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Google Places Eats Hotpot: What's it Mean for Local Search?

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Google has decided to drop the Hotpot name and merge it with Google Places, which is how Google should have set it up initially.

The Foursquare-like recommendation engine touted 1 million monthly reviews and allowed users to connect with other profiles they trust to see those trusted user's personal reviews.

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Hotpot: No Longer Recommended by Google

Launched this past November, Hotpot was named after the food dish that means a shared-dish experience. It was available to mobile users (iPhone and Android) on Google Maps, and Google.com. Reviews were submitted through an associated Google Profile.

By setting a geographic location, or "checking in," users told Google their location and local recommendations were displayed for review or to help a traveler find good restaurants, hotels, or nearest oil change services.

The other key feature is suggestions based on your activity; similar to Tivo. Should you rate a local Indian restaurant high, Google takes this into account for your future results, as well as your friends suggestions.

Hotpot + Places Merger

The merger or Hotpot into places brings more of the pieces of the puzzle to the table. Between Places, Hotpot, Tags, Boost, and Maps can create chaos for marketers, let alone a business owner.

Without properly integrating all of these features it's never going to be as successful as traditional web search and we know a good quarter of total searches are queried location intentions in mind. Hotpot on mobile devices was integrated with Places.

Google would ideally be the ultimate source for generating and maintaining reviews for businesses (which they are now nipping at the heels of Yelp). Hotpot has moved reviews incoming to Google from 3 percent to 20 percent of reviews, with claims saying the ability for mobile users to upload easily and the birth of Hotpot credited as the key success to the increase.

With the ability to send out and monitor incoming reviews, business impressions, profile visits, and more, Google.com/Places may just become a keyword that traditional business owners possess in their daily vocabulary list soon.

+1 Button's Potential Influence on New Places

As noted in " Google +1: What Does it Mean for Search Marketing?" we don't know exactly how the +1 button will influence rankings. However, there are clear points to consider with the recent Hotpot merger into places and the +1 Button incentives for Google employees, such as:

  • +1 Buttons could greatly increase feedback activity on businesses.
  • A way to measure authenticity of integrity of Google Profiles.
  • Potential for new ranking signal in Google Places.

By integrating +1 into the reviews, Google could implement a method to assign value to a Google profile. As point 7 describes in 10+ Points About Google +1, being able to upvote a place will create intention data for Gmail such that users can be targeted with coupon type offers from similar places.

Furthermore, by monitoring locations of profiles in conjunction with where they are leaving reviews, and monitoring who those people are connecting could prove to be a significant indicator on the legitimacy of the profile itself versus a spam profile. This could prove to be an important development in the debate as to how much author authority is being used as a ranking signal.


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