I was stoked when Chris Silver Smith turned us all on to the potential issues with marijuana and local search last month. As an early dabbler in helping marijuana dispensaries figure out local SEO, I, too, think it’s high time to help marketers recognize the challenges and opportunities in this fast-growing industry. One of the biggest issues I see dispensary marketers confronting is how to get these businesses listed on Google Places. As Chris mentioned, cannabis-related businesses appear to be against Google Places’ guidelines, and there is no category for Medical Marijuana in Google Places’ category menu. But as you can see, dispensaries do show up in local results for medical marijuana-related queries:
So let’s figure out how they’re doing it, shall we? Let’s look at The Clinic Colorado.
Google Places Page
First, let’s look at their Google Places Page (“Google+ Local Page”):
Their main category is “Alternative Medicine,” but the signals that Google is pulling from their reviews are clearly about “medical cannabis.” This is a good example of the power of keywords in native Google+ reviews.
Local Citations On Big Local Directories
Let’s look at a typical local citation for the business on Yelp:
Yelp allows a business to be categorized as a “Cannabis Clinic.” This is a signal that Google can scrape and use to further categorize the entity that is “The Clinic Colorado.” There are similar categories on some of the major local directories that allow for these types of businesses.
Leafly is a marijuana vertical directory based out of Seattle. Everything about this listing tells Google that ranking high is not The Clinic’s only goal. There are tons of other vertical-specific directories like Weedmaps.com, but my personal favorite is Shabong.
You might not think that a marijuana dispensary would have a robust citation profile, but according to WhiteSpark’s Local Citation Finder, The Clinic Colorado has 189 citations. That is at least 2-3 times more than most local business sites we work with. The good news about this category is that customers appear to like to talk about their favorites.
Don’t Forget The Website
A quick review of The Clinic Colorado’s website and you’ll see that they are clearly optimizing it for all sorts of medical marijuana queries via targeted title tags, internal link anchor text, relevant content, etc.
If you want to rank in Local, it doesn’t hurt if you are a subject matter expert.
Get your data into/updated in the main data aggregators: InfoGroup, Axciom, Neustar Localeze and Factual. Infogroup supports medical marijuana. Given their alleged direct pipeline into Google, this may be a powerful tool for sending nice big plumes of SEO smoke in the direction of your business:
- Infogroup has created a new category that will be available in the December file transfer, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (SIC 512227). Through internet research we went from 7 records with this classification in November to over 1,600 in December. 36% of these records originated in New Business and 25% were in the Yellow Pages, but none were clearly indicated to be marijuana dispensaries in these sources, which left our database with a deficiency of this new industry.
Got The Basics Done — Now What?
Go into Google MapMaker and add various target categories to your listing. Here’s The Clinic Colorado’s:
Warning: It’s possible this kind of thing may fall outside of Google’s quality guidelines, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting any dispensaries I have looked at lately.
Also, there are currently a number of issues with creating custom categories in Google Map Maker. If you haven’t already claimed your Google Places page, it may be better to add the business to MapMaker with custom categories, which should be easier to get approved, and then claim the Places page.
If you have already claimed your Places page, you may even want to try unclaiming it, setting up the MapMaker listing with custom categories and then reclaiming the Places page. Of course there’s a lot more detail to these techniques and this kind of thing is risky territory; but if you are in the cannabis business, chances are you already know something about risk.
A Few Branded Links Couldn’t Hurt Either
I really like The Clinic Colorado’s backlink profile (from MajesticSEO). As you can see, it’s heavy on the branded anchor text with just a smidgen of commercial anchors in there. This kind of mix should work great for local queries:
As the industry grows, there are likely to be more opportunities to build awareness for these types of businesses. I have put together a list of the Top Marijuana Dispensary Directories and Citation Sources to give everyone an idea of some of the more important sites. If there are any I have missed, feel free to give me shout out in the comments.