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Wordpress vs. HubSpot

The most popular car in America is the Ford F150 (except in Florida, where they prefer to drive the Toyota Corolla). The best-selling car in the Netherlands, on the other hand, is the Volkswagen Polo. In case you don't know anything about cars; the Ford F150 is a gigantic pick-up truck by Dutch standards, the Polo is a solid middle class car with which you can park in most streets of Amsterdam.

Apart from sentiment - you can't get an American in a Polo, even when paying them - which is the best car of the two? What properties do you have to look at to determine which one is better? You might think; what kind of comparison is this? And that's a fair question, because every modern car is just fine - the time when cars started to rust when they were still only in the folder are long gone. But it is still possible. However, you should not only look at the car itself, but at those who will drive it, where they will drive, what distance it will drive.

Target group and context are therefore more important in valuing a car than the properties themselves. Features such as cost, top speed, number of wheels and weight can influence your choice, but more is not necessarily better.

Choose the CMS that matches your growth ambitions

The same applies when you are evaluating a CMS; the options that a CMS has, the cost of a CMS, how easy it is to adjust are important, but not without looking at the target group and context. Higher start-up costs, for example, can be an obstacle, but maintenance costs must also be taken into consideration. Thousands of options may be enticing, but are they useful? If you buy a new car for commuting, you probably don't look at top speed, but at consumption, usage costs and comfort. But for one comfort means air conditioning, for another a subwoofer in the trunk.

A CMS like Wordpress, Drupal, HubSpot or Squarespace can all be a sensible choice. If you look at the 7 factors, there is not just one truth, it depends on your situation.

  1. Flexibility in look & feel
  2. Plugins and integrations
  3. CMS as part of your platform
  4. Security and maintenance
  5. Support and community
  6. Costs
  7. Opportunities for developers

1. Flexibility in look & feel

During the entire lifecycle of the website you will have to deal with changes in look & fool on a number of occasions; during the development of the website, while administering the website and when implementing new features.

First, the development of the website; can you build your website quickly and easily, perfect to the pixel to the design? Both with HubSpot and Wordpress this is a resounding “yes”; you have full control over how your website will look, pixel-accurate. Even if you use a template, a developer can adjust it relatively easily the way you want.

Please note that using a template as a basis is not necessarily cheaper than building a website from scratch; if the differences with the desired end result are too great - even if they seem very similar - the adjustments can be very expensive. Moreover, it is often very difficult to estimate how much work it is to adjust a template. A project can quickly become a lingering drama because all kinds of unexpected problems arise during construction.

Then the flexibility in use (see also “3 - Convenience in use”); this does not necessarily have to be an important point. If your pages always look the same (a header photo, text and a footer) this is not an important factor for you. But if you want the freedom to add an extra element to a page, for example a form or a photo carousel, this might be an essential feature.

When creating or modifying pages, you can use a visual drag & drop editor in HubSpot. This means that you can drag components (modules) on the page, and you immediately see how the page looks. Wordpress out-of-the-box ships with simple input fields and a rich text editor. With a plugin like Visual Composer you will come a long way, but your developer will have to make your templates suitable for it to work. The drag & drop editor is always available in HubSpot however. Except perhaps with old websites, but they will be relatively easy to adjust.

A website is an organic product and it is never finished. You will always need a new template or a new module, or a specific element needs to be changed. With a HubSpot website you are to some extent self-sufficient if you want a new template; the drag & drop editor allows you to create pages and not templates. Each part of a page can be reused in a different configuration on a different page. A simple module can often be added to your arsenal in a few hours. Think of it as a container with colored Lego blocks. By stacking the blocks - the modules of your website - you will build yourself a new page. On another page you can reuse the exact same module, and with another configuration you will build a completely different page. Efficient and scalable.

2. Plugins and integrations

Wordpress has more than 50,000 plugins available, many of which are free or very cheap. HubSpot, on the other hand, has less than 1,000 modules available and approximately the same number of integrations. Easy win for Wordpress. Or not?

