Louis Coniglio stared at his computer screen perplexed last Fall. His online cannabis accessory shop DankStop.com, which until then, had consistently appeared at the top of Google’s search results, had suddenly dropped to the bottom of page three. “It was a disaster,” he recalled. Sales of his glass bongs and other marijuana-related items fell almost in half from more than $15K/day to around $8K/day. “Google killed my bong business,” the 28 year old entrepreneur and co-founder of DankStop.com in New Jersey lamented.
Google routinely updates its search systems and does not share details on how rankings are calculated so people can’t game the system. The company points webmasters who want to create high-ranking content to its guidelines and offers a Webmaster Forums for site creators to ask questions and get advice.
Coniglio felt frustrated because there was no one at Google he could speak to by phone, no google reps to email, and while the SEO community was buzzing about an algorithm update he said, there wasn’t much additional information.
Google does not release the details of its updates so people can’t game the system, and the company generally refers questions to its public forums.
In the next months as sales remained depressed, Coniglio laid off staff members and tried to figure out how to keep the business going “I learned how critical it is not to rely on one major driver of sales,” he said referring to Google, especially a driver he had no control over.
The change in search results and sales happened at an unlucky time for Dank Stop. The Edison New Jersey company had just re-signed a two-year lease on their building and was about to go out and raise a $500,000 new round of investment to fund their expansion of DankStop, and new endeavors HighLife, which would sell products to wholesalers and CrowdShip, a Shopify plug in module.
The company was fortunate Coniglio said, because its investors understood the unique challenges of the cannabis industry and said of the search result challenge, “This is a roadblock but you’ll find your way around it.”
With funds dwindling, DankStop’s focus shifted increasingly towards their newest venture, CrowdShip.io, a Shopify plug-in module that helps the shipping of products to customers through Shopify. The project aimed to make logistics easier for Dank Stop’s wholesale customers, who could use it to create their own Shopify online headshop or CBD store, and have Dank Stop fulfill orders directly, rather than the wholesaler managing a set of investory.
Coniglio says DankStop is currently in the process of working through the waitlist of clients that accrued during development. “but that still hasn’t taken the sting,” out of the descent of their search engine rankings he said.
Dank Stop is branching out in a number of other ways. Newly launched is HighLife.com, a wholesaler for brick and mortar shops to buy cannabis accessories. Louis Coniglio and his partners Feliks Khaykin, Gabe Aronovich, and Andre Bulatov also recently decided to open a CBD product retail store at the base of their offices in New Jersey. “The store is about answering questions. This is all so new,” Coniglio said. Once people find products they like, they can buy online or sign up for subscription services he said.
To the company’s surprise a few weeks ago, Dankstop reappeared in Google’s top organic results. Coniglio and Khaykin have no idea why this happened, but by broadening and expanding their business interests over the last six months, they aren’t so dependent on the search giant.
More on Dank Stop’s origins are here.