Have you ever thought your about how important it is to get your cannabis retail store or medical marijuana dispensary website content to rank well in search results?
A local search engine optimization strategy for dispensaries is a super effective digital marketing tactic for any dispensary marketing plan.
However, according to Search Engine Journal, local SEO for any local business has never been more challenging because of the following reasons:
1. A massive increase in the number of mobile devices (meaning more people are turning to their phones to find businesses near them)
2. An increasing number of businesses recognizing the benefits of local SEO.
3. The presence of the Google Local Pack, which shows up on any search for any local business, cannabis retail stores included.
You’ve seen the local pack every time you search for a local business, product or service. You may have heard these high-profile local search listings as the “Google Snack Pack”, the “Local 3 Pack” or the “Google 3 Pack”.
The Google Local Pack is a boxed-in area that prominently appears on page 1 whenever a local search is made through Google’s mobile or desktop search engines.
Google displays the top 3 local business listings most relevant to the search query in this area.
It’s important to note that click through from local search traffic for businesses inside of this local pack area is significantly higher than businesses outside of this pack.
Here’s what it looks like for a simple local search query from the Toronto, Ontario area for “buy weed”:
What does this mean?
Google makes it super easy for mobile phone users to find any local business in a matter of seconds.
Your target consumers can find the following information without even having to click to your dispensary website:
For your marijuana dispensary to get found in search results, you need high-quality content that answers every question your customers have about your products, services, locations and more.
This content must be optimized for search engines before being published on your website and formatted for your users so it’s easily consumed by your customers.
That’s why dispensary SEO is super vital digital marketing tactic for your marijuana marketing plan.
So what are the best marketing strategies to improve your dispensaries local SEO rankings, and how do you get your cannabis retail store to show up in the Google Local Pack with map and link to your location?
We explain below…
The following 11 local search ranking factors and SEO tips for medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational cannabis retail stores should be where your focus if you want to improve the local SEO and search results for your local business.
One of the first digital marketing tips when opening a new marijuana dispensary is to claim your Google My Business Page.
Once you claim this super valuable local search asset, your cannabis dispensary’s business profile appears right on page 1 when people are searching for your dispensary or dispensaries like yours on Google Search and Google Maps.
By claiming your Google My Business Page (GMB), you’ve just made it easier to create and update your Google Business Profile so you can stand out, and bring customers in.
If claiming your GMB Page is the first marijuana marketing tip when opening your cannabis retail shop, doing the same thing on the Bing search engine has to be the second thing you do.
Sure, Google is the world’s largest search engine but did you know that Bing search claims a 33% market share when it comes to search.
So you’ll want to optimize your local business’s information, website url, phone number, and locations using Bing Places.
Claiming your business and optimizing your business page is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your dispensary’s SEO and search engine visibility locally.
Believe it or not, choosing the proper category for your cannabis store on Google My Business and Bing Places helps you with your local SEO strategy for your dispensary website.
When setting up your GMB and Bing Places accounts make sure you have chosen the correct categories. For best results, use as few categories as possible and make sure they are as accurate as possible.
Your GMB and Bing Places category tells search engines exactly what your business does. This is particularly valuable for searchers who are searching for a dispensary close to them.
Categories are also relevant if you are trying to rank for a set of targeted and relevant keywords on Google or Bing. Choosing the right categories can positively influence your rank in Google Maps.
If you thought the first 3 local SEO tips for cannabis stores were easy, the simplicity of dispensary SEO continues with SEO tip 4.
One of the best ways to optimize your GMB and Bing Places business pages is to simply post photos of your dispensary and various locations.
Include photos of your marijuana products, your budtenders, and even your happy customers – with permission, of course.
Relevant business photos that are posted regularly help to lend credibility to your business and serve as a local ranking signal to search engines.
Pro-Tip: optimize your photo’s file name by including the name of your dispensary, the address, and the city in the photo file you upload to GMB or Bing Places.
A popular local SEO tactic used by many local B2C businesses for years is having their business information consistently listed on popular online directories.
So just as you claimed your local business pages on search engines to help improve the local SEO for your dispensary website, you should also claim your business on these local directories:
Consistency in your cannabis business citations is important. Make sure your dispensary’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) are the exact same format for all locations.
For example, if you use a 1-800 number, make sure you list it as “1-800”, “1.800”, or “800-”, on all online directories, business pages, social platforms, and on your website.
If your address is a suite or unit number, be sure you use “Unit XXXX” or “#XXXX” on all online properties including your website.
Many local businesses forget about review sites until it’s too late or until they get a bad review on a public website.
Once you’ve claimed your business pages on search engines and your business in online directories, your next step is to claim your dispensary’s listing on popular review websites.
The most important ones include:
When you claim your business’s listing on these review sites you’re able to control how you respond to good reviews and bad reviews.
