219 – Create Alexa Skills right inside of WordPress with Shoutworks

Interview with Christian Petroske and Nathan Wrigley

So the podcast today might catch you a little off guard! It’s not something that I’ve ever played with before. Today we’re talking about Shoutworks, which is a WordPress plugin that lets you boost your voice SEO by creating an Amazon Alexa skill in one click right from inside WordPress.

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Wait… What! Is this even a thing? Why would I ever want to do that?

These are the kind of questions that I had in my mind before I spoke to Christian Petroske about the plugin. I just could not get my head around why I would even want to think about voice search. I thought that Google took care of all that without any need for me to do anything!

Turns out there’s more to this than I’d imagined. A lot more!

We spent quite a lot of time at the beginning of the podcast talking about Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google home (et al.); what these devices are capable of and how they’re getting better and better, and more popular.

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I think that it’s a safe bet to say that many of us have these types of devices in our home and that trend is set to continue. I’m carrying out some pretty basic searches on my devices, but I can certainly see the utility of them and the fact that you can access them all the time without having to disengage with what you’re currently doing.

We talk about what can these IoT devices can actually do; what they’re perfect for and how people are starting to use them.

We talk about whether there’s a need for WordPress people to think about this kind of technology as an extension of a website, or is it enough just to be thinking about desktop and mobile displays.

How are people using IoT devices nowadays? It might be that you’re a real early adopter of this kind of technology and push them to their limits, but it might be (like me) that you just ask them some pretty basic stuff and don’t really know the power that they can bring to bear. Are they just for asking what day of the week it is, or can them perform complex and actually useful functions in our lives.

We also talk about the remarkable rise in adoption rates and the fact that these devices are being bought up almost as fast as the manufacturers can get them off the production lines. You know how mobile took over a few years back? Well, this could be a similar inflection point, but you have to try to understand how it’s similar to, and different from, the screen-based devices that we all use today.

Then we get into the actual WordPress plug-in and how it can be used. What are the six different variations that the plugin actually enables you to do? And it turns out that it’s perfect for things like podcasting and notifications! Great news for me! Christian speaks about some of the innovative ways that his current customer base have started to use the plugin – it’s all very inspirational.

Although it’s very brief, we do touch on some of the security concerns that you might have with this kind of technology.

