As a dispensary, one of the most important things you can do to increase your visibility and attract more customers is to optimize your Google My Business listing. This is a crucial part of any dispensary marketing strategy. It is likely that you have already done a lot of what I will detail below, but I will go through the complete process to ensure that you have all the steps.
Step by Step GMB Optimization
Claim and Verify Your Listing
This is the most important step and the one you have most likely done already. Not only will you increase you’re likelihood of showing for important search terms. You will also be more likely to show in the Knowledge Panel if your GMB listing is verified. If you already exist on Google and you didn’t add the listing, then when you search your name and address on Google Maps you will encounter something like the following:
Click on the link and then confirm the name is correct. If your business is brand new and doesn’t appear on the map you’ll need to set up the listing from scratch by going to https://www.google.com/business/ and signing up. From that point on the steps will be the same.
Why This is So Important
Without a verified listing it is unlikely that you will ever appear in the coveted 3 Pack when someone performs a relevant search. This may be possible in some industries but I have yet to see an unverified listing appear there in the highly competitive cannabis industry. A properly optimized listing is a crucial part of a local SEO strategy.
Having a verified GMB listing allows you to :
- Manage reviews – which are in themselves an important factor in your visibility
- Curate Photos from your customers
- Respond to inquiries and answer questions about your business (you can do it directly from within GMB – more on that later)
- Gain valuable insights into how customers are finding you and from where they request directions to your store.
Having an optimized listing has become even more important over the last few years. In fact it has increased from 14.7% of a businesses ranking factor to over 25% in the last year according to a survey of SEO professionals.
So add your name and then you will be asked if you want to add a physical location. Since dispensaries are retail stores the answer will be “Yes”. Then it will ask you to add your address. This should be exactly as it appears on your website. It is very important that it be accurate and consistent everywhere it appears. It will then ask you to position the pin on a map to mark your location – be as accurate as possible.
Next they will ask you if you serve customers outside your location. If you deliver then the answer will be “yes” and they will ask you to define your service area. You can do so with cities and postal codes. . For dispensaries that service an immediate area I would define your area by zip or postal code for better accuracy. If you are an online dispensary that delivers nationwide, then you may want to define a wider area. Now we come to the all important category.
The Importance of Categories in Google My Business
For dispensaries the choice of category can be a difficult one. Technically dispensaries fall under the relatively recently added category of “Cannabis shop”, which will display as “Cannabis Store” on the front end.. Prior to the creation of this category by Google everybody chose categories such as “Alternative Medicine Practitioner” or “Herb Shop”. It was really up to you. In many areas prominent dispensaries still have these categories as their primary category in GMB, while in other areas you will rarely find a dispensary with a category other than “Cannabis Shop”.
Tip: Search for “cannabis dispensary yourcity” on Google and then click “More Places” on the 3 Pack. If none of top ten have a category other than “cannabis shop”, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will never get to the top three without “cannabis shop” as your primary category.
“What’s so difficult?” you may ask. Well the issue is that the choice of category will determine what features Google will make available to your listing. As an example, with cannabis shop, there are very few features available, you can’t add “Products” or use Posts. Both of these features can be very powerful signals and can be used to increase your exposure. Some categories will also allow the use of an Appointment URL which can be used in various ways to pass more juice to your site.
As a business owner you are likely very busy and might not have the time or wherewithal to make full use of such features and how to do it is beyond the scope of this post, so I will recommend that you stick with “cannabis shop” for now. I will also recommend that you add “vaporizer shop” as a secondary category, provided you sell such products. I’ve seen dispensaries pick up some nice traffic from people searching for cannabis vape products simply by adding this as a secondary category. It is worth noting that you can add a number of categories but only the primary category will show on the listing.
Next Up : More Contact Details
Now Google will ask you if you want to provide more contact information, namely a phone number and website. Of course the answer is “Yes”. Add you phone number and website URL. If you don’t have a website then select “Get a free website based on your info.” Google will create a website for you based on your details. In fact I recommend creating this website later even if you have your own website. It will not hurt you to have a website on a high authority Google domain.
Now they will ask you how you would like to verify. It is almost certain that they will ask for a Postcard By Mail. This means they will send a postcard to the address you gave them with a verification code for you to enter in the Dashboard. This may take a while to arrive, which is why I recommend setting up your GMB listing as soon as possible.
As you can see it is not that difficult to set up a GMB listing and that it is possibly the single most important thing you can do to gain visibility and new customers as well as make sure existing customers can find you if they have a question.
In Part 2 I will go through the features inside the GMB dashboard and show you further optimization tips you can undertake once you are verified.