Most cannabis execs talk for hours about terpene profiles and their favorite strains, but Google is like a locked box they can’t figure out how to open. Though it may not be especially sexy, a Google My Business profile is every bit as valuable a piece of real estate as that corner lot adjacent to the Costco for your dispensary. It is your digital front door, and by helping the Google algorithm to understand who you are and what you do, you’re putting a blinking sign right above that front door.
Selecting the Wrong Category or Categories
It’s incredible to me how many dispensaries bypass ‘cannabis store’ while scrolling through GMB’s 3,942 possible categories to select alternative medicine practitioner, wellness clinic, herb shop or pharmacy. And to some extent, it’s totally understandable. In the weed business, we’ve learned that Big Tech tolerates cannabis, until they don’t. We all know someone who has spent years building a robust social media following, just to get the dreaded, “you’ve violated our terms of service,” notification and have it all wiped away. But if someone’s looking for a place to buy weed and Google can’t figure out if you sell pre-rolls, massages, tumeric or Alka-Seltzer, you’re probably going to the back of the line when someone searches for a ‘dispensary near me.’
While it may be true that, as a cannabis shop, you don’t have access to the same features you might have otherwise - you won’t be able to add products, use Posts, or run ads - as a business that sells weed, all those things are off limits anyway. Even if you can get away with it temporarily, the Google overlords will figure out what you’re up to eventually, and you don’t want to incur their wrath. Seriously.
Not Responding to Reviews
I get it. You’ve got staffing issues. Vendors chasing you. Miles of red tape. A POS system that sometimes makes you think POS stands for something other than Point-Of-Sale. And to top it all off, you can’t even access regular banking despite the fact that your business’ tax dollars are bankrolling all sorts of special projects across your state. Responding to reviews can be tedious, time-consuming, and you’re not even sure if it does any good.
I’m here to tell you that it does. Google rewards engagement, and by responding to reviews, you’re showing Google that you’re an active local business that cares about its customers, so you’ll rank higher as a result. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, consider giving it as a stretch assignment to a team lead. It will give an employee an opportunity to show that they can handle additional responsibilities, and it’ll get at least one thing off your plate. Everyone wins.
Not Updating Photos
If you don’t bother to add photos to your GMB page, guess what you’ll get by default? Whatever photo Google Earth took for your address. And if that photo happens to be two bums sharing a forty outside of the Cricket store you just moved into, so be it.
Humans are visual creatures. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather look at a couple of photos than skim a block of text. Not only that, but photos can be a fantastic way to communicate important information about your business. If you have a mask policy, post photos of staff wearing them to assuage the fears of high-risk customers. Interiors, exteriors, product, budtenders- whatever works for you. No need to rush out and hire a professional photographer - at this point we all have a high resolution camera in our pocket - but aim to get the best photos you can. Sixty is a good number to shoot for. I’ve found that photos with people in them tend to get the most engagement (just make sure you get permission before posting!)
A fully updated Google My Business profile should be an essential part of your dispensary digital marketing strategy. Google is a customer-first platform - the algorithm wants to recommend the best possible business when someone searches ‘dispensary near me.’ By helping Google to understand your business and showing that you’re active and engaged in your community, you’re not only making sure that the light above your digital front door is on, but you’re also helping to show customers searching on Google the way to it.
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