Honestly, this is a really interesting episode, and like nothing that we’ve ever covered before. So give it a listen and then post a comment below, or in the WP Builds Facebook Group.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan wrigley.
Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 219 entitled create Alexa skills right inside of WordPress with shout works. It was published on Thursday, the 4th of March, 2021, my name's Nathan Wrigley. And just a couple of things before we begin the main podcast, head over to WP Builds.com.
And over there you'll find the content we produce in the WordPress space each week. It's a podcast episode every Thursday, right? That's what you're listening to now. And then on a Monday, we created eight. The, this week in WordPress news posts, that's a live show and you can. I find it a WP Builds.com forward slash live.
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It's a searchable filterable list. And I like to say it's a bit like black Friday, but every day of the week, those. Offers never expire. So they're there all the time. And finally, if you would like to advertise your product or service in front of a WordPress specific audience, then go to WP Builds.com forward slash advertise a bit like Cloudways.
Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform. Some of the features include 24 seven support free migrations and dedicated firewalls. Find out more at cloudways.com.
And AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time? Like in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and test anything against anything else? Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is it works with element or Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor.
Check it out and get a free [email protected]. Okay, let's get on with the main podcast. Shall we, as I said, right at the top episode, 219 is all about creating Alexa skills and I'm joined by Christian from shout works to tell us how his plugin will help you to do that. Now, I don't know if you'll like me, but.
You found yourself slowly but surely filling up your house with IOT devices and especially from people like Apple and Amazon and Google. It turns out that we're now increasingly consuming our content, be that news or whatever it may be on those devices. They're talking to us. And can we in some way make it, so that notifications from things like your latest blog post or a product discount that you've got so that they come out of that speaker?
It turns out that you can, and Christian's here today to explain how you can do all of that. I have to confess at the beginning, it was a little bit out of my wheelhouse, but as the podcast went on, I became more and more convinced that this is possibly the future. I'm sure that voice interfaces will only be growing in the near future.
And it would be useful for us to all know how this kind of thing can be done. I hope that you enjoy the podcast. Welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Thank you for joining us one small or at the interview stage this week. I don't know if you listen to this very regularly, but if you do, you know that we do a discussion episode with myself and David Wamsley one week, and then on the alternate week, we do an interview episode.
Usually that interview involves the product founder or maybe a CEO of a company, something like that. And today I am literally delving my toes into completely new waters. Prior to having this conversation, we've spoken for about 20 minutes and my ignorance is in abundancy. So I'm going to welcome to the show Christian Petroski.
Have I said that right?
Christian Petroske: [00:04:36] You have to be here. Thank
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:39] you, Nathan. No, you're very welcome. Christian comes to us from Paris, although he's clearly got an American accent. I know it's not something that we're specifically going to talk about, but you just got to share your little journey, how you got to be on a podcast today about WordPress.
In other words, how did you end up in Paris? How did you end up building things for WordPress? Anything you like? Just give us a bit of a potted history of yourself.
Christian Petroske: [00:05:00] Sure. Yeah, it's a been a wild ride. No, I'm from New York originally. I got the chance to go work and live in Singapore for two years.
And at the end of that, my girlfriend was moving to Paris for her master's degree. She said, come stay with me. And I couldn't refuse that. So I came in and met my now co-founder in this business in shot works a guy named Boudica. Who's from Sri Lanka, great guy. The, the mastermind behind the technical side of the product of shout works.
And we met, we were working on a different business when we came up with this idea and and so we built it maybe about a year ago. The first version came out very first.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:42] Okay. Thank you so much. That's really interesting. The. The URL I'm going to mention is shout works.com. Let's get that out the way.
It's exactly as you'd imagine, shout sho UT works, w O R K S no spaces, nothing like that. Dot com. And over there, you're going to find something that I suspect is new to you as well, because we're straying into the world today of home-based interconnected IOT devices. But more particularly. We're straying into the Amazon realm today because we're going to be talking about a product that we all know and love.
Maybe you've got some of these hockey POCs sitting on your shelves. Maybe you got some of their TV based devices or some of their screens. Now, just before we start, Christian, am I allowed to say the word on a podcast? The word beginning with a, which is the name of the product, because isn't that the word which triggers it to switch itself?
Christian Petroske: [00:06:36] Yeah. So if someone is Playing it on their device. It might have some trouble. So they've actually released a, an update recently that is supposed to counteract that. So you, I think you can say Alexa let's test.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:48] Yeah. Alexa, Alex. Alexa. Yeah. Anyone? Anyone? Yeah. Over the world, there were a few devices going off.
I don't know, but that's good. No, I'm good to know because I listened to another podcast over on the twit network called this week in Google and they call it Madam a. Because of historically they were right at the, be talking about it for years and they had quite a lot of complaints from people saying, you just keep triggering my devices when you stop saying it.
So anyway, we've got that out of the way.
Christian Petroske: [00:07:13] So I like that actually, we can use that.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:16] Okay. Yeah. I'll forget that. So let's just stick with Alexa and see how we go. So if we go over to the the shout works.com website, you get to a page which says at the top. The sort of USP has cut through the noise to grow your audience.
And the intention here is we've got a WordPress plugin, which L enable you to build things inside of Amazon Alexa. Now, before we get into any of this, how it's implemented, how it works, what you do and all of that, I think it would be very important to lay some groundwork here, to discuss what Alexa is capable of, what it.
Can do now, because my suspicion is that a lot of people will have these devices, whether it's the Apple equivalent or the Google equivalent, or in this case, the Amazon equivalent it'll sit there and it will be used for a very narrow set of things. You've probably got familiar with a set of voice commands that you use, which fit your life, but would appear from the conversation that we had earlier that these capabilities are growing over time.
