Many dispensary owners think they don’t need an SEO strategy. Maybe they figure since most of their business comes from word-of-mouth or advertising, they’re good. Or that publishing some posts in WordPress will be enough to draw some traffics. Whatever the reason, ignoring SEO is a mistake. In fact, SEO is just as important, if not more important, for dispensaries as it is for other companies—whether they’re online or have brick and mortar locations. In this article, we’ll share some cannabis SEO tips along with seven ways SEO can help you grow your dispensary. But first, let’s start with some basics.
Cannabis SEO Tips: What Is SEO?
In the simplest terms, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that when developed thoughtfully and executed correctly will drive more quality traffic to your website through organic search results (e.g. Google).
So let’s break that down:
- Drive more traffic (Quantity): The more traffic to your website, the more potential customers. Pretty simple, right? Yes and no. If you drive more traffic and that traffic is rubbish, there’s no benefit. In fact, poor quality traffic can be bad for your website (and can waste your time). If you start driving tons of traffic from Moms Against Pot, that’s not such a good thing, right?
- Drive higher quality traffic: Traffic, in and of itself, isn’t what you want. Just as you wouldn’t want traffic from Moms Against Pot, if Google is telling people that you’re a resource for safaris in South Africa because you sell Durban Poison (a South African landrace strain), that’s not going to be high-quality traffic. While this may seem obvious, you’d be shocked at the tricks many shady SEO companies do to drive traffic by creating totally useless spam links.
- Organic search results: All that organic traffic means is that you didn’t pay for the traffic. Someone did a Google search, you came up on the first page (ideally ranking in Google’s local pack), and they followed the link to your site. While you aren’t paying for the clicks, good SEO that helps you rank will take time and effort.
Cannabis SEO Tips: 7 Ways SEO Can Help Grow Your Dispensary
#1. SEO Drives More High-Quality Traffic to Your Website
As you know, the primary goal of SEO is to drive more traffic to your website—but not just “more traffic.” Done right, SEO will help you drive more “high-quality traffic.” An effective SEO strategy targets customers who are actively looking for dispensaries like yours or products that you carry, and these customers are more likely to make a purchase, visit your dispensary, or otherwise engage with your brand.
#2. SEO Helps Grow Your Cannabis Dispensary Customer Base
By investing in and implementing a coherent SEO strategy that’s aligned with your business goals, you’ll help potential customers find you online. Quite simply: SEO increases traffic to your website (and your store), which in turn helps you get more customers.
#3. SEO Can Boost Your Dispensary’s Business Reputation
When would-be customers search for a dispensary and you show up on the first page—or even better, in the coveted Google Local Pack—customers tend to assume you must credible. The higher you rank, the better they think you are.
Of course, the converse is also true. If you don’t show up in their searches, they assume something must be wrong with your dispensary. Smart SEO will help put your cannabis store front and center in the mind of your target audience.
#4. SEO Fuels Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing is widely considered to be the most effective form of marketing—and SEO can help you get more of it.
Let’s say Johnny Kush tells Suzy Sinsemilla how your dispensary has the best Durban Poison around. What’s the first thing Suzy is going to do? She’s going to Google you, right? Hopefully, she remembers the name of your dispensary. If so, the last thing you want is to not rank for your own name.
And what if Suzy doesn’t remember your name? Instead of searching for [your dispensary], she might search for [cannabis dispensary near Lake Merritt in Oakland] or [Durban Poison Oakland dispensary]. If you’ve done your SEO right, bingo! She’ll find your dispensary.
Keep in mind, casual conversations are awesome for word-of-mouth marketing—but they’re bad for recall! Make sure you’re going to pop up at the top when Suzy gets her Google on!
#5. SEO Is Totally Legal (And Legit) for Pot Shops
Many of us have learned painful lessons. We try using Facebook or Instagram to promote. Everything’s going great. Then, bam! Without warning, we get shut down! It doesn’t always happen, but often, it doesn’t seem like there’s any rhyme or reason to why certain platforms restrict cannabis content.
With SEO, you don’t have to worry. Search is search. As long as you follow SEO best practices (and run a legit cannabis dispensary), you’ll do just fine.
#6. SEO Is a Cost-Effective Long-Term Strategy
Most marketing initiatives have a shelf life. You run a campaign—like, let’s say billboards or display ads— and what happens when you stop paying and the campaign ends? You guessed it! You don’t get any more customers from that campaign.
While SEO isn’t “set it and forget it”—it does require maintenance—the good news is that if you set it up correctly from the beginning and you don’t engage in shady “black hat” SEO practices, you’ll can maintain and refine what’s working while building and expanding new opportunities.
#7. SEO Can Help You Gain Media Exposure
Most dispensary owners don’t think about this one, but, yes, a well-designed and executed SEO strategy can help you gain media exposure.
Simple. The first step a journalist takes when developing a story is research. Where does research begin? Search!
To get found by media, you’ll want to make sure your SEO strategy includes developing the following types of content:
- Current media/press section
- Media kit
- Professionally written press releases
- Easily accessible (accurate) contact information for the person at your dispensary who handles media
- Event calendar (including events you’ll be hosting, exhibiting at, or attending)
- Relevant and sourced industry statistics and FAQs
- Blog with topics that appeal to your target audience
Cannabis SEO Tips: What Are The Goals of an Effective Cannabis SEO Strategy?
When you develop your cannabis SEO strategy—whether you do it in-house or with an expert like Foottraffik—you should define your goals.
You’ll want to segment these goals by Macro and Micro goals. Macro refers to strategic business goals, like “increase revenue.” Micro goals refer to more tactical goals, like “rank in Google Local Pack.”
Here are some examples…
- Gain recognition as the leading cannabis dispensary in [your city]
- Increase foot traffic by 25%
- Increase online orders by 20%
- Rank on the first page of Google (or in Google Local Pack)
- Increase inbound traffic by 45%
- Increase conversion rate by 35%
- Reduce bounce rate by 60%
- Increase customer engagement by 25%
Set SMART Goals!
Notice how the goals we outlined are specific and measurable? This comes from defining goals with specificity like “increase online orders by 20%” instead of “increase online orders.” Not only do you want your goals to be specific and measurable, you want to attach dates to them. And, it should go without saying, they should be relevant to your strategy.
There’s an easy way to remember this. You want to make sure your goals are SMART!
SMART is a mnemonic acronym to help you remember to set goals that are truly actionable and attainable. It stands for:
SEO can be a highly effective strategy to help you grow your cannabis business. It takes hard work, commitment, and patience. It’s not an overnight strategy, but the hard work will pay off. Of course, it may be tempting to take shortcuts—and shortcuts may appear to boost your SEO temporarily. But, at best, they quickly fizzle out, and at worst, Google or Bing will penalize you for shady SEO practices. Or your shortcuts simply won’t survive Google’s next algorithm and you’ll see your rankings plummet. Regardless, it isn’t worth the risk.