SEM is a very effective marketing strategy for marijuana dispensaries looking to reach new customers, increase revenues, and fine tune their advertising budget.
Some questions you might be asking are: What is SEM? How can SEM benefit my dispensary? Can I advertise cannabis on Google? And how much does it cost?
Let’s spark up some answers.
What Is Dispensary SEM? An Overview
SEM is an acronym that stands for search engine marketing. In the past, SEM was an overarching term that described to both organic (SEO) and paid search ads in the search engine results page. But now marketers exclusively use the term, SEM, to describe paid marketing on search engines. Google is the most popular search engine with 88.13% market share in the United States. Therefore, the most common and robust paid search marketing tool is Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords).
Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have paid search tools, but they are more strict with cannabis regulations.
SEM allows marijuana dispensaries to reach potential customers as they are searching for dispensaries online. This is the perfect time and place to turn prospects into customers.
Dispensary SEM is also known by many other names, so it is important to make note of them. These terms can be used interchangeably.
It’s also called:
- Dispensary PPC (Pay-per-click)
- Dispensary Paid search ads
- Dispensary Paid Advertising
It is also important to understand the terms used when discussing SEM. This will help you understand SEM and how it benefits your dispensary as a whole. The most common terms include:
- Impressions — The number of times your ad appeared on a users’ screens.
- Clicks – The number of times users clicked on your ads.
- CPC (cost-per-click) — The amount you pay when a user clicks on your ad.
- CPM (Cost per a thousand impressions) — The amount you pay for every one thousand users that see your ad. This is an alternative bidding method and performance metric.
- CTR (click through rate) — The percentage of users that saw your ad and clicked on it.
How Can Google Ads Benefit Marijuana Dispensaries?
I’ll break it down for you.
1. It Increases Your Brand Awareness (Immediately)
Other forms of digital marketing like, SEO and social media, can take months or even years of hard work to gain notable results for your business.
SEM, on the other hand, can position your dispensary at the top of page one in search engines. This allows dispensaries with low organic search rankings to jump above their top competitors, ensuring they get the highest visibility to increase brand awareness.
You can convert that paid search visibility into a significant amount of paying customers if you have the right tools, expertise and systems in place.
2. It Drives Quick Results & ROI
It is relatively easy to set up a basic dispensary ad campaign in Google Ads once you understand Google’s cannabis restrictions and limitations. After you have a winning system in place, you will see more traffic to your website and more paying customers in your dispensary. Your SEM ads will appear in the search engine results as soon as your ads are approved.
Seems pretty simple, right? Normally, yes. But setting up ads for the cannabis industry does mean must jump through some hoops if you want Google to approve your ads.
Configuring search ads for marijuana dispensaries requires some additional up-front development and expertise to ensure your campaign launch successful. Do this wrong, and your Google Ads account will get suspended. Trust me I’ve tested the limits of what you can and cannot do.
Once you’ve taken all precautions and your ad campaign is flying under Google’s cannabis radar, your campaign will require maintenance to optimize a winning dispensary SEM strategy.
3. It’s Highly Scalable
One of the most attractive benefits of using SEM to advertise your dispensary is its scalability. You can start out with a small budget. Run tests and figure out what works: Pause ads that aren’t converting. Refine your keyword targeting. Test new ad copy. Gather and analyze demographic data about people searching for dispensaries in your area.
As you collect more data, you will be able to further optimize your campaign. You can reallocate your ad budget towards what is working and increase your budget once you have data to prove you will get a profitable return on your ad spend.
Google Ads allows you to spend as low as $5.00 per day. That way there is no overwhelming upfront cost and you only need to spend more money if you see results.
4. It Connects You With Users At The Right Place & Time
It’s 2019. People are glued to their phones and the customer journey almost always starts online. More specifically, on search engines.
Your customers are on search engines. Are you? This is the perfect time to attract a new customer.
People use search terms like “dispensary near me” when they are looking for marijuana dispensaries. Being the first result on Google for that search term greatly increases your chances of turning that person into a paying customer.
Even if that user does not click on your ad, they saw it and are aware you exist. Plus, this increases the chances they will click on your organic listing or Google maps listing below the ad. That’s a free click!
5. It Builds Brand Recognition
Marketing research shows that consumers are usually exposed to a brand 7-13 times before they make a purchase. This is because people don’t trust new brands. The more they see your name, the more they will recognize and trust you. This is very important in the cannabis industry where customers are consuming the products they purchase from you. If users continuously see your name at the top of Google for dispensary-related keywords, they start to trust you and identify you as a credible dispensary.
6. It Allows You To Target A Very Specific Audience
Search engine marketing allows you to reach a very specific target audience in a way traditional marketing never could. Instead of pushing your ad out to a general audience, SEM enables you to show your ad to an audience that is looking for products or services that you offer.
This type of marketing is called inbound marketing. Inbound marketing connects with users at a more meaningful level because your content is so specific to your audience.
7. It Gives You a Competitive Advantage
Most dispensaries are not aware they can run search ads on Google. And the dispensaries that are aware sure aren’t telling their competition. Most dispensary owners and marketers talk about how Google has strict policies against cannabis and they completely rule it out as a marketing strategy. Google does have strict policies against marijuana, but there are ways to advertise your dispensary within their restrictions.
Google Ads works as a bidding system. Essentially the highest bidder with the most relevant content gets the top position on Google. There is very little competition for dispensaries at the moment because not many marketers have figured out how to run paid ads.
However, running paid search ads for dispensaries is a gold mine! There are over a hundred thousand dispensary-related searches per day that are up for grabs with no competition. Now is the time to add search engine advertising to your marketing plan and grow your business!
Does a competitor dispensary rank above you in the organic search results and local pack (Google Maps) listings? You can rank above both types of search results with paid ads. Steal clicks that would have been theirs!
8. It’s Affordable
You do not need to front an absurd upfront cost with paid search ads. You only pay when people click on your ad.
You can set your budget and control your daily ad spend. It is easy to scale up or scale down your campaign. If your campaign is not working, you can shut it off. If you only want to run ads on weekdays, you can pause the campaign on weekends. You have complete control.
The big money-saver with SEM is the analytics. You will have access to data that tells you exactly what is working and what isn’t. Your analytics will give you insights into how users respond to your ads and directly attribute specific website conversions to an ad.
This will allow you to learn more about your customers and make smarter marketing decisions for your dispensary.
Can I Advertise My Dispensary on Google?
The simple answer is yes. But there are a lot of limitations. Google has a very strict advertising policy against the promotion of recreational drugs, like marijuana.
These policies are very clear, but there are other ways to promote your dispensary on Google Ads. You just need to get a little creative and stay within Google’s policy. If you do violate Google’s policy, your ads will get disapproved and your account will be suspended (usually indefinitely). We have pushed the limits of Google’s policy and tested what you can and cannot do when advertising a dispensary via paid search ads.
Are you interested in running paid search ads for your dispensary? Drop us a line.