Running a pot business, or any business, requires you to stand out from the crowd – just because pot is popular, there’s no guarantee that your shop will be. And the first step in setting yourself apart is letting people know that you actually exist. If they don’t know about you, they can’t buy from you. There’s many ways to advertise, with word-of-mouth being one of the most impactful in the cannabis industry. But the internet is your friend as well, maybe one of your BFFs. And that makes SEO, or search engine optimization, an important part of your inner circle.
SEO Helps You Get Found….and You Need to be Found
In certain areas, pot shops are few and far between: they’re popular because consumers have nowhere else to go. But in most cities, dispensaries are plentiful: according to the Colorado Pot Guide, there are around 600 dispensaries in the Centennial State (as of 2015).
Per Business Insider, the weed shops in Oregon outnumber McDonald’s and Starbucks (but, interestingly, they don’t outnumber Subways)
As more states legalize, the market will continue to boom and each store will fight that much harder for customers.
New SEO versus Old SEO
The SEO of yesteryear was heavily focused on keywords, with some of the copy on websites bordering on ridiculous. A website selling plumbing services in Boulder would offer little more than redundant information: Hal is a plumber in Boulder. As a Boulder plumber, he specializes in plumbing in Boulder.
Nowadays, and to the happiness of every copywriter in the world, SEO involves less focus on keywords and more focus on natural language search (a type of search that involves normal questions rather than one or two keywords). Per Forbes, Smartphones are driving this change as people ask Siri where to find delis or gas stations (and occasionally ask her what she is wearing). People ask in complete sentences (or near complete) to expedite their search and make it more comprehensive. And that changes the influence of SEO.
SEO Tips for Your Cannabis Business
None of this is to say that keywords are entirely irrelevant, but they’re not the only things that are important. Other elements that make up a strong SEO strategy include:
Using Social Media: Social Media offers you the chance to engage with existing customers and reach potential ones. It allows you to send traffic back to your webpage as well.
Creating a Google Business Profile: This profile automatically indexes your business name, address, and phone number with Google. It also allows your business to show up on Google Maps. Now people looking for your dispensary don’t have to use a paper map like some sort of animal.
Add Your Company to Directories: Don’t only add it to sites like Yelp, but things like Wikileaf too. Be sure to use only legitimate directories though; using sketchy ones will hurt you instead of help you.
Adding your company to Yelp and the like allows you to generate reviews. Sure, some people go to the internet only to tattle, but most give credit where credit’s due: if your service is remarkable, they’ll tell the world…or at least the world wide web.
Write a blog: Good SEO strategy involves a constant influx of content: if the website of your Colorado pot shop is still discussing legalization that took place years ago, you need some new blood. Blogs allow you to discuss events, promotions, innovative products, industry news, and local happenings.
Use On-Site SEO: If you don’t know anything about SEO, there’s no shame in getting professional help: it doesn’t involve lying on a couch and confessing your dreams about chasing SEO long tail. But if you know the basics, you may be able to apply the strategy yourself.
SEO Quick Tips
Title Tags: Be sure to come up with applicable titles to each content page.
Header Tags: Organize your content in a structure that makes sense.
Image Tags: Add information to images; this allows Google to index them. Name your URLs correctly as well so Google doesn’t give you any lip.
Keywords: Don’t drive yourself crazy finding the most ideal keywords, but don’t neglect them entirely either.
A User-Friendly Site: Content pages should be searchable and provide the user with information that’s easy to locate. If someone needs to dig through your webpage to find answers, they won’t.
Use Google Analytics: It’s hard to know whether your SEO is working – you must be able to track your progress. Google Analytics is the best way to do this: it tracks your traffic, conversions, and tells you if visitors are searching through you site.
Other SEO dos include: Using long-tail keywords (these are best used in blogs), researching the right keywords, putting keywords in your title tags, and focusing on one keyword per post (but make sure your post isn’t just the word “pot” over and over again). Writing luring meta descriptions, guest blogging for other sites, optimizing your website for speed, and linking to nonprofits (assuming you’re willing to donate to charity) also benefit your SEO.
There are many SEO tactics that aren’t ideal for your site. So, avoid the following if you can:
Don’t Obsess About Your Ranking: Once upon a time, rankings were all anyone cared about; it was only a matter of time before the topic had its own Lifetime movie – Cyber Seduction: Keywords to Kill For. They aren’t as important nowadays.
Don’t Concern Yourself with Keyword Density: Keyword density is so 2006.
Don’t Spin Your Articles: Article spinning was a tactic once used to spin articles with the same content, making them somewhat different. It doesn’t work anymore: Google is onto copycats. You’re much better off producing entirely new content with a novel message or fresh information.
Don’t Buy Links: Buying links is another thing that doesn’t work efficiently. So, save your money and spend it on something else….like a taco bar outside of your dispensary. That is how you keep customers coming back for more.