So a bit of a broad question, but where are we? What's the state of play? What kind of things are these devices capable of? In other words, why would we want to explore shout works.com what is it doing?
Christian Petroske: [00:08:24] Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, if you have one of these devices, whether it's a Google home or Amazon Alexa or Samsung Bixby now on your phones, if you have a Samsung phone or Siri, Apple, Siri you're I know I am.
Constantly using them for timers and asking the weather and saying, okay, cause I'm living in Europe. Oh, what is this temperature in Fahrenheit or something. Yeah, so I think. From when Alexa came out in 2012 they, they're pretty good at doing very simple things and I think most people use them just for that.
But recently what has been really cool to watch is that now they've started coming out with games and stories and quizzes and all kinds of fun stuff that you can do on Alexa. And now. The this is all through your voice. I know that there are occasionally like, that Amazon just came out with an echo show.
So it's actually got. A screen on it to, you can ask it to play YouTube videos and stuff. But for the most part, most people have just the only the speaker, right? So it's only with your voice, but you can actually play games, right? Like one of my favorite ones recently was this one called cursive painting where you can explore ancient ruins and uncover the secret of the cursive painting.
To stop the undead curse, that's plaguing the kingdom and all this stuff. Yeah, adapted from a board game. But they adapt it to your voice and it's essentially just, a narrator taking you through it and you get to make choices about what to do next. Is it like a
Nathan Wrigley: [00:09:54] turn by turn game? You tell it what to do, and then it gives you the next set of narration.
And then you figure out from where you're at, what you want to do next kind of thing. Exactly.
Christian Petroske: [00:10:02] Exactly. So you can get the idea of what the logic is behind it, where you have the interface is very different, right? We're used to like seeing stuff on a screen and clicking it and capping it or whatever.
With Alexa it's very much just like a conversation. And so this is where you can get into the very advanced conferences, conversational design, and. Stuff. But I think the best way to think about it is just you know what we're doing right now. We're just having conversation. I say stuff, you say stuff, what you say affects what I say, blah, blah, blah.
Yeah. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:10:30] You see the use case that I've got for my home devices is basically very small in that I will ask it, questions where there is an actual answer. So I'll want to know what the time is in. I don't know London or something like that, or New York, I might ask it an answer to a question that I'm stumped on my kid's homework.
So what is the chemical symbol for such and such or what is the square root of such and such? It's extremely good at those kinds of things. And so when we connected and we S we started having this conversation about let's talk let's we've got a plugin that. Creates a connection with that Amazon's Alexa products.
I was really scratching my head thinking what possible use is there for this? And of course it turns out that it, I'm consuming content all the time. I play podcast episodes manually. And I listened to those and I listened to songs and yeah, so I can actually see that immediately after our conversation a few minutes ago, where this might be going, you could turn your content from your WordPress website.
Into audible content, but we'll get onto that in a little while if that's all right. One of the, one of the things I'm interested in is what are these things called? You? You mentioned a name of skills. I believe it was, is that what we're dealing with? If you want to teach Amazon's Alexa stuff to do something, you have to go through the process of creating skills.
Is that right? That's right.
Christian Petroske: [00:11:52] That's right. The way you can think about it is as. We have WordPress plugins, and the plugins are like apps for WordPress where, you can add it to your WordPress. And it does all kinds of other stuff, same thing for Alexa skills. So it's just the name that they give the apps for Alexa.
And it does all kinds of stuff from find my phone to playing podcasts or or even like cursing, painting, or playing games or whatever. Okay, so wide variety. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:22] Yeah. If you were coming to this as a an ordinary human being, let's use the example, which I often use of my grandmother, who is not very technical, shall we say, would, is there an interface, is there a way to create these skills yourself?
So a good example might be, let's use WP Builds as an example. If she wanted to have it such that. Alexa could play the latest podcast episode from WP Builds. Could she build that skill in any kind of UI that Amazon offer or are we in developer territory? You need to have certain technical skills to pull that one off.
Christian Petroske: [00:12:59] Yeah it's really in developer territory, Amazon. So the answer is pretty much that you have to be a developer to get it, to work the way you want to. Amazon has rolled out something that is a bit experimental. It's called Amazon blueprints, and they've basically released a bunch of Alexa skills templates, where you can go and you can make your own Alexa skill using one of their templates.
But they're super limited. It's honestly, it was difficult for me to figure out the grandma. I definitely don't want to, I want to cut her some Slack. Maybe she could do it, but but yeah we saw that and we were like, okay, we gotta make this
Nathan Wrigley: [00:13:37] easier. Okay. So at the minute, Building, this sort of stuff is difficult.
Okay. So with skills, again, we're staying away from the WordPress plugin side of things at the moment with skills, what kind of things are available to you? Should you be a developer and you wish to go out and build solutions for Amazon, stay with Amazon because that's where we're at today. What kind of things are available as skills?
What kind of offerable things can you do? Yeah.
Christian Petroske: [00:14:01] So I, I think there's a lot of possibilities for what you can do. I think one of the best places to start might be. What are people actually listening to and interacting with Alexa to do? You said a bunch of good stuff, which is weather music, podcasts, and it's true.
Actually the most popular use cases of Alexa are in those areas. They're utilities like timers weather. Stuff like that turn on and off the lights, that kind of stuff. And then there's content which you can split into music. News. And those are by far the biggest use cases of Alexa that are used by the millions and millions of people who have these devices.
So I think that's one thing to remember from the outset now there are a lot of if you want to dive in and do some of the more advanced stuff there's a lot of advanced stuff that you can do. If you really. Commit yourself to it for like months and months, or you want to hire a developer or something, you can build really complex games where where it's like a choose your own adventure story where you can build in like multiple kind of universes into one One one skill and into one story where you can have like multiple branching realities that people can choose from.
Oh, let's do you want to make choice a or B? Do you want to go down the left path or the right path? Okay. Let's see. What's down the right path. And then Alexa will take you down there and tell you what's there. But but I think by far the most used features are the most used things are.
