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Cannabis SEO: Best Practices for CBD/Marijuana Companies

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By Brittany Bronson
Jun 20, 2021

With marijuana now legal in 11 states, there’s an unprecedented boom in the American cannabis industry. In 2020, it’s estimated that total revenue for the marijuana industry will exceed $10 billion. With more states slated to legalize and decriminalize this substance, demand is only projected to grow. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that fierce competition has emerged within the world of marijuana businesses.

Between medical and recreational dispensaries, there are over 7,000 brick-and-mortar marijuana retailers operating in the United States, meaning consumers have an overwhelming amount of options to choose from when purchasing cannabis products. For a marijuana business, the question becomes how to stand out from all of these options. With most states barring marijuana companies from traditional forms of media (television, billboards, radio, etc), you’ll have to get a little bit creative in order to reach your target audience and boost your bottom line. That’s where a solid marijuana SEO strategy comes into play.

With any industry, SEO is a tried-and-true method for improving your web presence and driving potential customers to your website to make a purchase. For marijuana businesses, this form of digital marketing is even more important, as other channels of outreach are limited by federal and state laws.

Why Cannabis Companies need a Strategic SEO Plan

The marijuana industry is evolving rapidly, and so are the ways in which cannabis companies attract new customers and shape their brands––both locally and nationally. As with any competitive industry, the growing world of recreational marijuana requires a sophisticated plan of outreach, one that lifts up the voice of your brand and directs customers to your products and services.

In most industries, when drafting a digital marketing strategy, you’ll consider your paid media options like AdWords and social media platforms. In a perfect, more pot-friendly world, you would simply be able to purchase a few PPC terms from Google Adwords. Potential customers running a search for “Gorilla Glue Flower” would be shown your search ad near the top of the SERP. 

Unfortunately, much like their counterparts in traditional media, digital ad platforms, by and large, ban cannabis and associated products from their services. Under federal law, marijuana is still a scheduled substance. So while certain states allow for marijuana advertisements on television and billboards, online directories can do no such thing, lest they face their own consequences.

What this means is that your only way to bring more attention to your cannabis website is through increasing your organic traffic through search engine optimization. Through a careful approach of backlink acquisition, content marketing, and web design, an SEO agency can help your marijuana website climb to the top of search engine results pages, ultimately increasing your customer base and becoming a permanent part of your greater marketing strategy.

Cannabis SEO: The Best Way to Grow your Cannabis Business or Brand

Whether your business is a traditional marijuana dispensary or perhaps an ecommerce brand selling CBD products, you likely face stiff competition on both the global and local levels. Especially with the rise of big cannabis brands, it can be difficult for smaller businesses to stake their claim to customers. An SEO agency that understands the industry trends around cannabis is one of the best ways to increase foot traffic from your local customers.

Due to the restrictions around paid media, marijuana SEO has become an industry in of itself, much like local SEO or enterprise SEO. The best marijuana-related SEO agencies understand that the best way to increase one’s position in SERPs is through a combination of target keywords, building links, and optimizing content on your own website

How will your Potential CBD/Marijuana Customers Best Find You?

Although search engines such as Google and Bing prohibit paid advertisements for cannabis-related terms, they do not disallow search queries related to cannabis and the like. If you run a Google search for a cannabis related product, you’ll be presented with all sorts of cannabis brands, online shops, and physical stores, both locally and nationally. Since most queries only go as far as this first page of search results, you’ll want to land your cannabis brand somewhere in this territory if you hope to boost conversions.

With thousands of different retailers existing in the marijuana industry, an important factor for your strategy will be understanding what your business does differently. More importantly, you’ll want to figure out who you wish to target with your marijuana marketing. Whether you’re going for suburban moms or rural farmers, an SEO strategy, much like a traditional marketing tactic, places the customer at the center of its method. You’ll want to consider what these people might search for when they operate a search engine. Then you can begin figuring out how search  engine optimization fits into this plan.

Drive Organic Traffic with Cannabis Industry Keywords

Central to any SEO strategy is figuring out which keywords need to be targeted. The obvious choice for any marijuana business would be something general like cannabis edibles; however these broad terms don’t make for good target keywords, as there’s already stiff competition to rank for these queries.

With this in mind, a solid marijuana SEO agency will conduct extensive keyword research, determining which keywords not only suit your business but also which ones will bring about the best results for search rankings. This all begins with examining the metrics of your existing site, figuring out which keywords you may already rank for and which ones offer opportunities to reach the top of Google.

When beginning the process of keyword research, it’s always a good idea to begin with the following:

  • Search Volume: How many people are searching for this term? It’s great if you can rank for a keyword; however, if not many people are actually running searches for that term, then this will do little to boost your organic traffic.
  • Keyword Difficulty: The most obvious search terms will have a high keyword difficulty. For example, terms such as “marijuana for sale” and “marijuana dispensary” both have keyword difficulties greater than 70. This means it will be very hard for your website to break onto the first SERP for these searches. Instead, consider more creative terms that still hold a likelihood of being searched.
  • Search Intent: How well does a keyword actually fit your brand and product? Of course, you want to find terms and phrases with lower difficulties; however, you don’t want to waste your time ranking for a keyword that’s mostly irrelevant to your offerings.
  • Domain Authority: No matter how many backlinks you build, you’re most likely never going to outrank The New York Times if they’re currently on the first page for a term. A good rule of thumb is to not target keywords that have a keyword difficulty score that is higher than your domain authority. If you’re a newer marijuana website, this can be a challenge, so instead, focus on building backlinks so you can improve your own domain authority score. 

