According to Ahrefs, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. And as the cannabis industry grows, so does the number of people looking for ways to optimize their digital presence. In this article I cover what you need to know about Cannabis SEO strategies, as well as how to find help when needed.
What is SEO?
In the past, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was about keyword stuffing. This involved saturating content with keywords to trick search engines into believing it was relevant enough to rank. However, more recently, algorithm implementation by search engines has made SEO more complex.
Search engines have a goal: to match data with queries to provide the best user experience possible. If your content is the best experience and fulfills web traffic queries, search engines will rank it for specific keywords that ensure their users find you first.
SEO has various factors you’ll need to consider to rank high, especially for competitive keywords. These variables tell search engines which content should appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Ranking factors for search engines
SEO is competitive, and it becomes even more so depending on your niche. Cannabis, in particular, has become an increasingly competitive space, especially with limited pay-per-click options available.
At this point, Google has 92.27% of the entire search engine market. So, for this article, I’ll cover the ranking factors you’ll need to consider to outrank the competition on Google:
Off-page Ranking Factors
A backlink is a hyperlink that’s directed to your page from a page of another website. The more quality and quantity of these links a site has, the higher it will rank on SERPs for its targeted keywords or phrases.
On-page Ranking Factors
Target relevant keywords per actual queries; don’t guess. Conduct keyword research beforehand to make the most significant impact with keywords. If your site isn’t authoritative, start by targeting low competition keywords to gain some traffic. As your site gains authority, you can begin targeting more competitive keywords.
Title & header tags
Now that you know what keywords you’re targeting, use them in the right places on your page. This includes title and header tags containing the keywords. Search engines use these tags to identify what your page covers and index it with this information in mind.
Your meta description, or the short description observed in the search results, lives in the HTML code of your web page. This isn’t always a significant ranking factor. However, since it offers searchers information about the page and can increase click rate, it’s crucial to include it in your SEO checklist.
Images have an SEO component called alt-text, also known as an alt-tag. The text helps visually-impaired readers understand the image. But it also offers text that appears if the image does not load and gives the insight to search engines that allow them to index it appropriately.
Simply structuring and including the target keyword is essential for SEO-friendly URLs. Keep these as clean and focused as possible as part of cannabis SEO best practices.
Content devalues over time – unless it’s evergreen, or content that keeps on giving long after it’s published. If the content isn’t evergreen, refresh it periodically to maintain relevance. Update your outdated pages with new keywords and information to keep your content fresh and SEO-friendly.
Technical Ranking Factors
Technical ranking factors are measured on-site, as well. However, these are more focused on the site’s overall performance rather than individual page performance. Here’s a list of technical ranking factors to keep in mind:
Site & page speed
Long load times don’t contribute to a positive user experience. Your site should load fast and seamlessly for proper technical SEO.
Mobile indexing is a priority for search engines, including Google. Most of the time, search engines use the mobile version of your site to evaluate your pages.
Search engines crawl and index your content. Internal links act as signals that ensure these search engine bots can analyze and index your pages.
SEO strategizing for cannabis
SEO isn’t cheap; it’s a long-term investment that, when appropriately executed, brings significant returns. But cannabusiness operators don’t always have the budget to hire a professional.
If this is the case with your business, you can bootstrap an SEO strategy and still achieve impressive results. However, this is more time-intensive and challenging, especially since cannabis has become such a competitive space.
Blogging as an SEO strategy
Strategies for cannabis SEO should always involve a blog and onsite optimization, regardless of budget. This is where you’ll begin. A blog gives you an on-site location to use content to target keywords. Through your blog, you will implement your SEO strategy with blog articles, infographics, and other content formats. Once you have a blog, it’s time to perform keyword research to determine how best to reach your target audience. But there’s more to it than that.
You need backlinks.
We use four strategies to get backlinks. You can use these, too – regardless of your budget.
