Here’s a way that even miniscule businesses can publicize themselves.
Have a look at Google Places.
Since Google already collects (and indexes!) an unreal amount of information, it’s conceivable that they could assemble a page of information about almost any object. For the moment, they’ve chosen to collect information about “places” — a business, a train station, or any other “place”. This is of course closely integrated with Google Maps, Google Earth, Streetview, Adwords, etc.
Google introduced Places in a blog article a couple of weeks ago. Google Places requires that each place owner validate him/her self, and then allows a place owner to add photos, videos, and more information about his/her “place”. So far, this is nothing special. What’s next is special: Google inserts information that it’s found on the web about this place — reviews, brands, etc. — on the owner’s place page.
I don’t know where this is headed, but its possibilities are tantalizing. Google could, in cooperation with a place owner, build a page that’s chock full of current information about a place, with very little work needing to be done by the place owner. Then Google could continue to keep information on a place owner’s page up to date, as Google discovers relevant information on the web.
Other Google users may add reviews of each place. A place owner may respond to each review, announce events, and publish coupons.
Google Places seems to be aimed squarely at Facebook’s business profile service . . . and the Yellow Pages. (Yellow Pages is dying, in any case: 20 years ago, 80% of local business lookups were done via Yellow Pages. Today that has shrunken to 16%.) Google says that local business search is their fastest growing market. Google Places, if Google uses its vast database, could dominate this market.