SEO… Keyword Strategies for Cannabis Companies (part 2)

Medible review 5 lessons learned in 5 years of cannabis legalization

Well, I’m a week late on Part 2, but here it is. I’m excited to continue on this keyword journey with you…

Creating a keyword spreadsheet

 So, we started our initial view, of all the keywords that could be used to find our cannabis website. But what we want to do, is start downloading all those keywords into some form of manageable document. I find a spreadsheet (I love Airtable) to be the most obvious, and easiest for managing these keywords, because the amount keywords you have is going to be directly relational to the amount of products or information, you want to push through your website. So, it’s possible that these lists could be in the thousands or tens of thousands of key words.

Here’s a couple of things that you need to keep in mind as you start this initial process. I’m starting in keyword discovery, which allows me to pull all this keyword data, and see which keywords are related to my cannabis business. So I can go through and put a check in the checkbox of the keywords that are relevant. I can also add the entire column into my keyword project. So, I want to find all the relevant keywords and sometimes maybe I’ll just add an entire column so I can just look at that later.

If the vast majority look relevant, I’m going to go ahead and add them. So, I can get as big a picture as possible. Usually when I’m going through this, I’ll create an individual project for each grouping of keywords. So, my group of keywords is about cannabis marketing. All of my keywords are going to be related to that vertical.  Now once I’ve got all these keyword in my project, I know I’ve already added them because there’s a check mark next to them, and I can still go though and see what I’ve of missed, and what’s open and just keep looking at pages and pages of additional keywords to add to the project. Now once I’m ready and I feel like I’ve got a good grasp, of the entire market of keywords, then I’ll go to export them. And almost every tool has an export feature that will allow you to determine which format you should export, what you want to include such as how many searches, what does the keyword data include as far as competition or occurrences or daily. And then you simply export it and open it up in a spreadsheet and that will prepare you then to start filtering and organizing all of the keywords based on your specific business and products.

Find initial keywords

Once I have my keywords downloaded into a spreadsheet, really it becomes a question of management. One of the first things that I’ll do is create a number of tabs, by copying all of my keywords creating a new tab, and then pasting the keywords in so I can come back to them later. You always want to keep your initial list, so that you can build from it later. The next step is just to go through and start the curation process, of selecting keywords that are relevant to the products you offer. And getting rid of the keywords that aren’t relevant.

As I’m going through I just want to keep my eye out, for some things that may jump out as far as specific cities, dispensaries, because that may be one way that I can look at getting links to my website from dispensaries that might be interested in offering something and we can partner on that. Or I can send them exclusive offers. And so there’s some business aspects to this as well in seeing how people search for cannabis marketing.

Utilize the long tail

Now, when doing your keyword research, there’s a term that you’re going to come across and it’s a very fundamental term about keywords and how people search. This is called the long tail of keywords. In order to explain the long tail, we have to go back and look at some of our keyword lists and find out what is important and what we’re trying to target. You see, if San Francisco is an important part of our search for dispensaries in California obviously we’re going to look at any keywords that have San Francisco dispensary or San Francisco cannabis and gather them all together.

After we do that, and we look at our list. One of the things that people tend to do is gravitate towards the general terms that have a lot of searches. We get excited about that because they see tens of thousands of searches for these words. Usually, these are the what we call the top ten list. The top ten keywords that get the most amount of searches, but what’s interesting is, they also get the most amount of attention from your competitors, and everybody else.

So as a result, these words are typically the highest targeted words that you will find with the highest amount of competition. Let’s look at this top ten list a different way. This is the long tail. Out of 1,100 or more keywords that have San Francisco in them, the top five words have over 200,000 searches in that time frame. The next 1,100 keywords have 97,000 searches.

Now, this should tell us something, that the top five words are in the highest demand. The next 1,000 words get about half as many searches. However, because they are much more detail oriented terms, they’re more specific to what people want. We call this the head of the tail, and is the one that gets the most attention. The long tail incorporates three or four or five word terms that are much more specific and are searched on the least.

San Francisco gets the most amount of searches at 150,000 searches for that time frame. And then it drops off dramatically and the long tail just goes out very smooth. Until we get to a search such as cannabis dispensary in the bay area California. A number of words in that term, but it illustrates what happens here. All of the attention is focused on the head terms because they’re the most obvious.

However, when people are looking more specifically, it doesn’t add up to a lot of searches. It’s a very broad amount of searches. And these are the ones that are most specific, and the most directed in terms of people searching for an obvious result. This also pictures the buying cycle. When people are at the interest level, they type in a very general term into the search engine. And that’s when they’re exposed to all the different variations or options. And so, they go into a gathering mode where they’re looking at everything there is to find.

What are my options? What do I need to know? What are the reviews about these places? And so they start then using more research oriented keywords, then they start excluding different places may be that they have seen in the results or in the reviews, where they’ve gotten poor reviews. Then when they are ready to commit with a specific feature set, specific words are used in that search phrase. It’s typically a longer phrase, but the searcher is more intent and ready to convert as a buyer.

And so, our goal is to be seen both at the interest level as well as the commitment level. The interest level will bring a lot of visitors, but not a lot of immediate conversions. The commitment level will bring less visitors per keyword, but a higher level of commitment and conversion. And so when we talk about the long tail, most of the attention is at the general terms but most of the action is down in the long tail, in the detail terms.

Find phrase patterns

As I start looking at my keywords, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data, even around one subject area. So what we need to do, is pare it down and start grouping these keywords together in like phrases. Start looking for obvious ways, to pull these phrases apart. When we’re looking at the cannabis marketing keywords, something that jumps out immediately, is the amount of keywords that are focused on a specific service. And so the best way I found to start doing this, is simply to start color coding anything that has a service specific keyword.

