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We get this question a lot, so we thought we’d write a whole post about it!
What your Skill is called, and what Invocation Name you choose, can really affect how your Skill performs out in the marketplace. If you have a fairly memorable, descriptive Skill and Invocation name, it can make all the difference.
Skill Name vs. Invocation Name
First, what is the difference between a Skill Name and the Skill’s Invocation Name?
Here’s the short version:
The Skill Name is what users see.
The Invocation Name is what users say.
The Skill Name is what users see when they look on the Amazon Alexa Skill Store. Let’s take the example of the Make Me Smart Skill. In this Skill, the Skill Name is Make Me Smart.
The Invocation Name is what users say to Alexa when they want to call up your Skill. This should be three words or less, and easy to remember. To call up the Make Me Smart Skill, users just have to say “Alexa, make me smart!”
But the key difference is that you can name your Skill something (the Skill Name) that’s different from how they call up the Skill on Alexa (the Invocation Name). It might be better to keep them the same so users remember more easily, but you do you!
Here are a few examples to get you inspired:
Examples from real skills
Skill Name: Boss Baby
- Invocation Name: boss baby
- Example: “Alexa, open boss baby.”
- Invocation Name: guided meditation
- Example: “Alexa, open guided meditation.”
Skill Name: The Economist Espresso
- Invocation Name: espresso
- Example: “ Alexa, ask espresso for Today’s Agenda.”
After months of hard work from our team, Shoutworks is finally ready for the world to see. It’s definitely not perfect, so please tell us what you think should be improved by writing to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wanted to build something that would allow many more people to take advantage of the voice revolution that has slowly taken over our lives. There’s a voice tidal wave coming, and we’re distributing surfboards!
More on this to come…
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!
What would the world be like without “do-gooders” doing all the hard work of changing things for the better?
Without organizations like the Red Cross, The Boys & Girls Clubs, and The Alzheimer’s Association with their incredible missions our world would be much less wonderful.
We at Shoutworks think it’s important that all non-profits be heard. And what better way than over Alexa devices. That’s why we offer non-profit organizations special pricing.
Simply sign up for the lower priced non-profit service on our Pricing & Plans page. You will get the same service as our full priced offering but at a 50% discount.
When you sign up you will get your first month free and during that month our Director of Non-Profit Programs will contact you to verify that you are truly a recognized non-profit organization. We will ask for your tax ID so we can check it in GuideStar to verify your non-profit status.
Stay tuned for more special thigs we have in store for non-profit organizations…
Here’s how to create an awesome Flash Briefing Skill for the Amazon Alexa in just a few minutes, using Shoutworks.
Here’s a summary of this article:
- There are over 200 million Alexa devices in the US and 4 billion Alexa-ready devices worldwide. This platform is ripe for conquering!
- The top Flash Briefings have gotten 100,000+ reviews and ratings on the Alexa store altogether, making this one of the most popular Skill formats out there.
- A Flash Briefing is like a more interactive version of a podcast. They are a great way to become a part of someone’s daily or weekly routine. For example, you just say “Alexa, Make Me Smart!” and it plays the Marketplace finance podcast!
You type and Alexa reads…
There are a lot of Alexa devices out there. The latest stats show that consumers have over 200 million Alexa devices, in over 80 million homes in the US alone—and those numbers have only grown in the year since.
What’s even better for the aspiring voice marketer is that almost all smartphones and laptops out there are Alexa-ready, meaning they can run the Alexa app and let you access the full Alexa Skill library on-device. That’s over 4 billion devices!
Still, the most popular Alexa Skills are simple to make and to use. You could be broadcasting your weekly newsletter for anyone to listen, announcing updates about your business, or even sending out game summaries of your kid’s little league games to your neighbors. The possibilities are endless!
The reality is that until now, actually making a Skill has been pretty tough. You needed technical knowledge and persistence. That’s where Shoutworks comes in, making it as easy as typing into your WordPress admin panel.
So now that the road is wide open, the question is: What to make?
One of the top Skill types: The Flash Briefing
One of your best options is the Flash Briefing. It’s a simple concept that’s formed the base for some of the most popular Skills to date. What is a Flash Briefing, why do people like it, and what are some good examples to use to build your own?
First, there is no disputing that Flash Briefings are popular. The top 10 have more than 100,000 ratings combined!
