Updated: Feb 16
I know a lot of cannabis growers and experts who have been in the industry for more than two decades, and (coincidence or not) I also could name more than a few cannabis websites that look like they were made in the 90’s. And while businesses may have been able to get away with cheap looking websites right after legalization, the industry has progressed too far in a short amount of time to allow for second rate branding and marketing.
No matter what type of business you’re in charge of, whether as a grower, a processor, a distributor, or a retailer, the cannabis industry is maturing quickly, and your website will be the primary point of contact for both consumers and investors.
And with all the advancements in web hosts and platforms, there’s really no excuse for your cannabis business not to have a clean, professional website that evokes a 2020s design aesthetic. I know that for some dispensaries and farms, they don’t see the need for a website, but with such a small investment needed, you really can’t afford to not update your online look.
No matter what type of business you’re in charge of, whether as a grower, a processor, a distributor, or a retailer, the cannabis industry is maturing quickly, and your website will be the primary point of contact for both consumers and investors. With that in mind, here are the top things to think about as you embark on a web design or web refresh project for a cannabis business.
Make Sure Your Cannabis Website Looks Professional
This is really just a basic thing, yet I encounter cannabis businesses on a daily basis that have the most rudimentary websites. This tells your customer or investor-to-be that you haven’t taken the time or effort to do even the most minimal marketing and branding of your business. Why should they buy your product or invest in your company if you have refused to invest in yourself?
Even if you have a small budget, there are plenty of cheap, or even free options when it comes to designing web sites for small businesses. Naturally, I’d recommend working with a company that builds websites specifically for the cannabis industry, as they will have a head start understanding your particular needs. But even if you hire your nephew straight out of college, find someone who knows what they are doing and can build you a presentable website that you don’t have to be embarrassed about.
Find A Dependable Web Host
Once you’ve decided to update or build a new website, you’ll have to decide on a host. The good news is there are plenty of hosts to choose from. The bad news is there are too many hosts to choose from, and many of them are plagued with poor customer service and make lots of promises to get customers in the door and then leave them hanging once they’ve signed up for web hosting.
Companies like Go Daddy and Domain.com have lots of name recognition but an overwhelming number of bad reviews. One host I do recommend is Greek Geeks, but if you do your homework, you’ll be able to find other companies with good reputations. When choosing a host, it also pays to sign up for as long a contract as possible, because once you move past the promotional period, the price is likely to double or even triple.
Choose The Best Platform For Your Business
Of course, you can avoid dealing with a web host all together by choosing a web platform that manages the hosting for you. Two of the most prominent examples are SquareSpace and Wix, which both offer lots of compelling features and make it easy for novices to design a passable website without knowing anything about web design or coding.
You can also hire a designer to build you a website on one of these platforms. The Hood Collective offers a great package (starting at $1500) for small and medium-sized businesses who want a Wix-based website without the headache of learning the platform themselves. The only downside to Wix or Squarespace is that they have a monthly subscriber fee on top of whatever you pay for the design of you site.
Of course, many cannabis websites are built on Wordpress, a versatile and adaptable web platform that doesn’t require a monthly fee and allows you to fully own your website and all it’s pages, allowing you to move it from host to host as much as you like (though this tends to be a hassle I highly recommend avoiding). Whichever option you choose, make sure you partner with a knowledgeable designer to ensure you end up with a professional, and long-term, solution to your web needs.
Don’t Forget To Add Age Verification
When building a cannabis website, one element that can’t be neglected is the need for an age verification plug-in. This is the little pop up window that comes up every time a visitor arrives at your site, asking them if they are over the age of 18. Depending on your state, this may or may not be legally required, but even if it isn’t, it’s still a good practice.
One thing to keep in mind is that you want a plug-in advanced enough to recognize repeat visitors and remember their information, so that they don’t need to fill out the pop up window every time.
Use Top-Notch Cannabis Photos And Videos To Stand Out
If you are investing in a professional website, it should go without saying that you need professional photos and video on your site to show off your product, facilities, team, and more. Unfortunately, many companies neglect the visuals, and either have nothing but text, or use poorly lit phone photos that reflect poorly on their brand.
It’s possible to stick some stock images on your site, but the truth is there isn’t a lot of outstanding stock photography (and barely any video) in the cannabis space yet. That means the same photos get used over and over again, and your visitors will recognize them as stock right off the bat. Avoid this by partnering with a professional photographer or videographer in your area. You won’t regret it.
Lean Into SEO Best Practices
One of the best ways to ensure your website gets the traffic you want is by implementing a comprehensive SEO strategy. This could be accomplished in a number of ways, but it starts by turning to an expert who actually get results. Plenty of web designers will talk about making your website SEO friendly, but do little more than fill out your SEO metadata.
A true SEO strategy involves constantly updating your website with SEO-friendly content. This includes a quality cannabis blog, extensive pages that match your target keywords and key geographies, and video content that ranks well on both YouTube and Google.
Add An Educational Component To Your Website
Some of the best cannabis websites incorporate user-friendly educational content that makes your website a valuable resource. For some businesses this will focus on providing tutorials and infographics based around their own products, while others seek to be an industry leader by providing rigorously vetted content on cannabis science, it’s medicinal properties, consumer benefits, and more.
If you choose to go this route, it’s best to specialize in a particular niche that you and/or your company is well-versed in. Focus on what you know and sharing that with the public, and over time it will be a great way to generate brand loyalty.
A Great Cannabis Website Has Great Branding
Speaking of branding, before you even think about building or revamping your website, take the time to establish what exactly your brand represents and how you want to present yourself to your customers. It’s immediately obvious when a company has not thought out their branding beforehand, and even if the website is professionally done, the lack of cohesion will shine through.
If you don’t already have a strong brand identity, partner with a branding and web design team to go over the essentials of your brand aesthetic and formulate a style guide that can be used for the website, your packaging design, and marketing materials. This will ensure that it’s easier for your potential customers to identify you in a crowded marketplace.
Get A Professional Website From The Hood Collective
It’s never been more important for a cannabis company to have a great website that will attract potential customers and serve as your business’s online hub. Whether you are a new company looking to make a splash, or have been in the industry for a number of years but relying on an outdated site in need of a refresh, you can’t afford to wait any longer.
The Hood Collective specializes in building professional, engaging cannabis websites at an affordable price point. Our team of accomplished graphic designers and content creators understand what a cannabis website needs to succeed, and we make each and every one of our clients our top priority.
Contact us today to learn more.