Online Marketing for the Medical Marijuana / Cannabis Industry
There’s no doubt that “marijuana mania” has been building strong in 2017. There’s no shortage of articles about medical marijuana, cannabis dispensaries & growers. Just a quick peek at the cannabis stocks will show you how popular this industry is right now.
A look at Google Trends will show a huge spike in interest:
First, the Bad News
Cannabis is still not legal in many States but it’s sure come a long way!
Here is a list of the 29 States which it is legal in: ProCon.org. And a Wikipedia page showing the legality of cannabis via US jurisdiction.
Cannabis legalization in Canada is a step or two closer. It’s now passed the House of Commons and expected to be legal across Canada by this (2018) summer!
This has led to what is being called the current ‘green rush’ as both companies aim to capitalize on the new legal status and set up cannabis-related businesses.
The green rush is happening right now and has very unique challenges for those who want to get into the cannabis industry. Cannabis marketing with such fierce competition is such a challenge.
Cannabis Paid Advertising Not Allowed
Although cannabis is now legal in many States and soon, all of Canada, it’s still not quite “enough” for the big guys such as Google AdWords, Facebook / Instagram Ads & LinkedIn Ads to allow paid advertising. Facebook’s advertising policies state that it will deny paid posts that “constitute, facilitate, or promote illegal products, services or activities”, yes, including cannabis / marijuana.
We’ve noticed that even though the social networks have advertising policies, they are unevenly applied. A medical marijuana dispensary can be going strong with their online marketing and paid advertising until one day they shut down your accounts!
Paid advertising for cannabis / medical marijuana is at times quite profitable while other times, it can get quite hazy to say the least.
Straight from the horses mouth. Google considers all cannabis products “dangerous” and as such, they do not allow any AdWords ads which mention cannabis.
In the cannabis industry, where any of your ads could be taken down, you should focus on organic online marketing / SEO and alternate paid advertising solutions.
Cannabis Paid Ads – There IS a Way!
If you’d like to try Google AdWords as well as Facebook or Instagram Ads, just keep in mind that your ads can be taken down at any moment.
One “workaround” which many dispensaries have seen success with is to be creative with the wording in your ads. Avoid “trigger words” such as: cannabis, marijuana, pot, hash, weed & ganja. Instead, use: alternative medicine, alternative therapies, 502, green medicine, infused, etc…
Take your wording and language to a more refined level while you’re at it. “Flowers” instead of “Buds”. Get medicinal with “doses” instead of “hits”.
Because of this, spread your online paid ad campaign to any or all of the following alternative solutions.
Essentially, they will post your paid ads on websites which allow cannabis advertising. Want a display ad? Guest post? Email newsletter blast? In a world of cannabis advertising, Adistry is “top shelf”.
They offer the same type of display advertising as Adistry as well as video ads. Mantis has an easy to use platform and offers geo-targeted campaigns. They offer pay-per-click (PPC) advertising similar to Google AdWords (just a bit more expensive).
Shopping cart abandonment anyone? Re-targeting is also available. To sign up and be a part of the Mantis club, you do need to pay a pretty penny (okay, $1k) as a deposit.
If you’re in the cannabis industry, you’ve no doubt heard of Leafly. It has some great content, an awesome online directory and amazing strain guides. This is one of the largest and most popular website in the cannabis world. It has over 10,000,000 visitors per month.
Pricing here is determined on the number of impressions you would be happy with.
Ensure you use striking visuals on your website. It’s always best to have professional quality photos taken of your dispensary (interior / exterior), yourself & your employees, your product, happy customers, etc.
If you’re not in a position to take your own photos though, use royalty-free image sites such as: Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash.
Remember to always give your images a keyword optimized file name as well as specify ALT text. Within WordPress, after you click “Add Media”, fill out the ALT text field:
There’s a very famous quote in the industry “Content is King”. The internet was invented for people to easily access the content they need. Google just loves websites which have helpful content and publish content regularly.
Please do not just write a blog post saying you’re in business & where to find you.
People crave thought-provoking and helpful content. Some examples are:
Share your knowledge and passion for the industry.
Talk about new strains being developed.
Talk about uses for medical marijuana.
Cannabis product types.
