Google Retires ‘HotPot’ While Yelp Says Reviews Beat Ratings

Google is folding HotPot into Google Places, in an effort to clean up a bit of the confusion that is Google’s collection of LBS properties. There’s no substantive change; Google is just making HotPot a “feature” of Places.

It’s also a reflection of the fact that Google now considers HotPot a success and is folding it permanently into Places. Google previously revealed that there were in excess of three million ratings on Google HotPot/Places.

Independently VendAsta also confirmed to me that there had been a rapid rise in the number of ratings coming from Google.

I asked Google where the name “HotPot” came from. I had missed the blog post explaining the genesis of the name:

Hot pot, the dish, is about community. You and your friends huddle together and add ingredients to a pot of boiling broth, creating a delicious soup to be enjoyed by all. Sometimes you take your own food from the pot, and sometimes you taste what your friends have added. This shared experience of gathering around a fire to cook and eat communally is a fundamental illustration of how we’ve come together to enjoy food from the earliest days of humanity.

I also had a chat with Yelp today, which sought to make the point that there’s a difference between star ratings and in-depth reviews — in other words Google vs. Yelp. I argued that in some contexts it would matter immensely and in others it would not as much.

In a star-ratings environment most businesses wind up being 3.5 stars: “regression toward the mean.” This is when additional content and information help break the tie.

However Google would argue that HotPot’s ratings also facilitate friend recommendations, which is another axis of decision-making. So it’s not entirely about stars.

Yelp doesn’t seem to have been impacted at all by the rise of HotPot’s ratings. Yelp said that there’s been an acceleration of reviews and traffic during Q1. The company now claims more than 50 million unique users around the world. It also claims more than 15 million reviews. That’s an old number; it’s probably almost 3 million larger now.

(Vince Sollitto of Yelp just emailed me and said the number is 17 million reviews.)

What do you think? Is there a meaningful difference between star ratings and long-form reviews?

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8 Responses to “Google Retires ‘HotPot’ While Yelp Says Reviews Beat Ratings”

  1. Malcolm Lewis says at

    Both are useful, but I always look for businesses with a high average rating AND a large total number of ratings before I bother reading the reviews. So for me, ratings henerate the shortlist, reviews are the tie-breaker.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Mobile is a context also where I want quick information and reviews are hard to digest.

  3. Rocky says at

    Increasingly, I go to the pictures, which provide more information more quickly than ratings or reviews. 

    On Yelp, I use 4* as a floor. They make it way too hard to read reviews on mobile. (Short snippets, each requiring a click.)

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree it’s very tough to read reviews on mobile. That’s why, to Malcolm’s point, I like “top lists.” In the SF Bay Area the newspaper the Chronicle has a “top 100 restaurants” guide by cuisine and geography. It’s a mystery to me why this hasn’t been made into an app.

  5. Mike says at

    Regarding ‘top lists’ would the Zagat app with top rated lists to be what you are looking for? You can get top 5, by cuisine for an area (at least for SF). Or were you thinking of something that data mines and aggregates Yelp, Google, (review/rating sites) to generate top lists?

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Doesn’t need to aggregate. Just ways to shortcut decision-making.

  7. My Review Corpus is Bigger Than Your Review Corpus And Why It Matters | Understanding Google Maps & Local Search says at

    […] would have 15 million reviews by the end of 2010. Last week the publicly offered number had now reached 17 million. Talk big and the markets perceive you as big. It’s what I call the Peacock Method […]

  8. Canadian SEO | Local Canadian SEO | Hamilton SEO|CanuckSEO.com says at

    […] far at least) not that much of a change, but one that other SEO types have commented on too…Greg Sterling here and Mike Blumenthal here….and thanks to both for pointing out some real-world numbers and […]

  9. gina says at

    I think this is a great move by Google, it will definitely help simply their message and hopefully add addition value to business Places Pages.

  10. Jim Morris says at

    We don’t take ratings-only “reviews” for Buzzillions and actively discourage our 1,000+ clients through PowerReviews from doing that. Comments provide the necessary perspective on a users opinion. I find the Yelp demographic different from my tastes (same with most movie reviewers) so the comments explain the ratings much better. That said, I agree with your first commenter that ratings create a short list (and Greg’s desired top 10 lists). Netflix is the largest ratings only system and when I’m evaluating movies I’ve never heard of, it’s not very useful. 

    Certainly data mining the comments for useful and quick summary information is a rich research area.

  11. My Review Corpus is Bigger Than Your Review Corpus And Why It Matters | iGo Mobile Marketing says at

    […] would have 15 million reviews by the end of 2010. Last week the publicly offered number had now reached 17 million. Talk big and the markets perceive you as big. It’s what I call the Peacock Method […]

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