Marijuana laws are changing all over the United States and Dispensaries are popping up all over the place with more and more people flocking to this budding industry.
However, even though marijuana’s legality is becoming more mainstream, there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome in Cannabis business, with regard to marketing your business.
Legal Cannabis in an Online Marketplace
Unlike other industries, many dispensaries are unable to take advantage of the most profitable online marketing strategies.
The most notable is pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Adwords or social media Advertising on Facebook.
Because the laws surrounding the cannabis are still new, coupled with the fact that not every state allows consumption of weed, means that platforms are still figuring it out themselves, and dispensaries have their hands somewhat tied when it comes to online marketing.
In fact its pretty common that even if you operate a fully legal business, you can still have your social sites shut down without warning.
Both Google and Facebook are still trying to figure out how to manage dispensaries with regards to following internet rules and restrictions.
So, for now, dispensaries and cannabis brands have somewhat limited options for advertising online.
What Options Do Dispensaries Have for Online Marketing?
Although it can be tricky to navigate the web’s legal issues, that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t take advantage of online traffic.
Overall, there are two primary methods that sellers can use to promote their brand online. Local SEO and Social Media.
Considering that most everyone knows how to use social media to their advantage (Facebook pages, Instagram photos, etc.), we are going to focus our attention on Local SEO.
What’s the Difference Between Local and Standard SEO?
You may already be familiar with the concept of search engine optimization (SEO) – it is a multifaceted strategy that relates to your website and its content, technical efficiency and offpage links that link back to your website.
Considering that dispensaries have to be careful about where and how they advertise, traditional SEO may not work in their favor.
For example, if you have a website for your business, you want to make sure that you get all kinds of traffic and visitors. But you may not want to focus on traditional SEO because you may be getting traffic but none of it will amount to foot traffic. As such, you have to focus your efforts to get the most in-store benefit.
Local SEO, on the other hand, focuses your attention on a particular area.
So as a dispensary, since you have a physical location you want to make sure that you can reach customers nearby.
Much in the same way that a restaurant would use local SEO to drive customers into the storefront, a dispensary can utilize this strategy to great effect.
Benefits of Local SEO
Drives Foot Traffic
While traditional SEO is designed to bring people to your website or other online presence, local SEO aims to bring them to a physical location. Thus, the more you invest in local SEO, the more business you can do in the store, and the more profitable you can become.
More Reliable Results
When reaching out online, there is always the issue of promoting yourself in areas that will not help you.
For example, if you’re running a dispensary in Anaheim California, you don’t want to market yourself to people living in Georgia.
Not only that, but you don’t even want to go too far outside of Anaheim, as it is less likely that people living several hours away (but in the same state) will travel that far for your services.
Overall, local SEO ensures that you are targeting an audience that is most convenient for your store.
Don’t waste time promoting yourself in areas you can’t reach and focus your attention on the most profitable customers.
Keeps it Legal
Keeping your efforts localized ensures that you don’t run afoul of any restrictions or legal issues later on in other municipalities.
Helps You Stand Out
Finally, the more time and effort you spend on local SEO, the more that your business will stand out from the crowd.
Even if there are multiple dispensaries in the same area, you can work hard to ensure that your brand comes out on top of search results.
If you take a passive approach to online marketing, you won’t get the level of success that you can achieve.
How to Use Local SEO for Your Dispensary: Step by Step Guide
As with any marketing strategy, local SEO requires consistent effort and analysis on your part.
Not only that, but it will take time to build your brand and cultivate the results that you want, so you have to go into it with certain expectations.
First, don’t assume the best will happen.
Certain things are outside of your control, and they can influence your level of success more than anything that you do.
For example, Google’s search algorithms change on a daily basis, so what may work today might not be as effective tomorrow – you may be on page one and wake up on page 3 – thats just how it is.
Also, your competition may be working harder at local SEO than you, which means that you will always be a step behind.
Overall, you should aim high but plan for realistic results.
In the end, you want to be persistent and not get discouraged.
Assuming that you want to run your dispensary for the long term anyway, you should be able to get into the mindset of long-term goals pretty quickly.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the various steps you have to take to make local SEO work for you.
Step One: Establish Goals
Typically speaking, it can take between three and six months to get the results that you want.
However, before you can determine how well your efforts are succeeding, you need to establish where you are at right now.
What are your current sales like?
What hours are you the busiest?
What is your average ticket per customer?
These are the kinds of questions that you have to answer to determine your baseline.
The more detailed you can get, the easier it will be to see how your changes are affecting these things.
Then, once you’ve established your current standing, you want to create a clear and actionable goal.
This shouldn’t be something as vague as “increase sales” or “build brand awareness.”
You need to be able to quantify your success, so you have to come up with something specific.
For example, your goal could be to increase traffic by at least ten percent between the hours of 2 and 6 (when you’re currently slowest).
Since this is your first marketing campaign, you may not know what you’re capable of doing, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t manage to hit your goals.
Overall, we suggest that you not be too hard on yourself until you know what kind of results you can expect – you want to maintain enthusiasm and consistent effort.
When talking about local SEO, you also need to see what your current rankings are when searching for your business.
An excellent process that you can take is to conduct several searches with different keywords and see how well your brand ranks with each.
For example, you can search for “marijuana dispensary,” “weed dispensary,” “marijuana dispensary Anaheim,” and so on.
Take note of your rankings with each combination so that you can compare down the road after you start working on your campaign.
Finally, the other thing to measure is your number of citations. These are the amount of times your business is mentioned online. The more quality citations you have, the higher your ranking.
