What is SEO?
SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of increasing your website’s visibility in search results. SEO is all about helping Google and other search engines better understand your website. It’s also about making Google and other search engines trust the information that you are sharing. By helping search engines to understand & trust your website, you’re increasing the chances that the search engine in question will show your website in the results.
In this post, you’ll learn about:
Make your website more search-engine-friendly
Making your website more search engine-friendly (ie. “optimizing” your website) requires developing a thoughtful and effective keyword-targeting strategy. Forming a strategy involves researching the actual words or queries that people are typing into Google or Bing in order for your website (or your competitors’ website) to appear in the results.
Then, we simply get those words/queries on your website. We write informative content utilizing the keywords identified through our research, and we put them in the right places on your site. This is how any SEO specialist should optimize your website so that it appears higher in the results for those keywords being searched. Content is king!
Our team of Search Engine Optimization Specialists are here to build and implement a strategy for you that is easy to understand. We can help your website appear for more relative keywords, and ultimately drive more customers to your website! Back to top.
What about SEO for dispensaries?
SEO for dispensaries is incredibly important, and is arguably more important in the cannabis industry than other business categories. Why? Cannabis businesses are prohibited from using many traditional forms of advertising like social media and PPC ads. Optimizing your dispensary’s website for search is really no different from optimizing other types of websites. The same best practices apply; things like:
- Robust & unique content
- A fast-loading site
- A site that’s universally trusted by other people and businesses on the web
- A site that’s easy to navigate
The reason SEO is so important for the cannabis industry boils down to two big factors:
1. Paid advertising for cannabis companies is difficult
Any non-Cannabis Industry business is allowed to pay for advertising through Facebook or Google. Cannabis and even legal hemp & CBD companies are basically forbidden from working with these huge networks, as it explicitly breaks the Terms of Service. Unfortunately, Cannabis companies can’t pay to be at the top of Google.
2. You need to to optimize your site in order to be found!
CBD brands, dispensaries, and cannabis retailers need a strong SEO strategy if they want customers to find their site & purchase products. Optimizing Google My Business profiles and cannabis business directory listings around the web is an absolute must – but it’s just one piece of an effective strategy. Do a Google search for your business and/or a few products you sell; if you’re not showing up on the first page, you’re missing out on valuable website traffic! Back to top.
So, how exactly do you do all of these things? What exactly does “optimization” of a website entail? A few easy steps you can take to help your businesses online presence include:
- Claiming your Google My Business Page.
- Earning more Google reviews.
- Upgrading to a branded email address.
Optimizing Your Site: you’ve built the house, now light the way
Now that you’ve launched your beautiful new CannaPlanners website, what’s next? How do you make sure that people find you? How do search engines even work?? Watch below : )
SEO Crash Course: Buzzwords Explained
You’ll commonly hear a bunch of words used by SEO nerds, like us, who forget that normal people may not know their sitelinks from their sitemaps – and that’s okay – let’s review some of the biggies.
- Search engine: An information retrieval program that searches for items in a database that match the request input by the user. Examples: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
- Index: A massive database of content collected by search engine crawlers, collected by crawling each individual page on every website that exists on the internet. Think digital library.
- Crawling: The process by which search engines discover your web pages. GoogleBot is Google’s robot spider that crawls around the web, cataloging each piece of code and text.
- Indexing: The storing and organizing of content found during crawling.
- Ranking: When someone searches something, what number listing are you? First? Second? 100th? Wherever your website appears is it’s ranking for the query that was searched.
- Query: A search phrase or keyword that someone typed into Google.
- Sitemap: A list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content. You can think of the sitemap like a table of contents for Google.
- Traffic: Visits, sessions, or users coming to a website.
- Backlinks: Or “inbound links” are links from other websites that point to your website
- Meta title: the website or page title that actually appears in search results.
- Meta description: A brief description of the contents of your website or webpage. Google sometimes uses these as the description line in search result snippets, sometimes they don’t.
