Getting Your Skill Published on Alexa

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In my last article, we discussed best practices in Beta testing our Alexa Skills including skill name nuances and the importance of finding good testers. If you missed that post, please check it out here. Prior to the last post, I presented ideas on developing Alexa Skills and Google Home Actions including scriptingwriting requirements, MP3sAPIs, and Lead Gen. If you’re wondering what the heck an Alexa Skill is, please check out my Alexa 101 post here.

In this article, we will discuss Amazon Alexa Skill certification. Why do we care about Alexa Skill Certification? If you’d like for your Alexa Skill to be available to the public for mass consumption, you’ll need to get it approved / certified by Amazon. Every public Alexa Skill requires Amazon certification before it is available to the masses.

There are actually 2 different types of certification for your Alexa Skill that you can request from Amazon. This article will focus on ‘Public’ certifications, i.e. making your Alexa Skill available to the ‘public.’ The other type of Amazon Alexa Certification is called ‘Alexa for Business’ in which you create an Alexa Skill that can only be used on the Alexa devices on your company’s account. This is mainly for Alexa Skills that may contain proprietary information or for internal communications. From my understanding, the Alexa for Businesscertifications are more forgiving than a public certification. If you’re interested in learning more about Alexa for Business, check out this link.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. This article is not intended to provide any legal advice whatsoever. Please consult with your in-house counsel or a board certified attorney before you proceed.

Before we get started, allow me to provide links to the official Amazon documentation on Alexa Skill Certification.

Below are the most commonly asked questions around Alexa Skill certification that I have received:

Q1: Does Amazon need to approve every Alexa Skill before it goes public?

A1: Yes.

Q2: How long will the approval take?

A2: The official SLA for approval is 5 days. Please keep in mind that if your skill is rejected, the clock restarts when you re-submit your skill.

Q3: What is required to get approved?

A3: Check out Certification Requirements for Custom Skills

Q4: Can I have a one-word Skill name or invocation name? i.e. I want an Alexa Skill called “School” so that my skill will launch whenever someone says, “Alexa, open School.”

A4: Yes, if you are the Trademark owner of that word, otherwise Amazon has a strict policy against one-word skill names.

Q5: Can I submit a Skill name of a trademarked name (that I do not own) and hope to sell it to the trademark owner later?

A5: No. Amazon strictly prohibits trademarked names, unless you can prove you are the trademark owner and/or have written authorization from the trademark owner. See Alexa Certification Policy Guidelines for more details

Q6: Why do I need a privacy policy?

A6: If your skill collects personal information, Amazon requires a privacy policy.

Q7: Are there extra steps I need to take to for an Alexa Skill for Kids?

A7: Yes, please review the Kid Skill Certification post here from Amazon.

Q8: How do I make changes to my skill after it is published?

A8: If you need to make changes in the Amazon Developer Console, such as adding utterances, slots, or changing the icon or description, you will need to re-submit for certification to Amazon. If you are updating the URL of an API call in the Lambda code, you do not need to resubmit for certification.

Caroline’s Tips for Successful Amazon Alexa Skill Certification & Approval

  • Ensure you own your content and your domain. If you don’t own your content, then make sure you cite your source and give credit. You may need to go as far as obtaining approval from the content owner. For example, I created a skill called ‘cat food.’ I recorded myself opening a can of cat food, and the recording is content that I own.
  • As I work with business owners, I always have them send an email from their domain name (i.e. stating that they are an authorized representative of the companyXYZ and/or own the trademark and are submitting a skill with a trademarked name.
  • There must be a “help” option in every stage of your skill. The user must be able to say “help” at any stage of your skill and receive guidance on how to proceed with your skill.
  • You cannot leave the skill open without instructions on how to proceed. For example, You ask a question, the skill provides an answer. You can either close the skill and return to ‘regular’ Alexa at that point, or you can leave the skill open for the user to ask another question within the skill. If you choose the latter option, you must code the skill to tell the user that they can ask another question or what their options are within the skill from there.
  • Language and country support. You can code your skill to work in multiple countries and multiple languages. Approvers will check for language continuity for each language in each country. For example, I enabled in-skill purchases on my Cork Ornaments skill, but in-skill purchases were only available for US devices. I had to code a different version of my skill for UK English, India English, Canadian English, etc…
  • Do you have all of the correct legal disclaimers in your skill? This applies more to Health related skills. Even if your skill does not provide any medical advice, it could still be considered a ‘health-related’ skill. For example, a Nurse practitioner quiz Alexa Skill is considered a health-related skill and required the following disclaimer, “This tool does not provide medical advice, and is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Call your doctor to receive medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, please dial your local emergency response phone number.”

I hope you found these tips for Amazon Alexa Skill Certification helpful. If you have any further questions, please let me know. Thanks!