Guide to Cannabis Dispensary SEO

Despite ongoing industry and economic pressures, the cannabis market has been resilient and continues to grow. Public support for legalization is at an all-time high, and retail sales across medical and adult markets in the U.S. are projected to reach $57 billion by 2028, while providing an additional $170 billion in economic impact. 

With this accelerated growth comes an increase in competition. Whether you’re a new MMJ dispensary, an existing medical cannabis dispensary that is transitioning to target the recreational market, or a new recreational store coming to market, cannabis dispensary SEO (search engine optimization) will play a vital role in driving traffic to your business.

What is SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. In contrast to paid search traffic, organic search traffic comes to your site through the unpaid results that show up on search engine results pages (SERPs) when a user types a query into Google, Bing, etc.

Why Is SEO Important for Cannabis Dispensaries? 

When looking for local businesses, people turn to search engines—and they use Google in particular, which controls over 90% of the search engine market share worldwide. To show up in Google search results, you must have a robust SEO strategy and a team to implement it. Otherwise, searchers will end up clicking through to competitors with better visibility.

Why? Because searchers equate high ranking with trustworthiness and quality. The #1 organic result on a search engine results page will get nearly 28% of clicks, while the top three capture about 54% of all clicks. Most searchers don’t even look beyond the Top 10 SERP results.

In other words, the higher you rank on search results pages, the more visitors you’ll receive from search engines and, therefore, the more opportunities you’ll have to convert these leads into customers.

The image below shows you the SERP for the keyword “dispensary near me.” You can see the three local businesses that are currently enjoying top ranking for that search query and location, also known as the Local Map Pack. These three results show each dispensary’s Google Business Profile (commonly referred to as a GMB profile), a free business listing you can create to reach local customers on Google Maps.

Google My Business Listing

Just below the local map pack, are the organic (“natural” or unpaid) listings. These are the most relevant search results Google displays the for your keyword based on 200+ factors, which consist of a combination of on-page and off page optimization.


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On-page Optimization

On-page optimization involves carefully selecting relevant keywords that apply to your dispensary and strategically utilizing them throughout the content on your website—from location pages to blog posts to product descriptions. It also involves ensuring that the content is structured and tagged in a way that makes it easy for Google to understand and crawl your pages. Here is a list of eight essential on-page ranking factors:

01. Title tags

An HTML element that sets the name of a webpage and shows up in search results.

02. Meta descriptions

 A short description of the content on a webpage, showing up below the title tag in search results.

03. Heading tags

These HTML tags help delineate page content into a title, sections and subsections, aiding both the reader and search engine bots to understand the content of a page.

04. Schema markup:

Also known as structured data, the schema markup is a code standard that helps search engines understand the content of and categorize webpages.

05. Quality content

Is the content on the page relevant, useful, engaging, and trustworthy? These are a few of the criteria that both readers and search engines will judge quality on.

06. Content comprehensiveness:

Is the content on the page relevant, useful, engaging, and trustworthy? These are a few of the criteria that both readers and search engines will judge quality on.

07. Image alt text

Text that helps screen reading tools describe an image on a page or is displayed when an image cannot be loaded.

08. Internal Links

A link to any other page on your website.

Off-page Optimization

Off-page optimization improves your website ranking through factors beyond your site, including the number of quality backlinks coming to your site from other locations. Here is a list of the top 5 off-page ranking factors:

01. The number of linking domains

02. The number of linking pages

03. Domain authority of linking pages

04. Do-follow vs. no-follow links

05. Anchor text optimization

06. Local SEO

07. Reviews

08. Social Shares

Strategies for Dispensary SEO

In most cannabis markets across the U.S., the competition local dispensaries face is only intensifying. All of the dispensary SEO principles and tactics highlighted so far can be used to improve your general visibility on the web. While these are essential, there’s an added layer of strategy needed for local businesses: Local SEO.

Local SEO and Your Google Business Profile

Local SEO strategy is centered around the geographical location of your dispensary so that your website is optimized to be found in local search results. Like the SEO tactics we’ve highlighted already, local SEO will also increase the traffic to and visibility of your website—but if you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, it can also help bring more customers through your door, too.

About 98% of consumers used the internet to find information about local businesses over the last year, and 28% of local searches on mobile devices resulted in a purchase within 24 hours.

Local SEO considers the types of searches your local customers are conducting and works to ensure that all local signals you provide to Google—from your Google Business Profile to local citations—are consistent and correct. Effective local SEO allows customers to find information about your dispensary quickly and easily by helping to enhance your organic visibility for local search queries and improving your rank within the Local Map Pack.

Measuring SEO Success

The practice of SEO is both an art and a science. There are many technical aspects to SEO—URL structure, mobile friendliness, and page loading speed, for example—that make it part science. Other aspects, such as keyword research, content creation, and the strategies that support them, encompass the creativity and business acumen that make SEO an art, as well.