Strategy 1: Produce quality content
High-quality content that’s unique and value-driven can generate backlinks. However, this takes time – in most cases, years – to build your web authority. Thus, it’s usually best to perform outreach as a part of your backlinking strategy.
Strategy 2: Cold outreach
Your content is unlikely to rank if your site isn’t authoritative. So, to get your content seen by the people most likely to link to it, you’ll need to pitch your content to the authors of content already linking to similar content. You can find data on authoritative articles in your niche via BuzzSumo.
You can also find authoritative articles already linking to content. Then, you recreate the content to make something better than the content receiving links. This could be a blog article, infographic, video, etc. The next step is to reach out, present your better content, and invite the creator to link to your piece.
Strategy 3: Guest posting
Guest blogging opportunities exist. These give you the chance to show your expertise as you build links back to your site. The key here is to find credible domains that your target audiences frequent. Then, it’s about creating authoritative, value-driven content that will boost authority and trust.
If you can get do-follow links via guest posts from authoritative sites in the cannabis niche, you’ll help Google identify your site as authoritative, too.
Strategy 4: Thought leadership content
Thought leadership backlink building involves looking for opportunities to get features on various forms of media (webinars, podcasts, etc.). But you can also create data-driven content that generates links.
Getting featured by other cannabis companies and ancillary operations promotes the feature with a link back to your site. If the content is based on original research, it becomes instantly linkable.
Free learning tools for SEO
Cannabis business operators can learn about SEO strategy with these free resources:
A comprehensive strategy is essential to gain some traction with SEO, even with a limited budget. However, in this competitive space, allocating resources to bring either an expert or agency in to handle your SEO has the potential to generate organic traffic and scale your business’s digital presence.
How to choose SEO service providers
Whether you cultivate, extract, dispense, or operate an ancillary business, you might not have the time to learn to do SEO on your own. This is where SEO service providers offer value.
As you look for an SEO service provider, keep in mind, you’ll want to see past work. This is the most critical part of hiring. You need to see a proven track record.
Besides their experience, find out which companies they’ve worked for in the past. Don’t be afraid to contact those operations to learn more about the experience and results.
You have three options to elevate your cannabis SEO. Here are the pros and cons of each:
Pros: You have someone in-house focused solely on handling your SEO efforts. This option gives you the most control possible as your dedicated in-house SEO will be in the same office.
Cons: In-house SEOs are expensive, and most of the time, you probably won’t need someone full-time. Hiring an in-house SEO expert is something I suggest only for big companies that can afford to hire someone to handle the workload and monitor the progress.
Pros: You can hire a freelancer to handle your SEO on a fractional basis. While this might be pricier hourly, it’s a budget-friendly option for cannabusiness operators looking to up their SEO without hiring an agency or bringing someone on full-time. While finding the right freelance SEO specializing in cannabis is challenging, this likely is all your company needs to get ahead.
Cons: Sub-par SEOs are plentiful, and it’s easy to hire someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Furthermore, freelancers don’t always have a team to support content creation, link building, etc. Often, I see business operators turn to platforms like Fiverr to hire a freelance SEO. But it’s important to know that hiring on these platforms offers limited – if any – results.
Pros: An agency specializing in cannabis SEO will offer valuable insight into the strategy and have everyone in-house to handle your account. From graphic designers to developers, an agency will provide various services that enhance your SEO with data in mind. All in all, the right agency will give an excellent experience paired with impressive results observable in monthly or bi-monthly reports.
Cons: Agencies tend to cost beyond double what a freelancer charges, so it’s essential to see proven track records and case studies before choosing.
Concluding on Cannabis SEO
As a cannabusiness operator planning to do SEO on your own, be prepared to conduct plenty of research and outreach. This is essential to triumph in this competitive space.
However, if you’re looking for someone – or an agency – to handle your website’s SEO, you’ll still need some knowledge to ensure you’re allocating your budget properly.
As the cannabis space becomes more competitive, SEO will become more challenging – and expensive. The best time to start was a few years ago; the second-best time to start is right now.