Narrow Down a Cannabis Niche and Stick With It!I can hear some of you now: "But marijuana is a niche!" Yes, you're correct in the assertion that it is a niche, but it's a pretty damn large one. Just Google marijuana and you will find websites named after every conceivable weed pun imaginable and all talking about one thing and one thing only. No, you've got to be a little more clever than that. For example, when I first started my site KushCA a little over two years ago I knew I wanted to write about weed but that was as far as my train of thought would chug along. It was only after a friend vocally doubted my ability to create the site did I have a moment of clarity, as she had a relevant point with her critique. According to my friend, there was no way I would ever compete with sites that spoke to marijuana in general. And you know something? She was right. There was no way I would ever compete with weed sites who had dedicated staff writers, editors, A BUDGET. But what if I spoke to marijuana trends on a regional level? Better yet, what if only a couple of sites were my "competition"? So I did. The California Bay Area is renowned for its cannabis yet there are only a handful of sites that speak to its unique pot culture, as well as it's historically high numbers of arrests of Blacks and Latinos for minor drug-related offenses. So I decided to do what I could do on my end and create something that shared my viewpoints. That's how to approach it. Start small and stay there. Find something you're excited to write about because your reader will know right away if your writing feels forced. Take for example a site I came across, The Hurt Guru. The site admin, Roni, speaks specifically about how Cannabis assists her (and others) with their workout regiment. It's clear that Roni found three things that she loves--cannabis, working out and writing, to create something that attracts an audience. The takeaway here is if you're going to choose cannabis as a niche, find some aspect of cannabis that you really, really enjoy and run with it.
Be Prepared to Spend Time (and a little money) Keeping Your Site Up & RunningWhen I first began KushCA I had no idea how to create a website let alone maintain one. It's taken almost three years of trial and error to begin to get an idea of how to run the site efficiently, but I am still by no means an expert. But I do know this. My website has taken work to maintain--A LOT of work. You will soon discover that time management will become your forte as you balance school, work, family and friends while working on a project most people won't see any point to. As you work diligently on maintaining your site, you will surely receive questions like these: How Much Do You Make From Your Website/Blog? People actually believe that a websites mere existence generates income for whoever runs it (more about how to make money from your website later on in the article). No, very specific things such as advertising, product reviews and affiliate marketing will make you money from your site. However, there is a good chance that other lucrative opportunities will arise due to your hard work and diligence. Do You Write Your Own Articles? Of course, I do. If you are not writing your own articles you need to reassess why you're trying to create a website/blog in the first place. This is not to say you can't create a successful website that aggregates articles from other sites. However, at that point you aren't running a blog per se, rather more of a newsreel. Oh, So You're a Web Developer?I am no more a web developer than I am the caped crusader. But with enough time and effort, it's fairly easy to wrap your head around some of the less technical aspects of creating a website. Again do your homework and try, try again. However, there's likely a chance you will run up against a technical issue within your site you simply cannot resolve on your own, where you might actually have to tinker with the coding of your website for example. Or you might need someone to help you create content, manage your social media platforms or even market your site for you. In that case, it will benefit to hire someone. It can be fairly reasonable, cost-wise, if you're smart about it. Go the Fiverr or another similar route (such as Upwork) and do like your mama told you and shop around for a freelancer who can help your site stand out. This is particularly helpful if you have some sort of vision or idea of what you want your site to look like, for example, but you don't have the technical knowledge or creativity to achieve it.
Just Because You Smoke Weed Doesn't Mean You Are Qualified to Write About ItI'm really trying to say this in the most diplomatic way possible. I've come across many cannabis sites where it was very obvious the author loved them some weed, so obvious in fact that it seemed that it was all they loved. Such things others love, things such as correct grammar, interesting content and layout all went out the window with the ganja smoke. Don't be that person. Put as much effort into your dabs as you do researching interesting topics, creating relevant content and marketing the hell out your site. Wait, you have to promote your own site?