I’m going to color code that, with a green color so that I can easily find it and come back to it. Another phrase that seems to be jumping out, is the combination of cannabis and marketing, and so I’m going to color that red, and there seems to be a lot of those popping up there. And so I can come back to those very easily. By simply starting to color code those keywords. Another keyword that tends to rise up is cannabis branding.

Now, all of these keywords are right in line with the type of products that we’re offering to the website. And so, this helps me understand how people search for different services, or for different features of the marketing company that they’re looking for. And so anything that specifically says cannabis branding, I’m going to highlight yellow. And then as I go through the list, once in a while I’ll see things like cannabis social media. And as I go through the list, I see social media fairly often.

So I’m going to make that another color, so I can come back to that later and evaluate it because it’s an interesting topic to pursue, and so go through your keyword list and just do our color coding. After you have color coded. Then you pull them apart and you organize them, and of course they’re easier to find now that they’ve been color coded. And you can organize your keywords by topic with the color coding, and then start digging in to each sub-topic, more easily now that you’ve gone through and found your phrase patterns.

Organize by prefix and suffix

So we’ve taken our keywords and we’ve looked at them a number of different ways. However, there’s one way that is ultimately the most rewarding way to divide up your keywords and begin to understand the mind of the searcher. You see, regardless of your market, regardless of what kind of business you’re in people formulate their searches differently. And the better you understand the structure and formulation of those searches, the more apt you will be to come up with search optimization phrases on your Website that may not be in the keyword list. But the better you understand the structure the more prepared you’ll be to deal with words that you may not have in your keyword research.

But this needs to be applied on your Site. What I like to do here is divide up my searches based on the words that come before my keyword and after my keyword. Here’s how I typically do this in a Spreadsheet. I take my column B of searches and I Copy that and Paste that over in column F. I’ll make column D my center column and in here I’m going to put my primary keyword which is Cannabis Marketing and of course I’m going to make that Bold so that I know exactly what’s there.

Search for synonyms

Many times when people are searching, they try different words in order to accomplish the same objective. We’ll see this in our keyword list as we go through and find synonyms. Words that typically mean the same thing but have different words to describe them. A real easy way to see this is when we start looking for marketing. We’re going to again use our color coding to help us identify these quickly so that we can come back to them when we want to organize them. So, anything that has seo, content writing, social media, we’re going to identify those.

Now those are three very distinct, different ways of marketing and they don’t. However, what we’re trying to do is just simply organize and see if these are ways that people are cross-using the word, trying to find different things, or do they legitimately mean something completely different. At this time, we’re just looking for synonyms to see what people are looking for and if there’s commonality. So I’m also going to look at the service-based keywords.

I’m going to color those green, so that I can come back to those. And to see what are the different ways that people look for marketing, and then anything that is SEO, content writing, anything like that, I’m going to color those a different color. So I want to come back and keep on eye on those keywords. And then anything that has to do with public relations, that is also a major part of what we offer on the website, and so we’re going to keep an eye on anything that has to do with public relations.

Plan for plurals

When keyword planning, one question that always comes up, is how to decide between using plurals, or singular versions of keywords. In the case of an earlier example, should we be using dispensary or dispensaries? Extraction or extractions? The issue becomes more complex the more it is considered and measured. The first reason is that there seems to be a disparity in the search counts that show that more people tend to search for the plural version. However, when looking at words that companies bid on in pay-per-click, they tend to bid more for singular versions.

The second reason is that those that have done their homework in keyword research and have tracked their success metrics and analytics have seen that the tendency is that plurals deliver a lot of visitors. But singular tends to deliver conversions, which adds another dimension to our dilemma. From a behavioral standpoint, what I have noticed is that when people are shopping  early in the decision cycle, they tend to look for more options, thus using plurals. In looking for extraction ideas, people will type in extractions with an s.

When people are deeper in the decision-making process, they’re now looking for a specific option and will then use a singular version. A California dispensary which shows that they have decided on California as a destination, but are still looking for dispensary options. So there is no clear answer. The trick is to use both of the singular and plural in strategic ways. Use plurals when delivering content that is more general.

Use singular when presenting a specific content directed product, this way you stand a better chance of matching the intent to the searcher. You also increase your visibility in the beginning of the buying cycle as well as at the end of the buying cycle.

Develop your keyword spreadsheet

So by now you’ve come through a number of exercises that cause you to think and organize and work with these keywords from many angles in many different ways. Don’t skip this part, it’s the fundamental building block of developing a keyword strategy. The amount of work you put into these exercises are directly going to relate to your ability to create a strategy that is dynamic and focused on the searcher, as the primary object of your campaign. Otherwise, you’ll get wrapped up in the formulaic approach and people tend to get focused on the search engine as the end goal of their campaign.

Buyers are the ones with credit cards and checkbooks. Those are the ones we want to go after, because they immediately impact our bottom line. So, your patience in developing keyword research skills is going to pay off greatly as you go down the road. In our keyword analysis we want to look at how people are grouping keywords, the concepts that they use, the phrase patterns which indicate a specific intent. The prefix and the suffix allow us to focus on what concepts they have.

Ideally, I take those prefix and suffix maps and I give them to my content creators or my editors and I let them know that this is the phrase pattern that people use. These words are typically used ahead of the keyword. These words are typically used behind the keyword and it gives my content creators a guide when they create content, of how to organize their titles and headlines and content. Synonyms, plurals.

These are things that we need to keep our eye on in our strategy. Because, down the road, when we look at measurement that’s going to provide a direct correlation as to the type of attention we should put on specific words or the plural or singular versions of those. You see we can’t look at key words as just words and try to gravitate towards the key words that get a lot of searches and then just regurgitate them on our web pages. You have to be true to who you are.

Incase you missed Part 1

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