Online Marketing 101 for Marijuana and Weed Industry: SEO

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As of October 17th, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into effect and now marijuana is legal in Canada. Initially, medicinal marijuana was legalized, but now recreational marijuana is out in the open and very much legal. This move of the Government has given a brand new marketing opportunity to the businesses that deal with cannabis and marijuana. These businesses can now openly market and sell their products. Taking this thought forward, we will today discuss about how marijuana and weed business owners can market their products through online marketing. In this article, we will specifically discuss on how search engine optimization can help you grow your business along with the cannabis that you are growing.

Marijuana and Weed Industry

The Need to Implement SEO

Cannabis already has a small market prevalent for its medicinal use. However, with the legalization of recreational marijuana, the competition in the market is bound to increase. To cope with such a sudden competition, you need to use a channel that will enable you to reach a huge number of audience without having to spend a fortune. SEO is one such method that is cost efficient yet extremely effective if done right. With the help of SEO you can do the following.

1) Get Local Attention

With the help of search engine optimization, you can target the exact local audience. For example, if you are a marijuana distributor in Calgary, you can add ‘Calgary’ in your keyword term and get your website ranked for every marijuana search done for the Calgary region. Adding a keyword not only makes you a relevant search when a user uses the location name but also based on the location from where the user is searching for it. So even if someone from the Calgary area looked for marijuana, you will rank on their SERP. Also, if you use the location in your keyword, you will appear in the GMB business section with direct action buttons for a better chance of getting user’s attention.

2) Find Audience Organically

When you choose to optimize your weed website you are actually taking a step that will help you get a better organic traffic. In general marketing practices such as SEM or social media marketing, you target your specific audience and pay to get your content displayed to such an audience. However, in SEO, your content is ranked based on your optimization efforts, making it one of the most affordable options for any business. Also, with proper optimization, you not only get the attention of your target audience but also organic traffic that is yet to consider using marijuana.

3) Enhance Your Business Visibility

With the weed and cannabis business now in the open, you need to grab the attention of the people and let them know what your business has to offer. You are definitely going to have special products such as cannabis edible brownies, treats, and drinks. To sell these products, you need to gain visibility for your business. Legalization of weed is going to bring more competition that you need to tackle now by showcasing your products more prominently. SEO can help you with that. Find out the popular keywords for your products and use them in your webpage content and blogs to promote your products.

4) Build an Online Reputation

Search engine optimization is a planned process that includes content optimization on your weed website as well as other platforms. For example, in the process of SEO, an expert will tell you to also create profiles on social media platforms and on local directories such as Weedloving. Doing so will enhance your online presence and reputation as your clients and users will be able to leave their comments and reviews about your products. Also, by implementing content marketing strategy such as blogging, you can become an authoritative business that sells marijuana and also takes the effort to keep people informed about the benefits of using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

5) Get Direct Product Recognition

When a business launches a new product, they have to go through the process of advertising by buying a space and publishing an ad. However, with content marketing and SEO, you can gain the much needed publicity for your new launches without spending extra money for promotion. Your blog is your own space. Why not write a short blog about the newly launched edible or dab and emphasize on its key elements? This way you get to promote your product on space that is forever free for you.

Differentiating Good from Bad

Differentiating Good from Bad

The fight to legalize marijuana started with people taking the efforts of informing the masses about the good that marijuana can do to one’s health. Earlier, people only believed in the bad of marijuana and not what good it does. Emphasizing on the importance of using marijuana in a good way rather than bad is what led to the government finally agreeing to legalize cannabis and marijuana. Similarly, SEO also has a side that has some bad practices known as the black hat SEO. Once you identify the black hat SEO practices, you can refrain from using those practices and start using white hat SEO.

Black Hat SEO

The decision to legalize marijuana came as a welcome surprise to the masses. With it came the urgency of the masses to celebrate and start the purchase process immediately. This urgency made weed sellers  kickstart campaigns immediately to grab as many eyeballs as possible. When situations are such, businesses often look for the easier and faster way to gain visibility. Often this leads to businesses opting for black hat SEO techniques. Black hat techniques are practices that businesses indulge in to see fast results. However, these practices often end up having a bad impact on your overall SEO. So read on the black hat SEO techniques and avoid them at all costs.

