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App Localisation – How to Unlock Revenue Overseas

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play are now available in almost every corner of the globe. At the time of writing, the Apple App Store supports 155 countries in 28 languages, whilst Google Play has free applications available almost worldwide and supports 46 different languages.

In this post I am going to take a look at where monetisation opportunities exist and the challenges associated with localising for other territories, with plenty of data points and actionable takeaways.


Revenue Distribution

Whilst content availability has expanded hugely over recent years, revenue distribution has remained fairly limited. It was reported last year that the top 5 revenue generating countries account for 80% of global mobile revenues.

revenue-by-marketsSource: Distimo

In terms of the developer earnings on iOS compared to Google Play, iOS is still the leader here by some distance, even though Google Play now accounts for significantly more downloads globally. The reason for this disconnect is because of the volume of Google Play downloads in emerging markets, where the average revenue per user tends to be somewhat lower.


Revenue vs Downloads

It’s also very important to understand exactly how these applications are monetising around the world. It is common knowledge that the freemium model is by far the dominant monetisation model globally, but this brings challenges when it comes localisation.


rev share by country

(Although the chart is 12 months old, this breakdown has changed very little)


The main issue is that to monetise on a freemium model, generating an install alone is not enough, and this means that you really need to go the distance when localising your content.

Translating your meta content is an extremely important part of localising your app, as this has a big effect on your app store conversion rate, but in order to generate engagement and freemium revenue, you need to localise your app’s content too.

Let’s now take a look at how this can be done, and the best practices involved here…


Translation Tools

One of the first steps to localising your app’s content is to establish how you are actually going to translate your content. There are many companies online that do offer professional translation services and one of our favourites is OneSky, who are suitable for both Android and iOS. Apple do also provide an extended list of approved third party translators, and you can view this at the bottom of this page.


Meta Content

Your title, keywords, screenshots and app preview videos affect both your discoverability and your app store conversion rate. However, you can’t simply translate all your content word for word using your chosen translation tool, as this could lead to a number of problems…

Your Title

A lot of developers ask the question as to what extent they should translate their app name, and the answer isn’t a simple one.

This really depends on if your app name is a trademark or brand that you want to be the same across multiple markets. If so, then you should leave it in English (or your native language, providing your name is easy to pronounce in your target country).  As you can see in the example at the bottom of this section, Clash of Clans keep their name in English across all languages, and provide an additional translation too in order to improve their ASO.


The value in translating your keywords is fairly obvious. Users searching for a football news app in spain are not going to be searching for ‘football’, they’ll be searching for ‘fútbol’. If you don’t translate your keywords, your chances of discoverability diminish significantly.

With keywords, you are always looking for a healthy balance between high search volume and low competition, and you must be aware of the potential changes in both word meaning and potential search volume/competition when you move to overseas markets.

For example, if you were promoting your football app in Europe, but wanted to start pushing the app to the US too, you’d have to change your keywords to focus more on soccer, (to avoid confusion with the NFL) even though the actual language is the same.

Support Pages

If possible, ensure that your support pages link through to a localised site from which users can get help and information in their native language. If you’re serious about monetising users in a new country, then this is an important box to tick!



Clash of Clans is a good example of an App that has successfully localised all their meta content.


App Content

We know that globally the freemium model is the most popular and successful way to monetise on mobile. But to generate freemium revenue you need to localise your app’s content too, and this involves more than just translating words. 

Time, date and units

Since iOS8 was released, Apple have actually made it easier for developers to manage unit localisation. An improved API means that developers can now display time and other units to users in their native languages, with minimal hassle.


Date Example

Alternative SDKs

If you are serious about generating revenue overseas, then you may need to look at the SDKs used within your app too. For example, you may have a successful game with an effective viral loop that makes you good money in a western market, but if that viral loop hinges on users sharing their high scores on Facebook then you are going to have to make some changes when launching your app in China.

With Facebook banned, China has seen social networks such as PengYou, QZone and Sina Weibo grow extremely quickly, so establishing a way of integrating with these sites could be key to success.


Editorial Content

Finally, all your editorial content must also be translated. This includes all app content, with navigation text being vitally important. Think also about any promotional text you use, such as push notifications and in app advertising – it’s important that no stone is left unturned.


Localisation of content

Useful Links

Both Apple and Google provide some very helpful documentation on the best practices for app localisation for new, and their respective links can be found below 🙂

Google Play


You may also have noticed that despite being available in 155 countries, the iOS App Store only supports 28 languages. If you’re unsure about which language is supported in certain countries, then I recommend you check out this blog post from WordData, which provides a comprehensive table matching up all countries with their supported languages.

Finally, both iOS and Google play give support for generating promotional content for international markets. Google Play provides a badge generator which you can access here, whilst Apple provide a .zip folder containing App Store badges for each country.





The mobile landscape is very different in the east compared to the west, particularly on Android. In the US and the UK, the vast majority of Android apps are download through Google play, making distribution relatively easy.

However in China, things are totally different. In a country where 73% of mobile devices are built on Android, Google Play doesn’t exist. Instead, Chinese users have many stores from which they can purchase Android apps, with many manufacturers shipping devices running modified versions of Android which contain their own app stores. The end result is a very fragmented ecosystem.

In an interview with Venture Beat, Chukong Technologies U.S general manager Lei Zhang shared some fascinating insight…

“We estimate that about 20 percent to 30 percent of the total revenue for the Chinese mobile-gaming space this year will be from WeChat,” said Zhang. “That’s how big this one single platform is in the market.”

“The difference is that all of those Google-based devices are running more than two dozen different proprietary app markets. This makes it extremely complex for Western developers looking to release their games there.”



App localisation is not a straight forward or quick process. Very few developers successfully expand their operations from west to east, and vice versa.

There is a large amount of research required before you can have enough knowledge to fully exploit the opportunity that exists in other territories, and localisation goes way beyond just translating the editorial content within your product.

However, for western developers, 41% of global mobile revenue is generated in China, Japan and South Korea alone, and this is simply too greater amount of money to be ignored.

Have you successfully localised your app? I’d love to hear about your experience and any additional knowledge you have to share. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below…

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