App Store Optimization (ASO for short) often goes overlooked. In the clamor to join the millions of apps already out there, businesses rush to get their creation to market, so as not to get left behind. But, just as with your website, there’s little point in launching a beautiful design and logical user interface if it doesn’t get seen.
No smart marketer would ignore the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for ranking their website higher. So, don’t underestimate the need for App Store Optimization for your app and localized apps either.
Just to be clear: while Search Engine Optimization and App Store Optimization might seem alike, the end goal is not the same. The whole point of App Store Optimization for your app is to encourage downloads, not just raise your visibility. That makes those keywords even more, well, key.
With almost half the world’s population (44 percent) owning a smartphone, that’s a lot of people and a large potential market of customers for your products. It makes sense that the app you lovingly created for your home market could gain traction overseas. But in case you missed the memo on this one, let me give you a quick recap on what App Store Optimization actually is.
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Pssst… What Is App Store Optimization Anyway?
If you aren’t real comfortable with the term, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. But as the name suggests, it’s about optimizing your app so that it gets better results in the App Store or Google Play (or any other app store you’re trying to target). And there are many factors that come into play.
Yes, App Store Optimization is a lot like its online cousin, Search Engine Optimization; you could say they hang out together after school. But there are some important differences.
Of course, the common thread lies in everyone’s favorite word, optimization. All the assets for your app need to be primed and tweaked to get maximum traction. That means your descriptions, images, keywords, content, etc.
If your app sells baby clothing, for example, and you don’t mention that keyword once, how do you expect to be found by your target customers? Sure, you can advertise on social, but you’ll get a significant legup by applying even basic App Store Optimization techniques. This will get you more downloads, more customers, more sales and more revenue.
App Store Optimization Done Right
App Store Optimization when correctly applied will ensure that your app meets the criteria of the app store and rises to the top of an organic search result. In your home market, that may mean using certain words, like “translation services,” “weight loss,” “baby comforters,” and so on. But remember, these will change when you take your app to a new market, and of course, language.
It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of apps that rely heavily on visuals. Sure, people want to see clear images of what they want to buy, but they’ll never actually see them if you haven’t added keywords.
One more thing? App Store Optimization should never be an afterthought, you should plan to factor it in from the start.
Let’s take a look at how to master App Store Optimization when localizing your app.
Related Post: 5 Major Benefits of Mobile App Localization
1. Know Who You’re Selling To
Don’t be fooled filtering by customer age group and tastes. Numbers won’t give you enough information to craft an appealing message that earns eyes and buys in the app store. When it comes to localizing your app for a new market, you need to really know your customers; specifically, how they speak.
Ever shared a joke with a Brit or swapped an idiom with an Irishman? If you have, you probably know all about it falling flat at the punchline. Why is this? Not only because they don’t speak in the same way on the streets of Dublin as they do in Denver, but because the cultural cues are different.
Humor is one of the hardest things to translate because it is often so geographically and culturally specific. Full of euphemisms and colloquialisms. Avoid it, where possible in your app descriptions and above all, make sure that the words you’re using apply to your new target market.
Brits don’t wear pants, for example. They wear trousers. Australians don’t take vacation, they go on holiday, and Canadians don’t spell color the way we do. These may seem like minute differences but they are the very essence of localization and App Store Optimization. Get them wrong and you can crush the success of your app.
App Store Optimization doesn’t stop at just text either. Make sure that your images are culturally relevant and correctly tagged. Don’t show snow-capped mountains to an equatorial audience, or images of semi-naked ladies in a middle eastern country. Not unless you want to fall flat on your face or get banned.
2. Know Who You’re Up Against
When you’re taking your app overseas, you’re not in Kansas anymore. You’re not going up against competitors in your home market alone. You’ll be facing key competition from global players who are seasoned at App Store Optimization, and local shops who really speak your customers’ language.
What I’m about to say may sound unethical, but all’s fair in love and war. Want to beat the competition? Spy on them. See what they’re offering, what keywords they’re using, how effective they are and whether you should compete on them or not.
Depending on your line of business, you may be up against some stiff competition. If this is the case, it’s not always worth focusing on the high competition keywords. App Store Optimization will work best for you if you use it smartly.
So, consider this. Do you want to rank first for your secondary keyword? Or 10th for your main keyword? It may simply be more lucrative starting out to go for a less competitive keyword and appear at the top, rather than making your customers scroll and scroll to find you. Your app may be worth it, but your potential users don’t know that.
Related Post: Why And How You Should Localize Your Mobile App
3. Be Sure To Get Your App’s Name Right
According to Brandroot branding experts, there are five main types of brand name, and yours will fall into one of them. These are invented, arbitrary, generic, play on words, or word combinations. And it’s vital to research how your brand name will fly on foreign soil.
If your brand name is invented, like Skype or Geico, it may save you on translation costs. But be sure that it doesn’t sound like something undesirable in an Asian or Arabic language. Coca-Cola’s brand name was first translated as “bite the wax tadpole” in China, so keep that in mind before launching yours.
If your name is generic, like Baby Photo App, or We Sell Tires, be sure that your translation is just right for your target. Remember in the UK, for example, they don’t spell “tires” in the same way, but with a “y.”
