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Search engine optimization (SEO) represents an excellent opportunity for businesses working in and with the cannabis industry to boost traffic to their websites, which will lead to improved brand awareness, trust, word-of-mouth marketing, sales, and profits. Many cannabis and cannabis-related businesses haven’t invested into SEO yet, which means those business leaders who do make this strategic investment will reap the rewards.
What’s keeping cannabis and cannabis-related businesses from investing in SEO? For many people, SEO is an area they don’t know a lot about or fully understand, which means they’re hesitant to invest. That’s a mistake. Today, SEO is not only effective but also easy to track in terms of ROI because everything is based on accessible data. Decision-making is easy when the data tells you what to do!
One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to SEO is that it’s not likely to drive big results immediately. In fact, significant changes in search traffic to your website that happen very quickly could be cause for concern. Search engines, like Google and Bing, want to show the best results for every search query on search results pages, which means they don’t want to show pages from sites that have tried to artificially inflate page relevancy and rankings. Instead, they want to rank pages that are authentically useful.
That’s why SEO investments can take a few months at a minimum to show measurable improvements. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, be patient and understand that you’re building long-term, sustainable, organic traffic to your website by following SEO best practices.
In addition to the 10 SEO tips introduced later in this article, you can use the resources listed below to learn more about how to use SEO to drive more of the kind of traffic to your website that will lead to increased sales and profits for your business:
Let’s dive into the SEO tips that cannabis and ancillary businesses can implement to drive incremental traffic and the measurable benefits that come as a result of that traffic. These tips all focus on steps you can take that aren’t extremely difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. The tips also follow current SEO best practices.
How fast do the pages on your website load in visitors’ web browsers? The answer to this question matters a lot to search engines. Page load speed is an indication of quality and user-friendliness. The assumption is people would prefer to find a page in answer to their search query that loads quickly rather than one that takes seconds longer to load.
Therefore, check the page load speed on your website. You can do this for free using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Just copy and paste your page URL into the tool, click the Analyze button, and you’ll get a score between 0 and 100. The higher the score, the better. You’ll also get a report that provides a variety of important metrics and diagnostics that you can use to fix any problems that are slowing down your page load speed.
Nearly 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, which means your website must be mobile-friendly. Since search engines want to deliver the best possible results for every search query, it shouldn’t be surprising that the user experience on a website plays a part in search results ranking. For search engines, user experience includes how your site performs on both desktop and mobile devices.
You can test how easily a visitor can use your website on a mobile device with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Just enter the URL of a page on your website into the tool and click the Test URL button. You’ll get a report that shows you how the page looks to Google on a mobile device as well as a list of any problems, such as font sizes that are hard to read on small screens.
The best results to search queries are high quality, which means they’re comprehensive, well-written, easy to read, and accurate. When you’re creating a piece of content for your website – whether it’s a page or blog post – try to answer everything someone who types a relevant query into a search engine would want to find about the topic.
That doesn’t mean every page on your website has to be thousands of words, but it does mean pages that fully cover a topic will likely rank higher than those that do not provide as much useful information. However, search engine algorithms are sophisticated and can recognize pages filled with fluff. If you want a specific page to rank in relevant search queries, be as thorough and useful as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that you should create content for users, not search engines. Prioritize the user experience on your website not only by making sure pages load quickly and are easy to view on mobile and desktop devices, but also by creating the kind of content they want and need.
Here are three ways you should always put your users first:
Backlinks are links to your website from other websites, and the more links your site gets from other highly authoritative sites, the more your site’s reputation will go up. When search engines view your site as authoritative by association, your site’s pages will rank higher in search engine results pages, and you’ll get more organic traffic to your website. Think of it this way – good websites keep good neighbors.
With that said, you don’t want to suddenly get a lot of backlinks to your site or a large number of backlinks from sites with low reputations. The key is to get backlinks naturally, because you don’t want search engines to think you’re gaming the system by paying for backlinks, participating in large link exchanges, or using another questionable SEO tactic.
SEO isn’t just about keywords. In fact, stuffing keywords into your content is a great way to hurt your site’s search engine rankings. Remember, search engines want to find the best content, and pages stuffed with keywords are not the best content.
The trick is to use keywords strategically to get the best SEO lift without being spammy. To that end, include relevant keywords in the page title (preferably toward the beginning), in the first 100 words of your content, in at least one H2 heading, and naturally throughout the page. It’s also good to use synonyms and related terms. Search engine algorithms are sophisticated and can understand contextually relevant terms.
Just like formatting can help visitors consume your content more effectively, it can also help search engines find, analyze, and rank your content more effectively. Search engines use bots to crawl web pages and collect information that is used to evaluate what each page is about, its authoritativeness, its relevancy, and so on. Therefore, you should make it as easy as possible for the pages on your sites to be thoroughly crawled and analyzed.
Use the H1 header tag for the page title as well as H2 and H3 tags for subheadings. Use internal and external links to add context. If you add images to a page, use the Alt-Tag to describe what the image is. Every signal you can give to a search engine bot to help if fully crawl and understand your web pages, the better.
According to research by Backlinko, using questions in your page’s title tag can significantly boost the click-through rate from search engine results pages. Another trick to boost search engine traffic using questions is to add a frequently asked questions section to pages that you want to rank high in SERPs. Research by Semrush found that this trick can also help to get a page listed within the Featured Snippets section at the top of Google SERPs.
Another way to use questions is to define and explain keywords on pages that you want to rank for specific keywords. Adding a section that says “What is ___?” (where you put your keyword in the space where the blank line is) works very well for SEO. The question can be formatted with an H2 tag and the answer can follow. Think of how many people ask simple “what is” questions and how much traffic you can get to your website if you answer this type of question well on a page filled with relevant information.
Not only should you include relevant keywords in page URLs, but you should also make the URL structure easy for people and search engines to understand. Shorter is better and getting the keyword as close to the root domain as possible is also a good idea. That doesn’t mean none of your site’s URLs can include subfolders, but try to only include them when it adds useful information rather than extraneous information.
In addition, remove extra words that don’t add value. The goal is to make the URL truly describe what people will get when they land on that page, so be specific and clear. For example, a URL that says something like mydomainDOTcom/blog/seo-tips-cannabis-businesses is much better than a URL that says mydomainDOTcom/blog/category/marketing/2022/september/seo-tips-for-cannabis-and-cannabis-related-businesses.
Old content on your website could actually be hurting your search engine traffic if it is filled with broken links or images, outdated and inaccurate, low quality, and so on. Therefore, go through the old pages (including blog posts) on your website and refresh any old content that isn’t comprehensive or is outdated. Fix broken links and image files, and make sure old content isn’t hurting your site.
When you update old pages, you can change the title and add new content or delete old content from each page. You can even publish updated blog posts with a new date – as long as doing so doesn’t change the original URL thereby creating a new page. You don’t want to change the URL for a few reasons. First, you’d lose any SEO value the page previously had. Also, if you published the page with a new URL and removed the page with the original URL from your site, you’d lose any backlinks to the original page.
Third, if you publish the updated version with a new URL and keep the old version published on your site, Google and other search engines could view those two pages as having duplicate content, which is an SEO “don’t” that could end up hurting your site’s search rankings. Bottom-line, if you update a page, don’t change the URL.
There are so many SEO tips, but the 10 introduced in this article are a great starting point for cannabis and cannabis-related businesses that want to improve their search engine rankings and organic traffic to their websites. Don’t feel like you need to implement every tip today or you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, start working through them one by one, and you’ll see your organic search traffic increase over time.