Localize App Keywords for Increased App Downloads

In 2015 China surpassed the US in the number of iPhones sold and in app downloads.

Japan generated more revenue on Google Play than the US or the UK.

For 2015, which of the below countries had more downloads on Google Play than the UK, Canada and Germany?:

  • Brazil
  • Russia
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Turkey
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand

Answer:  All of them!

There’s users and revenue in them there hills.

App store localization

While localizing your entire app may make sense, there is a way to test the market before committing to a full localization – localizing only your app’s store listing metadata.

Even before localizing your app screenshots  or icon, you can get an idea of the potential ROI of a complete app localization by starting with localizing and optimizing the keywords and phrases your app targets in the app metadata.

Since the descriptions and app title in Google Play and the app name and keywords field in Apple are built off of the phrases you are targeting – we’ll focus why and how to localize app keywords in this post.

iOS App Store localization

For an iOS app listing we recommend an app name format of

  • “App name – feature #1, feature #2” or
  • “App name – keyword rich tagline”

When localizing, you may decide to keep the app name consistent but change the features or tagline that follows the app name using words the localized target market is using to find apps like yours.

OK – where do I start?

The Apple App Store distributes to over 150 countries in over 40 languages.

Looking at the downloads and app store revenue generated by each country can help us focus our efforts.

China, US, Japan, Australia, UK, Germany, Canada and France are the largest iOS app stores by volume and revenue. South Koreans and Asian app consumers in general tend to spend more per user than their western counterparts, especially on games – so adding South Korea to this list may make sense as well.

China has become too big to ignore.  The US, UK, Canada and Australia are all English – which makes the localization effort a bit easier.  French is represented in Canada and France.

With a little effort you can localize and optimize for 5 huge app stores (countries) in addition to the US.

Google Play Store localization

For the app title in Google Play, we recommend a format of:

“App name – Feature#1”

Secondary features would then be used in the short description, and all target terms in the full description.

Hiring a writer to write a description using your targeted keywords and phrases for the full description is a much better approach than translating your English description.

Many services even provide a translation level that translates the meaning of the original and not the literal.

Spend a moment translating American idioms into Spanish to see how easy it is to communicate the wrong thing when translating literally.

amercian idioms

The largest Google Play stores by revenue are the US, Japan, South Korea and Germany.  Brazil, Russia, India and Mexico drive significant downloads.

Localization best practices

Avoid a straight translation from Google Translate.

The process of localizing an app listing for another country looks a lot like your ASO process in English.

  • How are users looking for your app or apps with similar or related features?
  • What keywords and phrases do Apple and Google see as relevant?
  • What are your app’s most important or distinguishing features?
  • What words and phrases work together to provide the largest, relevant app store search coverage?

The same questions should be answered for each app store you are targeting.

Aim for the meaning vs the literal translation

We have talked quite a bit on this blog about the difference between how users search the web and how users search the app stores.

Just like how it is not a good idea to use web search data for determining relevant app store search terms or traffic, building a list of target keywords and phrases in a new language should not just be a translation of your existing keywords field.

When you spend any significant amount of time in a foreign country – the amount of communication using colloquialisms or idioms  becomes hilariously apparent.

This is as true for Americans visiting England as it is when visiting Colombia or Russia. Even San Diegans and folks from Montgomery, Alabama have completely different ways of communicating ideas.

Consider that the Apple App Store has 4 types of English (US, Canada, UK, Australia).

The approach of hiring a writer to translate your descriptions using your localized app keywords will cost a bit more but the alternative – hiring a writer to provide a literal translation – is probably not worth doing at all.

As with much of optimization – measure what works, improve what doesn’t and increase the investment in localization as the ROI becomes more clear.

8 ASO Tools to Help You Promote Your App

Acquiring users for your mobile app organically starts with being ranked in the app stores for relevant search terms.

Rankings are established by the app store listing, as well as by several app performance metrics.

For example, an app listing that is optimized for travel deals might have great search term coverage, but the icon and screenshots are bad or confusing leading to low conversions. Of these low conversions, users don’t rate or review the app, or open it once and forget about it or delete it. Not good for rankings.

Organic users are acquired in the app stores by addressing the following:

    • app store visibility
    • conversion from app store view to install
    • engagement and retention
    • ratings and reviews

Let’s take a look at 8 ASO tools that help us address each of these areas.

App Store Visibility

All of the elements for ranking in the app stores and acquiring users work together, but app store visibly starts with app listing metadata and the words and phrases that are targeted.

