Feature Deep Dive: Canfulfillintent
Updated: Mar 3
Way back in the dark ages of the internet, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) quickly became an essential feature because it helped pull keywords to the top of searches and directly improve user experiences. With so many similarities to the internet, it’s no wonder Voice SEO has become an important topic as well.
For skill publishers, the challenge is getting noticed in a sea of Alexa skills. While it’s exciting that Alexa has grown quickly and now boasts over 70,000 skills and counting, the sheer number of options has also made it difficult for individual skills to stand out and be selected by users.
For Alexa users, the struggle is also related to discovery. Users can’t easily access the skills catalog or effortlessly figure out which skills to turn on. For example, if a user wants to do yoga but doesn’t have the name of a skill readily available, Alexa let you know about a plethora of options. Having many options is often a good thing, but this process can soon become cumbersome and discouraging for users.
Alternatively, going to Amazon’s website is an easier way to find new skills, but the whole point of a voice assistant is to, you know, use your voice. Much like the wild early days of the internet, Voice SEO is necessary to wrangle searches and bring some order to this new frontier.
Amazon heard the call and answered with a new feature called CanFulfillIntent. CanFulfillIntent was created to help users find the Alexa skills they need without having to have the exact name on hand.
So how does this feature work? Skill developers need only input the questions or commands their skill is able to answer so when Alexa hears something similar, the device can find an on-point skill and respond in a more helpful way. For example, when a user says “Alexa, where is the best hiking in New York?” and your skill signals it can answer an intention like that, then your skill has a good chance of being awarded as an automatic enablement.
CanFulfillIntent should be on your radar because it’s a solve for everyone. This feature makes life easier for skill publishers because they finally have some influence over user discovery on the platform. Brands should take notice since they can now tap into Voice SEO to reach consumers who are searching for what they're selling.
If you think your skill answers users' questions very well, you can turn on CanFulfillIntent and essentially raise your hand to let Amazon know to look at you and recommend your experience first. Just raising your hand is, of course, not enough to get ahead of the curve. To make sure there’s quality control, Amazon has an algorithm to ensure skills pass the test when they claim they should be top of the class. Skills pick up points depending on a wide range of things like the name of the skill, the description of the skill, how many reviews a skill has, completion rates, repeat user usage and so on. Amazon also looks at whether the publisher put the right questions into the intent structure of their skill.
Another reason publishers and brands should take note of this shift is because it puts Amazon on an equal playing field with Google Assistant. It’s true that Amazon pulled ahead of Google in the race for voice device sales and distribution, but Google beats out Alexa many UX categories. Google being, Google, gave developers the ability to figure out what users were asking their Google Assistant with a feature called Implicit Invocation. This allows users to invoke an action without using its name. CanFulfillIntent is similar to Implicit Invocations and, as it improves, it puts Alexa’s user experience toe to toe with Google’s.
The benefits of CanFulfillIntent for Alexa users may be obvious but they are also crucial to the continued success and development of Voice. Amazon is a key leader in voice assistant technology and a functioning SEO system was the missing link in its development. With Canfulfillintent, Alexa now incorporates the ease of an internet search engine but leaves users free to use their eyes and hands for other tasks.
The overall result is a happy user whose able to find the right skill quickly while using natural search terms and a happy skill publisher who was able to get his skill picked out of a sea of 70,000 other skills. More importantly, Alexa won’t have to utter the awkward response of “Hm, I don’t know that” anymore and failed voice requests will soon be a distant memory. Everyone wins.