Whether you’re a new brand hoping to sell your own personal range of hemp based products, or you’re hoping to setup a drop shipping website where you can offer various brands, Shopify is a great option for you. I’ll do my best to explain the main steps you will have to go through in order to get your store up and running, before you start focusing on getting your website ranking.

Shopify CBD Policy

Before you jump ahead with any ecommerce platform, you need to research their CBD policy and I’m happy to say Shopify has a generally relaxed policy, depending on the legal situation in your country.

They do however recommend that “merchants should consult with an attorney before selling these products on Shopify” due to the evolving laws. This is specifically on the US market, but you should know the situation in your own country and whether CBD can be purchased freely.

The Basics

There are a few basic tasks you need to get in place before you jump ahead, which I’ve listed below.

  • Domain Name: You need to find yourself a unique domain name and register your business. You should also make sure the name is available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so you don’t have customers landing on the wrong  website and speaking to someone else. This quite famously happens to John Lewis on Twitter on a daily basis. Note: You can buy your domain name via Shopify, but most people recommend you don’t.
  • Logo: Unless you’re highly skilled at design, I’d recommend paying for a designer to do this task for you. It’s simply not worth wasting your time when there are so many tasks to complete and a professional can complete this to a higher level at a much quicker rate. Heads up, I wouldn’t trust those cheap freelancer websites, as they often use the same designs for multiple clients. You should ask people you know if they have any recommendations. Start to work out some general ideas of what you’d like, as this should be communicated to the designer, while still giving them creative freedom to create some potential logos for you to choose from.
  • Basic Content: You should start getting the content for the website written up as soon as possible. We’re talking about the basics, such as the history of the company (obviously being pretty short at this point), who you are and why you’re choosing to start a CBD brand, the contact page info, anything you’d want written on the homepage, plus any content you can write up for the product pages. Remember all content on your website has to be 100% unique, no copying from someone else.
  • FAQ’s: Any time a newcomer lands on a CBD website, they will have a list of questions. You should make sure they have no doubt and are ready to invest in your product range and an FAQ can help with this. Look up CBD FAQ’s and write up your own answers.
  • Photos: Collect photos of any products you’re going to sell on the website. If you don’t have any, then it’s time to get some snaps created!

Sign-Up To Shopify

Your next step will be to sign up to Shopify and creating your account. You can start it off with a trial, which will allow you to get used to the e-commerce platform before committing yourself.

Once you’re setup, you will land on the store admin screen, where you can start inputting the product details and working out the payment process, which leads me to my next point.

Shopify Payment Gateway

Do not use PayPal, they don’t accept CBD payments. I’ve written about PayPal’s CBD policy while I have spoken to an incredibly high amount of CBD shops and brands that have had their account suspended for selling CBD products with PayPal.

You need to use a payment gateway that accepts CBD, of which I’ve listed a number of those, but I will look to try and keep that article updated so I can regularly provide the most useful information.

Pick A Theme

You need to find a theme that looks close to what you want your website to appear like and how you want it to function. You’ll be able to heavily edit it, but you want something as close to the finished article as possible to make your job that little bit easier.

I’m assuming you don’t have a developer working full time who can build you something from scratch, as otherwise I’d maybe not go for Shopify for SEO reasons, but this platform has huge benefits when it comes to quickly getting an e-commerce site ready to sell.

If you don’t know where to start, you can browse through the theme store, or Google themes relevant to your business type. However, I have one extra trick which is worth trying. Look up a few brands within your industry and head to their website. Go into the source code and look for ‘shopify’. If that comes up, then search for ‘theme’. If you like the style of the website, it might be worth checking out the theme they’ve used, you could probably quite easily get something similar.

Once you have your theme setup, you need to customise the website, so it has your logo and images uploaded in the right place.

Brand Guidelines

If I spoke to 100 CBD brands, I’d say 95 wouldn’t be able to provide me with their brand guidelines. To be honest, I couldn’t provide you with mine, so I don’t always practice what I preach, but you should create some brand guidelines.

This will shape factors such as the font you use, the colours, how you communicate and the style of language on the website, the design and ‘feel’ of your branding and how this will transfer to other factors such as the packaging.

It could be worth creating some persona’s, so your team can get into the mindset of who your potential customers are and then this will shape the content you write on the website, in your ads and with any other places you communicate to potential customers.