Our content and utilities still got it. And so that's really where the opportunity is for most people who have a blog or a podcast, right? Yeah. Because you're putting out all this content here we have, I, we were pretty amazed actually by how. How widespread Alexa alone is not to mention, Google and Samsung and all these others, show me all those others.
And that there have been now over 200 million Alexa devices sold. I believe I have the latest figure. That's nuts. That's a lot devices. It's true. It's funny. We were talking right. How you've you first? Got to know Alexa, because your parents bought the device. I, it was the same thing for me, like at the first interaction I had with these devices or when my parents bought them a couple of years ago.
And I was like, would you really, you sure you want like Amazon and listening and your living room all the time. But it turns out that these things are really not only are they fun, but they're really useful and very convenient in a lot of ways. And and they've been just like adding to it like crazy now.
And it's been really exciting to see some of the latest developments.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:16:37] Yeah, let's get into that in a minute, the sort of developments and the numbers and all of that, but again, just harking back to the. The discussion that we had before we clicked record it is such a big goaling interface because I'm so used to first start, let's go back 15 years.
I'm so used to the keyboard and the screen. And then along comes the laptop with the flat led led display. And you can take it wherever you want in the house. And that suddenly made the computer much more utilitarian. I could use it all over the place and then go back eight, nine years. Outcomes of the iPhone.
And suddenly I've got this little computing device with me all the time, basically a fully functional computer in my pocket, but it is it's obstructive to my day and that, I have to give it. I'll have to give it the eyeball. I have to stop what I'm doing. And I have to look down at it and interact with it.
Often both of my hands are engaged. So whatever I'm holding has to be put down, my eyes are engaged. So basically it's fully taken my attention. And in many cases, this is really the last thing I want. I really would like to be able to just talk. And so I found that the speakers in my house are getting a lot of use for just playing things like the news consuming content in that way.
And I think this is great. And it's, I remember just when I was a child, my mother would play the radio constantly and I would imbibe the news that was going on the radio without having to stop doing anything, my day would continue. It I'd carry on eating my breakfast and so on. And the news would just by osmosis in a way it would comment.
I really do feel there's a bright future for these devices and it's not the internet as we know it, it's not pixels on screens, but I'm just wondering, is that the sort of direction of travel do you mentioned 200 million devices that have been sold, which sounds incredible, but is it.
Is it something which is like, what does that curve look like? Does it continue to go up? Is it steady? Do you see this as a, are we looking at a fad here where people get bored of this? Is it going into developing countries? How is it progressing?
Christian Petroske: [00:18:33] Yeah. Good, really good questions. Feel like, yeah you touched on the first point, which is that Which is that like I know at least for me, when I first started getting into the kind of voice world or Alexa or whatever, I got my Alexa device and I started using it and started listening to podcasts more.
I didn't really realize how much of my time I was spending like. Not looking at a screen and how much more content I could start to. I could start to digest by doing it with audio, right? Where you get the audio book, you get podcasts. And now I'm like a voracious listener, podcasts audio books.
I love them. So I think, yeah, it just drove home for me, how much of our lives we spend, like not looking at screens and that, if, but if you're looking from the opposite angle of your creator of content, like those are opportunities, that time, that attention that's an opportunity for you.
So that's one thing. And then the next thing is in terms of okay, so 200 million, that's a lot. Where's it going? I believe I don't, I need to get the exact figure. I don't know the exact number, but I know that smart speaker ownership has been growing between 20 and 30% every year and is predicted to continue.
Yeah. So I think now the figure is at least in the U S more than one-third of Americans own a smart speaker of some kind. Yeah. It's crossed one third, which is not
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:58] true, truly incredible. The price point that these things can go out. When you, especially when you're on things like black Friday when Amazon and Google, and I don't know about the Apple equivalent, but Amazon and Google seemed to be in a price war.
And they're just like $29 for a device, which it might not have the best speaker, but it's functional. It's like a little hockey puck and it sits there and it totally works. Yeah. I'm exactly like you, I was enormously skeptical. I thought this is ridiculous. I don't want this thing. On in my house, listening to everything we say, and then I went through a period of time just not really understanding what it was for.
So I'd just ask it goofy questions, how do you say this in Chinese? What's the capital of I dunno some Mongolia or something like that. And then eventually you settle into a swing. You get into the stuff that you want to ask it. And in my case, it's okay. I've just woken up.
Yeah. And I say the words, which trigger the Google device. And I ask it to play the news and it dutifully, plays the news for me. And that's now part of my day. It's just everyday this happens. And as time goes on, I'm becoming more and more familiar with it and what it's capable of. And it's just, it's almost no, I don't want to say these words, but it's almost like a sort of benign kind of Alfred out of Batman.
It just sits there in the background and is helpful when you need it. It's amazing.
Christian Petroske: [00:21:13] That is definitely the goal, I think. Although I would be careful with what you ask because I, one time I have cats, I found a purring, cat, Alexa skills. So you opened this Alexa still, and it starts like purring, like a cat, and then your cats are supposed to like, re respond.
And so now all it recommends me is cat skills. Careful
Nathan Wrigley: [00:21:33] careful what you wish for. Okay. So really interesting. So we've established that it works, we've established that it's growing. So it seems to be that people are consuming content in this way, just to your point earlier about audio books as well.
And I was again talking to you earlier I was given the choice today. I really wanted to buy a book today. I've been meaning to get it for a little while and decided finally to make the purchase today. And there, I was either going to put it on my Kindle and read it or buy the audio book. And I instantly paid shelled out four times the cost of the Kindle.
A book ebook in order to have the audio version, because I just know that I can dip into content when I'm doing things like making breakfast or even, like mowing the lawn, whatever it might be. All of that stuff is available to me. Whereas the book, same reason. I've got to sit down and read it.
Now I almost these days, have you. Consuming audio books as reading. I know that people will find the word reading contentious there, but in a sense, everything is the same. My eyeballs aren't engaged, but the consumption of the content is the same. And actually for me, the way my brain seems to process things, the audio just sticks better than the text version.
