More Local Search Updates – HotPot, Boost, Sketch-A-Search

It’s been a busy month in local search across all .  Hot on the heels of their Google Places update to search results, Google unveiled the latest in their local arsenal; Google HotPot.

HotPot is a recommendation engine for local businesses.  Hotpot uses the location data provided in Google Places and then adds a recommendation layer on top of that.  These recommendations are defined by you, your friends, and other acquaintances.  Here’s how it works:

1 – You set up your HotPot profile

2 – You select the friends you want to share your ratings with

3 – You begin rating other establishments

4 – When you receive search results from Google Places, they will be recommendations based on your HotPot ratings

5 – The service has a Netflix-like quality; the more you rate, the better Google gets at recommending places for you

All of this information is public, although you can choose a different picture to be associated with your friends list than your general reviewing.  In short, Google is taking several services that they already offer (Places, Latitude, Buzz) and creating an additional layer that sort of bridges them all together.  It’s sort of like UrbanSpoon or Yelp, but it’s from Google.  It will be interesting to see if this is widely adopted, or if it faces a similar fate to Wave and Buzz.  With the growing  acceptance of Android, however, this may just take off.  This has lots of implications for businesses, given the increased amount of data points Google can now collect.

Google Boost

Google also expanded the reach of their Google Boost program.  Boost is a local advertising option that generates an adwords-type ad from Places data.  A user selects a budget and a campaign is created.  Boost ads are supposedly ranked only be relevancy, not by any type of bidding or other cost-related function.  Boost ads are currently restricted to select geographies, but this has already been expanded so we can expect this to be nationally available in the near future.

Yahoo!

Also in Local Search this week, Yahoo made some major updates.  Yahoo is taking dining to a whole new level with lots of local restaurant integrations.

Sketch-a-Search – draw on a map and filter out the area by cuisine

OpenTable – Make reservations through this service without leaving Yahoo

Restaurant Comparison – does what it says, it compares restaurants based on price, distance, atmosphere, etc

In addition to dining out, Yahoo is helping us shop better too.  Yahoo recently jumped on the “deal-a-day-coupon” bandwagon by launching Yahoo! Local Offers.  This service aggregates daily deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City, Valpak, Coupons.com and more.  It’s in beta right now, but it promises to show you nearby businesses that want to save you some money.

All Yahoo release info can be found here

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