Google is putting coupons on the map, literally.
Through a partnership with direct marketing company Valpak, Google plans on Tuesday to make coupons available to users of Google Maps who search for information about local businesses.
Users won't be able to search for specifically for coupons; rather, a search for, say, "pizza in San Francisco," will return listings for several local businesses which may or may not offer coupons.
Clicking on a participating Google Maps business listing will load a map alongside a business listing and links to one or more coupons that can be printed and redeemed in-store. Apart from the cost of printer ink and paper, the coupons are free.
Businesses also will be able to create coupons at no cost through the Google Business Center at Google Maps, where they would normally enter local business information.
Google's goal, according to Gokul Rajaram, a product manager at the company, is to provide a more relevant user experience and to reach local merchants, whether they're online or not.
In the next few months, Google plans to let advertisers link their Google AdWords campaigns to Google Maps coupons, thereby eliminating the need for small businesses to have a Web site as place to drive traffic. "Advertisers can use the coupons page as their Web site and drive users to that, and measure the impact of online marketing on their offline sales," says though Rajaram.
Greg Sterling, founder of research firm Sterling Market Intelligence, says measuring online marketing dollars in the real world has been a vexing problem for advertisers and sees Google's actions broadening the adoption of online coupons.
Google's coupons aren't set up to work on mobile handsets at this time, though Rajaram acknowledges this "is something we'd consider."
There will be 20,000 coupons initially, a consequence of the Valpak partnership. Rajaram says Google is exploring additional partnerships with other companies.
The coupons will be available only through the search box on Google Maps; Google.com searches won't return coupons on the search results page and Rajaram says Google has no plans to add them at this point.