18 Ways to Increase Your Marijuana Dispensary’s SEO (2018)
The weed business isn’t some get-rich scheme anymore:
The state of Colorado has 500+ recreational dispensaries. And over 170 marijuana dispensaries are in Denver alone…
In every state where cannabis is legal, the major cities will soon be completely oversaturated.
So how do you make your dispensary known? How do you get people in the door?
We live in a world where people walk across busy streets while looking down at their phone and say “Hey Google” whenever they need anything.
Especially when they need something like weed.
They’ll simply pull out their phone and type in “dispensary near me.”
And if you’re not found? Good luck surviving as a business.
Therefore, you must optimize your dispensary SEO in order to get noticed.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the 18 things you MUST to do to increase your cannabis advertising through SEO.
1. Optimize Your Google My Listing
You’re probably wondering why this is #1. You might’ve been expecting something like keyword optimization or SEO plugins.
I’ll explain why this is #1 with a very quick story:
Let’s say you own a dispensary in Denver.
Now let’s say there’s a woman named Rachel. Rachel just moved to Denver and would love to buy some weed.
Rachel doesn’t have her regular spot yet, so she pulls out her smartphone and types in either:
- “Dispensary near me”
- “Dispensary in Denver”
Then Google’s algorithm pulls up the best results to solve Rachel’s problem based on SEO principles.
This is what pops up:
Here’s the sad part of the story.
Your business doesn’t come up since your Google My Business isn’t optimized.
And guess what?
Rachel goes and buys weed from your competitor. She likes the place. She also likes the weed. And just like that, she’s a regular there.
Over the course of a year, you just lost $210 in business.
And then think about this:
How many “Rachels” are out there that you’re missing out on?
Here’s what you need to do to boost your Google My Listing:
Make sure you fill in every detail.
Add your hours of operation. List the correct phone number. And upload as many high-quality pictures as possible.
2. Respond to all your Google My Listing reviews
The only reason why Google My Business will help with your SEO is if you have a lot of great reviews.
And by responding to every review (both positive and negative), you’re showing potential customers that you care about them and you want to give them the best experience possible.
3. Set up a review-generating software
Ultimately, people like Rachel are going to go to the dispensary that show up on Google Maps with the 1) best reviews and 2) the most reviews.
If you can set up a system to generate reviews for you, then you’re basically set.
Check out a review-generating software like this or do your research on any others that’ll work for your business.
2. Add Your Dispensary to EVERY Weed Directory
There are dozens and dozens of directories where you can add your dispensary.
And there are two main reasons why getting on this directories is so important:
1. Yes, weed-users check directories
It’s true that when people are searching for dispensaries they are more likely to use Google than a directory.
But that’s not to say you can’t get lucky and land a couple of lifetime customers by spending an hour adding your dispensary to all these directories.
2. More importantly, you’ll generate reputable backlinks
Backlinks are when another website creates a hyperlink to your website.
And the more reputable the website that adds a backlink, the better it is for your SEO.
Google itself said that backlinks are one of its top 3 ranking determining factors when it comes to SEO.
Which directories should you add your dispensary to?
And there are so many more directories. Check out this comprehensive list to see all the cannabis directories.
3. Create Engaging and Interesting Content (That Your Audience Wants to See)
Before you think this isn’t important, let me explain the facts:
Remember how I said backlinks are one of the most important things that Google looks at when determining how high to rank your site?
Content is also one of the three most things to increase SEO.
So having engaging, interesting content that your audience wants to see is essential.
Don’t just go and create content because that’s what I told you to do.
Shitty content won’t help your SEO.
So how do you create content that your audience wants?
Figure out who your audience is and what they want to know
- Why do they partake in cannabis?
- What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night?
- Are they using marijuana for recreational purposes or health reasons? Or both?
Check out some of these content ideas below
- Products: Have a product description for each product you’re selling (people definitely want to see this)
- Article: A comprehensive list of health benefits of cannabis
- Article: The difference between CBD and THC
- Online Quiz: What strain is right for me?
- Article: Is there such thing as organic weed?
- Article: An in-depth guide on how to to create your own edibles
- Video: Why CBD lotion can help reduce chronic pain
How to create great content
- Research keywords relevant to your content (I’ll get more into this in the next section).
- Intentionally write every paragraph. Every sentence. Every word. Make sure everything adds value.
- Continuously ask yourself: “What does my audience want to know? What will help them?”
4. Research Keywords
What are keywords?
Keywords are the primary words that define your piece of content.
For example, if you’re writing an article on the beneficial properties of CBD oil, then your main keyword would be “CBD.”
But you’ll need more than just one keyword to optimize your content for SEO.
So how do you find relevant keywords?
Go to a website like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and type in your primary keyword.
I’ve typed in “CBD.”
If you look at the image above, you can see all the other relevant keywords that may be beneficial to add to your content based on your primary keyword.
And you can also see how many people search for those keywords each month.
