Google Ads for Dispensaries – How does it work?

Posted on February 27th, 2023 to Dispensary Marketing

Google is the search engine giant, hands down. With over 92 percent of the search engine market share around the planet, if you can get ads on Google as a business owner, you’re in luck.

Naturally, when you open a cannabis dispensary and intend to get noticed, creating Google Ads will be one of the first objectives that come to mind. Unfortunately, advertising cannabis on Google is tricky, risky business due to Google’s ad policies regarding marijuana. Here’s what you need to know about using Google Ads for dispensaries.

Google Ads – The Process

A platform owned by Google, Google Ads allows business owners to pay for ad space that shows up in different places across the internet. One of the most coveted types of ads hosted by Google is the SERP (search engine results page) ad, which shows up at the top of SERPs when someone searches for relevant keywords. Google Ads are PPC (pay-per-click). In order to get placement, you have to bid however much you are willing to pay for certain keyword searches alongside competitors and then pay that amount every time an internet user clicks your ad.

When an individual submits their search query, Google considers the relevance of your ad and how much you have bid to advertise for that particular keyword. This all happens within milliseconds, but these factors and others determine where your ad is placed on the SERP page. While you could easily spend a lot of money on clicks, the ROI can be big enough for the cost to be a well-worth-it investment for most business owners.

Google’s Firm Stance on Cannabis Advertising – The Challenge

Even though cannabis is legal on some level (recreational or medical) in more states than not, Google maintains strict advertising prohibition. Basically, Google has policies against cannabis because it categorizes cannabis as a drug. The search engine giant prohibits:

  • Advertising substances that change your mental state, including cannabis
  • Advertising services or products that are associated with recreational drug use
  • Advertising content that instructs people how to create, purchase, or use drugs

Not only is the language associated with cannabis not allowed in ads, but Google can also dig further into your website or linked pages to find that terminology.

How Some Dispensaries Manage to Run Google Ads – The Loopholes and Workarounds

You may occasionally come across an ad for a cannabis dispensary on Google, but, rest assured, someone used some major workarounds and loopholes to get there. Most often this means the ad purchaser:

  • Scrubbed the ad of every word or phrase that could be deemed a violation
  • Scrubbed potentially in-violation phrases from the brand website
  • Scrubbed all imagery that could be deemed as cannabis-related

It is also not unheard of for a company to create a new website that acts as a landing site for its ads. This website is usually not all that robust and is totally free of violating terminology. And, the site can be one the brand doesn’t mind losing or abandoning if needed.

If Google Catches On – The Risks

If the ad is found to lead to a sales site associated with cannabis, your ads can be pulled, and you can face several other penalties for violating terms of service. First, you will get a warning and the ads removed. Every consecutive violation can lead to a temporary hold on the Google account and eventual account suspension.

Some brands will simply create new Google accounts and email addresses, so they can post ads, see those ads yanked soon after, and then move on to the next account. Even though this is by no means an efficient strategy, these ad purchasers can manage a lot of ad time by relaunching new ad campaigns one after the other.

Highly Effective Alternative Marketing Strategies to Consider

SEO Strategies

SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your website to make it search-engine friendly. This means weaving relevant keywords into your content, adding the appropriate metadata, incorporating links, building a sense of domain authority, and more. Google may not allow ads, but they don’t disallow searching for cannabis dispensaries and related content. So the same SEO tactics still work for gaining organic traffic to cannabis-related websites as they do any other business.

Third-Party Ad Hosting

Third-party ad hosting is working with an outside website owner or publisher to obtain ad space, either paid or otherwise. There are quite a few cannabis-friendly sites that get an impressive amount of traffic, such as Weedmaps and Leafly.

Google Business

You may not be able to purchase ad space on Google without taking risks. But what you can do freely is list your business on Google Business. The same restrictions don’t apply here because you are simply adding the details of your business to the online directory. This means your business will show up when someone is looking for a local establishment.

Let’s Talk Cannabusiness Marketing

Marketing a cannabis dispensary can require some out-of-the-Google-box thinking. That’s why we’re here at CannaPlanners. Ready to find out how we can help you grow your business? Let’s talk.

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