Here’s your guide to creating an Alexa skill with Shoutworks.
This guide will help you start using Shoutworks to grow and monetize your audience. We will show you:
- How to install the Shoutworks WordPress plugin
- How to create your Alexa skill with Shoutworks
- How to test and publish it in just a few minutes.
Some inspiration before we start
There are over 200 million Alexa devices out there, in almost 100 million homes. Now you can turn all those Alexa devices into your personal loudspeakers.
With your Alexa skill created through Shoutworks you’ll be able to:
- Send unlimited notifications to your audience through Amazon Alexa. These get 90%+ open rates in our testing, which means that 90% of people will listen to your notification when they receive it. For reference, when you send an email newsletter, only about 20 or 30% of people will read it on average – so 90% is really, really good. Use it wisely!
- Publish a custom Alexa skill for your podcast to get more listeners and increase engagement.
- Get featured by Amazon and distribute your content to millions of new people (we’ll show you how). People report getting 6,000+ new users per day.
- Get paid every month from Amazon through their “Alexa Developer Rewards” program, which rewards the top-performing skills in certain categories. People report making $10,000+ per month from this. You don’t need to be a developer to get it anymore.
- Drive short-term spikes in sales through the “flash voice promotion” method – pioneered by Nike, we teach you how to replicate it as well.
Before we start, play around with the Shoutworks Alexa skill to get a sense of the features and functionality we are working with.
Okay, assuming you have signed up for Shoutworks, let’s get started!
Step 1: Install the Shoutworks plugin on your WordPress site
When you sign up for Shoutworks you receive an email including your License Key. It looks like this:
Highlight the whole thing and copy it. You’ll need it in a second.
Next, go to your WordPress site’s admin dashboard. You should be able to access it by typing “yourdomain.com/wp-admin” and logging in.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see your WordPress admin dashboard. Great! On the left-hand side, click on “Plugins” and then “Add New”.
Search “Shoutworks” in the search bar on the right. When you see the Shoutworks plugin, click “Install” and when that’s done, click “Activate”.
Great job, just one step to go!
Click on the new “Shoutworks” option on the left-hand side of your WordPress admin panel.
Inside the plugin, click on the “License” tab…
…Then paste in the License Key you received via email, and click “Activate License.”
There you go! Your Shoutworks plugin is installed and activated. You are now ready to move on to creating your Alexa skill!
PS: If you haven’t yet signed up for Shoutworks, you can also sign up for free using the form provided right there in the License tab.
PPS: Signed up, but didn’t receive your License Key? Request another email here.
Step 2: Create your Alexa skill
How it works
Alexa is like an actor. She is lovely and charismatic, and has already won the audience’s trust – but she doesn’t know what to say next. She needs the script. That’s where you come in.
Inside the Shoutworks plugin is where you give her the script she’ll say when someone opens up your Alexa skill. She will say whatever script you put into the plugin – whether you write it yourself or copy it from somewhere else.
First things first, what will your Alexa skill sound like? It will go something like this:
User: “Alexa, open [Science Daily].”
Alexa: “Welcome to [Science Daily]. [This Alexa skill is here to help you learn science]. You can select any of the following options:
1) [Science Facts]
2) [Bird of the Month]
3) [Trees Weekly]
4) [Science Rules Podcast]
Or, you can just say ‘send an email’ to send us a message. Which one would you like to hear?”
User: “Science Facts.”
Alexa: “Item 1: [Here’s your science fact for today…]”
The words in [Brackets] are the ones you can edit!
Your Alexa skill will have this exact same general structure: A menu with categories, and posts within each category. As you’ll see, you can edit the categories and posts within them to your heart’s content.
Categories and Posts
In Shoutworks, you can edit the name of any category, and choose how many categories you want to have.
You can also edit the content of each post, and how many posts you want in each category. Posts are unlimited!
One of the categories is for a podcast. For the other non-podcast categories, you write the script that Alexa will deliver in her own voice.
By clicking on the Engage tab, you can start editing your categories (Deal of the day, Flash Briefing, etc.) and the content that goes inside each one.
Here’s generally how your Alexa skill is structured:
Remember: You can change the category title to be anything you want! It doesn’t have to be “Science Facts” or “Bird of the Month” – you decide. You can also edit everything about the posts. More on that later.
But first, let’s start with the way Alexa will introduce you – in the Inform tab!
Inform tab: Tell Alexa how to introduce you
Now you’re ready to really start creating your new Alexa skill. The first step is to click on the Inform tab.
Here is where you type in the script you want Alexa to say when she introduces your skill. After she says “Welcome to [your skill name],” Alexa will say the text you type in here.
Keep in mind, Alexa will say this every single time someone opens your Alexa skill—so keep it short and sweet!
Click Update and your changes will be saved. Don’t worry, your Alexa skill isn’t published yet—and you can always come back and edit this!
Edit the categories your Alexa skill will have
Click on the Engage tab to start editing the categories your Alexa skill will have.
You’ll see that we have 5 categories here—3 “scripted” categories (where Alexa reads your script), 1 Podcast category, and 1 Notifications category. We’ll come back to the Podcast and Notifications categories in a second since they’re a little easier. Let’s start with the 3 “scripted” categories at the top.
