NEW YORK Google has introduced a feature to its online mapping site that offers consumers coupons from local businesses.
The feature is offered as a free service to businesses. The Mountain View, Calif., Internet giant hopes the discounts drive more traffic to its site and generate advertising interest from smaller companies.
"The overall goal is to make it easier for small businesses to get their products and services in front of users online and also to help consumers make decisions by having more local information in front of them," said Shailesh Rao, director of local search at Google.
Google has partnered with Cox Enterprises' ValPak to get the program off the ground, distributing its coupons from 20,000 businesses. Companies can also fill out coupon information on Google's local business center site. Visitors to Google Maps will be alerted when businesses in the area have coupon offers. The coupons can be printed for redemption.
By the end of the year, Rao said the program would allow advertisers to link to a simple coupon page, rather than a full site. Until now, Google advertisers needed a Web site, something that many local businesses still do not have.
"We recognize that small businesses have a unique set of needs," Rao said. "We realize a lot of these small businesses don't have a presence online."
Yahoo allows small business advertisers to link to a business-locator page, which contains basic service information.