If you’re forced to translate your app name, keep the colors consistent and the icon as similar as possible, so as not to dilute your brand. If you decide to keep your name the way it is, but your app’s name doesn’t explain what you do or contain a keyword, you’ll need to apply some major App Store Optimization to your title and content.
Your title must contain at least one keyword, not only to increase its visibility but also to let customers know what the app does. Apps with a keyword in the title rank higher, so be sure you know what the money word is for your market.
4. Metadata Still Applies
Ah, metadata, now there’s a familiar term. Yes, metadata applies in App Store Optimization, so follow the guidelines of the app store in question.
Don’t go over length with your title. For iOS App Store, titles are very short and most often cut off (truncated) at the 23rd character.
This means you’ll need to put all your important information up front. Google Play is more generous, but only slightly, cutting off at the 30th character. We’re talking about online searches here, by the way! On a mobile device, your titles will truncate at 11 and 14 characters, respectively.
Avoid special characters that don’t translate well, especially when using iOS, as it is super sensitive to certain characters and will convert your app to its numeric ID if it doesn’t understand your title.
Descriptions are also key, but remember that the App Store and Google Play work differently. With Apple, you’ll need to get your description right in less than 100 words. Optimized including your app’s title, you’ll need to make every character count. There’s no room for flowery, elaborate text here. Cut to the chase.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google Play takes a much more SEO kind of approach to App Store Optimization, scanning your entire description (which can be up to 4,000 characters) for keywords. Play by the same rules as you would with your website and don’t keyword stuff, but remember that the right density is important.
Don’t go too long with your description, even if you do have a lot of words to play with. Just because Google scans it all, doesn’t mean your customers will make it to the end. And once your description is optimized and fluid in your first language, make sure you don’t lose the App Store Optimization efforts you put in when it gets translated.
Give your translators a list of keywords to work with and, if it’s appropriate, consider hiring a transcreation agency who can create a message that will really resonate with local audience, rather than just translating your original text.
5. Don’t Forget Your Screenshots
Add screenshots to your description. They look pretty and will engage your customers. Not only that, effective screen shots showing how easy it is to use your app will encourage downloads, as your users can visualize themselves inside your app.
When localizing your app, don’t forget about localizing your screenshots. This is vital especially if your content contains weights and measurements, dates and numbers.
Just think about a running app and a screenshot that shows how many miles you’ve covered and pounds you’ve lost. This will mean nothing to a European who runs kilometers and tracks weight in kilos. And it will stop them downloading your app.
Again, App Store Optimization needs to be carefully thought out for your localized apps. Don’t show pictures of mountains to customers in the lowlands. Don’t offer recipes in places where that type of food is not consumed. And don’t show screenshots of a happy blond family eating a turkey dinner in an Asian market.
How many screenshots should you add? As many as look attractive in your description. You can have five in an iOS description and eight in Google, but your potential users will probably only see your first two or three, so again, put your best ones first. Not just pretty images. Screenshots that really show your app in action will work best and A/B testing is a good idea, to see which ones generate a better reaction.
6. A Word on Your Icon
Make sure it looks clear and not blurry. Remember that your logo might look great on your website, but it’s going to be reduced to a very small size or just an icon for your app.
Try to steer away from text in your icon. You’ll be opening up a can of worms. Languages take up different amounts of space. You may find text running outside the lines of your icon and, whatever the language, more than likely it won’t be legible on a mobile device.
iOS on a mobile can become as small as 66x66, depending on which device is being used. And Android can become positively mini at 22x22! You’ll need a magnifying glass to read small print on that!
Go for something bright, sharp and easy to recognize, like Twitter, Uber or WhatsApp. Oh, and make sure yours is different from the competition, so it doesn’t get confused.
7. Combining ASO and SEO
Here’s where you get to bring App Store Optimization and Search Engine Optimization together. By using SEO techniques to drive traffic to your app listing on Google Play or the App Store.
How? By backlinking of course. Refer people to your listing. Get other sites to link to it, use social media and PPC to get more views and improve your listing’s ranking. And be sure to get some positive reviews.
The more good reviews you can get, the better, as the App Store adjusts its ranking depending on reviews. What’s more, many people download an app based on its star rating. If yours is bad, so will your download rate.
A word to the wise. Don’t bash users over the head asking them for constant reviews, or a review the instant they download your app. This will put them off and may even cause them to delete. 90 percent of apps are used only once and deleted within a month, so don’t give users an extra reason to ditch yours.
A better approach is to wait for a couple of weeks and time a prompt that will ask for a review, also giving the option of saying no.
Wrapping Things Up
Are you feeling pretty confident about App Store Optimization by now? Can you understand its importance and function in spurring more downloads? You may not have reached expert level just yet, but like everything in life, you’ll learn as you go.
Be sure to stay on top of updates and changes. Just like Search Engine Optimization, App Store Optimization is subject to new rules. If you’re entering standards markets, you’ll be generally choosing between App Store and Google Play.
But, some countries, like China, have hundreds of different app stores. You’ll need to research each one's different guidelines and tweak your App Store Optimization to them.
So, take it calmly and follow these steps. Make sure you set out with the right intention and include App Store Optimization from the start, and know the markets and people you’re selling to, as well as the requirements of the app store.
Test and adjust, see what’s working and what isn’t and pretty soon, you’ll be a master of App Store Optimization when localizing your app.