If your business is looking to replatform and move your website to a new Content Management System (CMS), there’s a plethora of goofy sounding providers to choose from like Weebly, Wix, Bynder & DerpZ to name a few (now I made that last one up, but admit it, you were just about to Google it weren't you?).
If you’re serious about choosing a scalable platform that gives you or your team the flexibility to build and host content that actually performs well, IMHO you should really only be looking at HubSpot or WordPress.
So which one is the best?
Jim Carey doesn't know but I do.
SHORT ANSWER: It’s HubSpot*
*depending on cost, overall strategy and organisation size.
Don’t get me wrong WordPress is an awesome CMS and I've had plenty of experience with both systems over the years, but HubSpot just wipes the floor with WordPress when it comes to functionality, UX and scalability.
If you need the long answer (and I'm guessing you do), then come with me as I delve into the nitty gritty and key features of each CMS below.
I've looked at the ‘out of the box’ WordPress CMS. This is free, however, most businesses need to customise the design of the standard WordPress templates to turn the standard blogging tool into a ‘proper’ website. There are also a number of plugins and tools required to turn the website into a lead generation vehicle.
In terms of cost, although the CMS is free, you need to budget for website design, hosting and the subscriptions of any additional tools.
Mostly I have compared the HubSpot CMS, but have pulled in free or starter, or pro tools where it makes sense to do so.
In terms of cost, you’ll need to budget for the website design (a similar cost to design and dev of a WordPress site), but in addition the HubSpot CMS is £245/month. I’ve also assumed that you’ll get the free HubSpot CRM and Marketing Hub Starter at £42/month.
Here are the separate functions that I'll be looking at:
WordPress (WP) is one of the proto blog (or Weblog - if you’re old enough to still call it that) tools. Along with platforms like blogspot it paved the way for businesses and bloggers to start flinging their news, views and Q’s onto the internet with relative ease. And after 16 years that blogging pedigree still shines through in WordPress’s DNA.
If you’re a bit of a luddite, WordPress is simple, straightforward and requires little to no knowledge of HTML for you to start publishing blog content.
WP’s blog editor has similar formatting and functionality that you’d expect to see in a desktop document editor like MS Word, so there really isn’t a steep learning curve when it comes to crafting content.
Personally, I find the layout and some of the styling options to be irksome and a bit clunky but it’s bearable. Likewise it can be a pain to keep switching between the editor view and live preview just to try and get a sense of what your finished work will actually look like. But again, it’s not a dealbreaker.
In terms of setup you’re going to get a plain text blog out of the box, and that’s about it.
If you want a specific look and feel you’re going to have to build a template or find a theme that works for you from a template market like envato (a developer will probably have to implement this unless you're fairly web savvy).
Similarly if you want more control or layout options like content blocks or columns in the editor itself, you’ll have to pick out some plugins that will fill those functionality gaps like Gutenberg (which is now standard if you’re on WordPress 5.0 or higher) or WPBakery (or the artist formerly known as P̶r̶i̶n̶c̶e̶ Visual Composer)
If you thought the WP editor was easy to learn then HubSpot’s WYSIWYG editor is an absolute dream to play with in comparison.
Example of HubSpot's blog editor
Editing and adding content is a piece of cake with an editor that shows what the live changes will look like in the editor itself! It's basically like editing a live page (but thankfully while it’s still in draft).
A new feature which (at the time of writing) is currently in BETA is the draft composer. This provides you with a stripped back view for drafting initial content ideas and involving contributors without any of the live view clutter of the standard editor. It even gives you the option to upload a blog straight from a Google doc, which is handy if you’re working with external content agencies and don’t want to give them full access to your CMS /CRM.
Like WordPress, the HubSpot blog tool is theme reliant so developer resource might be needed to create a blog template that works for you. HubSpot's template market has a whole host of free and paid options for you to use and customise.
When it comes to additional functionality this is where HubSpot really outshines WP. Out of the box you can:
This added functionality does create some extra complexity - one of WordPress’s greatest strengths is that in its simplest form, it is incredibly simple. This is why it’s the platform of choice for many beginners.
