Using HubSpot With WordPress Websites: HubSpot vs. WordPress vs. Both
is the Head of Marketing at Lean Labs. His experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
So, you’re toying with the idea of switching to HubSpot but you’re not sure if you’re ready to leave Wordpress for good.
Maybe you have a beautiful, functional site on Wordpress since you recently spent a lot on a website redesign. However, you also want access to HubSpot Marketing Software, since it could bring all of your inbound digital marketing activities into one portal.
The struggle is real.
If you’re in this position, you have exactly three options:
- Stick with WordPress
- Use Both WordPress and HubSpot
- Switch to HubSpot
At first, option #2 for using both may seem like the best choice. With WordPress and HubSpot, you’ll retain your investment and gain all the marketing goodness of HubSpot. Right?
Actually, it’s not that simple. While the decision to use both WordPress and HubSpot is supported by HubSpot and popular among businesses who sign on with a WordPress site, it’s not the right choice for everyone. Using WordPress with HubSpot has some risks.
It’s wise to consider all angles if you’re weighing using WordPress with HubSpot and alternatives.
WordPress Websites vs. HubSpot and WordPress vs. HubSpot Websites
Option #1: Sticking with WordPress
Powering 25% of the websites online, WordPress is the most commonly-used content management system (CMS) in the world. It’s a popular choice for businesses of all sizes, especially small and mid-sized companies because it’s easy-to-use, cheap, and can be flexibly customized with themes, add-ons, and plugins.
That said, WordPress isn’t HubSpot. Even with loads of high-octane WordPress plugins, like Gravity Forms for landing pages or Sales Accelerator for dashboarding your metrics, it’s definitely still just a CMS and not an all-in-one marketing tool.
We call cobbling together all these tools a FrankenHubSpot.
Is Sticking with Just WordPress the Cheapest?
Out of all your options, this is probably cheapest, but it has the least features. HubSpot has functionality that can only be emulated in WordPress with plugins and standalone software for analytics, email, SEO, competitive analysis, automation, conversions, marketing experiments, content personalization, social media, contact management, and more.
If you’re already inbound, you may be using at least a few different software tools and WordPress to handle your marketing. If that’s the case, switching to HubSpot may be less expensive than your current DIY marketing stack.
Real pricing info for single-purpose marketing software shows standalone tools add up fast. You could be paying $99 for SEO, $449 for experiments and optimization, $199 for email automation, $35 for social media, $50 for data visualization, $50 for project management, $300 for editorial calendar management, and much more each month. That adds up to $1185 and it’s still not even close to the features offered by HubSpot.
Option #2: Pros and Cons of HubSpot and WordPress
Using HubSpot Marketing with a WordPress website, we'll call it WordSpot, or a hybrid approach. With this option, HubSpot would handle campaign management, marketing automation, tracking and analytics and WordPress would remain your content management system.
Getting your Franken-System up and running is easy and fast for almost any marketer:
- Create a HubSpot Account
- Add the HubSpot Tracking Plugin to WordPress via the WordPress dashboard
- Install and Activate the HubSpot Plugin through WordPress
- Add Your HubSpot User ID to WordPress
Once you’re up and running, you can handle almost all of your inbound marketing through HubSpot’s all-in-one portal, while you continue to update your blogs, website pages, and other content in WordPress. You can also start using some HubSpot content features on your WordPress site, by embedding HubSpot lead capture forms and CTAs in WordPress.
At the surface, this hybrid solution can seem great. But are there risks?
Pro #1: It’s Cheaper
HubSpot Marketing licensing costs $50-2,400 per month, with $200-800 expenditures being most common. Switching your website to HubSpot requires additional website fees and possible migration costs, which vary depending on the size of your website. WordPress with HubSpot is almost always cheaper than HubSpot and a HubSpot website, even considering hosting, themes, and plugins.
Pro #2: WordPress Offers Loads of Control
If you’re a code geek or work at a company with really fantastic developers, it’s hard to beat the control offered by WordPress sites. With WordPress, you can hack your front end, back end, choose almost any web server software, choose where your site is hosted, and more. The vast majority of WordPress clients do not want this level of flexibility, but for some, it’s a huge benefit.
In contrast, HubSpot websites do not support server-side scripting or server-side languages/modifications. Essentially, this means you can control the “client side” of your website but you can’t fine-tune the ways the software that lives on your server interacts with your server database. If you want the ability to control the operations of your website, you may prefer the control benefits of a Franken-system.
