On 18 September 2018, the South African Constitutional Court decriminalized the private use and cultivation of cannabis. Without the threat of jail, there was an enormous interest in cannabis in South Africa. For months now I’ve been tracking the traffic to a hand full of pages on my website gevaaalik.com. Because of cannabis SEO I’ve been able to rank* my website for various cannabis-related search terms. I’ve taken the organic search traffic data from Google Analytics from 18 September – 18 December 2018 and compare it to the previous three months of data.
There is a lot of data to look at and many things to highlight, but what I really hope this case study makes blatantly obvious to you is that Cannabis SEO and Content Marketing should be the main priority for marketing any cannabis-related business for the next 48 months. As time goes by, there are going to be more and more people Googling their questions related to cannabis and the market will keep growing.
What are the cannabis search trends in South Africa at the moment?
Successful Cannabis SEO (and Cannabis Content Marketing) is not rocket science. Just create the content, and put it out there right? Yup. But you’ve left out a really important step.
We all know that we have to create content to rank for keywords and commonly used search terms. If you don’t do the keyword research then you might just end up creating a bunch of content for nothing. If you’ve identified the keywords and search terms that people are punching into Google on their smartphones, then you know what content you have to create.
Over the last six months, I’ve not only been creating content to rank for the terms people are searching for. I’ve also been tracking the keywords are actually bringing traffic to the content I have created. So what are the keywords you should be targeting with your Cannabis SEO?
- Cannabis oil
- Dagga olie
- Cannabis Seeds
- Cannabis seeds South Africa
- How to grow weed
- How to grow cannabis
The important function of a Cannabis SEO
Because businesses and services in the cannabis industry can’t just run Facebook, Instagram and Google ads, organic search rankings are of the utmost importance. A Cannabis SEO expert can help you identify the right keywords to target so that your cannabis content marketing team know what content they should be focussing their efforts on. A Cannabis SEO expert would be able to use your Google Analytics and Search Console Data to help you target the lowest hanging fruit first, making sure you make the biggest ranking gains by targetting the keywords your site is most likely to easily rank for.
Another very important function of a Cannabis SEO consultant is to help you take a look at what your competitors are doing. By analyzing the SEO efforts of your competitors your cannabis SEO consultant will be able to give you a rough guideline of what will be required if you want to compete in the organic search rankings for certain keywords.
An overview of the cannabis-search data for South Africa
I’m going to break this down for you as much as I possibly can, and I’m going to take an in-depth look at each of the popular cannabis-related keywords. But not everyone likes to get stuck on the details, so I made an infographic that gives a clear overview of the cannabis search data that actually drove traffic to my cannabis content.
Spoiler alert: Sinc the ConCourt judgment on 18 September 2018, organic search traffic to cannabis content on my site increased by 215%.
All ages groups looking for info – Cannabis Oil
“cannabis oil” keyword SERP Impressions according to Google Search Console over the past 6 months: 29,649
Not surprising at all since cannabis oil is appealing to a large demographic of cannabis users. Users that want cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, as well as users that want cannabis oil for recreational use, are looking for information on cannabis oil. Naturally, their first stop is Google.
I created two pages targetting “cannabis oil” search terms. Both are purely informational pieces of content. One in English to target “cannabis oil” and one in Afrikaans to target “dagga olie”. Although rankings do change and fluctuate, my content ranked on page one of the SERPs for the majority of the three months. I saw the most fluctuation for the “cannabis oil” keyword, but my content maintained a top 10 ranking for the duration of the three months. The Afrikaans content targeting the keyword “dagga olie” has maintained the number one organic ranking throughout the last year of me tracking the organic search data.
18 June -17 September 2019 the two pages of content received a total of 1733 visitors via organic search. From 18 September – 18 December the two pages received 249.05% more traffic via organic search totaling 6049 visitors.
Growing in search popularity – Cannabis seeds
“cannabis seeds” keyword SERP Impressions according to Google Search Console over the past 6 months: 49,537
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense: The private cultivation of cannabis in South Africa has been decriminalized. A large number of people are not considering growing their own cannabis at home, for medical or recreational purposes. To grow cannabis, you are going to need cannabis seeds. People, especially those new to cannabis cultivation, are going to have questions. Those questions caused a 1132.89% increase in organic search traffic to my website.
I created content that provided information surrounding cannabis seeds. 18 June – 17 September 2019 there was a total of 447 users that landed on my cannabis seed content via organic search. From 18 September – 18 December 2019 the organic search traffic increased to 5511. That’s an incredible 1132.89% increase.
Buying and selling of cannabis seeds are still illegal.
Making the legality of buying and selling cannabis seeds in South Africa 100% clear was an objective for the cannabis seed content that I created. However, there are other products related to cannabis cultivation that are completely legal to buy and sell. Grow boxes, grow lights, plant nutrients, fertilizer, potting soil, pots etc. are all products related to cannabis cultivation. If you have a product or service related to cannabis cultivation. Is there a better time to introduce a potential customer to your brand than right before then cannabis seed is even planted?
People want to grow at home – How to grow weed
“how to grow weed/cannabis” keyword SERP Impressions according to Google Search Console over the past 6 months: 8501
There was a 600.46% increase in organic search traffic in the period of 18 September – 18 December when compared to the previous three months for the search phrase “how to grow weed” or similar phrases. Again creating SEO optimized cannabis content that provides information targeting this phrase is key. Ranking on page one of Google is excellent, but when you then provide real information answering the searcher’s question, that is the perfect time to introduce your brand.
The importance of local cannabis SEO – Dagga olie
“dagga olie” keyword SERP Impressions according to Google Search Console over the past 6 months: 9095
Almost every business these days have some form of SEO strategy. For the cannabis industry and industries related to the cannabis industry that is no different. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to achieve position 1 in the Google rankings for highly competitive keywords. Local cannabis SEO is where there are still massive opportunities for organic search traffic.
If your keyword research is done by an experienced Cannabis SEO he will be able to guide you in terms of local terms that are often searched for, like location. For example “Cannabis oil South Africa”. But local SEO can even go as deep as targeting a specific language or culture. That is why I created content for the keyword “dagga olie”, the Afrikaans term for cannabis oil.
It’s important to use local terms for local cannabis SEO.
Dagga is a common South African word used by almost all of the indigenous South African languages, including English. Although this might seem like a smaller increase (from 1372 visits via organic traffic to 2267, a 65% increase) in traffic when compared to some of the other keywords I’ve targeted, it’s still a way to ensure more page one Google rankings. By also targeting keywords or longtail phrases that are searched less often you can dramatically increase your organic search traffic and local SEO presence.
Organic search traffic is crucial at early stages of a regulated market
Advertising restrictions get increasingly tight for regulated markets. There is no point in complaining about the fact that you can’t create Facebook and Instagram ads. The best thing to do is to create a strategy to overcome these advertising limitations for the cannabis industry, and then execute that strategy. Creating and executing an SEO optimized content strategy will get your brand more attention, more organic search traffic and more opportunity to build your brand.
Over the next 24 months, the South African cannabis industry is going to keep growing. We’ve already seen tremendous growth just in the last six months. We can clearly see that by looking at the searches. From this, we can also easily conclude that the brands that dominate the first page of Google in South Africa will win in the cannabis marketing and branding game too.
Does your business need a cannabis content marketing strategy that targets the keywords that South Africans search? Contact me.
*Google regularly updates their ranking algorythm, thus rankings can fluctuate. Throughout testing I was able to maintain a page one Google ranking for the five most commonly searched cannabis-related search terms. In conclusion, more rankings, more organic search traffic.