You’ll see that by default, the top 3 sections have the titles:
- “Blog Content Reader”;
- “Quote of the Day”;
- “Flash Briefing”.
You can change these! These ones you see are just placeholders. Here’s how to edit the category titles.
Click the pencil icon next to each category title to edit it.
Type in your new title, then click the check icon to save it.
You’ll see that you can change any of the category titles throughout your Alexa skill to make it fully yours.
There is also one category over in the “Sell” tab – this category works the same as all the others!
How to remove categories from your Alexa skill
Let’s say you only want 2 categories in your Alexa skill. You’ll have to remove the others. This is easy to do in Shoutworks. Just go to the Shoutworks plugin, click the Engage or Sell tab and go to the category you want to remove.
Uncheck this box and press “Update” down at the bottom. That category is now removed from your Alexa skill.
How to change the number of posts included in each category
You can also edit the number of posts Alexa will have access to within each category. The default is set to 5, but you can change this to any number you’d like. Don’t forget to click Update.
This just means that Alexa will only have access to the most recent 5 posts (or however many you enter here).
How to edit the contents of each category
Now here’s how to edit the posts that are inside each category. You’ll see that each category has two buttons, “View Posts” and “Add New”.
Click “View Posts” to see all the posts that are currently in this category. When you do, you’ll see this page.
This is a list of the posts that are included in this category. There’s only one right now called “Hello world!”, but you can add as many new posts as you want (and you can delete “Hello world!” of course).
Inside that post is where you will write the words you want Alexa to say!
Alexa will always say the most recent post from your list. Now let’s take a look at how to create and edit posts.
How to add and edit your Alexa skill’s posts, or “items”
To create a new post, click the “Add [Category Name]” button on the top of the page.
Now give the post a title and then write whatever content you want inside. This is Alexa’s script!
Alexa will read out whatever you write in both the title and the content underneath.
When you’re done, click “Publish” to publish the post immediately.
Want to schedule the post for the future? Click on “Immediately” and choose a future date and time.
Receive messages from Alexa users
Next, click on the Support tab. In your Alexa skill, when users say “Send a message”, they can dictate a message that Alexa sends to you.
Which email do you want to use to receive these messages from users? That’s what you put here in the Support tab.
Please note that once you press Update, you’ll receive an email in your inbox to validate this email address—if you don’t validate it, your user messages won’t come through!
Testing your Skill
Great work! You’re almost done with your skill. The next step is to test it out and make sure it sounds the way you want.
To start testing, click on the Create Alexa Skill tab.
First up, you need to add a custom icon to your skill, so it represents your brand. Scroll down to the bottom and click “Choose Skill Icon”.
It is important that you choose an image that is exactly 512px by 512px, in PNG format, and not more than 1MB in size. These requirements come from Amazon. You can use a tool like Canva or Pixlr to resize it fast.
When that’s done, scroll up and add a Skill Name and Invocation Name. Here’s an explanation of the difference between them.
You’ll then enter the email address associated with your Amazon or Alexa account. That’s where you will receive a link to test the private version of your Alexa skill.
Click Preview Alexa Skill, then check your email and follow the instructions to test your Skill!
And remember: You can change the content and categories after you test your Skill, before publishing!
Publishing your Skill
Finally, when you’re ready to publish your Skill, just hit the Publish button and Shoutworks will magically publish your Skill for you. It can take up to 2 minutes to submit your Skill to Amazon, so be patient and don’t refresh the page.
Your Skill is almost live!
Once you’ve pressed Publish, Amazon needs to review your skill. This can take anywhere from a few hours on weekdays to 3-4 days if you submit on a Friday night. In addition to the automated testing they do, an actual person will review your skill before it goes live. Once it’s approved and published, you’ll receive an email telling you the good news!
What if my Skill is rejected by Amazon?
This happens from time to time, and it’s completely normal. The Shoutworks team will work with you to figure out what the reason for rejection is, fix it, and resubmit as quickly as possible.
Skill published! Now tell the world
Now you know how to customize, test, and publish an Alexa Skill with Shoutworks. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start growing and monetizing your audience through Alexa!
For an in-depth look at how to use Alexa to grow and monetize your audience, check out our mini-course on the subject.
Watch your skill grow with Shoutworks analytics
Making changes after your Skill is published
That’s right: You can change the content of your Skill any time after publishing, and it will update within seconds! So you can change things as you go, no worries about getting everything just right the first time.
Just bear in mind that in the current version of Shoutworks, you can’t add, edit, or delete categories after publishing. For example, if you published your Skill without a Deal of the Day, you won’t be able to add one later. We’re working on it for future versions!
However, if you published your Skill with Flash Briefings, you can change and edit any of the individual posts within the Flash Briefings category to your heart’s content, and hear Alexa deliver your updated content seconds after you’ve made your changes.
This way, you can tweak the content you deliver based on feedback you get from real users, and use Shoutworks to make your Skill better and better over time.
Now get out there and grow and monetize your audience through Alexa!