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SEO… Keyword Strategies for Cannabis Companies (part 1)

Welcome to keyword strategy in depth with probably about 3 parts, this being part one. Keyword research is the fundamental building block, for all cannabis business’ online marketing efforts. It goes beyond optimizing your website, to enabling a better connection when marketing to your audience, as you are using their language. We’ll begin by finding sources for keywords, seeing how search engines deliver different results based on the types of keywords, and building your keyword lists. Next, I’ll demonstrate how to effectively sift through the keyword data, in ways that maximize your ability to understand the searcher, and derive their intent.

We’ll see how to implement your keywords throughout the content of your website. I’ve been marketing online for nearly 20 years, cannabis specific on the last 8, and I love to teach people how to be successful in their own businesses with the tools, tips, and experience I’ve learned along the way.

Now, let’s get started.

What are keywords, and how people use them? Keywords, for lack of a better term, they are the way people think in a short format. People are inspired by ideas, they have questions. They just want to know something. And our behavior has changed dramatically in this age of search engines, because we have answers immediately at our fingertips. Keywords are the summation of people’s thoughts into actions on the keyboard. 91% of all adults go to a search engine nearly everyday in order to find information.

Ultimately, keywords are summation of people’s needs as they type them in to the search engine. They are also the ideas that people have. They may not be willing to act on those ideas but they want to know what’s out there, what is a good place to start in searching for information about a dispensary? Or an extraction machine. Also, just basic questions that come up throughout the day in the cannabis industry that need an answer. We have to learn what are the keyword insights in matching the phrases people use to the answers that they want.

We want to deliver to them the product, the information, or the ultimate goal of what they’re looking for based on the limited information they give us of what they type into that search box.

The keyword life cycle, and what we’re going to be covering in this course, is finding the keywords that will best match the searcher to your cannabis business. We are also going to evaluate keywords and understanding which ones are important and which ones are not so important, prioritizing keywords of how to build a strategy and which ones are going to deliver the right kind of customer to our business.

Then, we need to know how to implement all these keywords into our websites to increase our visibility in the search engines. And then ultimately, how to measure those keywords to ensure that we are choosing the right words, and that we are getting the right searchers to our cannabis business, and helping it to grow.

The implications of keywords

Of course, when we talk about developing a keyword strategy, the fundamental thing we need to remember is that all of this is dependent upon the search engines. The search engines are what provide the means to reach searchers. And so ultimately, we’re at the mercy of the search engine, in developing any type of keyword strategy. The only thing you can do is affect the search engines, and hopefully, in a way that’s favorable for you. Critical to this, is understanding how search engines work, and what it comes down to is that search engines need to access the information on your website In order to measure you properly to assess relevance.

Now, a fundamental part of how a search engine works is that it relies on a software program to visit your website and download the content that’s there. The software program we usually refer to as a bot or a spider or a crawler. It’s a couple different words that we use there. Ultimately, it’s the same thing because what a search engine does is they find your website through a link on another website. They’ll find a page through that link.

They’ll download that page and find links to other pages on your website. And then, they’ll request the rest of the pages that they find. And they’ll download them to the search engine’s server. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people but ultimately what the search engines are doing, is that they’re finding all of the pages on your website downloading them to a server. And then when you do a search for anything on a search engine you’re not searching the live internet what you are searching is the database.

The search engine with the ranking algorithm applied and then what you receive are the results based on all of the copies of websites that are contained in the database of the search engine. So our first issue in developing keywords is understanding that our architecture is a critical component. How well our website is built matters , because if our website is poorly built the search engines will not be able to access all of the pages on the website. We can do many things that can block them, but we want to make sure that the architecture is open.

When the search engine downloads the pages, they see the words in the code and content so that they can look and see what this website is about, what this page is about, and how it stacks up compared to other websites. The search engines will then deliver information based on how you search. The combinations of words used in the search box can also let the search engine determine what type of information you are looking for and then return results immediately based on that.

In Google, when we search for a place, we have a map of locations. So, instead of seeing organic results, we’re seeing directory listings. We can see the name of the resort, the URL of the website, any reviews that are available. As well as an address and phone number to connect directly with them. If you are on your mobile device, you could click and call with the phone number right from your mobile.

