A market research report published by reportlinker.com states that the 2025 global cannabis market will be clocking at USD 58.7 billion, with 28.02% CAGR. There is an enormous scope of cannabis’s online business because of the ease of internet accessibility and increase in smartphone users.
Paid promotion of cannabis is next to impossible due to online platforms and search engines' strict legal policies. Hence the only way to promote your business online and increase visibility is by attracting web traffic using search engine optimization (SEO).
Your potential customer is continuously searching on the internet. Still, with the rise in the number of online sellers in the cannabis vertical, it has now become difficult to appear on top position on search result pages for a given search query.
An impeccable SEO strategy will surely help you make your website visible among the search result page's top positions.
This article will guide you with seven steps to search engine optimization (SEO) to enhance your online visibility in the cannabis market.
Step 1- SEO Audit: Deep diving in the current status
This step involves analyzing the current health of your cannabis e-commerce website.
SEO Audit involves the following checks on the website :
- Backend checks ( indexing & hosting )
- Front-end checks (Metadata, content & Keywords )
- Outside references and Link qualities
Step 2- Detailed Cannabis-related Keyword exploration
Keywords are the game changer for any online marketing strategy. Hence proper planning is needed to select keywords. It is nice to deal with keywords with 50,000 searches per month or even 5,000 searches a month, but the ground reality is that these search terms just form a minuscule portion of real conversion.
Short-tail keywords CBD, Cannabis, Marijuana, etc. are quite generic, and due to this, they become most competitive. The focus should be more towards long-tail keywords that have a high probability of actual conversion.
As per SEO research data, nearly 70% of searches in the cannabis vertical happens from long-tail keywords-these long-tail keywords clock a conversion rate of 36%. A long-tail keyword is an amalgamation of a short-tail keyword and a modifying phrase, which leads to more preciseness or accuracy in the search query.
he disadvantage associated with the short-tail keyword is that they are often quite competitive. There are hundreds of keyword research tools available, and some of them are free as well. However, according to SEO experts, SEMrush or Ahrefs are the best.
The following points describe how to extract keywords from these tools.
- Extract a list of all keywords for which your website is currently ranking on Google.
- Eliminate those with low searches and high competition (>30) and those you are not ranking in the first five google pages.
- Pick up a suitable number of relevant keywords from the list as per your requirement.
Always make a note of the following parameters before taking above mentioned action,-
- Keyword difficulty or competitiveness score
- Traffic volume
- Click-through rate
A keyword analysis is not a one-time activity. Instead, it’s a repetitive process. Keyword selection plays a crucial role in your site’s ranking and hence the position in display results.
Step 3- Keep an eye on the competitor's ranking.
You must always keep tabs on the keywords on which competitors are not ranking. On the other hand, find and prioritize keywords from your lists over which your competitors are already ranking. The former strategy is great if you plan to edge your competitors by taking advantage of their lost opportunities. Simultaneously, the latter is the correct strategy that makes you compete over the keywords where competitors hold a better position.
Step 4- Keyword by season and region.
Look out for deal seasons or events like Black Friday, sale days, etc., and incorporate long-tail keywords like "cannabis hot deals" or "cannabis black Friday deals." These keywords might give less traffic, but the probability of conversion is high. You can also add long-tail keywords to address search queries based on a particular region or location in a similar fashion. Like “cannabis hot deals in Ontario.”
Step 5- Content planning
Google search algorithm prefers search results on the top, which answers the search query in a straightforward and organized way. If two websites have the same amount of information, then that website will have a better ranking on the Google search page with a better content structure. So, how do you improve your ranking on SERP in this environment? The answer to this is Pillar Page & Topic Clusters. Hence, you need to build a pillar page for your cannabis website.
What is a pillar page?
A pillar page is a web page that gives you a generalized overview of a topic, without providing in-depth information. Detailed information can be obtained by visiting the links to the cluster pages.
What is a Topic Cluster?
