How to Track and Improve the Rank of Localized Keywords for Your iOS App

Guest post by: Hugh Kimura
Sensor Tower - Power Tools For App Store Optimization

Two closely related issues that we hear app publishers having is that they do not know how their app ranks for their localized keywords and they do not know how to improve their search visibility in other countries. Since app localization is such a large part of expanding the user base of an app, we think that this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. After all, the more international users you have, the more money your app makes!

In this post, we are going to show you the fastest way to test out how your app ranks for all of your localized keywords, and how to improve your keyword rank in the countries you are targeting.

Track Your Rank In Other Countries

Let’s start by going through the process of using Sensor Tower to track how your app ranks for its localized keywords. As an example, we’ll use the popular game Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North on the Apple App Store in Italy. After you log into Sensor Tower, make sure that your app is selected at the top of the screen. If you need to add it, click on the green Add New App button.

Add new app for localized keywords

Then in the upper right corner of the screen, click on the flag to access the country drop down menu and select the country you want to track.

02-change-country

Now click on the Search Rankings Tool icon on the left side of the screen.

02-search-rankings

Start entering the localized keywords that you are currently using for your app. Here is a partial list of the keywords that Kingdoms of Camelot uses, and how it ranks for each of those localized keywords.

02-keyword-list

Tracking your localized keywords in this way makes it easy for you to see exactly which are helping and which are hurting your app. The iOS app is doing quite well with some of the keywords, ranking in the top 5 for translated keywords like medioevo and even untranslated ones like north. (Since north is part of the game’s title, it is an important keyword in every country.) But there are other keywords like geme that are not really doing the app much good.

When analyzing the localized keywords for your own app, the goal should be to rank in the top 10 for all of your international keywords. That is not always possible, but if you have a translated keyword like geme that is ranking in the hundreds, then you should take it out and find another to replace it in your next update.

As you can see, setting up keyword tracking is very easy and you can set up a different keyword list for every country’s App Store that you are in. Sensor Tower will remember all of your settings in your account.

Improve the Rank of Localized Keywords

Knowing how your app ranks for all of its keywords is great, but how do you improve your rank? There are three primary criteria for choosing keywords and this is how you prioritize them to pick the right keywords.

The first, and most important, is relevance. You want to be sure that your keywords are closely related to your app so users will be more likely to download it after a search in the App Store. This seems obvious, but we still see publishers prioritizing traffic over relevance. Judging keyword relevance is much more difficult in foreign languages, so talk with your translator to come up with the right options. Often, what works in one language does not in another. Try asking the translator which words he or she would use to search for and find an app like yours.

Sensor Tower offers additional tools to help you spy on the localized keywords that other apps are using, track your competitors, optimize your keyword list, and get keyword suggestions.

02-keyword-tools

Consult your translator about keywords that you find with these tools if you have any doubts as to their relevance to your app.

Luckily, the other two criteria for choosing localized keywords are objective and you can find out that information by using our Keyword Research Tool. When you are logged into Sensor Tower, click on the Keyword Research Tool icon on the left.

02-keyword-research-tool

Now enter any keyword that you want to research and you will be able to see the Difficulty and Traffic scores for that keyword. For this example, here is what the data looks like for castello, the localized Italian word for castle.

02-castello

Sensor Tower gives each keyword a separate Difficulty Score on the iPad and the iPhone. The higher the score, the harder it is to rank in the top 10 for that keyword.

But there is a catch. Your ability to rank is also going to depend on the relative strength of your app. If your app has been around a while and has a thousands of downloads, then you are going to be able to rank higher for keywords that have a higher difficulty rank.

If you are just starting out, we recommend testing keywords with lower Difficulty Scores first. Once you get an idea of the average Difficulty Score you can rank in the top 10 for, then you can adjust your strategy accordingly. As you get more downloads, you can start to target higher difficulty keywords.

If you have an existing app, then look at the keywords that you are already ranking in the top 10 for. What is the average Difficulty Score of those keywords? When you choose new keywords, look for ones that have that score or lower.

Finally, the last factor you should look at is traffic. Relevance and Difficulty being equal, choose the keyword with a higher Traffic Score. Similar to the Difficulty Score, the higher the Traffic Score, the more traffic (or searches) a keyword is getting.

As long as your translated keyword is getting more than zero traffic, it is fair game. The only exception is if a zero-traffic keyword is part of an important keyword phrase. Here are the Traffic and Difficulty Scores of the international keywords we showed you for the Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North game.

02-traffic-difficulty

Final Thoughts

If you remember the acronym RDT (Relevance, Difficulty, Traffic), it will help you prioritize the three main keyword characteristics. Again, ideally you want to rank in the top 10 for all of your keywords, even localized keywords. If you are ranking #402 for a keyword, it is wasting space in your keyword list. Throw it out and test another. However, if you are ranking #20, then that is still respectable and you probably want to keep that keyword until you can find a better replacement.

