Cannabis Web Development & SEO Challenges When Using Shopify

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Your CBD or cannabis web development should be prioritized as one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy. Regardless if you own a retail cannabis dispensary or online CBD store. SEO is a big part of your website design as well and there are challenges you’ll face if you’re using the Shopify platform. Here’s what you need to know.

Planning On Using Shopify For Your CBD or Cannabis Web Development?

If you considering a new or updated e-commerce website for your online marijuana business or your retail cannabis dispensary, this article is exactly for you.

Below we’ll discuss the best practices for marijuana website design & development but we’ll also dig deep into search engine optimization, specifically cannabis SEO on Shopify websites, and the mistakes you should avoid.

I’m betting that one of your dispensary marketing goals is to maximize your online visibility, particularly your online visibility in organic search results.

An authoritative and trustworthy cannabis web development is step one, followed closely by step 2 which is a comprehensive and competitive cannabis SEO strategy implemented on your new website.

So which platform is right for you and your business?

Should you go with a self-hosted WordPress CMS (content management system)? Or are you better off using a platform that was built for commerce and use Shopify for your cannabis web development?

Let’s start here by discussing what you need to know about cannabis web development and SEO with Shopify.

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Success With Your Cannabis Web Development Depends On These SEO Challenges Found in Shopify

Regardless of your platform of choice for your cannabis dispensary website, there will be some SEO challenges that are common to all e-commerce websites.

However, if using Shopify to build your cannabis website, there are specific and unique challenges that are inherent to the Shopify platform exclusively.

The key to a successful/lucrative cannabis dispensary website is to overcome these SEO challenges in Shopify to help you increase organic search rankings and sell more cannabis products online and in-store.

The following are the top 3 SEO challenges you’ll face when using Shopify to design and develop your cannabis website.

Also included are our solutions to overcome these obstacles with cannabis website SEO.


1. Shopify Websites Give You No Control Over Your Robots.txt File

First off, what the hell is a robots.txt file and why should I care?

The short answer, according to Google, is that a robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can’t request from your site.

The file is mainly to avoid overloading your site with server requests because an overload of unnecessary requests to your site will slow down your site’s page load time and provide users with a painful (i.e bad) website experience.

A robots.txt file is also used to manage crawler traffic to your site, and usually to keep a page off Google, depending on the file type. For example, this is not a mechanism for keeping a web page out of the Google search index.

If you had a self-hosted website, and not one hosted with Shopify, Wix, or some other service, you – or your cannabis website developer or cannabis SEO agency will have access and control of your site’s robots.txt file.

So What’s The Problem?

Shopify does not allow store owners to edit their robots.txt file because they host millions/billions of websites on their own server.

This is an issue because the platform creates duplicate URLs for products associated with a collection/category page. Which are completely unnecessary and cause waste to your crawl budget with Google, which is a bad thing. These duplicate URLs should not be in Google’s index.

The ideal solution would be to add things us cannabis SEO guys call “disallow directives” in your robots.txt file in order to block these duplicate pages from being crawled by Google initially or ever.

If your dispensary SEO agency says something like “wait, that’s ok…Shopify does add canonical tags pointing back to the correct product URL…”. Let them know that this still does not prevent the duplicate URLs from being crawled and potentially indexed.

So What Are The Solutions For Your Cannabis Web Development?

The good news is there is a solution, as with every cannabis digital marketing challenge.

You or your cannabis SEO team can edit your Shopify theme to resolve this issue.

A second alternative is that the pages not included in your robots.txt file can still be hidden from Google and other search engines by customizing the section of your theme’s layout file.

File this under “technical” dispensary SEO work. More info on how to DIY this can be found on this Shopify help page.

Finally, if you really need to add no-index tags and to remove URLs from your sitemap, Shopify has an app for that! You can use this one: Sitemap & NoIndex Manager.

However, this won’t work for duplicate product URLs, but it works for several other special Shopify page types with little to no SEO value.

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2. Your Cannabis Site Has Low Rankings For Searches of Your Own Brand!

This means that your CBD or cannabis website is not ranking in the #1 position when someone searches using your company’s name.

This is not a good look for your brand, especially if a competitor is outranking you for your own brand name.

So What’s The Problem?

I hope this isn’t happening to your marijuana dispensary website because if it is, it really, really sucks.


Simply because low rankings on your own branded terms typically are high-intent, high-revenue keywords that you’re not getting the organic traffic for because your rankings are too low. This means competitors are getting/stealing those clicks and that traffic.

When it comes to e-commerce, especially with cannabis marketing, it’s common for other cannabis retailers to outrank a brand’s own site for branded queries.

This is The Solution!

To overcome this challenge with cannabis dispensary SEO, you can turn to your Google Ads/AdWords data. Here you’ll be able to find branded terms that convert well.

If you’re not running any google ads for your cannabis dispensary, you can hit up your site’s Google Search Console as this tool is a super great place to identify branded keywords along with other terms that could be hidden gems.

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3. Improper Keyword Mapping in Your Dispensary SEO Strategy

This Shopify SEO challenge is another one that really bites if it’s happening to your cannabis website. Are the pages you want to rank in search results actually showing on page 1 and in the top positions for relevant search terms?

Or, do you have website pages ranking for certain keywords that you don’t want raking for those search terms? You may have a keyword mapping problem in your cannabis website SEO strategy.

First, let’s define exactly what keyword mapping is to provide context to this SEO challenge experienced by many cannabis websites designed in Shopify.

Keyword mapping is the process of cannabis web developers and cannabis SEO professionals use when assigning relevant keywords to the pages on your website.

Both the keywords and each website page are strategized based on the intent and topic of each.

Keyword mapping for CBD and cannabis web development is basically just a big-ass spreadsheet divided into columns, with your keywords and your pages. It can contain “tags” for keywords — additional notes, information on search

Your cannabis website keyword map should contain tags for keywords including additional notes, information on keyword search volume, keyword difficulty, and other valuable data for your cannabis web development & dispensary SEO teams.

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Let’s Breakdown The Problem With Shopify Sites and Cannabis Keyword Mapping

Basically, it’s like this. Your site isn’t ranking at all for high-intent to purchase search queries for cannabis.

Or, your webpages that show in the search results aren’t the ones that convert or best match the users’ search intent to purchase cannabis online.

Here Our Solutions For Cannabis Websites Designed Using Shopify

It really comes down to using an experienced and professional cannabis SEO consultant or agency.

An understanding of user-intent, keyword research, and data analysis are extremely helpful to accomplish these tasks effectively.

Our first step is to that you know what the top 5-10 search results are for every single cannabis-related keyword that you want to rank for.

Identify factors such as is the keyword search showing your product pages or your category pages?

You can take it a step further and set up a content strategy that actually meets the user’s search intent for the keywords you want to rank for.

Basically, the strategy here is, if you can’t get your product pages or category/collection pages to rank for valuable keywords and you see competitors blog articles ranking on page one for those same keywords, try targeting those keywords in blog posts/content marketing instead.

An experienced cannabis website design and SEO agency should know that many keywords show mixed intent and actually may perform better if targeted using an in-depth and informational blog article.

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We Can Help You With Your Cannabis Web Development

We’ve been involved in cannabis web development (and CBD website development) specifically since 2017. If you’re ready to update your site, we can help you now.

Please call us for a free 30-minute phone consult or email us to request a quote.

We’re Ready To Help You Grow!

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