But there’s something extremely important about keywords:
Don’t engage in “keyword-stuffing.” This simply means that you shouldn’t add an absurd amount of keywords to your content when it doesn’t make sense.
For example, one of the keywords that Moz gave was “convention on biological diversity (CBD).” That keyword would not make sense for an article on CBD Oil.
5. Integrate with Google Webmaster and Google Analytics
How do you know your SEO is increasing if you’re not tracking it?
Just like with anything in your business (and life), you need to create measurable goals and track them.
And Google Search Console and Google Analytics are robust platforms to keep track of how your SEO is doing.
I’ll lay out how to set everything up.
Google Search Console:
- Go to Google Search Console by clicking here.
- Add your website’s URL as a property
- Add your XLM Sitemap (see step #15)
- Add a property (your same website URL that you added to Google Search Console)
- Pick “Healthcare” for category
- Don’t forget to copy and paste your tracking ID somewhere safe
- Go to Search Console and make sure the accounts are properly linked (to ensure that everything is integrated
6. Have an Easy-To-Navigate, Clear Homepage
Your homepage is the first thing that visitors see when they arrive on your website.
And if it’s hard-to-navigate, poorly designed, and doesn’t add value to them immediately, then they’ll leave.
And if the city your dispensary is located in has dozens of other dispensaries?
People won’t waste their time. They’ll leave and go to a competitor’s site.
So how do you 1) optimize your homepage for SEO while at the same time 2) capture your audience’s attention?
Your homepage needs:
- To succinctly explain in less than 8 words how your dispensary is different and how it can add value to your customer’s specific needs
- To be brilliantly organized so that it will guide users to what information they want to find out (product descriptions, location, prices, etc)
- Be designed to reflect your brand
- Add rich content (through text, images, video, or testimonials) so that folks won’t immediately exit your site.
Take a look at this example.
This website is simple and to the point.
There’s not much more that needs to be said.
8. Design High-Converting Web Pages
Although your homepage is the most important page on your website, don’t ignore your other pages.
Every single page on your website should be built to convert.
What does “convert” mean?
Having each page converts means guiding that website visitor to where you want them to go.
And in the marijuana advertising world, it means getting folks to come in and buy from you or order for pickup or delivery online.
So what does each page need in order to convert?
“A call to action”
Users should “take action” on each page. If it’s a “Our Locations” page, then they should be able to click and “get directions” or “call now.”
If it’s a product page, they should obviously be able to buy (through delivery or through having the in-store staff hold that product).
If it’s an “About Page”, then there should be an opt-in for your newsletter at the bottom (and you should have a newsletter to capture people’s emails, add value to them, and be on the top of their mind.)
Information that users want to see
Don’t fluff the page.
Every single image, word, video, button, or hyperlink should add value to them.
Give users “a path to follow” to buy your products or come into your dispensary
Ultimately you want people on your products page or a “Contact Us” page.
Those are the two pages where people are going to convert to buy your products, either online or by physically coming to your location.
So make sure your navigation buttons at the top are “locked” – meaning that when users scroll down a page they can still see the navigation buttons linking back to “Our Products” and “Contact Us”
8. Optimize Your Mobile Website
Google recently changed its algorithm to a mobile-first index.
Google, when determining which websites will rank higher than others, looks at those mobile sites first. It used to look at your desktop version first, but not anymore.
So, according to Google, you should spend more time focusing on your mobile website for dispensary advertising with SEO.
How do you optimize your mobile website for SEO?
To optimize your cannabis marketing SEO, you need to have a mobile-responsive website.
No, not “mobile-friendly.” You actually need a “mobile responsive” site.
This simply means that your website adjusts to the size of that person’s screen.
9. Add Your Products (If Possible)
Remember how having content with optimized keywords is hugely beneficial to your cannabis advertising by increasing your website’s SEO?
Well, adding a list of your products is essentially like adding a TON of content.
It’ll hit hundreds (if not thousands) of keywords.
Your website visitors will love scrolling through all of the products you offer and planning which ones they’ll buy.
And to take it even a step further?
Allow folks to click on each product to give a more detailed description of that product.
Look at all those keywords!?
Yes, this takes a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it.
Because once your SEO starts increasing and more visitors are coming to your site, they’ll have more content to interact with.
This increases “dwell time” (how long folks spend on your site). It also gets them excited about your products and what you have to offer.
Then they might just buy from you.
And isn’t that the goal?
10. Download Yoast and Other SEO Plugins
Yoast provides hundreds of features to help boost your SEO.
I can’t get into all the features Yoast has to offer in this article, but there a number of blogs that give great insights on how to properly use it.
There are other plugins you should consider downloading, besides Yoast, like:
- Smush – this compresses all of your images and videos so that your website runs much faster.
- SEMrush – their interactive interface is great for the analytical and data-gathering side to SEO.
- Broken Link Checker – Google’s algorithm looks at how many “broken links” you have. So limiting those broken links will increase your SEO.
11. Make Sure Your Site Loads Quickly
Or how about another stat?