Pro #3: Low Investment
With a WordPress website, you’re not bound to HubSpot. You won’t have to migrate your site off the HubSpot COS if you decide HubSpot Marketing isn’t the right software for your inbound. The only web content on your site that’s a part of your HubSpot subscription are CTAs and forms.
This is really the best pros of the Franken-system. It’s really easy and cheap to get started using HubSpot and WordPress together. It’s a really great, short-term way to test HubSpot in the wild, using your WordPress website as a test case.
For those afflicted with a serious case of analysis paralysis, combining the 30-day free trial of HubSpot while keeping your site on WordPress can reveal if you’re ready to switch to HubSpot completely.
Con #1: No Smart Content
Customers want authentic relationships with brands. They want to be known, remembered, and understood. Website personalization is officially in, and companies that nail “smart” personalized content can gain a significant advantage.
HubSpot was among the first to make content personalization easy, with simple tools for personalizing content, CTAs, forms and even HTML right down to the personal level. You can greet your customers by name with a personalized banner when they click on your website! HubSpot’s smart content is fabulous, but it doesn’t translate to WordPress with a Franken-system.
There are some ways to start to hack WordPress websites for smart content with plug-ins, but they may not stack up favorably to HubSpot smart content features. One WP smart content plugin hasn’t been updated in two years.
Con #2: No CDN
WordPress offers a lot of flexibility in how and where your site is hosted, but your hosting likely isn’t backed by a CDN, or content delivery network. A CDN is an approach to web hosting that uses servers in different data centers around the world. The result is much faster page loading times and superior reliability.
HubSpot websites are backed by a CDN, which means an average of 99.99% website availability last year. Average page loading times of HubSpot CDN-backed websites are basically twice as fast as non-CDN websites.
Con #3: Security Disadvantages
Using the WordPress CMS isn’t necessarily a security risk. The platform itself is maintained by professionals at its parent company, Automattic, including a 25-member security team who patch platform risks.However, WordPress security is pretty complicated when you start thinking about the impact of themes and plugins.
Automattic and WordPress don’t manage most theme or plugin security issues, since add-ons are owned and maintained by third-party companies. Some WordPress plugins, like Google and HubSpot, can be highly secure. Other plugins can go years without updates.Sometimes, no one is thinking about the plugin's security, other than issue reports filed by volunteers within the WordPress.
HubSpot is secure by design and default--the company staffs a 24/7 security team and uses an industry-leading web application firewall (WAF). Their website clients also benefit from data-in-transit encryption and SSL support.
You aren’t gaining the full security benefits of HubSpot when you’re using both WordPress and HubSpot. Your site is still vulnerable to risks like distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), web application injections, and other super-common types of cybercrime.
Using WordPress alone or WordPress with HubSpot carries another security risk related to the complex series of plug-ins that are generally used, and how plug-in updates are sometimes managed by third-parties. Dominos could start falling if a WordPress update to a theme or plugin breaks the functionality of your site.
Con #4: Theme and Template Limitations
Since 2014, there have been 123,498,018 unique downloads of WordPress themes. These range from the very cheap (free) to the costlier at around $400, but the average is $40 (which doesn’t include developer time, content, setup, or similar needs). HubSpot and WordPress both sell templates, but we’ve found they're often limiting for an unexpected reason.
In most cases, your WordPress theme and templates don’t offend your customers, but they also don’t propel you toward you inbound goals. It’s because templates are not always flexible in the right ways. You can add header images and upload logo files, but you can’t usually adjust a theme to fit your buyer’s journey or personalized content.
Themes have in many cases, have been heavily-hacked by developers in slightly risky ways to make a great-looking WordPress site. This great-looking site can come falling down when there’s an automatic update within your WordPress ecosystem. Plugins have been known to break themes, and more commonly, a theme update can overwrite theme customization.
Con #5: Manual Work
HubSpot integration with Wordpress is pretty darn good out of the box, especially considering how easy it is to get setup. However, there is some manual work required over time, including the laborious task of copy-and-pasting CTAs between HubSpot and WordPress. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s also not efficient.
Con #6: Redundant Updates
Using WordPress with HubSpot means your two systems will share data in many important ways, including analytics, SEO, and with HubSpot forms, lead capture. Not all changes automatically carry over between the two systems, however.
There are some changes that need to be made twice with a Franken-system, especially website-related changes. If you update website elements like your navigation, headers, footers, or sidebars on one side, the changes need to be manually made in the other system.
