Local SEO Guide for Marijuana and Cannabis Business

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As the legalization of cannabis is growing globally, across 30 countries and counting, more dispensaries along with cannabis entrepreneurs are increasing and popping up in metro cities. With so many cannabis businesses in the market, it becomes difficult for these businesses to stand out. The old days of searching a business alphabetically in a big yellow book are now long gone as everything is now easily accessible on search engines. Hence, many dispensaries and cannabis business entrepreneurs are turning towards the internet to promote their brand. But just having a company website and social media accounts aren’t enough to get your customers to walk into your dispensary. Pairing your web presence along with the essence of local search engine optimization can improve your business growth from virtually invisible to the most lit joint in town!

Local SEO focuses on developing local awareness of your cannabis company’s website or your online dispensary store to drive more local customers to buy the product from you. Google prohibits businesses to market marijuana and weed related products and services using paid advertising. Therefore, the cannabis business owners rely heavily on SEO to feature on Google search results for increased web traffic and new leads. And what better way to begin than local SEO to benefit from customers in and around the locality!

Guide for Marijuana and Cannabis Business

Local SEO Matters

“Go local”, it’s practically a mantra followed and encouraged globally. With this thought in mind, it’s no surprise that going local on SEO keeps gaining importance and attention in among all sectors of business. Local SEO helps in promoting your cannabis business to online customers in your geographic location. Let’s take a look at why local SEO matters.

Local Customers are Constantly Searching

Customers within the same locality can be easily targeted as there will be constant searches for new cannabis products and supplies. Targeting potential buyers around you first is the ideal approach for growing your business locally. Local SEO helps in featuring your business’ online store or dispensary website to the local customers when they search for cannabis related keywords in the search query.

First Seen is First Clicked

The online searchers are always in a hurry of finding information in the very first few links featured in the search result. In fact, 75% of the online searchers never click past the first page of the search results. This is why there is a virtual race among the cannabis business owners to feature in the first page of the search results to get more clicks and improve their web traffic. Using the right local SEO guides, your webstore can feature on the first page on the search results to those viewers that are located around you.

These are some tips and guidelines that you can implement for local SEO efforts.

Business on a Map

The majority of potential customers are searching for relevant service or content especially in the first page of the search result. When a city or a location is typed along with the keyword in the search query, Google distinctly shows advertisements, websites, local businesses in that location, blogs related to that location in the first half of the search page. There are several business listing communities that can help your marijuana and cannabis business feature locally on the first page of search results.

Google My Business Listing

Google My Business Listing

Google My Business (GMB) is a free directory that registers your business page, the location of your cannabis company or dispensary, and enlist your contact information both email and phone numbers. This is a free opportunity to list your brand with free resources and take advantage of the Google algorithm. This is particularly useful as Google delivers localized results to users by default. For instance, if a person searched for, ‘medicinal cannabis dispensary near me’, your dispensary could be the first in the results to pop up, obviously considering the location of the searcher. For this kind of feature, make sure you be consistent across all your business listing channels and social media platforms, especially if you have accounts and pages on Instagram and Facebook respectively. Listing your cannabis company or dispensary on Google my Business optimizes your presence on Google and on search results alike.

Google Local Pack

The screenshot mentioned below shows three listings for dispensaries located in the United States above the organic search results. This search result with location and search pins is called the Google Local Pack. Its advantage is that it only features local businesses and enlists only local searches. So, if your prospective customer shares the same location as your dispensary or cannabis business, it will definitely feature in the Local Pack for them. Also, you don’t even have to compete with other directories and various third-party site rankings. Featuring in this pack is obviously a boon for dispensaries because this Pack is prominently displayed than the traditional results like seen in the screenshot below.

Google My Business

Also, another factor of Google My Business is that it doesn’t list the searches according to ranking in the Local Pack. For example, in the screenshot above, there are three dispensaries listed having different ratings not in ascending or descending order. This factor is minimal but it does halt the searcher from having any judgments or opinions based on the ranking. The point is, even if your cannabis companies official website didn’t manage to feature in the organic search results, you can always beat that by being in the Local Pack. This kind of search is apt for smartphone searches as well, as one can directly tap one of the searches in the Local Pack and be directed to the location through Google Maps.

