How to optimize an app in Japanese

Todd Simonson by
Former ASO Expert at AppTweak

7 min read

Did you know that the App Store allows localized metadata in 148 countries and the Google Play Store supports localized listings for 51 different languages? After you’ve completed optimizing your app store listing in English, expand your reach by attracting new users in local languages. In this blog we’ll tell you about one of the most important languages for which to localize your app store listing: Japanese.

Why should you localize your app in Japanese?

Well, maybe because 49 of the top 50 apps in the Free category in the Japan App Store have localized listings in Japanese! It is very unlikely that your app will be featured or rise to the top of the charts if your app is not localized in Japanese.

Japan is one of the largest markets for app developers – total mobile app revenue in Japan in 2018 was $13.4 billion, with estimates that revenue could grow to over $16 billion by 2021. In order to rank well in either the App Store or Google Play Store, it’s critical that your app is localized in Japanese. Not only will this lead to greater conversion from impression to download, but optimizing your app store listing will increase the discoverability of your app; localization can also increase your chance of being featured and ranking for more relevant keywords.

4 Tips to Increase your App’s Conversion Rate

For example, The greatest element that you will discover when localizing your app store listing in Japan for iOS and Android is that all of the entry fields have the same character limit as the English store listings. This might not sound like much, but it is what makes the ability to optimize an app in Japanese (as well other logographic languages, e.g. Korean, Chinese, Thai) so powerful.

For example, the App Store allows up to 30 characters for an app’s title. In English, this might only be four or five words, but in Japanese this is a much more generous length. As Japanese grammar does not require spaces and words might consist of only one or two characters, 30 characters is a lot of real estate. All of the character limits in the App Store and Google Play Store listings are also the same as in English, so there is much opportunity to rank for relevant keywords in both stores.

Differences in Japan Localized Versions

Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

When researching keywords, you may find that some words you thought would have a high search volume actually have a low volume. Japanese language consists of three distinct alphabets; Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana use syllabic characters which represent distinct sounds, while kanji are more traditional characters that might symbolize abstract concepts, ideas or something else.

We’ve noted that for any given English word, there might be several ways to say the same thing. In the example below, we’ve compiled the search volume and download estimates for four different versions of ‘dragon’ in the Japan App Store. The most popular keyword, ‘ドラゴン’, is written in Katakana and also has the highest monthly downloads associated with it. The word ‘どらごん’ is written in Hiragana, and while it is pronounced the same in Japanese, has an entirely different search volume and different ranking list. The English word ‘dragon’ has the next highest search popularity, followed by the Kanji for dragon, ‘竜’ with minimal search volume.

Example of search volume and monthly download estimates for several ways to say ‘dragon’ in Japanese.

If we compare the top apps ranking for each keyword, we find that the order and apps are all different. The same is true in the Google Play Store, so we can assume that by including one version of a word or phrase in your metadata will not necessarily affect how your app ranks for a different version of the word.

Example of app rankings for different versions of ‘dragon’ in the Japan App Store.

One last thing to note in regards to this is that the featured story or app for each keyword are all different, further demonstrating that each version of a word is an entirely separate keyword.

When you are creating your list of relevant keywords, it’s important to target high volume keywords that will lead to more views and downloads of your app. The takeaway here is that you should probably include the keywords with higher search volume in your title or subtitle, and other versions for which you want to rank in your keyword field, long description and metadata.

Grammatical Structure

Japanese grammar is different than English in many ways such as the style of writing, syntactical structure and punctuation. There are no spaces necessary in Japanese, so separating words is not something that is done or easily distinguishable for someone who does not speak the language. If you are trying to research a competitor app’s metadata, and you don’t speak Japanese, how are you supposed to know which characters form together to create words?

Fear not, AppTweak has recently released a feature designed to solve this exact problem. Now in the AppTweak ASO tool, we have created a word separator tool that breaks down sentences and separate keywords for further research. This will help you to easily identify which keywords competitors are using in their metadata.

Example of keyword separator tool in action to identify keyword count and density in the long description for an app localized in Japan.

How to Research Keywords in a Different Language

While compiling your semantic dictionary, you’ll find that without speaking the language, it is nearly impossible to create a relevant list of keywords. We’ve got several tools that can help you with this research like our keyword suggestion tool.

AppTweak also has an integrated feature that automatically translates keywords to English to aid in your research, but keep in mind that translation tools cannot replace a native speaker privy to cultural and linguistic nuances.

Example of AppTweak keyword translation tool for several high volume Japanese keywords

All of the regular ASO techniques that you are able to do in English can be applied to Japanese keywords. Even if there are several different versions of a word that mean the same thing, it is up to you to decide which characters, words or phrases are the most significant and necessary to include in your app store listing metadata.

Advanced tips for ASO professionals: in-depth keyword research and analysis

Writing your App Store Listing

Before you officially update your store listing, I’ll leave you with one closing thought to keep in mind while localizing your app for Japanese, or any language that you don’t speak; always use a native speaker to edit and review your translations. Even the greatest translation tools lack the ability to gauge context, formality and other trends in colloquial language, among many other things. AppTweak highly recommends using a paid service to translate, especially if you seek to include specific keywords in your listing and aim to string them together coherently.

We encourage you to find a native speaker or service that can help you from within your AppTweak account to maximize efficiency while choosing keywords and translating your listing.

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Todd Simonson
by , Former ASO Expert at AppTweak
Todd was an ASO Expert at AppTweak with passion for technology, science and language. He has experience in mobile advertising and growth hacking, and solving challenging problems.