Online maps from Google and rivals Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL have been racing to offer the most bells and whistles to attract more eyeballs that can then be fed advertisements.
Google is the first to offer coupons, which not only appeal to cost-conscious consumers but also offer advertisers a reliable way to gauge the success of an ad campaign.
"We believe this is going to be a nice way for merchants to understand the impact of their online presence and marketing on their offline sales," said Gokul Rajaram, a product management director at Google.
Beginning Wednesday morning, Google Maps users will see coupons from the more than 12,000 advertisers who offer printable online coupons from direct-mailing provider Valpak.
For example, a search for "San Francisco veterinarians" will display business listings that match those terms alongside a map. If any vets are offering coupons, a link accompanying the listing will take people to a separate Web page where the coupon can be printed. The coupon can then be redeemed in person at the business location.
Any merchant is eligible to sign up to offer coupons, at no charge, on Google Maps at Google's Local Business Center.
Greg Sterling, a market analyst with Sterling Business Intelligence, said the coupons may attract more users to Google Maps.
"In the traditional offline world, coupons drive a lot of business, and they haven't been well-explored online," he said. "It's also a marketing tool for local businesses and it doesn't cost anything" beyond the discount given to customers.
Google also will begin offering in coming months the ability for businesses that purchase AdWords search-related keywords to send people who click on the ads to a page containing a coupon hosted by Google Maps, Rajaram said.