Con #7: Fewer Blogging Features
If you’re using HubSpot for marketing and WordPress for a website, you can still use HubSpot’s blogging tools if you run your blog on a subdomain pointed to HubSpot. This is a bit more complex to setup, however, and it can carry some SEO disadvantages as well.
We've discovered subdomains (blog.domain.com) just don't function as well as subdirectories (domain.com/blog/). While Google PR heads claim there is no difference, we've experienced too much data to believe them at this point.
When WordPress’ CMS is your blogging platform, you’re missing out on a lot more fantastic COS features than just content personalization. The following blogging features are a core part of HubSpot websites, but aren’t available in a WordPress plus HubSpot hybrid without the right themes or plugins:
- Mobile optimization
- Support for AMP (accelerated mobile pages)
- Blog collaboration
- Content calendar integration
Con #8: Fewer Landing Page Features
When you’re using WordPress with HubSpot, your landing pages will become a hybrid. They’ll be created with the help of themes, templates, and plugins in WordPress, also using CTA and form elements that are created and maintained in HubSpot.
The experience of creating and using WordPress-hybrid landing pages is not the same as HubSpot-only. Here are some HubSpot website landing page features that WordPress website users can't take advantage of without plugins or other hacks:
- Drag-and-drop page editing
- A/B testing
- On-page SEO optimization
We explore the differences in Landing Page features a little more fully in HubSpot vs. WordPress.
Con #9: Lack of Responsive Design
We’re at the mobile tipping point--mobile website traffic is overtaking traffic from computers. A mobile-optimized website isn’t options for your business, regardless of CMS, COS, or anything else. Your customers expect to be able to navigate effectively from their smartphones.
HubSpot excels at making it easy for marketers who can’t code to create mobile-optimized web pages. The drag-and-drop editors allow easy creation of site pages, landing pages, and other web content types that scale seamlessly across all screen sizes--from massive desktop computers to the smallest smartphone screen. Plus, before you publish a page that’s created for a HubSpot website, you can test how it looks on different screen sizes.
Responsive design is not an out-of-the-box feature for WordPress websites. If you are using WordPress-only or HubSpot plus a WordPress website, having mobility requires the right theme or customization. Achieving responsive design requires a WordPress theme that’s built to be responsive, and making sure this functionality isn’t broken by your theme customization, plugins, or any number of other issues. It also may require theme customizations by a PHP developer.
Option #3: Pros and Cons of HubSpot Only
In the third possible scenario, you officially go full-HubSpot and quit WordPress for the HubSpot COS. At this point in time, you have the choice of either building a new site or migrating your WordPress site to HubSpot, using their formal processes and the help of a HubSpot migration technician.
There’s a lot of variables in exactly what a switch to HubSpot from WordPress can mean in terms of time and money. It depends on whether you’re redesigning or migrating, how much content you are potentially migrating, and even other variables, like the availability of the company currently hosting your WordPress site.
However, once you’re there and operating fully on the HubSpot COS, you’ve gained the benefit of a truly all-in-one approach to inbound marketing. With a HubSpot website, you are likely paying more, but you gain serious advantages over the WordPress and HubSpot-hybrid approach. These include:
- The HubSpot CDN
- HubSpot Hosting
- Drag-and-Drop Page Creation
- Web Content Personalization
- Centralized Analytics
- Fully-Integrated Marketing Tools
You also leave some risks behind--including the security risks of poorly-maintained plug-ins, the possible loss of functionality with theme updates, and the need to actively monitor all the parts of your WordPress website ecosystem.
Should I Use Both HubSpot and WordPress?
Maybe, but the vast majority of businesses are much better served by a full switch to HubSpot than using WordPress-only or a Franken-system of both HubSpot and the WordPress CMS.
If you’re not sold on HubSpot Marketing as an investment, you may be a good candidate to use both tools for a finite period of time, such as the 30-day trial period of HubSpot to assess whether you like the software and want to switch your website. During this period of time, you can learn HubSpot, understand how it could enhance your inbound strategy, and navigate the myriad resources available to HubSpot customers.
If you are sold on HubSpot, a hybrid approach may not be best. If this is the case, you may want to start carefully weighing the pros and cons of staying on the WordPress CMS, and how it stacks up to what you could gain with the HubSpot COS.
If the price of HubSpot is holding you from going full-HubSpot, we’ve hacked a method for saving 60% on the first year of your HubSpot subscription. To learn how, download our savings guide here.