1) Keyword Abuse

Keywords are an important element of the SEO process. When you use your targeted keywords in your content, the search engines rank you based on it. In a desperate need to rank well in the SERPs, businesses sometimes end up stuffing their content with the keywords. This may seem like a good idea, but it isn’t. Search engines are smart enough to check the relevancy of the keyword used in your content, and if they find your content skeptical, they immediately flag it and lower your ranking.

2) Unnecessary Redirection

Some businesses use HTML coding to bluff the search engines. These businesses create web pages stuffed with top keywords for the search engines to rank well. However, when a user clicks on such a link, he is redirected to another webpage with the information the business actually wants to share. This tactic used to work before. However, search engines now keep a tab of every redirection taking place on your website and accordingly lower your website rank in the SERPs.

3) Deceiving Content

Another coding technique to trick the search engines is the method of deceiving content through cloaking. In cloaking, the website provides different content to the search engine spiders for a better rank and the actual content that gets displayed to a user is something different altogether. This is done by coding procedures that create different pathways for different landing pages that are displayed to the spiders and the online users. This is majorly done to clear the relevancy filter of the search engine. However, search engines have adapted and understood this method to flag websites that practice these techniques.

4) Hidden Links and Texts

Hiding links and texts on a webpage is probably one of the oldest methods used to fool the search engines. To hide links, businesses go to the extent of adding a hyperlink on small characters such as a full stop or period. The technique of hiding texts is used to stuff keywords in the web pages for a better ranking. This is done by either matching the color of the text with the webpage background or by adding the text in a minuscule font that is barely visible. Again such techniques no longer work and using them will actually affect your website’s SEO rank rather than improving it.

White Hat SEO

These are good SEO practices that are ethical and will get your weed website a good rank in the search engine result pages.

1) Informative Content

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you provide complete and proper information to the online users. SEO is, in fact, a process of planning and using keywords but do not plan your content around your keywords. Instead, create good content and try to include the keyword in the content. Understand one thing, if you have content that is informative, people will automatically share it. So make it a point to have informative content and relevant sources and links to back your information.

2) Effective Keyword Usage

Of course, using keywords is essential to make your SEO strategy work, but you need to use keywords wisely to make it work effectively. With the sudden high demand for marijuana and cannabis, you need to conduct a research to find the most appropriate keywords to target the masses. One tip I can give you is to focus on your locality. Since the legalization of marijuana was a nationwide step, you can first focus on getting the attention of the target audience that is closer to you. This give you a better chance of making a sale. For example, work around keywords that include your locality such as “marijuana seller in Edmonton” or “medicinal cannabis in Calgary”. Such keywords will give you a better rank on local searches and also get you leads from people in your locality.

3) Proper Link Building

Link building is another important factor when it comes to SEO. Firstly, having backlinks of good websites linking back to your website proves to the search engines that you have reliable data to share with the online users. Also, when you add external links of other website to your own content, it shows that you have a good backing to support your information. Apart from this, if you add internal links from your own website to your content, it shows that you have more knowledge to share with the online users.

4) Meta Description

A meta description is the information that is present right below your website link on the SERPs. This description works as a catalyst in getting the online user’s attention by giving them a brief summary of what the user will find once they click on the link. Although adding keywords in this description is a good idea, it is not a necessity as the meta description is meant for the online users and not the search engines. So create meta descriptions that are crisp and to the point.

Steps to Implement SEO

We now come to the part where you will find out how you can use SEO in the right way to promote your marijuana business. In the last few weeks, a lot has been said about the legalization of marijuana and cannabis in Canada. Wouldn’t you love it if you are able to rank high in the SERPs? To make this a reality, you need to follow the below mentioned steps of implementing SEO.

1) Review Your Content

To start with proper SEO of your marijuana website, you need to review what already exists on the internet in your company’s name and rectify the mistakes. The major difference would, of course, be the fact that you can now legally sell marijuana. So the language of your content will be more open than discreet. Also, you need to closely analyze your content. First, take a look at the link building that has already been done on your website. Note down every inbound links and find out if they are relevant and from trusted websites.  You could use free tools such as LinkDetox to easily find this out. If you find any website that is not relevant linking back to you, you can simply get the link removed with the help of the webmasters tool by blacklisting the link. Next analyze your content to check if there is any keyword stuffing, plagiarized content or irrelevant links. Find all these existing mistakes in your content and rectify them.