Christian Petroske: [00:22:46] that's a great, that's a great point too actually is the accessibility piece, which I don't think we talk about enough. But it's really true like that there are tons of people out there who are either like find reading difficult for whatever reason. Whether it's like it's dyslexia or something else, like just, find it like very difficult to sit down and read long books.
And, but they still want to learn. They still want to get the information. And so they need. An audio version. And so there've been a bunch of apps that have come up, but so this is just like one other way that if you have a blog, for instance, you can plug in Shareworks and now your blog is available on Alexa.
That now people can, people like that can now gain access. So that's just one, one side point.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:29] No, that's great. I've just got one. Not one more sort of technical ish question, and then we'll get into what your plugin actually does and how it works and all that. The first thing is art.
Is there, are we looking at the future here of complete siloed ecosystems? In other words, is there any interoperability between the Amazon ecosystem, the Google ecosystem, in the same way that it required something like Zapier to come along to help us. Combine all of these different platforms, and you've got Google sheets over there and you've got email over here and you've got base camp and Slack and getting them to communicate is virtually impossible without a third party.
Are we facing that problem? Or is there some kind of interoperability, in other words, in the future, will it, will you be able to set this one thing up? And it will be available on all these IOT, homestyle devices. Yeah,
Christian Petroske: [00:24:20] really good question. So I think in the coming years is going to be a lot of tension and excitement about this question, because it is still an open question, whether whether.
We've got a bunch of big competitors in the U S it's Alexa and Google home. But then in the rest of the world, Jami is like almost the biggest one. I think it might be that their smart speaker might be the biggest one and then Samsung. Okay. They're in there too. But but it's true.
It would be a pain if you had to switch completely, if you decided to switch, you have to, Oh, I have to buy a new TV. Are you kidding me? So what actually this year all of the big smart speaker makers and voice assistant makers have a S have signed an inter interoperability initiative at the very first time.
So it's actually very timely question. They've just signed a big thing. It says, okay, we agree to a set of standards, or we will agree to set a standard is when we make them to make it possible for people to buy, TVs to buy. When you buy a new TV, you can choose whether you have Alexa or Google home on it.
Okay. If if you want to change, you don't have to throw out all your, all
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:24] your it's nothing that we're unfamiliar with. As an example, I've I have an Android phone my kids that got the Apple equivalent and there's just literally no interoperability there. They're just, they're totally separate ecosystems, but we manage somehow to, to get data from one to the other.
I don't quite know how it is always a bit of a muddle, in the macro S doesn't really do. Too. When when we're trying to do things on the windows platform and so on, they're just separate and maybe we're going to have to accommodate those, but yeah, it would be lovely to think that there were open standards for these kind of skills as they're called.
Christian Petroske: [00:25:56] Yeah. Okay. Like you said, on the service level and the like, okay. On the business level, let's say I have an app for studying right. Called there's one that I've used in the past called Quizzlet. Okay. That's a popular app for studying. If I'm using that app on my iPhone and then I want to switch over to an Android, I can still sign into the same account.
And get the same, get my study data or whatever. On, on that different device. So I think that will persist. And for us, like in our roadmap we plan to build stuff for Google Chrome as well. So in the future, you'll be able to click one button and publish to both places. But we're not there yet.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:30] I'll scrub that question off. That was going to come later. That's perfect. Yeah.
Christian Petroske: [00:26:36] No,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:36] we'll continue. Okay. The very final technical question is, do we need some kind of Amazon accounts? Do we need to have some kind of authentication from the Amazon and to be building the skills?
Christian Petroske: [00:26:49] So with showers, no.
You used to with all the other options out there you have to have an Amazon developer account specifically and you have to go to the, create it and all this stuff. We don't require you to do that because we built it in a way where where, it's branded by you, it's your skill.
But we're running everything through our Amazon developer account, but what it means is that. Is that you can just worry about, just pressing, publish in the share works interface. We can make it as nice as we want to. And I have to worry about Amazon. And neither do you, and you can have your scale up and published on the Amazon store without having to go through Oh, how do we become an Amazon developer?
And all this going through this like kind of weird interface that they've built through that's
Nathan Wrigley: [00:27:32] good. Yeah, that's really nice. Okay. Let's get stuck into the plugin itself. So there's a WordPress plugin. That's why we're talking today. Primarily. Okay. Let's imagine we all know how to install a WordPress plugin and activate it there.
That's a fair assumption. I would think with the audience that we've got, what happens next? What are we doing? What is this creating? How do we interact with it? Forget the use case of it. Forget what we might wish to do on the other end. Literally. How, what are we doing? What buttons are we pressing?
What does the interface feel like? Look
Christian Petroske: [00:28:00] yeah, totally. I I appreciate this challenge to describe it is very on-brand, but but yeah. So your two big goals, when you, after you install the sharks, plugin is number one. You have to get your plugin out there. You have to publish it. Sorry. I said plugin, you have to get your Alexa skill out there and published on the Amazon Alexa skill store so that people with Alexa devices can access.
It can, they can say Alexa, open WP Builds podcasts. And then your podcast will start to play through your Alexa skill. So that's number one. Number two is actually figuring out how to get people to use it. And there are two ways for that. We can talk about that later. But we, so first things first, when you get into works you you set up, you see a better tabs in front of you.
And you go one by one left to, so the first one is you tell Alexa how to introduce you, right? So that's the first thing that you say, Alexa, open WP Builds podcast. She says, welcome to WP Bill's podcast. And then she gives a description of the podcast, she says, but
Nathan Wrigley: [00:29:05] I write that's right.
Christian Petroske: [00:29:06] And you write it exactly. You write it and Alexa will speak it. So like she's an actress, you give her the script, and she'll speak it. She'll say it. It's like Meryl Streep, she's you say Meryl Streep, here's your script and she'll speak the lines.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:29:19] I've got to ask, if this is on your developer account. Yeah. Have you had any abuse of that? Have you had people putting in inflammatory, politically incorrect things, which Amazon might flag is problematic?
