In this article, we’re diving deep within the world of marijuana SEO to show you how to grow your traffic organically in as little as a few weeks. But first, a little bit about SEO and why it’s an essential step to any form of cannabis marketing.
Marijuana SEO In 2020
SEO is one of the most powerful long-term investments you can make for your business, especially now, while everything in DC is new and developing. But what exactly is SEO?
Search engine optimization is an organic, ad-free way to earn organic traffic to your website and, ultimately, storefront, or delivery service. SEO can help increase the quantity and quality of visitors to your website by increasing your visibility on search engines for specific keywords like “weed delivery Los Angeles”. This is typically accomplished by creating and linking to keyword-rich pieces of content that help search engines determine how relevant your website and content is to human beings.
However, Google’s algorithm is mostly based on numbers. If people are landing on your content and not reading it, Google assumes it isn’t answering their questions and lowers your rank. That’s why publishing a long list of keywords won’t do anything for your ranking. The end-user is a human being with a question, and your content needs to be engaging for them AND optimized for search engines to do a good job.
That being said, SEO falls into the gray areas between art and science. Generally, following a basic formula will increase your ranking and results, but it’s also a process that requires a good dose of intuition and experience to achieve the best results.
On Page vs Off Page Cannabis SEO
When it comes to SEO all optimization techniques fall under 2 categories, On-page or Off-page. On-Page is everything you can do on your site to improve your visibility. The most important of which is content and how well it is optimized for your target keywords but that isn’t the only factor. Others include title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags as well as responsive design, page speed, and SSL certifications.
The other side of the coin is Off Page SEO which is focused on acquiring authoritative signals to your website. These include back links, social signals and local citations.
Why do cannabis businesses rely on content marketing and SEO?
Unlike the thousands of other companies and brands that do business online, cannabis brands have different needs. Since marijuana is still federally illegal in the US, cannabis companies can’t rely on traditional forms of marketing and advertising.
Cannabis brands can’t use print, radio, or TV ads since cannabis is a controlled substance. The law states that any advertising pertaining to cannabis must only be delivered to audiences that can guarantee less than 20% of viewers or listeners are under the age of 21. If you’ve ever visited a cannabis website, you probably had to check the little box that says you’re over age 21. That’s great for websites, but impossible to guarantee through traditional marketing ads in other mediums.
Cannabis brands also can’t rely on ad spend in places like Google Adwords since cannabis is a controlled substance, and Google prefers to stay away from it. The social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram take the same anti-cannabis position and don’t allow cannabis-related advertisements to spread. They have even been known to delete cannabis pages entirely, regardless of how much time and effort went into making them look “compliant.”
In most states, there are also rules and regulations determining what kind of signage or advertising can be used. In some places, dispensaries and cannabis brands can have no pro-cannabis signage whatsoever. Some can’t use the medical marijuana green cross, and others have rules determining what kinds of fonts cannabis brands can use on their own buildings.
With all this red tape, most cannabis businesses turn to digital marketing to get their business out there and tell their brand’s stories. They do this by ignoring everything they know about traditional marketing and focusing entirely on organic traffic through SEO and engaging content. Creating exciting content doesn’t cost very much money and allows brands the freedom to speak directly to a specific audience vertical.
Interesting content means different things to everyone. For extract companies, the audience may be full of your standard stoners. However, medical cannabis dispensary audiences are chock full of seniors and medical patients who hope to learn more about the plant and its benefits. The content you develop for marketing should speak directly to your audience, answer questions, and be optimized for search engines.
The Most Important Cannabis SEO Factors
There are many different factors that effect your ranking but here are the most important ones. A mix of off page and on page techniques are key to an effective SEO strategy. The most important of these include:
- Link Building: Get relevant and powerful links that point to your website to pass authority, trust and traffic.
- Content: Create valuable content that informs and educates your audience that are optimized for your target keywords
- Social Signals: Clicks and shares from Facebook and Twitter are important when Google wants to see what content is actually popular.
- NAP Citations: These are local listings on directories where your name, address and phone appear consistently across the web. These are most important for businesses with a physical location.
- On Page Factors: Title tags, meta descriptions, page speed, SSL and structured data are aall very important to pay attention to
On Page Local Cannabis SEO
Next we will focus on On-Page factors. How well your website is optimized for your target keyword will really impact your visibility on search engines. The most important of these is content.
Googles’s purpose is to help the user find the most valuable content. Therefore they reward sites who provide the most valuable content to their users. By creating a mix of long and short form content that is optimized for all of your target keywords will help you to become an authority in your niche. Whether you are a dispensary or delivery service you can start creating relevant content to help your site rank. We have a team of specialized cannabis writers who know how to write engaging cannabis content that will get you ranked for your keywords.
Structured data is code written in a way that’s easy for search engines to understand. Google’s spiders can read the code (since it’s written in its own language) and use it to display your search results in a more specific way. Structured data is a small piece of code that you can add to the footer of your website to boost your ranking so long as it matches all of your other NAP citations. It really is just a confirmation to Google that you are who you say you are.