Social Media Is (Now) Weed's Best FriendLet's say you didn't create a website about weed. Let's say you made one solely dedicated to toaster doily culture. Sure people might be interested in what you're talking about but there's a good chance you won't find many of them in Facebook groups talking up their love of cross-stitching. Currently, the same can't be said for cannabis. On Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit and Facebook people are posting pot pics, articles, recipes--anything related to Mary Jane. What was once highly stigmatized can now be posted all over social media. And the beautiful thing is, people are responding positively to it. So when you create a weedsite join all the sites I mentioned above. Create your own Facebook group dedicated to your special weed niche. Try to Tweet articles, pics, etc. related to weed at least once a day. Post pics on Instagram of you with your sites logo or make a visual blog on Tumblr and Pinterest. There are social media sites dedicated specifically to cannabis, so be sure you check them out and join too. Google+, while mostly a social media afterthought at this point, does also serve as another platform to share your site widely. Social Media sharing is by far the most effective way to get your site noticed. You don't want to initially bombard the groups you join (or create) with affiliate links (more below) or with blog posts, but rather, you want to establish a rapport with people to establish credibility. After all, you creating this site will automatically make you more knowledgeable about the subject than your average person so your expertise will be appreciated. Once you have established an audience, however small, you can begin introducing products or offers to sell to them.
How To Make Money with Your WeedsiteLet me start off by saying this. You're not going to get rich from your weedsite and you probably, probably, won't quit your day job. But it is possible to make some decent coin with your site. I should preface the following with the mention that the list I'm about to present is by no means exhaustive. For now, however, let's explore a few of the ways you can get paid from your site:
- Affiliate Marketing: Essentially affiliate marketing is selling others people's product for some sort of commission or stipend. In the world of weedsites, affiliate marketing is huge, as it's not like your average pothead has access to warehouses full of bongs, grinders and dab rigs. Because of this, there are literally HUNDREDS of places you could sell for, all with different commission rates. The most reliable (and profitable) of them that I have used are Eaze, GetNugg, Max BountyGrassCity and surprisingly Amazon (although Amazon should not be considered profitable, just reliable). For a more comprehensive list of who I feel are some of the best (and worst) cannabis affiliates continue reading to the end of this article, where I have an entire section dedicated to the topic, as well as whom I feel are the best affiliate market programs for a cannabis blogger.You also have the far more profitable option of drop-shipping cannabis accessories, but this route is far more complicated as most major credit card companies and payment processors will not work with the cannabis industry.
- Referrals to Marijuana Dispensaries: Another way to make some coin through affiliate marketing is Marijuana Dispensaries, which give you money for referring patients and/or customers to them. Since there are different dispensaries in different states, I won't list them all. However, in California, Eaze, Nugg and Greenrush are all good examples of companies that pay you money for customers you refer to them. Therefore the next time you order from your favorite pot shop ask if they provide commissions, or at the very least credit, for referrals.
- Advertisements: In the case of weedsites, Google Ad Words and Facebook Ads are NOT your friends due to their rather "restrictive" policies. Thankfully there is another contender on the block. Mantis Ad Network provides quality (and to me more visually appealing) advertising. ALL the big weedsites employ Mantis, ALL OF THEM. I have used them for close to two years now and am slowly getting acclimated on how to best utilize their services. That being said, they pay well and they pay on time.
Some Technical AdviceIf you actually read all this kudos, you might be able to run your own website! (Oh yeah, you're going to be reading A LOT about weed). But before you begin here is some slightly more technical advice to get you started:
- If you can, buy your own domain name, as websites with 'Wordpress" or "Wix" or something similar in the URL don't look as professional. There's a multitude of places to purchase domain names, but I would recommend NameCheap or my personal favorite Siteground. Additionally, you will need a site to "host" your website. For that, I would recommend Host Gator. There is also the option of obtaining a free domain name and free hosting sitewhich naturally come with its own set of positives and negatives.
- Keep your layout simple and clean with a readable font. Don't shower your audience with ads plastered all over your site because that will turn them off (and a turned-off visitor is very difficult to "turn" back on). Some great platforms to use are Shopify, which can basically showcase products in your blogs estore. Some other great platforms to use are WordPress, Squarespace and Wix. Again, each has its own pros and cons, so try them all to see which one fits your vision. My personal favorite is WordPress simply because of the flexibility it offers. Platforms such as Shopify, Wix, Weebly, etc. only allow for a small amount of freedom to modify your site to your liking, whereas with WordPress the possibilities are only limited to your technical know-how.
