By now most people have figured out how to get into the maps section of major search engines and even how to set up pay per click campaigns. The challenge is ranking organically seems to be a mystery that few small businesses can solve. The rules change so fast and unless you work for an SEO firm you are not likely to be able to keep up. The good news is that though the rules that govern most search results are ever evolving, there are some very basic things that anyone can do to show well for less competitive local search phrases, like "plumbers in Raleigh, NC" or "personal trainer Memphis, TN."
The first and most important thing that every site owner must do is ask himself "what would I type if I were searching for my kind of business?" Then take that phrase and make it the title tag of your home page. This literally takes about ten seconds and if you don't do it you can pretty much kiss your rankings goodbye. Yes, it's that important and if you can't do it, get your webmaster to do it. Further, you should do the same thing for all of the pages on your website, only use different title tags and make sure they are in line with what you talk about on each corresponding page.
The next thing you want to do is start building links to your site, and if possible use a set of about 20 or so anchor text links. Whatever you do, don't use the same text or you risk being penalized. If you are not sure what anchor text links are then I highly recommend researching it. One way to build links is to ask friends that own websites to link back to your (preferably off their home page) website. You can use paid directories but try and make sure that they are relevant to your business and don't waste time adding a link if the site makes you link back to their website. The search engines are not that stupid and it doesn't look natural at all.
You should also write a press release from time to time talking about new product roll outs, expansions and so forth. Of course, make sure to add a link back to your site into the press release and use lots of industry keywords. Expect to pay at least $50 to issue it, but it usually gets picked up by a lot of sites so it an excellent investment.
Finally, make sure you have lots of relevant content and keywords on every page of your website. Try to add a minimum of 500 words on each page. If you work in many surrounding cities then consider using city specific content on each page. For example, if you own a restaurant guide that covers four cities one title tag might say "Virginia Beach Restaurant Guide" and the other may say "Chesapeake Seafood Restaurants." It's also a great idea to write a125 word piece about the city and add it to the bottom of the page.
It is possible to get high rankings without any link building, but that will depend on how much competition there is and how many people know this kind of information. One thing to keep in mind, if changing the title tags and adding content doesn't get the job done the you will have to do some link building, but don't get suckered into the scam offering to build you 1,000 links for $50 all at once. Do it naturally, and one at a time. Links act as votes and the more "quality" links you have the better. If you have a ton a junk links pointing to your website you will actually lose some or all of your ranking. Regardless, failure to know the aforementioned is failure to have an internet presence.
It's not enough anymore to just do print advertising. In fact, if you were only going to use one form of marketing there would be a strong argument that the internet should be it. If you're not fully convinced, think about what you're doing right now.