Google has enhanced its Google Maps application to include coupons that businesses can create and display free of charge.

The service, announced yesterday, allows a business to fill out a form on Google's website to create a coupon that online users can print out and bring into the business to redeem. Visitors to Google Maps see a link to the coupon when they search for the business.

The service is an extension of the Google Maps advertising offering, introduced earlier this year. As part of that offering, businesses can create a profile for their shop and the information, including address and phone number, is displayed to users searching on Google Maps. The service is free but for an extra fee, businesses can include their logo and some additional information to their profile that appear in the Google Maps search results.

Businesses that create coupons directly on the Google site will see their coupons displayed within hours, Google said.

Google has also partnered with Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, a direct marketing company, to display coupons from current Valpak advertisers on Google Maps. Valpak will add coupons for its new advertisers nightly.

Google claims the coupons will offer a better local search experience for users and offer businesses another way to reach customers. They could also drive traffic to the site, as bargain hunters look for discount coupons for their favourite shops.

So far, the offering is only available in the US and Google doesn't have plans at this time to expand it elsewhere, said Anna Wharton, a spokeswoman for Google in the UK.