Note: Traffic estimates are from SEMRush (actual numbers may vary) and revenue numbers are from public searches. This information was first presented at the Cannabis Marketing Association Summit in June 2023 by Jeremy Johnson.
The most trafficked cannabis website categories are:
Currently, Weedmaps and Leafly are the two single most trafficked cannabis websites. However, if you were add up the traffic of all cannabis retail websites, it would surpass the total of all cannabis marketplace traffic. Leafly sees about 5 million visits from organic search every single month, Weedmaps at 2.3m, followed by Allbud, and so on.
What's also interesting is how consumers are finding these sites: Are they searching on the name of the marketplace (Branded) or finding the site through product or strain related searches (Non-branded)?
For the most part, you can see that the organic traffic going to marketplaces is made up of mostly Non-branded searches. Weedmaps has the strongest brand with 27% of its traffic coming from branded searches, such as 'weedmaps'.
If you add up all the retailers, there's more traffic going to retailers than the marketplaces combined, but no single retailer is outpacing a marketplace.
The big 3 retailers are Rise, Curaleaf, and Trulieve, all around 1M visits per month.
Stiiizy recently took the #5 spot for retailers. Previously, it was Sunnyside shops (Cresco's dispensaries).
The difference between marketplaces and brands is that most of the brand traffic comes from Branded searches.
Why? These companies all have very well-known brands.
Also, Trulieve is the only brand in this list with a custom ecommerce menu that has products that are crawalable and indexable by Google. For Rise, Curaleaf, and Stiiizy: if you search for a product, you won't find their websites in the search results. Some of these brands are working on fixing this.
The reason Rise has 25% Non-branded is because they really focused on ranking for Non-branded terms like 'dispensary near me' and others.
The top 5 most visited cannabis news and educational sites are:
The leader Marijuana Moment sees about 300k organic traffic visits per month (compared to in the millions for marketplaces and retailers).
The majority of this traffic comes from Non-Branded terms, which makes sense as these are news articles and are capturing more general search terms. High Times is the one outlier that sees a lot of Branded traffic, as they've built such a strong brand over the decades.
The top 5 most visited cannabis delivery companies are:
Eaze and Hyperwolf see a ton of Branded traffic at 66% and 82%, respectively.
Cannabis delivery has proven to be a tough business to be in. You can see the difference between the top delivery service, Eaze at 200k monthly organic traffic, versus the top brand, Rise at 1.3M. Eaze started off as a delivery marketplace helping retailers drive traffic and revenue, but then Eaze purchased their own dispensary retail licenses in order to realize the margins on delivery, it was not sustainable just working with retail partners.
There's not a lot of organic traffic going directly to brands, and this may never change. One of the main reasons is consumers can't buy directly from brands (for the most part, some in California are selling DTC).
And no surprise here, most organic traffic for brands is coming from Branded searches. Kiva is the outlier here as they have a wealth of educational and blog content on their site to capture more general, Non-branded search terms.
So how is this traffic trending over time? Delivery, news, and most brands (with the exception of Jeeter on the rise) have remained relatively flat over the last couple of years. However, there's one area where a shift is happening: Consumers are moving away from marketplaces.
The top two cannabis marketplaces, Weedmaps and Leafly, have lost 9 million monthly organic visits (-46%) in 2 years.
It's moving to retailers. Traffic to the top 5 most trafficked dispensary websites has increased by 2.5m monthly organic visits (103%) in the same time period.
5 retailers account for 28% of the lost traffic from Weedmaps and Leafly. Now imagine thousands of other dispensary websites improving their SEO, and it's easy to see where the traffic is going.
Retailers are ranking for product related keywords after ditching iFrame menus and moving to native menus. For native menus, retailers have the option of either doing a full-custom build via an API, or using something like Dispense's menus which are out-of-the-box indexable and crawlable.
- Google loves localized results and so do customers
- Google is putting increased value on the shopping experience and will value results with *unique* reviews, clear pricing, good images, etc
- Google doesn't love marketplaces and aggregated content
While marketplaces are losing organic traffic, retailers across the internet are gaining that traffic AND MORE in mass amounts. Not only is more search volume going to local results, but more people are searching for cannabis than 2 years ago. You can see the interest over time for searches like 'dispensary' are online increasing (data via Google):
For example: Cannabis, hemp, CBD, weed, etc.
For example: Dispensary near me, weed delivery near me, etc.
“Dispensary near me” is the #1 most searched transactional term with 1.8m searches per month.
For example: Dispensary name, brands, etc.
As a market matures, and consumers develop preferences for where they shop, they start to search directly for the dispensary name (as seen in the graphic above: e.g. 'Rise dispensary' and 'Sunnyside dispensary').
For example: Strains, categories, product, brands, etc.
'Dispensary near me' might be the top individual search term, but there are 10M+ product related searches per month, meaning there's just as much opportunity to capture traffic for products, strains, categories, and brands. There are more people searching for products than dispensaries. This is especially true in more mature markets. At first, consumers want to find the nearest dispensary, so they search 'dispensary near me'. But as a market matures, people start to have product and brand preferences.
The top 6 cannabis strain-related search terms are:
Marketplaces make their money through 3 different channels: Ads, transactions, and services.
Ads: For example, on Weedmaps retailers will buy ads to show up first in a proximity search. Also, Leafly just introduced strain page ads in 2022, so if you search for a strain and land on a Leafly strain page, a dispensary can buy an ad on that strain page to showcase that they carry this strain.
Transactions: For example, IHeartJane charges $1 per order on their platform.
Services: For example, Weedmaps bought Sprout (loyalty platform) and Enlighten (displays) and charges for the usage of those services.
2022 retail numbers:
Cannabis retailers make their money through mostly transactions (consumer orders) and a bit via ads. Platforms like iHeartJane are introducing ad networks, where brands can buy ads on menus that use the Jane platform. The downside of this for retailers is that the money is going through Jane and not them directly, and they have less control of who can advertise on their own menus.
For retailers with native or custom menus, they can do digital merchandising. Meaning they can charge their brand partners a fee to place them at the top of their menu. This is likely where ad revenue will come from long-term as retailers want to control who gets placed at the top of their menu.
Like retailers, cannabis delivery services make money mostly through transactions (purchases) and a little bit of money via ads.
Cannabis brands make their money 3 ways: DTC sales, selling to retailers, merchandise.
Even though there's not a lot of traffic going to brand websites compared to retailers and marketplaces, it's still highly important to have that online presence. Often, when retailers are researching if they should work with a brand, they will evaluate their website and socials to make sure they have a solid presence.
Mostly these companies make money the traditional way: ads and subscriptions. Events are also a great way to monetize a news platform: MJBizCon and Benzinga are the two big examples of how to build an audience, then pivot that into an event to generate revenue.