- If you are having trouble coming up with articles/blogs to write, get Google Alerts. You can basically let Google know to send you news stories relating to a specific keyword of your choosing.
- KEYWORDS, KEYWORDS, KEYWORDS! Want to know how most people will find your site? The same way YOU find sites on the internet, by using KEYWORDS. What is a keyword exactly? It's a word or phrase you typically enter into a search engine to find websites that are based on that keyword. For example, if you typed in the Keyword "Dab Rigs" in the Google Search engine, Google will provide you with every website imaginable that are somehow associated with Dab Rigs. But the sites on the first 3 pages of Google's Search results will be the most relevant to the Keyword you entered. How to do this on your own site? Make sure you make your keywords simple and make sure they capture the content of your article. Something that is helpful is Google Analytics, which provides your critical information regarding which keywords people are using to discover your site. Once you get acclimated to which keywords are being used most often, you can begin constructing your posts around them, thereby driving more traffic to your site.
- In order for folks to see your website, you're going to make sure they know how to find it. What this means is that your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be on point. Keywords, as mentioned above, will definitely set you on your way as you scaffold the peaks of Mt. Google, but it is not the only tool. Many sites such as HitLeap and my favorite, Link Collider, will send traffic to your site, which will work wonders when it comes to improving your ranking in search engines. Not only does Link Collider help with this, but it will also help you create backlinks (which is basically street cred among websites) and even assist you with creating non-duplicated content.
Other Key AdviceIf you are serious about creating a weedsite and actually go forward with it, well, be proud of all the hard work and effort you've put into it. What that means is, make sure other folks are also aware of the work you have done. Make sure to include your website in your Linkedin profile. If possible, signup for the app Meetup and attend cannabis mixers and networking events to bring further exposure to you and your site (which is essentially your brand).
The Best (AND WORST) Cannabis AffiliatesFirst of all, what is an affiliate and what is the function of one, especially regarding a cannabis website? The typical goal of a profitable cannabis website is to sell affiliate products through the owners ability to generate relevant content and consistent traffic. To get started, all you need is a domain name, website hosting and time, thereby reducing start-up costs. To clarify, you build the site, you add interesting, relevant content, that is typically relevant to the website's content and generate traffic. Then, when a customer comes to your site and purchases the affiliate product you promote, you get a commission or a cut of the sale. You see all these blue links scattered around the article? You click the link and you happen to purchase something, I happen to get a small commission for the sale. You should do the same.A profitable affiliated based website is basically a lead generator that sends potential buyers to an online store to make their purchase. With a profitable affiliate based website, you never have to handle stock, ship products, or deal with customer support, but you get a cut of the profit on the sales you help to trigger. You are like a salesperson getting a commission without doing any of the labor involved in making or delivering the products. Sounds easy right? Well not so fast. You see in order to be successful in selling an affiliate product, you have to get actual eyes on said product. What this means is that all the methods I've listed above regarding promoting your website, well you're going to want to do the same when promoting your affiliate links. Speaking of which, below is a list of affiliate programs I have tested (or have at least heard positive reviews about). I will also include some programs which are not as lucrative or simply don't offer a product worth promoting.