2) Find the Right Keywords

After reviewing your content, you need to strategize a content creation strategy that will aid your SEO process. If you have a website that has a marijuana product catalog with multiple products and a direct buying option for the products, you can determine the right keywords around these products. Alternately, you can even create keywords including the location name, benefits of your marijuana products and any other specific service offered by you. Once you compile a complete list of keywords, you need to find out which of these will help you rank in the SERPs. Do keep in mind that marijuana use is still a controversial topic globally and hence search engines may still be restrictive in their searches. In such a situation, taking assistance from an SEO expert is advisable.

3) Analyze Your Sitemap

A sitemap refers to the way your website is designed and how each page is accessible to the users. It also refers to how easy your website is for a user to navigate. When you have a proper sitemap, it is easier for the search engines to index your web pages. To ensure that all your web pages get properly indexed by the search engines, it is essential that you create a sitemap and submit it to the Google webmasters tool.

4) Maximize Your Content

Having a content strategy is a must if you want to accelerate your SEO process. Also, given the fact that openly advertising your marijuana based products is not easy, taking advantage of content marketing is something you need to consider. So even if you start creating content just for SEO, do not simply do it for SEO ranking. Content marketing is a strategy that gives you ample of opportunity to promote marijuana without any restriction, so use this opportunity. You can start a blog with the very first article talking about how you support the government’s move and do not stop blogging thereafter. Continue writing and sharing as much knowledge and content you can about marijuana and cannabis. This will boost your SEO rank as more and more web pages will get indexed by the search engines in your website.

Another thing to keep in mind when creating content for your marijuana website is that your target audience is a very specific type. Such type of audience will not be looking for a professional tone article talking about the benefits of cannabis. Instead, they would want to read something more casual. So create content in casual tones and use ample of imagery to keep your readers engaged.

5) Practice Link Building

When we talk about SEO, we cannot stop emphasizing on the importance of link building. Link building takes place when reliable and trustworthy websites link back to your website. When other websites link back to your website, it is known as backlinks. Alternately, you may want to add the links of another website to your content. Both are beneficial for your SEO. Backlinks work as a vote of confidence in the eyes of the search engines. When good websites link back to you, it tells the search engines that you have the right information needed by a user. Similarly, when you add links of other websites to your content, it tells the search engines that you have sources to back your information and that you are not making any random tall claims. For your marijuana business website, getting backlinks from good weed directories is one way. The other way is to have your friends in the similar business use your blog as a reference on their website and earn a backlink. Apart from this, you can add links to reliable websites to share some stats and important information in your blogs about marijuana and cannabis.

6) Increase Your Social Presence

Social media has now become a very important part of online marketing. With almost all types of businesses promoting their products on social media, why can’t you? Social media gives you ample opportunity to reach out to the masses and at the same time promote your products. Also, having social media profiles gives you another opportunity to have backlinks for your website. Social media platforms work as a good medium to share and promote your blogs. This again helps you to get more traffic on your website.

7) Leverage Directories

Online directories are the advanced digital version of the age old yellow pages. These directories enlist different businesses for quick access of the online users. One of the major directories you have to sign up on is the Google My Business page. The GMB is the very first thing that turns up when someone specifically looks up for a business. Having a GMB page gives the assurance to a user that you are a genuine business. Apart from these general directories, Canadian marijuana owners should definitely sign up on weed directories to get found by the target audience. These directories include Leafly, Weedmaps, Hail Mary Jane, Weedy, etc.

Although marijuana and cannabis use is now legal in Canada, online marketing channels are yet to open up to the idea of marketing weed. The whole stigma surrounding marijuana for years is a reason why online advertising for marijuana is still a shaky subject. But content marketing is all about sharing one’s ideas and free speech. So till online advertising becomes openly available for marijuana advertising, use content marketing and SEO techniques to make a mark in the market.

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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