- N.A.P: Make sure your business’ Name, Address, and Phone number are consistent with your website, your Google My Business profile and all other off-site pages that appear on page 1 of search results (making sure Google has the right info for your business)
- High-value keywords: Keywords or queries that we know are being searched often, and that are highly relative to your business.
- Long-tail keywords: Longer queries/search phrases, typically those containing more than three words. Indicative of their length, they are often more specific than short-tail queries and often come with lower competition.
- Alt text: Alternative text is the text in HTML code that describes the images on web pages. Generally used by the blind to get context for images.
- Header tags: An HTML element used to designate headings on your page. Heading tags help to add organizational context within your content.
- Meta descriptions: HTML elements that describe the contents of the page that they’re on. Google sometimes uses these as the description line in search result snippets.
- SSL certificate: A “Secure Sockets Layer” is used to encrypt data passed between the web server and browser of the searcher (this comes as part of the CannaPlanners Annual Services Package for all clients!) HTTPS websites will have an SSL certificate while HTTP sites will not.
- Meta Title or Title tag: An HTML element that specifies the title of a web page
- Responsive design: Google’s preferred design pattern for mobile-friendly websites, responsive design allows the website to adapt to fit whatever device it’s being viewed on (all CannaPlanners sites are built to be responsive)
- Link building: While “building” sounds like this activity involves creating links all by yourself, link building actually describes the process of earning links to your site for the purpose of building your site’s authority in search engines. This can be done through company outreach as well as building directory profiles.
- Referral Traffic: Traffic sent to a website from another website. For example, if your website is receiving visits from people clicking on your site from a link on Facebook, Google Analytics will attribute that traffic as “facebook.com / referral” in the Source/Medium report
- Qualified traffic: When traffic is “qualified,” it usually means that the visit is relevant to the intended topic of the page, and therefore the visitor is more likely to find the content useful and convert.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of total visits that did not result in a secondary action on your site. For example, if someone visited your home page and then left before viewing any other pages, that would be a bounced session.
- Click-through rate: The ratio of impressions to clicks on your URLs.
- Conversion rate: The ratio of visits to conversions. Conversion rate answers how many of my website visitors are filling out my forms, calling, or buying my products?
- UTM code: An urchin tracking module (UTM) is a simple code that you can append to the end of your URL to track additional details about the click, such as its source, medium, and campaign name
- Google Search Console: A free program provided by Google that allows site owners to monitor how their site is doing in search.
- Google My Business listing: A free listing available to local businesses (not ecommerce businesses – read more about Google My Business
There are many more words used, but these are the ones you’ll hear the most. In addition to understanding the lingo, there’s a whole other side of things when it comes to execution. Back to top.
Google Analytics is your friend. It gives you an overwhelming amount of data, but the basic info revolves around how much traffic your website is receiving, where that traffic comes from, and how that traffic engages with your site.
Watch this quick vid to see how Google works for Small businesses
But, there’s more. Hold on tight, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about SEO for dispensaries…
The goal of any local SEO campaign is to increase the chances of being discovered online “in your backyard”. It’s about attracting customers or site visitors that are currently in your geographical location. Since dispensaries are all physical storefronts, local SEO should be at the heart of any winning SEO strategy. Back to top.
Google My Business
Claiming your dispensary’s Google My Business listing is the most important action you can take when optimizing for local search results. Creating a GMB listing provides customers with a quick and easy method for calling your store or clicking through to your website. This is also a prime location for photos, reviews and most importantly: your address!
Aside from providing customers with valuable information, your GMB listing can help your business stand out from the competition. It’s important to have a robust description and to make frequent updates to this listing to show Google that it is actively managed.
Local Map Pack
Whenever you search for a local business on Google, you’ll find the map pack. The map pack shows the top 3 businesses matching a given location-based search query. The top 3 locations shown are often the closest businesses to the searched location. However, dispensaries that have a fully optimized GMB listing with lots of reviews and frequent posts (COVID-19 updates, store hour updates) have a better chance of appearing in the map pack compared to competition who does not stay on top of these things. Showing up in the map pack can provide massive lead generation for your dispensary.
