Here at Lean Labs we're big fans of HubSpot's new Content Optimization System (COS) but like most web developers, we have spent an extensive period of time developing web solutions using the WordPress platform. As of August 2013, WordPress powers almost 19% of all the websites and web pages on the Internet and is one of the most popular website platforms on the web. HubSpot COS is a brand new twist on the traditional CMS, aimed to gear web pages and web sites towards Inbound marketing techniques to increase leads and customer interaction. So how does HubSpot's new kid on the block hold up against the King of the Playground WordPress?
Let's start with the elephant in the room. WordPress is free and HubSpot is not. HubSpot has a 3-tier subscription plan which ranges from (as of October 1st 2013) $200 - $2,400 per month, which compared to the price of WordPress $0 is a huge amount to pay up per month. However, there is reasoning behind these prices. When we say WordPress is free, we are actually bending the truth a little bit as WordPress is free to download from the wordpress.org site, but that doesn't factor in the costs for hosting a web server, which is needed for WordPress to run and for your site to be hosted. Then there is also the cost for hiring a web team to design and create a custom theme for you, or the cost of a premium theme. Alternatively you can download a free theme, but for this comparison we are assuming you would want a custom look to your website to stand out from the competitors. Regardless of which choice you make, you will need to hire a team or an individual to help maintain and support your WordPress site, and trust me, these don't come cheap. Finally, there is the added cost for extra plugins to add the functionality you really want on your site to capture leads and to help improve your WordPress' SEO. Once that is all done, you have to think about email marketing from somewhere like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, then you need to think about A/B landing page testing and before you know it, that "free" WordPress option already is costing a serious amount of money and has way too many plugins all over the admin panel. Oh and did we mention WordPress needs to be updated 3 times a year? Wonder how much your support team will charge for that…
With HubSpot it's much easier: For your monthly subscription you get a CMS, a blog, an email list management platform, a inbound marketing management and strategy tool, access to the HubSpot Inbound Database, plus access to the HubSpot app store where you can purchase new themes and plugins to extend the HubSpot system. All your content is hosted online by HubSpot with no extra charges, including backups and revisions of all content editing and all development work like templated editing, as well as a powerful in built HTML and CSS editor in the HubSpot COS system. Not only that, but you get the added option of SMART dynamic content which helps you customize content to match a lead's personal details and inbound marketing workflows to help improve a potential lead's experience and interaction with your web and landing pages. You will also receive access to HubSpot's support team and the HubSpot community, removing any need to hire your own specific web support team to manage and maintain HubSpot. In a nutshell, HubSpot and HubSpot COS actually does the same job WordPress does, but with a lot more extra solutions and products added on for no extra charge per month. The price you pay for HubSpot each month can be your online marketing department's only tool to allow them to do everything they need. One log in, one system, one less headache.
WordPress is renowned for having an extremely powerful and easy to tailor core. This core allows WordPress developers to change almost anything in WordPress whilst still leaving the core functionality of WordPress untouched. As a result, powerful plugins which shape the entire way WordPress works can be easily turned on and off with a simple click of a button. Prices for these plugins range from free to hundreds of dollars but the majority of effective plugins come near the free end of the price range to less than $100. In addition the vast range of plugins, WordPress is also infamous for the range of themes available for download and/or purchase as well as the unparalleled level of customizations in terms of style of websites and blogs that can be created using WordPress. The admin panel allows a huge amount of customization in both it's visual appearance and the configuration as to which menus and configuration panels can and can't appear in this panel. WordPress is really the swiss army knife for tailoring a website and CMS package to suit both developers and clients alike.
HubSpot has taken a slightly different approach to WordPress on this. HubSpot allows for the creation of custom templates and custom CSS styles which can be turned on and off and each template and style can bring it's own unique features, similar to how WordPress handles it's templates. However, in HubSpot, developers don't have access to the WordPress core which means they are limited to the data and widgets provided by HubSpot on a template level. The HubSpot templates use Jinja templating system which will allow developers and designers to create some customized parts of their designs, but on the whole they are restricted access from the core data, meaning, HubSpot does fall quite short on the ability to customize, versus WordPress. There are many options in the HubSpot documentation as to adding widgets into the content editor screen to help increase the options when creating or editing new content, but the options are far shorter than the options documented in the WordPress Codex. A plus for HubSpot however, is that HubSpot offers pre-configured options for setting up your HubSpot templates into responsive design based templates, meaning you can easily optimize your web pages for mobiles and tablets quickly. In addition HubSpot's in built HTML editor encourages the use of modern HTML and CSS techniques, as well as implements some very useful and handy methods for reducing page load time. All these are ideal in the bid to help optimize your web pages for the modern web.
HubSpot have (as of October 2013) announced their plans to remove the marketplace for new customers, with the intention to roll this change by mid to end of October 2013. HubSpot have announced that any and all apps in the future will have to be built as an external app or as a Zapier connector. This is a bit of a blow for HubSpot in this comparison as it’s now seen as the HubSpot COS system will no longer be customizable through apps as once hoped, and that HubSpot see the extendability of the COS system only as far as to integrating with external platforms and software. In the comparison with WordPress, HubSpot falls very short in this area.
The Goals behind HubSpot COS and WordPress is to generate content. For this comparison we are going to disregard plugins, extensions and pricing and just look at the tools are offered to generate content.
WordPress' content generation panel has become almost a web standard in User Interface design for content creation and management panels. It's almost the trade mark of WordPress and is, in one word, effective. The content editor box provides plenty of options for creating, editing and optimizing content as well as adding media items into the content. As standard, you can attribute tags and categories to new pieces of content with easy to use one-click button solutions.
HubSpot does this too, in fact in almost the exactly same way. However, where HubSpot takes the win here is that HubSpot uses SMART Content to help personalize and customize the content depending on a leads personal information that is either in your emailing list or available from the Inbound Database that tracks and stores a leads' interaction with your web pages. This allows the automation of content to target the lead in a more personal way, increasing the chance that leads become successful customers. The conditions for triggering the dynamic change can also be customized to trigger and cause changes based on leads preferences or interests, again making the content even more personalised.
In addition, HubSpot produces automatic revision changes (as does WordPress) but also stores these revisions online and provides a quick preview update of the new content as you are entering it into the widgets. This allows content writers to see more clearly how much space they have for content and where on the web page this content will appear.
There is the myth that WordPress is free. It's not. It's free to download but to be successful with WordPress it takes a lot of time, effort and money. However, WordPress still has the advantage of it's ability to be completely customizable, which is why its fan base is extremely loyal to the platform. I still am a huge fan of WordPress, but WordPress is still a blogging platform at heart. HubSpot offers some fantastic tools for companies looking to start engaging with customers and leads without having a really over the top and fancy website to do so. A huge amount of websites these days are powered by robust CMS systems, which are not needed by all companies. HubSpot's solution is more than just a CMS, it's a company’s whole online marketing package.
My last point is a compromise. HubSpot does have a plugin which lets you incorporate HubSpot data into WordPress. The WordPress plugin will not allow you to use elements such as the SMART content in the new COS but it will let you integrate your mailing list and email marketing into your WordPress system and do some pretty awesome lead nurturing. In my opinion, your business should be using HubSpot as a marketing tool, no questions asked. As to if you should stop using WordPress and switch to HubSpot COS, WordPress still rules as king, with it’s quick to learn and easy to master accessible core, meaning it suits almost any requirements necessary for a CMS platform. HubSpot has implemented some revolutionary features into the CMS market and the Online Marketing world. However, it's still basically an infant learning to walk in the world of CMS. It's definitely a system to checkout now and watch as it continues to grow and take the market by storm.