The global pandemic has spurred the growth of the cannabis industry. Over two-thirds of adults in the U.S. now believe marijuana should be legalized, and adoption is growing. As of this writing, medical use is legal in 37 states, and recreational sales are allowed in 18 states and Washington D.C.
Now is a great time to begin your legal business. In this guide, we will outline the key steps required to set up a dispensary, and recommended strategies for marijuana SEO promotion in 2022. Despite its size, the cannabis industry is still censored in terms of advertising media. Businesses may not use Google Ads, so SEO is king.
What you need to open a dispensary
Check the adoption map on the NCSL site to see where you can set up a legal business. Whether you become a grower or dispensary owner, getting a license is your first step. Create a promotional strategy well in advance. The best way to sell Delta-8 THC and any other products is SEO.
In states where marijuana is legal, you must obtain a license. The fee varies geographically. It is the cheapest in Oregon ($250), while companies in California may pay up to 120,000 depending on their size and operations. The fee is non-refundable, and you will need to renew your license every year.
Some states require a particular amount of liquid capital. You must prove that your dispensary will be able to stay afloat in an economic downturn. On average, dispensary owners need $150,000.
3. Real estate
Dispensaries with brick-and-mortar locations appear on Google Maps and local search results. However, finding premises to rent is not easy. State regulations determine the required distance between dispensaries and facilities visited by children. At the same time, you need a place with decent foot traffic.
Banking is another problem for cannabis businesses, as major institutions shun them. Find a specialized marijuana bank or a credit union working with dispensaries.
The necessary hardware and software should set you back around $25,000. Dispensaries need reliable security systems, as they are very attractive to thieves. Due to the banking complications, they often have a lot of cash on the premises.
The smallest dispensary team should include one store manager and budtenders. If you want to grow your own cannabis, you need a master grower and a special license for these operations. Average payroll costs for a small team are over 250,000 per year.
7. Other costs
Aside from payroll, your regular expenses will include insurance and legal services. Using popular SEO tools and strategies, you can promote your business online at a relatively low cost.
Becoming a cultivator
If you want to grow cannabis and sell products to dispensaries, you need a special type of license. The costs will vary. For example, applying for a medical cultivator provisional license in Ohio costs $20,000 for level 1 and $2,000 for level 2. You will pay $180,000 or $18,000 in total.
The requirements depend on the state or county laws. You can sell to medical or recreational dispensaries. In-depth market research is a must. Study the local supply and demand to identify the best market opportunities.
Generally, the most popular cannabis products are edibles like lollipops and gummies. They sell fast and people love them. You may also see a gap in the market for solventless concentrates or organic flowers.
Product development will not be easy. This cycle includes processing, manufacturing, branding, and packaging. You must investigate all applicable legal requirements and regulations before contacting potential clients.
5 tips for online promotion
As online ads are out of the question, focus on optimization strategies to rise in organic search. This way, when users google the products or services you sell, they will see your brand name at the top of the results. Online visibility is the cornerstone of lasting success.
SEO has several pillars: quality of content, backlink profile, and keyword use. Google algorithms assess over 200 factors, but they are all connected to one mission — providing users with relevant and valuable content matching their search intent.
These are the words and phrases your potential customers type into Google. By optimizing for the right keywords, you will attract visitors interested in your product. Some keywords are more difficult to rank for than others.
Generally, companies are advised to use both short-tail and long-tail keywords. Longer combinations (three or more words) are more specific and easier to rank for. For example, ranking for “cannabis oil” or “CBD oil” is extremely difficult, while “medical cannabis tinctures” has less competition.
2. Watch your competition
To generate new ideas, look at what your arrivals are doing as part of their SEO strategy. You can enter their domains into a keyword research tool to get a list of the queries they target.
3. Create valuable content
Focus on becoming a credible source of information. Set up a blog and produce relevant well-researched content. Write at least 500 on every page. Answer the most popular questions about your business, product, and industry. Avoid plagiarism and duplicate content.
4. Mobile optimization
Mobile-friendly websites have a ranking advantage by default. The majority of consumers browse the internet from smartphones or tablets, so make sure your content looks stellar on smaller screens.
5. Google My Business
Having a GMB page is crucial, as your dispensary will not appear in local search otherwise. Fill it with accurate information and high-quality photos. Take care of the feedback section: encourage happy customers to contribute, and respond to negative feedback promptly. A seasoned SEO team will help you optimize your GMB presence for dozens of ranking factors. Your goal is to land in the “local pack” — the list of top-4 businesses on top of the SERPs.
Story by Alexandra Griffin