Christian Petroske: [00:29:32] No, actually, because mean, we haven't had anything too crazy. Amazon does have a review process.
So what happens next after you after you customize your Alexa skill? And you give it all of the things that you want in it, you say, okay, say this and play this podcast, and then you're done. And you're ready to publish it. Then you can test it yourself first. You can hear how it sounds, but then when you press publish we actually run this, set of advanced algorithms that basically it's basically like an automated Alexa developer.
And we send your Alexa scale off to Amazon for review. They will take between one and four days to review it. Actual people sit down and review it mostly in India because of what the messages that we've gotten actually. I think, but but the actual people will review it. And then when they say, when they look at it they, everything is working.
Everything is fine. Nothing is like you said, nothing is violating, whatever rules they have, then they will publish it. Got it. But sometimes they will push it back and say, Hey, this is bad or this part doesn't work or whatever. So that was our challenge in creating this whole thing right now, as long as there's no.
Violating content then it'll go
Nathan Wrigley: [00:30:44] through. Yeah. Yeah. This is great music to, as this is really enjoying this conversation. This is such a new world to me. The, so I interrupted you, you were on tab number one, introducing how Alexa introduces your podcast. Maybe you finished that, but if in that case that's fine.
But if you want it to carry on, keep going. Yeah,
Christian Petroske: [00:31:03] no worries. Yeah. No. So then after you put in how she wants to introduce you, how you want her to introduce you, then you get to the fun part, which is where we have six sections, six categories. Four of those categories are actually completely customizable.
Text to speech. So you put in the script, you write in the script or you copy paste it from wherever you want. And Alexa will read it out. Like she's the actress, reading the script, right? Reading the lines that you give her. And one of those is there is your blog actually in your WordPress site.
When you download shout work, your blog is automatically connected to your Alexa skill, right? And Alexa can narrate your blog posts. So that's just out, out of the gate. That's done. If you don't want her to include your blog, you can uncheck it. And it's not there. It's not included in your Alexa skills.
So that's fine. But get four of those, so you can customize them however you want. You can say let's do okay. This is a science podcast, so let's let's do trees weekly. Let's talk about. Like one tree every week. And we'll talk about the science of that particular species of tree. Okay, cool. Or you can decide, what, I really want to boost sales for my candles that I make for my e-commerce store, we're going to do a deal of the day and every day, I'm going to run a different promotion to sell more candles, for one candle that I'm selling. And you can say every day you can set a new deal of the day that says okay, 10% off the Christmas time cent candle It for today and then tomorrow will be something else and something else after that.
Yep. And what's cool with WordPress is you can actually schedule these ahead of time. Cause they're all posts in WordPress, right? So you can same functionality you get with the WordPress posts. You're publishing to your blog. You can get with these little pieces of of content that you're sending to Alexa.
So that's the four kind of text to speech sections or categories in your Alexa skill. And the other two are really cool. One is your podcast. You put in your podcast link and Alexa will play your podcast. And the second one is Alexa notifications. This is where you can actually write a custom message, click send, and all the people who have subscribed to your Alexa skill will get.
Their Alexa device will light up and make a noise. And basically when the owner of that Alexa device asks says, Hey, Alexa, what are my notifications? She'll say you have wonderful notification from WP Builds. There's a new episode up right? Or you can announce whatever you want. And one, one use case that we've seen really has been really powerful of this is announcing sales announcing flash sales.
Nice. So you can drive a ton of revenue in a very short period of time because you're literally popping into someone's living room saying, Hey, 20% off for the next three hours only. And watch the traffic go up on your site. And watch the sales come in. So that's been a really powerful and cool one to watch.
It's just notifications feature
Nathan Wrigley: [00:33:47] for a much more sort of obvious aren't they, and that you mentioned that the basically texts and it just reads that text out, which is great. And then you've got the podcast one, which is just amazing. I know that I didn't know that existed. That's so cool.
And then the last one, the notification one Just just a bit of clarification on the notification one. Is there a limitation obviously, because notifications, this is designed to be a kind of a carrot dangling to Lille you into the main content, not to the content. Yeah. Is there a limitation in the notification?
Yeah. In terms of, I don't know that the character count or the amount of time it consumes to take, to say the actual words. In other words, I can't put a, of the first volume of Shakespeare's works as a notification.
Christian Petroske: [00:34:27] Probably not smart to do no. So it's actually it's tweet size. So it's 200 and 280 characters, I believe yet, 280
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:34] characters.
I can just imagine the abuse of that notification system. It basically, it just becomes like an advertising channel. I would, I'm predicting that over overtime, Amazon is going to have to address. Abuse of that notification system, but that's absolutely amazing. I didn't even know that there was a notification system in there at all.
Maybe there is in my Google devices, but I've not allowed it to have access to anything particularly personal, like my calendar or anything like that. So it doesn't. It doesn't know that I've got meetings today because we share them in the house. And I don't really want my kids being bored by notifications about my about what's going on in my calendar during the day.
Yeah. But Amazon has that idea thing, which I don't think, Oh, maybe it does. My, my Google devices have a little series of lights on the top. It's four little dots. Whereas I know the Alexa has found like a blue circle, which pulses doesn't it in some ways. So it's much more. Much more visual as to look I've got something that I want to tell you about.
Christian Petroske: [00:35:30] It'll stay red for the next, like two days, look at it. So it's there and people look at it and th the open rate, the rate of people actually reading and listening to the notification that you put in there is insane. It's so high. It's like above 90% in our tests. Wow. There's no other public information on this, because like you said, it's really not that common yet.
And as a result, I think, you get these. Email is super saturated. You get one of these very under saturated channels where now you can reach your audience, you can reach people all of a sudden that you couldn't do before. I think, yeah, I think the, some of the first people to use it.
