Cannabis dispensaries face some unique challenges in developing their digital marketing strategy. Some of the more traditional digital marketing tactics like paid advertising aren’t always an option in the cannabis industry.
That’s why so many dispensaries have turned to search engine optimization (SEO) to reach a wider audience online. Let’s dive into this concept and learn about some unique strategies that dispensary owners can use to improve their SEO.
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What Is Dispensary SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. When users turn to search engines like Google for answers to their questions, they are directed to a search engine results page, also referred to as a SERP. Depending on what the algorithm interprets as the search intent of the query, there may be some different features on the SERP.
Ultimately, SEO strategies aim to show content in the organic search section of the SERP, which is typically located below any ads or other SERP features. More importantly, these strategies lead to not only more impressions and clicks to your website, but also more leads, sales, and revenue for your dispensary.
Not only that, but social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram also remove ads for cannabis for similar reasons. This leaves cannabis digital marketers in a unique situation where the focus needs to be on what they can control: their own website.
Think of your dispensary website as your own piece of real estate on the internet—it’s completely yours to invest in. The focus of SEO is to help you make improvements to this piece of internet real estate in order to make more money off of it!
How Much Do Dispensaries Spend on SEO?
Dispensaries can spend anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 per month on their SEO strategy.
To some dispensary owners, this may seem like a big investment. However, what’s great about SEO is that your efforts will age well over time. The investment you make in your website now will provide you with results that will increase over time.
Doing SEO yourself initially seems like the most affordable option. However, there are hidden costs associated with investing in SEO on your own, such as buying the right SEO software, creating your own content, tracking your results, fixing technical aspects of your website, and learning how to interpret analytics data.
Without an experienced SEO strategist to guide you, it may be difficult to know where to start in building your dispensary SEO strategy. SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so even if you find a helpful guide (such as this) online, the tactics may not be customized for your specific website or market.
Hiring a Dispensary SEO Strategist
According to Glassdoor, the average SEO strategist makes between $72k and $114k per year. If you’re looking for someone that specializes in cannabis or dispensary SEO, this average will likely increase.
On top of the salary of an in-house employee, you will need to invest in software such as Semrush, Moz, Screaming Frog, or others in order to set your employee up for success. Cannabis SEO tactics are driven by data, and these tools allow you to make informed decisions about your overall strategy.
Partnering with a Dispensary SEO Agency
SEO agencies that have experience in cannabis dispensary SEO can be very helpful in building and maintaining your dispensary’s SEO strategy. These agencies will typically start with an audit of your website and industry, and create a customized, data-driven strategy to improve your SEO and get results for your dispensary.
Be wary of agencies that promise immediate results such as being ranked #1 in Google within 30 days. Any tactics being performed on your dispensary website to accomplish this will likely not “stick.” The best and most effective SEO strategies will take between 3–6 months to start producing results. Continuous investment in these strategies will continue to produce great results over time.
Tips to Improve Your Dispensary’s SEO
If you’re looking to get started on investing in your cannabis dispensary’s SEO strategy, here are some helpful dispensary SEO tips. Keep in mind, again, that SEO is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and certain tactics may not be as effective for your specific dispensary and market.
Create Helpful Content
Search engines like Google will always prioritize content that is deemed “helpful” to users. The best and most helpful content will start with comprehensive keyword research to understand which questions your dispensary’s target audience are asking.
For example, new cannabis users who are in the beginning stages of their buying journey may wonder what the difference is between two strains of weed that you offer. By writing a comprehensive blog that compares the two strains and benefits or use cases for each, you are getting ahead of the curve by answering a question that your potential customer may have, and you’re also creating more trust in your brand.
With so many dispensaries and cannabis companies prioritizing SEO, it’s important to write content that helps your brand become the authority of your given topic. Use your list of cannabis SEO keywords, along with your own unique thoughts and viewpoints, to compete with and ultimately outrank your competition that may be writing about the same topics.
Prioritize User Experience
A great user experience is very important in the eyes of Google. The search engine doesn’t want to send users to websites that are confusing, don’t work properly, or don’t have crucial features that allow users to accomplish their intended actions, like being able to add a product to their cart for curbside pickup, for example.
