So you want to create a cannabis niche website, huh? Well, first of all, I commend your desire to espouse the benefits of cannabis–more folks need to be doing that.
However, this is not 1996 so your competition is a bit stiffer than High Times magazine. You’ve got sites such as The Cannabist, The Kind, Weedhornand Leafly to compete with–and those are just the ones that popped in my head. I mean hell, even Snoop Dogg has his own site called Merry Jane. There ain’t no way you’re competing with that.
But here’s the good news. You don’t have to compete to still have a dope ass weed site (and make a little money on the side). Read on for some tips on how to create your first weed site, get your site noticed as well as the best cannabis affiliates to help your site stand out.
Tip 1: Should you Create a Cannabis Blog?
Tip 2: How to Narrow Down a Cannabis Niche
Tip 3: Where to Buy a Domain Name and Hosting for your Cannabis Blog
Tip 4: Why Choosing the Right Theme is Important
Tip 5: SEO Fo’ Life
Tip 6: How to Promote your Cannabis Niche Website on Social Media
Tip 7: How to Monetize your Cannabis Niche Website
Tip 8: How to Keep Your Site Up & Running
Tip 9: Cannabis Affiliate Programs to Get you Started
Tip 10: The Best (and worst) Cannabis Brand Ambassador Programs in the US
Should you Create a Cannabis Blog?
Just because you smoke weed doesn’t mean you are qualified to write about it. Listen, I’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. Things others love, such as correct grammar, interesting content and a captivating theme went out the window with the ganja smoke.
Don’t be that person. Put as much effort into your dabs as you do researching topics, creating relevant content and marketing the hell out your site. Read on for more technical tips on how to start a cannabis niche website and actually profit from it.
How to Narrow Down a Cannabis Niche
I can hear some of you now: “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 five 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.
Where to Buy a Domain Name & Hosting
If you actually read all this–kudos, you’re well on your way to creating your first cannabis niche 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:
You should definitely buy your own domain name, as websites with ‘WordPress” or “Blogger” or something similar in the URL don’t look as professional. There’s a multitude of places to purchase domain names, but I would highly recommend Namecheap. Founded in 2000, Namecheap is a leading ICANN accredited domain name registrar and web hosting company. They offer all the necessary products to bring your ideas online, from domain names, web hosting and SSL certificates, to productivity and marketing apps.
Additionally, you will need a site to “host” your website–if you so decide. As you will see Namecheap, as well as other domain registars offer hosting plans. Additionally, many hosting companies offer the option of purchasing domain names directly from them. In my experience domain registars that offer hosting often don’t provide the most quality hosting, while offering a domain name is fairly common. Therefore if you’re looking for a “one stop shop” I would recommend my two personal favorites Siteground and Flywheel. Siteground will make your website lightening fast, which is crucial for your new cannabis website. Not only does Google consider page speed as one major factor in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking, many people won’t even remain on your website if it presents as sluggish or slow.
SiteGround has three plans and anyone can sign up for any of them with a great discount every time:
- The StartUp plan is perfect for people with one website that are starting now.
- The GrowBig plan is a great value for money offer, including the option for multiple websites and the SuperCacher that greatly improves website speed.
- The GoGeek plan is perfect for people with e-commerce and larger sites, or more geeky development needs like more server resources and GIT integration
Signing up for Siteground is super easy too. Just follow the steps below:
Step 1: Choose a Hosting Plan
Step 2: Choose or Use a Domain Name-. With Siteground you can choose to buy a new domain, or sign up with an existing domain. Siteground offers a wide range of domain extensions at simply awesome prices.
Step 3: Review and Complete your Order. Unlike many other hosting providers, Sitegrounds advertised discount applies to any of the initial periods chosen during the sign up process, meaning you’ll be able to get the low price for the one year period.
Flywheel is another hosting company that provides stellar service and is perhaps one of the most visually appealing of the major hosting players. This is most apparent in the company’s user interface, which received a really detailed redesign and an extensive cleanup that’ll make the app faster and more functional for Flywheel users. Keep in mind that with both of these hosting companies you can also receive a free domain with your hosting package.
There is also the option of obtaining a free domain name and free hosting. This naturally comes with its own set of positives and negatives, namely that you have limited bandwidth, thereby limiting how much you can add to your website. Your free hosting company can also decide to delete your account one day without much explanation. I personally feel free domains and hosting are good for polishing your website development skills or if you just want to create a few sites that you can slap a few affiliate links into and forget about. Regardless, if you’re looking to go this option the two links above are two that I often use to test drive a webiste idea before offcially launching it.
Why Choosing the Right Theme is Important
You should try to keep your layout (theme) 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). There are sites like Envato Market that offer great themes for any niche. When choosing a theme choose one that fits your sites style. If you have an ecommerce element to your site, then themes that focus more on product showcase may be more suitable. Equally, if your site is more of a blog then a theme that focuces on content creation is your best bet.
