Ashlee Sierra

In pretty much every science fiction media ever, there’s some sort of AI voice assistant that acts as a supporting character, antagonist or vehicle for exposition. As far as tropes go, it’s right up there with robot butlers — and while we’re still doing our own butlering (tragically), voice assistants have become an everyday reality.

That means voice queries are at the heart of an entirely new user experience — one that’s often hands-free and enabled through voice-activated devices like a smart speaker. Text search and classic search engine optimization (SEO) aren’t going anywhere; they’re just getting a younger sibling.

Creators, meet voice search content marketing.

Here’s what you need to know about this new frontier and how to get everyone else’s voice assistants to benefit your business.

What To Know About Voice Search

Want to be a master of voice search optimization? You can’t just snap your fingers and snatch that featured snippet. First, you need to understand the playing field — and that starts by analyzing the tech.

Voice search is exactly what it sounds like: a search user asking for information with their voice instead of their keyboard. Depending on which device and operating system they’re using, the search result could be in almost any format, from a local business page to a YouTube video. Keep in mind that some voice search configurations also show results from the device’s own content, such as a social media mobile app or a photo taken on a particular day.

The technology that enables this is called automatic speech recognition. AI and machine learning work together to filter background noise, identify user intent and translate audio signals into a text format. From there, the system runs the search query through its default engine and either displays or reads out the results. 

All kinds of systems use this technology, from mobile phones to AI-enabled cars. However, you’ll likely see these referenced most often:

  • Google Assistant, generally used on Android devices or Chromebooks and accessed by saying “Hey Google.”
  • Apple’s Siri, accessible on iPhone and Mac and woken with “Hey Siri.”
  • Microsoft’s Cortana, used on Windows-enabled devices and accessed with “Hey Cortana.”
  • Amazon Alexa, frequently used through smart home devices like Amazon Echo speakers and activated by saying “Alexa.”

Why does this matter for your digital marketing strategy? These tools use various systems and algorithms, which means they might deliver different results for the same voice search query. This has a huge impact on the overall customer experience. 

For example, even user intent can change between voice assistants. One person might use Siri on an iPhone for an on-the-go voice search query like “find chef supply stores near me,” then come home and use Alexa on their Amazon Echo to ask for a recipe while cooking. 

That means voice search optimization is a marketing strategy that always has to be quick on its feet.

The Basics of Voice Search Optimization

For digital marketers, voice search technology is an unrivaled tool. It has the power to turn voice-activated devices into little brand representatives that live in your audience’s houses, cars and pockets. 

But you have to work for it. Voice search users are just as discerning as text searchers, and they expect results to be relevant, helpful and easily digestible. That means you need to prove to them — and the search engines representing their interests — that your content is the best choice. Naturally, that’s where SEO comes in.

Here’s a look at the basics:

Stepping Up Your Keyword Game

Because this technology translates voice commands into written language and connects to all the familiar search engines, the “physics” of keyword research remains roughly the same. It’s the psychology you need to think about.

In many cases, users turn to voice search for convenience. That means they’re likely doing something that makes typing difficult — for example, driving, cooking, cleaning or even running a huge meeting. It’s your job to think about how this might change their search intent and, in turn, the words they use to get their point across.

Let’s say you’re a local coffee shop. When your target audience types out a query, they might use search terms like these:

  • “Best coffee in Boise”
  • “Coffee shops near me”
  • “Where to get a pumpkin spice latte”

However, when that same target audience is in the car or walking down the street with friends, they’re likely to use their voice assistants — and that means their queries might change:

  • “Hey Siri, what’s Boise’s best coffee?”
  • “Where’s the nearest coffee shop?”
  • “Alexa, tell me who’s selling pumpkin spice lattes.”

