Right now, somewhere in this world, there is a business owner or marketing team trying to choose between HubSpot and WordPress for their company’s blog and possibly the rest of their online marketing platform. It is because of this and the fact that I’m constantly being asked by clients to compare the pros and cons of each, that I decided to put my thoughts to pen on this debate. So buckle up my friends, this might be a long ride… 🙂
Why this Review is VERY Different
I’ve seen a few articles written on this subject before, but in my mind, they’ve all been incredibly flawed for three main reasons:
1. The author of the article wasn’t a hard-core user of both platforms.
2. The author was very biased one way or the other.
3. The author didn’t represent the true mass of small/medium sized business owners out there because they were too “techie” or “guru” to truly “get it.”
It is for these 3 reasons that this subject has been literally eating at me for so long.
As many of you know, my swimming pool company went from near failure to major success when we decided to embrace the concepts of Inbound Marketing and started using the HubSpot (HS) platform. For just over 3 years, I’ve watched the Boston-based startup grow from a little-known software company to one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world—so much so that Google herself invested 33 million into the all-in-on marketing platform this past year—a platform that has now been embraced by over 6000 users worldwide.
During this time period, I’ve literally answered thousands of questions, emails, and phone calls regarding my thoughts on HS and how to properly use the tool. I’ve also become a HS “partner” and therefore signed up and trained many small and medium-sized businesses to use the product and achieve online marketing success.
A Unique Relationship
These facts may make it appear as if I was a HubSpot homer, but the truth is my relationship with WordPress (WP) is in many ways just as strong. Since November of 2009, I’ve been using WordPress here on The Sales Lion (Thesis Theme). During this time I’ve not only done quite a bit of “tinkering” with the platform, but I’ve also consulted and coached dozens of business to achieve success using WordPress as their blog and marketing foundation.
In other words, I do have a special relationship with both subjects of this article. Some days I love HubSpot. Other days I hate it. Some days I love WordPress. Other days I hate it. Such are the emotions that accompany familiarity, and I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade when I see it.
This is exactly why this article needed to be written. I’m a non-techie business owner just trying to make the best marketing decision for both of my companies (River Pools and The Sales Lion), plus all the companies I now consult with.
In order to do this the right way, I’m going to break down this article into three sections. The first will discuss how HS and WP compare as blogging platforms. The second will compare the two as a CMS (content management system). And the third will compare the two from an overall marketing perspective.
HubSpot Vs. WordPress as a Blogging Platform
Let’s face it, when it comes to blogging platforms, there are arguably none better in this world than WordPress. Because of its open source approach, as well as the fact that it comes available in so many themes, the possibilities are endless. Combine that with the fact there seem to be amazing, new plugins that keep popping up day in and day out, the blogging behemoth that is WordPress will not be going away anytime soon.
That being said, HS is a solid blogging platform. It’s easy to use. It’s intuitive. And its ability to tie in with the platform’s robust analytics is wonderful—a subject I will delve into more later in this article.
Also, when the article your currently reading was first written, HubSpot was using their “old” platform/CMS– but now they’ve completely changed things and are calling it their COS, or Content Optimization System. As soon as this new system came out, the divide between HS and WP got much, much smaller, as there are some major features to consider with the new platform.
A Couple of HubSpot Drawbacks
There are two main features of WordPress that HubSpot’s blogging platform doesn’t have:
1. The ability for blog comments to show gravatars. (Can you imagine TSL without the Lion??!) (Note: Other commenting platforms like Disqus can be integrated into a HS blog to make up for this.)
2. The ability to reply directly to a comment and have that person (without them having clicked “subscribe to all comments”) receive an email showing the reply. (Note: With WordPress, this plugin is called “ReplyMe”, and it’s awesome.)
3. If you’re looking to build a super-professional site on WordPress, you literally have hundreds upon hundreds of companies to choose from. On the other hand, because the HubSpot COS is so new, you may struggle to quickly find a qualified designer with elite skills to perform the tasks you’re looking to achieve.
