How Does SEO Work For The Cannabis Industry?

Let’s say someone runs a search for “best cannabis for migraine”.


Organic results as of April 2022

Since Google doesn’t allow cannabis-based paid ads, the first thing we see is the organic results.

As you can see, one of the top 3 results is actually a dispensary. Now why the heck is a dispensary ranking for a term not related to actively making a purchase?

Because Google, and people, value informational content. You better believe that page is bringing in a ton of organic traffic and value.

But why? Well, consider who is searching for this. What is their intent?

  • They’ve either never tried cannabis and are researching before making a purchase
  • Or they are an experienced user looking for the best strain for a specific use.

Google can tell from the search that these people are asking a question and looking for an answer, and will match them with the content it thinks answers the question best.

The intent of this search is to research before making a buying decision. What’s the next step after they find this information? Make a purchase. That’s where you come in.

That’s why informational searches are so powerful, by answering your target audience’s questions and getting yourself in front of them during the research phase, you create more opportunities to make the sale.

It’s also why it’s so important to put yourself into your target audience’s shoes.

Why SEO for Cannabis Dispensaries?

Organic search is the primary way that cannabis dispensaries drive sign-ups, calls, sales, and traffic. Think about it, if your sink starts leaking where do you go? The phone book?

No, these days you go to Google. And so does everyone else. People rely on search engines to solve their problems.

And ultimately, cannabis products (or really any product) solve a problem.

As of January 2022, Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day. And 50.4% of consumers purchase a product or service online each week.

That’s an insane amount of traffic you’re missing out on.

How To Market Your Dispensary the Right Way

This is where most businesses go wrong…

You’re not selling a product. You’re selling a solution. A solution to a problem. The key is identifying the problem you’re solving.

A perfect example is the iPod.

They could have said “iPod. The portable digital music player.” Simple enough.

I guess it conveys fixing a problem. It’s portable right?

Or they could have touted its battery life, its size, its weight…

But that isn’t what they did…

Instead, they said… “1000 songs in your pocket”

It’s simple, but it’s effective. Now 1000 songs might not sound impressive, but keep in mind this was circa 2001 when people carried around walkmans and portable cd players. You might have 20 – 50 songs max if you were lucky.

The iPod solved this problem. You no longer had to carry around CDs and weed through your collection and pick the handful of songs you wanted to listen to that day.

iPod “solved” that problem.

Now, in the case of internet marketing, sadly it’s not quite as simple as a 5-word slogan.

The way you “solve” problems with your product is by investing in content that reaches your customer before they make a buying decision.

The iPod solved this problem. You no longer had to carry around CDs and weed through your collection and pick the handful of songs you wanted to listen to that day.

iPod “solved” that problem.

Now, in the case of internet marketing, sadly it’s not quite as simple as a 5-word slogan.

The way you “solve” problems with your product is by investing in content that reaches your customer before they make a buying decision.

Online content isn’t just blog posts anymore. It’s images, video, slideshows, and more. 

When you help a customer solve a problem before they even make a purchase, you don’t just create an opportunity for a new customer but you create a loyal fan of your brand who will tell all their family and friends about you.

What Makes Cannabis SEO Different?

Honestly, not a lot. The process of SEO for cannabis companies doesn’t look much different than any other industry. You need quality traffic that will convert into a customer.

That said, there are a few things that are different in the cannabis industry versus others. For example, cannabis companies need to be careful to not make medical claims about their products. Search engines see this, and it will make them less likely to trust you.

What is The Process?

SEO breaks down into two main areas:

  • On-Site Optimization
  • Off-Site Optimization

That’s it. Or at least that’s how I view it.

Everything we do in SEO falls under these two categories. Under these categories you have:

  • Keyword Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • Technical SEO
  • Headings
  • Meta Title & Descriptions
  • Citations
  • Backlinks
  • Social Signals
  • Site Speed
  • Site Security
  • Site Design / User Experience
  • and more…

Let’s go into a bit more detail about what a few of these mean…

Meta Titles and Descriptions

Meta titles are essentially the page title of each page or post on your website. They are used by search engines to display in the search results. It’s important that your titles be informative and descriptive.

Meta descriptions provide a summary of a page or posts content. You also want to be sure to optimize your descriptions for search.

SEO Meta Title and Description

In the image above you can see an example of these two tags in action in the search results. Highlighted in green is the meta title and in blue is the meta description.

Ideally, both your title and description should contain your target keyword as well. Search engines consider the content of these two tags to be a ranking factor. 

If your website is powered by WordPress, you can use a plugin like YoastSEO to easily edit your description and title tags.

Some CMS systems like Shopify have this feature built-in and you just need to edit the contents.

Important Note: Google does restrict the length of content in these tags. If it’s too long or too short, Google will either cut off your content or rewrite it themselves.

You can use a tool like the following one to make sure that your tags are the correct length.

Content Marketing, Keyword Optimization, and Headlines

Content marketing is crucial for getting in front of customers before they make their buying decision. We already touched on this a bit earlier.

Keyword Optimization and Headlines are also a ranking factor. You want to make sure that your target keyword shows up in your H1 or main heading. 

You also want to sprinkle some keywords throughout your content, but make sure to do it in a natural way. Don’t force it. Google will penalize you for unnatural-sounding content, or content that is stuffed with keywords.

Technical SEO, Site Speed, and Site Security

Technical SEO is the process of searching your content for broken code, links, speed issues or security issues.

Google takes security seriously. In the last few years they’ve even started pushing for all websites to make use of the “https” protocol as it is more secure, especially when making purchases online. 

They’ve even started displaying warnings on the Chrome browser if you don’t have this properly set up.

You want to make sure that you have an SSL certificate set up with your web host in order to prevent this issue. Most web hosts offer SSL certificates for free these days, and you can usually contact support to have them set it up or walk you through it.

A quick and easy way to check if you have https setup properly is to navigate to your website using the chrome browser and check to see if you see a “Secure” or “Not Secure” next to your website URL.

If you see “Not Secure” you’re going to want to address that ASAP.

Your site speed is another important ranking factor. Not only to Google but to your users. If your website is slow or unoptimized for mobile devices, users will leave and go elsewhere. 

A good way to check your site speed is to use a tool like:

Citations & Backlinks

The best way to optimize your website and increase its chances of being found by a potential customer in their local area is through local SEO strategies. There’s no one size fits all solution when it comes down to how you should be doing this, but some good options include:

  • Setting up a Google Business Profile
  • Mentioning the areas you serve on your website and in your content
  • Creating locally relevant content
  • Create pages dedicated to the areas you serve
  • Make sure you’re getting local citations from places like your local chamber or cannabis dispensary directories.

Citations include, as mentioned, chambers or cannabis directories, but can also include things like Yelp, Facebook and the like.

Backlinks are another crucial component to building local authority.

A good way to build local authority while also getting backlinks is to write about other businesses in your area. For example:

If you’re in Los Angeles, write about “The Best Places to Have Date Night” and list some businesses in your local area. 

Once you’ve done that, reach out to them and let them know you featured them on your blog. A fair amount of the time they will end up linking back to you.

I write more about this process and how it works here:

My SEO Services: Websites That Increase Revenue

Cannabis dispensaries and other cannabis companies often struggle to attract website traffic. This is a difficult task, as there are many parts of your site that need attention and maintenance such as quality content in order for it to be successful. But with the right SEO strategy, you can get more visitors on your page which will lead them down an informative rabbit hole about how marijuana helps their conditions and ultimately turns them from visitor to customer.

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