Optimize for Local SEO

There are three core factors that Google bases its Local Pack search results on:

Relevance: This refers to how well a local listing matches to someone’s search query. Adding complete detailed company information about your marijuana business or dispensary across the web can assist Google to display relevant search results to the searchers.

Distance: This refers to the distance between each potential search result from the location term mentioned in the search query. If a viewer doesn’t include a locality in their search, Google will calculate the distance based on the information about their location.

Prominence: Some places are slightly more prominent in the offline world, and the search results try to reflect this in the local ranking. Prominence is also based on the information that Google has about the cannabis business from across the web like from links, articles, and directories. Also, Google review count and score are additional factors considered in local search ranking.

Reviews:  According to a survey conducted by Bright Local, 84% of customers’ trust in online reviews is equivalent to a personal recommendation. Also, 7 out of 10 consumers will definitely leave a review comment if they are asked to give one. 74% of consumers trust a local business with reviews that are positive.

Links: Links, both internal and external, act as a vote of confidence from other sites that assist Google to determine your website’s credibility. The more number of links you have the better. And when other websites link to your website, more value is passed on to your site. Hence, links from authoritative sites are more valuable than the links from smaller sites. This definitely optimizes your Local SEO when local corporate body websites like educational websites or web streams feature information from your blogs and give links to your work, your website receives more web traffic.

Use Local Keywords

Inserting local keywords in your content that are relevant to your cannabis business service can aid in featuring your website in the Google local searches. For instance, if your cannabis dispensary is located in Calgary, you can use Calgary as a part of your keywords phrase in your content. . There are a few other tips you can use to optimize your Local SEO potential for your cannabis website. You can simply use the word “Calgary” in your meta descriptions of your website. You can customize your URLs by including the word “Calgary” in the URL as well. Adding image tags with local keywords including “Calgary” in it can help your content rank for local search in Calgary.

Local Online PRs

Local Online PRs

Appearing in major publications to receive local coverage is the best way to improve your local SEO for your cannabis products or dispensary. These publications are indexed high on Google. Targeting local publications can boost your Local SEO as the viewers will notice your website link and click on it. A publication acts as a recommendation and thus attains trust quite easily by searchers. Create and foster relationships with local journalists to cover your news about your on-going cannabis business. This will keep more viewers updated about new products or events, and also make people aware of your business. This will eventually increase your contacts and customer list.

Getting Listed in Local Directories

Have business profiles on popular review sites such as Yelp, and Yellow Pages to make it easier for searchers to find your cannabis company. Local directories provide a good opportunity to improve your local SEO ranking. Other than these platforms there are some others which only pertain to marijuana products. Registering your business profile on such platforms can also help people find your company quite easily. Weedmaps is an online community where consumers can search cannabis products and locate them on maps, get educated on cannabis-related news and updates, write and read reviews of cannabis businesses they dealt with, and connect with other like-minded users. Businesses and entrepreneurs can enlist their details and services on this platform for free.

Localized Content for Multi-Local Brands

Multi-local brands should focus on developing their web content for local audience. Many multi-local cannabis businesses have many locations for their dispensaries but have the same landing page for all their locations. Instead, try making every location page a unique one, relevant to each location.

The keywords in your content must focus on the local areas to give better chances of your website appearing in the local search result for multiple places. For instance, having a post titled ‘Why you should visit a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver’ is highly beneficial than just having ‘Why you should visit a medical marijuana dispensary’. This can get you more clicks and customers residing in Vancouver can easily find you. Likewise, if you are operating in multiple cities, make sure you have content focusing on each of those cities to boost your local SEO rank.

Update Your GMB Listing

Being authentic in your business listings on Google, Bing or Yelp is very crucial. You must fill and regularly update your cannabis business’ description. Have images that are recent and of high quality. I recommend not using photoshopped images as this may tamper with your SEO ranking. If your existing consumers have given reviews on your cannabis business pages, positive or negative, you must respond with relevant and constructive feedback. This can help the potential customers that read your reviews to trust you and your products.

