Have you heard about inbound marketing? If you have, then I am pretty sure you must have heard about Hubspot too. My aim with this Hubspot review is to provide an insight into how this inbound marketing tool works and whether you should spend money on Hubspot.
For those of you who really don’t have the time to read through this lengthy Hubspot review, here is my opinion upfront: Hubspot is a great tool if you have the resources and expertise to use it wisely. Any tool is only as good as how you use it. If you have the budget and resources for inbound marketing- buy Hubspot. If not, look for alternative solutions.
I have tried the latest (Hubspot 3) and updated the review. Check the bottom of the post for the update.
What Exactly Is Hubspot and The Claims of Inbound Marketing?
Even though you may have heard about the company, it’s worth taking time to understand what the company stands for and how it’s products are going to benefit you.
Hubspot is a company founded by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan in June 2006. The basic idea about the product they offer is that you should use inbound marketing to gain customers as opposed to interruption marketing.
To make things simple
Inbound Marketing: Customers who have a problem (for which you have a solution) find you via search engines, social media, and other resources.
Interruption Marketing: You advertise through TV, Print, Radio, Billboard ads, Magazine advertising and other means of traditional advertising.
While the idea sounds good (and it works too in most cases), is it something that benefits your business? This Hubspot review will help you make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth paying for their service.
Hubspot Review: The Actual Tool & First Impression
I signed up for their trial account just for this review. I can’t actually review something which I haven’t used, can I?
Overall, the tool is focused on helping users make each step in a controlled manner. They have a guided navigation, progress bar, “do-this-first-this-second…” approach, and has a lot of options to play with.
Module #1: Get Started
Although this step does not have a lot of things to say, the trial dashboard shows what you can expect with this trial, has an intro video, and also gives a tracking code to publish on your website which you might need to track.
Module #2: Get Found
In this module, you have to do three things
- Do keyword research
- Write a blog post based on the keyword research
- Use social media
Keyword Research: I find this interesting because they have already discovered some keywords related to my site and starts showing suggestions. You also have the option of manually entering keywords you want to target.
It does have a lot of metrics to play with. However, there are some issues I found with the keyword research tool offered by Hubspot.
Problem #1: Location Targeting & Keyword Search Volume Data
They don’t specify anything about how they get this data or which location it’s targeted. However I did some research and found that they pull the data from Google Keyword Tool (Free), and also uses the exact match global monthly search data.
There is no option for us to change this to reflect local search data. This becomes an issue when your target audience is just your local users and not international users. E.g: The keyword [buy clothes online] has 8100 global searches each month while it has only 1600 local US searches.
These data can mislead you sometimes while choosing the correct keyword. Even Google data is very unreliable. I have ranked first for keywords that supposedly have 800 searches each month but I saw only2 or 3 click-troughs to my site. So if you are serious about finding a great keyword, you need to run a Google Adwords campaign and see how much impression it gets.
Problem #2: Incorrect CPC Data
Their CPC (Cost Per Click) data is way off. They showed that the CPC for the term [search engine optimization] is $3.89 while my Google keyword tool tells me that the average CPC is $ 17.27. That’s a miss by a very big margin.
Problem #3: Difficulty Rating
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really trust ANY tool to tell me accurately how difficult it is to rank a particular keyword. I’m not sure how Hubspot decides that keywords are competitive or not by giving us some random values. This can sometimes be misleading.
Since I dint want to give you a half-hearted review, I tried comparing it with SEOmoz keyword difficulty tool. Here is the comparison
|Keyword||Hubspot Score||SEOmoz Score|
|Search Engine Optimization||99||85|
|Google website optimizer||99||67|
If there is one data set I trust, it’s from SEOmoz.
I am not sure how Hubspot comes up their numbers. I recently found out that Hubspot uses SEOmoz API. However, I am not very sure why the difference in numbers reported exists. What’s weirder is that the numbers it showed for my name is in the 90-100 range and for another competitive term it showed a number in the 60-70 range. I’m pretty sure my name (Adarsh Thampy) is not that competitive!
It’s Time to Blog…
Now, the next part of Module #2 after keyword research is to write a blog post. I was asked whether I have been blogging. Just to use the service as a newbies small business owner, I said no (They dint catch me for lying though!).
Here comes the most sickening part of Hubspot- Their blog platform. Blame WordPress for pampering me with the easiest way to blog. Nevertheless, I decide that I should go ahead and learn Hubspot blog because most small business owners might not have experienced WordPress themselves.
