The concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can prove quite daunting for both small and large companies. Yet, as we grow increasingly dependent on the digital environment to conduct business, SEO's importance grows exponentially.
The cannabis industry presents its own unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to SEO. To this end, our industry differs from more traditional businesses in the fact that cannabis is federally illegal. Because of this fact, cannabis companies cannot engage important paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) platforms like Google Ads. As such, organic SEO is the only way to promote your cannabis website on Google.
Whether you plan on handling it with your own team, or you are looking to outsource a marketing agency, it's a good idea to have a basic understanding of SEO. Whatever your chosen path, MOST Consulting put together the following criteria to help you understand the basics of running an effective cannabis SEO campaign.
Assess Your Website & Study Competitors
When devising a cannabis SEO strategy, a great place to start is with your own website. If you have a WordPress website, you can use free plugins such as Yoast to help audit your current content. Yoast gives you simple directions in updating your website for important factors such as keyword usage, meta-descriptions, page titles, and readability. If you don't have the time to learn WordPress yourself, we recommend that you reach out to an experienced marketing agency or SEO copywriter.
Once you have a good understanding of your SEO strengths and weaknesses, you should look at your competitors. Pick 2-3 of your closest competitors and study their websites for such factors as content quality and site organization. In doing so, you can get an idea of where your competitors may be falling short on SEO.
Another option for competitor analysis is the use of SEO analysis tools like Moz and SEMrush. With a paid subscription, these tools give you a real-time report on website SEO performance. Simply search your competitor's web address and uncover valuable insights on keyword usage, backlink strategy, monthly visitors, and more.
Set Project Goals
Once you have a solid understanding of your SEO capabilities and those of your competitors, you can move forward to set project goals. These project goals should align with your marketing budget in both scope and length. Please bear in mind that SEO improvements take a long time, so plan and budget accordingly.
Depending on your marketing budget and ambitions, we recommend that you start with small, actionable SEO goals. To illustrate, a great initial SEO goal would be to post one blog per week. By focusing on simple weekly goals, you can slowly make improvements without focusing on "big picture" achievements like top-rankings on Google. Yet, in time, these small incremental tasks will add up to considerable improvements in SEO.
Keyword strategy is another great place to look for improving your website's ranking. To this end, keywords offer an excellent way to assess your website versus your competitors objectively. By developing a clear understanding of what keywords will promote your website, you can employ a logical path for improvement.
When developing keyword strategy, a primary concept to consider is the use of short-tail and long-tail keywords. To illustrate, short-tail keywords are common words that are used heavily. Because of their common usage, short-tail keywords are very competitive within search engines and nearly impossible to rank well on Google. Conversely, long-tail keywords are multi-word phrases that are used infrequently.
Looking to the cannabis space, a short-tail keyword example would simply be "cannabis." You would have a hard time ranking above the tens-of-thousands of websites that use this word. However, the long-tail keyword "organic cannabis brand in Michigan" is a much more targeted phrase, with much less competition on Google. Interestingly, this long-tail keyword will also drive more relevant traffic to your site because it aligns more clearly with specific customer needs.
The notion of professional content boils down to having the best-looking website possible to represent your business. Notably, while good graphics and attractive photos are valuable for a professional website, search engines like Google value good writing above all else. For these reasons, SEO copywriting has grown to be an increasingly popular offering for cannabis marketing agencies like MOST.
When ranking websites for SEO, Google employs algorithms to assess the quality of content on your pages. These algorithms scan your website for crucial SEO factors such as keyword placement, page titles, meta-descriptions. Even more, Google algorithms rank how difficult it is for people to read the writing on your website. Generally speaking, Google responds well to websites that have professionally written, easy-to-read content.
A final SEO factor to note about your website's content has to do with "bounce rate." The term bounce rate is used to describe how much time people spend on your website. The less time people spend reading your content, the higher the bounce rate set forth by Google. High bounce rates, in turn, correlate with lower rankings. The best way to avoid high bounce rates is to develop professionally written content presented in digestible quantities and create an excellent user experience on your website.
In today's business world, marketers work tirelessly to understand how search engines like Google interpret website data. In doing so, they hope to run effective SEO campaigns that increase online visibility and website traffic. Because cannabis businesses cannot utilize paid search engine marketing like Google Ads, organic SEO expertise is the only way to ensure you are found on the platform.
Luckily, digital marketers have developed countless tools to help you improve your website's ranking. By gaining a better understanding of your strengths and studying your competitors, you can employ actionable goals that will improve overall SEO. You can achieve these goals with an internal marketing team or an outside agency like MOST Consulting Group.