If you are a cannabis company or working in the industry, you absolutely have to win in Google because it’s the only traffic source you can rely on and control.
In this post, I will walk you through the exact strategy you need to optimize your website to rank higher in Google. It’s the same strategy we’ve used to help dozens of cannabis brands get more traffic and customers.
Let’s dive in . . .
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR ADDED INSIGHTS!
SEO is so important because cannabis brands are blacklisted across every other channel.
For the past 12 months, I’ve been managing the digital presence for Jeeter, the #1 pre-roll cannabis brand in the country.
Through this experience, I’ve learned a lot about the cannabis marketing landscape.
My biggest takeaway in terms of strategy?
Focus on what you can control.
These are the 3 most important marketing investments for cannabis brands right now:
In this post, I’m diving deeper into HOW cannabis brands can do SEO to achieve high-traffic growth that brings in more customers.
Jeeter is one of several cannabis brands that we have worked with. Currently, Jeeter is the #1 pre-rolled brand in the US, generating 9-figures in revenue.
I have been fortunate enough to be part of that journey, specifically managing their SEO presence.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve helped Jeeter increase organic traffic by over 4,500%.
Don’t believe me?
One of the things you’re probably struggling with when it comes to SEO is the countless crappy SEO agencies who are pitching you every day. You might have worked with a few and they’ve not achieved great results.
Getting amazing results — like WEBRIS achieved for Jeeter — is not overly difficult.
Achieving high-impact SEO results come down to quality and consistency.
Especially in the cannabis sector, where there’s so much spam generated by crap SEO agencies, that the search results are filled with garbage.
Doing SEO the right way will push your website to the top, where you can pull in loads of traffic and win more customers. I will show you everything you need to know right now to get results.
We follow a very simple three-part system when implementing SEO for cannabis brands:
Let’s start with the pages you need on your website . . .
Cannabis websites need to have pages that cover what searchers are looking for, and at the same time, what Google expects from websites. Every cannabis company needs this basic sitemap framework:
Cannabis websites should be designed for mobile-first (cannabis consumers are mainly mobile users), and cannabis brands NEED email capture offers on every page possible.
Of course, this gets more complicated depending on the type of cannabis company you run, and the laws that govern how you operate. Some cannabis companies can only sell through retailers and dispensaries. In some states, such as California, you can now sell direct to consumers (DTC) online. There’s all sorts of things you need to consider.
I’m approaching this from the angle of cannabis brands we’ve worked with. Most started out selling to retailers, but now we’re also helping them go DTC, wherever that’s legal.
We also work with some Canadian brands that can sell using the e-commerce model. I’m taking all of this into account when talking about website structure and the pages you need.
The Homepage is simple.
It should be a summary, a splash page that talks about who you are, the value of your brand and products, driving people to click on product pages and dive into the website.
Product Category Pages are so important, this is something you 100% need.
These should act as landing pages for the different categories of products — strains, flowers, pre-rolls, vapes, or edibles — you sell, they all need their own landing pages.
It’s super easy to set these up on platforms like WordPress. Within the menu, it will show up as /products/strains, etc. For single product companies, you won’t need this, but if that’s the case you’re probably selling through retailers and dispensaries.
For cannabis brands selling DTC, the goal is to have multiple products, so this is a crucial part of the website.
Underneath the Product Category Pages should sit the individual Product Pages.
Take Jeeter for example, they’ve got dozens of varieties of pre-rolls — different sizes, flavors, babies, one grams, XLS, live resin, joints rolled in keefe — all of these SKUs get their own product page.
From an SEO perspective, that’s important because every single product is tied to something people are searching for right now in Google.
Say people are searching for Apple Fritter, a type of cannabis your customers want to buy. If you’ve got a product page for Apple Fritter, then you’re giving these searchers a place to land on your website.
So many cannabis brands don’t do this, making it a perfect opportunity to capture organic traffic.
A perfect example of this is Leafly. Google any well-known cannabis products, like Apple Fritter, Banana Kush, or OG Kush, and you will land on Leafly’s, Weed Maps, and other big brands product pages.
