Localization guide: Localize your app submission materials and general app marketing assets
Localizing your app marketing efforts is a key success factor in many cases. Period. Why? Because others are doing it and your users, in certain markets, expect it. But localization is not an all-or-nothing deal. There are many aspects to consider, and within each aspect there are degrees to which you can take it. This guide provides a walk-through of the key aspects to take into account when thinking about app marketing localization.
When speaking of mobile app localization, making your app available in different languages may be the first thing that comes to mind, but it is really only part of the game, and in many cases, it’s not even the first localization aspect we choose to tackle.
There’s a lot more to consider when deciding on your penetration strategy around specific markets. Localizing your marketing messages and materials across the different acquisition channels takes a major role.
You may find many resources that describe the product side of localizing your app both for Android and iPhone, but we’re discussing here the outbound marketing aspects. This guide will introduce some of the questions you should be asking yourself, and provide you with quite a few cool tactics, to help you localize your app.
Developing an outbound localization Strategy for your mobile app
First, there are the considerations you had at the original Go/No go decision for your venture in the first place. Only now, the questions should be answered with the specific countries in mind. Is there a need for your app? What’s the competition like (local or global)? Are you filling a vacuum in that location? What’s the size of the addressable market? Are there any significant regulations you need to consider? What are your opportunities for revenue in this market? What are your costs going to be?
For instance, we’ve given up some countries just because of the huge acquisition costs that were not balanced by the expected ROI. It took us a while before we learned to start with some research, before we start our localization efforts and spending. In other markets we’ve stopped our localization efforts, as we realized that users will simply not spend any money on apps like ours, and that’s all there is to it. Again, we should have done some research before, as we had learned that the knowledge was there, online, if we had only turned to social groups or formal research companies (such as App Annie). So we learned it all the hard way. We’ve learned to work on the strategy and planning – and deeply research the territories we are targeting before we put one dollar on the table.
Here are a few pointers to conducting such research:
- Just search the web. For instance, search for: “Chinese mobile games IAP” or Mobile app ROI Russia”. Try to go for relatively fresh data, not more than a few months old. This industry can turn upside down in a blink of an eye …
- Find someone who is in your business, but not a direct competitor, who is already targeting specific territories, including those you are interested in, and ask them for lunch. You may use LinkedIn references, or Facebook professional groups. One group that I personally love is this, or just email this person if you already know them. Unless it’s against their interest, most people are usually eager to help. Especially in our young industry. I know because that’s one of the tactics I use most.
- Talk to local ad-networks. They know the ropes, they have visibility to the analytic providers and they handle both advertisers and publishers. Hence, they will be able to provide some very valuable advice. You just need to talk to the players that are strong in the territories you are investigating and remember not to take things for granted, these guys do have their own interests. Consult with them, listen carefully, but double check and take everything with a grain of salt. Here some examples for questions I tend to ask before I have a short list of the territories I want to invest in:
- Will I manage to get engagement when the app isn’t localized, but only the outbound marketing materials are?
- What is the demand for mobile advertising in this market? What are the eCPM standards?
- What about In-app purchases in this market?
- Who are the players (in the same category as my app) that are managing to create positive ROI?
- What will my estimated cost per loyal user be via the local channels?
- Will I be needing a local support system?
- What are the most used platforms in this territory? Devices? App stores?
- What are the localization standards in this country?
- How are people searching and finding apps in these territories? Will they respond only to viral efforts? Friends’ recommendations? What are the habits?
- How forgiving is the culture when it comes to product issues, crashes, permission requests?
- Any specific regulations that we should be aware of? Gambling… children…advertising…
Once you have the answers to your main questions, you should be ready to start planning your next steps. You need to decide whether to “invade” one country at a time, go all out on your complete global market, or maybe a middle-of-the-road approach, starting with a group of core countries, is your way to go. Why is this even a concern? Well, localization can take a lot of effort. How much effort? Just think of an app that owns a ‘one pager’ website plus app-store download pages. Localization effort here is pretty reasonable, right? But what if you own a significant website with a lot of content, what if you will need to provide localized FAQs, Support system, content marketing and so forth? Like most things in life, there is no one answer. You will need to decide based on your specific circumstances. But you can draw from the experience of others who have succeeded in taking apps on a global scale, as depicted in this great article.
But, no matter which plan of attack you have come up with, when working on localization, there are a few important building blocks that we are now going to discuss.
Building block #1: Translating Texts
One of the main areas of localization (but not only) refers to translating marketing texts (texts that refer to your app, in external marketing channels). Translation must be done by native speakers, of course. You could either use a professional translation agency, online services such as Onehourtranslation or lower your costs by using paid services through the community, via online market places such as Elance or Fiverr.
