When it comes to dispensary SEO (search engine optimization), a lot of the terminology can seem like mumbo-jumbo. For example, what are long-tail keywords, and how are they different from regular keywords? What even is a regular keyword?

In this guide, we’ll do a deep dive into keywords for SEO and how they can benefit your dispensary, boosting your dispensary marketing strategy.

Dispensary SEO Has Never Been More Important

Before we dissect the importance of keywords, it’s important to understand the greater industry landscape of today. Despite the pandemic and national unrest, cannabis sales are still increasing across the nation.

Since the shutdown, Washington state has seen its highest cannabis sales ever. Even with disruptive current events going on, the Marijuana Business Factbook projects that cannabis sales nationwide will increase by 40% throughout all of 2020.

Combine this with the fact that more states are continuing to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana (resulting in more competition), it’s clear that investing in SEO and ranking higher in Google has never been more important. 

Even further, with stay-at-home orders still in place all over the country, there’s no better way for customers to find your business than online – from the comfort of their homes. That’s where SEO comes in, helping to sustain your sales and your business in times of uncertainty.

How Do Keywords Work?

Whenever someone searches “cannabis dispensary near me,” “medical marijuana in [city],” or any similar term, Google has to choose which websites to display on page 1 of search results. 

The order of the results is determined by a number of complex factors, and keywords play a huge role in reaching the sweet #1 spot on Google. 

Dispensary SEO

Signals are sent to Google as it scours the internet for results (local searches, and specific keywords for example) so it can accurately choose the websites that are the most appropriate to display for each search. These signals are SEO (search engine optimization) factors – and the stronger your SEO profile, the higher your business will rank in results. 

If your dispensary isn’t ranking where you want it to, then chances are that your competitors are out-investing you in digital dispensary marketing. 

So, this raises the question: how exactly does Google know what your website is about and determine how to rank it? One of the strongest signals is keywords.

Not All Keywords Are Created Equal

Keywords are the search queries that are typed into Google. Any phrase, even “how to grow marijuana” or “dispensary marketing” can be considered a keyword.

Not all keywords are created equal, as some keywords are more popular than others. For example, searching “cannabis” in Google yields 183,000,000 results at the time of writing. “Dispensary in Seattle” on the other hand, has a fraction of that with 1,150,000 results.

The higher the competition, the more difficult it will be to rank on the first page of Google, especially if your competitors are investing more money in their dispensary SEO. 

What Are Short-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords?

When it comes to keywords, it’s best to think of them under two large umbrellas: (1) short-tail keywords and (2) long-tail keywords.

As the name suggests, short-tail keywords are brief in word count. “Weed,” for example, is an extremely short-tail keyword. Short-tail keywords are good because they allow you to communicate with broad audiences, but the main challenge is they are highly competitive and hard to rank for.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, allow you to truly dive into the specifics of a topic. Because they are more specific, the competition is generally much less, making it easier to rank on Google. 

An example of a long-tail keyword would be “best cannabis strains for treating migraines”. This is a highly specific search phrase, so Google will prioritize websites that specifically answer this question rather than those focused solely on super broad keywords like “weed”.

Why Are Long-Tail Keywords Important?

Many things about SEO can sometimes seem counterintuitive. SEO is a complex and ever-changing process 

For example, if you’re a dispensary in Denver, the obvious approach will be to optimize for “dispensary in Denver,” and you’ll certainly want to do that.

If your competitors have been investing in dispensary SEO for years, then it will be hard to outrank them in search results, because they already have a higher “Domain Authority,” according to Google. 

Domain Authority, or “DA” is a numeric value that is added to all websites, to determine how “strong” a website is. The higher the DA, the higher the chance of you ranking in position #1 on Google. 

To build that Domain Authority, it’s better to focus on those long-tail keywords.

Using the example above, “best cannabis strains for treating migraines” is a highly specific long-tail keyword that will be easier to rank for compared to “dispensary” – thanks to its specificity.

Now, this might not seem directly related to your dispensary, but as you begin ranking for stronger long-tail keywords, your Domain Authority (DA) will increase.

The higher your DA, the easier it will be to rank for those shorter keywords like “dispensary near me” as well.

In other words, it’s impossible to get to the best keywords at the top of the list without first ranking for the lower-quality keywords. Keyword quality is typically defined by search volume per month – or how many searches for that specific keyword there have been for one month. The higher the volume, the higher the number of new customers that will visit your website.

Even ranking for lower-volume keywords can be extremely beneficial however, as you can diversify your website traffic and strengthen your standing with Google – boosting your DA. 

How To Use Keywords 

There are still strict rules to follow when placing and choosing your keywords, and in the world of the internet, these rules are perpetual, ever-changing, and complex. For example, repeating the same keywords over and over on your website can actually result in a penalty from Google! Search engines call this “keyword stuffing”.

Instead, it’s important to focus on the user experience. Again, it can be counterintuitive because you want to focus on ranking higher in Google to increase traffic to your dispensary, but by providing true value to users, Google will learn to prioritize your website.

Where Should I Place Short and Long-Tail Keywords?

There are many strategies, but in general, short-tail keywords will be used on landing pages such as the home page, about page, and contact page.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are perfect for the blog and article section of the website, and can provide the most traffic. 

It’s also important to remember the technical side of SEO. Keywords should be placed in the meta data (meta titles, meta descriptions, alt tags, etc.) of your website, as well as other places within an article. Placement does actually play a role in how Google recognizes your keyword content.

Find an Expert in Dispensary SEO and Dispensary Marketing

The principles of SEO and digital marketing are the same regardless of industry, but finding a dispensary-specific expert can be tricky. It’s very important to ensure you work with a marketing company who knows the cannabis industry well. 

A team that understands the nuances of the cannabis industry specifically can provide you with a holistic approach to your SEO. Regulations legally and online are constantly changing for the cannabis industry, and resources are limited. Working with a team that understands all of these factors is critical to launching a successful dispensary marketing campaign.

At Green Zen Marketing, we specialize in all things dispensary SEO.

It’s more than just keywords. Of course, keywords are a critical factor, but we also take a look at the overall health of your SEO profile and online presence.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Google My Business signals
  • Link signals to and from your website
  • Review signals
  • On-page SEO signals
  • Business citations
  • User behavior
  • Personalization

Though it might seem complicated, We provide the tools you need to boost your dispensary marketing strategy and gain new customers through SEO. 

Not sure where your cannabis business stands in regards to SEO? We’ve got you covered. Check us out to schedule your free SEO audit today.