Worldwide App Store Optimization How to increase your downloads by 54x with international ASO

Hi there! I’m Ilia Kukharev and I started doing App Store Optimization (ASO) in early 2015 for Aviasales, a leading meta-search for airline tickets, when most people haven’t even heard about it. Back then I realized that we had to do worldwide ASO and couldn’t focus our efforts on one language.

Even though our apps were available in 155 countries worldwide, American users searching for tickets were treated exactly the same as Korean users. But the American user was able to find our app by the “Cheap flights” term, whereas the Korean user was searching for “항공권” and it didn’t turn up. That was why Korean users were downloading other apps, who were localized and optimized for Korea.

No developer or publisher should ignore this problem or otherwise he will be missing out a huge opportunity. After localizing and doing ASO for 30+ languages we got exponential growth for our Google Play and App Store apps. Compared to prior localizing our apps, this was about 54X growth. Pretty good, isn’t it? Let’s find out how can you achieve the same growth level for your apps.

1. Worldwide ASO is a must in 2018

According to AppAnnie research, the top 5 countries in the world by downloads are China, India, the US, Brazil, and Russia. By only optimizing for the US market, you are losing 90% of potential users in the other countries! And here we have lesson one:

Do not ignore the emerging markets. They will play their role soon.

Top 5 download charts table by country from AppAnnie
Download leaders, source: AppAnnie

Your ASO for India, Russia, and Brazil should have been done in 2017, but now it’s still not too late, as India has plans to show the 3x growth in the next 5 years, downloads and revenue will fly on one of Elon Musk’s Falcon rockets to space.

But, we all care about the revenue. Again, Asian countries are at the top:

Top 5 revenue table by country from AppAnnie
Revenue leaders, source: AppAnnie

Indians are good at downloads, and you can monetize these downloads with Ads, but if you want to sell apps or in-app purchases, you have to optimize for China, the US, Japan and South Korea and, surprisingly, Germany.

Possibilities over possibilities. What will worldwide ASO give you? Here is the teaser:

Installs by device (Google Play Dev Console)
Downloads after Worldwide ASO, source: Google Play Console

Pretty good, isn’t it? This is what can worldwide ASO can give you. This spike in the middle — the result of worldwide featuring. Don’t you hear that? Apple and Google LOVE localized apps and you have much better chances to get featured if your app listing is localized.

So, why localize?

  1. Much, much better visibility for your app
  2. Nothing to sell? Monetize with Ads!
  3. Much better chances to get featured worldwide
  4. Unexpected boosts

Unexpected boosts? Let me show the example. On one of our weekly meetings, we decided to go for Arabic. As an ASO Expert, I wasn’t too happy: doing Arabic ASO is not the funniest and easiest job. As App Store Connect doesn’t have the Arabic localization, we’ve created a separate app with another Bundle ID and added Arabic keywords to the English UK and English AU localizations. We didn’t have any expectations.

Arabic store localization of Jetradar app
Jetradar Arabic, source: appfollow.io

But the results were awesome: Arabic users started downloading our app every day. Сurrently the share of the Arabic app is about 30% in downloads and 20% in revenue.

And here comes the second lesson:

Experiment. Try to find something new every day.
Don’t be afraid of Arabic / Chinese / Japanese / etc. keywords.

So, the main idea of this chapter — do not get stuck in your country with your language. Doesn’t matter how small or big you are, you will find the limit, in the end. It’s time to grow internationally.

And here is how you can do that.

2. How to do keyword research in Italian, Korean or Arabic

First of all, choose countries, you want to conquer. Check your downloads stats, check the competitors’ top countries. For example, we’ve made some research and it seems that users from Spain are downloading our airline tickets booking app, even though it’s only in English. Great! But, don’t rush things. Before localizing your app, you have to find out if there are enough users for your app in that country or language (e.g. Italy). To do this, you should make a so-called MVL — Minimum Viable Localization.

Minimum Viable Localization:

  1. Title / Subtitle / Keywords
  2. Screenshots with annotations and CTA
  3. Description (full for Google Play, part for App Store)

This can be done fast, you won’t spend too much time and money and this will help you to make a final decision.