Unless you localization project is well-budgeted, prepare to have some trial and error till you find your optimal localization partner. You will have to carefully choose based the combination of professionalism and price. My advice is that you set some extra budget aside for proofing the translated text, by another source, at least until you are confident about the quality of the translator you have chosen. Proofing doesn’t have to be costly, and yes, you can find real quality freelancers at a fraction of the cost of translation/localization companies.
Once you have chosen your translator, or you have a short list of options, make sure to brief them well on your app and your KPIs. Initiate a video call, make sure they have downloaded and are familiar with your app and ask about their experience with mobile apps (have they translated mobile apps marketing materials before? Are they relatively advanced mobile users themselves? Do they own an Android/ iPhone device? Do they tend to visit the Google play / App store to download apps? Are they using an app similar to yours?) . Because you probably agree that a soccer fan will probably do a better translation for a soccer app. But more importantly, he will also be more aware of how people search for soccer related apps in the store, and this is critical for your localized ASO that is part of the game. We will address it later on.
Work with a template and keep max. number of characters in mind
There are many companies out there that specialize in translation, but whichever one you select as your partner, you need to provide them with a convenient fool-proof template that can be shared between multiple translators.
The template should indicate the exact sections that need to be translated, the limitations and requirements for that section (number of words/characters, etc.). We have prepared such a template that you can use for your Apple App Store and Google Play texts. It’s available here for download. Important note: # of characters can significantly expand when being translated from English to other languages, so you need to be aware of length limitations on the texts you are translating when writing the initial text. For instance, I always make sure that my original English Google play description length does not exceed 3000 characters, knowing that the max. stands at 4000 characters, otherwise the translator may not be able to keep it at 4000 max, and will need me to edit the text.
Here’s a snapshot of the template we’ve created:
When embarking on a translation project, you need to be as forward-thinking as possible. It’s much easier and does not cost much more (if at all) to translate a few extra text items, than starting a new project. If it’s application texts, look ahead to the next few versions in your roadmap and try to define the app texts you’ll need then. Those will also affect the texts you might need for your app store pages. Examine your marketing plan and try to think of the texts you’ll need for your forthcoming banner ads and social media campaigns. We’ve included in the template some rows for screen shot copy, translated Facebook install ads copy (main text and taglines) but feel free to add tweets’ copy and additional marketing related texts. This will save you a lot of costs down the road.
Ideally, your app marketing materials will be translated to the native language in each of your target markets. While in some countries, English is widely spoken and an English-only submission and app may have less of an impact on your ROI, in other markets its critical. Statistics from AppAnnie show that in Asian markets, translating the application will do much to get you into the top downloads, and even your app name can make a difference. AppAnnie’s stats showed that in Korea, for example, over 60% of top 25 iPhone apps had Korean names.
And then there are countries that could manage with English, but will take much more kindly to your app if it has been translated.
If your budget (or time) is tight, you could consider going for a partial translation. For example, you could translate your store copy, but leave the screenshots, your ads copy and website as is. You set the boundaries and it’s ok and even reasonable to take it step by step.
Once you’ve gone that extra mile to translate everything, there’s yet another step you need to take before you’re ready to publish. How do you know that the translations you received are any good? Do you speak French? German? Korean? Japanese? Well, one way to check is to get on those native social media pages. You’d be surprised how helpful people can be if you give them a reasonable, well defined task. Asking someone to comment on a few translations via Facebook group can give you an idea if it was well done.
Tip: When you translate your app marketing materials, but your app’s UX is only in English, make sure to state it, loud and clear, in your ‘to-be-translated’ text. Yes, right after the first sentence that provides an abstract insert “*please note the app menus are in English” or something similar. You want installs that will convert to users, not to immediate uninstalls. If your app UX isn’t localized, you’d need to target users who understand English, at least to some degree, and to point their attention to the fact they are about to install an app in English ahead of time.
Another tip: For some users, depending on the configuration of their operating system, the app’s download page texts may appear in their local language even if you did not localize it. It’s based on auto translate solutions. Results can be embarrassing. Consider that when you think about localizing texts, as you may want to localize in significant markets just to avoid the auto translation hazards.
Building block #2: Marketing Collateral & Graphics
We have already mentioned that your app store page is your best landing page, so naturally it should be included in any localization effort.
In addition to your app store page, your marketing collateral can include install (or app promotion) ads, banners, web landing pages, content marketing, social media and more. Your marketing messages can be much more convincing when they fit the local language and culture, and it’s here that you really understand why localization is more than translation. An idiom (or even a tagline) that works well in English (or any other language for that matter) may become odd or even offensive when translated to another language. Even huge brands had to adapt their logo, name or tagline when they’ve entered new countries. Moreover, visuals should also be considered when you address different countries. I make sure to use variety of ethnicities when selecting facial images, depending on the market. I make sure the visuals are modest when I enter Muslim countries and so forth. A good friend of mine who is the CEO of a huge children games development company (they have already developed more than 500 apps!) keeps telling me about their experience when entering the Far East: they had to adapt all their creative – both inbound and outbound, so the images would match the local culture!