The other perceived downside with HubSpot is that there are some design limitations. Because its prime role is about conversions rather than pure creative magic, HS sites can seem a bit formulaic. WP can be bent in all sorts of ways so that it looks beautiful, but this can be at the expense of functionality.
Why? For straight out of the box, simple, straightforward blogging WP has a simplicity that’s hard to beat. And if your business is design driven, WP is more flexible for super creative, image led sites. HOWEVER, if blogging is your day job (rather than a hobby) then you will definitely welcome the additional functionality and attention to detail that the HubSpot platform offers.
For clarity, when I'm talking about Landing Pages, I don’t mean any old entrance page, but specifically pages geared at converting visitors and capturing details. Think of the type of action orientated pages you’d build in Unbounce, Instapage or Optimizely.
While WordPress does have the capability to build standard website pages as well as blogs, it doesn't have any traditional landing page functionality.
You can jury-rig an LP together with some clever template tomfoolery coupled with paid plugins like LeadPages (from $35 p/m) and OptimizePress (from $97 p/m) or even freemium alternatives and embedded contact forms like Formidable or Contact Form 7. What you end up with though is a janky kludge of unintegrated tools and additional license fees that can be a pain to maintain and update.
If you’re keen on keeping WordPress but want to convert and A/B test to your heart's content the path of least resistance will be to use some of the LP tools I listed above and see if they have a native WP plugin. Typically these will live on a subdomain and may require some additional 3rd party integrations if your converted contacts need to go into a CRM or receive automated email follow ups.
To rival tools like Unbounce, HubSpot has its own top shelf Landing Page tool built in as part of every Pro license. As an added brucey bonus it seamlessly integrates with the rest of the HubSpot CRM and product stack. This means you can add even more context to your contacts’ conversion journeys with automation triggers and lead nurturing, closed-loop reporting plus activity and engagement logs for each individual contact.
The landing pages themselves bring the standard suite of A/B testing, analysis and optimisation tools you’d expect to see with most providers. Creating content and adding images is also the same as HubSpot blog and web page editors. And just like the site and blog pages, you can make use of the HS template marketplace if you’re looking for inspiration or just want a speedy setup.
What HubSpot has over most LP builders though is the ability to personalise messages based on context using HubSpots “Smart Content” features. If an IP or country is known or detected, translated content can be shown instead of default copy and images. Likewise if an industry, job role or even the contacts name is known this can be pulled through from the CRM into the LP copy itself (creepy right?).
An example of how to use Smart Content on HubSpot Landing Pages.
Why? This is where HubSpot really out performs WP as this functionality simply doesn’t exist in an integrated way on WP. If you want to professionalise your lead capture process and optimise for success, then HubSpot is the tool for you.
When it comes to static content and hosting site pages like services and about pages, WordPress is pretty darn good.
Now how darned good those pages actually are will be dictated by your site’s setup. As I mentioned in the blog breakdown, editing tools like visual composer will give you a lot of flexibility (with extras like editable modules and so on) buuuuuuut, just like with HubSpot, everything else is going to need some developer resource to make major stylistic or layout changes.
And development is one area where WordPress actually outshines HubSpot for once. In our experience there is a metric tonne of WordPress devs out there, good HubSpot devs though are as scarce as hen’s teeth in comparison.
A glut of dev resources to choose from can present its own unique problems. Namely, a lot of those WP developers are probably pants and what’s worse is there’s tons for you to sift through in order to find a bobby dazzler. If you’re looking for WordPress devs or you’re worried your current dev is rubbish, check out this blog which will help you figure out whether your web designer is ripping you off.
The site page editor for HubSpot is consistent with the blog and LP editors so when it comes to usability and functionality you’re still getting the same great features.
Smart content and A/B testing tools can again be deployed to contextualise or improve user journeys which just goes the extra mile where WP can’t. Off the shelf templates are a quick and easy way to get those pages setup and off the ground, like WordPress though they’re never perfect first time and will need developers to unpick and polish those templates.
