Whether you manage a local dispensary or run an online marijuana strain repository, you can enjoy a stream of qualified, targeted visitors from Google and other search engines.
In a lot of cases, this means following standard SEO best practices, but because marijuana sites are considered Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites, some specific requirements also need to be met.
Below are 10 ways to help get your site ranked quickly and start to build long-term search gains. Some of these steps will help to grow traffic from Google. Others will prevent you from being penalized and will set you up for continued and ongoing search success.
1. Ensure Consistent NAPW Details
NAPW stands for Name, Address, Phone, Website, and this is the information that you will submit to local directories and other online listings.
Before you start submitting to any directory, you need to settle on a format and specific data for each of these, and then stick to it, as precisely as possible, with all your future submissions.
Use the same street address and the same abbreviations for words like street and the county or state where you reside.
Use the same dialing code for your phone number, and either include or exclude the https:// and the www. from your website address every time.
The key here is consistency so that Google’s AI can identify your business based on any of the information you give. This will help ensure that you get the benefit of any directory listings.
On a personal level, this NAPW consistency will also eliminate errors by you and your potential customers.
2. Submit To Local And Relevant Directories
There are thousands of business and website directories online. Some of them are rarely used by real people, if ever, but some do attract human users.
The most popular directories tend to be those that service a specific area or list businesses related to a niche or topic.
Even if a directory isn’t used by humans, as long as it isn’t a spammy directory filled with low-quality backlinks, you may get a little benefit from each directory link. At the very least, it will start to build up and confirm your NAPW details with Google.
Submit your business using the NAPW information you settled on, and ensuring that you are consistent across every NAPW citation.
3. Grab Your Google My Business Listing
Google My Business enables you to add or manage your listing on several Google properties: primarily on Maps and Search. But you need to claim your business to take advantage.
Login to your Google account, find the address of your business, and place a marker on the exact map location where you’re located. Select the proper business category of business, add your consistent NAPW details, and click Finish. You will need to verify that the business is yours, which is commonly done by having a postcard with a verification code, sent to your address.
Once you have verified your business, check that your listing appears how you want it. You should start to see your shop appear in listings, and potential buyers will see it when they search using terms like “cannabis near me”.
4. Encourage Customer Reviews
If several businesses are offering related services in your area, Google will usually give preference to those with the best reputation.
They determine which business has the best reputation by using customer reviews, usually gathered through their own business review listings. They may also curate reviews from sites like Trustpilot and social reviews from the likes of Facebook. It certainly won’t hurt getting positive reviews on as many sites as possible.
Avoid buying fake reviews but encourage your happy customers to leave you a shining online reference.
YMYL sites are those that are considered to positively or negatively impact a person’s fortunes or health, and medical marijuana falls in this category. This means that Google prioritizes Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust (EAT) optimization. Positive reviews from real customers show that people trust you and that you have a degree of expertise.
5. Conduct A Technical Audit
Slow loading pages, broken videos, links that direct to non-existent pages, and broken shopping cart software negatively impact a user’s experience.
Google looks for instances like these and can potentially penalize a site if any are found. Not to mention the fact that broken links can prevent Google’s spiders from crawling and indexing your whole site, and broken videos will be causing visitors to close your pages and visit another site.
A technical SEO audit looks for such errors and fixes them. It can involve practices like compressing images so that they load sooner and replacing broken links with working alternatives.
Rather than having to manually search, there is effective software that can highlight problems and show best practices for repairing any problems.
6. Show Your Credentials
Marijuana is a medical product, but you do not need to be a doctor or pharmacist to sell it. However, because it is a YMYL topic, Google does look for EAT optimization. Specifically, they want to promote sites that have clear expertise.
If you do have relevant qualifications, display them and include them in a section about you. Get qualified authors and experts to contribute to your site and display their credentials.
Google also considers what it would consider personal expertise, so if you have used marijuana strains to help overcome the loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy, talk about it on your site. Alternatively, ask your customers to do so.
There are a lot of ways that you can get your customers involved in your marijuana SEO efforts, with genuine reviews and even with the writing of real-life stories.
7. Find Popular, Non-Competitive Keywords
General to all SEO is the need for good keywords and their inclusion in your content.
Good keywords are those that have some search volume but that do not attract too many competing websites. They are targeted but not overly competitive.
Start with general keywords for your industry, use good keyword research software, and narrow it down to what you have to offer. Consider the individual strains of marijuana that you specialize in or the types of products that you sell. For example, you might find that keywords related to edibles or vaping marijuana are less competitive than money keywords like “buy marijuana”.
Use geo-targeted keywords like “your town marijuana dispensary” to further increase your list of keywords to target.
8. Be Yourself
We touched on this above, but if you have a story to tell and a genuine reason why you wanted to start selling marijuana or CBD, or whatever else your business does, promote this in your content and on your site.
Add blog posts with regular updates, share them on social media, and encourage others to talk to you about the topic.
Such stories are genuine interest pieces for others.
They might encourage some natural links and get shared on social media. The content will naturally include some long-tail keywords, which are those that do not have a lot of search volume but also have very little competition. Google will promote this, too, because it is relevant, shows expertise, and is informative and not just money-making.
9. Publish, Publish, Publish
Your SEO efforts need to consist of marijuana link building but also on-page SEO. On-page SEO means creating pages that are optimized for your chosen keywords. It means publishing regular content updates, in the form of blog posts, whitepapers, guides, and other content.
The more often you publish, the more content you have. This means that you have a greater chance of hitting top search ranking positions for a wider range of keywords. Ultimately, this leads to more website traffic, which translates to more profit.
You can also refresh old content, if your site has any, by updating it and ensuring that it remains relevant for today’s market.
When publishing regularly, you should also look for ways to share your updates on social media. Social links can have some impact on an SEO campaign, both directly and indirectly, and they will naturally drive social media traffic to your site.
10. Start Building Links
As well as on-page SEO, link building is a crucial element of all search optimization campaigns. Directory links and citations are a good start, and if you post regular and high-quality content, you should naturally build some links, but these efforts alone are unlikely to yield the kind of results you want.
Marijuana link building can take many forms, including broken link building. Find links on relevant and topical sites that point to non-existent pages and suggest your own link be used as a replacement. Such links are beneficial because they are on aged pages and are usually found within relevant content.
Guest posting, or blogger outreach, is another popular form of link building. Essentially, you provide content for a site, and because you have written high-quality content, you are permitted to include a link back to your pages.
Link building is important and will yield results, but it is time-consuming and it can be difficult to continue to get fresh links every month.
Many elements of marijuana SEO are the same as for any site and any topic, but you should concentrate at least some effort on your Expertise, Authority, and Trust, before finding suitable keywords, writing relevant content, and developing high-quality links.
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.