Search Engine Optimization, when implemented correctly, can increase the online visibility of your business in organic search results. Depending on where you are located, you may be competing with numerous other companies for search traffic related to your business. For example, the phrase “Portland Dispensaries” is searched for over 10,000 times monthly in Google, and if your dispensary was at the top of the list you would be capturing a lot of attention (and attracting new customers). A lot of people still talk about “SEO” like it is some kind of secret formula to produce infinite cash from thin air. Sadly, good SEO takes a lot of effort and resources to achieve, but while the old days of link-stuffing trickery and instant results are gone, using a variety of methods, both technical and creative, it is still very possible to benefit from SEO as a practice.
What is SEO?
Google ranks websites based on how useful Google thinks they are for its visitors. In order to understand what your website is about, Google sends a robot to read over its content and analyze the results. Over time, these robots have gotten smarter and better at sorting content that will be well-received by the people who are searching, which is good for Google because they continue to be the leading search engine worldwide. While many patients have go-to platforms like Leafly or Weedmaps where they do their searching, Google is still an important consideration for any retail business trying to attract foot traffic. Today, Google even shows dispensaries on their maps with aggregated reviews & contact information.
As Google has updated their algorithms to serve users in the most effective way possible, SEO techniques and best practices have changed a lot over the years. Many common SEO techniques of the past are now considered “black hat” because they attempt to manipulate the search engine, as opposed to providing the best experience for the user. As a general rule of thumb, your SEO efforts should go completely unnoticed by the average person.
If you produce good content and implement a good plan for getting it in front of an audience, Google will take notice and reward you. If you use manipulative techniques like keyword stuffing, irrelevant or duplicate content, paid links, or invisible text, you could even be penalized by Google or removed from their search results altogether.
SEO for Local Businesses: Good Practices to Follow
- Publish in-depth, relevant, long-form content to your site on a consistent basis.
- Write relevant page titles and meta descriptions for each page on your site.
- Attract positive local press that includes links to your website. Good PR = Good SEO.
- Make sure that your site loads quickly and you are not using any overly large files. Images should be less than 250kb wherever possible.
- Use clean, proper code formatting.
- Make sure all of your images have “Alt” descriptions and all relevant links have “Title” tags.
- Use social media regularly and link to your social accounts from your site.
- Join relevant business directories and associations that include links to your site.
- Publish an occasional press release when you have a company announcement to make.
- Verify your business in Google Places.
- Keep updated profiles on industry-specific outlets like Leafly and Weedmaps.
- Install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to track your performance over time.
Keep in mind, SEO happens over time, so it has to be an ongoing effort, especially if you are based in a competitive area. Keeping on top of your website, social media efforts, and getting local media coverage are all crucial for long-term success.