Here’s the deal with online customer reviews. Yes – they absolutely will help with your local dispensary SEO strategy and local search rankings.
Obviously, there are many SEO factors involved in search rankings but the bottom line is this: online customer reviews can be a strong signal to search engines that communicates relevance, authority, and trust – the 3 most important search ranking factors.
Pro Tip: Customer reviews directly on Google will carry the most weight in your local dispensary SEO strategy than any other popular review site.
The challenge for your cannabis retail store is to work closely with your budtenders and other customer service reps to ensure that the majority of your reviews are positive.
According to Google high-quality reviews improve your business’ visibility in local search engines and can place you in the Local Pack for local searches for dispensaries.
Shopify says “In today’s digital age, 93% of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.”
The three main benefits of getting any type of customer reviews for your cannabis retail store:
If you didn’t know that an engaging social media presence helps your dispensary’s SEO and search rankings you’re about to find out how and why.
Social profiles for local dispensaries can and will show up in local search results if your profiles are optimized and have a decent engagement rate.
According to Google, “When people search for your business on Google, they may see links to your business’s social profiles included with your other business information in the knowledge panel in Search…Social profile information is automatically added to listings for eligible businesses.”
Another bit of SEO magic that can develop from your dispensary’s social media marketing strategy are “social signals”.
Google pays close attention to social signals because they provide the search algorithm with details on what users are talking about and what topics are most relevant for what search queries.
Social signals are the likes, shares, votes, pins, or views people place on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites that filter out to the various search engines.
Social signals indicate that your brand is being talked about by consumers, and this improves your SERP ranking because search engines view social signals as trusted “recommendations”.
Your dispensary marketing plan should include a Facebook Business Page, and Instagram Business Page, and a LinkedIn Business Page.
I’d also recommend having an active presence on Twitter and YouTube if you have the internal capacity. If not, you should consider outsourcing our social media management to an experienced cannabis marketing company.
An often overlooked local SEO factor is the customer’s experience when on your dispensary website. This is typically called user experience (UX).
A mobile responsive website that displays exactly the same on desktop, tablet, and smartphones is pretty much the standard for any business website today.
Bottom line, make sure your cannabis retail store website provides a seamless user experience on all devices, particularly on smartphones.
Is your website secure?
If you sell products and/or take any personal information using forms on your website, your website must be on a secure HTTPS server with a functioning SSL certificate.
An HTTPS server, or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to.
The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.
HTTPS is often used to protect highly confidential online transactions like online banking and online shopping order forms.
Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome also display a padlock icon in the address bar to visually indicate that an HTTPS connection is in effect.
SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details.
When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser.
Typically, SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer, and logins, and more recently is becoming the norm when securing browsing of social media sites.
Bottom line here is that if you own or operate a cannabis retail store and have a website, make sure your site is on a secure HTTPS server with an SSL certificate implemented.
Having your site on a secure server helps your SEO by boosting your trust score with Google. Google feels comfortable ranking HTTPS websites because they know those are secure websites.
I’m saving the best dispensary SEO tip for last.
If your website and site code aren’t optimized with a comprehensive SEO and keyword strategy you should really consider getting this implemented asap.
People are searching for information on cannabis, recreational marijuana, dispensaries near them, and many more cannabis-related topics. They search using Google and Bing – not Facebook and Instagram.
A comprehensive SEO and keyword strategy helps your dispensary be found in local search results and regular search results for a targeted set of relevant and profitable keywords.
You’ll need an experienced cannabis SEO strategist to help you with in-depth keyword research to find relevant and popular short-tail, long-tail, and semantically related keyword search phrases and search queries.
If you feel like trying this yourself, these are just some high-level items that you’ll want to review when implementing your new dispensary SEO strategy:
I’m hoping you’ve realized how important an SEO strategy for cannabis stores is to your marijuana dispensary business.
The dispensary SEO tips discussed in this article will help your website show up in local search results if implemented correctly and with a relevant, popular keyword strategy.
With the strict advertising restrictions surrounding cannabis promotion and marketing, having your website content found online for relevant search queries is one of the most effective ways to market and promote your dispensary.
Vee Popat a data-driven, Google Analytics & Ads certified digital marketing professional with 21 years of strategic, hands-on experience. He’s the founder of 2 unique digital marketing agencies specializing in SEO, conversion rate optimization (CRO), digital advertising, website development, and perpetual data-driven results for his clients.
His cannabis marketing agency, ColaDigital.ca, specializes in digital marketing & SEO solutions for cannabis companies, marijuana dispensaries, and other ancillary businesses.
His brother agency, VPDM Digital Marketing, specializes in data-driven, results-oriented digital marketing solutions and lead generation for real estate agents, financial services, and other local services businesses.
Vee and his cannabis marketing team provide fully managed digital marketing services and specialize in website development, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and Google advertising. Vee can be reached at [email protected]
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