While Google offers general resources to help guide SEO experts, the company does not publish exactly how their algorithms work. Additionally, there are regular updates to Google’s core algorithms that can affect your current rankings and SEO performance as Google continues to refine what it deems to be a good search experience. There are typically multiple core updates per year, and each update may target different ranking factors and have varying levels of impact on your SEO efforts. But that doesn’t mean we can’t measure SEO success, and there are many key performance indicators (or KPIs) that we can use to track SEO performance.

Key Performance Indicators

Regularly measuring SEO performance is essential for ensuring your strategy stays relevant and effective. Here are nine important KPIs for SEO:

01. Organic Traffic

Organic traffic measures the traffic that arrives at a website from search engines without paid advertising or promotion. It is one of the most important KPIs for SEO because it reflects the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and the value of your website to search engines.

02. Impressions

This KPI measures how often your website is displayed in SERPs. The higher your impression count, the more people are seeing your website, which increases brand awareness and can lead to more traffic and conversions. Impressions are counted whenever a search engine user sees your website’s listing in the SERPs, even if they don’t click on it.

03. Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Click-through rate (CTR) is an important KPI in SEO because it measures the effectiveness of your search engine snippets and listings in attracting clicks from users. It is calculated as the number of clicks that your snippet receives divided by the number of impressions that it receives.

04. User Engagement

User engagement reflects how interested and involved users are with a website or its content. It is typically measured through metrics such as ​​bounce rate, average time on page, session duration, and pages per session.

05. Backlinks

Click-through rate (CTR) is an important KPI in SEO because it measures the effectiveness of your search engine snippets and listings in attracting clicks from users. It is calculated as the number of clicks that your snippet receives divided by the number of impressions that it receives.

06. Organic Visibility

Visibility reflects how visible your website is in organic search results. It can be measured through metrics such as keyword rankings, impressions, and presence in SERP features such as local packs, knowledge panels, or featured snippets.

07. Conversions

A conversion is any desired action a user takes on your website, such as purchasing, signing up for a newsletter, or filling out a contact form. Conversions are important for SEO because they tell you whether your website attracts the right kind of traffic and whether your content is persuasive enough to convince users to take an action, moving them further down the marketing funnel.

08. Keyword Rankings

Keyword rankings tell you how well your website and content rank in SERPs for specific keywords. These rankings are calculated by search engines based on various factors, including the quality of your content, the relevance of your website to the keywords being searched for, and the number of backlinks that your website has from other high-quality websites.

09. Website Health Score

Your site’s health score measures the overall technical health of your website. Maintaining a high health score is important so search engines can crawl, index, and rank your pages well.

Tools for SEO Analytics

As SEO becomes an increasingly valuable initiative for all businesses, there is no shortage of tools, platforms, and other solutions to help guide SEO strategy development and execution.  Some tools have very specific or nice use cases, while others offer all-in-one solutions for everything from keyword research to content creation to audits. We’ve included here a short list of the most trusted and widely used tools.

Google offers several free tools that should be part of any SEO toolkit:

01. Google Analytics

02. Google Search Console

03. PageSpeed Insights

04. Google Trends

Google Analytics offers insights into organic traffic, paid traffic, and social media traffic while providing digital marketing analytics related to consumer behavior—page views, time on site, and bounce rate, for example. It can also track conversions, such as purchases and signups. 

Google Search Console can provide deeper insight into SEO performance indicators such as keyword rankings, click-through rates, and impressions. It can also be used to identify technical issues that may be affecting a website’s ranking. While there are several other free SEO tools from Google, two more that are must-haves for your toolkit are PageSpeed Insights and Google Trends. 

PageSpeed Insights is a user experience (UX) tool that looks at page load times. A fast site is important because most users won’t wait for a slow site: Sites with a load time of one second enjoy 3x higher conversion rates than those that take five seconds. Google Trends is a handy tool for tracking real-time trends in search terms that could impact your overall SEO strategy and help guide timely content creation.

In addition to Google’s tools, several robust all-in-one tools allow you to cover many of your SEO bases with one platform. Tools such as Semrush, Moz Pro, and Ahrefs all offer essential features such as:

  • Keyword research 
  • Competitive analysis
  • Rank tracking
  • Link building

Each of these three platforms has its strengths and weaknesses, but all offer a suite of tools that can support SEO strategy, execution, and auditing.

Regular SEO Audits and Adjustments

Google core algorithm updates aside, SEO is a dynamic and evolving field impacted by consumer behavior and trends alongside your business initiatives and goals. 

SEO audits are used to understand how your site’s performance is changing over time and to identify technical issues impacting your site, areas where content strategy may be improved, and to understand how your SEO competitors are performing, for example.

Regular SEO audits are essential for maintaining your website’s visibility, usability, and performance in search engines and should be conducted quarterly to maximize impact.

Let’s take an in-depth look at each digital marketing channel.

Given the unique position of the cannabis industry, we’re only covering the digital marketing channels that are permitted to use by ancillary businesses, brands, dispensary owners, mobile applications, producers, processors, and websites. There is a legal gray area when marketing cannabis companies, and you should regularly reference the laws within your state before starting any campaign.


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