Cannabis Dispensary SEO: How to Rank #1 For Local Search Results

cannabis dispensary seo

The old cannabis dispensary SEO plan was to pay for ads on Weedmaps, Leafly, or any other cannabis-friendly platform, and hope for the best. Add in an online website and solid cannabis POS software, and you had about all you needed.

That was then, this is now.

Today, we have a complete strategy to achieve #1 rankings for high-volume terms that your competitors are currently leveraging to outperform you in revenue.

If you are a cannabis operator hoping to improve your revenue, we will help give you the recipe for boosting your online sales and leads without forcing you into paid alternatives to Google Maps, such as Weedmaps and Leafly.

Why you need solid dispensary SEO to outrank your local competition

Cannabis is a special niche—and requires special attention for your web presence.

As most cannabis operators know: You can’t place Google ads, Meta ads are like walking in a minefield, and only cannabis-friendly alternatives to Google Maps like Weedmaps and Leafly are willing to post your ads.

But the main problem with these ads is that, unlike Google, you don’t get a #1 spot in most instances. And when people do click on the landing page with your ad placement, they get to see a whole list of dispensaries paying ads—and the highest bidder will get the most visibility.

Download our free cannabis dispensary SEO guide

While we appreciate Weedmaps, we are passionate about empowering the cannabis industry to build its own assets and generate leads independently. By eliminating middlemen, you can achieve more predictable income and reduce the burden of overhead costs.

Just as customers flock to your dispensary since you are a home of great cannabis products, many dispensaries flock to these platforms since they have higher traffic, more rankings than you, and an international presence.

But what if you could generate traffic and leads at the same level without using these platforms? This is where some solid SEO strategy comes into play.

Steps for getting #1 rankings on Google for major terms—straight to your own assets

To elevate your dispensary's online presence above the crowded market and surpass platforms like Weedmaps in local searches, the first item on your radar should be the Google 3-Pack Ranking.

dispensary near me #1 search ranking

Notice in the search engine results page above, the dispensaries that show up as #1, #2, and #3 rank for the search term “dispensary near me”—which is a popular and high-volume term in the cannabis industry.

What each of these three results have in common is that they are all Google My Business (GMB) listings. Therefore, this is the first place we want to optimize.

Creating and optimizing your GMB listing will ensure maximum accessibility when potential customers search for your dispensary. If you are not sure where to start, we have steps for you to reference on search engine optimization below.

1. Create, claim and verify your Google My Business (GMB) listing

Depending on how established your business is, you may or may not already have a Google Business Profile up and active. If you do, you will need to claim it. If you don’t, you will need to start from scratch.

To start a GMB profile, first head over to the official profile creation page. Follow the steps and you will eventually be prompted to verify your listing. These days, this may require a manually recorded video of your location as Google is making extra efforts to ensure that GMB listings are real, local, and not spam.

Verify your brand on your Google Business profile to ensure better search engine visibility.

2. Get your GMB categories right

Next up, we want to make sure that Google will know what kind of business you are, so that it can properly index you and set you up with the best shot possible of getting that coveted 3-pack ranking that we saw above.

Typically, cannabis businesses can at least set a primary category, and in some cases, also have secondary categories. To set yourself up with the best shot at making our Google overlords happy, and not labeling you as a spammer, just set the main category as “cannabis store.”

3. Add in some authentic photos

Believe it or not, customers will often check you out digitally before considering to come in the doors. In addition, it helps make your business look authentic and reputable in the eyes of Google if you have real pictures to enhance your brand.

quality roots cannabis dispensary photos

We recommend hiring a professional photographer instead of simply scraping together some poor-quality images. Pictures are often the first point of contact between you and a potential new customer, so do them right!

4. Enhance local citations & NAP consistency

For dispensaries aiming to dominate their local market, having many different listings and ensuring a consistent Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) profile across all these listings is not just a tactic, it's an investment into your brand reputation management.

Maintaining uniformity in your dispensary's Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) solidifies relevance in local search algorithms, reinforcing your retail storefront's position in the digital marketplace.

5. Leverage local reviews for SEO benefits

Local reviews do more than validate your dispensary's quality of service, they also enrich your dispensary's SEO strategies. A business with plenty of positive GMB reviews also tends to perform better than one with minimal positive reviews, or worse, one with a poor online reputation.

