Search engine optimization for a dispensary is essential to ranking really high on Google’s search results pages. (See what we did there?) The vast majority of your potential customers will search Google for local dispensaries near them and use reviews and your website to determine if they will make a visit.

The selection process for digital consumers these days is quick. In fact, it’s so exceedingly quick that if your dispensary doesn’t rank, you’ll have no chance of getting that customer in the door.

Done properly, SEO for a dispensary will increase your brand’s online presence and more people will be attracted to your store. It’s also one of the few digital marketing channels that don’t place a boatload of restrictions on your cannabis related advertising activities.

Once the legal cannabis market in New Jersey gets going, it will quickly become saturated with competition. (Think of Colorado with its well over 500 dispensaries.)

In this search-dominated world, the key to not getting smoked by the competition is to make your business easy to find online. Here are nine tactics to do just that.

Tactic #1: Setup Google My Business

Setting up Google My Business is easy and will allow your dispensary to show up on Google search and maps when users perform a search for your dispensary or others in the nearby area.

It’s free and will feature your dispensary along with its website, contact information, hours, photos, reviews and any updates you wish to share.

This is absolutely essential. Google is going to be the main way a majority of your customers will find you. Without taking the time to set this up, your dispensary runs the risk of looking illegitimate.

Tactic #2: List Yourself on Dispensary Directories

Many cannabis enthusiasts will regularly check out websites like WeedMaps and Leafly to get information on cannabis strains and the latest industry news.

Cannabis culture has come a long way from the days of teenagers passing out with an empty bag of Doritos nearby. Nowadays, the people using cannabis and reading about it online are your regular, everyday folk.

In fact, those two sites pull in 17 million combined users per month. That’s a lot of people trying to increase their marijuana IQ.

Taking advantage of high web traffic is great, but listing your dispensary on directories like WeedMaps and Leafly has the added advantage of giving your website a link from a highly reputable website.

This is crucial. Inbound links pointing to your website are one of the top three factors Google uses in determining where a piece of content will rank.

We recommend adding your business to the following Dispensary directories.

Here are some general business directories to which we recommend adding your dispensary’s information.

Tactic #3: Create Useful Content your Audience Cares About

Content is king. A well-executed content marketing strategy can establish your dispensary as a leader in the industry.  It’ll attract customers to your dispensary for the simple reason that people are much more likely to do business with you if you provide value upfront.

To do this effectively, you have to get into the mind of your target audience.

What do they have questions about? What would they benefit from knowing? How will the content you create be different enough from the competition to stand out?

Pro tip: Don’t think your content should be limited to blog posts. It can take the form of Instagram/Snapchat stories, video, or podcasts. The opportunities are virtually endless.

Never underestimate the feedback that a community of cannabis consumers can provide. If you head over to r/trees on Reddit, you can interact with over a million subscribers to get ideas for your dispensary’s content.

We’re sure you will get some interesting responses.

Tactic #4: Keyword Research

Content Marketing and SEO go hand in hand.

Before you set out to create content, how do you know your audience will even be interested in it?

That’s where keyword research comes into play. By performing keyword research, you can discover what people are searching for and where you have the opportunity to rank well on Google.

Along with this, you can also discover content topics through your research.

With keyword research, you’re looking for terms that an ideal customer would search for. These are generally derived from topics that your target demographic would be interested in.

For an in-depth breakdown of how to perform keyword research, read this.

Once you’ve created a list of terms, you can use them as starting points for the titles of your eBook, blog post or video series.

Tactic #5: Optimize Content For SEO

You may have the best cannabis content on the internet, but if you don’t format the content correctly, you won’t rank for the right keywords. On-page SEO for a dispensary is critical. It allows Google to easily see what your content is about so that it can be properly indexed. This ensures that readers who are searching for your content can find it.

Here are important categories to doublecheck when doing SEO for a dispensary:

Keyword: Ideally, your keyword would be used 4-5 times in the body text of your content. It’s best to place it within the opening sentences of your post so the reader (and Google) knows what your piece is about right away. We recommend downloading the Yoast SEO plugin if you are using WordPress.

Title: Make sure the keyword you have chosen for the blog post is included in the SEO title. Be careful not to make the title more than 60 characters. (More than 60 characters will be cut off on a Google Search Engine Results Page.)

