Ken Newman, CEO, DMA | Digital Marketing Agency
The number of people who head to the internet to research health and wellness products has jumped to 57%. These online searches are especially important in the medical marijuana industry, where so much confusion, misinformation, and changing laws send consumers to the internet in search of clarification.
This chaos in the market can actually create opportunities for medical marijuana dispensaries that are seeking ways to attract more local customers. In a market where buying paid search ads is not legal, dispensaries must rely on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to get discovered. Here is a breakdown of how search engine ranking works and how you can optimize your website to ensure your dispensary moves up the search results page for local searches.
The Power of the Local 3-Pack
The number of “near me” searches has grown by 900% since 2016, with 72 percent of those searchers visiting a store within five miles. When Google receives a search request that includes geographic search terms, Google provides a results page that consists of a map, the Local 3-Pack, followed by the organic search results. Google uses its own ranking system to determine which businesses will appear in this Pack, along with the order that businesses appear in the search results. The ideal, of course, is to get your dispensary listed in the 3-Pack. Here are five ways that you can optimize your website for SEO to increase your page rank among the search engines so that you can earn more local traffic.
1. Claim Your Business on Local Listing Services
To ensure your dispensary appears on the search results page, register and claim your business on Google My Business, Yahoo! Local and Microsoft’s Bing Places for Business. Fill out each section of the questionnaire completely and accurately, providing your NAP (name-address-phone) details, hours of operation, and photos. This information will be pulled by search engines to populate search results whenever your prospect searches for a local marijuana dispensary.
The business category you choose for the services category is also relevant. While Google now offers a “Cannabis Store” category, you can also tailor your results around the services you provide by selecting other categories, including a wellness center, pharmacy, or alternative medicine practitioner.
Additionally, claim your dispensary’s listing on third-party sites, including Yelp, CitySearch, and Apple Maps. These sites have a large amount of pull in SEO, and you don’t want to be left out. There may be other local listing services exclusive to your area, including the local Chamber of Commerce, local mapping services and online yellow or white pages.
2. Answer Your Prospects Questions With Your Content
One of the most essential strategies to implement to earn local traffic is a steady stream of helpful content. The content that you publish on your website helps the search engines determine if your business is a good match for the search request. Focus on building article topics around the specific questions your prospects are asking in their searches. Pay attention to Google’s specific guidelines that govern any medical-oriented content published on the web. Google categories this type of content as “Your Money, Your Life” (YMYL) and subjects this content to higher quality standards.
While you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to ensure you are using the best words to boost your SEO presence, use them wisely. Your keywords should flow naturally into a helpful article, rather than one that is packed with keywords that make little sense to the reader. At a minimum, aim for creating at least one 750-word article for each service or product you offer. Boost your content for local by weaving geographic indicators wherever possible into your content. For example, “cannabis dispensary in your town,” or “your town’s cannabis provider.”
Add specific pages to your site that are dedicated exclusively to providing your NAP details, a Google Map of your location, and links to your social media profiles. Include your hours of operation and specific names of people to contact if they have questions. Optimize your site for SEO by ensuring you add local keywords in the URL page title, headers, and main text.
3. Mobile friendly
When consumers conduct those medical searches, they are more than likely using their phones. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly so that prospects can find the information on your site quickly and easily. A mobile-responsive design will not distort your images or content to fit on a mobile screen. Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test tool that can help you test your site to be sure it is easy for customers to navigate.
4. Credibility from Other Sites
Publishing helpful, valuable information on your website increases the chances that other websites will link to your content. These inbound links are the number one local organic-ranking factor, as search engines give more credibility to sites that are linked to by other sites.
Claiming your social media profiles gives you the added benefit of attracting local influencers. You can discover local events and build an online community with other businesses in your area that can help you earn locally-relevant links. You can also receive inbound links by ensuring your dispensary is included in industry-specific directories like 420 Nation, Cannabis.net, CannaPages, Marijuana Business Daily, Medical Jane, Medical Marijuana, THC Business Directory, among others.
5. What Are Customers Saying About You?
Online reviews have overtaken friends and family recommendations as the most trusted source of product information.” Google includes reviews in its 3-Pack listing, and adding reviews on your own website can boost customer conversion by 270%. While Google keeps the details of its search algorithm a secret, prominence is one of the key indicators that Google uses. Prominence includes how well-known a business is, including more reviews and positive rankings. You can help your rankings by reading the reviews you receive, including those on social media and third-party sites. Treat any negative reviews as an opportunity to correct what went wrong.
Page Rank Is Constantly Dynamic
Once you’ve made it into the Local 3-Pack, monitor your progress, as search engines continuously update their rankings. Don’t let your website become static, and continue to update your content with new articles to match the evolving changes within the cannabis industry. Use the strategies identified here to ensure fresh content is optimized for your local market while continuing to meet the needs of your local customers.
About the Author: Ken Newman, CEO of DMA | Digital Marketing Agency began his career with the U.S. Army serving proudly in Desert Shield and Storm. After 8 years of service, Newman quickly rose to success in traditional marketing platforms then graduating to the Digital Marketing industry for RH Donnelley’s DexMedia and Hearst Media.