Getting Found Online
If you have a small business, and haven't signed up at Google's Local Business Center* yet, you really need to do it! Local search has become the hot search space, and if you ever want to get noticed in Google's "7-Pack" (The 7 business listings that appear beside the map at the top of a search results page), then you need to get started. You can sign up even if you don't have a website!
You can find it through Google Maps (http://www.google.com/maps), just follow the link that says "Put your business on Google Maps". This will take you to the Local Business Center. If you already have a Google Account, just sign in with your email and password, or you can use your Adwords login and password. If not, sign up for a new account with Google.
Now that you're signed in, click "Add new business". Start by filling in your basic business information, including business name, address, phone number and URL. Then click "Next" to fill in more details about your business, such as what categories your business can be found in (up to 5), hours and payment options. You can also upload up to 10 photos and up to 5 YouTube videos. These additions all help your business to stand out and get found locally on the web. There is also a spot for "Additional Details" where you can add any other pertinent material, like parking, brands, etc.
Now all you have to do is verify your listing. If you choose phone verification, your phone will ring pretty much as soon as you click "Finish", and an automated message from Google will give you a code to enter into your listing, and you're done! The whole process takes less than half an hour, and it can make a big difference in getting found in those increasingly important local searches.
Of course, there's a lot more you can do to improve your visibility online, like SEO, Search Marketing, Email Marketing, Newsletters and more, but getting your business in Google's Local Business Listings is a really good start.
*Google Local Business Center has been renamed Google Places. There are also some new features being added, but so far they are only available in the U.S. You can still get there via Google Maps, but you can also get there using the link google.com/places. Everything else remains the same.