A seasoned marketing agency like Green Dispensary Marketing understands the clout that positive local reviews can have on both paid search campaigns and organic online advertising reach. With the right infrastructure in place, you can prompt all customers to leave a positive review without twisting their arm, and quickly rack up in both reviews and ranks.

How to own the front page and get more than just the #1 rank

Having the #1 rank is nice, but to really start to dominate your local search results, you need to think bigger. We recommend trying to get at least 4 of the top 10 search results.

dispensary google search rankings

1. Secure 3-pack rankings

Having a #4 or #5 ranking is okay, but that #1 spot is the one we are after. After rolling out the strategies described above, it may take some time and lots of elbow grease to get your 3-pack ranking, but this is a time-tested strategy.

If you are having issues at this point securing your 3-pack ranking, we encourage you to keep generating positive reviews, keep building listings, and keep securing links to boost your brand reputation.

2. Implement service and product pages

Next up, an easy way to get even more traffic than just that from a 3-pack ranking is to have a service and product page strategy in play. Essentially, these are pages that target a particular money term (a term with the search intent of buying) and target your website directly, instead of the GMB listing.

Right away, it’s important to note that service and product pages don’t tend to get the #1 ranking. Therefore, we recommend coming here to build supporting ranks, as opposed to making this your full strategy.

That said, here are a couple of examples:

  • Location Service Area Page: These pages typically are targeted after a local keyword (ex: “dispensary [city name].”) They usually have a map of their location at the top of the page, a CTA to quickly head to the store, the phone number, address, and then SEO content below like this service page.

  • Product Pages: Product pages are a simple way to connect with the people in your area searching for a specific product or brand, rather than just a local dispensary. An example of this might be “edibles [city name]” like this page. From there, you can also make content for each of your partners.

Note: When making service and product pages, be sure to check the keyword volume and difficulty before pressing publish. You also will need to optimize the pages correctly to ensure that you have a great shot at ranking.

3. Link building

Link building is a task that will never go away. Also known as backlinks, this is an important metric that Google uses to determine rankings for things like your GMB rank, your website rank, and so on.

Typically, the best strategy here is to focus on what we call “white hat” strategies. Essentially, this involves finding local cannabis and alternative health businesses in your area and having them link to your site.

Much of the work here involves finding a great site with authority in the cannabis niche, reaching out to them, and having them link to your site.

4. Place listings on local sites getting top ranks

Link building through cold outreach can be very time-consuming. While you are doing this, we recommend getting on some basic listing sites like Yelp, Bing, and Apple Maps and making a business listing that leads to your site.

Accurate citations spread across well-regarded local directories offer dual benefits; they anchor your dispensary's local presence and serve as signals of credibility to search engines. Prioritizing this aspect of your local SEO strategy secures a competitive edge.

5. Consider paid slots on Weedmaps and Leafly

Weedmaps and Leafly can sometimes help you get additional front-page rankings. If you want to boost your presence to the maximum level, employing strategies like the ones mentioned above alongside having a paid presence on other platforms can help you get an additional one or two of the top 10 rankings.

Just keep in mind that if you get outbid, your visibility drops. This is why we recommend this strategy as the last step, and only after you are getting consistent income from other sources and your investment in paid traffic is generating a positive ROI!

How to know which pages to put on your site

Ready to upgrade your site, but not sure where to start? Keyword research sets the groundwork for a successful content marketing campaign and is pivotal for dispensaries aiming to surpass their competitors in local rankings.

We recommend focusing on local transactional intent keywords, which target potential clients in your immediate area, ensuring your content resonates with them and also their desire to buy.

How to Create a Dispensary Website

Analyzing the keywords that your competitors use can be very helpful at this stage, helping you to refine your own digital marketing content strategy and unveil opportunities for differentiation.

Below, we will cover how you can focus on making quality content for your site that drives sales - rather than just some vanity metrics like clicks and a spike in traffic.

Finding local keywords with transactional intent

Having some rankings in organic search results is not enough. You need them to have transactional intent. Otherwise, you might as well start making a ton of informational content and pray that your local customers are finding it AND coming in (which is unlikely). This is why your marketing plan for keyword research should be focused on keywords that imply the user wants to buy.