Google can read and understand rich text, but it still has trouble making sense of images. Including alt-text tags with your pictures is a vital part of cannabis marketing. Alt text can help Google understand what your image is about and how it’s relevant to your brand, but adding alt-text also makes it possible for Google to reference your image in image search results. If Google indexes your image for its search results, it automatically creates an additional source of traffic to your website!
Heading and title tags:
Headings are HTML tags that highlight vital information in a piece of content. These titles are typically numbered in order of importance and include section titles and keywords. Google uses heading tags to get an understanding of what your content and website is all about.
By having a single H1 tag and supporting H2, H3, or H4 tags on each page of your website, you can organically grow your audience and traffic to your site. Each tag should explain the content and feature keywords you hope to rank for, like “best dispensary Washington DC” or use other keywords like your business name and product names.
Making sure your site is SSL secure is essential according to Google. Not having a proper SSL certificate will negatively impact your rankings and also drive customers away as they will receive a warning that your site is not secure.
Responsive, growth-driven design and mobile optimization
Before recently, the user experience on a website or page made very little difference to Google’s algorithm. However, Google is currently using navigation data to rate how easy your site is to navigate and read based on user navigation behaviors.
For example, if people come to your site and leave immediately, you most likely won’t rank very highly since Google will penalize you. To ensure success, your website needs to be designed with your end user’s experience in mind. It should be quick and easy to read as well as fast to load on mobile devices as a vast majority of internet browsing takes place on mobile devices alone.
If your site is quick to load and works on any device, visitors will be more likely to click around on your website. More clicks and interactions mean a higher search ranking to Google because the algorithm can see that visitors are enjoying your site over the sites of your competitors. Here’s an excellent article for more information on creating websites for the user experience.
Optimizing website speed
The fastest-loading websites are displayed at the top of a search engine results page (SERP). If your website takes more than 4 or 5 seconds to load completely, you’re going to miss out on vital traffic and your tank will suffer. One of the easiest ways to boost your marijuana SEO naturally is to optimize your website for faster loading speeds.
To start, be sure to check your website’s load speed using the Pingdom Speed Tool. This will help you diagnose whether or not you’ll need to do some optimizing. Once your website is up to speed, you’ll see a natural uptick in traffic in a matter of a few short weeks. If your speed test came back saying you need to fix some things, you could use these tips to help:
- Optimize all of your images as PNGs or GIFs.
- Host your site with a good, powerful server
- Use caching
Off Page SEO and Social Media
Content marketing is the most successful form of marketing in the cannabis industry. However, it isn’t possible without great, engaging content. People use Google to search for answers to their burning cannabis-related questions. If your content answers those questions, you can rank for their attention and sell your products.
Since you’re reading this article right now, we know you’re trying to figure out how you can use SEO to market your cannabis business, and we can tell you that listing your storefront or delivery service on 420DC is excellent for your local SEO, thus making a mutually beneficial sale.
You can develop so many different types of content for your website as long as it’s engaging for your end-users and ideal customers. It’s also vital that your content is devourable and sharable via social media, the biggest, baddest way to connect with customers where they’re already hanging out. Some types of content you can share include:
- Blog content
- And so much more
Once you have your content, it’s essential to get it out there for sharing. While most social media platforms are anti-cannabis, there are several that are designed just for cannabis users and aficionados. Take extra care to ensure that your social profile about pages matches your NAP citations for an extra boost in rankings! These profiles should also be linked to your website as they’ll serve as quality backlinks to your website and build site relevance.
How to create engaging cannabis content for SEO
Engaging content is a matter of opinion based on your audience members’ wants, needs, questions, and interests. If your brand serves a variety of audiences and people, the best content you can create is content that finds common ground and delivers relevant information and subtly promotes your business.
Cannabis is a fascinating subject to cover. It’s so multi-faceted and full of hundreds of types of daily users and enthusiasts, though the culture is shifting. Though legalization is a big deal among liberals, your audience may include a large portion of conservatives looking to make sense of the cannabis space. The common ground between the two is the belief that cannabis is something all responsible adults can use both as medicine and as a recreational drug similar to tobacco or alcohol. The content you develop should promote and expand upon that common ground.
Once you have some content that speaks directly to your audience in the way they want to be spoken to, you need to throw in a couple of keywords and optimize for SEO using the tips we’ve highlighted in the rest of this document.
Be sure to develop new pieces of content regularly. Your audience is looking for fresh and exciting, not for you to share the same link to the same article 10 times a month. If people are checking you out and they only ever see the same few pieces of content, they’ll eventually stop checking your site for updates altogether, regardless of how much they liked you when they first stumbled across your website.
Last but not least, you must update your old content frequently. Old content can still do wonders for your ranking, though Google’s algorithm is subject to change. Refreshing content to match the SEO best practices in 2020 can help you bring fresh eyes to your old but gold content. Sometimes all it takes is an update to the title tag or meta description to relay to Google that the material has been refreshed.
