It's hard keeping pace with Google in the past month. Google Instant, Google Preview, Google Boost, and now Google Hotpot. It seems that I'm chasing Google's product team to understand the implications of all these new tools for search marketing.
The latest tool, Google Hotpot, is a streamlined interface for location based reviews. Location based applications are a hot segment of the market and Google is moving fast into this space to become a dominant player in consumer reviews and feedback loops.
Google Hotpot takes the data from Google Places and the reviews from other consumers and places them in a simple interface that anyone can use.
The first thing you will need to do is to create your account. Click through on this link to get started: http://www.google.com/hotpot
If you have a Google Account, just login and you will be asked to create a screen name. This is your public "reviewer" name so you can get creative at this point or use your real name.
From the screenshot below, you will also see that your default start-up account needs a photo as well as some basic information. I decided to use my actual name so my Google HotPot account.
Once you create your account you can start rating local businesses and places nearby. You are presented with a search box and you can start by reviewing your favorite places. You have unlimited 1-5 star ratings and initially you only get 10 "Best Ever" stars, which is a special rating.
I'm not sure how the "Best Ever" ratings will pan out but since they are limited, they may be weighted heavier.
The default search is restaurants and so Google is taking aim at the most popular ratings engines like Yelp.com and CitySearch.com. Google also knows businesses that you rated in the past.
For example, you will see that my review count started at eight even though this is a brand new account. This is from past reviews that I used with this Google email address on Google Places.
Hotpot takes all of Google Places‘ ratings and reviews features and adds a more personal touch. Currently, Place Pages mostly aggregate review data from sources such as Yelp. With Hotpot, users will be encouraged to rate and review businesses directly from their Google-linked profile.
Users’ ratings and reviews are tracked with a counter at the top of each profile, and likes and dislikes are remembered and used in Google’s recommendation engine. When you post a review, you photo will now appear next to the review as shown below:
How does this apply to car dealers? Think stars! The progression over the past few months looks like this. Google upgrades Google Places and emphasizes the important reviews. Then Google integrates Google Places reviews into organic search so business "star" ratings appear for broad business searches. Search for "Baltimore Honda dealers" in Google to see exactly how that look.
Then Google offers business owners the ability to run pay-per-click ads using their star ratings: Google Boost. Now, Google is making it easier for consumers to post reviews for local businesses.
In 2011 the most important investment dealers can make is to establish a strong online reputation management process.
Good customer service will be rewarded ten-fold if Google's Hotpot takes off. Bad customer service will be placed for all consumers to see for popular search phrases. Dealers need to start inspecting all business processes and test ways to integrate review posting strategies.
As Google makes it easier for consumers to post reviews from their mobile devices, like Google Hotpot, you should be encouraging your customers to post reviews on Google Hotpot when they are in your store or when you are on the phone with them. If you are NOT asking your loyal and happy customers, then most likely you will only see negative reviews.
Are you prepared for this tsunami of change? Need help? Get some great strategies at the 2011 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference February 1-3, 2011 in the Napa Valley. http://www.digitalmarketingstrategies.org