If you aren’t doing this already, you need product pages for everything you sell. It’s a format that works. Every product page needs the following sections:
The goal of every product page is either to sell direct to consumers (if that’s allowed where you are), or to push them into buying from retailers.
Next on the list of pages is a Store Locator. Individual stores or dispensaries should have their own page, so it’s easier for local customers to find your products.
What if you have your own retail locations?
Now we tie in local search.
Store locator pages can be built exactly the same way as product category pages. One core page, with dozens of /locations, for every retailer or dispensary. From this, build individual location pages. Give customers everything they need to find these retail outlets.
One of the reasons your SEO campaigns might have failed is not necessarily understanding how people search for cannabis-based products.
People are either searching for specific strains, products, brands, or they’re looking for cannabis retailers near them. You need pages for every one of these searches, so that whether customers are brand agnostic, or looking for specific products or strains, they will land on your website.
Customers searching for “Baby Jeeter’s near me” will see location-based listings. That’s a different part of Google’s algorithm in action. It brings up the Maps Pack through Google My Business. You’ll need a Google My Business account too, so you can list every retail location, and to make sure reviews are location-based.
Next, you need an About page. It’s important to show customers who you are, why you started the company, and really get them to buy-into your brand.
A lead capture page is so important. Especially for cannabis brands operating a B2B model. This page is for retailers and dispensaries, so they can come to your website and get in touch about retailing your products through their stores.
Very few cannabis companies do leap capture.
It’s a really easy way to generate inbound leads for your sales team, so they can go out and get more retailers to sell your products.
A Blog section of the website is needed to create ongoing content, which we’ll talk about in the next section.
Two quick tips for cannabis brands building new websites, or overhauling an existing site:
So, you need some sort of offer to entice people to hand over their details to get into your database. Think coupons, discounts, bundles, packages; whatever it is, any offer you can make that will capture email address and potentially mobile numbers too.
Even if you’re using popups, because I can’t stress this enough: It’s so, so important to capture some of this traffic and capture opt-in email addresses in your CRM.
Something else to remember about SEO: Not all traffic is created equal.
Say someone is searching for “Buy OG Banana Kush” right now, that’s clearly very high intent traffic. You want them to land on a page on your website where they can either find or buy the product.
If someone’s searching for “strain effects of OG Banana Kush”, it’s more informational intent. This searcher wants information about a particular strain. So, that type of traffic isn’t going to convert right away, but if we can turn them into email subscribers we can connect with them on a one-to-one level and send messaging to them as needed.
Now, let’s talk about the content that you need to create as a cannabis brand.
Informational search volumes and traffic are much higher than product-related searches. So, for fairly new brands, you won’t have as much traffic or domain authority, you need to focus on informational keywords and content.
We always approach content creation from a funnel model. This model is driven by the intent behind searches, and really allows us to provide value to people who see our content.
Here’s what this funnel looks like, with examples of the four types of content cannabis brands can create to drive traffic, clicks, and conversions.
At the top of the funnel, the awareness level, are high-level searches relevant to your target audience, but not product/brand-related. There’s no purchase intent to these searches.
Informational searches are where the bulk of your new traffic is going to come from. So, you need to focus on creating a lot of content for the top of the funnel.
Getting traffic is only the first stage. Someone searching for “How to roll a joint” who’s landed on your website isn’t going to become a customer straight away. They’re in market, but not ready yet. We’ve got to move them further down the funnel — that’s why capturing email addresses is so important at this stage.
All of this is why creating so much content and interlinking content is so important.
As we move them down the funnel, searchers are in-market, but unaware of your company/brand and the products you sell. Customers are deeper into the buyer intent journey and closer to making a purchase, so you need to create content for that audience.
An example of the type of mid-funnel content you could create is: “Indica vs Sativa”
I haven’t mentioned “brand” yet, but when it comes to cannabis, your brand is the most important differentiator. At the end of the day, weed gets you high, but people buy from specific brands — like Jeeter’s — because of the experience, the feeling specific companies/brands give their customers.