Cannabis Link Building
How to get cannabis back links
Acquiring backlinks to your site is probably one of the most important factor when it comes to improving the ranking of your site for local keywords. Links from other authoritative and relevant websites to important pages on your site will show Google that your site deserves to be ranked. Back links are easy to understand when you think of them in terms of likes or votes from other websites. The best websites have lots of votes from other industry specialists who help them to appear more credible. However, instead of votes, you’re getting a link pointing back to your site in turn increasing your authority.
Quality back links are relevant to the cannabis industry and can help your cannabis business rank higher based on the keywords on your page and the keywords found on the websites linking to your site. When somebody links to your website, you get additional clicks. Being linked to by a high-profile cannabis publication can bump your organic rank on Google with ease.
However, getting back links, especially in cannabis is no easy feat. To start, it helps to have a really high-quality piece of content so that other cannabis publications and businesses will want to link to it. There’s many ways you can acquire links and they fall into white hat, grey hat and black hat methods depending on how they are viewed by Google. We recommend sticking with white hat by organically acquiring links. One thing you can do today to start building links is reaching out to a company that has relationships with cannabis publishers and get them to do the work for you. We specialize in helping cannabis companies get powerful cannabis specific backlinks to your site to really give your rankings a serious boost.
Social signals are another form of links that can really give your site a boost. As people share your content on social google considers it to be very popular. You can get these by working with influencers. Other factors to consider when getting links is anchor text, referring domains, domain authority, traffic and age just to name a few. All of these metrics are considered by Google when ranking your site.
NAP stands for name, address, and phone. The more citations you have, the easier it’ll be for Google to find your business and display the correct information to people searching for brands like yours. The most important factor is to make sure your listing is consistent across as many local directories as possible, especially cannabis focused ones. The biggest one you should use is Google My Business, but other local directories like 420DC, Plants Before Pills, and Where’s Weed are all great options just as a bonus here’s a big list of cannabis-friendly directories
Google My Business is an underrated tool when it comes to cannabis businesses. With the ability to create a profile page where visitors can rate or review your business as well as find, navigate to, call or email your team, and see photos of your storefront or products you can get a lot of traffic to your dispensary or delivery service to your listing. Let us help you submit and manage your info across all your directories to give your business a real boost.
Extra Tips for Cannabis SEO Success
Encouraging people to read your content may seem difficult at first, but once you get the snowball rolling, good things will happen. Content marketing takes some time to take full effect, but once it’s going, you won’t need anything other than your audience, a good team of writers, and organic SEO. These tips may go without saying, but if you’re new to marketing cannabis altogether, they may be of some use to you.
- Refresh and republish old content: If you have a lot of old posts on your website that can be repackaged and repurposed, don’t be afraid to do so. It’s a good idea to develop new content for long-term audience members, but many of your new audience members may not have seen old posts the first time. If you have a great piece of content on the legal status of marijuana in DC from two years ago, you can refresh it to represent today’s legal status and republish it. It’ll be new to new readers, and the update will show older readers your dedication, aside from boosting your search rank.
- Make sure to break up that wall of text: People are easily overwhelmed by massive walls of unbroken text. Don’t forget to break that copy up with headings, subheadings, numbered lists, bullet points, and images. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your blogs never ramble on unbroken for more than 300 words. If you’re posting a very long piece of content (like this one!), be sure to include an anchored list that allows your readers to jump to relevant sections.
- Talk to your readers and engage with your audience: Generating a buzz is worthless if you don’t talk back! Meet your audience on social media and listen when they suggest topics to cover. Pay close attention to any questions they have and answer them directly through your content. You can also hold giveaways, share coupon codes, evangelize users for leaving you helpful reviews or messages, and address criticism directly. As a brand online, your audience wants to hear from you just as much as you want to hear from them.
- Use lots of images: If you’re content marketing, you’re going to want to invest in a stock photo subscription. Words are great and all, but nothing captures attention like thoughtfully designed images. Take extra care to publish illustrations, specify Alt text, create graphics, and interactive pictures with your content. It breaks up the text and helps to keep your readers engaged.
- Don’t give up: Content marketing takes a little bit of time to get started, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t immediately see improvements in your search ranking.
- Secret Bonus tip: Here is one thing you can do today to start getting more calls and sales to your business. Google reviews are a big ranking factor when customers are searching locally on maps. If your business has more reviews Google will show you more. Start by reaching out to you network of customers, friends and family to leave you reviews especially those with photos. Also respond to these reviews and leave updates on your GMB profile. This will significantly drive more calls. If you want reviews fast reach out to us and we can get you as many reviews as you like.
If you are looking to take your cannabusiness to the next level with an effective SEO strategy let us help you reach your goals. We specialize in SEO for CBD and Cannabis Businesses check out our packages and see how we can help.