Structured data is a piece of code that can be added to your website which provides search engines with more information about your dispensary. Structured data is important for local SEO as the information provided to Google can drastically improve your search rankings if done correctly.
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If local SEO is trying to get customers near you to purchase your cannabis products, National SEO is about spreading brand awareness and positioning your canna-brand as an expert in the cannabis field. National SEO relies heavily on a strategic content strategy. What does this look like?
If your dispensary is located in Boston, but a California resident stumbles onto your website from searching “how much is an eighth of weed,” that would be a great example of a well-executed national SEO strategy.
You may think – why do I care about spreading brand awareness to people who will never purchase a product from me? For SEO value! Generating traffic to your website tells Google that your content is engaging and worth showing off.
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We’ve said it before, and we’ll likely say it many more times… content is king! In today’s digital landscape, you can learn whatever you want about anything in just seconds. So, your dispensary needs to take advantage of this. Let’s break it down a little further…
When your potential customers are on Google, what are they looking for? Usually, they’re looking for the answer to a question, or information about a subject. But which questions are being asked and how can my dispensary answer them? To answer these questions, it takes comprehensive research and understanding your customer segment, followed by strategizing content that will reach (& resonate) with them.
A few blog ideas that would make for great content:
Your website’s content should be focused on specific keywords that your customers or potential customers are searching. While “weed,” “cannabis,” “marijuana,” and “dispensary” may be relevant, the sheer number of searches for those exact queries make them difficult for your website to rank for. They also don’t have as much of a conversion-driven intent as a keyword like “weed for sale”. This is where the content strategy we talked about above comes in. You want to build content for people that actually want to buy things. And for people that are generally interested in your business.
Since you’re here, we’ll give you a tip: creating killer content isn’t just about writing about a specific, relevant topic; it’s also about genuinely understanding searcher intent. What keywords do you expect your content to show up for? What is the person searching those keywords looking for? What will resonate with them? Put that on your website!
Short-tail keywords are typically very high in volume, super competitive, and often less conversion-focused. However, that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Some short-tail keywords may be more beneficial to rank for than others. For example, according to SEMrush, there are roughly 135,000 searches/month for the word “cannabis,” but only 12,100 searches/month for “cannabis oil.” This means cannabis oil might be less competitive to rank for while there is still a decent amount of traffic to gain if you were to rank for this term. So write a blog about cannabis oil. What questions regarding cannabis oil are being searched? Which questions are being searched more than others? Is there another keyword associated with those searches?
Long-tail keywords are typically keyword phrases that provide more context about a given search and are a great way to capture searcher’s intent. Someone searching longer-tailed queries is likely looking for more specific information as well. Here’s an example of a long-tail keyword: “edibles for sale near Boston, MA.”
This tells us (1) the searcher is near Boston and (2) is looking to buy edibles. This would also be considered a low-funnel search term ie. this person is ready to make a purchase decision. If they searched something like “what are CBD edibles?”, they may still be in the research phase of the buying process. All this means is that different content will be necessary in order to rank in search results AND to satisfy each of these individuals.
Heading tags are the best way to tell Google what your page is all about! This type of HTML code helps Google index (learn) your page’s content. To do this effectively, you’ll need to break down the content on your page by importance.
For example: The primary content on your website (variations of the keywords you’re directly targeting) should be implanted into H2 headings, followed by secondary and tertiary information being inserted into H3 or H4 tags, depending on your content. A few suggestions…
- Use just one H1 tag
- Use H2 tags for “dispensary, [city name]” and other featured keywords
- Use heading tags on every page on your website
Meta-titles act as a name tag for your website. The meta-title is the big blue underlined link that you click on, on Google. Quality meta-titles include high-value keywords and an enticing call-to-action. These are important for all pages on your website as they’re the first thing searchers will read upon viewing a search results page.