We can also have immediate access into the photos. Granted there are other properties listed here and we can see reviews from TripAdvisor, from yelp. And so because we’re looking for a specific place, now the reviews are going to be more heavily favored in the results. Other search engines do this as well. Let’s go to Bing and look for a California dispensary. So when we search for Urbn Leaf, we have our organic results.

And so search engines, as their first responsibility, are there to help the searcher find the information that they want. And we can see this at the bottom of the Search Engine Results page. The suggestions that they use to help searchers focus more tightly on the information that is important to them. The search engines’ first focus is the searcher, and you can only affect those results but we’re going to learn how you can do that and target the right searcher for your cannabis niche.

How can we use keywords?

When initially building your keyword list, you want to start with what the search engines are providing in terms of feedback for your specific cannabis products. You see the keywords are important because the better you understand the words that people are using to find your products in your market the more you can use those same words in other forms of marketing. You see, this is the best form of Market Intelligence because you can get into the mind of the searcher. And when you understand how they are searching for specific things, you can use those same words in your Ad Buys, in your Press Releases, in your social media, you can track the success in Analytics, you can use these things in pay-per-click.

Keywords are the foundational building block of any online marketing strategy and they also provide market intelligence and information to even help you with your offline marketing. There is no other resource available that allows us to get into the mind of the consumer like keywords.The first thing to do is go to your website and the website we are going to be using in this course as an example is thecannabismarketinglab.com. As you can see, it’s a website about cannabis company marketing..

So, what we are going to do is first, look at our high-level list of the products that are offered. So, websites, SEO, social media, content writing, etc. for cannabis businesses. From a high level these are our products. This is what we want to sell and get exposure for in the search engines. When you go to the search engines, start at a high level.

So we’re going to look at cannabis marketing. You can see the competition that shows up. What we’re going to look at a little more in-depth, is the type of competition that’s there, and why it shows up the way that it does. So immediately, what should jump out to you is the exact keyword match of the phrase that was typed into the search engine.

We typed in cannabis marketing and we can see that the term that we typed in is bolded. Every search engine does this. It helps our brain process more quickly the information in the results. People tend to look more closely at the results that have more bolded terms. Because that automatically tells our brain it’s more specific to what we typed in and so we can see that even the search engine provides both singular and plural.

There’s a lot of matches in there in multiple places throughout the page. So we can look and see how our competition is utilizing the exact phrases that we may want to position ourselves for. When we go a little bit more in depth in detailed in our keyword phrase. So let’s look at cannabis website marketing. Let’s look at the context of words that surround that result. We immediately see that there might be an issue here in going after the word website.

Because what the search engine is showing is website. The number one organic result, that’s the first one after the shaded box of ads. It says top ten cannabis websites. And so immediately that should be a big red flag in our keyword strategy that we typed in website, but we’re seeing website showing up in the organic results. That’s the first step to understanding the types of competition, as well as, words that other sites are favoring.

And may be words that the search engines are automatically putting together in terms of synonyms that are alike. This may be beneficial, this may be a hindrance if there is a specific difference in some industries. We can also get a sense of the order that people use in the search term and the order that is reflected in the results. If the search term is cannabis websites, we can see the first two organic results mirror that specifically.

So the first step. Just take a high level view of the types of cannabis products or services you have on your site. Go to the search engine and start typing in some very general terms to very specific terms to get a sense of what the competition is doing. But also how the search engines are interpreting and developing context around those phrases.

Find keyword research resources

Fortunately when we begin our investigation of keywords, there are a lot of resources available in which to use to start building your keyword list. The places that you can go to find keywords are innumerable. There are a lot of keyword research tools, and we are going to cover some of those. A great way to get it right from the source, is from your webmaster tools in Google or from Bing. You can also look at your analytics program, to get a sense of which search engines are sending people to your website, for which words, and then seeing how they progress through your website.