How you should address this?
- Brief your local translators. Ask them to make sure they use the correct phrases, and find the “right” words.
- Use proofreading
- Work on the images / creative, yourself or with a graphic designer, only once you’ve seen some concrete examples that were produced by local and similar players in that market.
- When you have initial materials, use social groups and ask locals to comment. I keep seeing developers who post in professional social groups, asking for comments re icons, screens and additional materials. It’s so smart of them to do so. Just write down: “Hey, Brazilian fellows, what would you say on these screenshots? I want to make sure I get a good reaction from the local market”
Text length in visuals can become an issue-Here’s an example for how the localized text can impact the graphic materials- English and Chinese are compact languages. When translated, they are likely to expand, i.e. the translated word will require more physical space for display. And you need to account for that both in your application UI, and in all of the images used in your marketing collateral. The IBM User Interface Guidelines show that the extent of expansion also depends on the length of the original text. In general, the shorter the text, the larger the expansion.
Translation of the Flickr user interface showed that text translated from English can “expand” from 0.8 the original length to 3 times the original length.
Tip: Get your graphical files delivered to you in layers! I work with many developers, and I am not always there when they get their initial marketing materials from the professional designers, agencies and so forth. When we start a localization project and we find ourselves in need to localize visual materials (such as designed screens, featured images or even ads banners), we sometimes need to develop everything all over again, because we can’t use the existing positioning of the different elements in the visuals. The translated texts just don’t fit in. Hey, some languages are even written right to left, or top to bottom. So always ask for graphics and even videos to be delivered in open files and in layers. This will reduce costs down the road!
Building block #3: Holidays and events
Well, all countries and cultures have holidays. Holidays are exciting and fun. Marketers are especially fond of holidays and events. The more you customize your marketing materials to specific events, the bigger your chances to get featured by Google paly or the app store are. The more reason you have to post in social channels and the bigger your chances are to see higher conversion rates. Yes, virtual shopping windows should look festive too.
But we can’t forget that some cultures do not share the same holidays, bank holidays or events. When you localize your app, and when you actively address different markets, you should consider local holidays and events.
While most of us know and appreciate “black Friday”, Chinese people have their “bachelors’ day”. While the Memorial Day is a great day for shopping in the US, Memorial Day is a mourning day in Israel, and you better not go on a Memorial Day campaign, god forbids. Muslim and Jewish do not celebrate Christmas and New Year, and the list goes on and on. Since you can localize your app store texts and visuals, social pages and so forth, here are a few tips and guidelines that you may find useful:
- Keep the messaging general whenever possible – I sometimes maintain the Christmas themes in the creative (the colors and symbols) but write “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas”. I gather that non-Christian users would be more forgiving that way. I do that when I have no capacity to localize the materials for all different cultures.
- Make sure to keep local events local – while “back to school” is relevant almost everywhere, and you may create a campaign for most of the territories you target, Memorial Day isn’t.
- Create an excel table, stating the relevant events (sports, holidays, traditions, etc.) by the markets you are localized in. You will then be able to view the events that fit most of your markets, vs. the events that you will need to localize per market. Here is how it should look like
- Localizing for an ultra-local event can help you increase your chances to get featured, and make a great excuse to turn to the local app-store / Google play representatives and capture their attention in advance. Yes, this is hard when EVERYBODY create Christmas graphics, but maybe you can have bigger chances if, let’s say, you create a campaign around the main sporting event in France…
- Try and create a systematic method, to make life a little easier for yourself. If you want to keep your marketing both localized and dynamic, you will need to find ways to get things done fast and at low-cost. Appgo2market offers customized templates, some of them can fit festive events, and these can be purchased for a fraction of what you would pay a graphic designer. That’s just one option. Once you have an events calendar, you can make sure that you are well prepared ahead with what you need.
- Since Google Play allows constant customization of all the texts and images, and Apple (iTunes) demands a new version submission for every change, my advice is to create the basic localization materials for iTunes (with adaptations to new versions), but to exclude from iTunes the dynamic, events based localization efforts. It’s just too much of a hassle for the average app developer. It might still be worth it for big app companies who can manage overhead created by this effort.
Building block #4: ASO
App Store Optimization is a close relative of the better known SEO, or rather a subset of it. It boils down to researching how people search for apps, and to writing your descriptive texts and selecting keywords to match that behavior in the purpose of improving your rankings in the store.