And if folks are leaving, then they’re probably immediately going to a competitors’ site.
So you need to do this first:
Go to Google to test how fast your mobile site loads and enter your dispensary’s URL.
Google will let you know if things are good or if there are things that need to be changed.
If your website is loading slowly, then do this:
1. Minify your code
“Minify my code!? But I barely know how to use a computer, let alone how to code!”
Here’s the good news:
To minify your code, you don’t actually have to know how to code.
Google has taken the time to find reputable websites out there that’ll minify your code for you.
And I know that I can trust Google on this one.
Just go to one of those sites and copy and paste your code into it. From there, it’ll spit out your minified code.
2. Format your images properly
Title the images properly so that Google can index them probably and know what the image is about.
For the alt tag, make sure to be descriptive.
So instead of:
<img src=”dispensary.jpg” alt=“dispensary”/>
Write a more detailed alt tag description like this:
<img src=”dispensary.jpg” alt=“[name of your dispensary] Dispensary in [city of your dispensary]“>
3. Potentially use a different “theme”
If you’re using a WordPress theme or a website-building site/software that naturally has slow loading times, then you should probably change that.
Go do some research on which themes load faster than others (while also maintaining a beautiful look).
12. Free Content? Allow Reviews Of Products/Testimonials On Your Site.
Reviews of Products:
Since you’re reading this far, you already took the time to add all the products your dispensary sells to your website, yeah?
And your next step?
Create a “social” aspect to your product pages by allowing people to comment and rate how they like a particular product.
You probably didn’t notice that one of the images I used above integrated this idea.
So I’ll share that image with you again.
Do you see how it has 4.3 stars out of 5 at the top?
And at the bottom how it has 2769 reviews and it says “Add a Review”?
Pretty cool, huh?
This site could even take it further and allow folks to comment on why the like or dislike a product, since that would be an additional kush-load of free content.
While this is still free content, it won’t do much to increase your SEO.
This is more geared toward general best practices for marijuana advertisements.
Adding testimonials to your homepage or throughout your site will create credibility and allow you to showcase what you have to offer.
Let’s say you’re a dispensary in Colorado.
Instead of paying for Colorado marijuana advertising, you’re doing it for free by adding testimonials.
13. Boost Your Social Media Presence
Marketing marijuana works best through social media.
Not only that, but folks coming to your website (most likely young and technology-centered people based on what you’re selling…) will be interested in following you on Facebook or Instagram.
Therefore, link your social media to your website.
This is particularly true with medical marijuana marketing.
Folks want to know that you’re not just focusing on the recreational side of things, so they’ll check out your Instagram to see what sort of stuff you post about.
14. Optimize Your HTML Codes
There are three different types of HTML code that need to be optimized on your website: title tags, meta descriptions, and h1, h2, and h3 headings.
Check out this image below so you know what title tags and meta descriptions are.
1. Title tags
Moz, an organization that’s known as a leader in SEO, says that you should structure your title tags like this:
“Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name”
2. Meta descriptions
The goal of your meta description is to convince people scrolling to click.
So while it should have some keywords, its main job is to get people to stop, become intrigued, and then want to learn more.
Since we are a digital marketing firm geared towards helping dispensaries, our meta description might have the phrase “medical marijuana advertising agency” in it.
But like I said, more important than adding a bunch of keywords is getting people interested.
3. H1, h2, and h3 Headings
The <h1> tag indicates a heading on a website.
Each page should only have one <h1> tag.
From there it’s ordered hierarchically.
Add <h2> tags below <h1> tags and <h3> tags below <h2> tags.
Here’s an example:
<h1> : A list of the best candy edibles
<h2> What’s an edible?
<h3> CBD vs. THC edibles
<h3> How much do edibles cost?
<h2> Different types of candy edibles
<h3> Hard candies
You get the idea, yeah?
15. Upload an XML Sitemap to Google Search Console
If you upload an XML sitemap to your web server, then that tells all search engines to crawl your site.
So while Google’s bots will already be crawling your site, adding an XML sitemap just ensures that every single page gets indexed.
16. Upload a Robots.txt File
No, a robots.txt file is not an actual robot.
It’s simply coding that communicates with Google, Bing, and all other search engines.
It tells them where they’re allowed crawl within your web site and what they’re allowed to index to help them with rankings.
This article won’t get into the details, but:
When you do officially submit your robots.txt file, click the button that says “Allow everything and submit the sitemap”
17. Validate Your HTML and CSS Code
Again, this may seem complicated, but it’s not.
This process is just to ensure that your HTML and CSS code is up to standard.
If it’s not, that may be negatively affecting your SEO since your site might be loading slower.
Take 5 minutes and do this:
Go to this site and put in your web address. From there, it’ll let you know if your HTML and CSS is up to code.
18. Upgrade Your Site to HTTPS
HTTPS creates a more secure version of your website. It’s more secure because the communication is encrypted between the browser and your website.
And Google likes when things are secure. It gives them more trust in your website.