I want to stress here that these three “flaws” do not mean HS doesn’t have a solid blogging platform. In fact, I’d say it has two very nice advantages over its WP counterpart:
1. The ability to set up multiple blogs with a click: Let’s say that you want to set up multiple blogs on your company’s website due to the fact that you have unique audiences and needs. To set up a new blog in HS it takes about 5 seconds, start to finish….which ain’t bad.
2. Regarding set up, HubSpot’s blog is ready to go “out of the box”. It’s SPAM ready with its own plugins already built-in. So for a non-techie business owner, it’s really nice not to have to research 50 articles on, “20 Must-Have Plugins for a WordPress Blog.”
Overall, I’d give the two blogging platforms the following grade:
WordPress (depending on the theme you choose): A
**If you’d really like to get a much better look at HubSpot’s new COS, take a look at this video:
HubSpot Vs. WordPress as a CMS
I’m a strong believer that content management systems are the best things that happened to the Internet since, well, the Internet. For those of you unfamiliar with what the term means, a CMS is essentially a platform that allows someone to build a website without using a ton of code, but rather a drag/drop/click template approach. These types of systems often enable non-techies to actually do some web building themselves, without the constant help of a webmaster/designer.
Although WordPress started off as more of a straight blogging platform, it has now become an incredibly popular website building platform as well, which is why many business now have their entire website built on WP.
HS users are not required to use HS as their site’s CMS if they are using the middle and upper packages (otherwise known as “Professional” and “Enterprise”), but if someone is using the lower package (AKA “Basic”), they are required to build/migrate their site onto the HS CMS (To understand this further, read more here). Although this fits the needs of many, many businesses, it is my hope that HS will soon come out with a 4th package that allows for the use of their analytics and marketing tools, but does not make it required to use the CMS, as there are certain businesses where the platform simply isn’t the best fit.
When it comes to non-techies, it’s my opinion that HubSpot’s platform is a bit easier to build a website on. Now granted, the ease of building on WordPress changes depending on the “theme” being used, but for the sake of time here, understand that I’m only able to give a “blanket” approach when speaking of the WP CMS.
To give you an example of how HS is easier than WP, let’s say I’m building a page and want it to be three columns instead of two columns. To do this in HS, it literally takes me about 30 seconds. To do this in WP, it takes a phone call and $$$ to my webmaster. (As mentioned before, I’m a non-techie, which means I’m just like 99% of the business owners in the world and don’t know how to do this stuff.)
There are a few other HS CMS (COS) features that I feel deserve positive mention here:
1. Drag and Drop: To rearrange any page of a HubSpot COS website, all you have to do is take the “content box” and move it by dragging it to another area of the page. This is a great feature and one that is certainly appreciated by those with no coding experience.
2. Button Creator/Split Testing: The HS COS has a built-in button creator that allows you to split-test the effectiveness of call-to-action buttons and images, something that has helped me personally a tremendous amount to increase conversions on my site.
3. Easy Landing Page Creator: If you’re looking to create a simple and effective “textbook” style landing page for your website, HS allows you to do this in minutes, and with the new COS, regular pages, landing pages, and even email are all built using the same interface.
Complaints and Drawbacks
Before HubSpot’s new system, I used to have many complaints about the platform. But now, with their responsive design and completely revamped page editing that allows you to preview changes in real-time, I’m literally ecstatic with the changes and don’t find nearly as much fault.
The one knock on the new COS that some folks may have is that it is a bit more complicated than the old one for non-techies to do basic design. That being said, designers and programmers like the new COS way more than the previous version due to its limitations.
HubSpot Vs. WordPress as an Analytics and Marketing Platform
It’s rather unfair to compare HS and WP in this arena, as WP really isn’t in the business of analytics, but the subject cannot be ignored when comparing two tools that are so very intertwined with a company’s web marketing campaign.
When it comes to analytics and general marketing, HubSpot excels big-time, and offers way more than if someone was just looking at their stats through Google Analytics. For example, HS offers:
1. Lead Tracking: This tool allows you to understand the behavior of those persons that have filled out a form on your website. By knowing such things as “time on site,” “date of previous visits,” “different pages viewed,”etc.—a marketing and sales team can better understand the quality and needs of their leads, which in-turn enables better sales customization and higher closing rates.
