Mobile_Voices_body.jpgby Jennifer Shaheen

In 2011, Apple released the first version of Siri, the app that enables iPhone users to conduct online searches using only their voice. Since that time, smartphones have become ubiquitous—more than two-thirds of all American adults have one, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project—and voice search capabilities have grown exponentially. Google’s Android platform now supports voice search that rivals Siri’s performance.

There are several reasons why consumers are adopting voice technology with such enthusiasm. In a study entitled, Google Search by Voice: A Case Study, a team of researchers cite convenience, safety, and user expectations as the primary drivers of voice search adoption.

In response, Google has changed Hummingbird, one of the programs they use to determine site rankings. The primary shift, according to Google spokesman Matt Cutts is away from keywords toward a more natural way of speaking, which he terms “conversational search.”

“People want to be able to search in all kinds of ways,” Cutts said in a July statement, prior to the changes to Hummingbird. “They don’t want to think about keywords if they can avoid it, and I think over time, we’ll get better and better at understanding that user’s intent whenever we’re trying to match that up and find the best set of information or answers or documents—whatever it is the user’s looking for.”

How voice search will impact your business marketing

“It is important for business owners to optimize their SEO for voice search,” says Cammi Pham, community manager for Filemobile, a marketing firm that coordinates and supplies user-generated content to major brands. “When someone uses a voice search app, they’re most likely not going to use keywords such as ‘best cupcake New York.’ A voice search for a local cupcake shop will sound like ‘Where is the best cupcake shop in New York?’”

Mobile_Voices_PQ.jpg“Don’t write for search engines; write your content for the consumers,” Pham adds. “Business owners should optimize their websites and social networks with long tail keywords that are more likely to be used by consumers.”

A long tail keyword is a combination of three to four words that people would commonly put together when searching for your business, such as “bridal shop plus size Chicago” or “tax accountant small business return.” A good best practice is to develop a list of the long tail phrases you’d most prefer to   be located with. . Make sure that these phrases are actually in alignment with why your customers choose your business.

Social media and reviews become even more important with voice search

You may already recognize social media’s impact as a generator of positive word-of-mouth on behalf of your small business. In the voice-driven search era, your social media presence can also have an impact on your site ranking.

“I find a lot of businesses spend money buying ads but they forget to optimize their profile,” Pham says. “Make sure you fill out every field in your Google+ local page. Google+ strongly impacts search results.” Reviews are also very important. “Ask for reviews,” she says. “Consumers and search engines favor reviews. Consumer trusts their peers more than marketers.”