And really understand how to use it are going to profit big time. And then a bunch of people will come in and ruin it. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:14] Yeah. I mean that's of course a concern isn't it is that, two years from now it's inevitable, right? If if a marketing channel works, it's going to get. Abused or at least it's going to get over-saturated, but maybe anything, you can stamp your authority, at the beginning of these new, you hear about YouTubers, who've just been doing it forever. And their audiences has grown over time. Cause they got in early the content isn't necessarily any different to anybody else's, but they've just been there longer. And the sec the same could be true here.
Yeah. I wonder slightly about the whole. How to describe it. I want to say SEO, cause I've got no other words for it. Like the SEO of surfacing. Your stuff. So that piece people subscribed to it. So obviously everybody on the web on a device like a computer or a phone is familiar with, you type in a search query and outcome, the Google SERPs in most cases.
And you've got a laundry list. Usually people look at the first few, we know how that works and the game is to get in the first couple of positions. Ideally you're in the first position for that search when. Voice searches are returned. My presumption is that there's obviously a one maybe or two. So how does that work?
Let's say, for example, somebody didn't know WP Builds, but they were interested in WordPress podcasts. There's dozens of those. How do we get our podcast or whatever it might be, your car dealership or your shoe shop or whatever it might be. How do you get those messages to.
It's for Alexa to view them favorably and mention them at the top.
Christian Petroske: [00:37:48] Great question. This is the big question of how does anyone know I'm on Alexa? And generally I give two responses to this one is you tell them. Through your marketing channels, whatever. Whenever you're telling someone, Hey, listen to us on Apple podcasts or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Now you can add this. You can say Ann we're on Alexa. So that's one. The second way is is what you're alluding to, which is this kind of. SEO level of thing of stuff, which is it's actually discovery, right? People will discover you through whatever channels they're discovering Alexa skills through.
And there are two ways there. So there's the I'm asking Alexa something, and she's going to recommend something to me. And then there's the Alexa app, which all Alexa users have downloaded on their phone. And that has a little remit recommended skills section on app go down. And you can search and look at skills that way.
So for when Alexa recommend skills, when you're speaking there's a rule of thumb that is not. From Amazon, but that has been tested by creators. And we think this is the case, which is that when cause what's weird about Alexa, it's not like a domain name where I own shalt works.com.
You can't have showers.com. You own WP Builds.com. I can't have WP Builds.com right on Alexa. You can actually have to WP Builds podcast skills, right? And Alexa will choose the one that's the most popular. Got it. And the one that gets the best ratings. So what this means in practice, generally speaking, is that okay.
She's trying to give the best experience to the user. So she's going for the one that's got the highest ratings, the most uses, but what it means for you. Is that you have an incentive to try and be the most popular one. Yeah. As soon as you possibly can. And I think now is really the time to do it because, I think there are now over a hundred thousand Alexa skills.
On Alexa, this is a figure from Amazon. And that sounds like a lot, but remember it was really early days of the iPhone when there were only a hundred thousand apps for the iPhone. Now I believe there's
Nathan Wrigley: [00:39:56] like 48 trillion. Yeah.
Christian Petroske: [00:39:59] It's nowhere near the same maturity in terms of the ecosystem.
So if you wanted to be the. The WordPress podcasts that Alexa recommends. I think we could potentially
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:09] make that happen. Yeah. Oh, this is so interesting. It's like the wild West. Isn't it worth the fight, the frontier of something new and you just hope it doesn't go. In the way that you can imagine, just massive competition for this one space, because at least with search engine optimization for SERPs on, on, in browsers, that you've got a chance you can watch yourself crawling up, you can see the benefit of what you're doing, whereas this is well, okay.
If you're in the app and you're searching and you've got a laundry list of things and you can pick the right skill, the WP Builds skill or whatever, amongst the other WordPress podcasts, that's fine. But if you're just doing it. Audibly and you don't come out. Number one, there's no way of really seeing where you would have come out.
Are you second? Are you like 48? W what's the game here? It's fascinating. Yeah, she
Christian Petroske: [00:40:56] will. She will. If you don't like a suggestion, you can say she'll give you a yes or no question. Do you want to use this one? You can say no. And then she'll give you another suggestion.
But past the top, like two or three suggestions, you're toast. Yeah. Like with Google, at least you get to page through all these pages of results, with Alexa. It's really just three options that she'll give you maybe four. No, that's
Nathan Wrigley: [00:41:18] it right. I've just thought of another question on Google.
Obviously a significant proportion of their revenue. Used to, I'm sure it doesn't anymore, but it used to come through paid advertising. Can you pay your way to the top of. Oh,
Christian Petroske: [00:41:31] so that's an Alexa can not, can, not just yet, but you can bet they're working on that. They will not announce it for another couple of years, but they're definitely working on
Nathan Wrigley: [00:41:40] yeah.
There's gotta be a clever way of them sneaking that in, but they'd have to be very careful to make sure that, we say, okay, this is a sponsored post or whatever it might be. Yeah. That's really interesting. Are there any situations like. Current customers of shout works that you've seen them do something and you just think that's ingenious.
That's such a good use of our platform. I'm so pleased. We've got that client. I can now, it's almost like testimonials that you've seen of people using what you produce.
Christian Petroske: [00:42:05] Yeah. It's been really cool to see. I think the w we've started to become really popular among a couple of groups that I didn't expect.
One is financial blogs. And it tracks, I think, I think the reason for that is that they have a lot of content. It's up to the minutes. You want to know what's going on recently. And and it's a need to know thing. You just want to get the information I dunno if you've listened to your Google home, speak to you for a long period of time, it's it's not the, she's not, it's not the, as a narrator, right?
You'd rather have a human kind of speaking rather than the robotic kind of voice and Alexa getting better. But. Still not as great as a human. But finance, I think is one of those areas where you just got to know, so you don't mind the delivery, right? You want the information. And so I think that's one that kind of surprised us.
And we've got a few a few financial blogs out there that are putting out information every day and seeing a lot more seeing the audience grow which is exciting. One that I didn't expect was Was a it's like a, it's like a real estate. A blog where they teach Australians how to invest in us property.
Okay. So that was, that one was cool to see, I feel like yeah, and they give like a tip every day, on how to invest in, in in the U S and, these are the things to avoid and this it's just, your standard blogs stuff. We've had some really interesting podcasts on there.