I won’t talk more about brand building here, but if your product and brand sucks and you aren’t working towards building a brand then nothing — not even SEO — is going to work for you.
On the next level of the funnel, these searchers are ready to purchase. This is the consideration stage, the bottom of the funnel. They’re either coming across your brand and products for the first time, or actively looking for where/how to buy your products.
An example is a product landing page, like this one: “Creators Choice, Cotton Candy”
On these pages, the keywords are very competitive. In most cases, you want to be creating the page titles/URLs like this: “[your brand] [product name, description] [buy, find, shop].”
It takes a lot of time to rank for these keywords. Most cannabis brands miss out on ranking for these keywords or create content for them that doesn’t help them rank. If these pages aren’t ranking, it’s not that SEO sucks, it’s your content.
You need to re-work these pages and the content that links to them to keep driving traffic up, to win a larger share of search traffic and convert more customers.
After that stage is the very bottom of the funnel, known as customer-level traffic or after-purchase traffic. After somebody purchases, we want to keep them coming back again.
Brand is everything. Once people start smoking your brand’s products you want to make sure they keep coming back. So, at this stage, you need to create content for these people, your customers, to turn them into loyal brand advocates and repeat purchasers.
A lot of cannabis brands start this way. They create content for people who are already through the funnel instead of those at the top of the funnel to pull them in.
An example of this from Jeeter is them dealing with the issue they have with numerous fake Jeeter products on the market: “How to tell if a Jeeter is fake.”
Creating content for your customers helps brands to drive repeat purchases and customer lifetime value, building your brand at the same time.
Now I will explain why getting media coverage and securing backlinks is so important for cannabis brands.
Getting coverage by media outlets is so important because Google essentially counts “links” as a vote of popularity for your website – they are known to be a top ranking factor with search engines.
Links come in many different forms, but not all are created equal. We want to focus on acquiring links from relevant, powerful websites and blogs – quality is far more important than quantity.
If you’re getting coverage from high-traffic, strong Domain Authority (DA) websites, like Forbes and High Times, Google associate’s your website with the search equity of those sites. It’s like being put at the popular table and becoming popular by association.
The more links like this you can get from more relevant and authoritative websites, the quicker your website will rank for certain keywords.
If you’ve tried SEO in the past and its not worked, this could be one of the reasons why. A lot of SEOs do shady things, like link building with low-quality, irrelevant websites. Google can easily spot this sort of tactic and knock your rankings in response.
So, what we need to do is focus on media outlets. It’s a cleaner, more effective way to do link building. What you’re looking for with links is landing them with media outlets in the upper right hand corner of the chart below (high traffic, high authority websites):
Forbes would be a great example of the right kind of website. High relevancy is important too, so any media outlet that’s focused on cannabis, or talks about cannabis a lot, and Forbes is one of those.
To secure PR backlinks, you could hire a PR company. This is usually pretty expensive. PR’s will pitch your brand to media outlets, usually in a press release format. But, getting featured in real media outlets with articles written and published by journalists — with a backlink — is by far the best tactic.
Another thing that we do for our clients is something called Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
HARO is a website that connects journalists with sources. Journalists need quotes and stats for stories, and through HARO, you can connect with them and position yourself as a cannabis expert to provide quotes, landing your brand coverage, and securing valuable backlinks.
HARO sends out four emails a day. We monitor those for clients, and then pitch quotes for inclusion in media stories that are going out in real-time. It’s a lot cheaper and more effective than hiring a PR agency.
From an SEO perspective, this is usually better than working with a PR agency. PR’s would call any story that gets published a win; whereas, if they don’t link back, that’s a waste of effort.
And finally, another way to secure backlinks is working with bloggers. Either you can go out and find cannabis bloggers, or we can do this for you. We send them pitches, such as product reviews, and send them samples.
It’s a really effective way to pick up links, they positively impact SEO, and you’ve got more control than PR.
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