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July 22, 2019

Leafly vs. WeedMaps vs. Google Which is Best For Your Dispensary Marketing Strategy

If you’re a dispensary looking to land new customers from your online presence, WeedMaps, Leafly and Google are really the Big 3. There are however some interesting up and comers that we will cover in upcoming posts. With the new pricing models rolled out by Leafly and Weedmaps, it’s high time you did a little analysis of the kind of ROI you are getting from them. It will definitely vary from market to market and there is likely a role for all three platforms and more in your dispensary marketing strategy.
We’re going to take a look at all three platforms and get a sense of where the strengths and weaknesses lie.

Pricing

pricing comparison

While there are a number of ways of looking at this, I’m going to say that Google wins here hands down. You won’t get much traffic from Leafly or WeedMaps without spending some fairly serious money. However, depending on your market you will likely get some decent traffic from Google without spending much, if anything. The first step is to sign up for Google My Business and optimize your listing. We’ve written a two part guide on the, you can read it here.
If your market is at all competitive, you will need to spend some money optimizing your website and creating and implementing a search engine optimization strategy (SEO). Unless you know how to do this yourself you are likely going to have to hire someone.
It’s very tough to make an apples to apples comparison between SEO and Weedmaps and Leafly here, but I’ll try.

420 Central Dispensary
This dispensary paid 20K per month to Weedmaps

As our base case we will take the 420 Central dispensary, located in Santa Ana, California. According to Wired the owner paid $20 000 a month to Weedmaps for a premium listing. After taking a look at their surrounding area I would say this is fairly competitive market with dozens of dispensaries in a fairly small area. Without doing any further research I would say that  a high end SEO campaign would not be more than 3K per month to get real measurable results and a decent ROI in this area. It certainly wouldn’t be 20K! Contact us and we can talk pricing 420 Central ;).
Leafly has a similar pricing model to Weedmaps – they charge by impressions and base the rates on the local market size and competition. I would love to see 420’s numbers on how much traffic and business they got for their 20K a month! For it to equal what we have acheived for some of our clients in the past it would have to be very large indeed. We have acheived 50:1 ROI and in some cases more from SEO campaigns. I doubt Weedmaps is sending that kind of traffic or 420 Central wouldn’t have stopped paying their fees.
However, it should be noted that I would recommend being listed on both Weedmaps and Leafly as part of an SEO campaign for 420 – just not paying the top dollar for premium listing. In my experience they just don’t send the traffic. Although California does seem to have a pretty die hard Weedmaps user base and Weedmaps is more important there than in other areas.

Features

Weedmaps vs Leafly vs Google Features

When it comes to features – Google is definitely in the back seat here. Google doesn’t offer the menu and product features that the other two do. Google is not all that friendly to the cannabis space. They don’t off product listings and menus for cannabis stores the way they do for restaurants or other shops. In fact you can’t even use posts from your GMB listing if your primary category is set to “cannabis store”.
There are definitely reasons why consumers look to Weedmaps to find dispensaries and Leafly for product information. They’ve got the most to offer here.

The Customer Perspective

For some great insights into the customer’s perspective on these two platforms and dispensaries in general, check out this Reddit thread

…I like to do my own research prior to making any purchases whether that’s for medicinal marijuana or not. That gives me a frame of reference of what I want, so updated menus on weedmaps and strain info on Leafly is fantastic. It’s definitely nice to also have a knowledgeable and friendly budtender as well. Having tax included is a definitely plus too. Making the experience as painless and enjoyable for the patron will always encourage repeat business.

https://www.reddit.com/r/OKmarijuana/comments/bf0djx/weedmaps_leafly_neither/

Amen.