NPR’s top Flash Briefing Skill, for example, has over 26,000 reviews on the store, most of them five-star. Why is that? Because they’ve created a great experience of listening to content people want to hear through Alexa. Not only that, but they let you navigate through to find your own member station, or find your favorite program, all just using your voice.
The best part is, it’s not just NPR. Not only Reuters, or Marketplace, or the big news outlets. There are tons of Skills targeted at niche user bases too!
Like the Everyday Positivity Flash Briefing, for example. Every day, its host Kate Cocker shares real-world, practical optimism with her listeners—having a big impact on them and their lives. Everyday Positivity has almost 400 rave reviews on the Skill store, and many more avid listeners.
Shoutworks makes it possible for you to do the same. What kind of Flash Briefing will engage your people every day, or every week?
Getting Started: Building your first Flash Briefing
Here are the steps involved in creating an amazing Flash Briefing that will engage your people and keep them coming back for more.
- Decide on the content for your Briefing.
- Put your content into Shoutworks, preview, and publish.
- Promote your Skill to the world!
Decide on the content of your Briefing
What would your people want to listen to every day or every week? What news, tips, ideas, or stories could you share on a regular basis to give people something of value in their day-to-day lives? Here are a few examples to get you started:
- NPR’s Up First
- Word of the Day Flash Briefing
- Make Me Smart by Marketplace
- This Day in History
- Guided Meditation
What else could you do a Briefing about? Marketing tips, travel inspiration, favorite recipes? The only limit is your imagination!
Put your content into Shoutworks, preview, and publish
Go to our Quick Start Guide for a step-by-step tutorial on how to put your content into Shoutworks, and test and publish your new Alexa Skill. Remember to keep the Flash Briefing box checked on the Engage tab, as seen below. If you want your Skill to be a Flash Briefing and nothing else, be sure to un-check all the other features (even on the Sell tab), then press Update!
Feel free to use content you already have, and repurpose it here. For instance, if you have a newsletter, you can just copy-paste the content directly into Shoutworks to create your new Skill.
If you are creating your Skill’s content from scratch, you can write it directly into your WordPress admin panel, in the Shoutworks plugin. See the Quick Start Guide for how to do it!
Promote your Skill to the world!
Once your Skill is up, now everyone can start using it! They’ll be able to find it themselves on the Amazon Alexa Skill Store, but why wait for them? You can begin engaging the Alexa users in your audience today through your new Flash Briefing. Tell people to ask Alexa about your new Skill, or send them the link to your Skill’s page on the Alexa store.
Last but not least, be sure to put the Shoutworks “Live on the Alexa” button up on your website where every visitor can see it. It will show them how tech-savvy you are, and that you’re committed to delivering them insights and value wherever they are. That button can be found on your Downloads page, down at the bottom.
Sometimes people just want a little nibble of delight and an interesting, humorous, thought provoking quote can be just what they need. It’s a daily dose of something special that you can offer your audience and now they can hear what you have curated for them on their Alexa.
It will take you just a few minutes to find and post quotes using the Shoutworks plugin and within seconds your audience can hear what you have selected for them. Hopefully it will make them smile.
If you can hook them, it will become a daily habit that will greatly increase your website/content engagement. It can also get people talking about your website. We call this the water cooler effect.
A smart person like you is probably thinking: why Alexa? I can just post the quotes on my web page and get people to visit my site.
The problem is that your website is not everywhere, but the Alexa is virtually everywhere and easy to use.
Picture this… It’s six in the morning and one of your people wakes up… They ask their Alexa the weather (could be good or could be bad) and traffic (probably bad) then they ask for your quote of the day… “If at first you don’t succeed, then sky diving is not for you. Take that one off your to do list.”
You just made someone smile!
With Shoutworks you can take a few minutes once a week and set up quotes for the entire week. The same way you set the time and date for a blog post, you can set the day you want the quote to go live. Why not just set up quotes for the whole month?
It’s easy to find some great quotes. See the list at the end of the article to get you started. If you find quotes that make you smile, laugh, or surprise you… Then you can be sure they will delight others.
Here are the steps to set up your daily quotes:
1) Log into your WordPress Dashboard then click on Quotes of the day. Then click on the [ Add Quote Of The Day ] button.
2) Type in your Quote Title and the quote, set the publish date/time, then click on the [ Publish ] button. That’s it… The Alexa will now read your quote.
