Digital marketing for cannabis businesses is hard for lots of reasons. But probably the most pressing reason – these key digital marketing channels are not available to cannabis-related businesses: pay-per-click advertising and social media advertising. These forms of advertising are often the quickest and easiest ways to see a return on your digital investment – so not being able to use them definitely throws a wrench in things…
What is pay-per-click advertising?
Also known as PPC, pay-per-click advertising is an online advertising model wherein advertisers pay each time a user clicks their link. It’s a platform where you can basically pay to appear at the top of Google search results. When you see links with “ad” next to them at the top of your search results page, advertisers are paying to be there. In order to appear in these ad results, you need an ad account and you need to actively bid on keywords. Google AdWords prohibits users from bidding on cannabis-related keywords, and they don’t approve sites that mention anything cannabis-related.
Why can’t cannabis businesses utilize PPC or social media advertising?
Simply put – it’s against Google and Facebook’s guidelines. Google does not allow advertisers to bid on cannabis-related keywords. They also don’t allow you to run ads to websites which mentions cannabis in any way, shape, or form. CBD companies and dispensaries will not gets ads approved if their website mentions anything cannabis-related. Same goes for businesses that have cannabis-related content on their Facebook and Instagram profiles. They won’t be approved to run ads and they might even experience a “shadow-ban”.
Why does this matter?
Well, as a cannabis-related business owner, you have a big uphill battle to fight. It means that you have a bigger barrier to entry in terms of acquiring new customers, and you’ll need a dialed-in approach that is custom-fit to your business/brand. It may help if I explain the normal route a business typically takes when launching a digital marketing campaign.
Typically, a new business that wants to market themselves online will deploy a strategy like this:
- Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to have their website immediately appear in the top search results for the keyword(s) they want to rank for
- This immediately drives traffic to their site which in turn drives sales
- Use social media advertising to retarget this new traffic on Facebook & Instagram
- This drives more traffic to their site which in turn drives more sales
- Use the blog and other on-site landing pages to rank in search results organically
- Blog posts and other organic landing pages drive traffic to the site which in turn drives sales
- PPC landing pages, blog posts, and other organic landing pages all fuel your retargeting campaign which continues to drive more traffic and sales
- Begin retargeting & display ad campaign to expand your reach to other websites outside of just social media
- Continue this cycle, drive more sales
Cannabis businesses have to completely skip steps 1 and 2, forcing them through a cycle like this:
- Invest in content creation/SEO
- Wait 6 months to a year for the website to rank organically
- Begin driving traffic & sales
- Once you’ve built up an organic audience through SEO, you can retarget this audience on other sites through programmatic advertising (display retargeting, for example)
What’s missing? That immediate path to traffic & sales which PPC and social media advertising provide.
Cannabis Marketing is Hard – So what should you do?
We recommend that you double-down on the forms of marketing that you can utilize like SEO & email marketing as well as organic social media posting. We also recommend that you hire a content production service that specializes in SEO, and then utilize that content strategy in all forms of marketing. SEO is a long-term strategy that takes time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t utilize it for other short-term benefits. For example, if you have an SEO service producing content for you, make sure you are distributing that content through every. single. channel that you have at your disposal.
SEO does not work in a vacuum – utilize the content elsewhere
So you have a 1000 word blog post generated by your SEO team? Great, turn the headlines of that blog post into 1 email a week for the next month. Utilize those email subject lines to develop 4 Instagram posts. Take the questions that were being posed in your blog post and create them as 4 different surveys on LinkedIn and on Facebook, etc. There are COUNTLESS ways to repurpose blog content, and you can always revisit old posts for new inspiration. At the end of the day, as a cannabis company you just have to get creative. Email is your best friend, as are testimonials and social proof!