Although researching and tracking your keywords is a simple process, the key to success lies in continually tracking, testing and updating your keywords. International and localized keywords follow the same logic, but you will need the help of a reliable localization company to help you parse and recommend the right ones. You cannot just set your keywords once and forget about it.

We hope that this post has given you the information you need to track and rank well for your localized keywords. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

About the Author: Hugh Kimura does Marketing for Sensor Tower, an easy-to-use online App Store Optimization tool that helps your app get more downloads by providing fast and accurate data to improve the visibility of your app on the App Store. For a free 14-day trial of the tools mentioned in this post, or to learn more, visit Sensor Tower.

Apple now allows 100 characters of keywords in all languages of the App Store

Bytes Build Character — Especially for Localized Keywords

Read my guest post on MobileDevHQ about Localizing your keywords to attract international users

Keyword localization

Good news for app developers who localize keywords and app descriptions in order to boost sales. Until recently, Apple had the keyword limit set at 100 bytes. This has always worked fine for the English-speaking audience. After all, each letter of the English alphabet is exactly 1 byte. But what about other languages and alphabets?

It turns out that the Spanish letter ñ, for example, is actually 2 bytes. And even those very compact-looking Korean and Chinese characters often weigh in at a hefty 4 bytes. The end result was that, until a recent change in iTunes Connect, your internationally localized keywords were actually far less than 100 characters. In fact, iTunes Connect would truncate the keywords, which often went unnoticed.

Today iTunes Connect will allow 100 characters (including spaces and commas) for any language. (As a side note, spaces are unnecessary, so you should remove them to add room for more keywords.)

Localizing Keywords for the App Store

When you do localize your keywords, you often find that foreign-language keywords are longer than their English cousins. French is estimated to be 30% longer than English (and much more wordy), and German has a tendency for very long individual words. If you present a translator with a full 100 characters of English keywords, you’ll find that, more often than not, the keyword localization returned to you will be over the 100-character limit.

Write your words in order of importance

There is a simple lesson here. When you send us your app description and keywords to be translated, make sure the keyword list in order of importance. Why? That way, if you have to leave out some of the localize keywords we send back, you’ll know exactly which ones you can drop without affecting your international keyword campaign. 

Add more keywords for Asian languages

The extra characters available to you for compact Asian languages like Korean and Chinese are also an often overlooked opportunity. Since you can include more keywords as space allows, we suggest you add additional keyword ideas to your list. As always, you may rely on some professional advice from translators, who usually come up with unique keywords that are local to their audience.

Are you ready to localize your keywords? Contact us. We’re not just a winsome group of translators who localize every language of the App Store, we’re very friendly too. ;)

iOS Language Codes: What do you name your .lproj folder?

Apple makes a fine system in iOS, but their documentation of it is sometimes lacking. This is especially true for localization topics like language codes. This week we’ve put together a very handy chart to answer a surprisingly difficult question: Which languages do iOS and the App Store support?

It is actually, sadly, and for little practical reason, a trick question. Apple supports a different list of language codes and regions on iOS than the iTunes App Store. This has some real-world consequences you might never have imagined, until you have already wasted your time and money on translation. For instance,  you can localize your iPhone app into Polish, (language code: pl) but not its app description and keywords. Since those are important for discovering your app, you may not be as inclined to localize your app knowing this fact. Similarly, you can localize your app description into both Spanish for Spain (es-ES) and Spanish for Latin America es-MX, but your app itself can only speak one lonely version of Spanish (language code es). In short:

iOS: Supports 30 languages but no regional forms
App Store: Supports 21 languages and 7 regions

We always pass this information on to developers who contact us about localizing their apps into all the languages of the App Store. But we also think Apple should make this information a bit more plain to see.

iOS Language Codes – The Missing Manual

At the request of the developers we work with, we’ve put together a Knowledge Base article with a complete chart. At a glance you’ll be able to see if the language you want is supported by either/both iOS and the App Store. We’ve also included those handy ISO-639 language codes you always ask us about. You’ll need those to create your en.lproj and other folders to store the localizations of your app in Xcode.

Not sure what a en.lproj folder is? Well check out our iPhone Localization Tutorial first! And we’ve got a tutorial for adding localized app descriptions and keywords too.

Pseudolocalization – Prepare your app for localization

What is pseudolocalization?

Let’s get the definitions out of the way. Normally, when you localize your app you are replacing your source text with a foreign language. For example, your English-language app transforms into a lovely bit of software for a Japanese audience. Pseudolocalization is just like that, but instead of Japanese, we’ll replace your English strings with à ƒàķé Éñĝļîšĥĥ ļîķé ţĥîš.

Why do I need pseudolocalization for my app?

Why would you want to use ƒàķé Éñĝļîšĥĥ in your app? Well, pseudolocalization is a fast QA method to make sure you’ve found all your hard-coded strings before you send it off to be translated. By doing a test run with ƒàķé Éñĝļîšĥĥ you can quickly check each screen of your app and make sure everything looks localized. If not, you’ll know exactly which strings you forgot to localize and you can go back to your code and add it in.