Localizing your app store texts and keywords has a double advantage. First, this will improve your app store search rankings, and then, once you are found, you will have a better chance of a qualified download.
App search in Google Play works a bit like Google search does (only less stats are revealed publicly), however, Apple’s App Store works differently. There, your appearance in search results is based on the app’s name (which can have up to 255 characters even though only the first 25 are displayed in the results list), and keywords you’ve inserted in a dedicated field. You have 100 characters with which to provide a comma-separated list of keywords, and there’s a whole profession dedicated to ASO techniques and keywords optimization, much as there is for SEO. That’s not our business today, though you could go later on and read this if you are after ASO training.
But, there’s yet another bonus to localization. In iTunes, for each language you add, you get another 100 characters for keywords. Hip hip hurray! Services such as SensorTower or SimilarWeb can help you research which keywords you should include. Read our cracking the keywords challenge guide to learn more about keywords research. In Google Play, localized version will add more keywords you will be ranked for, as long as you maintain the unwritten rules (e.g. frequency for words in the texts). Yes, Google Play presents many more options to add keywords, as you are not limited to title and keywords field only. But similarly to Google web search, things are more complicated. Google algorithm does not examine in-store content only. Therefore, when Google Play rank is discussed, the more digital assets you will translate (e.g. social assets, content marketing with links to the store, website and so forth) the better your chances are for higher rank.
With the latest App Store’s new vertical scroll and extra screenshot, the images you display on the store have a more important role in grabbing the users’ attention as they swipe through the list of apps found. To make people stop and look at your app, think about “Free” badges, “New” badges and holiday themes.
Building block #5: Alternative Stores & submission considerations
When planning your localization strategy, you will have to make a decision. One app that supports many languages, one app fits all, only in one language, or many apps, each supports only one language?
Whatever the technical considerations are, you will surely want to keep your app rating considerations in mind as well.
When you submit one app that supports several languages, and put it on the store for each target market, your rating across all the stores is the same and it is based on all the reviews you’ve received (though users may be exposed to the local reviews coming from their territory). When you submit a separate app in each store, its rating is a standalone one, of course. This is a decision that’s part of defining your overall submission strategy which you can read more about.
My two cents: Submitting one app is no longer a localization barrier (in most cases). It’s true that Apple does not support all languages in translations (Arabic for instance isn’t supported, so if you want to have your app store download page in Arabic, you will need to submit a new Arabic app, or set it as your main language…) but I rarely need to consider submitting multiple apps as part of my localization strategy. Still, I do consider it when I wish to start a pilot in a given territory, before bringing in my “real” app. it’s when I want to test the app’s performance, UX and messaging on a specific culture, but I am not sure about the results, nor the maturity of the app for a specific market. Since I do not wish to “contaminate” my existing rating and web mentions with bad feedback, I may start with submitting a whole new app.
In other cases, I may block the app from being available globally, and start with a local territory, as I want to be well prepared before entering some very important markets.
So, to summarize, outbound localization can be done almost perfectly with submitting one single app in each store.
Then, there’s the actual act of submitting your app. There’s only one “App Store” for iPhone, which simplifies matters somewhat. The world of Android is a different story. Google Play dominates in the US market (though some alternative stores flourish there too), but outside of the US this is not always the case. There are plenty of alternative Android stores around the world, and different regions have their local favorites. So yes, you should consider alternative stores in your globalization strategy, especially if you target specific markets that would not respond well to Google play alone. So when you go on a localization journey, make sure to research the territory well and to have a clear answer regarding the popularity of the platforms (iOs, Android) and the main stores that are used in that country. You can’t do without it.
Between the different store requirements, localized keyword ASO, possibly different variants of your app and managing updates, submitting your app to multiple stores can quickly become somebody’s worst nightmare. But there are service providers such as CodeNGo that simplify this task, and help you submit your app to multiple stores.
Tip: Make your Google play text shine – Another thing to remember is that you can make your text shine using HTML tags or Unicode characters. You can check out this neat Unicode Table to see how virtually every character used by mankind can be represented on your app store page.
Check out the text in Ginger keyboard app page (one of the apps that I am proud to take part in, as a marketer) – we’ve customized the bullets and added some sentences in bold.
So if you’re going to make your app global and successful in this great wide world, localization should be a key part of your marketing strategy.
And like anything else, to do it right and get the most out of your efforts, you’ll need to do the research and act on the data.
There isn’t one way to do it, so many different strategies and tactics. As long as you make sure you know the ropes and think things through, you should be good.
This guide provides the very basics of app localization. Your focus on localization may get wider with time, depending on your needs. Some developers we work with have opened local offices in specific territories, recruited local social managers, content marketers and opened local support channels. But you know what? They have all started with what we’ve described in this guide.