SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the process of improving your website and online presence so that your business ranks high in search results. For dispensaries, SEO often focuses on searches for a “dispensary near me,” types of cannabis products (e.g., edibles), or a specific cannabis product a customer wants to purchase.
SEO is a popular channel for cannabis digital marketing because it increases a dispensary’s online visibility, drives targeted traffic to your website, and introduces your business to new customers. And SEO does this all without paying for online advertising.
Did you know that only 36% of small businesses have an SEO strategy, but in 2020, 93% of consumers used online searches to find a local business? If your dispensary isn’t doing SEO, it’s time to start.
Covering the SEO basics creates a strong foundation for any successful SEO strategy. Follow these tips to set your site up for SEO success.
The very first step is ensuring that search engines can index your site’s pages. In Google and Bing, search for: [site:your-dispensary-site.com], and you should see most of your site’s web pages. If you don't, you’ll need to troubleshoot.
Over 60% of all searches happen on mobile, and the percentage is much higher for local searches (which most dispensary searches are). With so many users on mobile, Googlebot also crawls your site as a mobile device, so a mobile-optimized site is critical.
Well-written copy and clear, high-resolution photos are a must. They’ll score you ranking points with search engines, enable webpages to appear in additional search placements (like image search and image boxes that appear on the SERPs), and can also increase sales.
Think about a cannabis product page on an ecommerce website. A great photo and informative copy about a product will inspire trust in your dispensary and improve the chance of making a sale.
If you’re considering adding online ordering to your website, Dutchie has an SEO-friendly ecommerce solution for dispensary websites.
If search engines can't see what’s on your pages, your pages won't rank in search results. Google's Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool and Google Search Console are great tools to show you what content Google sees on your pages.
Title tag optimization is an often overlooked yet critical SEO basic. Title tags inform search engines and users what a page is about; they often appear on a search result as the clickable title. They’re also pretty simple to implement, so there’s no excuse not to create an optimized title tag for every web page.
You should also optimize meta descriptions on every page. These often appear on a search result as the non-clickable description and can positively or negatively affect your organic click-through rate.
In title tags and meta descriptions, use specific keywords and phrases that people would use when searching for that exact page. Title tags should be about 55-60 characters; meta descriptions should be about 160-180. It won’t harm your SEO if they’re too long, but the search engine will truncate their display on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
Your website’s URLs should be concise and keyword-rich. Don’t keyword stuff! However, if you have a page dedicated to a cannabis strain, you’ll want to use the strain’s name in the URL structure. For a product page, use the product name in the URL.
Use directories in URLs to organize content. Pages about cannabis strains could all be under a /cannabis-strains/ directory; cannabis products could all be under a /product/ and then a /product-category/ directory, such as /products/edibles/.
Separate words with dashes (-) and not underscores (_), spaces, or commas. Stick with all lowercase letters, and don't use session IDs in your URLs.
Content should only be available on one URL. When the same content is accessible on two or more URLs, it creates duplicate content.
For example, if the same category page for cannabis flower appears on one or more of the below URLs, that’s duplicate content:
If your site has duplicate content and you don’t need all the URLs, pick the preferred URL and redirect all the others using a 301 (permanent) redirect.
Sometimes duplicate content is unavoidable, and when it is, use rel=canonical attributes to tell search engines which URL is preferred. An example of inescapable duplicate content is URL tracking parameters used to measure campaign performance, such as
Site speed is one of Google’s Page Experience ranking factors, plus it’s essential for user experience and conversions. No one’s waiting around for a slow-loading website, so make sure your site pages load quickly and acknowledge that shoppers expect lightning-fast load times.
Use PageSpeed Insights to see how your pages score. Check all your page types because load times will vary. Pages with many images or videos are often slower if the media assets aren’t adequately optimized; e-commerce pages (depending on your e-commerce solution) may also load more slowly.
Always encrypt your site with SSL or TLS to protect your users. It inspires confidence in your site users, and Googlebot wants to see it, too.
An XML sitemap is a list of URLs from your site that you’d like search engines to crawl and index.
Submitting an XML sitemap proactively tells search engines about your URLs instead of waiting for crawlers to find your pages. XML sitemaps also help new pages get indexed faster.
In XML sitemaps, you can also provide important information, like when a page was last updated, images on the page, and more.
Links that go to error pages are bad for SEO and for users. Find and fix broken links on your site.
Showcase your dispensary's address, phone number, and hours prominently on your site. The homepage and then at the top or the bottom of all web pages are excellent placements. Add a dedicated web page for each business location if your dispensary has multiple locations.
Links from quality websites are essential for high rankings. They tell search engines that your site is credible and valuable. But not all inbound links are created equal. Links from high-quality sites and sites in the cannabis industry will benefit your dispensary’s site the most.
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to different pages on the same website. They’re a crucial part of SEO because they help search engines understand your site’s structure, pass SEO authority through the site, and help users navigate your site.
Ensure all your web pages have links from other pages on your site. If you don't link to a page, you probably don't think it's important, so why would a search engine?
GSC provides valuable insights into your site’s organic search indexing, rankings, and traffic. GSC will also alert you to problems on your site, like if it gets hacked.
If your dispensary’s site is not verified with GSC, verify it now at Google Search Console.
Because dispensaries are local businesses, ranking in Local Search and Maps is key to a dispensary’s organic search success. While SEO is more of a marathon than a sprint (you won't see results overnight) here are three action items you can take right now.
Claim your Google Business profile, complete it thoroughly, and keep it updated. This is step one for appearing in Google Local and Maps results.
If you haven’t claimed your dispensary’s profile, or if you have but haven’t maximized its potential, go now to Google Business Profiles.
Claim and complete your dispensary’s profile on Yelp, Facebook, Apple Maps, Bing, Foursquare, Better Business Bureau, etc.
Ensure your location data (address, phone number, etc.) is exactly the same across all directories. If your address is 123 High Street on your Google profile, use that (and not 123 High St) on other directories. This will help your business rankings on Google Local Search.
Google reviews are essential as the quality, quantity, and freshness of your Google reviews factor into your Google Local rankings. Yelp is crucial, too, since Yelp ranks in Google’s top 5 positions for 92% of search queries containing a city name + business category, e.g. [san diego dispensaries].
Dutchie is an all-in-one technology platform powering the cannabis industry with Point of Sale, Ecommerce, Payments, and Insurance. Through our technology, we’re helping cannabis businesses start, operate, and grow with confidence. With software that simplifies their operations, our customers can focus on what matters most—bringing the benefits of cannabis safely to consumers.
Request a demo today.