Guide to Cannabis Marketing

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cannabis marketing - marijuana cannabis advertising tips

 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:

cannabis marketing - good trends

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.

cannabis google adwords not allowed

Straight from the horses mouth.  Google considers all cannabis products “dangerous” and as such, they do not allow any AdWords ads which mention cannabis.

paid cannabis advertising not allowed

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.

Adistry

adistry cannabis advertisingEssentially, 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”.

Mantis

mantis cannabis advertisingThey 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.

Leafly

leafly cannabis advertisingIf 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.

420 Network

420 network cannabis paid adsThey promote themselves as the advertising network for “alternative lifestyle brands”.  Remember what we said (above) about the use of creative wording? 😉

 

Weedmaps

weedmaps cannabis advertisingWhat makes Weedmaps stand out in my opinion is it’s popular phone app.  Yes, you can advertise on this app.

Weedmaps is like the Yelp for cannabis.  It has a large following of users who diligently review & rate various dispensaries.

Know of other cannabis-friendly Ad networks?  Let me know in the comments below!

Step Up Your SEO Game

Enough about paid ads.  Many dispensaries are investing in organic online marketing such as SEO (search engine optimization).  This long-term investment includes various techniques such as:

Keyword Research

cannabis dispensary keyword researchHave you done a Google search to find dispensaries in your town yet?  Here are some ideas for how to search for dispensaries.

  • dispensary + (your city name, neighborhood or even postal / zip code)
  • dispensary near me
  • medical cannabis dispensary
  • medical marijuana dispensary
  • MMJ dispensary
  • recreational marijuana dispensary (city name)
  • buy cannabis (or weed) in (city name)

If your dispensary is not showing on the 1st half of the 1st page, this is where a solid SEO strategy can help!

On-site SEO

This consists of the main strategies, which are implemented directly on your website, to help optimize your website itself for better rankings in the search engines.

Select 1 primary keyword you want to your website to be found with, along with 2 to 3 secondary keywords.

Meta Tags

Did you know that the title & description of your webpage is one of the most important elements of On-Page SEO to help rank in Google’s local search results (aka. snack pack)?

Just as you would guess, a title tag tells Google and other searchers what that page is about. This should be 50 – 60 characters in length.

The description tag allows you to elaborate further and entice searchers to click through to your site.  This can be up to 320 characters in length.

Ensure you have the following in place:

  • Keyword (ie. dispensary + city name) in  your meta title & description
  • Keyword (ie. dispensary + city name) in  your <h1> tag (first heading of the page)

For a more in-depth guide, refer to this.

Images

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.

 

medical marijuana product photography

 

 

If you’re not in a position to take your own photos though, use royalty-free image sites such as: Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash.

cannabis photography alt textRemember 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:

 

Content

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.

cannabis mmj blogger

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”.

google maps cannabis dispensary

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!

Off-Site SEO

The following are marketing strategies which are implemented off of your website.

Google My Business

If you haven’t already done so, you should add your dispensary to Google My Business.

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.

snack pack

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.

cannabis online directoriesSome directories which are cannabis-friendly are:

Stay tuned as I will be updating this list to be even more comprehensive!

Website Design for Cannabis Dispensaries

Ultimately you will want consumers to land on your website.  Your dispensary website is what will convince them (or not) to check you out in person.

For ease of management, stability and optimization reasons, you will want to use WordPress.

In short, your dispensary website needs to be:

  • Fast
  • Responsive
  • Secure
  • Easy to Navigate
  • Optimized

Crank Up the Speed

A couple key points here are to:

  1. Use small image sizes.  Run your images through TinyPNG to compress them without losing quality.
  2. Use a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache.
  3. Test your speed with Pingdom.

Responsive on All Devices

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.

Optimized Website

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)”.

schema for cannabis dispensaries

The above screenshot shows how a London business used Schema markup on their contact information in the footer of their page.

And the code which is used:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<p itemprop=”name”>COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop=”addressLocality”>CITY</p>,
<p itemprop=”addressRegion”>REGION</p>
<p itemprop=”postalCode”>POSTCODE/ZIP</p.
<p itemprop=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” />
</div>

For a more thorough guide on Schema markup, check out Whitespark or Kissmetrics

Google Analytics & Search Console

A couple free, must-have tools for your website are:

Google Analytics

Analytics will show you how a visitor found your dispensary website and what they did when they were on the website.  Which pages did they browse, how long did they linger, etc.

Google Search Console

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.

Facebook

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.

wl facebook alternative cannabisFacebook AlternativeWeed Life

This cannabis-friendly platform is perfect for cannabis lovers and dispensaries.  It has a Facebook feel to it as well as Reddit type forums.

Instagram

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

mr - instagram alternative cannabisInstagram AlternativeMass Roots

This is commonly used on smart phones.  It includes a map of dispensaries as well as an active social media platform.  Go ahead and get visual!  Share your best photos and videos here.

Runner-up: https://www.duby.co

Reddit

Reddit is the self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet”.  It has a massive amount of members with “sub-reddits” (forums) devoted to any topic imaginable.

Your comments can be up voted or down voted, etc.  Jump in there and have a peek.  Here are 5 great communities for cannabis lovers.

gc - reddit alternative cannabisReddit AlternativeGrasscity Forums

This is a website and mobile app with ~20 million posts. Jump into the discussions and talk cannabis!

Twitter

Twitter still allows cannabis-related “tweets” so no alternative needed here!  Feel free to fill up those 280 character limit tweets with some great content and images.

Pro Tips:

  • Create an attractive cover image and profile image.  Use the same ones across all social platforms.
  • Create a keyword-optimized bio / description of your dispensary and us that on all platforms.
  • Research and identify the best performing #hashtags on Instagram and Twitter.  Incorporate 2 – 4 hashtags in  your Tweets and up to 30 in your Instagram posts.  Example: #cannabis.
  • Do not overly promote your dispensary.  80% of your posts should be helpful content, industry and local news, etc.  20% should be self-promotional posts. Build trust & authority.
  • What are your competitors doing & saying on social?  Do better!
  • Post at least 5 – 10 times per week but don’t overwhelm your followers with more than 2 posts a day.
  • Be social!  Find cannabis lovers through popular hashtags and start conversations with them. Like, share, retweet and comment on their posts.

Conclusion

There’s your “brief” guide to cannabis marketing online.

I will most likely be creating additional blog posts which go more in-depth for each type of marketing strategy.  (ie.  Social Media, Link Building, etc)

Please let me know what you think in the comments and what you would like a more in-depth guide about.

Also, feel free to contact me for help in growing your business this year.

It’s time to stand out from the competition!

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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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Great guide!

    • Reply

      Thanks Blake! Great chatting with you. 🙂

 

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