Ultimate Guide: SEO For Marijuana Dispensaries

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Table of Contents

Why You Need SEO For Marijuana Dispensary Marketing

UPDATE: The article below has some fantastic information on why a cannabis SEO strategy is a. vital tactic for your dispensary marketing strategy. Be sure to also read this article updated in the summer of 2022: 5 Reasons Why Blog Content is Essential To Your Dispensary SEO Marketing Strategy.

With recreational cannabis now legal in Canada, as of October 17, 2018, and licenses to sell recreational marijuana coming in April 2019, digital marketing strategy and search engine optimization techniques for your dispensary website are an essential part of your dispensary marketing plan.

With cannabis advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Google being a challenge, organic SEO and content marketing is an ideal way to drive highly-qualified traffic to your dispensary website.

The good news is, Google is the largest search engine in the world, second to YouTube (which Google owns).

In terms of dispensary marketing, this reason alone is the reason marijuana dispensaries need be optimizing their website and social media content for search engines.

We’re going to make it easier for you to implement an SEO strategy for your dispensary with the SEO tips for dispensaries in this article.

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What Is SEO For Dispensaries?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, for dispensary marketing, is the strategic process of creating relevant, high-quality, user-intent driven content for your website, in order to drive qualified traffic to your website, e-store, and retail dispensary.

SEO is an organic, not paid, digital marketing strategy. This means that legal marijuana companies and cannabis dispensaries can create awareness, drive qualified traffic, and increase revenue without tight advertising restrictions on social platforms and paid search channels.

Did you know that over 60% of searches in Canada are done on a mobile phone? Are the majority of your target market glued to their phones?

This is why your dispensary needs to be found on Page 1 of organic search results. So you can direct all that search traffic into foot traffic to your retail marijuana dispensary or to your online store.

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How To Optimize Your Marijuana Dispensary Local SEO

If you’re trying to make a list of SEO techniques to implement on your marijuana dispensary to your website, chances are, you’re already overwhelmed.

SEO and SEM industry experts recommend hundreds of SEO tactics and SEO tools you ‘absolutely’ must use if you want to grow traffic to your website. There’s always something you haven’t included, prevented or optimized.

Google’s ever-changing algorithms might even be keeping you in fear of being penalized by taking what could be outdated advice.

To top it all off, you have to speak both human and machine language so you can equally please your audience and Google’s bots.

To help you identify what essential SEO efforts really need to be made, we’ve put together the checklist below. It targets all the aspects of a marijuana dispensary website that affects ranking, and all the boxes you need to check to make search engines love you.

I’ve broken them down into these 5 groups:

1. Content: For Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

– If you’re looking to optimize your dispensary website and implement SEO tactics to improve your search rankings, you’ll need to publish highly relevant content on your website and optimize your page titles/H1 tags, your sH2-H4 header tags, your page descriptions, and the metadata behind your engaging marijuana images.

2. Indexing: Visibility in Search Engines

– Learn what you need to know about optimizing your website’s sitemap and submitting it to Google to index your dispensary website’s pages and beautiful images of cannabis and marijuana products images.

3. Navigation: Page and URL Structure

– Both Google and users need to understand and easily use your website’s navigation. Do you have any external links on your dispensary’s homepage? Learn why this can be a super bad idea that’s killing your bounce rate.

4. Server and Hosting SEO

– We discuss how you optimize for server errors and why you should move your site to HTTPS secure server hosting (from HTTP), asap.

5. Mobile Optimization: Over 60% of Searches Occur on Smartphones

– Have you tested how your dispensary website renders on mobile devices/smartphones? How about mobile page load time? Below we discuss what you need to know about mobile SEO.

Even after the above steps, regular updates are needed to keep your pages search optimized.

I’ll advise you to bookmark this post so you can keep making reference to it until you have completed the checklist. 

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GROUP 1 – Content: How to Optimize Your Marijuana Dispensary Content For Search Engines

Content is the #1 ingredient to rank your website on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Updating consistently with new, useful content boosts your visibility over time.