Traffic

This is where Google wins hands down again. Weedmaps has 1M downloads on Google Play while Google Maps is installed on every Android phone by default and a number of iPhones as well . It has 1.5 Billion installs! I’ll bet that virtually every Weedmaps user also has Google Maps on their phone. In fact WeedMaps uses the Google Maps API. So you need to be on Google! This is part of why it’s important to be listed on all three platforms in some way or another. It’s also important because Weedmaps and Leafly are pretty high authority sites in the cannabis niche and being listed there will likely help you get search traffic from Google. There are also a lot of other pretty decent directories out there that you should be in both for the traffic they will send as well as the positive SEO effects of a properly executed citation campaign.
As I said earlier I think that you should be on all of them – but Google is king when it comes to traffic.
Just look at this screenshot from Google Analytics for one of our clients. They had multiple locations listed on Weedmaps and Leafly and yet neither Weedmaps nor Leafly appear in the top ten traffic sources. While I didn’t put the revenue section of the data in the table – I can assure you that there was ZERO revenue attributed to either of them for online orders. They probably sent some foot traffic, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to Google. To be fair it is likely that Weedmaps did contribute some customer actions inside Google My Business (GMB) due to their use of the Google Maps API.

Dispensary Website Traffic in Google Analytics
Dispensary Website Traffic as Measured by Google Analytics Note How WeedMaps and Leafly are not even in the top ten. Weedmaps was 16th

Duck Duck Go sends more traffic than Weedmaps. One surprise here is the high conversion rate from the oft neglected Bing. You can’t see it in the screenshot – but Bing produced nearly 10K in online sales. It can be worth spending a little time on Bing optimization. Naturally Google should get the lion’s share of your time but, the lesson here is that you shouldn’t neglect some of the smaller channels.

SEO is A Long Game

One thing worth noting here is that with SEO it will take some time to get some results. I tell clients that it will take 90 days to get results from SEO. There are usually some low hanging fruit that can generate some quick wins, but generally, real lasting results will take longer. While worthwhile results take 90 days – the real money gets made after 6-12 months. You should also combine it with email marketing and a loyalty program to keep those hard earned customers coming back.

Leafly and WeedMaps for the Quick Hit

Leafly and Weedmaps will generate results right after you pay them. The inverse of that is that results end as soon as you stop paying. Ending an SEO campaign will lead to decreased visibility and traffic but it won’t be like turning off a tap the way it will be with the other two. You also will likely settle to a point that is still better than when you started as there are some parts of a good SEO strategy that produce lasting value.

Where should you spend your limited budget?

If you aren’t open yet – then start with SEO because you can lay the groundwork before you open while you aren’t clamouring for customers. If you are already open and you need more customers right away – you might consider a premium Weedmaps or Leafly listing. There is no cut and dried answer here. However, in the long term SEO will provide a far better ROI than Weedmaps or Leafly. I consider them to be Tier 1 Citations for a good SEO campaign, although there are customers to be gained from paying for premium listings.

The question is, where are your scarce marketing dollars best invested. A great way to track where your customers are coming from is to ask them. You will need some sort of survey for them in store and you can also ask customers on your email list. You are building an email list aren’t you? However, an in store survey will likely give you the most accurate results because you’re asking them at a time when they are closer to their discovery point of your store and you are not asking only the most engaged customers – ie. The ones that joined your email list.

The Entourage Effect

The customer journey from “…hmm where can I get some weed?” to walking into your store can be a complex one that may include all 3 platforms covered here. They may look for a strain on Leafly and then try and find a retailer on Weedmaps and then use Google to navigate to your store. This is why we consider dispensary marketing to be a holistic process that needs to take this into account. SEO is not enough on it’s own and neither is a premium listing on a platform like Weedmaps or Leafly. There is an entourage effect much like there is with everyone’s favourite flower.

Tags

Cannabis Shop, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, SEO,

Related Posts

Marketing Your Dispensary On Google

Citations and Cannabis Directory Sites To Power Up Your Dispensary SEO

Google My Business Optimization Part 2

Google My Business Optimization For Dispensaries

Davis Winn


Davis has been involved in SEO and Digital Marketing since 2004. SEO campaigns he has managed generated over 10M in sales last year.