Relevance is better than a “wide net”, modifiers can be helpful (free, new) but the key is tapping into and understanding how your target market is searching the app store for your app.

The two main tools for understanding how your target market searches for your app or similar apps are app store intelligence software like Datacube from Gummicube and focus groups.

Datacube is the software we use to collect and analyze proprietary app store data, and build app store optimization plans for our clients.


The main thing to look for when evaluating app store intelligence software or services is where the data comes from.  Many tools use Google’s web search API as a proxy for app store search.  The way people search the web is very different than how they search the app stores – so use a tool that is built on actual app store data like Datacube from Gummicube.

Focus groups are a tool that provides very specific feedback from a defined, target audience as to how they would search for an app given a set of features or benefits.  

Using a focus group at the start of an optimization campaign to uncover terms and phrases used by your target audience can pay dividends in relevant search term coverage that your competitors are missing.

App Store Conversion

Your app has good, relevant search coverage but if it doesn’t convert at a rate expected for its ranking – your app’s ranking for that specific term will drop.

Alternatively, if your app converts better than expected given the ranking – it signals to the app stores that searchers find your app as a relevant and attractive result for that term- lifting your app up the results list

Design elements make up most of an app listing in search results. The icon and screenshots and even order of the screenshots have shown to have a huge impact on conversion rates.


For that reason, the tools we recommend for maximizing app conversion rates are focused on getting qualitative and quantitative feedback on the app listing’s graphics.

A/B Testing or multivariate testing of icons and screenshots is only supported in Google Play – but can be used to influence decisions across your app store listings.

Different designs, screenshot order, icons and videos can be tested on a portion of live traffic by geo, until a statistically significant winner is reached.  Even improvements on conversions of only 5% a month can lead to an almost doubling of installs after 12 months.

Focus groups provide data that no amount of multivariate (or A/B testing) can – and that’s qualitative feedback.  Test a wide range of icon and screenshot ideas with a focus group and you will learn not only which icons or screenshots converted best, resonated best or were prefered, but also why.

When first marketing an app, and before publishing in the app stores, learning from your target audience what they think about a design or their impressions beyond just the data provides insights and a direction that can then be tested on live app store traffic.

Engagement and Retention

There are several ways to measure engagement and retention. Number of sessions, session length, do users keep the app installed etc..

The primary focus of optimizing engagement and retention should be on maximizing lifetime value (LTV) however you decide to measure that.  An increase in any of the above metrics will likely help your app store ranking.

Two of the best tools outside of app design, gamification and other elements of the app itself are notifications and deep linking or app indexing.

Notifications are sometimes referred to as push or local, depending on where the notification is triggered – but the impact is largely the same.  Apps like Farmville and Candy Crush set the standard with notifications triggered by the end of a loop (the carrots are ready to be picked) or when you had “earned” new lives to continue playing.

Opened at a rate more than twice that of emails, notifications are a great tool for reminding users to come back to your app, in a short format they can immediately take action on or ignore.

App indexing and deep linking are closely related but the most relevant for this post is the indexing on in-app content for web search, Google Now and Apple Spotlight search.

App indexing allows app publishers to both tag web content that also is available in their mobile app, and add metadata to in-app content for visibility in Google Now and Spotlight.

A simple example is your recipe app has been installed, a user then uses Spotlight/Google Now/ Safari/Google for a taco recipe, your taco recipe is at the top of the list with a “link” directly to the content within your app.

Ratings and Reviews

The process for acquiring ratings and users from users is not great. App publishers cannot incentivize reviews in any way, and any request for a review means taking a user away from your app into the app store.

A report from Soomla showed across apps they tracked, the review rate for apps was consistent across geos – and it was consistently terrible – with roughly .5% of users globally taking the time to rate or review an app.

A general rule of thumb has traditionally been 1 in 1000 – so I guess things are looking up?

Hopefully Apple and Google will continue to put a greater emphasis on the actions users take (engagement and retention above) with apps vs some very small percent who take the time to submit a review.

That said, there are a few tools to help app publishers minimize bad reviews and prompt users to take the time to rate and review.

Apptentive is a complete in-app feedback system, with a primary feature being user rating and review prompts.  One of the best ways to acquire user ratings is 1) to ask for them 2) at the right time 3) and funnel customer service issues away from the app store review system and to your service team.

Source: Apptentive
Source: Apptentive


Crashlytics is a crash and bug reporting tool acquired by Twitter and integrated into their Fabric app development suite.   The best way to avoid bad reviews is to have app that doesn’t crash!

