The Constant Testing Cycle: What ASO Truly Entails with Ryan Kelley

Looking for the latest ASO hacks?  In this post, the truth comes out about ASO and how to use it to create successful apps.  Get the REAL breakdown on ASO and getting traffic to your apps.

Ryan Kelly is an ASO specialist and mobile marketing professional.  He currently does business development for Gummicube, a provider of App Store Optimization services and App Store Intelligence software.

Meet-up with Ryan and other ASO and app gurus at our live events.

On top of being very active in the Bluecloud community, Ryan has worked on over 1000 optimization campaigns, ranging from indie titles to major market releases.  He is a big believer in mobile growth and CONSTANT testing of optimization strategies.  He’s released over 100 apps and garnered over half a million downloads, and that was before he was hired by Gummicube.

Scroll down to download my interview with Ryan and learn how to use ASO to make a huge impact with your apps.

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Ryan stresses the importance of data, analytics and constant testing.
Hacks Ryan DOES recommend and use to pump up his ASO:

  • Starting with keyword research – Research conducted before developing or launching an app.
  • Creating a keyword matrix – Keyword phrases used to target specific search inputs.
  • Hyphenating – Hyphenating keywords to populate more than 1 word.
  • Keyword stuffing – Using every single character in the keyword field.
  • Misspellings – Ranking for misspelled keywords.
  • Relevancy – Indexing for keywords that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting.
  • WWDC algorithm changes – A popular time for Apple to release algorithm changes.
  • Focusing on your home market first – Creating an app with your territory/demographic in mind.
  • Responding to reviews on Google Play – Helps boost app indexing.
  • Other – Review prompts, the use of a thesaurus, having a support email, website, analytics…

Hacks Ryan DOES NOT recommend using:

  • Partial/Complete rank – Playing off the coattails of popular apps that have no relevancy to yours.
  • Bot indexing – Increasing the index of specific keywords by using bots to search the App Store.
  • Buying reviews – Purchasing fake or bot reviews.

There’s always going to be people cutting corners and looking for a quick way to get ahead.  It’s important to keep in mind that by cheating the system you are only hurting yourself and can even lead to banning your apps from the store (it happens more than you think).
In order to find success in ASO and push traffic to your app, nothing can be done haphazardly.  It is paramount to do the research, study the data and choose your strategy wisely.  Everything from icons and Facebook ads, to testing screenshots, recording a preview video and writing the app description. Plus, the ever challenging task of choosing keywords.

“You have to test every theory – every possible way you can gain leverage.  Nobody knows the algorithm for the App Store or the Google Play Store, nor will they.  It’s just making an educated guess.”

Having worked on hundreds of apps, Ryan has a good understanding on what works and what doesn’t work.  There’s always going to be algorithm changes, it’s a matter of going with the flow and making adjustments.  60%-80% of all apps are found through search and Apple is constantly working on improving their app indexing and search visibility.
There are 2 specific types of optimization:

1. Optimizing for visibility – How your app is found in the App Store.

2. Optimizing for conversion – How your app converts into a download from the display page.

There are areas in the App Store that are nearly impossible to compete in.  But on the flip side, there are specific features, targeting keywords, and the use of a keyword matrix that can lead to a wealth of success.
ASO is something that you start and continue every month.  It’s a method to get users and retain them over a long period of time.  You’ve always got to be testing, collecting data, and making changes.
Below are questions from our community and Ryan’s answers.  If YOU have a question, ask it in the comment page at the bottom of this post:

Q1. Immediately after launching a mobile game app, how can I get my first downloads and start to rank for keywords.

A1. It takes around 4 weeks for the App Store and 6 weeks for the Google Play Store to fully index your keywords. Updating before your keywords are fully indexed can cause you to loose indexing or not rank for keywords.

Q2. How can I create a “gamer list”, like a email subscriber list, to market my new launched apps directly and get an initial boost? Is there something like this?

A2. Why don’t you create a newsletter that reviews some of your favorite apps and include affiliate links to paid apps. Plug your app(s) in there as well. Just a thought. Gamers are busy playing games and are really only interested in the next big thing. Alternatively, create some YouTube videos reviewing your competitors or other apps. Content is king, even in the mobile app space.

Q3. What do you think about Buildbox? Was Color Switch a lucky one or is there potential in building simple games with tools like Buildbox.

