I like the post Seth Godin made a few days ago: Memo to the very small.
I, too, believe that we are in the midst of change. Well, at least it is much easier to create an online presence today than it ever has been - especially for those that are very small. Of course there have always been inexpensive ways to create sites, but there weren't always good ways of promoting them. Don't tell me about webrings or other such nonsense. If you'd have mentioned directory listings then I would have given you partial credit because I built up some very good site traffic over a period of time almost completely attributable to multiple directory listings. However, I'm talking about small business - the local mom-n-pop doo-dad shop.
Seth Godin's post mentions using hosted Typepad, building a Squidoo lens, and posting images on Flickr to help build a professional site and put some pieces together to generate traffic to the site. I'll take it a step further:
- Save links to your site(s) via social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us
- Put your url in your signature for any community sites that you frequent, especially for local-based sites like your town's site, forums, and newspaper.
The two above items will help get your small site noticed by search engines as well as help with rankings. Before you realize it, your site will be near the top of the results when doing a search for your business in your town - like "Anytown, OH doo-dad shop".
A lot of this stuff is still really a bit above the head of the non internet-savvy, but its nothing that your neighbor's kid couldn't accomplish for a couple of dollars. You might want to spend a little money on some good copywriting if you don't have the skills, but it's really an inexpensive exercise, with almost guaranteed results.
I won't try to amaze you with some of Seth Godin's quips like "Small is the new Big", but I will say that I do appreciate hometown businesses. I try to give them my business whenever possible. Those with an online presence make it easier for me to choose them.