Google uses your content to understand your website. It reads the words on each page, sees what every page links to and knows when topics are related. The more information a site has on a single topic, the better all its pages for that topic can perform.
To create a Google-friendly site, it’s important to provide high-quality content on the pages of your website, particularly the homepage, according to the search engine giant.
“This is the single most important thing to do,” Google says. “In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”
You always want to write for your customers, but the “optimization” in search engine optimization (SEO) means your content can be easily understood by a search engine. The content, what your page links to and image titles all help Google quickly understand the pages on your website.
Here are some tips on how to create your own strategy, what to write and how you can improve your content.
Create a content wheel
Content is like a wheel, and each subject is a spoke on your content wheel. These spokes cover broad topics related to your business.
A customer looking for an address and store hours may not read past the homepage; that’s why the homepage is your primary content hub — it contains the most important and widely searched for information about your business.
A cannabis retailer might separate its spoke pages into concentrates, edibles, flowers, marijuana delivery, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis.
The rim of your content wheel is composed of pages that support the broader spoke pages. The rim pages that support a cannabis edibles spoke might include: What to expect when you eat an edible, cooking with cannabis at home or discreet edibles for public consumption.
Answer customer questions
You always want to create better pages than the top results for your search query.
User searches come in different sizes, and you’ll want to target both single- and multi-word searches, because similar searches with a different length, like “dispensary” and “best local weed dispensary” can display unique results.
A long-tail (multi-word) key term is any search query of four words or more. Answer the Public, a consumer insight website, is a great resource for finding long-tail key terms. Some of the top results for a search of “marijuana edibles” include: how weed edibles work; can marijuana edibles go bad; are marijuana edibles good for pain; and marijuana edibles for arthritis pain.
A short key term is a one-, two- or three-word search query.
Keyword IO, a free key-word research tool, provides a list of Google’s autofill results for any search query you enter. Some of the top results for a search of “marijuana edibles” include: best marijuana edibles; DIY marijuana edibles; fast marijuana edibles; marijuana edibles benefits; and using marijuana edibles.
Business sites should support each “spoke” product or service page with a cluster of supporting “rim” pages that include short- and long-tail key terms in their content.
Look for topic patterns
Do a lot of search queries ask the same thing in different ways? Does a specific key term come up again and again?
For example, when searching for edibles, questions about pain-relief benefits show up repeatedly. The search queries might be phrased a little differently, but users are looking for the same information.
It’s also common to see specific questions about different conditions. These questions are unique and don’t show up over and over. You want to separate the general searches from the specific searches when you make a list of the key terms you want to put into your content.
When your customers ask many versions of the same question, answer them in a “spoke” page. Spoke pages should be an overview of your product or service.
For example, an edibles spoke page should lightly cover different aspect of consuming an edible: how long until the effects begin, how long the effects last and an outline of the benefits of edibles.
Answer unique questions about a single sub-topic on a “rim” page. Rim pages provide specific, supporting information for your spoke pages.
For example, a rim page about how cannabis edibles work would cover much more than the spoke page. Content should go into detail about how THC is processed differently when ingested than smoked. Discuss edible effects in depth and how long they last compared to other consumption methods. Illustrated graphics are also a great way to display information and engage with customers.
What kind of pages should you write?
– FAQ: Frequently asked questions target new customers. What are the most common questions you get about your products? Answer them with an FAQ.
Write for someone who doesn’t know anything about the cannabis industry. If your business is oil production, discuss THC extraction in the most basic terms available. Images and graphics can help simplify a complicated process and also keep visual learners engaged.
– Benefits page: These can be generalized or niche. A farm can discuss the benefits of its crop rotation and natural pest control methods. A dispensary can target each condition cannabis treats by writing about the benefits of certain strains for conditions like insomnia or anxiety. As always, write for the audience you want to reach.
– Answer page: Directly answer a question from your key term research. Make sure you cover the topic in detail and link to resources that help support the answer. Resources should be authoritative. Always link to .gov and .edu pages when you can.
In addition to Google Analytics, there are a variety of tools you can use to track your results. One example is SEO Centro’s Rank Checker tool, which will show you what position your website ranks for a key term and which of your pages is ranking for it.
Tracking results can be as easy as creating a spreadsheet of your key terms, what position they are in, which page is ranking for each one and the date you last checked your results.
Check where you rank for a key term before you change content. Ranking records can help you know whether your work moved a page ranking up or pushed it down. We recommend checking your results about once a month. New content or a content change can take from three months to a year to produce results.
Improving existing content
In order to improve the content you already have, you’ll want to go through the same research process with a few key differences.
– Do your key term research. Identify long- and short-tail key words for each page and track your current rankings.
– Look at the sites that rank higher than yours. What information do higher ranking sites have that your site doesn’t? Can you create a page with even better information on it?
– Are you missing important key terms? Add missing key terms from your research into your content. Remember to make your content readable and user friendly.
– Add images. Images are a great way to break up content and make a page more interesting. Google also reads image file names, so use key terms when you name your images.
– Change your headers. Headers help Google understand content, and they are a great place to use longer key terms that describe the content below them.
– Structure your content for skimmers. Break up content with quotes, bulleted lists, bolding and clearly defined sections. Highlight the information you want a reader to pay attention to.
When it comes to SEO, small improvements can create big gains. Content adds up over time. Every new page or blog is another opportunity to increase organic website traffic and capture new customers. Each page you publish adds to your website authority and tells Google, “This website has the information you want to show your user; it is the best resource for their search.”
Decide what demographic you want to target, research how and what they search for and make your website the very best resource. Every business benefits from SEO, and every cannabis business can optimize their content. It just takes time, research and the drive to out-content your competitors.
Tyler Zdenek is the content strategist at Sherpa, a cannabis-focused web design and SEO company. When he isn’t performing Google Analytics deep dives, he can be found working on a wide variety of passion projects involving comedy, carpentry and fiction writing.
This article is the second of a two-part series on search engine optimization for cannabis industry websites. Part I was published in the October 2018 issue of Marijuana Venture and can be found online at www.marijuanaventure.com.