Google HotPot: No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Google recently introduced its Google HotPot ratings and recommendations tool for restaurants, merchants and services. Merchants are encouraged to establish pages for their businesses so that patrons can rate their services, and make recommendations to others. Once users begin rating places, the tool will begin making recommendations based on the places the user has rated. HotPot is yet another way Google is attempting to enhance a user's search experience, but it's having an interesting effect no one had anticipated.

When negative ratings began showing up, some merchants realized that despite the negativity, the ratings were a boon to their business. This serendipitous discovery has made some business owners happy, but leaves consumers in a lurch because they don't know who to trust. The concept of bad publicity = high search rankings can harm the credibility of legitimate business with genuinely positive ratings from satisfied consumers. Google remains ambiguous as to whether or not they will actually crack down on the bad review/high visibility factor, but they claim to be working on it. In the meantime, consumers should remain vigilant, do their homework and trust their instincts. Before the dawn of e-commerce, the buyer had to beware. Now, we say, "your mileage may vary" (YMMV). The words have changed, but the sentiment remains the same.

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