There you have it, 8 tools to help with your app store optimization and mobile app promotion.

The on-going use of these tools to impact visibility, conversion, retention and ratings will have a positive impact on rankings and ultimately on installs and organically acquired users.

App Promotion Tips and Trends

As users have flocked to mobile and mobile apps, the number of apps have exploded.

Sure – there are tons of silly apps, “reskinned” apps and other apps with very questionable value, but there are also several mobile-first companies, and brands are just now entering with conviction.

Competing in the app store is not about rising above the volume, but connecting with your target audience.  

App store search still leads in app discovery, so any app promotion should be built on the solid foundation of  a well-designed app and an optimized app listing.

Where to go from here?  How do you promote your app after app store optimization?

App promotion free

There are several channels for paid install or impression campaigns, but let’s start with free ways to promote your app(s) that ultimately make any paid efforts more effective.

Add web interstitials

When someone from a mobile device navigates to your website where the content also is available in your app – suggest they install or open the app via an overlay, banner or other prompt.

Yelp provides a good example.

Yelp Interstitial

The majority of local Google search (a search with a location component like “breakfast North Park”) is via mobile devices.  Let’s say the first result for the search “Breakfast North Park” is a Yelp listing.

When selecting the Yelp result, Yelp’s website recognizes the request is coming from a mobile device and presents an overlay suggesting the user open the result in the Yelp app (or install it if not installed).

Google has come out against the use of full screen interstitials but encourages app “banners”.

Source: Google Webmaster Blog

Not unlike redirecting mobile vistors to a m.domain.com site, with the added step of asking the user to decide to install/open the app or continue to a web version of the content.

Set up incentivized sharing

Almost like an in-app affiliate program or viral sharing tool – incentivized sharing encourages users to share your app with their networks and rewards them for it.

A simple example is giving a user 100 gold coins for every install that is generated with sharing to their network. Sally shares her new favorite quiz game with 10 friends, 3 of whom install – Sally receives 300 gold coins.

Source: Branch.io

Here is an example from Branch.io who provides feature in their service amoung many other app promotion, retention and engagement tools.

Find a Social Network Channel

For many marketers, “social media marketing” all falls in one marketing bucket next to PR, SEM, content marketing, web etc..

What tends to get lost is your app may find much more traction on one social network than another. Facebook and Twitter are huge with lots of engagement, but developing a profile on Pinterest or Instagram may provide a better return on your investment.

Nathan Chan started Foundr magazine – a subscription app with new issues monthly, and drives thousands of new installs weekly by cultivating Instagram.


Driving traffic and installs via a social media channel only works when you find the balance of fun, engaging content with clear calls to action.  Nathan shared in his strategy for Instagram the balance is 5 posts to 1 “download this app” post.

Email your list(s)

Perhaps stating the obvious, but worth mentioning.  You have a huge group of people extremely likely to use your app – your company’s leads and current clients who are already using or familiar with your service.

A study of major retailers with mobile apps showed shoppers with the stores’ mobile apps shopped more frequently, longer and spent more than non-app users.

These retailers now include links to install their app in their weekly email “flyers” – as mobile users are valuable enough to make a prominent call to action.

Not unlike how you would have a link to your company website in your signature, consider adding a link to your app in your email signature as well.

The above are just some of the trends for app promotion in 2016. We’ll cover more app promotion tips, including deep dives into the specifics of implementing  in future posts.

Facebook Mobile Advertising

The more specific advertisers can get in targeting their advertisements to audiences, the better they can deliver, test and optimize the ads and their target audience.

No one provides better targeting options at scale than Facebook.

With Facebook, advertisers can reach specific audiences based on where the live, their age, gender, what they read and share, what they like and about 1,000 other data points in a medium where they spend more time than watching TV.

Facebook mobile advertising is big for Facebook, accounting for 74% of total Facebook revenues in 2015.

Infographic: Facebook's Growth Is Entirely Fueled by Mobile Ads | Statista

Advertisers can use Facebook to reach their target audience in two ways:

  • natively in the Facebook user’s news feed (mobile and desktop),
  • in mobile apps using Facebook’s Audience Network

Facebook mobile market

Advertising to Facebook’s mobile app news feed provides brands a significant opportunity to reach target users where they spend the most time.

Facebook’s mobile app is by far the biggest single app in terms of time spent on both iOS and Android, with “mobile-only” users almost 50% of total Facebook users.


A company like Macy’s that might run Facebook ads to reach an audience in the desktop news feed can now reach the majority of Facebook users – mobile users.

