SEO for Ganjapreneurs, Part II
By Randy Robinson
In part one, we went over some basics for SEO. In part two, we’ll get into the technical nitty-gritty.
SEO, for those who need the reminder, stands for Search Engine Optimization. Your Cannabis or Cannabis-infused products may sell themselves, but it’s always good to have the leg-up over the competition.
In Denver alone, there are over 500 dispensaries. To compete in the modern markets you need a presence on the World Wide Web. And that means you need to know SEO or find someone who does.
Software and analytics
Most websites and blogs use WordPress for SEO software. WordPress is free and it comes with built-in capabilities to measure your website’s SEO.
WordPress, in all honesty, does most of the keyword work for you. Once you set a focus keyword (the word or phrase that guides the content of your page), WordPress will check that the keyword’s included in your page title, META description and header. You can even calculate keyword densities for the page, which should always be between one to 10 percent of the document.
Also, Google’s your best friend. If your site’s not on Google Analytics, do it now. Google Analytics is free, and it allows you to track where your site’s traffic is coming from, your audience demographics and even your audience’s locations. This information is invaluable for your marketing and SEO strategies; you can always see what’s working and what isn’t working.
Selecting the best keyword
By now you’ve probably realized that “marijuana” or “Cannabis” aren’t the best focus keywords to use for your pages. That’s because everyone and their mother has websites with those words in there.
You want to select keywords or phrases that aren’t common. Sure, you can try to go with “marijuana,” but then you’ll be competing with the hundreds of thousands of other sites that also use “marijuana” as a term.
Specifying the words helps here. “marijuana” is one thing, but “marijuana for childhood leukemia” is its own beast.
Google has a built-in feature allowing you to comb through commonly searched-for phrases and words on the search engine. This feature can assist you when coming up with focus keywords for your page. Always try to go with something that’s less common.
Remember, there’s always only one page at the top of the search engine results. The best way to get to the top is to use keywords that other businesses aren’t using as much. You’ll need to use your imagination but practice, after all, makes perfect.
Should I go with “Cannabis” or “marijuana?”
Let’s assume you just have to use one of those two words. Fine. There are some things you should know about them.
As of right now, the general public is not terribly educated about medical Cannabis. Even worse, our mainstream media is either ignorant or uncaring that the word “marijuana” has racist origins.
That means Internet users tend to search for “marijuana” more than they do “Cannabis” by quite a significant margin. “Cannabis” may help you stick out, but “marijuana” will garner more hits if you can tailor the document to something more specific.
“Marijuana” tends to attract the layperson who may be a novice to ganja. “Cannabis” tends to attract people in-the-know such as specialists, scientists or Cannabis veterans.
META tags, which are other keywords besides your focus, may bump you up ever so slightly on the search engine rankings. But there’s a lot of disagreement surrounding how important META tags truly are.
Some experts will tell you to include META tags for every document. Others say to ignore META tags altogether. Some sites take a middle ground here and only include a few select keywords, just in case.
What? I thought keywords make or break SEO?
Believe it or not, they really don’t.
This may sound like counterintuitive advice, but keywords only go so far with the newest SEO algorithms. What really drives up a page’s ranking is traffic.
Where your site’s visitors come from determines your SEO ranking far more than your keyword selection. If visitors come from sites like Google, Facebook or Twitter, your site is considered “relevant.” And recall you should be using analytics software to track where visitors come from when they land on your page.
Furthermore, keeping people on your site drives up its ranking. The more your visitors click your site’s internal links, remaining on the site and going deeper into its content, the more “relevant” a search engine ranks it.
In other words, social media marketing and word-of-mouth are the primary drivers of SEO, not keywords. But marketing and promotion are entirely different creatures far beyond the scope of this article.
So, last time you said you’d discuss how to bring in traffic….
Yep. Here it goes.
The trick to bringing in traffic is deceptively simple, but it’s difficult to execute: You have to provide fresh, original content to your visitors.
If you run a dispensary, make sure you’re updating your online menu and special offers as often as possible. If you’ve got a Facebook page for your business, make sure you’re posting to it regularly. By regularly, I mean daily or semi-daily.
Daily updates are especially critical for Twitter accounts. The only way to show up in someone’s Twitter feed is by posting constantly. The more intriguing your posts, the better your chances of snagging more Followers — and the better your chances for getting noticed.
If you provide some other service, such as lab testing, news information or even legal advice, you can update with news articles from various media outlets. Be sure the articles relate to whatever you do, and keep them interesting. There are times when self-promotion is important, but don’t forget to promote other cannabusinesses, too.
In fact, promoting other cannabusinesses is the best way to get them to promote you back. You can always make arrangements with other ganjapreneurs to link to one another’s sites (a great way to jack up your SEO rankings).
And, most importantly, don’t spam. Ever. I know, spamming is tempting on relatively anonymous online platforms, but it looks incredibly unprofessional, and most Internet users find it annoying. Spamming’ is the best way to get blocked, banned or otherwise ignored by your potential visitors and customers.
Remember: Just stay relevant. That’s all you’ve got to do.