This is Part 1 of Cannabiz Media’s Guide to SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses. Follow the link to read Part 2.
Did you know there are 200 Google ranking factors in the algorithm used to rank Google’s search engine results? These factors also include variations (referred to as signals) that make things even more complicated. For cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses that want to rank high on Google’s search engine results pages, SEO can be overwhelming.
Google’s SEO factors are often categorized based on domain, page-level, site-level, backlinks, user interaction, special Google algorithm rules, brand signals, onsite spam, and offsite spam. Again, it can be confusing for anyone who isn’t a search engine optimization expert.
Fortunately, you can make simple changes to your website and workflow to improve your search engine results.
Keep in mind, Google’s goal is always to show the best results for any search query first. If you focus on writing high quality content, making it as easy as possible for Google to understand what your content is about, and avoiding SEO mistakes that could get your site banned from search results entirely, then you’ll see your efforts pay off in time.
3 Key Areas to Focus on for Cannabis Business SEO
To leverage the power of SEO to drive targeted traffic to your website, you can start by prioritizing three factors: onsite SEO, on-page SEO, and offsite SEO.
1. Onsite SEO
Onsite SEO refers to the steps you can take to improve the overall technical SEO of your cannabis business or cannabis-related business website. Based on Google’s ranking factors, this includes things like your site architecture, the presence of an HTML sitemap, use of breadcrumb navigation, presence of an SSL certificate (HTTPS), presence of a terms of service page, presence of a privacy page, no duplicate meta information used across the site, and more.
In addition, your site should be mobile-friendly. Google uses a mobile-first index, which means it prioritizes mobile. In fact, Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. You can test your website’s mobile-friendliness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
Also, make sure your site’s pages load quickly. Site usability is a Google Ranking Factor, so test your site’s page load speed and make sure visitors are getting the best user experience possible in terms of speed as well as navigation. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to learn more about the performance of your web pages.
2. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO includes all of the things you can do to help Google understand what each page of your website is about so pages have a chance to rank higher for relevant searches. There are both technical steps you can take to improve a web page’s SEO as well as content steps.
For example, formatting pages and blog posts with SEO in mind by using H2 and H3 headers and keyword-rich alt tags in images can give your pages a technical boost. At the same time, publishing high quality content using relevant keywords can also help drive search engine traffic to your website.
Following are some of the technical and content-related on-page SEO factors to keep in mind as you’re writing and designing each of your web pages, including blog posts:
- Format: Format content for SEO using H2 and H3 headers, alt tags in images, and metadata that include relevant keywords.
- Keywords: Use keywords but not excessively (Google considers keyword stuffing and hiding keywords on a page to be spam tactics).
- Quality: Publish highly authoritative content that adds value.
- Length: Publish enough content on a page for Google to index it, and make sure pages that you want to rank high include at least 2,000 words.
- Links: Include internal and external links in your page content to help Google understand what your page is about. Avoid stuffing the page with links so Google doesn’t think you’re link-spamming. Also, avoid linking out to “bad” sites that Google considers spammy or your own search engine rankings could suffer. Instead, always link to authoritative sites.
3. Offsite SEO
Offsite SEO includes everything you do outside of your website to help your pages rank higher in search engines. The goal of offsite SEO efforts is to increase awareness of your site and organic traffic as well as build incoming links from authoritative websites. You want Google to see that people value your content enough to link to it and visit, so aim for getting a variety of natural links.
Some of the ways you can build incoming links for SEO purposes include:
- Outreach: Publish roundup blog posts that include insights from a variety of authoritative experts. Link to their sites and ask them to promote the post and link back to it.
- Guest Blogging: Contact blogs where your target audience spends time and ask if you can write a non-self-promotional blog post for them. If you can get a Do-Follow link back that Google sees, that’s great, but even a No-Follow link that is invisible to Google helps to build your brand, site traffic, and authority.
- Directories: Add your business to authoritative cannabis business directories. In addition, claim your business on Yelp, Yahoo, and Google My Business.
- Influencer Marketing: Reach out to influencers in your niche and collaborate to generate incoming links and traffic to your website through content promotion or sharing.
- Social Media: Get active on social media and encourage your audience to share your posts to help build organic links and traffic to your website. This is where blogging is critical to cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses.
In addition to the above tactics, you can disavow incoming links that hurt your Google search rankings.
Key Takeaways about SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses
This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO for cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses. However, SEO is actually a long-term strategy. Yes, you can look for quick wins and exploit them to boost traffic in the short-term, but if you focus on building a highly authoritative site that follows Google’s rules, you’ll win in the long-run.
Start with a solid foundation and build from there to generate long-term, sustainable, organic growth that leads to higher website traffic, more sales, and increased revenue.
Continue reading the Guide to SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses with Part 2.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.