Google Enters the Marijuana Industry (sort of)
The summer is not quite here yet. But, weed is legal here in Washington State, so we do have that going for us. In this post, I want to demonstrate the difficult dance that Google needs to make with marijuana ads & content.
As mentioned in a previous post, the inability to advertise marijuana via mainstream channels such as GOOG & FB is truly, deep down, the biggest growth challenge for the cannabis industry.
What is Google's position on marijuana ads? It falls into the category of dangerous products or services. GOOG does NOT allow the promotion of pot. Clearly.
Promotion of substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce "highs". Examples: Cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other illegal opioids, marijuana, cocaine substitutes, mephedrone, "legal highs"
Simple enough, right? Not quite. You see my dear sisters and brethren, Google is also a search engine, serving up a zillion search inquiries per day. And wouldn't you know...marijuana is recreationally legal in various states of the USA! So while they may not allow promoted ad-words for marijuana, they sure as heck want to continue being the first choice for web search. This includes the many people today who are googling terms such as "weed shop".
Check out the following mobile screenshots and the accompanying red arrow-fest I added for your perusing pleasure:
Notice how nicely Google is presenting pot shops in their search results page. A few callouts:
- the filters below the search box, which means they've incorporated lots of meta-data on each shop
- the icons on the Google map (remember, this is a dangerous product!)
- the Google star reviews appearing together with the store name, like any other retail shop, even shops selling non-dangerous items like bananas
- the additional filter options (!)
- the oddity that different search terms will result in a different listing/order of shops
This does not mean that Google will permit marijuana ads any time soon. It does mean though that marijuana search queries are mainstream enough that Google machines are now indexing pot shops like they would 7/11. Interesting that Google is progressing with SERP's (google it!) but still purging cannabis content on YouTube.
For retailers, I recommend investing some energy on garnering Google reviews for their shops. And ensuring Google has visibility into your store hours. Who knows? One day, Google may start indexing your store menu on Google Shopping!