Today’s cannabis industry is flourishing, with 2018 estimates in North America at $13.21 billion alone and 2025 predictions at $36.7 billion. Staying competitive in this exploding market requires attracting customers where they’re at, which is on their smartphones and online.
Whether you’re a cannabis eCommerce business, a local marijuana retailer, a wholesale cannabis distributor, or a marijuana product reseller, attracting online attention is the same. Before you spend any money on marketing your cannabis business, you must first have a solid website with an effective SEO strategy for producing consistent and growing, free organic search traffic.
Perform An SEO Audit On Your Cannabis Site
Before you can start developing a solid SEO strategy for your cannabis site and tweaking it to perfection, you need to have a clear idea of where you’re starting from. This requires analyzing your existing search engine traffic. Use Google Analytics or a similar tool to answer questions like the following:
- Which of your pages are people visiting the most and staying on the longest? (“How to Get a Marijuana Doctor’s Letter?” “Most Popular Cannabis Strains?” or your Cannabis Pricing or Dispensary Locations pages?)
- What do those pages have in common, such as in terms of length, content quality and tone, and use of images and other media? (Web users and cannabis users alike tend to appreciate the variety on a page, with text in short paragraphs broken up by headers, images, media, and white space.)
- How many users visited your site through organic web search? (These visitors are your most valuable tools for discovering how to attract future visitors, not to mention future repeat visits from these same visitors.)
- Which keywords and phrases did those visitors use to find you? (THC vs. CBD, cannabis oil, marijuana doctor, dispensary near me, etc.?)
Once you know how people currently come to your cannabis website and, once they’re there, how they use it, you can start to develop an SEO strategy that capitalizes on your current strengths and harnesses overlooked opportunities.
Research Effective Cannabis Keywords
Next, it’s time to build and expand upon the cannabis keyword list you just started developing. Begin by researching variations of those terms to see which ones people are also commonly
using to find sites like yours. Are people, for example, searching cannabis, weed, marijuana, dope, or ganja? Any free keyword-research tool online will help you accomplish this.
Then, start noticing what other keywords and phrases people use in combination with those terms. Note down the most effective of these that also seem relevant to your dispensary and cannabis business. Then, perform the same keyword research you did with your keyword list with this newly-expanded list.
In this way, you can gain endless insight into the keywords and phrases to use when crafting your next content.
Write Compelling Cannabis Copy
To distinguish your cannabis site from all the other cannabis websites posting blogs about the difference between THC and CBD and the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, your copy must be better than theirs.
- For your copy to attract and retain interest, it must be engaging, informative, entertaining, and—don’t forget—well-written. Some helpful hints for achieving this:
- Copy what works from other posts written by you and others (without copying anyone’s actual content.)
- Edit your work (and then edit it again.)
- Practice, practice, practice (set a goal of making every piece you post a little better than the last.)
- You can even go back to edit and revise previous posts based on what you learn along the way, thereby keeping everything that’s attached to your name always fresh and relevant.
If you succeed at this, getting people to read your content from start to finish will only be the first of your successes. Following that will be people sharing that content, bookmarking your site, subscribing to your blog or signing up for your newsletter, joining you on social media, browsing to more posts on your site, and— the success of all successes—actually patronizing your cannabis business!
Make Your Metadata Work For You
Your visitors may or may not ever see it, but that doesn’t make metadata any less integral to your cannabis company’s online presence.
Metadata is the information search engines use to get a quick idea of what your website contains and how it identifies itself. It includes basic meta titles and meta descriptions as well as detailed information about the source, structure, and nature of the content any given web page contains.
- Search engines also use this data to devise your search engine results. Crafting effective metadata, then, has at least two benefits:
- Instantly giving search engines a clear and accurate idea of who you are and, therefore, how to place you in search engine results.
- Controlling how your organic listing appears in those results
As a business owner, you know the importance of making a good first impression. For search engines, metadata is that first impression. Providing clear and complete metadata is, therefore, how you can immediately show search engines that your site has it together. To a search engine, this confers a degree of credibility on your business, and shows that you know how to make it easy for search engines to utilize your site to provide value to their audience.
Use Original Imagery
Web users like visuals peppered in with their copy and cannabis-using web users are certainly no exception. Make sure every page of your website pops with images that are attractive and engaging as well as clear (i.e. in focus) and relevant to the copy on the page.
Original images are best because they’re unique and proprietary to you. If you can’t provide your own original images, for whatever reason, you’ll have no trouble finding ample appropriate images for free online.
Make sure you’re allowed to use an image that doesn’t belong to you before you use it, and be aware that, unless you pay for an exclusive license to an image, other websites— including, potentially, your competitors—could use the same images.
Popular images on cannabis sites (no surprise) are close-up images of cannabis flowers or buds. Images of people are always popular on any website, as well. So, if you can find or take images of people using and enjoying cannabis, these could also bolster your site’s organic search effectiveness.
Analyzing the SEO of other cannabis sites can help you inordinately to improve your own SEO performance. While you probably can’t study their Google Analytics data (unless they’ve chosen to make it public), there are keyword research tools with competitor analysis features.
- Look up each of your top competitors, one at a time, to glean both what is and isn’t working for their sites. What keywords are driving them the most traffic? Which of their pages are performing the highest, and why?
- If you use similar keywords with different results, what are they doing differently with those keywords that are, perhaps, more effective? Is it the number of times a keyword appears in a given article? The number of keyword variations?
- From there, you can dive even deeper and examine the placement of your competitors’ keywords. Are they in headers, introductory paragraphs, closing paragraphs, or just sprinkled throughout the body?
- Look as well at how your competitors are using metadata, headers, images, and other media to capture organic search traffic.
Devising an effective SEO strategy is a constantly-evolving process of, essentially, stealing what works for your competitors and improving upon it. Don’t worry. Everybody’s doing it.
Next, create some cornerstone content that isn’t dated or time-sensitive, also known as evergreen. Evergreen content is always relevant and speaks directly to the most common and pressing concerns of your audience. Now that you’ve done a comprehensive website audit, keyword research, and competitor analysis, you have a much better idea of what, exactly, it is your audience is searching for.
- For a cannabis dispensary or other marijuana business, those topics might include:
- The benefits and uses of CBD oil
- The differences between indica and sativa
- The different ways to ingest cannabis (smoking, vaping, edibles, tinctures, etc.)
- The origins and history of the cannabis plant
You can, then, build your site and SEO strategies around this evergreen content, such as by linking back to them in other articles and blog posts.
Tracking And Analysis
No SEO strategy is meant to be static, and no SEO effort is complete the moment you launch it. On the contrary, SEO is a dynamic and iterative process of tracking results, analyzing effectiveness, and tweaking your efforts accordingly.
Just like a dispensary needs to know which strains its customers prefer and which ones they’re not so fond of, and just like a cannabis store needs to know which vaporizers or horticultural nutrients its customers use the most, a cannabis-related website needs to know what is and isn’t attracting visitors, so it can do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.
Developing an effective cannabis SEO strategy is no different than building a successful cannabis business. The application of the key components may differ, but those components— experiment, track, analyze, improve—are the same.