3) You can use the steps above to post your quotes for the week or month. Just set the publish date/time and Alexa is pretty smart about this kind of stuff.
See below for some links to places you can find some interesting quotes.
There are millions of places with interesting quotes out on the internet.
If you have a specific area of interest then just google something like “Quote about Vegan Cooking” and see what comes up.
Starter sources for quotes ———————————————————————-
Healthy Living Quotes:
What does your WordPress site really add to the world? Why will people need to read and, now with Shoutworks and the Alexa, hear what you have to say?
The big problem is people only have so much time to split between their family, jobs and Netflix. There are only so many hours and minutes in the day.
You need to tell people quickly and concisely what your web page is all about. How will you make their day just a little bit better? And more importantly, why should they listen to what the Alexa has to say about your website?
Let me start with a little story to illustrate the eight-word dilemma…
Many years ago, I was at a trade show. There were hundreds of booths representing all sorts of companies. I didn’t have a lot of time so I just wanted to walk up and down the aisles and see what caught my attention. Unfortunately, most companies spent a lot of money and traveled a long way but their marvelously constructed trade show booths did not concisely say what the companies actually could do for me. The right eight words would have stopped me and made me want to engage with the company to learn more.
This is why Shoutworks provides you a quick way to Inform people about exactly what you do and why it will change their world. It’s the first thing Alexa will say when people open your website Skill. It assures visitors they have come to the right place and sort of invites them inside your world.
The Shoutworks “Inform” box can take a lot of text. We haven’t really tested how much it can take. Hundreds of words maybe. But take my word for it… less is more. Try to keep it to eight or less words.
The key thing is that by the time the Alexa says your last word people need to remember the first word.
Also, the shorter your “Inform” description is the more likely people will talk about it. You want people to hear your “Inform” description on the Alexa and be able to tell their friends what you are all about.
Fill in the blank… “I just heard a great website all about _________________”
A short description helps them remember and tell others.
You may already have your great eight words but if you don’t or want to make them better here are some basic steps to formulate your “Inform” description:
- Open a word-processing document and be ready to brainstorm.
- Don’t think too hard at this point. <- This should be easy.
- Randomly type words and phrases all related to your website and why you exist. The more words now the better. Be unstructured and let the words flow.
- Next scan through the list and pick out the words that get you the most excited. It’s okay if there are more than eight at this point.
- Next pick the eight words that really describe what you do.
- Try to piece the words together into a descriptive line. (Note: Connecting words like The, For, A, etc… Do not count for your eight word count. )
- Try your description out on people and see how they react. A string indicator is that they want to hear more.
- Cut, prune, add, words and keep trying them out on people until you get to something that really gets you and others excited.
When you construct your description it’s always good to try and surprise and delight people.
Once you formulate your site description here are the steps to set it up so Alexa will use it to introduce your website:
- Log into your WordPress Dashboard then click on Shoutworks in the dashboard.
- The Shoutwork plugin panel will appear. Click in the |Inform | tab.
- The Shoutworks Inform screen will appear. Our AI may have already filled something in here but if you want to change it type in your shiny new site description then click on the [ Update ] button. Don’t forget to click on that [ Update ] button.
Within minutes the Alexa will read your new site description to the world.
Here’s another quick example of what a great company/site description can do….
There was this small company that was entering the very crowded and fragmented area of investment news, education, and trading data. There were the known big companies in this category like Standard & Poor’s, Bloomberg, and MarketWatch. And there were another fifty small players.
How could this company differentiate themselves in this crowded pack of wild hungry hyenas?
Using the steps above they formulated the eight words that would launch the company and help people know why they were different and worth their time.
This is what they came up with… “Better Strategies For Making Money – For People With A Sense Of Humor.”
If you cut out the connecting words (For, With, A, Of) there are only seven words.
And if you didn’t get it by reading their description, they added this at the top of their service page: “This Is How The Big Guys Do It… That’s How They Got So Big!”
How many words… Cut out the connecting words (This, Is, How, The, It, That’s, How, They) and you have six words.
I have been calling this a site description but it can also be called a slogan or tag line. I don’t want to sound to much like a 21st Century Don Draper but a good site description or slogan can make a big difference.
To help you get started on your journey to a better site description here are some resources out on the web. Have fun…
Sites Description, Slogan, Tag Line Resources ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::