A3. This was probably not directed at me but if you build apps with Buildbox, then own it. Be the small studio who builds the best Buildbox games. Create a website and your portfolio. You don’t have to hit a home run on the first few, just build a good portfolio. This way you can build client apps alongside your own. There are tons of people with money who want to build games. Unreal Engine devs are a super hot commodity. If you are looking for a game engine to dominate, look there. Unity is way oversaturated…first person shooter? Anyone…

Q4. What can i do to get great keywords? Everybody says Google trends and stuff but I don’t know how to search for the right keywords?…even in sensor tower or app annie, when I use the suggested keywords…it doesn’t help a lot with downloads

A4. By great keywords, I take it to mean, the keywords which form phrases tied to your app’s features or uniqueness. There are no “golden keywords” there are only relevant keywords. Try using a thesaurus. The keywords you need are going to be in the app’s description and user reviews. What keywords are your competitor’s users using? Think like your target user, how would they find your app if they searched for it?

Q5. How much does downloads and reviews affect a games ranking and ASO. If I have few downloads, can I compete with a app with thousands of reviews and million downloads.

A5. Downloads was a huge factor in the App Store until they realized that buying your way to the top was becoming more commonplace. Apple now gives huge weight to keywords in reviews. Why would you want to compete with a 100 person company and $3,000,000/ month marketing budget? Target other users who are searching for a better app or game.

Q6. What are the keyword ranking factors?

A6. Keyword rank is determined by several factors. Click Through Rate is probably the most weight. To get the most “juice” you want a user to search for your app in the search window, click on your icon and then download the app.

Q7. How do you update and tweak keywords?

A7. Remove keywords which don’t form phrases. It’s better to have more keywords in order to rank for more phrases. Tweak the title one month and then change keywords with low CTR 2 months later. Test titles with FB ads.

Q8. How do you come up with a great keywords in a super competitive topic like photo editor or photo collage?

A8. It is difficult if not impossible to outrank others for high traffic keywords. Choosing keywords is not the only way to acquire users. Build content, reach out to influencers in your niche. You have to sell your app to your audience. Why is your photo collage better than what is available? What demographic downloads photo collage apps? Go where they are? Snapchat would be my strategy.

Q9. Can you turn a freemium game with 25 downloads per day into a success with 300+ downloads per day at all, easily, with a lot of effort or probably not?

A9. A lot of effort and a lot of time. How often are you adding new features, new levels, improving the user experience? It’s really such a long process of testing and updating. Results are never guaranteed. Users still determine the apps they want, keywords just help them find it easier.

Q10. How often does a pro release updates and change the keywords and/or title?

A10. Update something every 4-8 weeks. Title, one month, icon the next, keywords after that, maybe short description. Remember to also target seasonal keywords and app market trends.

Q11. What’s the way to get tons of reviews, and good ones?

A11. User reviews should come from users. Ask? Use review prompts in strategic places within the app. I recommend Apptentive or Appboy.

Q12. What is a good keyword difficulty score to shoot for in Sensor Tower for a new app?

A12. I think over relying on ST is a mistake. Use the difficulty score as a guide only. I think it used to be under 5.5 but it’s been a while. Your better strategy is to read competitor’s reviews and descriptions then create all the phrases you can. Very manual but it is the best budget way. You know your users better than any ASO tool. Ask them? Create a survey inside the app and ask how they found the app? For their time reward them with coins or credits.

Q13. Situations where Apple ghost keywords. Is it still valid to add foreign languages in iTunes Connect so we can add foreign keywords even though the base app is not localized?

A13. Ahh… “ghosting”. If you know you targeted keywords and you did not support your choices in the description, there is a good chance Apple has “ghosted” those keywords. Keep it relevant and create your description around the keywords.  Yes, Mexican Spanish is a great way to add in additional keywords. I used to be hot on leveraging the default language and targeting English keywords in other languages of the App Store but I think it’s better to get better users by spending the time and money to localize the app. Fiverr is your best friend for this.

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Click the link below to listen to the Bluecloud Podcast about marketing your app and the evolution of ASO.

In this 60 minute session, you’ll hear:

  • Purchasing app templates
  • Developing apps while having a full-time job working on a yacht
  • Old hacks Ryan used to practice for ASO
  • Algorithm changes
  • The steps that go into an ASO audit
  • Creating a business before you publish an app
  • Testing App Store Optimization
  • Updates, and how often to release new updates
  • Giving and getting reviews
  • Building from templates for a unique experience
  • Using BETA testers
  • Translation VS Localization
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • The evolution of ASO

Resources mentioned:


Download this podcast episode on iTunes

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Please share this post with someone who you think would be inspired by this story!  You can also reach Ryan on Facebook, Twitter (i_am_ryankelley), and at
If you want to get started with apps (or at least learn about the business), download our free app “Cheat Sheet” here.
Catch you guys later,


  1. Helit

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