The ”create article” section is pretty much easy to use (Maybe a bit easier than WordPress, but lacks the flexibility of WordPress though). It also has a reminder box which tells us what to do to better the blog post.
Here again, I encountered problems with using this tool.
Problem #1: Incorrect SEO Advice
Hubspot suggests adding keywords to your document META. It’s been a repeated SEO advice that there is no point in using keywords for SEO ranking. Yet, Hubspot recommends we add keywords. Even after adding 2 keywords, the tool tells me that it’s “too little”.
Another possible incorrect advice they give is including keywords in META description will make Google use our description. Even when using description, I have found Google sometimes uses text relevant to the user query instead of our description.
Problem #2: Limited Blog Features
I don’t want to start comparing Hubspot to WordPress. Yet I can’t resist noticing the lack of certain features in Hubspot when it comes to blogging.
- No “more” button. This means that the entire blog post will be shown on the front page. If you write long articles, then you might have trouble exposing more of your posts to your readers
- Limited customizability. I seriously couldn’t figure out how I can change the colors of my website or make other modifications the first time. Even after finding their editing options, the only things I can do is change colors or add some custom styling
For some reason, the whole thing reset itself after about 2 hours. I had set up the blog, and made some customizations. All gone in an instant and the blog page returned a 404 error. I guess it must have been a temporary glitch. (I wouldn’t be pleased if it happened to me after I had put up a lot of content)
However not everything is doom and gloom. Here are some blog features where Hubspot shines.
- It’s mostly a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. This means that most of the editing can be done via drag and drop or click-to-edit. This doesn’t include color changes or advanced (read limited) customizations though
- You can visually customize each page independently. If you are trying this in WordPress, you’ll have to write a lot of code for this (unless you are using a theme framework that gives you drag and drop features like in Headway themes)
- The landing page feature is also nice. It gives us a clean layout to come up with a good landing page (Limited customizations though)
- They have a visual call-to-action generator. It’s cool (useful too), and you can easily add it to any page
Overview of Page Grader and Link Grader
Hubspot provides a page grader tool which can grade your pages based on
- How many keywords the page is currently ranking for
- Number of visits to the page
- Inbound links to the page
Again, I don’t like to rely on any tool to grade something. However, this tool is very useful to get a high level idea about which page on your site is the most valuable.
Link grader is again another tool that grades inbound links to your site. I am not sure how they grade links, but I assume they have an authority score for popular domains. They may also employ some other sort of mechanism such as leveraging page rank or MOZ rank of linking pages.
It’s time to make use of social media…
You can add your social media accounts and use Hubspot to
- Auto publish your latest blog posts to social media
- Track particular keywords and participate in conversations happening on social media
- Filter conversations based on social media sites
- Reply to tweets and publish on Facebook without leaving the Hubspot interface
- Queue messages and auto publish them to your different social media accounts
This is a great tool to have if your customers are active in social media. You can also use this to find influencers in your field.
With Hubspot 3, you’ll find that the data is more integrated with the user database. It’s pretty useful when you want to connect with them (Think rapportive for Gmail).
Module #3: Convert
In this module, you’ll find tools to help convert the website traffic into subscribers or paying customers.
After all, what’s the use of millions of visitors if they do not convert into business leads or complete the desired action on your site?
Turn Traffic into Leads
In this sub module you’ll be able to create landing pages, visually customize them and even create tracking URL’s.
Tracking URL’s can be very effective when you are trying to measure the effectiveness of different medium. E.g. You can use tracking URL’s to find out how each social network performs by using different tracking URL’s for each site.
- You can identify prospects (Based on where they are from, which company they work for, which all pages they saw and so on). Useful if you are a B2B company
- Manage and view landing page data (conversion rate, submissions, page views and so on)
- Analyze leads with a great deal of data. You can see where the leads come from and can even grade leads. Great if you have a lot of leads and would like to sort through the noise and find out the best leads out there
- Use list manager to segment users and build lists. Great when you have different offers to promote to different segments of customers. You can also test the effectiveness of your offers by sending a variation of the offer to different lists and see which one performs the best
- Nurture leads: This is similar to getting them to sign up for your newsletter/freebie and then sending them follow up emails until they convert to a paying customer
Module #4: Analyze
This module contains a lot of tools to analyze your website visitors. It’s basically a stripped down version of Google Analytics but more user friendly and visually appealing. You can also compare your site with your competitors based on
- Website Grade (Use Marketing grader from Hubspot if you want to find your grade without logging into Hubspot)
- Moz rank (A rank similar to page rank from Google, but published by the SEOmoz)
- Twitter followers (You need to add your twitter account to Hubspot )
- Facebook fans (You need to add your Facebook account to Hubspot )
- Indexed Pages
- Traffic Rank (This is Alexa rank. But I wonder why they have this data in there. Alexa rank is not at all an authoritative score of domain popularity)
Additional Remarks About Hubspot Inbound Marketing Platform
- They do have an app marketplace where you can install apps to enhance your Hubspot site. However, there are not many apps in there (I sure hope you don’t think about comparing with Apple App Store)
- If you need help, they have a service marketplace that has a list of providers who will help you with various aspects of Hubspot or marketing in general
- The site was a bit slow and timed out a few times when I tried to access the dashboard
Hubspot Vs WordPress
Hubspot vs WordPress- which is better, is one of the most commonly asked questions. Hubspot is more than just a blog platform. It’s a complete inbound marketing system. This is perhaps one of the reasons for such a high price Hubspot commands.
