Want To Grow Your Cannabis Dispensary Business

Want To Grow Your Cannabis Dispensary Business? Going Online And Using SEO Is The Answer

As the cannabis industry goes mainstream, you can expect competition to also heat up. As the field gets crowded, businesses naturally look to online marketing as one way to get a leg up on the competition. But the Internet is getting crowded as well and customers have shorter attention spans. You need to utilize SEO or Search Engine Optimization to have a chance at being noticed.

Simply put, you use SEO to improve your search engine rankings. What does this mean for you, a dispensary? It means that when customers search for anything cannabis-related, your business becomes easier to find as it will pop up among the search results. There are many ways one can do SEO, from keyword creation all the way to link building. This guide will give you a general idea of what that looks like.

Starting with the Basics

Starting with the Basics

Any SEO campaign starts with keyword research. Why? Because these are the words that people type into Google’s search bar, so it’s natural to start with that first. If you’re a dispensary, thinking of words or phrases relating to cannabis products or services would be a good place to start. Some tools that can be used to research keywords are Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Moz Keyword Explorer.

Keywords are usually a mix of short-tail (e.g. “cannabis dispensary”) and long-tail (e.g. “organic CBD oil in Los Angeles”. You need to incorporate both types of keywords to make your SEO picture more comprehensive.

Once you’re satisfied with the keywords you’ve come up with, we get to something more technical: the on-page elements of your website. Examples of these are internal links and meta tags. Title tags, meta descriptions, and URL links, among others, should incorporate your target keywords as much as possible. This allows a search engine’s algorithms to associate as much of your website with the target keyword and increases your chances of placing higher in returned search results.

Of course, you can’t forget high-quality and useful content. Site visitors should find value when they visit your website. If your content proves useful to them, then it’s easier to establish your dispensary as an authority in the cannabis industry. Be as detailed as possible when describing your products, highlight what their health applications are, and how they should be used. Product guides, blog posts, and articles explaining the benefits of cannabis help convince people that not only will they benefit from using cannabis, but that they should choose your dispensary for their needs.

Don’t Forget Local SEO

Unless your dispensary is a purely online store on Amazon, you need a way to direct your customers to the physical store. This is where “local SEO” comes in. Search terms like “cannabis dispensary near me” is one example of local search.

On your website, try to include geographic locations in your keywords like “San Francisco dispensary” or “Denver marijuana shop.” If you have multiple branches, then try to have a dedicated page for each branch with matching descriptive information like “fastest cannabis delivery in the Angelino Heights neighborhood.”

Another way to “localize” your business is to make use of the Google My Business listing. Make sure all the information is up-to-date, especially the business address and contact details. Include photos of the store, a 360-degree street view, and other information that makes it easier to get to the store. Encourage customers to rate your store and leave reviews because people also consider these when trying to decide if a store or service is worth their time or not.

Including your business information in other online directories like Yelp and Leafly also helps customers find your dispensary. If there is a local community board, especially one dedicated to cannabis, you can participate in events and write guides to become more visible to the community.

Don’t forget to make your website mobile-friendly because when people are looking for something “near me” they are likely already on the street on their mobile phones.

Focus on User Experience (UX)

One of the biggest pet peeves of users is waiting for several minutes for a website to load, or for there to be a couple of bugs in how the content is displayed. A good web developer will make sure that images are compressed for easier loading and can use other techniques like browser caching to make navigating your site as seamless as possible.

An efficiently made website makes it easier for search engines to “crawl” through the site and tag relevant content. An XML sitemap that submitted to Google and Bing can help ensure that the most relevant pages are indexed to make sure the information that you want displayed in search results gets the best chance of doing so.

Another consideration is ease of use. Ask yourself the question, is it easy for me to find information on a product? Can I easily get to checkout? Can I easily cancel an item if I don’t want it? Questions like this will help the developer structure the website in a user-friendly manner. You don’t want users exiting the website in frustration because they couldn’t make heads or tails out of the layout and menu.

Furthermore, use HTTPS for your website and secure it with an SSL certificate. Increased security not only helps you but it also gives confidence to users that their data (especially financial data) won’t be compromised.

Build Trust Through Backlinks

Backlinks are links in other sites that lead to your own website. It’s a great way to improve your search engine rankings and build credibility for your site. When a reputable site has a link that leads to your own, then it’s easier for users to see your site as authentic and something that they should take notice of. And search engines algorithms also take note of that.