However, doing it the wrong way might cause more harm than good. Here are the things you should look out for:

1. Long-form Keywords

Be very specific with your keywords. It’s no use attracting visitors to your website with generic keywords and having them bounce off seconds later.

Long-tail keywords are much better at providing user-intent. Google search is all based on user intent. Is your user looking to buy the dried flower, edibles, CBD oils, or some other cannabis-related product your dispensaries sells?

If you’re optimizing your cannabis-based content on user intent and using long-tail phrases, you stand a better chance of ranking on Page 1 on Google for those intent related keyword searches.

Long-tail keywords pull in visitors who are searching specifically for what you have to offer. A good example is “marijuana”- short form keyword, and “edible marijuana dispensary near me”- long form keywords.

2. H1 and other header sizes

Although Google has stated that multiple H1 tags will not cause any penalties, they must be used correctly to ensure that Google bots understand what tag is more important than others.

It’s important to remember that Google’s spiders read the page title/H1 tag first when scanning/crawling your website pages to determine ranking position. So it’s important to use high volume long tail keywords here that are user friendly and search engine friendly.

H2 sub-headers are important for both visitors and bots to understand the breaks in your content. Supporting headers (H3-H5) should also be used when needed. Breaking up your text with paragraph headings helps Google to understand what your page content is about.

3. Meta description

A well-crafted meta description is important for all web pages. Although Google takes a featured snippet from each page, writing your meta description yourself will give the opportunity to include important keywords and texts you want users to see.

The snippet shown is what will convince users to click on your link.

The meta description can be a super great too for dispensary websites to let users know exactly what marijuana and cannabis products your dispensary has in stock.

Optimized meta descriptions have increased click through and overall website traffic from organic search for many of the client’s we’ve worked with.

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4. Page Title

Ensure that no page title is missing. Your page title is the primary factor considered for ranking on the SERP as it contains your major keyword.

The page title should be understood by both human readers and search engines. To fish out missing titles, crawl your page using the Screaming Frog crawl tool.

5. Outbound links

Outbound links are just as helpful to your dispensary website, as they are to the sites you are sharing with your audience.

Including outbound links in web content such as blog posts helps to build your domains authority by increasing your relevance to search engines.

It also shows that your website has relationships with other established websites. Be sure to only link to websites relevant to the cannabis industry.

GROUP 2 – Indexing: How Visible Is Your Website To Search Engines?

Your website pages should be included in search indexes for better visibility. Run tests on the following to view and improve your website’s current index status:

6. Index test

To know the number of pages on your dispensary website that have been indexed, Google site:example.com.

Compare the number of pages found to the number of pages on your website.

If the indexes are higher, it means there are duplicate content issues on your website that need to be fixed.

7. RSS Feed

Most readers don’t use RSS feeds anymore but website crawlers do. Being found through your RSS feed can help search engine index additional links.

Use an RSS reader often to verify that your feed is working properly.

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8. Social links

If you’re updating your website consistently, make the best out of it by publishing your links using social media channels.

Beyond the exposure to your audience, it also improves your website’s chances of being indexed.

9. Sitemaps

Sitemaps make it easier for Google to find not just your dispensary website, but individual pages. To take advantage of its benefits, verify that your sitemap is updated in the Google Search Console. It should be an eXtensible markup language (XML) located at example.com/sitemap.xml.

10. Google Cache

Google cache shows you the exact way Google bots view your website. Viewing your website as Google does gives insight into what information is being used to rank your pages.

To view your website as a Google bot, go to http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:[your URL here]

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GROUP 3 – Navigation: SEO Your User Experience

Both visitors and Google’s site crawlers should never be confused while trying to navigate through your website. Here are a few pointers to avoid that:

11. External Links

While external links in blog content are good for your website, they should be avoided in the navigation bar. They might indicate that you are using your website as a low-level directory. Doing this can result in a penalty from Google as it is against their regulations.