You can also use Google’s AdPlanner which will help you see which words are most popular, which ones are in demand, and help you understand the keyword universe that’s out there. Let’s go to the Bing webmaster tool set. Bing is pretty in-depth, and in their keyword report, you can go to the search keywords. It will show you all the keywords that have delivered searchers to your website. It will also show you how many times your website has appeared in the search results for that keyword, and how many times your result was clicked on, for people to go to your website and the average position of that keyword in the results. You can also go to this tab where it says pages served. And what that will show you, is for that specific keyword which pages appeared in the search results, and which pages showed up in the search results for that term. So you can see when people searched for a specific term, which page tends to rank the highest, and which page people tend to enter your website seeing. This is very critical because it helps us understand, do people like the page that they see first? Sometimes you can have one page ranking well, but it’s not the page people want to see.

This is the keyword page report on the Bing webmaster tools. You can also look at your analytics program. Many analytics programs will have a search keyword report specifically for organic search. You can see which keywords, regardless of search engine, sent visitors to your website, which pages they viewed, where did they go, when did they leave, and how much time they spent on the website.

Another source that you can go to is the Google AdWords keyword planner. Go to the tools tab, and enter one or more of your high level cannabis products or services. Put your landing page in, and then Google will automatically go out, and suggest which keywords, are going to be best for sending visitors to your website.

Now of course, because this is the ad planner, it’s showing you the competition level based on how many other people are bidding on those keywords. However, from an organic standpoint, we’re interested to know, how many keywords there are, that are related to our business and the average number of monthly searches. Which will help us know, which keywords are more popular than other keywords. Those are some of the best resource that you can go to. But in just looking at some of the additional research tools, there are many that are out there, and all of them offer free trials.

So there’s no reason not to go see if there is one that you really like more than the others. That will help you navigate a good keyword list to start marketing your website.

View the keyword universe

So let’s dig in and start getting an idea of the full amount of keywords that are available to your business and to the cannabis industry. Again, taking the thecannabismarketinglab.com website and looking at the high level services that are available, we’re now going to look at the available keywords for each specific services. Now, I’m using a tool called keyword discovery, which enables me to type in a specific phrase and then see all the search results that build off of that phrase.

I’m typing in cannabis marketing and then I have my results underneath. All the terms that use cannabis marketing as a base and then add-on. And really, my goal using this kind of a tool, is really just to see what’s there. What are the innumerable combinations that people are using in order to get to what they want? How do people use these different words? Why are there 5,000 different variations of the search term, cannabis marketing? So this is our first step in digging in and seeing how people search.

Read keyword data effectively

As you begin building your keyword lists, it’s important to understand where the keyword data comes from, so that you don’t get too bogged down into the details. One thing that is very important to remember, is that keyword research, and all these numbers that you’re seeing, this isn’t science, this is more of an art. And so be wary of being too concerned about the keyword numbers and the amount of searches. You see, all the keyword tools are going to approach this differently.

Depending upon the tool, that could be a 30 day estimate, a 60 day estimate or an annual estimate. You’ve got to look at each tool to see where they’re getting the information and how they are presenting it. Otherwise, you might be getting distracted because for some keywords, a thirty day total may not include the seasonal trend. And so you can get distracted by thinking it’s a low searched key word, when in fact your not looking at the big picture. Another thing is to understand where this data comes from.

Some of the keyword data comes from the search engines themselves. But that is, of course, if the search engine chooses to share that keyword data, which we’re seeing less and less of. Some keyword tools use Google AdWords. So it’s going to be affected by the amount that people are bidding on that term. And if it’s a high valued term within Google AdWords. Some keyword data comes from toolbars, from service providers, shared analytics, or platforms within the cannabis industry that try to aggregate as much information as possible, and then present an estimate.

So it’s important to realize that the majority of the keyword data that you are seeing is going to be an estimate. It’s going to be drawn from other numbers from other sources, to provide you a guide and that’s all you should use those numbers as, is a guide to seeing certain patterns. So what should we look for in the keyword data? The first thing I recommend looking for is the ratio. The ratio is looking and comparing at different terms.

So for example, cannabis marketing when compared to marketing cannabis. All it is, is the difference in how people sequence those words. It’s a difference of thousands of searches. Granted, we’ve got numbers here but because they’re undependable and they’re coming from multiple sources. The ratio is going to be the thing that’s most important. That more people search on cannabis marketing as opposed to marketing cannabis. Another thing to look at is the comparison.


This is the first of a three part series. Stay tuned for part 2 next week!


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