Once upon a pre-Internet time, businesses relied on print media, radio, television, and word-of-mouth for advertising. But these days, search engine marketing reigns supreme, and cannabis dispensaries that hop on the SEO train outperform those that don’t.
So what’s SEO, and how can it help your marijuana business? Let’s get to it!
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and if you want to appear at the top of result pages — known as SERPs — when someone searches for “where to buy weed,” “cannabis shop near me,” or any other marijuana-related query, it’s a must.
Why is SEO Marketing Ideal for Cannabis Dispensaries and Marijuana Businesses?
The medical and recreational cannabis industry is relatively new in North America, and advertising restrictions make online search the most effective way to market your business. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of potential customers use search engines, like Google and Bing, to find dispensaries. So if you’re not showing up, you’re losing out.
Five SEO Tips for Cannabis Dispensaries
We’ve talked about why SEO is vital for cannabis companies, now let’s unpack the nuts and bolts of how it works.
#1 Claim Your Business Search Pages
When you type a business search query into Google, the top three results are usually a list of options that match your parameters, alongside a map pinpointing their addresses. It’s called the “Google 3 Pack,” and companies that can land one of the spots enjoy significantly higher click-through rates, which directly translates to more customers.
So how can you get your dispensary in the pack? Claim your Google My Business page here.
Filling out Google’s questionnaire won’t automatically jettison your business to the top, but neglecting it means you’ll never get there. It takes time to see results, but if you leverage every available avenue, the effort will eventually pay off.
And don’t forget about other search engines, like Bing, which has the Places for Business program. Yes, Google is the number one search engine, but Bing is moving on up and currently has 33 percent of the market share.
#2 Build A Responsive Website
These days, a responsive website is a must, meaning it must look good and function properly on a range of screens — from super-sized to micro-sized. Leading industry researcher socPub reports that 57 percent of people will not recommend a business or website if it’s ugly or doesn’t work on a variety of devices.
#3 Publish Keyword-Rich Content Regularly
According to George Mouratidis, cannabis writer and founder at Weedcopywriter.com, one of the best ways to perform well in search engines is by maintaining a blog. Write and publish posts related to your business. For cannabis companies, topics may include strain profiles, information about marijuana medical breakthroughs, and industry events. Also, make sure the articles include keywords, which are phrases that potential customers are likely to search.
Posting frequently will boost your position. And the better the content, the more likely it is to be shared, which also helps your rankings.
#4 Encourage Reviews
Positive reviews work wonders. The more your business has, the better it will perform in search engines and directories. However, there are rules.
- The Federal Trade Commission is the United States’ consumer watchdog, and other countries have similar agencies. Across the board, these government entities prohibit paying for reviews. Doing so can invite large fines or even forced closures.
- Don’t only encourage people who have positive experiences to post reviews. Google’s service terms explicitly state: “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
- Don’t force employees to post positive reviews. In fact, employees should never post online reviews because they are legally considered “invested parties,” and their feedback could be construed as “unfair and deceptive marketing,” another FTC no-no.
#5 Secure Backlinks and Social Cues
Social media profiles will show up in search results and improve rankings for cannabis shops and businesses. According to Google:
“When people search for your business on Google, they may see links to your business’s social profiles included with your other business information in the knowledge panel in Search…Social profile information is automatically added to listings for eligible businesses.”
Moreover, search engines consider social signals — i.e., likes, pins, and tweets — in their algorithms. They treat social cues like word-of-mouth endorsements and reward businesses that are creating a buzz.
Links pointing to your website are also beneficial, if they come from quality sites, and will help boost your online visibility. On the other hand, junky link-backs can harm your ranking. So be careful!
Optimizing your website for search engines takes time, but the rewards are undeniable. If properly executed, your business will boom.