Step Two: Claim Your Listings
Your business is already online, which means that it is listed in various places such as Google and Yelp.
However, are you in control of those listings?
By that, we mean that if you changed your operating hours or address would you be able to update it in real time?
If not, then you have to claim your listings so that you can stay on top of all your business information.
Google is the first place you should start as it controls most of the market share. You can claim your company on Google My Business.
Once you’ve done that, the next step should be to find all your existing online business directory profiles.
The easiest way to do this is to a service called Moz Local or BrightLocal. These sites crawl the SERPS and aggregate information from all kinds of local directory sources, which means that you can ensure that your business data is accurate across the board.
Using a tool like Moz or BrightLocal is so much easier than trying to find all of the listings yourself.
Overall, the point of doing this is to make sure that when someone looks up your dispensary, they will see all of the up-to-date information, such as contact number, address, hours of operation, and business name.
If you make any changes, it’s imperative that you update your listings as soon as possible – for users and for search engines accuracy is important.
Step Three: Localize Your Web Content
If you don’t already have a website, then you are limiting your ability to rank high in searches.
Google and other engines like when businesses have a website that reinforces the information in a listing, so you should build one if you don’t have one already.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or anything, but it does have to contain the following information.
Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
Every page of your site should list all of this data. Ideally you can place this information in the footer.
To make it even easier, you can include a Google map as well.
If you have multiple dispensaries, then create customized pages for each Dispensary so that you can get better rankings for each location.
Overall, the data listed on the website has to match your listings. Otherwise, it could confuse the search engines algorithm and negatively affect your ranking.
Title tags are a super important factor and one of the biggest factors in Onpage SEO.
These tags describe your site to crawlers, and appear in the Search Engine Results and entice potential visitors to click your on the link in a search engine, so it’s imperative that you use them to your advantage.
Keep it short and sweet, and be sure to include your location and business category (i.e. marijuana dispensary Anaheim, CA).
If you have social media accounts and a blog, they should all contain your business NAP as well.
This will ensure that you have a built-in network of content that matches your local listing, and business directory listings, which will help you rank higher in searches.
If you run a blog, make sure to use localized keywords so that it will still feed into your local SEO.
Step Four: Build Links and Citations
As we mentioned, citations are critical to your brand’s success in ranking high for local searches.
A business that has over one hundred quality citations will be much higher than one that has only a handful, so it’s imperative that you focus your attention on building as many quality citations as you can.
There are a few online services you can use that will help create a larger number of citations, but trying to do it manually is always the better option.
In the end, search engine algorithms are looking for quality citations as well as quantity.
Another thing to remember is that you want people linking to your site – backlinks are so important for pushing your website up the SERPS.
Whether it’s through social media or a blog, lnikbuilding and inbound marketing are going to be your best friends here. Try to encourage links and shares organically by generating content that people want to share.
Step Five: Get Reviewed
While citations are helpful, they are nowhere near as valuable as online reviews.
Recent studies have shown that most people trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation, so it’s important that you get your audience to leave feedback whenever they can.
Even bad reviews can be good for your business, the total number of reviews matters, as well as your ability to interact with customers and problem solve. This shows you are a real business with real customers.
Obviously, if you have more negative reviews than positive ones, it can hurt your business, but don’t be discouraged if you get a couple one or two-star reviews here and there as long as you are getting quality reviews as well.
Much like citations, the best way to solicit reviews is organically.
Remind customers after each transaction to leave feedback, and make the process as simple as possible. Provide the URL for different review sites and offer rewards for following through.
With rewards programs, though, don’t mention that the review has to be positive.
Offer them even if the customer is dissatisfied with your service.
The reason to avoid incentivizing positive reviews is that they can be labeled as manipulated, which can your account terminated on some review sites – and if you spend time and effort building up your account – getting deleted can be devastating (morally more than technically but still)
Step Six: Check Your Progress
At this point, you should be checking in with your campaign to see where you’re at. Ideally, you should be monitoring all changes with a rank tracking software so that you easily automate keyword tracking and rankings improvement.
Also, keep track of and check on the number of citations you have, as well as new reviews.
You should also be reading all reviews to see what is trending the most with your customers.
If people are raving about something, then you can work harder on that part of your business.
Conversely, if they are upset, you can address the issue and correct it.
What’s important to remember is that you want to check in regularly, but not ten times a day every day. Every week or so should be fine so that you aren’t so focused on each increment of progress.
Also, if you are not where you thought that you would be by this point, now is the time to audit your website for technical errors and update your strategy.
Focus your attention on what’s working and stop wasting energy on things that aren’t.
Step Seven: Avoid Duplicates
This doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes listings can get mixed up, and you’ll have two with different addresses or incorrect contact information.
It’s imperative that you remove any duplicates from your search listings so that you can avoid confusion. Consistency is a factor when it comes to your NAP so all your information has to match.
Check in with your listings on Google and Moz Local regularly to spot any duplicates as they occur.
The sooner that you can get rid of them, the less likely they are to hurt your business. Again, this is not a typical situation, but it does happen.
In the end, local SEO can drive a lot of business for your dispensary.
If you want to stand out from the competition and dominate the local market share, then you have to take the time to invest in this kind of marketing.
Even if you are in an area with limited competitors, you want to build your brand up so much that if anyone else does try to move in on your territory, you can still maintain your dominance.
Also, remember that things change on a constant basis in SEO.
This means that even if you have one successful campaign, you have to follow it up with more right after that.
Local SEO is a long-term strategy, so don’t stop working on it as soon as you reach your first goal.
There is always room for improvement, so as long as you’re not satisfied with “good enough,” you should do great.