Red, White, and Green?

Canada legalized weed, and the United States is slowly voting yes in some significant states. Michigan just became the tenth state to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, which makes it the first Midwestern state to legalize the plant. Utah and Missouri voters also took steps to legalize medical marijuana. And in January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through legislature instead of a vote. In 2018, U.S. support for cannabis reached new highs. The Gallup poll shows that 64% of Americans favor legalization — even a majority of Republicans support it. So, with the United States slowing becoming red, white, and green what does this mean for cannabis companies looking to advertise on Google?

Let’s look at the cannabis market. As you probably know, marijuana and hemp are both members of the cannabis family — but there is one crucial difference, one gets you high, and the other does not. Hemp-derived products are entirely legal and enjoy the rights of any other legal product. But here’s the catch: products derived from marijuana are not legal in every state. For example, each state has its own CBD specific laws. Also, lets not forget, under federal regulation, cannabis is treated as a controlled substance. Since cannabis and cannabis products are seen as a controlled substance federally, it makes it a little sticky in advertising.

Cannabis and Google Ads

The cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing markets in the U.S. But, with this diverse and exciting landscape, it’s clear startups are facing one battle that might take years to beat: advertising with the big guys. Primary advertising platforms, like Google Ads and Facebook, currently have minimal advertising opportunities for cannabis companies. This is because they are following federal law.

How to Advertise on Google

It’s not entirely impossible for you as a brand to advertise on Google, especially if you offer other products besides cannabis. Google Ads has several advertising methods you could test out. The Search Network, which is primarily text ads, the Display Network, which would consist of your display ads, Remarketing, and Google Shopping ads. While you’re building your ads, you might be censored; the key is not to use blatant terms to describe your goods. Also, and this is a big one — if your brand name is canna-something, it will be very unlikely your ads will be approved.

It’s not about who you know, or a rep at Google, anymore. With the new AI-infused Google, you may not get a human representative — and if you do, they are not as helpful as they once were. As Google Partners, we’ve found that in this new environment, once your ads are disapproved/denied, it is nearly impossible to have a human review and approve them. We’ve also learned that even if you geo-target ads to only show to users in states where cannabis is legal, the algorithms don’t account for local laws, just federal.

So again, when you advertise on Google, don’t be blatant with your keywords. More and more terms like cannabis, cannabinoid, CBD, even the shorthand “canna” are getting flagged. Last we checked, hemp, hemp oil, and hemp extract are free game. Use the Keyword Planning Tool, import all of the keywords you want to use and see how they rank. You’ll notice that if you use any terms that are forbidden, they will not show up in your keyword list.

Hire an Expert

It’s crucial not to get caught for the obvious stuff. This will help you to pass the algorithm scan. Avoid forbidden keywords in your ad copy, landing page, URL, and in your company name. If your company name has canna, cannabis, weed, marijuana, pot, or anything similar to those words, your ads will probably not be approved. Also, once your ads are disapproved, it triggers an automatic review of your campaigns — which is basically impossible to recover from, you will likely have to rebuild from the ground up. Bottom line: if you want to take a stab at Google Ads, we strongly suggest you hire an expert to set up and manage your account.

The Savy Solution

So, is digital advertising possible for cannabis companies? We think so.

Our research drives the marketing strategy that best aligns with your goals and target audience. We will do a complete analysis of your brand and the market to identify the best digital platform for your brand. We may find that Google Ads might not be the right channel for your brand because your customers and users are elsewhere. There are alternative options for cannabis branding. Try Mantis or Traffic Roots, they will get your brand in front of your customers’ eyes. Also, if you really want to give Google Ad Services a shot, a brand naming and brand strategy might be the first step in achieving your Google Ads goals. At Savy, we believe there are options available for cannabis companies with their digital advertising and medical marketing. You just need the right strategy and partner to get you there.