If you read the title, you probably saw “Hotspot” as opposed to “Hotpot,” like I did for the first five to ten times that I read it. But it is indeed sans “s,” which may not read well to you, but despite this, Hotpot is worth noting for the future. For those of you that don’t know, Hotpot is Google’s new improvement to it’s existing Places feature. And the implications in the world of SEO are huge. To start, there will be a brief summation of the key features of Google Places and the new addition of Hotpot. This will then be followed by some best-practices in order to properly utilize these programs for your SEO advantage. And finally, there will be some suggestions as to how to properly optimize your business for Google Places/Hotpot.
For those that don’t know, Google Places gives the user information about local businesses that are related to the keyword or keywords that the user searched for. For businesses, you can have your business listed for free as long as you have a physical address and fill out the required information. Basically, as a business, you have to give information about yourself. Mainly this information pertains to business category (like keywords about the features/products of your company), photos or videos, or other additional categories. Basically, the more you fill out, the better you will look in terms of your Places profile. In addition to this basic profile, you can update and write short statuses, and much like a Facebook update, you can post about discounts or giveaways to your Places profile. Basically, this profile can make it easier for users to find you in local organic searches, and if you don’t rank well for general industry keywords, you can see your traffic skyrocket if you optimize for local SEO terms and fill out a Places profile.
One of the most important aspects of Places are the reviews that customers can submit about your business. Getting reviews is key to legitimizing your Places page—more reviews, the more relevant and busy you will look to prospective customers, and in turn the higher you will rank on the Places results. It goes without saying that bad reviews will hurt you, so try to limit those with positive customer experiences.
In addition to these features, Places also allows you to “tag” your location for twenty –five dollars a month. Basically, this will place a small yellow tag next to your places location on the Google map, adding some emphasis to your Places profile. These tags can announce promotions, discounts, coupons, or really any pertinent information you want to get across. And, you can track the performance of this “tag” as well as all other analytical data for your account from the easy to use Places dashboard.
Hotpot is the next step for Places, as it takes all of the features of Places and adds a social element. Unlike Places, Hotpot is designed primarily for the consumer, as opposed to both the business and the consumer. It has a much easier to use interface, and focuses more on the customer side of the business interaction. Hotpot data doesn’t supersede the pre-existing data of Places—it still keeps all of the business information the same. It simply eliminates some details from the profile for quick and easy viewing, such as destination URL and phone number. But these are still accessible should the user decide to research more into your business profile.
Each Hotpot user is required to choose a nickname that is different from their Google account. Then they can either start searching for businesses and reviewing them based on their experiences, or they can check what their “friends” (added in much the same way as Facebook or any other social utility) have reviewed. Based on these positive or negative reviews, Google collects data on the user’s preferences (as well as all user preferences on businesses and locations), and then offers suggestions on different businesses based on these preferences. Also, the preferences of the user’s friends will be taken into account, especially if the several users have similar reviews. So the more people who review your business, especially in a positive manner, the more information that Google will have from users. In the case of positive reviews, this will drive many more customers your way. This will all result in Google being able to more accurately recommend you to potential customers.
In terms of best-practices in order to rank highly in Place and Hotpot Searches, it is important to properly categorize your business. This is much like page optimization for SEO—if you don’t categorize your business accurately and thoroughly, you could be missing out on traffic. Also, be sure to recommend to your customers that they review your business. As of now, it seems that quantity of reviews is more important than quality in terms of Places page rank, but in terms of Hotspot its best to be positively ranked. Both factors need to be taken into account. A good way to ensure more reviews is to offer free Wi-Fi at your business, then remind customers to review you. And finally, make sure that like in standard SEO, that the citations (similar to links from sites in SEO) you are receiving are legitimate and from sites with good authority, according to Google.
The wider implications of Hotspot is that Google may be looking to compile the data that users input as their personal preferences to start to flesh out local listings for smaller population centers. Because most small towns don’t have many Places entries for businesses, this data that is entered by users living in these areas may help to expand the reach of Google. In essence, Hotspot users could be used as human crawlers for small towns. So, be sure to stay up to date with Hotspot and Google Places, as not only can they be utilized for cheap advertising, but you can have limitless people referred to your company by their trusted friends and Google in the local area as well!
Bryan is an Assistant Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.