctuation. For example, in French, guillemets « » are used, but they must be separated by a space from the word.
You need to study each language for all sorts of problems and you should take it all into account when translating. But it is one thing to do the analysis, and completely another to hire the translator. The problem is that, without knowing the language, it’s impossible to understand whether it’s a good translation or a bad one. We have completely corrected the French language 2 times. How did we know that the translation was bad? It’s simple: users kept complaining.
The first two times we relied entirely on translators and did not check their work. So, not to repeat our mistake, we changed our strategy for the third time. I decided to hire several translators and observe the dynamics of our work. First, I gave them the current version of a fairy tale to review, so they could tell me how good the translation was. After that, I took note of their comments and asked them to translate another fairy tale from scratch. After, I compared their translations and checked them. First of all, I looked to see if they followed the terms of reference, because the attention to detail is a very important quality of the translator. Second of all, I looked at the translation and if I saw differences, I asked the translator to tell why the text of another translator is different. I asked the same other translator. I chose a translator with more explicit and convincing answers.
This strategy allowed me to get rid of the problems with texts in French and German.
Checklist with important details
Before you’re ready with your app localization, make sure you haven’t missed any important details.
- All keywords are used in the correct form and your native speaker hasn’t distorted them. It’s very important to monitor this since a new keyword is a completely different keyword with different popularity and different queries.
- The collocations look good or almost good. Why “almost”? It’s important to have a good conversion to installs, but it is worth considering if changing a keyword with good traffic for a less popular keyword with a good conversion is a necessity. Still, 100 installs with a 10% conversion are better than 10 installs with a 100% conversion.
- Make sure you’ve taken into account the cultural features and your collocations are not ambiguous.
There are exceptions everywhere. If your app has little content and it is understandable at an almost intuitive level, then you don’t need to localize it. An app with photo presets and photo filters is a good example. Still, you may want to check if there’s traffic for local keywords. For example, фото may be more popular in Russia than photo, and vice versa in another country. Test your hypotheses and do your best to use any extra opportunity to increase traffic. Localization is a long and complex process, but the results may please you greatly.