In September 2011, Google launched its very own social network, Google+. Soon after, the company announced it would be phasing out Google Places and integrating its content into Google+ as Google Plus Local, making it even more beneficial for businesses to join and maintain an account on Google+. Although it may not be as popular as the social media giant Facebook, Google+ is a great tool for businesses to stay connected with clients—even the ones who don’t use Google+ themselves.

One of the most beneficial things about Google+ is its effectiveness as a tool for search engine optimization (SEO). Using all of Google’s toys gives your site brownie points with the search engine and will help boost your ranking in search results.

Having the Google+ element integrated into your website is also a great way to include everyone. Unlike having a Facebook “like” link on your page, inviting guests to click on your “+1” doesn’t require them to have a Google+ account themselves. So when your business comes up in search results, visitors will see how many times people have +1’d you. It’s almost like a stamp of approval from visitors, and it saves them from the hassle of having to set up a profile before being able to participate or contribute.

The Google Plus Local element is especially helpful if your business happens to be a restaurant. With its acquisition of restaurant guide Zagat, Google has built a comprehensive review system. When users search for your restaurant, they will also see its Zagat rating. Even for non-restaurant businesses, Google Plus Local can help drive traffic to your website—and, if you have good reviews, to your business—because it allows users to search for, share and read reviews, and get directions to your business.

If you’re already using Gmail or any other Google apps, signing up for Google+ is a breeze. It’s worth the time to set up an account and help make your site more socially interactive.