The first step of building pillar pages is to design and plan out a topic cluster. A topic cluster comprises interlinked articles and web pages related to one topic. This interlinking and improved structure facilitates smooth crawling by Google, hence improving your SERP ranks.
A topic within a circle is called pillar content, i.e., a broad topic that contains an overview of everything. This is further interlinked with subtopics or related trending subtopics called cluster content. This complete structure is called a Topic cluster.
Refer to the image above. Pillar content (inside the circle) is the trending keyword over which you have your focus. These topics in rectangular boxes are trending keywords associated with CBD oil. Each of the rectangular boxes depicts a webpage giving detailed structured information on the respective topic.
You must ensure that information on these pages in the form of texts and images should adhere to the best SEO practices.
Please note, the topics selected following the guidelines stated above in Step 2,3 and 4.
Similarly, you can also design a pillar page for the FAQ section or any other pillar page of your cannabis website by checking out the trending questions or product category, using Ahrefs.
Select the top 3-5 results and consider them for a new support article.
For example, if you want to build around cannabis tincture, the following topics can be suitable for supporting article:
- How to make cannabis tincture
- Marijuana Tincture recipe
- How to use cannabis tincture.
Pillar page structure would look somewhat like this-
Make sure that the following conditions are satisfied:
- Every cluster content must have one link to the pillar page.
- Every link to the pillar page connecting it with topic cluster content must have a target keyword as anchor text.
- Links to outdated pages or deleted content are not present.
Step 6- Link Building ( New and broken)
Backlinks act as word of mouth in the SEO process. The higher the quality of the backlink better will be your Google ranking. Backlinks from high DA websites whose content resonates with your niche guarantees improvement in organic ranking.
Using a prospecting and emailing tool like buzzstream, you can create a database from a Google search page based on your DA preference and approach the relevant website owners for a backlink from their websites.
You can use the below phrases in Google for buzzmarking the Google search results for the outreach process:
- intitle:resources <industry>
- inurl:resources <industry>>
Similarly, you can try out different phrases e.g., use a link instead of resources
Here industry will be cannabis, CBD, marijuana, and possible combinations of related keywords.
Using Ahrefs, you can also browse the current broken links and repeat the above steps to get new links over the same content in context to the previous broken link.
As mentioned earlier, by using SEO tools like Ahrefs, you can get a backlink audit done. Once the audit is complete, identify bad links and get them disavowed using Google’s Disavow Tool. This process helps in improving your website ranking on search results.
Step 7- Technically optimize pages.
You need to optimize each of the webpages of your e-commerce website technically.
For this,you’ll have to analyze the following-
- Meta tags: It gives information about your website. Content on your website must provide answers that users are seeking to achieve a high ranking. You can improve this further by using custom Meta tags to raise click-through rates.
- Alt tags: For higher organic ranking, alt tags must explain the image. It must be short, and should include your target keywords. Always use longdesc=".
- Continuous checks to see for 404 not found errors: Google removes websites from the search index once it knows that it can't be accessed. It turns the links useless as it removes PageRank from the links pointing to the website. Hence, your website misses the opportunity to rank higher in search results.
- Loading Speed: HTTP requests should be reduced, since the more requests you have, the longer the page needs to recover them all. Also, make use of the content delivery network (CDN) to remove the unused scripts. Last but not least, use browser caching and plugins like WP Super Cache and WP Rocket to boost your loading speed.
- XML Sitemap: It gives information on how search engines can view your website. This can also check website errors, site indexing, and broken pages. Apart from this, it can inform you about the issues on your website and suggest actions to solve them.
- Best Practices: The best strategy is to follow the above-mentioned steps and continuously monitor the following key metrics.
- Daily website visits
- Bounce Rate
- No. of referring domains
- Total Backlinks
- Target Keywords and Their organic ranking
If any of the above metrics perform below your expectations, iterate above mentioned six steps again.
Vibhav is the Co-founder of Outreach Crayon and CBO at Ebizon. He plays a key role in empowering retail clients to catalyze Digital Marketing, Mobile Commerce & other Futuristic technologies as their #1 competitive advantage.