Last night, Google announced Hotpot – a personalized "local recommendation engine" that brings the search giant into the geosocial market. Marketers may like the benefits of getting their businesses recommended among Google searchers, who account for more than two-thirds of the search market by comScore’s measure.
Google Hotpot supposedly helps online consumers cut through the clutter of search results and get answers to queries from only trusted sources. This sounds a little like Blekko – the supposed "Google killer"– which Brafton reported uses slashtags to cut through spam in search results. But Hotpot might be more similar to geosocial tools such as Facebook Places, foursquare or even new socially fueled local search results offered by Bing, as Google says results are "powered by you and your friends."
The recommendation engine draws on Google Places, which Brafton has reported is the site's new local search tool. Hotpot offers results based on Places listings users have rated and recommended, as well as sites their friends have liked. To get started, users have to sign in with their Gmail accounts.
The first thing Hotpot asks users to do is to set a Google Places nickname. Then, it prompts users to add a category near a local neighborhood to "start rating." Entering "restaurants, Boston" produces a map of the city on a left-side panel and a series of results, each in individual boxes, on the right side of the screen. Each result has a current rating from anonymous Places users, and Hotpot lets users add their own ratings.
Once users start adding friends on Hotpot, search results and available ratings are presumably personalized according to acquaintances' preferences.
Google says it has offered this feature because people deserve results they can regard as "trusted advice." The friend-based features of this tool seem to point to Google Me – the search site's rumored social component.
The search engine is wise to move toward a more social online experience, and marketers may appreciate this shift. According to a recent survey, SMBs are planning to increase their social media marketing spend in 2011.