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  1. Interesting take that seems a bit self fulfilling for your own business purposes. But I would love to hear how you are measuring ROI for these clients. Is it vanity metrics like CTR or are you measuring in store visits and order volume generated? Also any smart marketer knows Google Adwords and Google Ads is a sure way to get yourself banned and your My Business Listing off platform. So I’m curious to what tactics you’re using outside of generic SEO plays that should really cost way less than $3,000/month to setup a proper SEO strategy. Making some pretty large claims without any data to base those claims on as well as saying a price that was paid without any insight to value from the spend. Could it be that $20,000 translated to 1000 orders for the shop at maybe an average order value of $50 which would far justify the spend. Did the shop even track customer attribution and discovery? Too many variable to make this broad of a claim in my opinion. But nice fluff piece for your business.

    Reply

    1. Hi Adam,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. To address your questions,

      Metrics – Because completely accurate customer attribution is impossible, we look at a number of metrics and make inferences from those. One is to look at directions requests on Google My Business. GMB stats are notoriously inaccurate, but the trends seen there track with sales trends in our experience. If you assume 40% of the directions requests are resulting in in-store visits (pretty conservative in my opinion I’ve heard figures as high as 80%) and multiply that by the average sale value ($40 usually), you get a pretty good idea about whether or not your local SEO efforts are bearing fruit. It doesn’t take into account phone calls and website visits which are also of value. I have personally managed campaigns where the directions requests have gone from 30 per day to over 200 per day. During that time period their sales went from 250K per month to well over $1 Million per month. CTR has it’s place, but 50% of of local searches don’t result in a website visit. They call or ask directions from your GMB without ever visiting your site. There is a percentage of people that will simply look at your address and go to your store without doing anything. How do you attribute that?

      ROI – Even Google with their eyes in everybody’s phone can’t completely attribute every in store visit. They certainly don’t share that data with us.It can only be estimated in an in store setting, you need to look at correlations more than anything. The example you give of 1000 orders at $50 for $20K doesn’t justify the spend in my opinion. With a 40% profit margin (double the industry industry average) you are breaking even. $20 a sale acquisition cost? Maybe this is why MedMen is losing $2 on every dollar in sales? My point was that if the guy in the article felt he was getting his money’s worth, he wouldn’t have canceled his plan with Weedmaps. What I’m saying is that for $3K (probably less) I will destroy the sales volume provided by Weedmaps at $20K. Is that a bold claim? Maybe. I’ll stand by it. To be fair, in California Weedmaps has penetrated the cannabis consumer market very thoroughly. You need them. This is why they can charge such prices. In other states the prices tend to be lower.

      SEO Pricing – yes $3000 is expensive for a “generic” SEO play. I made the price high to give Weedmaps a fighting chance. I’ve seen the $750 generic plans people offer. I’ve seen them not get much in the way of results too. Optimizing for a set number of keywords on a set number of pages is the wrong way to go about it in my opinion. While it’s great to rank for “cannabis dispensary near me” the more important question is: “How much relevant traffic is Google sending me?”. We use a combination of Maps visibility, traditional SEO and reputation management (review quality and quantity is a ranking factor and it affects click thru Rates – in itself a ranking factor),
      to bring customers in. We then use email marketing and loyalty programs to bring them back. What’s it worth to have your GMB impressions increase by %800, your Customer Actions by 500% and your sales increase by 500% in a single year? Is it worth $3K per month? I think it probably is. I’m sure most dispensary owners would agree. We’ve done that for dispensaries repeatedly.

      Google Ads – While Google is restrictive with cannabis they do allow promoted pins on Maps. You see them all the time. You also see all kinds of cannabis businesses with paid search results. It’s an algorithm – it’s not that hard to fool. They still take bids on cannabis terms. Other than the promoted pins I don’t recommend Google Ads. There are a lot of business that are willing to try their hand at Google Ads and get suspended rather than not use it at all. I’ve never seen a dispensary have it’s listing removed for using Ads. I think you’d have to get really cheeky with them before they would remove your listing. Usually they just block the ads.

      Weedmaps is useful, I’ve seen businesses with no other marketing channels use it and they stay in business. So it obviously must provide a sustainable ROI.

      Reply

      1. Hello – THANK YOU for adding us to the list!

        I was a software developer for 25 years, so last year was a great learning experience and I’m taking those lessons and moving forward; Being self-funded makes it difficult, but hopefully someday we’ll see traffic similar to WM and LFLY!

        Reply

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