Google Digital Marketing and The Cannabis Industry

Is There a Way to Promote My Services Through Google Digital Marketing?

The world of cannabis business is always changing, with new laws and different levels of legalization sweeping the country. However, one thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed yet is the difficulty of cannabis advertising. Many platforms have restrictions on advertising cannabis products, and some have banned it altogether.[1] Because Google is the largest and most popular search engine, accounting for nearly 88% of all search engine traffic, it’s important to understand the possibilities it holds for cannabis advertising. If you’ve ever wondered about Google’s rules and regulations, here’s the scoop on Google digital marketing and the cannabis industry.

Does Google allow cannabis marketing?

The short answer is no, although the full story is a little more complicated. According to Google’s policy page, they do not allow advertising for any kind of recreational drug or “legal high”.[2] The ban extends to tobacco, marijuana, other cannabis products, and all sites sharing information about or directly encouraging the use of these substances. These restrictions are enumerated in Google’s “Dangerous Products or Services” policy, alongside prohibitions on guns, explosives, and other weapons. While filtering inappropriate and violent content from ads is beneficial to everybody, this policy shows how behind the times Google digital marketing is when it comes to cannabis. Although many states have legalized recreational marijuana and a 2018 bill legalized hemp on a federal level, Google will not advertise these legalized products.[3] This is in part because cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, and in part because Google doesn’t want to encourage what they view as “drug use”—hence the ban on tobacco products as well.

However, although Google is very clear about banning cannabis products in their advertising policy, the reality of the situation is a little different. Cannabis ads have actually been found on Google services, and some can remain live for weeks or months before being flagged and taken down. Because Google is so large, it’s almost impossible for their advertising control teams to catch and prevent every instance of cannabis advertising, particularly if an ad doesn’t use traditional cannabis keywords. While many cannabis ads are rejected, a few can get approved and go live. Because of these instances and the amount of traffic Google ads can generate, some may be tempted to try to advertise using Google digital marketing, despite their policy against it.

Keep in mind this can carry significant risks. Because marketing this content is against Google’s policy, if you are repeatedly caught advertising cannabis products, you could face serious consequences. If your ad violates the policy against cannabis products, it can be disapproved to run. If you have a very serious violation or rack up several smaller violations, your account can even be suspended, which means you can no longer advertise on Google.[4]

Our recommendation? Look elsewhere. Google digital marketing does not allow cannabis advertising, and while you may still be able to get your ads to go live, you can face sanctions for the policy infraction. It’s probably not worth the risk of getting banned from the largest search engine on the internet. Instead, focus on other ways to advertise your products. Optimize your SEO to drive organic traffic to your site, and then use cookies and retargeting practices to advertise to those who visited your site but didn’t make a conversion. Use email lists, social media, and podcasts to get the word out about your business, or try an influencer or ambassador. You can also attend specialized cannabis events to network with other businesses and industry professionals. Although it’s less straightforward than advertising on Google, they’re still great ways to grow your audience—without running the risk.

 

Want to grow your cannabis marketing, without the risk? Let Herban Creative take care of all your marketing needs, so you can smoke the competition.


[1] “Facebook and Other Marketing Platforms Continue to Stifle Cannabis Ads.” High Times, 10 Sep. 2019, https://hightimes.com/business/facebook-other-marketing-platforms-continue-stifle-cannabis-ads/

[2] “Dangerous Products or Services.” Google, https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/6014299?hl=en

[3] “The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization and the Status of CBD: An Explainer.” Brookings, 14 Dec, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/

[4] “What happens if you violate our policies.” Google, https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/7187501

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