There are a ton of ways you can improve the user experience of your dispensary website. Make sure your pages are well-designed, load quickly, and make it easy to find information on your dispensary’s products. Incorporate a good mix of text and visuals, and make sure your website is accessible to all types of users.
For example, make sure that you include products under the correct product categories, like making a pre-roll category page that is a “parent page” of all of your pre-roll products. Make an edibles category page that houses all edible products, and so on.
Keep an eye out for orphaned pages. An orphaned page is a page that exists on your website but is not linked to or from any other page on your website.
One tactic that might help is to start with a visual sitemap of all of the pages of your dispensary website. This will help you identify gaps in information and address any issues like orphaned pages right away.
Complete On-Page SEO
When you add new product pages or blog posts to your website, you will want to make sure you’re following SEO best practices. Here is a brief on-page SEO checklist of things to look for.
It’s great to have high-quality images of your latest buds and edibles, but make sure they’re compressed to less than 250kb so they don’t slow down your site.
Enter alt text for all images that provide an accurate explanation of the product for users using screen readers.
Enter a unique meta title and meta description that includes a call to action for each page of your website. This is what will appear in search results.
Change the URL of your page to something that is clear and makes sense (for example, use a URL structure like /blog/best-cannabis-strains-for-anxiety instead of /blog/post-1345-may-26-2023)
Make sure you are using header tags correctly and in an order that makes sense (for example, you should only have one H1 tag, and don’t add an H3 before you add an H2)
Local SEO for Dispensaries
Your ultimate goal as a dispensary is to sell products, whether it’s online or in person. You’ll want to implement more dispensary local SEO strategies to get people in your area to find your website and, ultimately, visit your dispensary.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO tactics ensure that your website is being shown to not just anyone on the internet, but the right people in your area. Google recognizes when users type something into their search engine that has local intent. These types of queries are typically things like “dispensaries near me” or “local dispensary”.
Queries with local intent will trigger the map pack to appear. This is when Google looks at your current location and searches for physical locations near you that fulfill your search.
Local SEO for dispensaries aims to appear at the top of organic search results for city-specific queries, and also aims to appear in the map pack for users looking for a cannabis retailer near them.
Local SEO Tips for Dispensaries
Google Business Profile
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to claim or create a Google Business Profile for each of your dispensary’s locations. Fill out your profiles with pictures of your location, your products, and maybe even some of your favorite customers. Fill out as much information as possible about your business to really build out your profile, like your business category, website link, and responses to any reviews from customers that may come in.
Make sure to regularly update your profile with business hours and answer any questions that users may have asked on your profile.
Creating a listing on local business directories or cannabis directories will help you gain more visibility to searchers who use those websites. It will also earn you a backlink (which is a link from another site to your site), which helps to improve SEO.
Make sure to practice NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency when listing your dispensary’s information. List these items in exactly the same format on every directory listing that you create, including on your Google Business Profile and your website.
Look for more opportunities to gain backlinks from local news organizations, directories, and websites. A great way to do this is through press releases when you open a new location or launch a new product.
Join any local forums or social media groups and link to your dispensary’s website. Pro tip: focus on linking to content that is genuinely relevant and helpful to the discussion. Don’t throw a product page in someone’s face, but provide a link to a blog post that can help someone make a decision about which types of edibles are the best based on their situation.
Whether you have one location or multiple, make sure that you have a page for each location of your dispensary. This page is a great place to include basic information like hours of operation and how to find your storefront. Additionally, you can talk about what customers can expect when they walk in, how they can purchase products, and any special promotions you might offer when they visit you for the first time.
Building a Strong Marketing Strategy for Your Dispensary
Any strong dispensary digital marketing strategy will focus on a number of different tactics instead of just one. We recommend combining your SEO strategy with other types of digital marketing tactics, like social media and email marketing to existing and previous customers. A well-rounded dispensary marketing plan will help you get results.
What’s great about SEO is that the content you create can (and should) be used, shared, and repurposed to other channels like those listed above. It’s a great way to get more eyes on the content (and just on your website in general).
As a dispensary, you face some unique marketing challenges that many other industries don’t have to deal with. Making SEO a priority in your marketing strategy will help you gain more visibility of your website, attract the right kind of customers, and gain more revenue for your dispensary.