Apps and search

How to boost your download rates by localizing your app

If you want to see your app prosper in app stores in terms of download rates – and possibly revenue – you need to move beyond your direct locale and think in more global terms. Doing so can help you reach out to millions of new potential users and connect to new markets that can give your app and your brand a boost.

In this article I’ll give you some insights on how localizing for different languages can improve your app’s download figures and how it can be done.

First, some statistics

It’s true that most of the web is in English, but fact-of-the-matter is that English-speaking users only account for a part of the downloads and revenue in app stores. For instance, in the case of Apple’s App Store, statistics from App Annie show that 50 percent of top ten countries for downloads are non-English speaking countries in Europe and East Asia. Furthermore, in tech-savvy populated countries such as North Korea and Taiwan localized apps account for more than half the downloads.

Distimo, another ultimate publisher of app data and statistics, show in their research that one week after adding a native language translation for an iPhone app, the downloads in that same country increased by 128% on average, with revenue increasing by 26%.

You might also be interested in this blog post by David Janner, where he explains how app store localization helped him increase download rates from 3,000 to 23,000, a literal 767% boost.

Compared to the effort you have to put into creating an awesome app, localizing it for different languages and regions is negligible, especially when compared to the benefits. Therefore if you’ve gone through the pains of creating an awesome app, it pays to go the extra mile to make sure it is understandable for those who might have a hard time working with English apps.

The Eurosport app is a very interesting case study. It managed to strike 4.7 million downloads in two years, partly thanks to their content and interface being available in 10 languages.

The tools

There are several tools, platforms and specialized companies that can help you make the necessary adaptation for different locales. Most of these companies will charge you on a per-word basis (the range is between 0.09 and 0.21 USD), and some will offer extra services such as copywriting for the app description and press release. Babble-on and ICanLocalize are two interesting examples of such firms.

Also worth checking are tools such as OneSky, which help you audit the localization of your app at a reasonable fee.

If you’re developing for iOS, starting from version 8, Apple has already improved the API to ease localization, and they’ve added the possibility to display time and measurement in different languages.

improved API app localization


App store localization is a vital element

Translating the app in different languages is just part of the story. Another critical factor is localizing in app stores, because that is the first place where users will come in contact with your app. App store optimization for different locales is a must if you want to reach new users in different regions.

Localizing in app stores mainly consists of adapting the title and description. Other steps include optimizing the keywords and possibly updating the texting of video demos and app screenshots.

Translating the description won’t be very hard. The one point to consider is to be flexible on the content. Don’t opt for verbatim translation and give your translator some freedom to apply the writing style that is best fit for the target language.

The title is a little trickier. It’s important to choose the right keywords for the title when translating to the new language. More on that below.

Choosing the right keywords

Generally, good keywords are those that have a high volume and low competition, which effectively means keywords that are being searched by a lot of users but haven’t been used by too many apps. No resource will give you precise figures for app store keyword competition, but there are some tools that can help.

One of the most important considerations about keywords when translating app store descriptions and titles is that keyword volume might change from country to country, depending on the trends, news, politics and other dynamics that define that region. Another important factor is that word-for-word translation does not necessarily result in the most-used version of a word and can give some awkward results. That’s why the help of a native translator is crucial.

Automatic translation is a must-avoid at all costs. The results are not fluid, the wording is poor and in some cases the meaning might change dramatically. Just take a look at this image from the Apptmain blog and you’ll understand what I mean.

Lost in translation

So again, if you’re going to use an automated tool, have it proofread and checked by a native.

Final thoughts

Localizing your app isn’t an easy task and has its own set of challenges and pitfalls. But given the challenges that you’re already faced with when developing an app, it’s only fair to say that it’s the least of your problems, and in exchange you can make sure that a helluva lot of people will be able to benefit from all the goodies your app is offering.

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