Examples of ways to build backlinks would be industry websites, community forums, and the web pages of influencers. The more that your dispensary comes up in sites other than your own, not only do you become more well-known, the more credible you also become. This extensive online presence also helps your search engine rankings because the algorithms will also detect multiple instances of your dispensary across several platforms, and assign a higher weight when it comes to search results.

Engage with Your Audience on Social Media

While social media does not directly lead to a higher ranking in search engines, it can still be a strong driver of website traffic and can positively affect brand awareness. Just imagine if customers are raving about your product and it becomes viral. That’s not something to sneeze at.

You can also use platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to inform your followers about a new product launch, the opening of a new branch, or to announce promos and events. These posts can include links back to your own website to drive traffic there. It’s a different type of marketing but it achieves the same goal: increasing sales.

That being said, there’s a caveat when using social media: it’s a two-edged sword. One careless reply or one misunderstood post can turn your customers against you and make your business go viral for all the wrong reasons. This is why it’s better to have a dedicated social media person to manage your social media platforms rather than assign it as a side duty to an employee.

Utilize Email Marketing

A more personalized approach to engage with customers is email marketing. You can build an email list and send regular newsletters, invitations to promos, or update them about any new products or initiatives your dispensary may have introduced.

Leverage Video Content

Because of increasingly short attention spans, people may be less inclined to read long-form articles or blog posts. This is where video content can come in. You can condense a lot of information into a few minutes yet still give value to the viewer. Product reviews, customer testimonials, and listing the benefits of cannabis are some of the topics that can be covered in these clips. As a call to action, you can then lead viewers to visit your website for more details. If you upload the video to YouTube, you can also embed the video onto your web page, allowing site visitors the choice of reading the whole article or just watching a video summary instead. While it’s not a must-have, this can be an additional tool to keep your customers engaged.

Optimize for Voice Search

Voice search is one aspect of SEO that increasingly needs to be considered. Programs like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have made Star Trek-like voice searches a reality. Whereas text searches are usually minimalist and terse, voice searches are more conversational. For example, a text search could go like this: “24-hour delivery cannabis san francisco”, while a voice search for the same thing could sound like this: “Which cannabis dispensary offers 24-hour delivery in San Francisco?”

Such conversational phrases need to be creatively incorporated into your website so that it comes up during voice search. One way to do this is to create a FAQ section with common questions structured in a conversational tone.

Make Use of Schema Markup

Schema markup is a type of code that you add to your website in order for search engines to understand what your website is all about. That helps the algorithm display search results that are relevant to the keywords that were typed in. One useful tool to generate this code is Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

Encourage Customer Reviews

One aspect of customer engagement is feedback. What did they like about your product? What can be improved? As mentioned earlier, customer ratings can influence a potential customer’s decision to go with your product or not. Even negative reviews are beneficial because if you respond professionally and take genuine steps to rectify the issue, you prove to your customers that you are committed to customer satisfaction.

Customer feedback also opens the door to innovation because a customer may suggest an improvement to your product or service that you hadn’t thought of before and could give you an edge over the competition.

Harness the Power of Influencers

Influencers are everywhere nowadays, from food reviews to unboxing videos, they live up to their name and influence the purchasing behavior of their followers. If you can partner with an influencer who is well-known in the cannabis industry, they can help exponentially grow your business either through positive product reviews or by encouraging their followers to take advantage of promos or discounts.

Just like the use of social media, you need to be careful how you utilize this strategy. An influencer only saying a product is great because they were paid to say it’s great can easily backfire. Properly screening influencers before hiring them and being sincere in trying to promote a great product or service is the best approach.

Analyze and Refine Your Strategy

SEO is not a one-and-done process. Search engine algorithms keep getting updated, new technologies or online marketing methods can get introduced, and your competitors won’t take all of this sitting down if they want to stay in business.

This is why you need to refine the different methods discussed earlier. Perhaps it needs a tweak, or maybe it needs to be ditched altogether for another approach if it’s not producing the results you want. There are tools you can use to closely monitor how your SEO campaign is doing. Google Analytics can be used to monitor website traffic and user behavior while Google Search Console can track how your website is performing in search results.

It’s a dynamic field with many moving parts and you need to juggle these parts to find the right mix of cost-effectiveness vis-a-vis impact. You don’t need to do all of this yourself because a qualified SEO and digital marketing specialist will help you set up the right strategy and make sure you’re well on your way to success and a different kind of high!

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