Bugs And Grumbles In Google’s HotPot?

There has been much posting and understandable excitement on the Local SEO front since the launch of Google HotPot in mid-November. Combining Local and Social in the form of quick, snappy ratings that are then shared with your ‘friends’ is what it’s all about, and while this is certainly an idea of merit, the fact that it is based upon Google’s ability to handle user generated content raised a few questions in my mind from the start.

For many years, I have complained about the bugginess of Google’s user review data. From one day to the next, I could expect to see different numbers being applied to my own review count, and often times, my reviews simply wouldn’t show up, only to return a few days later. Now, Google is taking a big step, pushing forward the value of a review/rating-based system, and true to form, discrepancies are instantly apparent.

Here is the review count currently present in my Google profile:

Actually, yesterday, I had 105 reviews being numbered on this page. Today it’s 104. But what’s a review or two? I’m used to this bug and it’s no big deal. But then I look at what my HotPot profile says and we’ve got a bit more of a problem:

Only 85 ratings/reviews? What happened to the other 20? If I’m a newish Google reviewer or HotPot user and I have left my first 30 reviews/ratings and Google is only appearing to show 10 of them, how enchanted am I going to be with this system? How loyal will I remain? The answer to that question belongs to Google. Bottom line, HotPot appears to be exhibiting Google’s historic problems with the numbers game when it comes to these new ratings.

Now for the grumbles.

I’ve spent considerable time leaving my 100+ reviews in Google over the years. I try to make them thorough, detailed and helpful. My general process is to list both the positive and negative aspects of a business. For example, if I’ve stayed at a hotel, I will say that I appreciated the friendly front desk, nice clean rooms, the blooming hyacinths in the garden and the fact that I saw pelicans flying past the back deck in the morning. Then, I will explain that I did not appreciate the scratchy bedding, the broken front door light, the screen door that wouldn’t open and the lack of in-room phones. I assess whether I feel the price was fair for the room and the region and add anything else I feel will be particularly helpful. People often mark my reviews as helpful, and I think this is because I share the things I feel will give the clearest picture of what another user can expect to experience at the business.

Unfortunately, the new emphasis on ratings is going to kill my joy and that of many other people because of a new emphasis on brevity. By my count, your review/rating is now allowed to be no longer than 368 characters, including spaces, and frankly, I find that really limiting.

I like reading Yelp reviews because many reviewers go into exact detail about their experiences as business patrons. Yelpers would be hard pressed to summarize even a 3 course dinner within HotPot’s confines and I see this as a genuine downside to what Google is doing, merging reviews and ratings into a single entity and demanding Twitter-like snippets rather than colorful, full accounts. I’m dubious as to whether I, personally, will feel interested in leaving reviews via Google’s applications any more. As a user who loves to write reviews, HotPot ratings leave me complaining of claustrophobia and seeking more air and wide open spaces.

Would love to see comments from Google as to these bugs and grumbles. And, from any of you!

8 Responses to “Bugs And Grumbles In Google’s HotPot?”

  1. on 02 Dec 2010 at 9:57 pm Lior Ron

    I’m Lior Ron, Product Manager for hotpot. wanted to quickly clarify:
    – All your reviews are showing across Google – we’re aware of the numbers discrepancies and are working to fix them
    – Long form reviews are most welcomed – you can still leave them on Place Pages like you did before ,and we’ve made some improvements of the interface there, the hotpot app itself is optimized for more quick ratings/tips

    thanks for the feedback!

  2. on 03 Dec 2010 at 3:01 pm admin

    Dear Lior,
    Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s great that Google is aware of the numbers problem. In my experience, this issue has been a factor since day one with Maps-based reviews.

    Regarding length, what am I missing? I go to a Place Page and and choose the option to rate/review a business and my entry is being cut off at 368 characters every time. This is going directly to the Place Page and leaving a Google-based review. Not coming through HotPot. You seem to know something I don’t and I would love clarification on this.

    Thank you, again, Lior!

  3. on 03 Dec 2010 at 3:35 pm Don Campbell

    Hi Miriam,
    Thank you for articulating this so well.

    This historic issue with the numbers of reviews might seem like a little thing to Google, but it’s very discouraging to both the users who leave the reviews, and the businesses.

    All the time and effort that you put into a review like that – it’s very valuable to the business owner, and to Google’s service too! I agree that they need to treat this with more care than they have shown.

    I hope they take this feedback to heart and put some cycles on this issue.

  4. on 03 Dec 2010 at 3:46 pm Mike Blumenthal

    Hi Miriam

    I was just able to publish an 827 word (4345 characters) review. I deleted it as it was jibberish.

    What browser are you using? Have you tried a different one? Or a different computer?

  5. on 03 Dec 2010 at 3:51 pm Dave Oremland

    Tx for the blog piece, Miriam. You have great incites on these issues. Its fascinating that your piece generated a response from a Google rep. Maybe since the horror story on the eyeglass Emerchant that benefitted from high rankings in Google while abusing customers they realize they better start surfacing and explain themselves.

    Hopefully they will work out their bugs quickly.

    I think your insights into the success and fun in Yelp are on target. Yelp has jumped to the lead in being a source for the best review info on the web. When I start looking at reviews on a business I’ll always check there, even as I check other places.

    I’d suggest Google allow more room for rich commentary in Hotpot. It will allow for rich insightful valuable reviews like the ones you leave. As a review reader now….I’m actually always on the lookout for an ever increasing volume of faked reviews. Lots of them are short.

    Who knows…with a limit on review length maybe google/hotpot is enabling faked crappy reviews. They need to review this.


  6. on 03 Dec 2010 at 8:19 pm admin

    Hey Don,
    I agree – the here again gone tomorrow historic nature of reviews lessens the trust of both users and business owners. Americans value consistency. If Google can deliver this better than they have in the past, it will be a significant step forward.

    Thank you for stopping by!

  7. on 03 Dec 2010 at 8:21 pm admin

    I’m really baffled. Both Lior and yourself are seeing something that I am not experiencing when I try to write a review through a Place Page. I am using Firefox, but I will try Chrome and see if it’s any different, being Google’s own browser. Thanks for suggesting that. If it’s a browser issue, Google should know of it.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. on 03 Dec 2010 at 8:22 pm admin

    Dave –
    I want to come back to this thread and see if the character limit I’m encountering is browser-related. Stay tuned and thank you so much for YOUR insightful comments. I read them with great pleasure and interest.

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