Platforms such as Shopify, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc. allow for a limited amount of freedom to modify your site to your liking. Don’t get me wrong, they are great platforms for newbie bloggers or folks who want a set it and forget it dropshipping store, and they offer exceptionally modern themes. With WordPress as your platform, however, the possibilities are only limited to your technical know-how. That could be why 30% of websites on the web utilize WordPress.
SEO Fo’ Life
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 assists you with creating non-duplicated content.
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. I used Google Alerts a lot in the beginning to flip articles that I found in the cannabis vertical or simply glean new ideas from.
Speaking of 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 you 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.
How to Promote Your Cannabis Niche Website on Social Media
Let’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. YouTube is yet another option, as is Snapchat, TikTok and the like. With these mediums creating a visual portrayal of your cannabis blog (or even you, as the blog creator) is what you’re aiming for.
If you’re looking to drive consistent organic traffic to your site than platforms such as Quora and Redditt are your best options. Since you are already an expert in your field (I mean you did just create a cannabis niche website) your answers to questions posed by readers will be sought after. In your detailed answer drop a link or two to your website and voila, you have established yourself as a cannabis cognoscente.
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 or with blog posts, rather, you want to establish a rapport with people to establish credibility. After all, you creating your 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 Monetize Your Cannabis Niche Website
Let me start off by saying this. You’re probably not going to get rich from your cannabis niche website. But it is possible to make decent money 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 Bounty, GrassCity 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. This route is also 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 and Nugg 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 weed sites, Google Ad Words and Facebook Ads are NOT your friends due to their rather “restrictive” policies. Thankfully there are other contenders on the block that will essentially pay you to advertise on your site.
Mantis Ad Network is one such company that provides quality (and to me more visually appealing) advertising. ALL the big weed sites 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.
Puff Network is another, newer advertising platform that I belive in time can be on-par with Mantis. While their payout rate is not as high as Mantis, there have been no issues with payouts. Similarly to Mantis they provide aesthetically pleasing, cannabis-centric advertising that should be a draw to your readers.
TrafficRoots, while providing the same quality of adveritsements, does not pay nearly as well as the two aforementioned companies. In my opinion they are simply not worth it unless you have massive amounts of traffic to your blog. And this will likely not be the case if you’re creating a small niche webiste.
Freelancing: Fiverr is a great platform to market your skills of website creation, blog writing and maybe even logo design If you’re not savy in any of these fields no worries. Create a gig profile and hire a cheaper freelancer on Fiverr to do the work for you, pocketing the difference. If you have a bit of creativity, free platforms like Canva, allow you to source images and create an endless array of unique graphics for your site. You can also use Canva as a way to do your own designs you can sell.
Another, perhaps more profitable platform for a blog writer such as yourself would be to write for Medium and Quora. Both of these platforms pay you to create content for their site. One decidely awesome aspect of Medium is that they allow you to upload content that has already been published on your site, thereby extending the visibility of your site as well as making you a little money in the process. Quora, which is somewhat of Q&A forum board pays you through something called their partner program. Basically the more eyes you get on your questions or answers (and consequently, Quora’s advertisers) the more money you can make.
How to Keep Your Site Up & Running
You should be prepared to spend lots of time initially (and a little money) keeping your site up & running.
When I first began KushCA I had no idea how to create a website let alone maintain one. It’s taken almost five 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? Many people 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. For example, you could create a profile on Fiverr and sell your services as a content writer. Another option, particularly if you’re not keen on writing, would be to advertise a service for a certain price, such as cannabis blogger, and buy it from another person on Fiverr for a lower price, keeping the difference.
Do You Write Your Own Articles? If you are not initially 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. When you first begin your site be prepared to spend a substantial amount of time researching topics, finding relevant keywords and taking the time to actually put fingers to keyboard, all of which can be time-consuming. I guarantee, however, if you put the work in upfront it will pay off in dividends.
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 you to hire someone. It can be fairly reasonable, cost-wise if you’re smart about it. Again, 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 revive your site. When I first began I didn’t know a thing about broken plugins, faulty code, or the myriad of other things that can f**k up your site, so the
Other Key Advice
If you are serious about creating a weed site 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).
Cannabis Affiliate Programs to Get you Started
First 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.
Grasscity 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.
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.
ShareASale: ShareASale has been in business for 20 years, exclusively as an Affiliate Marketing Network. They offer a wide range of affiliate programs in the cannabis, CBD and cannabis accessory market through an impressive array of merchants.
CJ Affiliate: CJ Affiliate works with large brands, such as Office Depot and Barnes & Noble. If you can find an angle of your cannabis site that you can use to promote the products of these companies then CJ affiliate is one of the best platforms to utilize. If you can’t, not a problem. They offer a wide range of merchants who sell CBD products and cannabis accessories.
Admitad: Admitad is similar to CJ Affiliate in that you have a mixed bag of merchants. Some are very reputable, some are not. However, those that are solid provide you a wide range of methods through which you can promote their products. From banners ads, text links, tailor made coupons and data feeds you will more than likely find a method that resonates with your audience.
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.
Dollar 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*T
These 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 PROGRAMS in the US
If 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.