With an estimated market value of over 7 billion dollars and tax revenues in the hundreds of millions, more states are moving to legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational means. Despite some setbacks and a climate of uncertainty at the national level, it seems like it’s just matter of time before marijuana is legal throughout the majority of the United States-minus Texas and the deep south.
Marijuana’s growing popularity, along with the industries enormous profit margins make it appealing to investors and venture capitalists.
Everyone wants a piece of the market.
For small local producers, this gold rush mentality can seem both exhilarating and terrifying-the industry has unlimited potential but navigating these uncharted waters can be difficult.
The list of problems a dispensary owner has to deal with is already long; security, hiring trustworthy personnel, state regulations, federal regulations, banks, taxes and uncertainty with federal law enforcement, to name a few.
The last thing you need to worry about is your competition.
As more dispensaries open and consumers are given a wider variety of choices, it will become more important than ever to set your brand apart from the competition.
Savvy business owners already know the importance that developing an online presence has in staying competitive. The only way to stay afloat in competitive industries is effective marketing.
But how do you effectively market your brand if your customers can’t find you?
95% of potential customers say they won’t go past the first page of search results when searching for a business or product.
How do you get on the first page of search results for cannabis related searches?
You Need Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is a process that involves optimizing the code on your website so search engine robots can effectively crawl your page. It means improving your websites mobile speed. Designing your website with the user in mind and building your company’s digital footprint through social signals and quality backlinks. It means paying close attention to what Google wants- since 90% of internet search takes place on Google. And Google wants high quality content that adds value to your customers lives and answers the questions they are asking. They want easily navigable websites, that load quickly and provide a seamless user experience.
Now you may have heard of SEO before, if you’ve owned a business, tried selling products online or used WordPress then you know what SEO is.
You may have encountered the unscrupulous business practices of less than reputable SEO companies or web designers. Perhaps you paid an enormous amount of money for no noticeable return on investment or maybe you hired someone to build your business’s website only for them to disappear with thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, this is a common experience.
At times this industry can feel very similar to general contracting with all the fraud and abuse that takes place.
Internet Marketing companies that promise you the world and overnight success will let you down. If an agency promises unrealistic results in an unrealistic time frame-just like everything else in life-if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Anyone who has worked in the SEO field for any length of time knows that success hinges on consistent effort repeated day in and day out. Results don’t come easy.
A cookie cutter approach won’t provide results either. You need a customized strategy that provides sustainable growth over time for your business.
Return on Investment.
ROI can be difficult to quantify and with a legitimate SEO strategy it’s something that might take anywhere from 3 weeks to even a couple months. It also means different things across different industries, for someone who owns a car wash it might be selling more monthly memberships, for a lawyer it might mean two more cases a month. It might mean being number one in the rankings for certain long-tail search terms.
Fortunately, these factors are mostly quantifiable with the proper analytics. A legitimate SEO firm will provide these for you on a monthly basis and set up a way that you can track these variables in real time. Transparent monthly reporting is important and if the prospective company doesn’t provide analytics it’s time to find a new provider.
When it comes to SEO strategies patience and persistence will pay off. It’s like investment guru Warren Buffet says, “some things just take time: you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
A Focused Strategy
The right SEO company thinks long term but also understands that the search industry evolves rapidly. Your prospective company should sit down with you to gain an understanding of your expectations and then develop a custom proposal based around those expectations. The proposal should identify easy wins, monthly goals and benchmarks for success.
Customized strategies yield results. But results take time, think of this as a long-term investment, the more time, effort and money you put into it initially the greater the results will be down the road. Don’t be fooled by a company that promises to take you from the 10th page to the first page of Google overnight.
Some SEO firms might use unethical tactics or what’s known in the industry as “black hat” techniques, others might use out dated practices like keyword stuffing to get customers quick results.
It’s not 2005 anymore, stuffing your home page with keywords might seem like low hanging fruit but it will get you penalized by Google, who will bury your website in obscurity.
The quickest way to end up on the 10th page of Google’s search results is to ignore the specifications they have clearly laid out.
Does your website look like it was built in 1997? Page 10.
Does your page have an excessive number of pop ups? Page 10.
Did your developer set up sneaky redirects? Boom. Page 10.
You get the point. Google will crush you if you don’t play by their rules. They have a very specific set of standards that all reputable SEO companies follow closely.
The Importance of Social Media
It might seem glaringly obvious but there are still large and very prominent SEO firms that don’t understand the importance social media plays in getting better search results. Every year the number of users on social media sites gets larger your customers are searching for and commenting about your business through those platforms.
The bigger your company’s presence on social media the better.
Social signals contribute heavily to your websites authority leading to better search rankings allowing prospective customers to find you.
You need an SEO company that understands social media. A company that can grow your business’s social media accounts organically but who also understands how to effectively utilize the advertising platforms offered by the different social networks.
The right combination of organic and paid growth can have an exponential effect on your bottom line. Find a company that integrates professional social media management into their monthly service and at the very least understands it’s importance.
You Need an SEO Company that Understands the Cannabis Industry
You want a company that doesn’t have any preconceived notions about the industry. Someone who understands the many medical and health benefits that cannabis offers as well as the legal issues dispensaries have to deal with in different states.
You need an SEO company that’s familiar with cannabis culture and the terminology surrounding it. A company that’s savvy enough to tell the difference between sativa, indicia or a hybrid. A company that understands how edibles effect a consumer differently. A company that supports full legalization and believes in the medical and societal benefits of marijuana.
Cannabis SEO that gets Results
Giant marketing firms and SEO mills don’t understand the challenges that someone in the cannabis industry faces and are probably less than luke warm to the idea of doing business in an industry that in some cases still faces strong political and corporate opposition. On top of that the SEO mills don’t have the time to customize a strategy tailored to your business’s needs. They apply a cookie cutter formula to every customer because it’s efficient, keeps operating costs to a minimum and allows them to reap maximum profits from your business while putting in minimum effort.
Once they lock you into a contract they can take $1000 a month from you with little to no effort put back into your business and since most people don’t understand the industry, when you question them they’ll give you a mouthful of technical jargon that sounds good but doesn’t really make sense. SEO mills count on this lack of technical understanding to exploit customers.
Even major companies like DEX essentially take $900 a month from their customers to run a few adds and only track five search terms.
Don’t get locked into a long-term contract with a company that only sees you and your business as a cash cow. Find an SEO firm that understands the cannabis industry and that believes in legal marijuana.
Hiring a reputable firm can seem daunting but there are ethical SEO companies out there, look for a company that’s brutally honest and who takes the time to explain in detail what it is they plan to do to help your business. Don’t let them bury you in jargon, a great SEO company will be able to explain what they do simply in a way you can understand.
An Upward Trajectory for Cannabis
Legal cannabis is taking off, in Nevada, after one week of being legal every dispensary in the state sold out (this had more to do with liquor distributers who were given the first licenses to transport marijuana, as a way to appease them, not actually transporting the product.)
Support for legal marijuana is at an all-time high with over 60% of Americans favoring legalization. Currently there are 25 states with some form of legal medical marijuana and 7 states where recreational marijuana is legal. It’s projected that by 2020 the cannabis industry will create more jobs than manufacturing.
The gold rush won’t last forever though, eventually the dust will settle, competition will grow fierce and the dispensaries that invested in building their brand with smart targeted marketing efforts will be the ones left standing.