Meta-descriptions are found underneath the meta-title on a search results page. These are very important to provide Google with more information about your page content and (if done correctly) can entice human searchers to click the link.
We recommend making sure the keywords your dispensary is targeting on each page are always included in the meta-description. The information you provide in the meta-description should make searchers feel inclined to click and learn more.
How? Provide just enough (keyword specific) information to entice readers, but not too much as you want them to visit your page to find the rest. Leaving meta-descriptions blank isn’t ideal, however Google will find a snippet from the website and use it in place of a human-optimized description.
Internal linking is a large factor when it comes to on-page SEO. There are 2 schools of thought here.
- Internal link credibility – Links referenced in the header and footer of your website hold more value in the eyes of Google. If you have to dig through a website to find a specific page, odds are it will also be difficult to find on a search results page.
- User Experience – How many pages did your last user visit? How long did they view each page for? These questions can help you tailor which links should be used, and where they should be placed. For example, if your dispensary writes a blog about types of strains and you reference “terpenes” in your content, it would be ideal to link the word terpene to a blog on your website about terpenes.
URL & Slug
Every page of every website has a URL, and each page has its own specific address. The slug is the portion of the URL that follows “.com/”. Every URL on your website should make sense for the content that lives on that page.
If you had to click through a few categories to end up on a page, the page path you took to end up on that page will be apparent in the slug. You’ll want to be thinking about page path for SEO considerations. Optimizing page path is similar to internal linking in that this is largely done to improve the user’s experience. A solid page path structure is largely determined by the layout of your website and the way users interact while they’re on it.
Image ALT Tag
Image ALT tags provide Google with information about the content in an image. While Google is really good at scanning text, it has trouble with images. But don’t worry, labeling images in ALT tags provide another way to garner visibility.
How? Have you ever come upon a website as a result of clicking an image found through Google images? Yep, us too.
Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design means the content structure and layout of your website changes automatically and seamlessly depending on the screen size and orientation of the device viewing it. Google uses user navigation data to provide a user experience metric. So if your web design isn’t responsive and viewers instantly click out of your page, it will negatively impact your search visibility.
Mobile Friendly Design
According to Statista, 62% of all organic searches come from mobile devices. So, even if you think your website looks and performs well for desktops, you’re only optimizing for 48% of your potential users.
With so much effort going into getting people to your website, why send them off of it? Great question!
Outbound links work as a source of credibility for your content. For example, if you write a blog and claim the hemp plant has “over 100 cannabinoids”, it would be best practice to toss in an external link from a reputable website. This tells Google your content is relevant and backed by facts.
One thing to be weary of is to make sure all of your outbound links are relevant to the cannabis industry. You’ll want Google to understand you have established trust and/or relationships with other sources.
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Off-site SEO is the practice of impacting your search rankings with actions done off of your website. Since this definition is all encompassing, we’re going to break down some of the most important aspects of optimizing your off-page SEO.
Backlinking is the bread and cannabutter of off-site SEO. Backlinks serve as an indication to google that your site’s content has authority. You can earn these a variety of ways.
- Organically – If a cannabis blogger is blown away by the knowledge of your budtenders and throws your website into their blog, boom. Backlink. If you get these types of organic backlinks, pat yourself on the back. This means your content is both shareable and engaging.
- Reaching Out – Ask your professional contacts if they’d be interested in providing a link to your website, from theirs. In return, you can do the same! This practice mutually benefits both businesses involved. Win, win.
- Directories – Dispensary directories are a great way to provide Google with more information about your brand. There are many different directories, and these directories have ranging domain authority, so you’ll have to do some research to find out which directories are best for your dispensary.
One thing to keep in mind when using directories: Make sure your NAP are the same everywhere they are listed. NAP stands for Name, Address & Phone. Your dispensary will likely be on many listing sites, so it’s important to stay on top of this.
Domain authority is a term that describes the ranking given to a website that measures credibility. Contrary to popular belief, domain authority is not a real metric used by Google. This isn’t to say domain authority isn’t incredibly important and necessary for best SEO practices, just the domain authority metric was created by Moz.com.
