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I receive several calls a week from entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry looking for a proposal for marketing services. I can’t tell you how often, once I touch on cannabis SEO, I’m told that SEO is total “bs”… more than I can count. Now, I get it. You’ve been burned by someone calling you saying they can put you on the first page of Google. They take your money and you never get there. With that said, I’ve decided to share insights about SEO to show you non-believing cannabis entrepreneurs that it is, in fact, a “thing”.

I’ve heard grown people cry when told that their brand new website is virtually useless and may need a total redesign to achieve their SEO goals. Yep, re-read that. Your site is your house. It may look great or describe your services, but that doesn’t mean it’s built to integrate with all of the other online channels that we have to think about today. Before we make any decision about the website, we need to look at how these things work together.

Your email has to work with your content. Today, your content is the best way that you can generate any search engine results. Even your advertising has to take your SEO efforts into consideration. The idea that people are still out there hiring a social media person, a web person, SEO person and a content person from different places who are never talking does not work. It would be pure luck if there was any effect at all.

The SEO Evolution

SEO has changed a lot. It’s gone from frosting on a cake to the sugar that goes into baking a cake. It used to be a lot more about technical advantages. Back in the day, you could actually write a check to someone to get you visibility. You didn’t even have to get involved with the marketing, but not anymore. That’s the key. You have to tie all the pieces together now. Most web designers cannot SEO. I’m sure I’ll get some emails about that (LOL), but I said most. I mean, can an Interior Designer build your home?

Keyword research needs to be discussed before you ever create a website or come up with a content strategy. Design of the visitor experience will come later. Most people don’t know this and the web design industry isn’t going to school you… this is their lifeblood. A website needs to be an inbound marketing platform, simply put.

With that said, it’s not the Entrepreneur’s fault. You are being brainwashed. Even hosting companies are saying “we will give you a $25 per month website and get you listed on Google”. It brainwashes the entire buying market into thinking website design is a commodity, there’s really not much to it, it’s just a digital brochure. The reality is that you don’t get a simple template website, toss it out into the Internet, and all of a sudden it ranks and makes the phone ring. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Designing for SEO

There are two ways to look at this. Some web designers want to continue selling web design as a digital brochure product because they don’t want to be accountable for the return-on-investment part of what a website should be. The other one, is some people just aren’t into it. They are graphic designers or artists and haven’t had the training on that piece of it. There are a lot of ways to make something look good, but those aren’t necessarily good for SEO. Then the SEO community comes into the scenario as a retrofit trying to back fill things. It feeds on itself.

I’m not picking on web designers. I’m just saying that they have to start building marketing activated websites. The purpose of the website is to get the phone to ring, so there has to be certain elements that just have to be addressed. It’s not just SEO; it’s lead capture and so much more.

If you are talking to an SEO company and they are not talking to you about producing content, you should run away. Google has gotten a lot better about finding, indexing, and raising the importance of good content on the Internet. Google knows where great content is and who gets credit for it. When I think of content, I think globally for digital marketing. Publishing a great post on your blog and then distributing it on your social media channels so you can get signals and traffic back to your website all ties together.

When I talk about content marketing, it involves several different things which can include podcasts, blog posting, a video series, and a ton of other things that make your website work, and help you get credit where you need to get credit. Distributing content all comes back to SEO. Your website is the hub for all of this, but it has to have a system to make it all contribute to an ROI.

SEO Bottomline

So what are the questions that you should ask way before getting to the discussion of how a website looks? Well, I can tell you how this plays out from my end. Our main questions include “What does your current revenue pie look like? What would your ideal revenue chart look like? Who is your ideal customer? What are the reasons for these particular questions?” The site needs to be reverse engineered around the way a client’s customers are looking at, researching, and consuming content. It also helps lay the foundation to know where the most profitable lines of business are. Only then can you figure out how the ideal customers are searching for these products and services on the Internet.

You have to know what the customer’s business goals are, then how the ideal customer is searching. At that point, we can see keyword activity on how your customers are searching on the Internet. We then need to find a way to put those into buckets and reverse engineer the plan around how people are searching.

Cannabis entrepreneurs do not have a captive audience. This takes work. I’m not saying back linking doesn’t work. It’s just about what type. It’s not about volume anymore. Backlinks today should be about the right content so you can distribute in such as way that will attract a backlink from high quality websites. Ask a company about their backlink strategy.

If you are a local business, like a dispensary, you really need to be focusing on Google my Business and getting ratings and reviews as well.

If you do go to an SEO firm, what are the red flags? “Guaranteed rankings.” 😉