In 2017, there were an estimated 20,000 to 28,000 cannabis businesses active in the United States. A lot has already changed since then.
Some states have adopted new laws and made marijuana legal. Others have struck down initiatives to establish a local cannabis industry, dashing the hopes of so many startups.
Whether you sell cannabis products, or you run a business that serves the cannabis industry, you need to be specific about where you target your marketing resources.
For example, if you sell to businesses or consumers on the west coast, it won’t do you much good if your website is getting all its traffic from Texas. Not only is that not your target market, but the cannabis industry is non-existent there.
Here are a few other reasons why you need to use local SEO in the cannabis industry:
Cannabis is Still a Localized Industry
At the time of this writing, marijuana is legal for medical and adult recreational use along the entirety of the west coast, in Alaska, Nevada, Michigan, and Colorado, and in a few states in New England. Most other states have legalized medical marijuana, or they at least allow the sale of low THC cannabis products (like CBD).
However, the laws across the country are piecemeal. Many states have no broad laws regarding cannabis on the books:
But even in some states where the use of marijuana is legal, the sale of marijuana is not. For example, while it’s legal to grow, possess, and consume cannabis in Vermont, the law that made this so — Act 86 — contained no provision for creating a marijuana retail marketplace that could be taxed.
In other words, as much as you’d like to open a dispensary in Burlington, you’ll have to wait for the legislative process to catch up to public opinion.
That said, there are already pieces of legislation making the rounds through multiple statehouses. They’re bound to change the landscape. If recent history is any indicator, most states are trending toward legalization, at least for medical cannabis.
Not long from now, the map above will probably be obsolete. And this is precisely why local SEO in the cannabis industry is so important.
The industry is not yet nationalized.
If you want to sell cannabis products, you can only sell them in specific jurisdictions. There are even bans on the town and county level in some states. If you want to sell products and services to cannabis businesses, you need to find the markets where they’re flourishing, and blanket ad campaigns won’t hit the mark.
Ads are Severely Restricted
Google won’t post ads about cannabis, and most social media platforms have the same policy as well. Plus, digital advertising isn’t just difficult for cannabis businesses; it can be a risk.
Advertisements for cannabis (even medical cannabis) are restricted based on the assumed age of the audience in many states. Violating state laws regarding cannabis advertising can land you in serious trouble, with serious fines.
That’s why most platforms won’t touch cannabis ads, and why you need to be extra careful when placing them.
Nonetheless, there are still some platforms that will gladly accept your ads. Marijuana business magazines are an excellent choice if you serve the cannabis industry, and they have no qualms about ad content.
If you sell to consumers, you can tap into one of the many cannabis apps people are using to stay plugged into the industry. There are also plenty of websites, digital magazines, and print outlets that are devoted to consumer cannabis culture.
How Local SEO Works in the Cannabis Industry
Local SEO in the cannabis industry follows most of the same practices of other industries. There’s a technical side to local SEO, but also a creative side.
You’ll need to do some basic work in the backend of your website to optimize it. Then, you’ll need targeted, optimized content that ranks high in search and draws peoples’ attention.
Here are the basics of local SEO:
Your website needs to be well-structured and easy for Google to index. That means building a logical page hierarchy, a schema markup for your location data, and location pages that add value to your site.
Your website should also contain your basic business information, like name, address, and phone number.
Each page should be optimized with a meta description, SEO title, H1 tags, subheadings, alt-tags for images, and internal and external links. Lastly, you should optimize each page for at least one local keyword. Be sure to use the keyword in the H1 tag and in the body of the page’s text.
Finally, you need a backlinking strategy. When targeting locally, content is key. But every SEO strategy should be strengthened with backlinks.
Offer to write guest posts on cannabis culture sites or reach out to other businesses to start up a link exchange. You can even pitch articles to news outlets.
Building localized content is more than just adding a location signifier to your target keywords (ex. “California Cannabis Business Software” instead of “Cannabis Business Software”), although using location signifiers should be part of your strategy.
What’s more important is speaking to your audience. If you’re trying to sell software to cannabis businesses in California, you need to write articles those business owners would want to read.
Don’t hesitate to tap into other types of content, too — like video. 55% of people watch videos online very day, and videos generate 1200% more shares than text and image content combined on social media.
Local Directory Citations
Local directories provide your website with backlinks, which helps to build your page authority. But they can also refer local customers to your website and build trust among your website visitors.
Be sure you only list your business on legitimate directories. Keep your business information identical on every directory you use and keep an eye out for cannabis-specific listing sites.
Reviews are the ultimate trust factor. If you want people in a specific city to show interest in your product, you’ll have a better chance of earning their interest if their neighbors give your product great reviews online.
Most consumers and business decision-makers trust online reviews as much as their friend’s opinions. These days, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and having no reviews is almost as bad as having bad reviews.
If you have a blog, open it up for comments. Encourage people to post their own ideas and share your posts with their friends.
Give Your Local SEO Strategy a Boost
If SEO is still a mystery to you, you aren’t alone. Many small to medium-sized businesses don’t think they have the means or the budget to launch a dedicated SEO strategy, and even some large businesses don’t think it’s worth their time.
But in the cannabis business, your marketing channels are limited. You need a robust local SEO strategy.
In fact, if you’re a part of the cannabis industry, we’d go so far as to say that local SEO is your most important digital marketing strategy.
Contact ReadyGreen today for a consultation. We’ll take a long look at your website, your content, and your strategy, then we’ll show you how you can tap into your target markets with local SEO.