However, you can match most of the functionality of Hubspot by customizing WordPress and using different plugins and third party solutions. (It’s a post of its own,
but for a later time. Here it is!).
Should I Buy Hubspot (Is Hubspot Any Good)?
One of the reasons why many people would think several times before taking the plunge is the high cost associated with Hubspot. They charge minimum of $ 200 a month and that too for a maximum of 500 visitors a month and less than 100 contacts.
Personally, I think they charge way more than they should. However, I am not sure about the cost they incur to maintain the whole platform and remain profitable. But it normally doesn’t concern us as consumers.
No matter if a solution takes 1 million to develop and maintain or just takes 100$, what we look forward to is an affordable marketing solution.
But the price you are paying Hubspot is the price for convenience. You are lazy to use 3 or 4 different services. You want everything in one place and make it much easier for you. Now you need to pay the price for that!
Consider going in for Hubspot if
- You can afford the amount you need to Pay Hubspot each month (200 $ to several thousand dollars a month depending on your business requirements)
- You want a solution that will walk you through each and every step
- Your time is extremely valuable to you (Each hour you waste managing multiple services is going to cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars)
- After trying the demo, you are absolutely convinced that the system is going to work for you
Don’t go for Hubspot Inbound Marketing platform if
- You don’t have the money for it. They even have a 12 month contract and no backing out
- You are willing to use 3-4 third party applications instead of just getting everything from a single website (If you are using WordPress, you can to an extend get everything done from the same website)
- You think this is some magic tool. No, you have to work hard just as in any other platform to create engaging content. There are no guarantees that your business will succeed with Hubspot. It’s up to you and how you use the platform
- You want advanced data. You can’t get raw and detailed data you’d get from using third party tools such as Google Analytics. This tool is aimed at small business owners who are non tech savvy
- You would want to build a branded site. It’s difficult to customize and make your site look nice
- You thought all help was free. No. Even group coaching will cost you 300$. Any expert help will cost you several dollars per hour
- You want complete control over your site. Even though Hubspot says they will provide an option to export data easily, I don’t see it anywhere to move my CMS if I chose to do so. Besides, any tracking, analytics is all gone if you switch from Hubspot to a new provider. I recently was helping one of my clients move from Hubspot to WordPress and it was a pain (since they had so many landing pages and blog posts)
- You are looking for cutting edge tools exclusive to Hubspot. It’s not there. You will find that Hubspot is simply many marketing applications bundled and integrated nicely into one platform
Concluding the Hubspot Review
Even though Hubspot maybe a bit pricey, I still think it’s a great product if you have the money. You get a lot of tools integrated into one which is a potential time saver.
However, I will not recommend using Hubspot for my clients (SMB’s who cannot afford to have a dedicated person working on inbound marketing full-time) since the money they would need to fork out for a Hubspot plan can seriously affect their business if options are not carefully analyzed.
Have you used Hubspot? What is your experience with this platform? Share your thoughts in our comments section.
**Update: Hubspot Alternative** Since many of you have requested me to follow up this post with an alternative guide, I have come up with a Hubspot alternative guide. For entrepreneurs who are busy to set it up themselves, I have also included a done-for-you set up service.
**Update 2: Hubspot 3** I did try out the latest Hubspot 3 platform. There are a couple of “nice to have” changes like smart CTA, tightly integrated UI, smart forms, better list management etc. However, my conclusion still holds- it’s not the right tool for all businesses. But may be the best tool if you can use it the way it’s meant to be used.
Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Hubspot and this is a completely honest review. I am not being paid by Hubspot (or any of their competitors), nor do I get any monetary benefits from them in terms of affiliate commissions. SEOmoz links are tracking links and I am not being compensated for it.