When it comes to backlinking, domain authority is a huge consideration. Websites with fewer backlinks that have high domain authority will bolster your dispensary’s website more than having many backlinks with lower domain authorities.
SEO doesn’t always have to be technical! Simply creating quality social media content and encouraging your customers to shout you out can deliver great visibility results!
Social media is a beast of its own. If you want to learn more about how to champion social media efforts, start here. Choosing the right social media platforms are important if you want to reach your target market. Investing effort and money into irrelevant social media platforms will be a headache and a waste of your time.
While getting testimonials can often be a struggle, they are imperative to being found (and trusted) online. When customers view your reviews (whether it be Facebook, Google or native to your website), you have an opportunity to establish trust with them.
Google reviews may be the most important type of review. Why? It’s used as a ranking factor! Beyond the ability to ‘wow’ people through word-of-mouth, it incentivizes businesses to request Google reviews from their customers by showing business listings with the most (and highest quality) reviews.
In general, Google reviews have the ability to improve local search rankings, establish trust with your customers and influence people to visit your dispensary’s website.
While Facebook reviews carry less SEO weight, they are still very important. Since submitting a Facebook review requires an active account, the majority of Facebook reviews come from real people. As a result, customers are more likely to trust these reviews
Since Facebook is a social platform, people will feel more comfortable with leaving reviews on Facebook. In turn, you can respond and engage with them. This type of two way communication will help your dispensary garner a consistent and loyal customer base.
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If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely realized we talk about Google as if it was a person. Here’s why: Google commands over 85% of all searches on the internet. Optimizing your dispensary’s website for Google is your winning strategy. Let’s dive into some of the free tools they offer.
Google Analytics is one of the most important and relevant tools to an SEO agency. Google Analytics is a free service which allows businesses to view and analyze in-depth details about the way people interact with your website.
- How long are people on your site?
- How many pages are they visiting?
- How many people are visiting your site?
- What is the bounce rate?
The answers to these questions (and many, many more) can be found in Google Analytics. The metrics found by Google Analytics provide a basis for strategic development and continual reporting for your dispensary’s website.
Google Search Console
As an overview, Google Search Console is a tool which allows webmasters and SEO’s to check the “indexing status and optimize the visibility” of your dispensary’s web pages. While Google Search Console is less important than Google Analytics, using them synergistically provides you with tons of useful information for your SEO professionals to digest and craft a strategy with.
Other benefits from GSC:
- Ensure Google can find (and crawl) your pages
- Fix indexing problems and request re-indexing
- Alert you of any indexing or spam issues found on your website
- Show you which sites are linking to yours
- Other troubleshooting benefits
Marketing Insights & Data
If you’re serious about SEO, you’ll have to go a little further than simply using Google’s free analytics tools. Below we’ve compiled a list of the best marketing analytics and data insights tools.
SEMrush is an SEO’s best friend. It’s where we spend the majority of our time researching and strategizing killer content for our clients. SEMrush provides a large variety of online visibility and discovering marketing insight tools. Our favorite SEMrush tools include SEO, PPC, Keyword Research and Competitive Research.
Moz Pro is another popular all-in-one SEO tools suite that provides search engine visibility tools designed to improve your rankings. Moz’s key features include Link Explorer, Keyword Explorer and Rank Tracker.
Ahrefs has capabilities like those of SEMrush and Moz, but is mainly used to analyze a “website’s link profile, keyword rankings, and SEO health”. Another cool tool Ahrefs boasts is the ability to conduct keyword research for Google, YouTube, and Amazon.
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Search Engine Optimization is an intricate process involving a thorough command of Google, the tools needed, and the knowledge to implore these best practices.
In a rapidly growing industry, getting your site to garner traffic and search authority takes a consistent and strategized approach carried out by professionals. So take advantage of the infancy of the industry and start growing your traffic now!
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