Thorough research into local intent keywords not only polishes your website's appeal but fortifies the bedrock of your digital marketing plan. Once you get money terms ranked in the organic search results, you will naturally have more clients coming in the door.

Crafting content that beats the competition

Crafting content that leaps off the search engine results page demands creative finesse and a tactical understanding of search engine optimization. Your web page should engage viewers, providing an unrivaled experience that holds their attention and persuades them to return to your brand.

We recommend working with professional content creators to ensure that your site’s content is engaging, professional, and better than what your local competitors can do.

To consistently beat the competition, your content must be more than just informative; it should reflect an in-depth grasp of what propels a site to the forefront of an engine's algorithm. Insights into consumer behavior paired with strategic local SEO practices transform a standard web page into a dynamic destination for both new and returning visitors.

[BONUS] On-page dispensary SEO techniques to boost dispensary SEO rankings

Securing a top slot in internet search engine results pages is not merely about chance; it demands a strategic on-page SEO blueprint that catches the eye of search algorithms.

Let’s go ahead and explore a few bonus on-page techniques to help ensure that you are getting top rankings for your cannabis business.

1. Optimizing meta tags and descriptions

Mastering the art of information retrieval starts with meticulously crafted meta tags and descriptions. These elements are crucial for optimization, as they provide a concise preview of your website's content, directly influencing click-through rates and potential sales.

Usually, you should throw your target keyword into the meta tag and slug of your page. Thoughtful optimization in these tags ensures that your message connects with the target audience, bolstering your online presence and driving traffic to your site.

2. Implementing schema markup for local SEO

Integrating schema markup on a dispensary's site can feel like venturing into a maze, especially for those who are not very tech-savvy. On the contrary, a tech-savvy brand tackles this by embedding structured data that highlights its site pages, striking a balance between rich detail and the goal of increasing visibility in local searches.

For dispensaries aiming to cut through dense online competition, schema markup isn't just a tool, it's a decisive factor in improving their local SEO strategy. By methodically using schema markup, they enable search engines to parse their site's information effectively.

3. Creating location-specific pages

In crafting location-specific pages, a brand must ensure that the URL and page description contain the local phrases customers might use. This careful integration of local search lingo aligns with the terms of service for search engines, thereby enhancing relevance for local keywords.

Each page should narratively introduce the dispensary while incorporating key local terms, creating resonance for both the community and search algorithms. With every unique URL and description, dispensaries carve a distinct presence in the vast terrain of local search results.

Download our free cannabis dispensary SEO guide

Throughout this process, your brand will gain more visibility and relevance in the search engine results page for your target terms.

Wait, but technical SEO and coding is hard!

Technical SEO strategies such as the ones listed above can take a great deal of IT knowledge and experience. Otherwise, you will run the risk of harming your site, making things worse, or simply not knowing what to do.

Working with a professional web design team is often not enough to check off the boxes in technical SEO. They may be good at designing and front-end tasks, but technical search engine optimization occurs in the backend.

This is why working with a company that can manage your online presence, such as Green Dispensary Marketing, can play a big role in helping you check off many boxes without hiring a full marketing team. This way, you can integrate a point of sale and various tools onto your assets without pulling your hair out on the backend for challenging technical tasks.

Does a dispensary need SEO?

Yes, a cannabis dispensary that wants to stand out in its local area should be leveraging SEO alongside other common practices in digital marketing. Cannabis still hasn’t been accepted by major advertising platforms, making SEO one of the most valuable tools to have in your arsenal.

Need some help with cannabis dispensary SEO?

Mastering dispensary SEO and dominating the local search engine results page for each of your target terms requires a great deal of work—both on the front end for search engine optimization, and on the back end for technical SEO tasks.

By honing in on the strategies above, such as optimizing your Google business profile, adding in more listings, leveraging the power of local reviews, and finding ways to own the front search engine results page with 4-5 rankings, dispensaries can significantly boost their online visibility.

Want to get a free guide on cannabis dispensary SEO? Download it here.


Samuel Fisher

Co-founder at Green Dispensary Marketing

Samuel is the co-founder of Green Dispensary Marketing. He has authored hundreds of articles on cannabis topics - from seeds, strains and everything in between. Connect with Samuel on LinkedIn.

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