THE DANKGrasscity Affiliates: I have heard mixed reviews about Grasscity but they have always been good with their payouts and notifying me when I make a sale. So I have nothing but good things to say about them. Their commission rate is fairly reasonable too, at 10% of a total sale. VaporNation: I just signed up to VaporNation recently, so while I cannot personally attest to their payout, responsiveness, etc., the reviews about them have been nothing but good. For what I have initially gathered they have perhaps the widest selection of vape goods (even more than Vapeworld), as well as the option of drop shipping their products. If you can find a decent payment processor (likely one overseas), then this may be a potentially lucrative option. Green Goddess Supply, LLC: Green Goddess Supply offers high quality and fairly easy to promote smoking accessories for young and old smokers alike. VapeWorld: VapeWorld is one of the largest producers of quality made vaporizers on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. And if you don't get that, no worries. You're not an American and/or you didn't pay attention in high school. Either way, Vapeworld will have you covered. As far as their affiliate program, their payout rate is similar to others on this list, going a high as 15% per sale. The great thing for you is they feature many products that have a high conversion rate. Billowby: I work with Billowby mostly due to the fact that they are a San Francisco-based company. I haven't promoted their products as vigorously as I could, therefore I can't speak to how responsive they are when paying out. However, they do have a unique line of cannabis accessories, so they've at least got that going for them. Update: As of November 1st, 2018, Billowby is no longer in operation. Crak Revenue: More geared towards adult paysites, Crak Revenue offers a wide selection of G to R rated materials you can use to promote. I typically focus on their gaming and dating ads, because everyone knows even stoners get lonely.
MID-GRADESDollar High Club: I joined DHC affiliate program about 4 months ago and have made an astonishing 37 cents from them off a $10.00 sale. Definitely not great, not super awful, but nothing that got me high with euphoria. Everyonedoesit: A UK based company, EDI offers commission rates similar to Amazon, meaning around 5%. I cannot speak to the timeliness of their payouts, as I've yet to make a sell with them. But that's my issue, not yours. Amazon: Amazon's affiliate program is a mixed bag. While they have the most products to choose from, at 4% they offer the least, and I mean THE LEAST commission from sales. One plus, however, is that Amazon tracks a customer through your affiliate link for 24 hours, so an individual might end up buying a box of Bisquick Pancake Mix when they initially clicked on your link for a Chinese made Dab Rig. Also once you have racked up enough sales through your Amazon Associates link your commission is bumped up to 8%. Seedsman Affiliate Program: I can't provide either a negative or a positive for S.A.P, as I have not really done much to promote them. For me, their products simply don't seem to fit the audience I believe I'm serving. I could be wrong, of course. So if you happen to sign up for their affiliate program let me know how it goes. SeedSupreme: I just signed up to SS however, I have not read any strikingly negative reviews about them. In fact, the general consensus is that they offer fairly reasonable commission rates with products that sell. Check back in a few months for an update.
BOBBY BROWN AKA THE HUFF SH*TThese are the types of affiliate programs I would steer clear of either because of poor payout or simply because I don't believe in what they are selling: Green Cultured Cannabis College/Cannabis Training University (or any type of cannabis college): Look, your online degree from a cannabis college is worth and will continue to remain worth diddly squat. You do not need a cannabis college degree to enter or be successful within the industry but you might need a college degree or some sort of vocation. Don't fall for this. Spend the money you would have wasted on bullshit powerpoint presentations on business management night classes at your local community college instead. For a great article that lists other worthwhile and not-so worthwhile cannabis affiliate programs click this link here. Got questions? Feel free to ask them in the comment section (or leave them in my inbox) and I'll answer them as soon as I can!
CANNABIS BRAND AMBASSADOR PROGRAMSIf you live in the great state of California there are a few cannabis companies that will pay you good money to bring them clientele. I haven't done much research on the Canadian market, but if you're reading this and you happen to be one of our northern cousins I'm fairly confident there are similar programs in your country too: Eaze: By far the most profitable of all the companies I will list, Eaze has some serious tech dollars helping keep it on the tip of millennial tongues when it comes to cannabis service. That doesn't mean you still can't cop from your plug, it's just that they're probably getting their weed from Eaze too. Greenrush: STAY, STAY STAY the F**k away from Greenrush! At one point Greenrush was highly respected by me due to their very generous coupon code ($20 of your first three orders) as well their equally generous commission rate ($10 for someone's initial order and $2 every subsequent order). I was making some decent money and bringing them in a substantial number of customers. I even went as far as to partner with them to Whitelabel part of my site as a cannabis dispensary. BIG MISTAKE! Not only was it riddled with glitches, but the customer service Greenrush provided was also abysmal, making my overall rankings in Google TANK. Shortly thereafter the payments stopped being deposited into my PayPal account and the emails remain unanswered. They've also screwed their employees over BIG TIME.
My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities.