Thursday 02 Dec 2010
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!