As mentioned those devs can be hard to find, and that’s due to HubSpot’s proprietary codebase. The underlying syntax used to build the HS CMS is called HubL (pronounced Hubble), and not a lot of agency’s and devs are proficient in its use.
However, once HubSpot is set up, it's designed to be used without expert developer input. As an integrated CMS it's easy to use, compared to a patched together WP solution.
Why? Although it's easier to find a WP developer, you will be far more dependent on them to create new web pages than you would on HubSpot.
WordPress is not great at SEO straight out of the box. At Noisy Little Monkey, we always recommend the Yoast plugin. This is the best SEO tool for WordPress and allows you to add a sitemap, edit your robots and meta tags (page titles, page descriptions, h1s etc).
The main problem with this is that Yoast doesn’t help you with the actual search term research. In order to optimise your site, you need to use a whole other set of tools like SEMRush or Moz to understand what you should add to Yoast.
In contrast, HubSpot has integrated SEO tools. It provides recommendations on how you can improve the SEO on your website, including identifying duplicate and/or thin content, and missing or duplicate meta tags. This used to only be available on specialist tools, but is part of the planning and strategy tools on the HubSpot CRM.
An example of how HubSpot can help you optimise blog content
It also has integrated search term research tools. A little like Yoast there are a number of on-page tools that guide you to using best practice on-page optimisation.
But more than that, HubSpot is an active experimenter on its own website to see what improves organic traffic and has then built that learning into the platform. For example, there are tools to help identify pillar content and content clusters around your key areas of business. These are concepts which SEOs have been using for years, but HubSpot has brought them together so that anyone can use them without detailed technical knowledge.
Why? Innovative integrated tools that can teach anyone to be an awesome SEO. Hurrah!
Without wishing to sound like a broken record, WP is simply a blogging platform, so you need to do a bit of tinkering to link it to an Analytics tool. It's not complex tinkering: set up a Google Analytics account and tie the site together with Google Analytics using the UA code.
Taking things one stage further, Yoast will allow you to verify the site with Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools for more SEO goodness.
Google Analytics is an excellent free measurement tool that can be incredibly insightful if you go to the trouble of setting up meaningful Goals and/or Events. It also has the option to create custom dashboards or link to a more visual reporting system like Databox.
If you are running an ecommerce platform or email system off your WP site they will have their own analytics tools, as will your social media tools. Again with not much knowhow you can link these together with Google Analytics to gain a wider picture of what’s driving success on your website.
HubSpot is designed to replace Google Analytics and other analytics tools and provide an integrated view of performance. It also has dashboards and custom reports and the ability to drill down into the data. As HubSpot analytics is linked with the CRM, any conversion data is immediately tied to a contact record, meaning you can see specific named user’s activities and page interactions. You can find the same info in GA albeit with completely anonymised data.
Possibly the most valuable element of HubSpot is the ability to see the correlation between content campaigns (Marketing) and leads generated/revenue (Sales). This is commonly known as “closed loop” reporting. This is the next level of sophistication to anything that you can pull off Google Analytics and can help you shape decisions on where to focus your time and money.
If you want to amp this up further, there is an additional reporting module. The full Growth Suite allows you to report across marketing, sales and service. For many businesses, closed-loop reporting (that is sales reporting back to marketing about what they’ve done with the leads they’ve been given) is transformational in improving the accountability of sales teams. Giving marketing teams data insight on the content or activity which has lead to closed deals (not simply leads coming in) allows them to turn anonymous data into user specific information that can feed back into personas and campaign planning.
Example of the HubSpot Analytics Tool
Why? HubSpot’s ability to correlate between marketing activity and closed deals is insight that most marketers can only dream of. When you’re able to prove ROI at the click of a button, requesting more budget and asking your boss for a payrise becomes far easier ;)
WordPress easily integrates with email platforms like MailChimp. Put a form on your website to collect email addresses that go straight into your email lists. Simples.
Likewise, you can integrate social media on your site:
The advantage is that you choose what providers you use based on costs, functionality and your requirements. You can craft a system that works for you and reflects your audience.
