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How to Identify Keywords for Voice Search Optimization

A man holds his phone

How often do you ask Google, Alexa or Siri a question? Research shows 22% of Americans use voice assistants every day, according to Statista, and that’s expected to increase. At the same time, experts predict the voice recognition tech market to reach $50 billion by 2029. 

The growing use of voice search has marketers taking note. Every brand wants its content read aloud by voice assistants, but how do you make that happen? To help, we’ll explore what voice optimization is, explore how it differs from typed Google searches, and give you some tips to find and add keywords that voice search technology responds to. 

What is voice search optimization?

Voice search optimization tailors content to devices like Alexa and Siri, where people audibly ask a question and receive a quick response. By optimizing your content, you enhance its chances of being read aloud by voice search technologies. 

How is voice search different from traditional Google searches?

Typically, queries for voice search technology are posed as a question. You might say, “Siri, where’s the closest gas station?” or “Alexa, what’s an easy dinner recipe to make tonight?” The queries are not only questions, but they’re conversational. They mimic questions you’d ask a real person. 

Traditional Google searches are more piecemeal. For example, if you’re looking for dinner inspiration via your laptop, you’d likely type “quick dinner recipes” or “dinner four ingredients.” Traditional searches usually consist of a string of keywords rather than complete thoughts or questions. 

Steps to identify keywords for voice search

Voice search is a new frontier for marketers, which means practices are still being developed. For those hoping to optimize their content for voice, use these actionable steps to get started:  

  1. Dig into your currency keywords

To survive in today’s competitive digital world, you’re likely already familiar with the concept of keywords, so you have a starting point.  

Pull a list of your current keywords

Pull content data, specifically keywords, from your Google Ads account or from the CRM your brand uses. Upload the keywords into a spreadsheet.

Add competitors’ keywords

You can also use tools to research competitors’ keywords, and add any relevant keywords to your list. Tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs can help. 

Use Google’s autofill to add to your list

Take your keywords and type them into Google’s search bar and check the list that auto generates below it. For example, let’s say you run a coffee shop and one of your keywords is “latte art.” Google provides a list of common searches surrounding the keyword, which you can also add to your keyword list.  

  1. Turn keywords into questions

Voice search is conversational and usually question-based. As a result, you need to turn your keywords into questions. Add question modifiers, like: 

  • What
  • Where 
  • When
  • Why
  • Who
  • How 
  • Can
  • Is
  • Do
  • Have
  • Are 
  • Will

For example, if one of your keywords is “handcrafted latte art,” you can turn that into a question like, “Who makes the best-handcrafted latte art in Seattle?” Add these questions to your spreadsheet.

By turning your keywords into questions, they’re more likely to match queries asked by customers. 

  1. Create a list of negative keywords

You also need a list of keywords that you don’t want associated with your brand. Your list of negative keywords provides more parameters for voice search to follow, making sure it’s directed to the right audience.

The coffee shop might use negative words for items they don’t sell like “tea” or “energy coffee.” A high-end fashion brand might list words like “cheap” or “affordable” to its negative keyword list, or a travel brand might list trends they don’t want to be associated with like “all-inclusive” or “kids eat free.”

  1. Add the keywords to content

With keywords identified, it’s time to add them to content. 

Create new content

Create content that focuses on your identified keywords and add them to your content marketing cycle. Blog posts and FAQs lend themselves to these question-based keywords. Use the questions as subheads in a blog post or questions in a list of FAQs. Use proper formatting, too, like H2 and H3 subheads, to help voice search bots quickly decipher information. 

Update existing content

Review your current content and see what needs updating. A blog post titled “Best Super Bowl Recipes,” for example, could be retitled “What Are the Best Super Bowl Recipes to Make?” 

Again, formatting matters, so clean up sections that look like walls of text and replace them with a subhead that’s formed as a question. 

  1. Update your business profiles

Many voice searches are tied to a location. People ask for the nearest restaurant, cheapest gas, or best local bar. For brick-and-mortar shops, being listed in voice results could increase foot traffic. So, make sure your business profiles all contain your address and hours. 

Consider adding two or three keywords to your business profile, too. Most directories give businesses a place to add a description, which is the perfect place to sprinkle in a keyword or two. 

Optimizing content for voice search is a new skill marketers should acquire. With the growth of voice search technology, the skills will likely become necessary. Use the tips above to update existing content and create fresh pieces that cater to voice queries.