The explosion of mobile device usage in the past few years has made it important that all small businesses claim their Google Places listings, and today's announcement of Google Hotpot is yet another reason for you to explore location-based services if you haven't already.
There are already millions of folks using services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places to review, rate and share their business and restaurant experiences with their friends. Now with Google Hotpot entering the picture, Google is hoping to become best-in-breed of location by combining the huge amount of Google Places information they've already compiled with a new, enticing user interface that makes it easy to find establishments that a user's friends have recommended.
Google Hotpot works a lot like any normal Google search. You have your search bar at the top of the page, and when you type in your query you get your results, however in this case they're all business listings. From the page of listings you can browse various shops, stores and restaurants that Google thinks will be relevant to you. If you see one you like you can save it for later, or if something isn't relevant to you just click the 'not interested' button and it'll disappear. Perhaps the best apart of Google Hotpot is the social aspect - if a visitor has friends that are also using Hotpot it'll automatically feature the listings they have liked or rated highly.
An added bonus is that all of these features will be rolled into the Google Maps application on Android phones, so folks can actually see the Hotpot data for restaurants and businesses around them when they're searching for directions or looking for a new place to stop and grab lunch. I see this as an especially great opportunity for restaurant owners as Google even provides a digital coupon service which can give potential customers the incentive to visit. Ten percent off your meal, anyone?