Cannabis SEO: Driving Organic Traffic
Yes, search engine optimization (SEO) is still a crucial part of your digital marketing!
It may seem like SEO has been around for a long time—and it has—but that hasn’t made it any less effective.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of making your website easier for search engines to find and categorize so that when someone enters your relevant keywords into the search bar, your website shows up in the results.
Cannabis SEO helps drive qualified organic traffic right to your website—as long as you’re taking the time to regularly optimize and update your website. And when it comes to SEO, there’s one search engine that you primarily need to focus on…
Most searches happen on Google (and nearly all searches on mobile devices). It’s the leading search engine in the United States and Canada, and because that’s what your customers use, that’s what you need to focus on.
Getting Started with Cannabis SEO
Cannabis SEO includes a lot of moving parts, and they aren’t just on your website. When considering what results to show, the Google algorithm takes into account both on-site factors and off-site factors.
For on-site factors, you need to focus on:
- Mobile responsiveness
- Page speed
- Keywords & Content
- Schema, metadata, and alternative tags (alt tags)
- Site architecture
More and more people are using their smartphones to run searches. Because of this, Google now priorities mobile responsiveness as one of its ranking attributes. That means that your site needs to look good and be easily accessible on a variety of devices.
Because Google wants to introduce searchers to websites that are relevant and that provide a good experience, they take how quickly your page loads into consideration. You’ll need to compress any large images. Run your site through Page Speed Insights to verify that it looks quickly.
Keywords & Content
Keywords clue Google into what you’re talking about. For a dispensary, you’ll want to focus on keywords that include your city’s name and “dispensary,” as well as other cannabis and dispensary related keywords.
But you can’t just stuff those keywords onto pages and expect results.
You also need to create quality content geared at your audience. This can be useful information about how to use your products, strain recommendations, and even fun, irreverent content like “what to watch while high.”
Schema, Metadata & Alt Tags
Underneath everything you see on a website is a bunch of code. And part of that code helps Google better understand your site and what’s on it. By including those components of code—shema, metadata, and alt tags—you’re making Google’s job easier and increasing your chances of ranking higher.
How you set up your site matters. It needs to make sense to a user so the pages you link together should have a clear connection. Before launching new pages, make sure to consider where they’ll fit on your sitemap. If you’re launching a new location page, for example, it should have your dispensaries page as a parent.
For off-site factors, you need to focus on:
- Google My Business (GMB)
- Name, Address, Phone number (NAP)
Google My Business
Your GMB profile is a free listing that shows up as the first result on mobile when people search your name or on the right-hand side on a desktop.
If you haven’t claimed yours, do it now.
You’ll want to input your name, address, phone number, location photos (no cannabis products), and an optimized description that showcases what sets your dispensary apart.
Positive reviews are crucial for encouraging more people to shop at your dispensary—but just hoping for and getting positive reviews isn’t enough. You’ll want to maintain a 4.7-star rating on Google reviews and aim to get a new review every day.
You’ll want to monitor your reviews across different platforms (Yelp, Leafly, etc.) and respond to both positive and negative reviews.
If you do score some negative reviews—and it will probably happen at some point—give the reviewer your phone number so you can take the discussion offline and try to resolve the issue. If you can help fix the problem, they may amend their review. If they choose not to, at least there won’t be a string of back and forth comments on the original negative review, and readers will see that you were responsive and caring.
Having correct information is crucial. Make sure that your name, address, and phone number are the same on your website, on your GMB profile, and on any other listings. This helps show that you are who you say that you are and builds on the trust factor.
Directory listing sites that point to your website can also impact your cannabis SEO. Make sure to claim any of your dispensary listings, including on non-cannabis sites like Yelp and cannabis sites like Weedmaps and Leafly. You don’t have to pay for a listing. Most sites let you populate the information for free.
Backlinks are links back to your site from another site. For example, the listing sites mentioned above would all result in a link on your profile page that goes to your website. Guest posting on other sites, having your events picked up by a local news groups, and doing podcast interviews can all lead to backlinks. These links help establish that you are who you say you are and that your dispensary has the appropriate authority.
We’ve created several resources that can help you boost your cannabis SEO.:
- GMB Optimization Checklist
- Measuring SEO Success: How to Check Whether Your Efforts Are Working
- Local SEO for Dispensaries: 3 Things You Can’t Ignore
- Easy SEO Fixes You Can Implement Right Now
- Everything You Need To Know About The ROI of Link Building
- Why You Need To Get More Organic Traffic To Your Site (And How)
- SEO: Expectations vs Reality
- Why Local SEO Matters For Your Dispensary
- How To Optimize Your Dispensary Website For SEO
Cannabis SEO: Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness
Ultimately, Google and other search engines want to showcase sites that are relevant and useful to searchers. One way that Google manages this is by focusing on the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) of a particular site.
If you’re doing good SEO (and not participating in so-called “black hat” SEO), then your work should be highlighting the EAT of your site. For example, when you’re scoring backlinks, you’re showing Google that others see your site as an authority on a subject and that your info is trustworthy. Positives reviews also help point to your trustworthiness.
Is SEO for Dispensaries Different?
Dispensaries are unique businesses. Currently, they operate in a gray space. While some states have both legal medical and recreational dispensaries, others have only medical dispensaries or none at all. And then federally, all dispensaries are technically illegal.
In addition, they also have plenty of advertising restrictions placed on them, similar to the alcohol and tobacco industries but more stringent in many ways.
Thankfully, SEO is pretty much the same regardless of industry. The main concern is the competition. You generally want to outrank your competitors in search results so that your page scores more web traffic (and hopefully more sales).
There are also cannabis-specific places where you can score listings, like Weedmaps and Leafly.
And just like other businesses, SEO is a crucial component of a strategic digital marketing plan. To learn more, reach out to us!