Question: So, how to make a keyword research in Italian?
Answer: All the same way, as you do this for your language. Just add Google Translate.

This is not a joke. Use all the same tools, as you used for the keyword research earlier. Let’s find some keywords for our airline tickets booking app:

Google translate screenshot

And we got the first list of keywords in Italian:

  • voli
  • voli economici
  • biglietti aerei
  • prenotare voli
  • prenota i biglietti aerei
  • trova i biglietti
  • trova voli

Not bad, right? Of course you have to translate about 20-40 keywords to understand your semantic core and to minimize translation errors.

Let’s move on to the AppFollow Suggest and Search tool, where we can check every keyword we found:

Keyword suggestions in AppFollow
Suggest and Search tool for the keyword research, source: appfollow.io

Try to check every keyword and add all the search terms from the Suggestions. These are your future optimization goals. After doing this, you will have about 200-300 keywords to optimize with. If you need more, check the app titles, app subtitles and copy keywords from there. This will also help you to create your own app title if you don’t want to spend money on a translator.

The other way to do the worldwide keyword research is with Google Search. Check all these keywords in Google Search results — you will find even more search terms and keywords. Simply check the similar search terms at the bottom of the first results page.

If you are too lazy, use the Google Keyword Planner. This tool can give you up to 700 search terms for any keyword, but their quality will be rather bad. These are web search terms — remember this.

After you create a semantic core and found a significant amount of keywords, it’s time to choose the best. Go to the Keywords section of the AppFollow tool and sort all the keywords by the traffic score:

Keyword list screenshot
Keywords list, source: appfollow.io

Another way to do keyword mining is to check the category charts and copy app titles. This is an extremely manual job, but it will give you dozens of new keywords and search terms.

If you think that this is not enough, find a freelance translator on Upwork. Ask him or her to translate your list of keywords and to think about new keywords. That way you will get the most relevant and correct search terms, but this will cost you (more) money. And do not forget to check every keyword through Suggest and Search tool to find more relevant terms.

Then, select the best search terms, create a Title, Subtitle, Keywords, and prepare your Screenshots…

3. Internationalize, not localize

The biggest problem for the newcomers is that they’re trying to translate apps and interfaces from their native language to English, French, and other languages. You should never do the direct/literal translation — this is absolutely the wrong strategy. What you have to do is an internationalization of your apps and interfaces.

Here are the differences: Localization is about translating texts. You can localize your app to any language you want, just by translating the Localizable.strings for iOS or strings.xml for Android. This is quite simple.
But if you want to be the “native” go-to app for a foreign user, you have to internationalize it. Use country- and region-specific stuff in the app, like images, text style, social networks for sharing and other local stuff.

When it comes to screenshots, you should also internationalize them. Use larger text size in Asian countries. Let’s take a look at the Hotellook app, a meta-searching app for hotels across all booking agencies. The guys have done a great job with the internationalization and app pages for different countries look different.

The Arabic version of the app page looks like this:

Complete Arabic localization of Hotellook app

And here is the Taiwanese version:

Complete Taiwanese localization of Hotellook app

You can see the different screenshots style and even the letter “H” on the app icon was translated: It means “Hotel” in Chinese.

But here are some additional ideas on improving: the actual app screenshots within the device mockups were not translated, but the should be: At least prices should be in the local currency and user reviews should be in Arabic and Chinese.

By the way: The h-letter translation on the app icon increased the conversion rate in Taiwan by 20% 😎A five-minute job can give you a lot more downloads for free — it’s just that simple!

Summary

The app stores are still flying high like SpaceX’s rockets. It’s not too late to jump into your red Tesla and fly to upper space with your app downloads and revenue due to localization and internationalization.

The keyword research process for the foreign languages is the same as for your native language, no need to be a professional translator. But if you want to save time, find a professional translator and ask him to help you with translations and keyword research. All you have to do in this case is to select the necessary keywords for your metadata. I highly recommend you do this process in the beginning yourself to understand the whole concept of worldwide ASO.


Ilia Kukharev is Head of ASO at AppFollow and ASO expert for Aviasales.ru His goal is to drastically increase app downloads via organic traffic and optimization on the different app stores. He regularly speaks at conferences and shares his experience with other marketeers.