July 26, 2018Jennifer King
Editor’s Note: When creating an Alexa skill, you need to provide an invocation name that customers can use to invoke and interact with your skill. The most engaging skills have invocation names that are memorable and keep customers coming back over time. Today we welcome a community expert—Vasili Shynkarenka, CEO of Storyline—to share some best practices.
More Alexa skills are being published every day, delivering more engaging voice experiences to surprise and delight customers. Many of these experiences are great, but the ones that truly stand out do so because they are easy for customers to remember. We’ve seen more than 2,500 Alexa skills published through Storyline, and we’ve noticed that the best invocation names are searchable, simple, and explicit.
The Alexa Skills Store is filled with over 45,000 other skills. If customers can’t find your Alexa skill, they won’t be able to try it. That’s why it’s important to make sure your invocation name uses strategic keywords that align with what your target customers are searching for.
Searchable invocation names are ones that even first-time Echo customers with limited experience using Alexa can find. Here are some tips for writing searchable invocation names:
Let’s run through some examples for a skill about whale sounds.
Customer: Alexa, open Tahitian Whales.
The problem with this example is that most people probably don’t know that Tahitian whales exist; therefore, they won’t know you have a skill about Tahitian whale sounds. Let’s try it again.
Customer: Alexa, open Whale Sounds.
This is better, but we can optimize it for searchability and make it easier to find. Here’s a version I know everyone will be able to find even if they’re first-time Echo users:
Customer: Alexa, open Healing Whale Sounds.
Adding an adjective here helps you get more customers because your skill will be shown to people who just search for healing things.
We’ve also found that the best invocation names are simple and easy to understand. It starts with having a simple idea.
Simple ideas are ones that aren’t intertwined with other ideas. They are one-fold. A simple invocation name, therefore, expresses one idea. Do not crowd your skill name with multiple ideas; that’s how you make it complex. Some ideas may take more than four words to express a point, but you should try hard to do it in two or three words.
Let’s look at an example. Here’s a very early version of an invocation name a Storyline user came up with:
Customer: Alexa, open Relaxing Three Hours Yoga Sounds Meditation.
This skill builder put five ideas into this invocation name to try to convey exactly what he’s built and who it’s for. He tried to pack in all the little nuances of his skill into the invocation name. The result is an invocation name that’s difficult to remember.
Here’s the invocation name he ended up with after receiving some tips for how to explain his skill:
Customer: Alexa, open Calming Yoga Sounds.
It’s like a breath of fresh air—short, sweet, and easy to remember. Once you decide what idea you’re going to try to convey in an invocation name, you’ve got to figure out how to make sure your audience finds that idea. The best way to help people find the one idea is to make it explicit.
Explicit invocation names are ones that can be understood at a glance. Here’s a simple test you can use to test if an invocation name is explicit: Show it to a stranger and ask them to tell you what it means. If they don’t immediately say your idea, then it’s not explicit enough. This is because ideas that are explicit are very fast to understand.
It’s important that customers are able to understand your skill quickly for two reasons:
Let’s run through some examples for a workout skill.
Customer: Alexa, open Quick Sports Training.
That invocation name isn’t explicit. You can probably guess and figure out it represents some kind of workout skill, but it isn’t immediately clear.
Customer: Alexa, open Quick Workout.
This is better, but the idea I want to express could be more obvious.
Customer: Alexa, open Three-Minute Workout.
Boom. No need to guess what my Alexa skill does because I made it explicit.
Here are some other distractions you should avoid in your invocation name to ensure it’s explicit and obvious:
If you just do these three things, you’ll have an invocation name that anyone can probably remember. And since a memorable invocation name is the foundation for getting someone excited enough to want to come back to your skill, it’s a good place to start.
You can also share your Alexa skill name with beta testers to get feedback before publishing. Ask them what they expect the skill to do based on the name alone. You’ll quickly identify ways you can improve how you describe your skill to make it easier for customers to remember.