There was once a time when the only thing you had to do in order for your cannabis-related business to be successful online was to build the website, sprinkle in a few keywords and throw the switch. Back before anyone knew what cannabusiness marketing was it was easy to rank for keywords like “cannabis grow equipment” because “those people” were considered the underground. Few people wanted their name associated with a website about marijuana.
That was what? Five years ago?
Today it’s different. The legal cannabis industry is being flooded with investor cash and everybody (it seems) wants to be a part of it. The emerging legal cannabis industry has been called the gold rush of the 21’st century for good reason. Much like the California gold rush (and others) the legal cannabis industry is attracting more than just investors: it’s attracting really smart people who have, up until this point, had nothing to do with marijuana. The draw for people like Chip Summers, Managing Partner of Southern Retail Services, Inc (the parent company of WeedBiz), is easy for him to describe. “I’m not a cannabis user but I have friends who are”, Summers said. “I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on their lives and it just made sense to me.” Summers, a long-time commercial and retail construction consultant, has jumped full-tilt in to the legal cannabis industry, not just as an investor in WeedBiz, but by also creating the country’s first commercial cannabis construction company.
Luckily there is a lot of wiggle room in this multi-billion dollar industry, but because weed has gone “mainstream” and there is a lot more competition than there was 5 years ago (or a year, or 6 months) it is essential that cannabis-related businesses begin to follow SEO best practices or risk getting left behind by companies building monster corporate websites to outrank them in the search engines.
SEO Tips for cannabis industry websites
- Know Your Keyword: There’s nothing particularly different about ranking a cannabis industry website than, say, a website selling shoes. The real challenge is recognizing that this is a brand new industry with a lot of “startup” competition and some of the keywords you want to rank for may not have been conjured up yet. Here’s an example of what I’m saying: In 2008 the word “cannabusiness” returned around 100 search results in Google. Today there are over 65,000 results. So what’s the answer? Lots of quality content containing laser-targeted keywords. If you’re not familiar with keyword targeting this Moz article is a pretty good primer.
- On-Page Optimization: This is the “behind the scenes” stuff that you become better at the more you do it. There are so many on-page elements that could affect your website’s search engine raking that it would be impossible to cover all of them here, much less provide sufficient detail. The idea when you are trying to rank your own cannabis industry website is to learn one on-page factor at a time, correct it and move on. Some examples of on-page SEO factors you should become familiar with are the use of meta title, description and keyword tags, proper implementation of title tags, hidden meta information for social media networks (like Facebook’s Open Graph protocol, Google+ authorship markup and Twitter’s vCard data), etc. As I said this just scratches the surface of on-page SEO factors for your cannabusiness website so it’s a smart move to learn one “trick” at a time, perfect it and move on. By increasing your understanding in this manner, a little at a time, you have a better chance of being able to include all of these SEO best practices in the future and less chance of becoming overwhelmed and throwing up your hands.
- Social Media Marketing: There are so many options to consider when creating a social media marketing plan for your cannabis industry website that it takes a strong will (especially if you are savvy at this sort of thing) to decide which channels are important, which are not and put together a solid plan on paper that you will follow. It’s really easy to chase social media in so many directions that you dilute the impact of your message so it is important to understand the purpose of each social media channel before developing your marketing plan. At WeedBiz we employ Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as our social media marketing channels, and each is targeted for different reasons:
Facebook is an outstanding platform to engage your current user base. Facebook is by-far the most “personal” social media channel of the three and the goal is to get your followers to spread your message for you. When you properly engage your Facebook fan base and they show that they approve of your content by “liking” and “sharing” it this creates social signals that the search engines pick up on. Another important reason for properly engaging your Facebook fans is so more people will see your content on Facebook. If you have a Facebook page for your cannabis business, you may not be aware of the fact that only about 20% of your page’s followers are seeing your content in their news feed. Facebook uses the popularity of your content to increase your viewership. If you are consistently posting content on Facebook that is getting “liked” and “shared” then your Facebook authority will rise and you will show up in more news feeds, which means even more popularity.
The best way to describe Twitter is as complex search engine that is extremely easy to use and mine data from. Twitter is great for sending traffic directly to your website but you have to optimize your tweets, properly incorporate hashtags and publish on the right days and at the right time. It’s a good idea to start looking for and incorporating new hashtags in your tweets. Hashtags like #cannabusiness have become much more popular lately but there’s still a lot of room to grow, so start making your content discoverable on Twitter by using the right language in your tweets.
To call Google+ a social media network doesn’t really do a good job of describing its purpose. Yes Google+ is a place where you can interact with like-minded people and share content in a manner similar to Facebook, but it’s also a content verification system, a link building network, a video distribution platform (via YouTube), a local business search engine and a business rating system with customer reviews. Essentially Google+ is a huge system designed to filter out webspam from search results by verifying the author of that content. They do that by verifying your local business (by sending you a postcard with a PIN you must enter), verifying your website and verifying that you are who you say you are (as well as they can anyway) through authorship markup and rich snippets. We post links to all of our content to our Google+ page because it provides a way for our followers to find our content in their search results and encourages others to follow us as well.
There are other social media networks that may be appropriate for your cannabusiness. For instance, some of our customers who operate medical marijuana dispensaries have seen great success on Instagram by posting high-res photos of their cannabis. Cannabis industry related businesses who manufacture a product for growers might consider adding LinkedIn to their social media offering for the networking benefits it provides. The bottom line, though, is that you must do the proper research to determine the most appropriate social media channels for your business, write your marketing plan down and then follow it!
Starting a business in the emerging cannabis industry is often different from other sectors because there isn’t a lot of data to rely on when deciding on the best marketing strategy to implement. This is why creativity and a clear vision of where you want your business to go is essential. By implementing a few best practices in your internet marketing efforts and sticking to them there is a good chance you can break out of the pack and make a name for you and your business in this exciting new industry. It’s not easy, though, and it takes a lot of planning and hard work. If this is too much work for you, or if you just want to bounce some ideas off of us, feel free to reach out and tell us about your project.