Finding reviews of different places can be very helpful for people in general. Especially when its something new that they are trying out for the first time, such as a restaurant, or a mechanic. You can easily search Google to find reviews for different places, but the results are not always useful for your situation.
For example, if you were to search for “italian restaurant reviews new york” you may find some really in-depth restaurant reviews for several places in New York that are too far away from you to be practical. Google Hotpot is a website that is specifically tied to Google that allows you to search for ratings of places in your local area saving you lots of time, and energy.
Google created Google Hotpot, because some of the programmers and developers at Google noticed that over 20% of the searches conducted on Google have a local intent. While that doesn’t seem like much, when you have millions of searches on your search engine being conducted on a daily basis, 20% is a rather large number. Ratings can be made on Google maps, an Android phone, or the Google Hotpot tool. Most people have already seen the ratings on Google Maps, but have never known how they got there (well, now you know).
After you sign into your Google account, you can go to http://www.google.com/hotpot/ to set up your Hotpot account, complete with a nickname, and photo (if you wish). This product actually walks you through how to set up your account which makes the site much more useful. Once you’re in, you can start searching. You best bet is to type in what you are looking for along with the zip code of your area (ex: takeout 74813 ; zoo 90216, etc.). From there you will be shown some recommendations for that area. If you see a place that you have already been to, you can give it a rating, and share some information about your experience. As you use the site, the algorithm adapts, and you get new recommendations depending on ratings that you’ve given to various places. You can also bring in your friends by clicking on the Friends tab to send them an email inviting them to join you on Google Hotpot.
Whether or not this will be a game changer is highly questionable since Google is getting into the rating places arena so late (sites like Yelp already have a very strong system in place for getting people to use their site to rate locations). Also, in order to use Google Hotpot, you have to login with your Google account info, and then go through the setup process for your Hotpot account in order to just browse the site. With most other review sites you can just jump right in. Yelp, for example, gave me general search results for my area without having to type in a zip code to start. Plus, the different categories, and download link for the Yelp app are all shown towards the top of the site so I didn’t have to scroll down to find anything.
With that being said, since Google Hotpot is directly tied to other Google products, such as Google Maps, it could easily be used to help you rank higher in the Google search results IF you have a brick and mortar business. Also, as a side note, it would be very wise to claim your spot on Google Places, because if Google Hotpot does take off, those who are already set up on Google Places will be the ones to benefit the most from the start. Another way to easily boost your standings in Google Maps is by having people give you a good review on Google Hotpot which can lead to your business listing being displayed higher up for searches involving reviews.
Overall, Google Hotpot has potential, but just how much potential is rather difficult to determine at this point. It will greatly depend on how agressively Google Hotpot is marketed, along with whether or not Google makes the Hotpot website much more readily accessible (i.e. ditch the login when browsing the site).
Update: Links in this post have been removed, as they weren’t working at last check. November 16, 2014.