Why Your Cannabis Business Needs SEO And Why You Should Avoid PPC
April 20, 2021 | By Jeff | In Tips & Advice
Let me tell you a little story. I picked up a client recently that needed me to help him with several technical issues he was dealing with. Out of the blue, his Paypal account got shut down, his Google account was canceled, and his Facebook account got suspended. He called me in to investigate. What in the world could have happened?! I had a look at his website to see what it was that could possibly be wrong. Turns out he was selling CBD products. Seems fine, right? Well, I started digging and researching a little bit and found out many major platforms out there prohibit any type of CBD marketing and can suspend or shut down your accounts if you do. Well, that’s quite a revelation and a major predicament if that’s what your main business is.
So here’s the deal. If you try to create ads where you are selling cannabis products on Google Ads, if they find out, you can have your ad campaign shut down. In some cases, you can even have your entire Google account suspended. The same goes for Facebook. You cannot make paid Facebook ads if you are selling cannabis products. In the case of Google, if you’re lucky, they will just reject your ads, but Facebook’s AI algorithm has gone full scorched earth. Even the “mention” of cannabis and say goodbye to your ad account with no hope to appeal it. There are also several payment processor companies that do not allow you to collect payment for any type of cannabis product. Paypal being one of them.
Why Is This?
Despite the fact that CBD and hemp products were removed from the controlled substances list in the 2018 Farm Bill and are no longer associated with marijuana, CBD and Hemp products are still considered a “high risk business”. And marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, despite many states having legalized it just this year. Because of that, Google & Facebook, and most of the major payment processing companies will not allow you to conduct business on their platforms. That means no paid Google Ads, no paid Facebook Ads, and no credit card processing with any of the more well known gateways.
Great….So Now What?!
Don’t fret. There are still payment processing companies out there that will still accept processing for cannabis companies. One of of the more popular ones, Square, has just recently started accepting processing for the CBD industry. Some other processing companies that accept CBD are: USAePay, PayKings, SMB Global, Easy Pay Direct, and PayWize.
Slowly, more and more payment processing companies are starting to accept processing for the cannabis industry. It’s becoming a very lucrative business and they’d be stupid to pass it up.
That’s Great, But What About Marketing?
Funny you should ask. As of now Google and Facebook, the two biggest platforms for placing paid ads still prohibit the creation of ads if you are directly advertising the sale of cannabis based products. Sure you can try to fly under the radar for a little while using euphemistic language and “alluding” to CBD/Hemp Oil, but once you’re caught, you’re in the dog house. Plus, you’re playing with fire if you try. They state that if you are selling specifically “Hemp” based products, you’re okay, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to sell CBD or in many cases where it has been legalized, actual marijuana. The rules state that you can post ads if you aren’t “selling” products on your site and are just sharing “information” about cannabis, however I don’t trust the bots that screen these ads to make logical and fair decisions. Also, this is counterproductive if you actually do want to sell products. And good luck trying to dispute a suspension once it has been made…. There’s NOBODY to talk to. Facebook has been out of control with it’s AI disabling ad accounts if you so much as sneeze. Just the mention of CBD or Cannabis in your ads, will get your account shut down. No three strikes. No simple rejection of your ad. Just SHUT DOWN. And their dispute feature might as well not exist. You can mash that “dispute” button on Facebook endlessly to deaf ears. It’s futile.
Organic Search Engine Optimization Is The Safe Answer
If you want to market your cannabis business, you are going to have to work hard. Since paid advertising is difficult, you’re going to have to resort to some real “old school” methods like word of mouth, print advertising, radio ads, guerilla marketing, affiliate marketing, and other methods.
One popular method that is still very effective “AND SAFE” for promoting your brand is organic (non-paid) Search Engine Optimization. In other words, getting your website to rank at the top of Google results when people type in search terms that pertain to your product. This is a perfectly fine method for you to get around Google’s paid ads restrictions. Since you are not paying for any actual ads and doing tasks to make your website “naturally” appear at the top of search results, there is no risk involved.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very effective and long lasting technique to market any type of brand or company and has been a staple in online marketing. Since cannabis companies cannot do paid advertising online, SEO is even more important than ever as it is a very safe and effective method.
Some simple things you can do to optimize your website for keywords that pertain to your product:
- Do effective keyword research. Find keywords that have a high search rate, but low competition.
- Place keywords in your title tags
- Place keywords in your image alt tags
- Place keywords in your text body
- Don’t make anything read as spammy
- Get backlinks to your site from reputable websites
If this all sounds very stressful and overwhelming, I recently put together a free guide that you can download that walks you through the basics of Search Engine Optimization. I hope it helps you out in your venture.