A solid marijuana keyword strategy should include both short and longer phrases and terms. For long-tail keywords or phrases, you’ll want to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers. Consider the products and services you offer. Then think about what someone might type into a search engine in order to arrive there. For example, if you offer organic strains of marijuana, perhaps you could target the long-tail phrase: does marijuana help with sleep? This way, when someone is looking for information about a product you have, they’ll be directed to your page.

Blog content is a great way to target long-tail search terms where users aren’t necessarily looking to make a purchase but trying to get more knowledge about marijuana products. If they arrive on your marijuana blog, they will likely find you to be a reputable brand in the industry, as long as the content is valuable and well-drafted. By the time they are ready to purchase marijuana products, your brand name will already be in their mind.

Essential Local SEO Tips for Cannabis Dispensaries

Even for marijuana retailers based around in-person sales, SEO is still important to consider. When a potential customer searches for a marijuana product, they’ll be presented with results that are based on their geographic location. For example, a quick search for “marijuana dispensary” will show you a three-pack of several nearby cannabis retailers, in addition to their locations, hours, and contact information.

You might be wondering how these particular businesses got in the map pack. Well, they got there because of local SEO. Whereas traditional SEO is focused on increasing a website’s ranking with a national or global audience, local SEO is a great way to boost one’s reach with nearby customers. By earning you citations in various hemp directories such as Weedmaps, local SEO can tailor your cannabis brand’s website to appear in these local searches.

With LinkGraph’s local citation service, you can register and manage your dispensary with multiple directory listings like Google My Business. If you haven’t set up your Google My Business listing yet, you should do so immediately. This will allow your website to appear at the top of search engine results pages, along with some photos and additional information such as reviews and hours of operation. Your business will even appear on Google Maps. 

All of these local approaches work wonders when it comes to boosting foot traffic to your physical store.

3 Cannabis SEO Strategies To Rank Higher

If you’re looking to boost your marijuana business’s performance in search rankings, there’s a few tried and true strategies to get you there. Just because paid media is off the table doesn’t mean you can’t rise to the top of Google.

Grow your Online Presence with Link Building

Central to any SEO strategy, regardless of industry, is building an extensive profile of links. In the world of search engines, links from other pages serve as a vote of confidence. Think about it: if another web page is linking to yours, that means they found your content or services useful, and Google takes note of this.

As part of a LinkGraph marijuana digital marketing campaign, we reach out to reputable publishers and acquire backlinks to your page. All of this outreach is 100% organic, meaning that the authority of your web presence will tick upwards and stay there.

Optimize Cannabis Product Pages and Images

A crucial component of a digital marketing strategy is on-page SEO. If you currently sell products directly through your website, then individual product pages can be optimized in order to rank for keywords. Additionally, images can also be optimized. In addition to taking original, eye-catching photos of your products, you should also be sure to optimize their alt-text. Also make sure to compress your image files, ensuring each of your product pages loads quickly.

Improve your Marijuana SEO with Expert Blog Content

It might sound counterintuitive to focus on creating a blog for your marijuana business. After all, you’re in the business of selling cannabis rather than talking about it. However, creating a steady stream of blog content not only does wonders in terms of cultivating and engaging your audience. It can also help you rank for keywords.

Engaging Your Audience

You know your customers, not only in terms of their buying habits but also through their interests. One great reason to start a blog section on your website is that it can attract and interest readers unfamiliar with your brand, in addition to engaging with those who already are. Try to create general interest pieces filled with knowledge related to your industry. This way people will have a reason to revisit your content and possibly even share it throughout the internet.

Marijuana Blog Content for SEO

Engaging blog posts provide great content for other pages to link to. This is why it’s always a good idea to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and figure out what information you could provide them. Know a particularly good recipe for THC edibles? Why not share it in a blog post? A well-maintained blog section is a great way to signal to search engines that your website provides authoritative information about marijuana and related topics.

Other Digital Strategies: Email and Influencer Marketing

As mentioned in prior sections, most search engines and social media networks do not allow marijuana companies to advertise explicitly on their platforms. With that said, there are some digital marketing approaches that can help you circumvent these restrictions.

Email Marketing

According to Litmus, every $1 spent on email marketing results in $42 brought back to the company. This is why a carefully strategized email marketing campaign can be great for businesses of all types.

Particularly for the cannabis industry, email marketing offers a way to get around the restrictions on marijuana outreach via direct mail or AdWords. When a user visits your website, it’s always a great idea to request an email address in exchange for a discount at their store. This way, you’ll have their contact info and can use it to update them about new products and promotions.

Influencer Collaborations

Sure, most social media networks prohibit cannabis companies from advertising through their ad platforms; however, there are other ways in which you can utilize the potential of Facebook and Instagram. First off, you should set up accounts for your business on any relevant platforms. This gives people another way to access your company, and it can also be a place where you share any unique, original content.

Apart from serving as another content hub, social media also offers the potential of influencer collaborations. While Instagram won’t allow you to run a targeted marijuana ad campaign on their platform, there is nothing stopping you from partnering with independent users. A photo of them using or holding your product and tagging your profile can be a great way to reach your target audience. Many influencers, depending on their popularity are open to collaborating for lower costs than other forms of paid media. Just try to be sure that their audience of followers contains the demographic that you’re trying to reach.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis SEO Best Practices

Cannabis SEO is rooted in the fundamentals of any strong SEO plan, but legal restrictions create some challenges that digital marketers need to be aware of. Local SEO, keyword selection, and link building are some of the most important areas for new marijuana dispensaries and ecommerce companies to focus on in order to start ranking quickly and generate site traffic or foot-traffic. 

Working with a reputable agency that is familiar with the marijuana industry can be a great way to improve your rankings and revenue faster. At LinkGraph, we have worked with some cannabis and CBD brands of all sizes to help get their site ranking in the SERPs. Check out our cannabis website design case study to learn more.

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