homepage image from Alternative 420 medical marijuana website

As a Columbus Ohio web design firm, we've done quite a few medically-related and plastic surgeon websites. We recently completed a medical marijuana website for a doctor's practice, just outside of New York City. They're focusing on telemedicine for prescribing medical marijuana cards.

See the website here, or click on the image of the homepage below.

homepage of Alternative 420 medicalmarijuanawebsite

This website was built in SquareSpace, an online template-based website building tool. SquareSpace templates help keep web design and coding costs lower than custom websites built in WordPress. We've done several SquareSpace websites, which you can see here.

Incorporating telemedicine into a website.

Since this website focuses on telemedicine, we introduced them to a company called SimplePractice, who focuses on telemedicine. Any communication through a medical website must, legally, be HIPPA-compliant. If any communication is intercepted in transmission (ie: from a contact form), personal medical information can get out, and that can be an expensive oversight.

We set  up an appointment scheduling widget in the medical marijuana site, so patients can schedule their telemedicine appointments through SimplePractice without ever leaving the medical marijuana website.

medical marijuana website with appointment window open

All telemedicine appointments are conducted through the SimplePractice website. In addition, SimplePractice sends an email or text to the client:

  • Letting them know the process for telemedicine, and
  • Sending appointment reminders

SimplePractice also has all the HIPPA-compliant forms on the websites that the doctors' clients can fill out, which get sent directly to the doctors.

Things we've learned working on this medical marijuana website.

  • Google doesn't allow you to run Google Ads for medical marijuana sites, or even marijuana dispensary sites. That's because, according to federal laws, weed is still illegal. So Google is playing it safe.
  • Telemedicine businesses don't need physical offices, since everything is done by phone ir computer. However, Google wants you to have a place of business to take your company seriously. So we thought they should use a co-working space's address. Most co-working spaces are perfectly fine with Google, but not all. See Google's guidelines for virtual offices here.

  • It’s against Google’s guidelines for representing your business to use anything other than a real place of business. Google does notice if a lot of businesses use the same addresses. If a business is ever flagged as a CMRA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) or is seen as a "commonplace for businesses," it’s almost certain they won't run your Google Ads. The rule of thumb is that if there's no staff to service customers during business hours at that physical address, then it shouldn’t be a listed as the business location. But there are ways around it.

How to tell if Google has indexed a website.

Once a site is launched, it takes Google one to four weeks to index your site. Of course, submitting the website to Google and other search engines is critical as well. That way, you're telling Google your site is live, and not waiting for them to find it.

However, what if your website isn't showing up when you search your company name? If that's the case, and you're wondering if Google has even indexed your site, open Google and put in the search bar:  “site:your-website.com”. In this example, we had this issue with Empire Medical Marijuana, whose domain is www.emmarijuana.com, so we did two things:

1. Searched for > site:alternative420.com and saw that it was, in fact, indexed by Google , and

screenshot showing that Google has indexed a new website

2. Search the domain name (ie: alternative420.com) in quotation marks. That tells Google you're looking for the specific domain name.

Yes, it's kinda of weird to have to search that way, but it does work, and tells you whether the website has been indexed.

screenshot of search for new website using domain name in quotation marks rev

We're currently working with an SEM firm to work out this issue, and see if Alternative420 needed to have a name change, and if would fix this issue. Once they figure it out, we'll post another blog focusing on that.

SquareSpace websites are great for new businesses just starting out.

While SquareSpace websites are always getting better, you can get a really nice website using their templates. However, you should be aware that there are some limitations, especially when it comes to SEO. For example:

  • The mobile version of the website must have the same elements as the desktop version of the website. While that sounds as if it's not a big deal, with Google's new "mobile first" approach, it's a good idea to scale back the homepage of the mobile site so there's less images and content on it. That enables the site to load faster on mobile devices.
  • With SquareSpace you can’t modify the mobile version of your website to make it a simpler version of the desktop version with the new WebP  images. That’s important because a scaled-back optimized version of the mobile home page helps it load faster, and load speed has been a Google  ranking factor since 2018.
  • Design limitations. There’s only so many modifications we can do with a template. With WordPress, we can literally do anything with the design.

  • We have no control over how the code is written in SquareSpace, so the site can be slow-loading and we couldn’t do anything about it. SquareSpace sites usually get poor speed scores on Google Page Speed Tests. With SquareSpace there’s no way to fix that, which definitely affects the  quality of your SEO.

  • Better SEO control. WordPress uses the “Yoast” SEO module, which is the industry standard. SquareSpace has their own which isn’t as extensive.

  • Page Titles and Meta Descriptions are part of, and can display on your website, but only in some templates. However, in other templates, there is no option to add Page Titles and Meta Descriptions to blogs. To see how Google uses Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, watch the first 40 seconds of this video.

  • And finally, at some point, you may ask  to do something SquareSpace either can’t do, or can’t do well.

One of the things SquareSpace recently added to their platform, is the ability for your customers to start their own accounts directly on your website.