Subheading: Subheadings are important because they make your content easier for Google to crawl so it can get a good idea of what your content is about. They also make it easier for people to read. Bonus points if you can squeeze your keyword into one of the subheadings.

URL: We recommend keeping it simple. The URL of the post should always be the keyword.

Meta Description: While not used as a ranking factor by Google, meta descriptions provide a snippet of text that lets people know what they’re about to click on. Think of these as an ad for your content. Write something enticing to get people to click. We also recommend inserting the keyword.

Image Alt Text: Google can’t read images. Instead, it relies on the image alt-text HTML attribute to determine what the image is about. Don’t leave these blank. Make the image alt text the keyword of the post.

Link Internally: Once you have a few blogs up on your site, you’ll want to add hyperlinks to each blog. This helps users find more content on your site that will interest them. The more time people stay on your site, the better.

Tactic #6: Create a Menu Just For Your Site

A menu of all the strains you currently sell won’t just bolster your website, it will also dramatically boost your search rankings.

With a menu on your site, you’ll be able to rank for strain-specific searches. This is huge for attracting the coveted high-end cannabis connoisseur (that’s a thing) who is looking for specific strains and will likely find a dispensary he or she likes and stick with it for the long haul.

In short, these people are likely to be loyal customers and you can attract them with personalized content.

Simply setting up a new page for every different strain you offer, along with a good description and lots of pictures will give you a leg up on the competition. You might think listing your menu on Leafly will suffice, but that content isn’t crawlable by Google and even if it were, Leafly is still getting the traffic, not you.

If you’re looking to go the extra mile (you know, to shake off the lazy stereotype) there is huge potential for video. You could give people a quick description of the product, recommend activities that go well with it, and take community questions from social media.

Tactic #7: Set up Google Analytics

All of this work geared towards improving SEO for a dispensary would be useless if you didn’t have access to software that allows you to track your progress and see what’s working and what’s not.

Google Analytics offers free digital marketing analytics to give you a ton of information about the people visiting your website, including traffic, content performance, user behavior, conversions and so much more.

It’s a powerful tool that you can use to quickly get updates about the metrics you care about.

Tactic #8: Encourage Reviews

Encourage customers to leave a review on Google, Yelp or Facebook. When it comes to local SEO for a dispensary, reviews are a factor in ranking well and being shown at the top of the list of dispensaries.

Furthermore, reviews are a form of social proof. They will improve your brand’s image and increase your rankings.

Tactic #9: Sponsor an Event or Charity

Event marketing is a great way to show your business in a different light and get to know your community.  By teaming up with a sponsor or a charity, you can boost your brand’s awareness and reach a large group of people.

With a dispensary, there are so many opportunities for event marketing. You could hold educational workshops in the dispensary where you invite people who are looking to learn more about marijuana into the shop. From there, a budtender explains everything they could ever want to know about cannabis, answers their questions and provides recommendations.

If you’re looking to take your event to another location, setting up a pop-up shop at the local park during an activity like yoga is a sure-fire way to reach new people who will be interested in your product.

For sponsoring an event, you should look into local 5ks and cycling races where people are going to be in need of “relief” afterward.

Now, you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with SEO for a dispensary?

Well, when you agree beforehand to sponsor an event or charity, they’ll likely include you as a sponsor on their website. These types of organizations will have a high domain authority so a link from them will be very valuable for your dispensary’s SEO.

Partnering with charities, whether for specific events or on an ongoing basis, presents a prime opportunity for dispensaries. If you didn’t already know, marijuana has long been a solution for people suffering from seizures, anxiety, epilepsy and a ton of other illnesses.

Partnering with a charity or sponsoring a charitable event will improve your brand’s image and awareness, while also drawing increased attention to the fact that marijuana has several medical uses.

We recommend partnering with a charity that has a specific focus around a condition that can be treated with medical marijuana. This will make it easier to communicate to people with the condition the value of medical marijuana.

Wrapping Things Up

These strategies will help spark local SEO for a dispensary.

Local search can make or break your entire marketing strategy. In the age of Google, being found quickly and presenting a positive brand image is essential for converting potential customers.

Following these steps won’t produce results overnight, but with consistent effort and a well-executed content strategy to complement your SEO efforts, your dispensary can soar to the top of Google’s rankings.

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