This is Part 2 of Cannabiz Media’s Guide to SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses. Follow the link to read Part 1 – Introduction, Part 3 – On-Page SEO, Part 4 – Off-Site SEO, and Part 5 – SEO Mistakes.
Of Google’s 200 search ranking factors, the three key search engine optimization areas that cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses should focus on are on-site SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. In this article, on-site SEO refers to the things you can do to optimize your overall website so pages have a better chance to rank high in relevant searches.
The majority of the steps you can take to increase search traffic to your cannabis brand’s website by improving on-site elements are technical in nature (i.e., technical SEO). Some are more complicated than others, and you may need to enlist an SEO expert to fully optimize your overall site. Don’t let that deter you though. SEO is an essential long-term marketing strategy for all cannabis and cannabis-related businesses.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you work to improve the on-site SEO for your website is Google’s goal, which is simply to provide the best possible search results for every query. With that said, don’t try to spam the system. Instead, invest your time and money into creating a site that Google likes filled with high quality content that Google really likes.
That’s how your business can win with search engine optimization.
Google’s On-Site SEO Ranking Factors
On-site SEO ranking factors are generally related to your website’s domain, site architecture, quality, and user-friendliness. Here are 20 of the on-site ranking factors cannabis and ancillary businesses should pay attention to first:
- If possible, your top keyword should appear in your website’s top-level domain – preferably as the first word in the domain.
- All pages on your site should load in users’ web browsers quickly. Test your page load speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights
- Ensure all content on your site is original and has not been published elsewhere online. If you must publish duplicate content, use the rel=canonical tag, but make sure you use it correctly to avoid a Google penalty.
- Make sure your entire site is mobile-friendly. You can test your website’s mobile-friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
- Use internal linking to show Google certain pages on your website are important and which pages are related to each other.
- Clean up any broken links across your site as soon as possible.
- Ensure your site is coded properly to show Google your site is high quality.
- Use a sitemap, specifically a sitemap.xml file, to help search engines index your pages more effectively.
- Show the main content of each page to visitors immediately using a user-friendly layout.
- Publish useful, high quality content.
- Include a contact page with contact information.
- Help Google’s bot access and index your website’s pages correctly by using a good site architecture to organize your content.
- Update your site often to provide fresh content to Google.
- Invest in a good web host so your site’s uptime is very high.
- Secure your site with an SSL certificate.
- Include a Privacy Page and a Terms of Service Page.
- Provide breadcrumb navigation.
- Make sure your site is easy to navigate.
- Avoid using popups and interstitials (including popup and interstitial ads or other distracting ads) that make it difficult for visitors to see the main content on your website.
- Use meta-tags and descriptions across your site but don’t stuff them with keywords.
All of these ranking factors are part of Google’s search algorithm because they help Google find what it believes are the best sources to respond to its users’ queries.
Top On-Site SEO Priorities for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses
Your on-site SEO priorities should focus on being able to answer yes to these 10 questions:
- Can Google find and effectively crawl your website?
- Can Google index the pages on your website?
- Can Google understand what your site is about?
- Are you sending the technical signals to Google that it wants to find?
- Does your website load quickly?
- Is your site mobile-friendly?
- Is your site easy to navigate?
- Is your site secure?
- Is your site spam-free?
- Is your site well-coded and high quality?
If you can’t answer yes to the questions above, then you need to get to work and make some technical SEO improvements to boost your Google search rankings. Make changes to improve your site’s domain authority, mobile-friendliness, and usability in order to increase the overall quality of your site and the amount of time people spend on it. Your search traffic will improve over time as a result of your efforts.
Key Takeaways to Rank Your Cannabis Brand Website High on Google and Boost Search Traffic
The first step to get more search traffic is to build a website that Google likes. Next, you need to create and publish the content your target audience wants and then promote your site to build its authority and reputation.
On-page SEO and off-site SEO for cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses will be the subject of upcoming posts here on the Cannabiz Media blog as part of my SEO series, so stay tuned!
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. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. 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.