Google bans advertising cannabis on its platforms, but there are some effective tips
Google is a powerful tool for businesses and ranking in the top three in a search can bring a surge in sales. Unless you sell marijuana or hemp. Google does not ban advertising for cannabis on its platforms, but there are tricks and loopholes.
What Google says
Let's review the fine print of Google's advertising policy when it comes to marijuana.
Google does not allow ads that promote the use, sale, or even informational content about cannabis.
It doesn't matter if the ad is about medicinal or recreational marijuana, the beast of technology makes no distinction and equates it all to a recreational drug.
In theory, this also includes CBD and hemp.
However, since 2019, Google has implemented confidential testing programs for some CBD companies.
Do you want to take the risk? here is the breach.
Despite Google's policies, cannabis companies manage to squeeze through the algorithm and get their ads approved. Search for "dispensary near me" and you will probably get a listing or two.
Cannabis companies often ask me, 'How do they do it? You see, there is a loophole.
There are three things you need to submit a Google ad:
- An announcement text
- A landing page
- A list of keywords.
The trick to getting your ads approved is to bid on cannabis-related keywords but avoid using them in your ad and in the text of your website.
Here are some examples of keywords:
- Rolling paper
In other words, you can bid for the word "CBD", but you should avoid using it in your ad copy or on your website.
Making such changes to your website is a real headache.
Additionally, it usually means that you can't rank organically with SEO and use Google Ads at the same time because the two media contradict each other.
To work around this problem, many companies use alternative words such as "flower". Instead, they can use emojis or even go so far as to create a separate website.
For e-commerce, the same rules and loopholes apply to Google's other product, Google Retail Merchant.
Companies that cheat with the algorithm can suffer dire consequences if caught. Google can disapprove your ad, reduce your visibility if approved, and if you persist, Google can suspend your account altogether.
Alternatives to Google Ads
Let's take a look at the other solutions available to you.
One of them is display advertising or direct-to-publisher advertising. In other words, you buy space for banner ads from Google Ad Sense, or you can negotiate a sponsored campaign directly from a third-party website or publisher.
The other option is to use organic means like email, SEO, and PR to drive traffic to your website. Some of the Google products that come into play include search and images, news, and My Business.
The great thing about organic digital marketing is that it “prepares” you for the day when Big Tech, like Google and Facebook, will one day adopt pro-cannabis policies.
What does it mean to be prepared?
The more traffic to your website, the more data large companies have at their disposal. The more data these companies have, the better your ads will perform and the lower your cost per click (CPC) will be.
In the marketing world, this is called maturing your Facebook pixel or increasing your Google Ads quality score.
The future of Google and marijuana
Do you think Google and Facebook will ever be cannabis friendly?
Let's be optimistic, as US states and businesses change their policies, Big Tech will eventually follow suit.
How will cannabis advertising policies change?
As with drugs and alcohol, there will always be constraints and barriers to advertising cannabis online, but the rules will be clear and consistent.
The future will tell…
This story proposed by to MJBizDaily is one of a series of professional commentaries related to the cannabis industry. The author, Daniela Furtado, is the Managing Director and SEO Consultant at Findable Digital Marketing, a Toronto-based cannabis SEO agency.