With legalization right around the corner, the increase in search volume for cannabis keywords has skyrocketed. Investors have been looking up stocks and land while cultivators continue to search for funding and equipment. But, consumers have been typing in one term in particular that has become extremely popular and is growing like a wildfire.
Dispensary near me searches has increased by more than 5000% just within the past 12 months. In fact, once a search term goes off the charts Google considers it a ‘breakout’ which is exactly what this term is.We can thank the cannabis movement for the coining the term dispensary but the evolution of technology is what has changed our behavior in the long run. We have added the term ‘near me’ to almost every local search we make on a device. Only a handful of individuals still remain old school and type in the full geographic term like Dispensary in San Diego.
Consumers have become users that no longer just use the internet for research. Instead, we use the internet with intent. The intent to communicate, navigate, buy, review, learn and get things done. The whole spectrum of the internet has changed entirely and algorithms are no longer built with code and implemented by man.
Instead, we have to adapt to Google’s Rankbrain - A machine learning algorithm that serves results based on user intent. Now, I know that’s a lot to digest but it’s not the end of the world.
There are multiple elements of local SEO that still remain important to search engines and serving results for ‘near me’ searches.
Google My Business Page
Now, the ideal goal for any and all businesses should be to rank in the local 3 pack which is essentially the first 3 results on page one of Google. And, the only way you have a shot at making it IN this pack is if you have a GMB (Google My Business) page. Even then, there are no guarantees you’ll be in the first 3 results.
When you create a GMB page, everything has to be filled out accurately. Try to not leave any empty fields. Upload high-quality photos - not stock images, use a local phone number - not an 1-800 number and enter the full name of your business excluding LLC, Inc etc.
You’ll also have to verify your business. Google wants to know that you’re a legitimate business and not just faking the funk. So, they send out a postcard with a verification code that you should receive within 2 weeks to the business address you provided them with. Once you receive it in the mail, you’ll have to log in to your account and enter the code.
* Note: P.O Boxes will not work. So, if you haven’t come out of the black market yet, now would be a good time.
Get Those Google Reviews
Ever been to Planned Parenthood? They asked everyone to write a review of the facility and their staff before you even leave. Now, I’m not out there protesting like Sue Chen saying your baby’s got fingernails and trying to ruin a businesses reputation but I don’t see why the same technique couldn’t be used to acquire reviews for dispensaries.
Because those numbers on Google DO matter. Do you think a new customer who sees a shop with 5 stars and 320 reviews is going to want to go to a shop with 3 in half stars and 6 reviews? Chances are, probably not. If you want to attract new customers and have a better chance at ranking higher in the local pack, set up some iPads near the door and boost those numbers PP style. Trust me, it’ll make a significant impact on local search.
Optimize Your Photos
Most people will just take images straight from their DSLR or a stock photography site and upload them to a website without ever compressing the image size. This can dramatically slow down your websites speed and actually hurt your SEO. It’s best to take the image into Photoshop, compress it and rename it. When you rename the image, make sure to use words that are relevant to the picture. Don’t try to overstuff it with geo based terms.
Citations are a reference to your businesses NAP (name, address, and phone number). The more you have the more you’ll be able to boost your local rankings. It’s just like adding your business to Yellow Pages back in the day, except this time it’s not getting printed and hung up at a payphone.
Instead, you build citations through online directories. The most important thing to remember when building out citations is consistency. Google picks up on the inconsistencies such as ‘Good Neighbor Dispensary’ and ‘Good Neighbor Dispensary LLC’ and can make it harder for web crawlers to determine if it’s one business or two.
Add Schema Markup
Schema markup is structured data that can be added to the back-end of a website. It helps web crawlers identify the page's content and what it means; not just what it says. It can be used for a lot of different types of content such as articles, reviews, events, videos, products and most importantly local businesses.
Make sure you add this markup to your business's name, address, phone number, business hours and reviews if you have them. Also, add it to the contact information in the footer or the header of every page in addition to your main contact page.
If your site happens to be on Wordpress, I recommend the All in One Schema Rich Snippets plugin.
Optimize for Dispensary Near Me on Mobile
If you don’t know by now, nearly 60% of all internet searches are done through a mobile device. People search with intent and want to find what they’re looking for in a matter of seconds. It’s not only crucial that your website looks and functions properly across mobile devices (including tablets) but it’s important that it’s fast. And, since we’re trying to rank for ‘near me’ terms, the keyword + location should be included in:
- Title tag
- Page title (H1)
- Alt text on images
Here’s a Mobile friendly test tool to check your website.
Geo Anchor Text
Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking signals to Google. But, to rank locally, you want to try to acquire links that include your dispensaries location. The best way to do this is to hold an event, get involved with the community, and reach out to the local press.
Of course, you can also search for bloggers or influencers in your area but chances are - they’ll be harder to find and it’ll cost you. Typically, you want to shoot for something like ‘dispensary in San Diego’ or ‘San Diego dispensary’. The more links you acquire with geo-targeted anchor text the better.
Overall, ALL local businesses including dispensaries need to be optimizing their website for user intent. Because ‘near me’ terms are here to stay and they’re only getting more and more popular with time.