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Online advertising terms and conditions for the cannabis industry

Congratulations! Your cannabusiness is up and running. You have marketing dollars to spend, but you can’t buy online or banner ads because all the major advertising players have restrictions on the industry. So how do you market yourself? Let us count the ways.

Your Cannabusiness $ is no good here!

First, let’s review the restrictions.

Buying traffic online is nearly impossible for the cannabis industry. Here are the current terms and conditions of the major ad players:

  • Google AdWords prohibits the “promotion of substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise” along with any “products or services marketed as facilitating recreational drug use.” This includes paraphernalia and retail shops.
  • Bing prohibits advertising “that facilitates the distribution, use or cultivation of illegal substances, substances of questionable legality, or substances whose primary purpose seems to be recreational mind alteration.” Also prohibited is “advertising that facilitates the distribution of drug paraphernalia, which is defined as any legitimate equipment, product or material that is modified for making, using or concealing recreational drugs.”
  • Facebook’s terms state that “ads may not promote or facilitate the sale or consumption of illegal or recreational drugs, tobacco products, or drug or tobacco paraphernalia.”
  • Yahoo does not accept ads promoting “recreational drugs or drug paraphernalia.”
  • Twitter prohibits promotion of “drugs and drug paraphernalia globally.”

Not much gray area there.

Under current rules, other forms of prohibited advertising for the cannabis industry include:

  • All online pop-up ads.
  • Mass media, including TV, billboards, radio and print ads, visible to audiences that might include 30% or more minors.
  • Internet videos, radio shows, and podcasts that can’t be blocked off from minors.
  • Flyers or leaflets handed out or distributed to anyone in public – including on cars and door-to-door flyer drops
  • Mobile ads or apps that anyone under 21 might download or see.
  • Signage or sponsorships at events where 30% or more of the audience might be minors.

You may be able to bypass some of these rules by installing an age gate (21 or over only) barrier to entry on your site. But the rules are fuzzy, so you should consult legal advice to make sure.

So how can you advertise your cannabusiness online?

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do. Until the major online advertising companies catch up with the times there are still ways to market your business using the Internet. And it starts with a quality online presence and sound marketing foundation.

First, create a website that’s optimized for mobile. According to 2014 research conducted by Search Engine Journal, a quarter of all online searches are performed on mobile devices. Further, a recent study by Google that found that 3 of 4 mobile searches result in an action, whether a user clicking on a retailer’s website, visiting a store, making a purchase, or signing up for newsletters or other updates. The study also revealed that 55% of conversions happen within one hour of the search. So when users are using their smartphones and tablets to search, you need to be ready to greet them.

Optimize your cannabusiness for organic search, AKA FREE SEARCH!

But just having a website isn’t enough. You must also have solid SEO practices, both tech- and content-wise. And that includes creating quality content that resonates with your audience, as well as having a search friendly and optimized website. Also, publish content regularly in the form of blog posts or articles that are at least 300 words long, and optimize your content and content strategy around your audience and their behaviors.

Knowing what your users search for and showing up is vital to growing your business. Be sure to include your keywords in both the title and body of the blog, but don’t keyword load your content. If you’re not writing naturally, you will lose ground or be banned quickly. These steps will improve your search rankings and allow potential customers to find you.

When you do publish content, include relevant images and videos whenever possible to make it more engaging and worthy of sharing. This will also help amplify the appeal of your content and persuade readers to share with their own social networks.

Local listings and locator sites. Especially for dispensaries and head shops

Register your cannabusiness on Yelp and allow your customers to create buzz for you. Yelp currently has a category for “cannabis clinic”—though not one for recreational marijuana—yet that doesn’t stop companies that sell for both purposes to be listed and promoted there.

Add your business to locator sites such as Leafly and Weedmaps. Since they are industry specific, these two are probably the best options right now for driving customers directly to your site and/or retail location. There are a handful of other locator sites and directories that are helpful. In this industry more than any other, directory sites are quite helpful and things that are helpful are considered more authoritative with Google.

Get into as many local listings as possible. Google My Business is a great place to start.  It may seem to contradict Google’s own ad terms and conditions, yet Google still lists many medicinal and recreational businesses in their search results. Whatever the reason for that, this free tools adds you to Google maps where local customers can quickly find you. It also leads people to your phone number and address faster than any other tool.
The above tips will help you improve your online presence and grow your cannabusiness. And when online ad rules do change, which is inevitable, you’ll be ahead of the game and ready to go. Apparently for now, our money isn’t good enough.

Any other tips or suggestions that you’d like to share that have worked for you? Comment below.

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