Use Google Virtual Tour

Use Google Virtual Tour

Google has a new tool called the Google Virtual Tour for all sorts of businesses concerned with local SEO. You can now add a 3D photo of your business to your Google business profile which will pop up in the searches on Google maps. Search results with images not only generate interest among viewers but Google also gives preferences through its algorithms to any business profile that has added this virtual tour feature to rank well in the local search result.

Optimize for Mobile Users

When it comes to local searches, your mobile audience for your cannabis business is very different from the desktop audience. For a person searching locally on a smartphone or a mobile device, the intent for the search is often direct. People are searching on their mobile device because they want something at that very moment. Giving mobile searchers the simplest, easiest, and quickest answers to the questions or products of interest can increase the chances of getting more mobile users as your potential buyers.

On-page SEO

When it comes to ranking locally, it’s important to include your local keywords and location in the following places:

Heading Tag: Heading tags help search engines to determine what your website, sections or pages are about. Using these tags on your cannabis dispensary’s website is important in ranking well on Google and on other search engines. But you can’t just insert them all over your pages. The heading tags have a set structure to adhere that can increase your rankings significantly for target keywords:

  • The H1 tag is the most important heading tag that describes the web page.
  • The H2 tag is the second most important heading tag used to describe a section of a web page.
  • The H3 tag is the third most important heading tag that describes a subsection.

Title Tag: The title tag is a meta tag used for SEO that provides search engines and browsers text that displays above the meta descriptions in the search results and tabs.

Description tag: The description tag describes what a web page is about in more detail below the title. Search engines like Google, often use the meta description as the information text in a snippet.

Alt text: When it comes to Marijuana SEO, using alt tags on the multimedia images and videos your cannabis dispensary website has, can increase your rankings in both local searches and worldwide searches.

Page Load Speed: Page load speed is necessary to optimize mobile audience. Over 53% of users leave the site if it takes longer to load. The goal is to create a pleasant experience for your mobile audience and fast load times are critical in optimizing the conversion rate. Page load is so important in SEO that Google has developed the Mobile-Friendly Test tool to help business web stores to identify if they have page load speed issues.

Site Design: When designing your cannabis business site optimized for mobile devices, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Flash: Avoid using flash. In some cases, the Flash plugin might not be available on a user’s phone. HTML5 is a better alternative to flash as it requires no plugin.
  • Pop Up’s: Don’t use pop-ups on the homepage. Google has come out and stated that having a pop up on the homepage will affect your website rankings.
  • Large Buttons: Design larger buttons for easy clicks and make sure there is enough spacing between the buttons, so users don’t accidentally click on something they didn’t want.

Name, Address, Phone number (NAP): The NAP should be a part of the header, footer, sidebar, and displayed on every page so that mobile device users can access it easily. You need to ensure that your NAP details are consistent across all digital media platforms where you have listed your business details. If you have different details across multiple platforms, then Google will consider each listing as a separate business. As a result, your cannabis business website may not get the desired SEO value or the same SEO value will be split for two different businesses. Therefore, always keep your NAP details consistent.

Mobile and local SEO work together. By optimizing your website for mobile users, you’ll notice your website will begin to rank for local searches.

Cannabis Content

Content is King

Relevant and informative content is well appreciated by search engines as they always display websites with good content for their searches. Publishing blogs and articles that inform readers about recent activities, educational research, and other topics related to cannabis that readers might want to know about can improve web traffic to your website. All-in-one-space information is well appreciated by readers as they won’t click on other links to find more information if your blogs and articles already have them.

Quality content receives quality backlinks to your blogs, articles, and service pages. This is valuable for local as well as global SEO ranking. Links and backlinks are an important factor in calculating SEO ranking since Google introduced Google Pigeon Algorithm in 2014.

But today, Google has optimized its search results on the basis of voice search as well. It’s time for cannabis businesses and dispensaries to evolve for voice search as well. Have a keyword research for voice search. Research about what words do locals speak to search for cannabis dispensaries, and accordingly include those words in your content. Brainstorm the kind of questions that locals may ask about cannabis news updates.

SEO Firm Assistance

SEO never stops, you can’t just set guidelines and forget about them. There is always something new to be updated on your website for SEO as the search world is always updating. If you are a cannabis entrepreneur with limited time and resource for SEO, then hire the expertise of a reputable digital marketing agency that specializes in providing local SEO services.

Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches. Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.

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