One of the lowest-risk marijuana ventures out there right now is the content-based website or blog. By content I mean a blog focused on one or more areas of the cannabis industry. With the amazing possibilities of the sector, specialty blogs and content sites are starting to pop up, and many have already begun to make a huge name for themselves. Site content varies from cannabis news, dispensary location applications, social chat rooms, and even a dating site where couples that share a cannabis passion can meet and potentially “hook up” together. There is massive room for creativity, and a chance to specialize in one area of cannabis. Building an audience can be the key to building wealth with these sites, and a loyal audience can pay your salary. The cannabis entrepreneurs are quickly grabbing domains for their sites and developing some amazing lifestyle-based content for their audience.
A Major Example
I cannot think of a better example than the marijuana dispensary locating and review site Leafly. Leafly, known as the “Yelp of Pot,” allows users to find dispensaries closest to them, and receive the latest reviews and information on strains and products. This is a fairly basic concept, and the site’s developers saw a big gap in the market to fulfill a need. What started out as a location map for cannabis business has ended up being one of the largest cannabis communities. For Leafly, this has allowed them to cash in big time. The site was founded in 2010 by three Orange County engineers; Scott Vickers, Brian Wansolich, and Cy Scott. By April 2012 the company reported over 2.3 million monthly visits, and 50,000 mobile app downloads per month. Leafly monetizes their site by selling ad space to cannabis-related businesses. Today, the company generates more than $100,000 a month in advertising revenue alone. The most current projections for Leafly’s income are near 3.6 million annually. This is an amazing example after only five years of work.
Building A Fan Base
In order to cash in on a content-based website, you need to grow a real, legitimate audience. You can throw a blog page up pretty easily these days, but there is so much more to create a successful blog than just putting a Word Press site up and writing once a week. One must have the right marketing and “customer” acquisition strategy. Many people expect a “get traffic quick” result, when in reality, creating a successful blog does take time. However, you can take steps to build a large audience faster. Let’s highlight a few tricks and tips for getting your cannabis blog off to a great start. NOTE: these are steps important to any basic blog, and I feel it’s necessary to point these out to the cannabis-based blogger.
- Pick a good domain name
Domain names are an important part of your brand. Make sure you pick a name that is simple, clear, and to the point you are trying to make with your content. I wanted to dedicate my site to all cannabis-related business ventures, so I chose venturecannabist.com. Try to avoid more than 2-3 word long names and domain names with numbers. To find a domain name you can use the GoDaddy search tool.
- Write amazing and unique content
Let’s say you are writing a blog on cooking with cannabis. It is important to write original unique content when you post. Content is what will bring the traffic, and keep the traffic you already have. Remember that content is your investment in the business. There are not a lot of physical costs to a blog, but it does cost your time. Putting real effort into organizing a compelling post will make a huge difference in your traffic, and in return revenues will be higher. Do not plagiarize or get your content from other websites. This is important first of all, because you want to be unique, and Google will penalize you in search ranking if you copy content directly from other sites. This does not mean you cannot research using other blog posts. Just make sure you structure it into your words. Remember the goal here is to separate your blog from the crowd anyway. A great marijuana blog that follows this method and produces very awesome and unique content is The Weed Blog.
Networking is crucial in the blogosphere, especially for brand-new bloggers who need to build an audience. Find the top cannabis bloggers and build a relationship with them, and I do stress RELATIONSHIP. Do not just approach them asking them to promote your site. Instead offer them help or a solution, something that will add value to their brand. Take the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality here, only you always do the scratching first. After a relationship is built, you can then start asking them to add value to your brand as well. A good way to add value to their brand and build yours at the same time is guest posting. Write a post for another blog in the marijuana industry that has a bigger audience than you do. At the end of the post, link back to your site, and you will be sending people over to your brand that otherwise would have never heard of you. This is a great way to cross promote each other’s brands, and build a network of blog subscribers.
- Utilize Social Media
The power of social media these days is amazing, and if you do not take advantage of these platforms, you will be left in the dust. Social media if used the wrong way can be time-consuming and basically a pain in the ass. My weapon of social media choice is Twitter. Twitter is straightforward and you can generate followers a lot faster than Facebook and other social platforms. I recommend focusing on Twitter first. Another advantage of Twitter is you can target who you follow based on the genre of your brand. For us venture cannabists, this means choosing only those in the cannabis industry. Follow people with a similar brand, or those you may feel share a similar passion paralleled with your blog content. Once you follow people, make sure they follow you back. After a few days if they haven’t followed you, it may be time to un-follow them to clear up space to add more followers. The key to a successful social media presence is consistency. Make sure you have a consistent posting pattern. If you tweet 10 times in one day, and then wait 3 weeks before your next tweet, people may lose interest or think you are flaky. Maintain a presence and balance. Remember to not only tweet your content, but also participate with others on social media, and support other brands. This will only cause your platform to gain more results and support as your name is being passed around the web. For more on using Twitter for your brand, check out Forbes 31 Twitter Tips.
Blog Startup Costs
As mentioned earlier, one of the main benefits of an online-based business is the low startup cost involved. Most people can get a very professional blog up and running for less than $500, which for a business is pretty damn good. This is great for the DIY entrepreneur that has low cash but a great cannabis idea. You can bootstrap your idea and test the market for almost nothing. This doesn’t mean you do everything as cheaply as possible, but you can cut out higher costs by teaching yourself the basics. My Blog, The Venture Cannabist, cost me only $200 to get going.
Keep It Simple
Many make the mistake of “pimping” out their website too much, and it ends up looking like the landing page to a NASA control panel. My motto is keeping it simple. A blog should be professional, and this doesn’t mean fill the page with as much as possible. The trend these days is a nice clean landing page, something that points right to the content and gains the audience’s attention. You don’t want to have multiple items on your blog keeping your followers’ attention off your premium content you worked so hard to research. That being said, let’s explore the costs of getting started.
*Many of you already know how to set up a blog, but I’ve included a checklist and resource guide for those just getting started.*
Website and Blog Startup Cost Checklist With Resources
- Domain: $10–$20
A domain is by far the one of the most important and yet cheapest pieces to the blogger’s pie. Find a domain with GoDaddy
- Web Hosting Service: $50–$100/Yr.
A high-quality hosting service will give you the reliability you need and keep your audience happy. One I recommend is Host Gator with plans starting at $3.96/month
- WordPress Theme: $0–$100
WordPress is the company I highly recommend to pick a theme for your site. They are very professional and user-friendly for the DIY business.
- SEO: (optional) $100
SEO or search engine optimization is an important part to your site. This allows people to view your site based on certain keywords and search terms entered into a search engine. WordPress also offers SEO services if you wish to have help with this process.
- Logo and Graphics: $5–$100
A great way to establish a brand is to have a logo that’s consistent with your social media, website, and any other places you are displaying your content and brand. A cheap way to get started is Fiverr. For those wanting a little more of a professional job, try Elance.
Profiting from a blog is not a “get rich overnight” technique. Profits from a cannabis-based blog can be huge, but it takes a lot of groundwork before you start to see the rewards. Each person that reads your blog is a “customer,” and the more customers you have, the more chances of monetization you have. There are many ways to monetize your blog; let’s go through a few of the most important.
As you can see, there is a lot to cover with the content-based blog. The cannabis sector is full of opportunities in this niche and will only get bigger as more and more cannabis businesses pop up. Establishing a blog brand now will give you an edge as legalization continues, and is something you can do while maintaining another job. Of course, it could end up being a full-time gig. Many bloggers make six-figure incomes. Be creative and bring your idea to life.
The Next Step: 3 Ways To Monetize Your Cannabis Niche Website