420 guide to (your city).
Best cannabis strains for pain relief.
Head over to Quora, Yahoo Answers and Reddit. Start searching for cannabis related discussions and questions. If someone is asking a question, probably 100+ other people are thinking of it. If you don’t answer it in a thorough blog post, your competitor probably will!
Embed a Google Map
Head over to Google Maps and search for your dispensary.
Once you have found it click on three lines beside your business name in the search bar on the top left. Then you can click on “Share or Embed Map”.
Once that is selected, click the embed map option at the top of the pop up box. Then copy the iframe code and paste it into your contact page. Easy!
The following are marketing strategies which are implemented off of your website.
This will allow searchers to find your Google Business listing, contact information, hours of operation, photos, videos, etc. They can rate & review your dispensary as well. <– Very important!
Ensure you fill out your name, address & phone number exactly the same as how it’s written elsewhere online. (ie. your website, social media accounts, directories)
Next up, identify which category your top competitors have selected and follow suit. In my town it’s “Alternative Medicine Practitioner”.
Add in some attractive photos, videos and link to your website.
If needed, “verify” your listing via phone call with Google or having them mail you a post card.
Bonus: This will help you rank higher in the local search results for your target search terms as well as others. (ie. dispensary open late. dispensary open right now. dispensary near me)
Online Directories for Cannabis Dispensaries
Online directories (aka. citation listings) are sites such as: Yellow Pages, Yelp, FourSquare, Hot Frog, etc.
It’s best to create attractive citation listings on as many quality online directories as possible. Ensure you use the exact same name, address & phone number as you have on your website and Google My Business listing.
The majority of your website visitors will be browsing via their smart phone or tablet. While designing your website, ensure you test it on all sizes of screens. Here are a few WordPress plugins which can help.
Google has mentioned it will give higher rankings to sites which are responsive / mobile-friendly.
Tighten up the Hatches
If consumers will be purchasing products from your website, make sure you have it secure!
Set up an SSL certificate (ask your website hosting provider). This is also something which Google has mentioned may help you gain better rankings.
Easy to Navigate
Put simply, ensure your menus, buttons and links are easy to spot and obvious to where they will take the visitor.
We already spoke about “Meta Tags”, “Image ALT Text” and content. Take it up a notch and help improve your chances of ranking for local terms with schema markup.
This will give Google everything they need to display your dispensary correctly and for local terms such as “dispensary near me” or “dispensary (city name)”.
The above screenshot shows how a London business used Schema markup on their contact information in the footer of their page.
Are you a fan of report cards? Then you’ll love the Search Console! It tells you how you’re doing in Google’s eyes and if there are any technical errors you need to resolve.
While you’re in the Search Console, you will want to add a “Sitemap” file. This tells Google all about your website, the pages, the images and other data it has.
You can simply create a Sitemap file via the Yoast plugin we told you about earlier.
Cannabis Marketing with Social Media
Okay, you have a great looking website, consistent citation listings, great content, awesome Google reviews and a product which is in demand.
Next, you need to show the world what you’re all about as well as what your dispensary and product looks like.
Find out where your audience is and engage with them there.
This can be a miniature sized version of your website. List your contact information, post photos, videos, industry news, health tips, etc. Warning: Facebook has shut down Facebook accounts of cannabis dispensaries with 10,000+ followers without notice.
This cannabis-friendly platform is perfect for cannabis lovers and dispensaries. It has a Facebook feel to it as well as Reddit type forums.
This platform is one of the most popular with the cannabis community. It’s heavily focused on visuals. There’s no limit to the amount of text you write in the caption either. Show off your products and show the world why you’re the best. 😉
Here’s an awesome Instagram guide for you to follow: Herb.co
Daniel has an interesting background to say the least. He has lived abroad in several countries, traveled through over 50 countries on 6 continents & still has that pesky travel bug. He has worked in haunted castles in Scotland, taught English while he practiced martial arts in Taiwan, acted through Mexico etc. He has found a home with SEO though and is very passionate in helping businesses thrive online. It doesn’t hurt that he can use his online marketing skills anywhere there’s an internet connection ;-)
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We are a digital marketing company with a focus on helping our customers achieve great results across several key areas.