12. Link Depth

Links that go too deep or redirect through several pages should be nowhere near your navigation page. Important pages should be easily accessible from your homepage. You can also use Screaming Frog to check for link depth with the “Crawl depth” feature.

13. The Link Embedded in Your Logo

Are you ever lost on a website and click on the logo to take you back to the homepage? To make sure that your visitors can always find your homepage from any page on your site, it is important to embed the link in your logo. Doing this is also helpful for better indexing.

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14. Long Nav-Bar Text

Stick to using one or two words per menu option in your navigation bar. Your layout appears neater and more balanced that way. If you have many pages in similar categories, use sub-menus (in drop-down format) for better organization.

15. No-Link Pages

All pages on your website must be accessible through your homepage. Ensure that every new page created has a link embedded somewhere, pointing back at it. If found, Google can read such pages as spam, and penalize you for them.

16. Individual URLs

Avoid sharing the same URL between two or more pages. Each individual page must have its own URL for easy indexing.

Beyond that, if more than one page shares the same URL, it causes confusion for visitors who might want to return to a page.

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GROUP 4 – Server and Hosting SEO: Move to HTTPS

Your server and hosting service are the backbones of your website. To ensure that there do not create search problems that might affect your website, check for the following:

17. Loading Time

Your page load time can be affected by the size of the content uploaded to your website, but capacity also comes into play. Having a slow load time causes visitors to lose interest in your website- fast. Use Pingdom to determine your website’s loading time.

18. Delete Pages With Server Errors

Server errors are bad for business; they discourage visitors and are frowned upon by Google. Avoid having broken links on your website by checking constantly for them. Use the Screaming Frog crawl tool to check for 301, 302, 403 and 404 links.

19. Switch to HTTPS

HTTPS provides more security, and therefore, more trust from your visitors. It makes the decision to release sensitive information to you, a lot easier for them.

Google has also confirmed that they favour HTTPS sites and that they rank better.

20. Remove Malware

Malware on your website cause inconsistencies ranging from small (e.g. unauthorized popups), to large (e.g. theft of users’ information). Test constantly for malware using Google’s free tool.

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GROUP 5 – Mobile Optimization: Majority of Searches Are Done On Mobile Devices

Google penalizes websites that are not responsive to mobile devices. Considering 52% of your visitors are likely to be using mobile devices, your website needs to be mobile friendly.

21. Use a Theme With a Mobile-Friendly Design

When buying a theme or hiring a website designer, ensure that the UI selected has a smooth, mobile responsive layout. This means that regardless of the device being used, the content on your website must be viewed and navigated easily on a phone or tablet.

22. Run Mobile-Friendly Tests

If your website is already up and running, run a mobile-friendly test to see how responsive it is when accessed using mobile devices.

23. Easy Navigation

For visitors, finding what they need on your website should be as straightforward as possible with a clear call-to-action. Avoid cluttering your pages with unnecessary content.

Doing this can distract your visitors from the action(s) you want them to take and seriously affect your conversion rates.

24. Responsive Embeds

Images, videos, gifs, and other files could start causing issues once embedded into a website. It could be because the files are too large, or in formats not supported by the website. To avoid this, test all files before final publishing.

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We Can Help Your Marijuana Dispensary SEO!

If you own a marijuana dispensary or work for a company in the medical cannabis and recreational marijuana space, we can help you with your dispensary website’s SEO and search engine rankings!

ColaDigital is Canada’s most experienced cannabis SEO agency dedicated to marketing recreational marijuana and medical cannabis. We partner with marijuana companies who share our vision of destigmatizing cannabis and breaking new ground in this dynamic industry.

Our team has been implementing in SEO strategy since 2004, we believe our experience speaks for itself. We’ve served over 100 clients in a wide variety of B2B and B2C sectors, including some companies in the medical cannabis space. We know what works and what doesn’t.

If you have questions or are ready to work with us, please contact us or reach out using the contact form below.

We’re ready to help you grow!