No matter how popular and essential cannabis is, succeeding as a cannabis operator is never easy. Because most traditional marketing options are not available to the cannabis industry, every cannabis business needs a comprehensive SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. In the era of Covid-19, digital marketing has become even more important — since search engines still drive most traffic on the internet, SEO will remain one of the major marketing trends in 2021. If you’re not already familiar, search engine optimization is the process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website/webpage on platforms like Google and Bing.
To get found online, every cannabis dispensary should have an SEO strategy at the top of their content creation plans; when implemented correctly, it will help your website rank above competitors for relevant local search phrases at all stages of the customer journey. It will also help to ensure that if people are searching for you specifically, your website will show up first on the list (and not your competitors).
Before you begin working on SEO, however, you will need to establish a website with a design that is modern, that works well on any screen size, and that has original content to describe your business and products. Google and other search engines are increasingly prioritizing website loading speed and mobile-friendliness, so be sure to work with a web developer who builds with these goals in mind.
5 must-haves for a cannabis dispensary SEO strategy
1. When it Comes to Backlinks, Think Quality, Not Quantity
One of the most common mistakes made in the name of search engine optimization is to purchase backlinks from other websites, or to sign up for free back-linking. Unfortunately, this approach can actually harm your search performance, because search engines care much more about the context and meaning of a backlink than they do about the number of backlinks pointing to a particular page. It’s much better to reach out selectively to organizations that you partner with to discuss a link trade, or to pursue other organic link-building strategies, like submitting articles to your local online news outlets or getting featured in a cannabis industry blog.
2. Your Website Content Should Be More Than a List of Products
The purpose of search engines is to help the searcher find the most valuable content related to their search. Search engines tend to reward sites that provide well-written, in-depth content to their readers. To this end, it can be beneficial to publish educational / informational articles about cannabis on your website in the form of a blog. In addition to helping with your search performance, this can also benefit your relationship with consumers by showing them that you are knowledgeable, approachable, and committed to providing great products.
3. Voice Search Optimization is Worth Considering
2021 could be the year of voice search, as consumers are steadily moving from texting/typing to audio/voice when they interact with their devices. Voice search optimization has already grown popular in recent years; people are speaking into their watches, interacting, and getting voice responses from their phones. According to Gartner (a global research and advisory firm), 32% of consumers want hands-free technology that would limit touching and allow them to multi-task. For your SEO strategy, it’s important to remember that voice searches will be different than the searches submitted by text in terms of how they are phrased. For example; typing into Google may look like this: “Dispensaries in Seattle WA.” A voice search may be more specific, like this: “What is the closest cannabis dispensary with high-CBD strains?” By including rich content and long-tail keywords in your website, you may be able to capture more of the voice search traffic in your area.
4. Page Experience Matters
User experience will be a major focus for Google in 2021. Page experience is a new ranking algorithm that is designed to judge web pages based on how visitors perceive the experience of interacting with the web page. For example, if Google thinks the website visitors will have a bad experience on the website pages, measured by a new set of metrics called Core Web Values, Google may not rank those pages as high as they might be now. To make sure that your website is up to Google’s new standards, make sure you work with a web developer who truly understands their recommendations and has a plan to implement them.
5. For An Enhanced Competitive Edge, Implement Structured Data
Structured data has been becoming more popular throughout the internet in recent years. The purpose of structured data is to help Google and other search engines better parse the content on websites, by labeling specific types of content (such as blog articles, product reviews, event listings, etc) with specific “meta” values that are only visible to search engines. If you already have invested in content and website optimization and you’re still trailing your local competitors in search results (or if you want to maintain your current position at the front of the pack), working with a specialist to implement structured data into your website can be a way to show Google that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
In the new world of digital marketing, your SEO strategy should evolve with the times. By tracking your progress over time you will be able to see what works and what doesn’t, and adapt your focus accordingly. To stay on the cutting edge, it is helpful to be obsessed with data — in addition to free platforms like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you might want to look into other platforms that can help you understand your search footprint, audit your backlink profile, and identify opportunities for improvement.