If you’re in the business of selling marijuana products, then SEO probably has a special place in your heart. Considering how it’s nearly impossible to advertise marijuana online, SEO is essential for getting the word out about your dispensary.
Here are several critical cannabis SEO tips to keep in mind. Heed these tips as you aim to grow your online empire, and to generate tons of organic leads to your site.
1. Understand buyer intent behind keywords
It’s hard not to get excited by keywords that attract lots of monthly traffic. For example, if you research the term “cannabis” on ContentEdge, you’ll see that it gets a healthy 4,400 average searches per month. But before you get too excited, take a peek at real-world results that come up when you google “cannabis.”
You’ll see various definitions for “cannabis” at the top of the page. Farther down the SERP, you’ll see listings for local dispensaries commingled with news articles and health sites related to marijuana.
While there’s a chance that someone who searches “cannabis” may be looking to buy from a shop like yours, many users may simply be doing research. You may spend a lot of time trying to rank for an ultra-competitive keyword, only to find that a majority of that traffic isn’t looking to purchase anything at all.
For this reason, you’ll want to prioritize keyword quality over popularity. Look for long-tail keywords like “weed dispensaries in [your city]” or “how to buy weed online” that make sense for you to target. Also consider words that people naturally use when talking about cannabis, like pot, medical marijuana, CBD, vape pen, or edibles.
In the example below, BKLYN CBD uses multiple CBD-related words on its product pages, ranging from U.S. grown hemp to THC. These are all descriptors that consumers both care about and search for when researching CBD oils. It also doesn’t hurt that brand name itself includes an exact match search term.
There are many different directions you can go with your keyword strategy, but you’ll ultimately want to whittling down your list of options to the ones that are clearly relevant to your active buyers.
2. Evaluate the keyword difficulty of search terms
A keyword like “cannabis” may be wildly popular—to a point where it’s not realistic for you to assume that you’ll even make it on the first page of Google results (at least not any time soon). Even long-tail keywords with less traffic may be super competitive.
Platforms like ContentEdge will offer a keyword difficulty score that measures the competitiveness of a term. This is not to be confused with CPC or ad-specific metrics. Rather, this metric typically weighs multiple factors, such as the domain authority of the top-ranking sites of a query, in order to determine how good of a shot you have at competing.
If this number is in the red zone, you may want to consider targeting less-competitive terms first. If you’re very diligent with SEO, you could eventually become a strong contender for a broader term. However, you’ll most likely achieve a better ROI by targeting a bunch of low-hanging fruit versus a handful of highly competitive terms.
3. Check out the competition
An easy way to generate new content ideas is to see what your competition is doing as part of their marijuana SEO strategy. Enter their domains into your keyword research tool and see which queries they rank for, which sites link out to them, and how big of an organic footprint they have.
This could inspire different strategies that you can test out. For example, should you consider partnering with any of the publishers that link to their sites? Could you offer more in-depth information than them on a topic that they’re ranking for?
If you’re in a creative rut or are not sure where to start, peeking at your competition is a solid idea.
4. Focus on answering customer questions
One thing we always like to remind business owners is that you should drive your content plan, not your keywords. In other words, it’s a losing strategy to fire up your SEO platform and assume that the answer to all of your SEO questions (“What should I spend the next few months blogging about?” “What should my homepage focus on?”) will be in it.
Focus instead on your customers. What do they want to know about your products? What questions do they normally ask before completing a purchase whether in store or online? Your homepage, product pages, and/or blogs should aim to address these FAQs.
In fact, if you take 10 minutes to brainstorm common questions that you receive, you may wind up with a content plan that will last you the next three months! Keyword research can then come in handy to help prioritize your ideas or to determine which terms/phrases you should include on your page.
As a secondary benefit, mapping out your customer’s thought process can help you to structure your site in a neat, organized way. Google values a good user experience and organized site architecture and may reward you handsomely for it.
Read Also: How to Perform an Ecommerce SEO Site Audit
5. Don’t forget about local SEO
Location-based searches will be critical for your dispensary. By optimizing for local SEO, you can ensure that your business gets included when Google prioritizes “near me” searches for people in your city.
Thankfully, Google makes it free and easy to get started with local SEO. Simply create a Google My Business (GMB) profile. Make sure to list your category as “Cannabis Store.” Though cannabis profiles have restricted access to GMB tools, you’ll want to be honest with your answer, or you risk big penalties.
You can, however, list secondary categories like “delivery service.” Google will additionally ask you to provide information like the location of your store, hours of operation, and phone number. Complete as many fields and attributes as possible so that your listing is comprehensive. Include multiple pictures and videos to enrich the user experience.
Once your profile is completed and approved, your shop will be viewable through Google Maps and local results on Google Search.
6. Have a strategy for link and citation building
Google favors sites with a strong backlink portfolio. It’s a testament to the legitimacy of your site, as well as its trustworthiness. A good backlink is essentially saying, “Hey look! Other people view us as a trusted source and want to associate themselves with us.”
So, what exactly qualifies as a quality backlink? The best links come from sites that are already high-ranking and reputable. Links should also be natural—not bought or spammy (these are considered black-hat tactics and carry high penalties).
You can earn backlinks organically by collaborating with other marketers in your space. A solid PR plan can additionally position you as a go-to source for reporters or bloggers.
Aside from backlinks, list your business on Yelp, Foursquare, and other business directories. When you post your business information anywhere online, you’re building up your portfolio of local citations. Local citations verify the legitimacy of your business to Google, and they aren’t just limited to business directories. Any mention of your NAP information (name, address, and phone number) on social media or Apple Maps (as examples) count as citations as well.
Take your cannabis SEO to the next level
Investing in a strong SEO game plan can pay dividends for your dispensary. Make sure you’re investing in the right strategies and thinking of creative ways to get in front of your customers. The above tips will help you get ahead of your competitors.
If you’d like even more expert or personalized guidance, feel free to reach out to our team.