In an era where a site containing erotic, alcohol, tobacco, gambling or other salacious content can more easily buy online ads from major networks than a site offering cannabis products or services, staying current on what’s truly available for your specific category of cannabis web site is no longer optional.
Our team has spent more than 60 years in combined experience, plus more than $300 million is deal flow, working on the online marketing & buying of digital advertising for companies across the age restricted content spectrum. As specifically related to my experience with handling the buying of traffic & ad space, here is the latest view of the state of the state of digital ad buys for cannabis brands:
Paid search, aka SEM or PPC
Key platforms: Google AdWords, BingAds
What types of canna brands can and can’t buy these very valuable, highly targeted ads? No dispensaries, whether recreational or medical; no cannabis eCommerce sites; no cannabis information or B2B service sites. The one subset of our industry that seems to be getting paid search ads approved & even then on a case by case basis are eCommerce sites offering over the counter retail CBD products that are THC-free.
Considerations: with paid search being mostly unavailable in the canna realm at this time, cannabis site operators must rely on and thus ensure that SEO, or the optimization work to drive organic search traffic from Google is treated as a high marketing priority. Search traffic, whether paid or organic is at the bottom of the customer acquisition funnel, thus the top of the spear for acquiring new customers of any type.
Key platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Twitter, YouTube & many more
What types of canna brands can and can’t buy these very valuable, highly targeted ads? At present, no cannabis content web sites of any kind are able to directly buy boosted posts or other paid ad campaigns to run on the top social media platforms. Even trade organizations such as NCIA have been unsuccessful in getting approval for paid ad placement on these platforms.
Work around: everyone loves social media influencers, aka popular users on the major social networks who are subject matter passionate & potentially social icons. These users can create & organically promote rich shareable content which depicts usage of or otherwise endorses your brand, products, company, etc. What to think about: influencers ride the compliance line too. When negotiating ‘product placement’ fees with social influencers or agencies with networks of them, be sure to mutually agree to what content and messaging cannot be used, as influencers are even less willing to risk being punished or shut off in any way by their preferred social network providers. Ensure you know how subtle the messaging about your cannabis products needs to be for the social A-listers to feel comfortable pitching your canna wares.
Display ad networks, eg: banners & rich media ads, including video, plus big ad retargeting vendors
Key platforms: numerous, in the hundreds, operated by companies you know such as Google’s GDN, to the many ad networks whose role is to serve visual or display advertising on content sites you enjoy from around the web & apps of the Internet. Ad networks help small to large web sites generate income from tying their traffic & content to appropriate advertising from the thousands of brands who buy online media this way.
Issues: approvals and the approval process for ads from age restricted sites/brands is dicey and inconsistent. Beware of the reality that an ad network vendor may ‘think’ they can accept your ad buy & thus proceed to book it, bill you, collect your money, have you develop banners, videos, landing pages & other assets, only to find out later that their biggest ad space/traffic suppliers (aka publishers) refuse to serve an ad for a given cannabis brand on any grounds. Assume extra hurdles and be ready to be flexible with edit requests for ad materials you submit.
Canna-centric Online & mobile app-based directories
Key platforms: WeedMaps, Leafly, & many more.
What types of canna brands can and can’t buy these very valuable, highly targeted ads? All!
Best practices: don’t just buy a listing, populate with content and set to forget & assume long term success. As with all types of advertising, online and off, your listings & all content they contain on the major cannabis-finder apps & portals should be continuously optimized and refreshed to reflect the most current view of the products you sell, your brand image, seasonal and geographically specific info for customers, etc.
Paid backlinks or hardlinks for SEO-related benefit to drive up domain authority
Key platforms: that’s a matter of opinion as to whether there are any!
Considerations: when you’re aiming to boost a full site or a single web page’s organic search engine placement, many people seek to overcome link popularity/domain authority challenges by buying simple text links or hardlinks on higher traffic & more popular sites.
There are many more digital advertising venues to discuss. Stay tuned for more updates.
Scott Rabinowitz is the founding partner at Buoyancy Digital & heads up the agency’s digital media buying efforts for clients in the cannabis sector as well as other industries that operate online.
If you’d like to talk directly about your cannabis brands and web sites & what online advertising options are a match, we are here. Find us on https://buoyancydigital.com/cannabis