2. ROI (Return on Investment): By seeing that an individual typed in a certain phrase in search, which brought them to a blog article on your website, which then brought them to a landing page where they filled out a form, which then lead to a sales appointment and an eventual customer—you can literally track how much money and sales keywords and blog articles make on your website. Simply put, this feature is a must-have for any business serious about web marketing and measuring ROI in my opinion.
3. Lead Nurturing: With built-in list segmentation, email, and automated lead follow-ups—HubSpot has the ability, when used properly, to push leads down the sales funnel with a vast array of nurturing tools. Again, this is tremendously valuable.
4. Social Media Integration: If you’re looking to measure your social reach and the influence social is having on traffic, leads, and sales—HubSpot’s platform includes these features as well. In fact, one of HubSpot’s latest features is their “Social Inbox”–a unique social CRM of sorts and a potentially powerful tool for those businesses and industries that are socially driven from a twitter/facebook standpoint.
5. Clean and Easy Analytics: This one goes back to the techie vs. non-techie issue, but when compared to Google Analytics, I find that most business owners prefer the HubSpot platform. It’s tough to pin an exact reason for this statement, but I can tell you that I often wonder if the designers of Google Analytics bothered to work with a single non-techie to improve the intuitive nature (or incredible lack thereof) of the program.
6. Excellent Keyword and Link Analysis Tools: If you’re looking to track your keywords and links for SEO purposes, HS has a tool that not only allows for excellent keyword and link tracking, but you can also keep close tabs on your competitors as well—a feature any serious online marketer will use every day.
Understand that each of the “benefits” and “tools” I mention here are available as “add-ons” for those businesses using WordPress and not HubSpot. So if someone wants lead tracking, nurturing, email, etc.—there is always other software packages and tools that can make this reality, some of which are free, others of which are not. (Note: HubSpot has many customers that use WordPress as their CMS and blog, but use HS for their analytics/lead nurturing/etc.)
One other benefit of HS that deserves mention is their overall support features. If you’re having a problem with your site and have a general question that needs to be answered, they have a solid support staff available via email and live chat. In comparison, although WordPress is loaded with forums and chat rooms discussing their platform, 1-on-1 assistance can be harder to attain. Furthermore, HubSpot has many in-house “consultants” (not free) that work directly with clients to get them up and running with their inbound marketing campaigns—a benefit that was mentioned to me by multiple people when I sent out my survey in preparation for this post.
OK Marcus, but which is better?
The more I become experienced and involved in the world of sales and marketing, the more I realize there is never a “one-size fits all” solution for the masses. Every business is unique. Every business has different strengths and weaknesses. And it is because of this that I can’t sit here and say that one solution is definitively better than the other.
This being said, I do have some general rules of thumb I’ve come up with for those comparing the two platforms:
1. If you’re a non-techie business owner that wants to manage your website and marketing in-house (for the most part) and have everything under one roof, then HubSpot is likely your best solution on the market today.
2. If you’re a non-techie looking for a great blogging platform/CMS, and are willing to pay someone to make changes to your site when necessary, then WordPress is likely a great choice.
3. If you’re using WordPress and looking for GREAT analytics/lead tracking, you’re going to need to use at least some type of paid service—be it HS or another solution.
4. If you’re the type that would like everything you need for web marketing laid out in front of you in an organized and structured manner, with a support staff ready to help, and have the financial resources to do so—then HubSpot is likely a great fit.
I could go on and on about these two products, but my gut tells me 3,000 words is quite enough, at least for now.
But the good thing is this community if full of smart people that have used these platforms, and I’m frankly looking very forward to the discussion that will now ensue in the comments section.
OK folks, I’d be curious to know the following:
1. What other benefits/drawbacks to HS and WP would you add?
2. Is there anything I’ve stated here in the article you don’t agree with? Why?
3. What do you think the future holds for the movement that is HubSpot and will they become a dominant leader in the industry or do you think other inbound marketing platforms will grab more market share?
As always, your voice matters my friends, so jump on in.
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