Because voice assistants are generally powered by AI, they can easily understand more conversational language — the stuff we say when our mouths work faster than our brains. (When we’re typing, we have the time — and the backspace button — to make ourselves eloquent.) Other variables include:

  • The difference in context.
  • Shifting user expectations.
  • Automatic corrections the AI might make.
  • Incorrect terminology (asking for “Rice Krispy Treats” when the term is technically “Rice Krispies Treats” because the latter aligns with the brand name). 
  • The odd but undeniable urge to talk to robots like they’re humans. 

Rethinking Your Content Structure 

Let’s say you’re writing a blog post for your coffee shop. Text searchers might be sitting at a desk looking up reviews on local businesses, but voice searchers are likely in the middle of a task like driving or walking. That means your voice-optimized content should have different scenarios in mind.

For example, if you want to write a blog that works for people sitting at their desk and in the driver’s seat, you might focus on:

  • Answering the query right away: This keeps text searchers from having to scroll too much and enables voice assistants to read out direct answers.
  • Writing specific headlines: Aside from being a good practice for content creation, this makes it easier for readers to skim and listeners to stay focused on your main points.
  • Prioritizing clarity: When you’re crystal clear, both text and voice searchers enjoy a better user experience. (Plus, clarity helps search engines understand and rank your content.) 

Best practices differ a little depending on the type of content. For example, if you’re creating a YouTube video, you might write your script so it makes sense to someone who’s just listening as well as someone who’s attentively looking at the screen. Although you can’t account for everything, the ultimate goal remains the same: creating something that works for the largest number of people.

Helping Technology Do Its Job

Although it may all happen behind the scenes, technical SEO is a huge part of voice search content marketing. It’s the stage upon which keywords and content do their stuff.

While the systems and algorithms might access your site in different ways, it’s always helpful to:

  • Improve loading times.
  • Revisit your site structure.
  • Remove duplicate content.
  • Optimize for mobile.

These and other technical SEO best practices benefit you across the board, improving everything from potential search engine rankings to user experience.

Text vs. Voice Search Optimization: What’s the Difference?

Text and voice searches might be similar, but each needs its own niche in your overall digital marketing strategy. That’s because of these key differences:


Remember, voice search queries can be worded in more conversational ways. That means you may need to do different kinds of keyword research depending on whether your target audience prefers text or voice searches. 


Sometimes, text and voice users have such different needs that one piece of content won’t satisfy them both. That’s when it’s time to separate your strategy based on the type of user and what you think they need. The benefit here is that much of your content for one audience can be reformatted and repurposed for the other.


Linking strategies get a little complicated when it comes to voice SEO. These users may not have the time or capability to explore different pages, so you could lose some of the benefits there — but search engines still use links to determine your site’s intent, relevance and value. 


It’s not just users who have different intent when using a voice command. Your intent in targeting them is different, too. For example, you’ll need to get creative about your calls to action (CTAs) — if a user is driving or running a meeting, you can’t expect them to sign up for your newsletter, click on another landing page or contact you. Instead, you might consider focusing on building brand awareness and becoming a go-to source for your audience.

Tips for Better Voice Search Optimization

Ready to take your voice SEO strategy to the next level? Put these tips to work:

  • Offer value: No matter what kind of content you provide (or to whom), make sure it creates real value for your audience.
  • Focus on format: Some information is best shared in an infographic, while other details might be better understood in an explainer video. Think critically about who’s searching for this content and how they’ll use it.
  • Shake it up: Don’t get stuck on any one kind of content. Experiment to see what works for different kinds of search.
  • Stay informed: Brush up on SEO best practices and all the latest trends in voice search technology.
  • Keep your brand in mind: Every word, image and video is an extension of your brand, whether users see it on a screen or hear it through their car speakers. 

Better Content, Better Results

At the end of the day, voice search is just one more tool in the digital marketing arsenal. It’s your job to decide what happens next — whether that means in-depth research, strategy restructuring, new kinds of content creation or just experimenting with your favorite voice assistant. 

Here’s to the future of your brand!