Pseudolocalization is also a useful way to make sure you’ve left enough room in your GUI for other languages. A common rule of thumb is that non-English languages are 30% longer. That means the Buy button your created — just 3 letters long — probably won’t be big enough for Spanish (Comprar) or Greek (Αγοράστε), and you’ll end up with something like: Com… and Αγο…

Pseudolocalization can help you spot the missing strings and those cramped spaces so that your translations will look as good as they read.

Pssst… Pseudolocalization is free!

Here’s something you probably never knew. We translators want your localized app to succeed as much as you do, and we’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure it does. Pseudolocalization helps us as much as it helps you. It means that you’ll send us all your strings in one neat package right from the start. And, if we’re lucky, you may even have adjusted your app’s GUI a bit to add in some extra space. (Extra padding looks very nice in English too by the way!)

For those reasons, and because we’re nice people, pseudolocalization is an absolutely free service. Just send us your Localizable.strings or strings.xml or any other format you’ve got, and we’ll send you back the pseudo-localized version the same day.

Request FREE pseudolocalization from Babble-on

Not sure how to export your Mac/iOS strings into a Localizable.strings file? Check out our iPhone localization tutorial.

App Description Localizations – New Tutorial Added

App Descriptions are the easiest place to localize

The simplest and most effective way to begin localizing your iPhone app for the App Store is through your App Description and Keywords. Why? Because it doesn’t require reworking any code or hassling with testing or layout. You’ll simple edit some info in iTunes Connect, copying and pasting translations of your app description and keywords — even screenshots if you like. At Babble-on, we not only localize apps but for many game developers and other devs considering localization for the first time we begin with app descriptions. (We’ll even help you improve your app description in English first if you like!)

Adding a Localized App Description

We localize apps every day and, at the request of developers, we’ve put together a step-by-step tutorial to show you just how to add a localized version of your app description. Check it out in our Tutorials section:

Adding a translation of your App Description is easy with this tutorial

Adding a translation of your App Description is easy with this tutorial

Keywords: Discoverability made easy

It’s worth mentioning that the App Description is not the only way to improve downloads in the international App Stores. You already know how important keywords are for users discovering your app. The same applies to the international versions of the App Store. This metadata, properly localized, is precisely what Apple will use to help users in other countries to discover your app. Keywords are very precise, so don’t rely on Google Translate!

Editable and Unlocked

One note of warning about Apple’s latest App Store rules. Metadata, including App Store descriptions, keywords, and screenshots are now in a Locked state once a version of your app is Ready for Sale in the App Store. That means that you can edit an existing localization of an app description at any time, but you won’t be able to add a new language until you submit a new Version of your app for App Review.

Next time you release a bug fix update, make the move to localized app descriptions!

App Localization Costs Estimator Helps You Calculate Prices

App localization costs are usually hard for developers to quantify, unless they’re working with someone who knows how it works. That’s why at Babble-on we answer every request for localization costs fast—typically within 15 minutes!

But is that fast enough, or even the best way? We’ve noticed that developers are a shy bunch. They want to estimate localization costs but they often don’t want to email or call to find out. That’s why we created a free App Localization Costs Estimator widget right on our website:

Localization Costs Estimator

This easy localization cost estimation widget makes it possible to calculate costs down to the penny instantly. Try it for yourself by uploading your Strings file, app description, and keywords: App Localization Cost Estimator.

How the Localization Costs Estimator Works

It’s simple. Click “Add file” or just drag your files onto the button. The localization cost estimator can count the words and strings in a whole bunch of file formats. Next, choose the languages you are interested in. You’ll see the exact cost for everything, and you can add or subtract languages and files until you reach your budget. Remember, the prices include everything from expert handling of localization formats and encodings (like UTF-16 Localization.strings files), to real-live-human tech support by phone or email. Babble-on isn’t a factory, and that kind of attention means a lot once you get started localizing.

File types the cost estimator can count:

  • iOS .strings
  • Android .xml
  • Windows 8 (Metro) .resw, .resjson, .resx, .rc
  • Java/Flex .properties
  • Ruby on Rails & YAML .yml
  • BlackBerry .rrc
  • GNU GetText .po, .pot
  • XLIFF .xliff, .xml
  • Microsoft Office/Open Office .docx, .xlsx, .pptx, .odt, etc.
  • HTML
  • Plain Text .txt
  • Qt .ts
  • DKLang .dklang, .lng
  • XUL .dtd
  • Google Chrome Extension .json
  • Subtitles .sbv, .srt

Which languages should I localize my app into?

The most popular languages are Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, and Simplified Chinese. Of course it depends on your target and your budget. My suggestion is always to start with one, preferably a language for the country you are already seeing some traction in. For example, if you see downloads outside the US usually come from Japan, then Japanese should be your first pick. Check iTunes Connect or the Google Play store to verify your download stats. If you aren’t sure, stick with the largest markets like Spanish. Contact us for personalized advice.

Read our press release: San Francisco iOS App Localization Service Says No to the Factory Model and Introduces Cost Estimation Widget