The HubSpot platform includes email (even in the free version), but the important thing is that the email tools are integrated with the HubSpot CRM. That means that the leads collected on your website, go straight into the CRM and can be segmented and sent tailored email content based on interests or deal stage AND you can automate this, saving huge amounts of time.
As you’d expect, HubSpot also includes all the usual social media shenanigans. It allows you to:
Why? The email and social tools within HubSpot are integrated into the CRM which is pretty convenient. However, the main win here is that you can do some pretty clever targeting with your contacts based on engagement with your email and social content. Lead-nurturing helps you qualify leads quicker resulting in a happier sales team. Go HubSpot!
Because there are a billion WordPress developers out there, there are a LOT of hackers looking for ways to take down WordPress sites. This means that WordPress needs to be updated regularly so that the security patches are put in place to reduce the vulnerability of WordPress sites to malware and other nasties.
Generally WordPress updates are invisible and very straightforward BUT as your site becomes more complex with lots of plugins, then the likelihood of some elements of the site breaking from an update increases.
Most WordPress sites run perfectly happily without ever being hacked, however, it happens often enough that it should be a concern.
Speed & Stability
Again, this is entirely down to how complex your WordPress website is. We’ve seen sites that are constructed with lots of third party plugins and these can slow the site down considerably. TTFB (the number of milliseconds it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of the response from your web server) is important - it's absolutely critical to the user experience of your site as visitors are increasingly impatient with slow loading sites, but it's also related to your organic ranking.
Stability - defined here by the ‘uptime’ of your website - is dependent on the quality of your hosting as well as the complexity of your website. Sometimes the main problem with WordPress is that the hosting is shocking, leading to lots of downtime and an unreliable website.
As discussed above, the HubSpot developer community is much smaller and the core software isn’t developed in an open way. This means that HubSpot IS a more secure software platform.
More than that, if your website is hosted by HubSpot then you are part of their wider security monitoring process that includes security monitoring and threat detection. This means that if they identify that a security patch is required then they proactively push it out to all sites, rather than waiting for you (or your dev) to do an update.
That’s not to say that they don’t have problems (see here: https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/last-weeks-product-outage-what-happened-how-were-changing-as-a-result) but that they take responsibility for them when they happen.
If your website’s security is important to you, it’s worth checking the HubSpot approach in more detail: https://www.hubspot.com/security .
Speed and stability
Again, if your site is hosted on HubSpot then this is all part of the service - HubSpot also boasts the claim of a 99.99% uptime.
If you have a WordPress site hosted on a standard provider, then improving speed and stability is your responsibility. You may use an agency like us to help, but fundamentally it's down to you to care enough to fix it.
HubSpot isn’t perfect in this regard, but they are responsive to user queries on speed and stability issues and have a team dedicated to improvement and fixing outages.
Why? 99.99% uptime, tighter security controls… Hands down, HubSpot is the winner here!
Well, as this blog has gone on it's clear that this is not a fair comparison . . .
For blogging, pure and simple - the cost and simplicity of WordPress simply can’t be beaten. If you are just starting out on your digital journey, WordPress is the place to start.
And WordPress is malleable - add Analytics, SEO tools, an email provider, social channels and a scheduling tool - and you’ve created a complex digital system that is perfectly able to deliver great digital marketing results.
BUT as complexity builds, HubSpot becomes the clear winner. Yes, it is more expensive, but you are getting an integrated tool set on a platform which is designed to work seamlessly. Reporting across campaigns and tools provides greater level of insight into your marketing investments and the marketing automation tools will save you time and money.
And even more than that, HubSpot will scale as your business grows. This means it's perfect for sales and marketing teams looking to significantly ramp up the amount of traffic and leads they receive through inbound marketing.
If you want more of an in-depth chat about the benefits of HubSpot, you're in the right place! Noisy Little Monkey are a Diamond HubSpot Partner and the team will be happy to have an informal chat with you about the platform. Get in touch with us below!
Inbound Manager @ Noisy Little Monkey, Josh blogs about SEO, Local & Mobile, HubSpot and Inbound Strategy.
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