Add Your Products

You now need to load in your products onto the Shopify website. Make sure to include some professional looking photos. Try to write up as much unique detail for each product, don’t duplicate anything, while you should also add some FAQ’s.

Make sure the meta title, meta description and H1 are keyword optimised (but not keyword stuffed) and that you have your open graph and schema mark-up in place. I won’t go into all these, but you can find more details on my SEO article highlighted further down this article.

Collections

I have a love/hate relationship with Shopify collection pages, as I think they often don’t really work from an SEO perspective, but have the potential to if the Shopify platform wasn’t so frustrating.

Anyway, this is a great way for you to collect similar products into categories. You have your basic options, such as CBD oil’s, gummies, tea’s, topicals etc. But you can also think a little outside of the box, such as products for sale or in a clearance due to a short date, products catered to a certain audience (such as dogs), or top sellers.

Lab Reports

Anyone considering purchasing a hemp product will want to see the third party lab reports before making their final decision, so you need to make sure these are readily accessible from the product pages.

These are often saved as a PDF, which is found as a clear link from the product page, but how you choose to show your information is completely up to you.

Also, don’t do the lazy thing of posting one lab report and leaving it at that, nobody trusts those brands. You need to make each lab report accessible, so people will trust in your brand.

Financial Info

Make sure you have your financial information in place as you go live. For example, you will want to go to products page in the admin, click on a product and go to ‘variants’, here you can either check or uncheck the ‘charge taxes’ and ‘requires shipping’ based on what works best.

You also need to set your shipping rates, which can be found in your settings. Remember, you want it high enough so you’re not left forking out the costs, but not so high that you put off any potential customers. You might also want to consider offering free deliveries over a certain value, with most CBD brands offering free delivery over £50.

Tracking

You should set yourself up on both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. They’re both free tools and are incredibly useful. Google Analytics will allow you to see how many visitors your website is bringing in, what sources of traffic are leading to sales and which pages are bringing the most value. On that subject, you need to make sure you setup conversion tracking properly, so you can measure your sales.

Search console is the new name for Google Webmaster Tools, while it is very useful for submitting your XML sitemap to Google, looking for any issues and seeing which terms are bringing your website impressions and clicks. You can also submit a page to be indexed, if it is time sensitive or it doesn’t seem to be showing up on Google. This is also the place where you will find out directly from Google if there is a manual penalty on your website, not that this should happen if you do everything above board.

Ranking On Google

Once you’ve put in the hard work into getting the website setup, you will want to move your focus towards increasing your rankings on Google, which is where SEO for CBD brands is so important. Alternatively, if you’re a brick and mortar then your CBD local SEO plan will be pivotal. Either way, getting CBD backlinks will be critical and you should be building out a digital PR plan.

As you can tell from those internal links, I’ve written a number of guides on how to go about achieving this, as I’ve worked in marketing for over 10 years, so I’d definitely recommend giving them a read.

You should also start to push your brand to CBD influencers and bloggers who can write about your products, provide you with a backlink and post pictures on their social channels.

Affiliates On Shopify

There are two ways you can go about getting setup with an affiliate platform, you could either use a plugin or go with an official affiliate platform, both have their own set of advantages, so I’ll try to break them down.

Plugins

These tend to be much cheaper, albeit they often still require a monthly payment. Some of the most popular include Affiliatly or Refersion. While these are often cheaper, it can be hard to find potential affiliates, so you’re starting from scratch and the outreach falls on your shoulders.

Affiliate Platforms

I’m a massive fan of CBD Partners, as they have an easy to use system, their staff are in regular communication and they have a strong CBD affiliate base. There are a number of other platforms available, albeit I’d recommend avoiding Webgains as they’re absolutely useless when you ask them questions.

If you want to see a list of other CBD affiliate programs, do take a look at my list. You should create a page on your website where you describe your affiliate platform and explain what level of commission you’ll provide your affiliates with. This will help any influencers or bloggers who find your website to work out whether it fits with their strategy.

In general, most CBD brands offer around 20% commission, but this is completely up to you and what won’t eat too much into your profit margins, but if you go below 10% then virtually all affiliates will simply say no. The amount of work they have to do to get potential customers to your site, it’s not worth it if they only get a couple of quid for their work.

Test, Test, Test

Go on your website and click on absolutely everything. Then try from other browsers and devices. Get your friends and family to explore your website. Read through all the content. Simply look for anything that’s broken or doesn’t read well. Better you find it than a customer.

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