Advertisers who want to reach their target market outside of Facebook, but still have access to all the amazing targeting Facebook provides can use the Audience Network.

With the Audience Network, a  click of a button in a campaign allows Macy’s to reach hundreds of millions of users in other mobile apps.

Facebook mobile advertising strategy

The Audience Network is Facebook’s mobile ad network – helping app publishers monetize their apps with native, banner and video ads while providing existing Facebook advertisers much greater reach.

This is great news for app publishers selling ad inventory as the value of their inventory increases with new and more mobile advertisers.

App publishers driving installs through CPI campaigns are seeing costs per install increase as they compete with non-mobile brands for mobile ad inventory.

The Audience Network was introduced October,  2014.

Fiksu CPI Index Nov 2015

Instead of a casino app serving ads for Candy Crush and other games relevant to the app, an ad space could be used by Facebook to serve an ad relevant to the user of the Casino app – which could be shoes at Macy’s or a course on Udemy.

Facebook’s Audience Network moves mobile advertising from targeting relevant apps to targeting relevant users whichever app they are using.

Ads on mobile phones

The ad formats for Facebook mobile advertising are banner, interstitial and native.


For more, check out Facebook’s case studies of both mobile publishers and advertisers.

App Subscriptions as a Mobile Monetization Model

With both Apple and Google taking a full 30% cut of any in-app purchases, subscription-based services have been slow to adopt or lead with a mobile app offering.

Through 2014, the top grossing apps were overwhelmingly freemium apps – many of them games.

Apple and Google are still taking their 30% cut, but as of this writing 5 of the top 15 grossing apps on the Apple App Store are apps that monetize primarily or only through subscriptions.

Spotify, Pandora, HBO NOW, Netflix and Hulu

Has the subscription-based model – so popular with web apps – finally moved to mobile?

Challenges for monetizing mobile with subscriptions

Even as far back as mid-2014, studies were showing a willingness by users to pay a monthly recurring fee for mobile apps.

Source: Branchfire
Source: Branchfire

The challenges for publishers have not been demand, but rather margin and control.  Publishers that acquire a user for their web app do not have to pay fees to Apple, Google or anyone else.

Publisher challenges

When purchases are made via the app stores, not only are margins impacted but visibility and control of the marketing and sales funnel. Once a potential user is in the app store – publishers lose access to reliable data on what a users does from there.

App store units over app store views is a flawed metric the way Apple reports it, to say nothing of how a potential user is engaging with the app listing.

For games – the tradeoff was simple – give up control and some profit for global distribution and the administration of collecting payments and exchanging currencies worldwide.

For many “web-first” apps – the time spent in mobile devices and mobile apps have just gotten too big to ignore.

Said another way – the benefits now outweigh the costs for many subscription-based services/apps, and the model is now popping up across the mobile app landscape.

Changes in the app subscription model

There are a few developments that make app subscriptions as a monetization model more attractive beyond traditional print content.

Because of the above challenges, the subscription model was mostly utilized by magazine and newspaper publishers in the defunct Newsstand store.

Books, magazines and newspapers are now part of the app store – bringing some of the features of the subscription model with them.

Trial periods

App publishers utilizing app subscriptions as a monetization model can now offer free trials, the lack of which has often been cited for the prominence of freemium apps vs paid apps in the app stores.

Subscriptions that went into effect 7 days after users downloaded the app skyrocketed Kylie Jenner’s app to #1 overall grossing the 8th day after release.  That’s the impact of free trials and recurring subscriptions.

Reduced revenue splits

Many of the apps having the most success with subscriptions in the app stores are audio and video.  Pandora, HBO, Netflix etc..

With the release of Apple tvOS, Apple has reportedly reduced the revenue split from 70/30 to 85/15 for publishers like HBO and Major League Baseball (MLB).

Google just announced Youtube Red, another video subscription service that would compete with HBO, Netflix, Hulu and every other nemesis to the Time Warner and Cox Cable’s of the world.

It’s worth noting that more than 50% of Youtube views are from mobile devices, and up 100% over 2014.

Amazon Underground

In September of 2015, Amazon announced a new way to play 1,000’s of Android titles with all the in-app items unlocked – for free.

Putting the economics for Amazon aside for a moment, essentially what Amazon has done is create a recurring revenue model for app publishers.


App publishers can opt in to Underground, and are then paid by time spent in an app – changing the economics from freemium to more of a subscription model.

We’ll explore the topic of app subscriptions as a viable monetization model more as the year progresses.

App Store Optimization (ASO) Blog | Mobile App Marketing