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Optimize Your Online Cannabis Business

Some advice on upping your marijuana marketing strategies in an ever-growing industry.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Even without full federal legalization, the country's cannabis market was valued at over $13 billion in 2019 and, according to stats compiled by New Frontier Data, expected to reach $30 billion by 2025.

iQoncept | Getty Images

As five more states legalize it, consumer spending is only going to go up and e-commerce continues to drive innovation throughout this budding industry. 

While cannabis itself isn't legally sold online, a vast range of paraphernalia is readily available. This includes bongs, dab rigs, vaporizers, pipes, rolling papers, grinders and growing supplies. 

With all that competition, getting your brand to stand out can be daunting nor is it made any easier with restrictions on paid ads for the industry. Not easy, but not impossible either... 

Onpage SEO

Search engine optimization ensures customers can actually find your webpage. While several specific companies are catering to the industry's unique SEO needs, there is a lot you can do yourself. 

Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush will let you find relevant keywords.

SEMrush has a wealth of knowledge you can tap for free and the SEMrush Academy page helps anyone with moderate web knowledge improve their sites. 

Be sure to find the relevant terms for the products you're selling, and create compelling copy for every page on your site, aligning it carefully to the keywords with good search volumes. 

A page about bongs could include a huge range of options for all the various types of water pipes you sell, the material they are made from, different styles and design themes. 

If you don't have a physical store, then you'll want to create content targeting a wide range of keywords. Be sure to include your brand name on each page. For example, the Lookah headshop sells glass bongs, so it won't be trying to rank for silicone-based options. As they sell beaker, straight neck, and ice bongs, they will create content, including these labels, to try and rank for them.  

However, every other online headshop will likely be competing for the same items, so they will use their unique brand name to find relevant keywords as well. It's a good idea to target long-tail keywords, which can be easy low-hanging fruit, as well as short-tail keywords which, while more competitive, attract greater search volume. 

Each page should also have a unique meta title and description. 

For brick-and-mortar stores, adding the location to your webpage will improve your local search results. If you don't sell online, there is no point in trying to attract customers from California when you're located in Colorado. 

Showcase your products and services on your website. If you have a physical property, then post pictures of happy customers. Introduce your staff and products with weekly blogs and use the page to help announce deals and promotions. Creating great content, and making yourself an authority in the market, will help more prospective customers discover your services. 

Related: Top 3 Decisions of Successful Cannabis Start-Ups

Business directories

For dispensaries and headshops, creating a Google profile can help build your local online presence. Registering and verifying your address ensures you show up on Google Map listings. You can even share this on your social network pages. Why not embed the map onto your webpage so potential customers can easily find travel directions to get to you? 

This will helps clientele searching for keywords like "dispensary near me" find your store and increase footfall.  

The Better Business Bureau and  national directories like YELP are good choices for stores with a physical presence. 

Related: How to Start a Side Hustle Selling CBD in 2021

Content marketing

Content marketing is essentially about listening to your customers, identifying their needs and creating answers to any questions they may have. It can be either on-page or off-page but, ideally, a bit of both. This could take the form of a blog, video tutorial or an instructional post on your Instagram feed. Leverage your social media account for this as well as forums and question pages such as Quora. 

Leverage social media

Social media can be unfriendly to the industry. There are many influencers who get accounts removed for treading foul of online rules while direct-paid-advertising is a big no-no. However, you can set up a business page on Facebook or make an account on Instagram. Ensure you fill out all the business information, including address, opening hours and content details. 

Be careful to not directly show the taking of drugs as it could get you banned. You can use these sites to showcase pictures of bongs, dab rigs, and other devices as long as you're not trying to solicit sales for them on the site. You can also join related groups on Reddit to share links.   


Due to the lack of traditional paid marketing, cannabis companies have been quick to take advantage of this option. Select influencers who make content that aligns with your brand's ethos. There are many fake accounts with dubious followers, or bot-generated likes, who will charge a fortune to make you uninformed content that provides little benefit in the long run. Finding a few good micro-influencers, who regularly engage with their audience, can be equally affordable and ideal. 

Affiliate marketing

For online stores, this can be an affordable way to build brand awareness and drive traffic. List the details on affiliate program sites like SahreAsale or Affiliatly. Companies can signup for your program and will send customers to your page. If that traffic converts to sales, or other targeted leads you've selected, the affiliate earns a commission. Be sure to provide plenty of content images, and banners for your affiliates, to make it easier for them to help you. Most e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify and Bigcommerce, will have easy-to-use plugins for the leading affiliate marketing sites. 


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