IN A WORLD WITHOUT TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING OR MEDIA CHANNELS, SEO IS THE BEST WAY TO STAND OUT
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may sound complicated, but mastering it really comes down to these essential elements:
Thinking like a search engine user
• Surpassing search engine standards
• Creating a website strategically
• Meeting technical and on-page optimizations
• Publishing authoritative, informative content
• Utilizing keywords, links and a meta description
• Boosting domain authority
How Does SEO Work?
SEO got its start in the Wild West—of the early internet, that is. Back in the days of dial-up and pop-up ads, the ’net was an unruly place filled with countless bad websites that were only out to get clicks, and in the process ended up spreading viruses, disinformation, spam and other junk. Meanwhile, a lot of great websites ended up lost to time, simply because people couldn’t find them.
Then, the bright idea of creating a way to index and search the entire internet for relevant, trustworthy and essential information came along, finally giving everyday folks a way to answer their inquiries quickly and efficiently with the best possible content.
When you utilize a search engine such as Google, Bing, Baidu or Yahoo, among others, it takes the word or phrase you entered (e.g. “cannabis marketing”) and crawls an index of billions of sites, pages and pieces of content to help this quest for information along. But in the interest of satisfying its customers, the search engine only wants to deliver the best, most relevant, trustworthy and authoritative content possible. This is where SEO comes into play.
How Can SEO Help Your Cannabis Business?
Discovery is the main reason for using SEO in the first place. As a fledgling cannabis company or brand, your ability to stand out among competitors is invaluable. Because for cannabis companies, standing out isn’t just about products, services or even social media presence, it’s about owning space on the internet.
Using SEO best practices gives your site the edge it needs to beat out competitors and win big in search rankings, where securing a place on the first page of results is critical. Research by SEO development authority Moz has noted that well over two-thirds of users never look beyond the first page of results.
Through SEO, you can build the worth of your site, answer more search inquiries and further push your ability to rank highly for related search terms, increasing brand presence and awareness. Of course, in a world without traditional advertising channels, climbing to the top of search results is very important.
Using SEO and Content to Overcome Harsh Advertising Rules
Because cannabis is illegal at the federal level, it means advertising cannabis products and related services remains very precarious. That’s why most traditional advertisers, web rulers like Google and social giants like Facebook have a real aversion to advertising cannabis.
Even state-based advertisers want to avoid the heavy hand of the government by ruling out the possibility of mainstream advertising, even where cannabis is now legal. In Colorado, which was one of the first states to allow recreational cannabis sales, regulations were put in place to limit cannabis ads from being presented to audiences under the age of 21, which basically shut out opportunities such as daytime radio, TV and online news sites.
In trying to navigate these challenging regulations, companies have been relegated to using billboards, printed fliers and backpage ads in alt-weeklies that simply aren’t effective enough. But good SEO marketing can help.
Why is Content Marketing So Important to Quality SEO?
Earning the trust of search engines and gaining SEO cred doesn’t just happen. It all starts with content. Using blogs, how-to guides and thought leadership columns is one of the first steps an emerging cannabis brand can take to carve out a presence on the internet, while engaging all possible target audiences.
Creating content geared toward specific searchers, prospective clients and fellow marketers is key to elevating your brand, while keeping the gatekeepers of Google and other search engines happy.
Speaking of that, this type of content falls into what Google has defined as having the quality of EAT: “expertise,” “authoritativeness” and “trustworthiness.” This type of content isn’t spam or a collection of links, it’s the kind of useful material that can inform and give answers.
What is the Difference Between Technical SEO and On-Page SEO?
In optimizing your website, there are two types of SEO best practices to consider: Technical SEO and On-Page SEO. Here’s an analogy to remember when it comes to the differences between these two types of SEO: You wouldn’t buy a car without all the wiring that makes it work, right? And you wouldn’t buy a car without a speedometer, climate controls or other dashboard data that informs the driving experience, correct?
Now if this car were your website, Technical SEO would be the wiring that makes it worth buying to search engines. On-Page SEO are all those necessary data points that help identify whether or not your content is worth offering up to search users. The better your site’s User Experience (UX), content relevance, crawlability, shareability and otherwise, the more authority it will have.
This means it can answer more search inquiries and is more likely to rise in rank.
As Moz notes, good Technical SEO includes having:
• An XML sitemap
• Correct URLs
• Internal backlinks
• Outbound links
• Proper images
• Google Analytics capability
• Structured data
• Correct title tags
• Correct meta tags
• Easily rendered coding
• Intuitive design and organization
• Schema markup
Good On-Page SEO includes having:
Relevance to a specific topic
• Featured snippet intro
• Answers to burning questions
• UX for desktop and mobile devices
• Table of contents (if applicable)
• Proper title tags
• Easily shareable URL
• Image alt text
• Keyword optimization
• Proper word and character count
• Meta description
• Author or publisher attributions
Now that you know the difference between technical and on-page requirements, it’s important to point out that content marketing, good technical SEO and on-page power couldn’t exist without the right keywords, so let’s break that down.
What Are Cannabis Keywords and How Can You Research Them?
On the surface, keywords are the inquiries that a person enters into search engines to find results. Digging deeper, keywords act as the building blocks of great content, as well as the most valuable currency your site has to be relevant and rank higher and higher. That’s because keywords are signals to search engines’ webcrawlers, aka crawl bots, that your website has the right content to meet the needs of specific searchers.
Keywords can also help your site own authority and relevance within a specific space of the search-driven internet. In the case of cannabis, the legal market is relatively new, and there is a smaller amount of keyword information on the internet at this time—think of a trendy new form of cannabis concentrate, for example. This means certain sites can begin to own specific cannabis-related keywords to help boost their rank.
Researching the best keywords to insert into your site content and copy starts with using everything from free tools like Google Trends—which looks at Google’s top trending keywords—to paid, powerful platforms like Semrush, which can collect in-depth results of keywords that are the most easy to rank for.
By building out a content marketing program that is built around the best keywords and keeps evolving with the cannabis industry, your site has the power to make your brand known across the web.
How Does SEO Value Help Cannabis Branding?
To be found, generate an audience, then sell services or products, cannabis companies will need more than a great, optimized website. Exceptional branding is also crucial (so much so that it can make or break a company).
Stellar cannabis branding comes down to being distinct, creating an identity and having strong messages that will engage and resonate with target consumers, keeping your brand on their mind. But generating lasting brand awareness—and advocates for your brand that stay loyal purchase after purchase—doesn’t happen without visibility.
By devising and implementing an SEO strategy that is unique to your brand, you can translate your brand differentiators and messaging to the right keywords, hyper-relevant content and SEO best practices to rank for specific audiences. From here, branding for specific audiences gets far easier.
How Does Understanding Cannabis Play into Great SEO?
Your journey toward getting great results from SEO starts with having a marketing partner that is not only fluent in cannabis, but also optimization. With the right team of content marketing specialists and public-relations strategists at hand, you can begin to impart the essence of your brand into an actionable content strategy that’s built for results.
When it comes to cannabis, fluency isn’t just about knowing strains or products, but understanding the complex nuances of marketing niche companies and brands with only SEO ingenuity.
Are You Ready to Harness Cannabis SEO?
Do you want to harness the power of SEO to grow your website’s rank and authority? Are you ready to create content that engages audiences and grows your brand awareness? It all starts by using a marketing and PR agency with extensive experience applying in-depth industry knowledge to content-driven SEO marketing. Let’s get started.