Then maker pad podcast, one of my personal favorites, which is a. Podcasts. I know, hopefully it's not terrible to plug another podcast.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:36] Please stay. Yeah.
Christian Petroske: [00:43:38] It's like it's for the no code tool. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:41] Yeah. The mic is yeah.
Christian Petroske: [00:43:42] The makers. Yes. But yeah, I think, there's, like I said, one thing I was really excited to see was people using the notifications for flash sales.
Which is like nuts. That to me is super cool. Yeah. Yeah. I
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:53] mean, it is, it's just, it's a completely new world to me and it really does feel like we're on the beginning of something. And obviously they're combining. The screen now with the audio, you've got these in the case of Google, it's called nest hub max, or something like that.
I think and Amazon, I dunno what their equivalent is, but there's a screen attached to the speaker. And who knows, we might be able to combine both things just occurred to me. Is this a custom post type or can we bolt this onto any posts we're already creating in WordPress? So as an example, WP Builds to put these, the podcast episodes are it's just a post.
It could have been a custom Postlight, but actually as it happens, I'm just using the WordPress posts. Can we do that? Can we write text in a regular old post and somehow Alexa enable it.
Christian Petroske: [00:44:41] Yeah. If you like in the standard blog section, the post section and that shifts with every WordPress site is actually included in your Alexa skill by default, right?
So every post that you write there is included now we've actually had this request for a feature where you can decide, Oh, I want this post, this specific post to be in, but I don't want this other post to be yeah. We don't have that yet, but maybe that will come soon. But then yeah, in terms of adding, you can also add new post types where you can add instead of having your blog section, you can also have like I said, trees deal of the day or the
Nathan Wrigley: [00:45:17] sky is literally the limit.
Okay. So that is one. That's basically the same feature, just bundled in a different way. Isn't it? Rather than a check in a post, you have a custom post site, which you rely on. Yeah. That's fine. That works. Yeah. Okay. That's absolutely fascinating. I I, it just occurred to me that we haven't talked about the the thing that always needs to be talked about, which is pricing.
So there is a pricing page. If you go over to shout works.com forward slash plans, dash. And dash pricing. So plans and pricing, or there's a link at the top. It's just called pricing. You can tell us what it is now. Caveat. We are recording this as always record these things a few weeks in advance.
You decide to change your pricing, so be it, but this is what it is the day we're recording it. So
Christian Petroske: [00:45:57] I can actually announce that we probably, by the time this airs our price will have gone up. But right now, as of recording it's and 99 a month, no. So just under 10 bucks a month for all the features and so far unlimited notifications, which is.
Pretty nuts. We just haven't got around to building a limited yet but we plan on in a couple of weeks bringing it up to 1999 a month.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:46:21] Alright. Yeah. Okay. So very likely by the time that you listen to this, it will have been nine. It will be 1999 and I will have got it at 900. Yeah, that's good. And yeah, I feel that every time I want to ask has been asked, but as we always do at the end of these podcast episodes, did I miss anything?
Is there something that you would have liked me to have asked that you wanted to get across?
Christian Petroske: [00:46:46] Good question. I think this whole world is pretty new and even I, yeah, I've been like constantly learning new stuff about Alexa, about voice, about how they should work. You know why this should be a part of that.
Your marketing may not be apparent at first. So one thing I will plug is that we've got a mini course free mini courses on the site where you can learn how to generate leads and make money through Alexa. And there are a bunch of ways. Actually, one thing we didn't talk about too is the Alexa developer rewards, which are now open to.
Not just developers, but everyone for Amazon with when your skill, when your Alexa skill gets popular enough, they have this incentive scheme where they will actually pay you a monthly check. If your Alexa skill is one of the top Alexa skills in your category. Wow. Which is pretty crazy.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:37] Yeah.
Yeah. It's
Christian Petroske: [00:47:38] pretty crazy. Yeah. And through shout works, we pass it on to you, to our creators. That's all contained in the mini course, which you can find on the website on the homepage, you can find a link to it from Chatworks com.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:50] Honestly, a really different episodes, something entirely new, a totally new emerging area.
I just can't see the shrinking. I can only see this growing. So really an amazingly what's the word apropos. Perfect. To have you on talking about it today. So one last time, shout works.com shout works.com. You can go and check it out and see if. If there's anything in here for you, Christian.
Thanks so much for enlightening us about Amazon and IOT devices and all of that. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much. No, thank
Christian Petroske: [00:48:21] you for the conversation it's been wonderful. Thanks, Nathan.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:24] No worries. As I said at the top of the show, I really interesting subject something that I wasn't really familiar with, but I can well see you that in the near future, we'll all be talking to our websites, certainly talking to things online, consuming news, this way, perhaps consuming podcasts this way.
Perhaps consuming blog posts this way. And so wouldn't it be nice if we could notify people when we had new content for them to consume. And that's what shout works, allows you to do. Go and check out the podcast. If you've got some opinions on this, go and leave them in the show notes, you can do that on the podcast episode at wpbuilds.com or head over to our Facebook group, WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook.
And over there, you can comment. Find the thread. For this particular episode, it was number 219. The WP Builds podcast I wrote to you today by Cloudways.
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And AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time, then you AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes.
Use your existing pages and test anything with anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is it works with element or BeaverBuilder and the WordPress block editor. You can check it out and get a free [email protected]. Okie dokie. We will be back this time next week, only next week because we're on the two weeks cycle next week.
It'll be a discussion with David Waumsley and I, as we chat through our age to Zed of WordPress, I have no idea what letter we'll be on, but we'll be on a letter of the alphabet. And then in a couple of weeks on a Thursday, we'll have another interview for you. Also join us live this week in WordPress, 2:00 PM UK time in our Facebook group or WP Builds.com forward slash live.
And you can join in the comments with some notable WordPress guests between now and then I hope you stay safe. Have a good week. .

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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