The biggest advantage of Wordpress over most CMSs is also the biggest disadvantage; simplicity and flexibility. A rookie developer can have a plugin developed and posted online within a few hours using a tutorial. The quality is therefore not always guaranteed. Professional developers and teams are responsible for larger and better-known plugins such as Contact7, Yoast and WooCommerce, so you don't have to worry about the quality. But unfortunately there are also many plugins that simply do not deliver what they promise, are full of bugs, have serious security issues or do not work well with other parts of your website. Quality assessment is not always easy for someone who is not technical, so always be careful when installing a plugin

The biggest advantage of integrations with HubSpot; they are always properly tested by HubSpot, so you can be sure they are safe and your data integrity is guaranteed.

It is also important to distinguish between plugins that make components available to your website, such as a contact form, or plugins that add functionality. In the last category, think of a link with your CRM or an integration with Google Analytics. When it comes to the first category, Wordpress wins with a street length, not the least because of the long history of Wordpress.

There are also plenty of plugins for integrations, but pay special attention to the quality of the plugins. These plugins are potentially dangerous for the integrity of your data, and therefore of your business, because they directly perform mutations in other systems. Adjusting the functionality to your own wishes might be problematic as well, while an integration with HubSpot can be set up easy and flexible thanks to the recently purchased integration platform PieSync.

3. CMS as part of your platform

A website is only a part of your complete (online) marketing strategy. In many cases an essential part, but you can look at it as a standalone product. A website has an informative function - telling your visitors who you are and what you do -, a supporting function - direct contact with your customers via a customer portal or via a live chat, or self-help through documentation - and a recruiting function; convert your visitors into leads and customers. But in all cases you also use a CRM, sometimes an ERP, email marketing software such as Mailchimp, you place advertisements on social media or on Google etc.

A one-stop shop does not exist (and anyone who claims it is cannot be trusted). The marketing tech stack of an average company of between 50 and 100 employees consists of more than 70 different tools. It's a great challenge to get it working well together, but also to manage your own time well - you don't want to have to log in to another tool every other minute to get something done.

Using plugins and integrations you can link Wordpress to anything, and there are plenty of developers out there who can build a plugin for you. But you will still be jumping around between all your tools. Wordpress is a CMS, the HubSpot CMS Hub can be used as an independent CMS, but with the CRM, Marketing, Sales and Service Hub it is much more than that; it’s a platform. Thanks to the specific attention to integrations with other software, including excellent integrations with competitors such as Salesforce, you can bring everything together within HubSpot. This makes HubSpot the epicenter of your marketing activities, without missing the power of specialized software by using inferior options.

For example, if you have been working with Mailchimp for years and you consider switching to HubSpot, forget about the email solution within HubSpot. You can indeed send newsletters to your contacts, but HubSpot simply cannot compete with a platform such as Mailchimp, which for years has focused solely on email marketing and is the market leader due to that specific attention. By making smart use of integrations, you manage your contacts in the HubSpot CRM, build reports based on data that you collect from other tools.

4. Safety and maintenance

Something you don’t to be bothered with, but still an important factor to take into consideration. If you do it right, the end result is the same for both HubSpot and Wordpress; a safe website, according to the latest standards. However, unlike most other considerations, there is a clear winner here; HubSpot.

With a Wordpress website you are responsible for hosting, (security) updates and maintenance. This not only entails extra costs, but also requires a lot of attention. You mainly want to be busy with the content, your developers especially like to build new things. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Wordpress websites are hacked every year. That is not because Wordpress is unsafe in itself, but because Wordpress is not updated, and more importantly, because unsafe and / or old plugins are used.

At HubSpot you are only responsible for your own website; what it looks like and what you put on it. But a team of several hundred developers is working day and night to keep the platform safe and up-to-date.

5. Support and community

We can be short about support; you can always call, email or chat with HubSpot. With Wordpress you are on your own. However, there is a huge community of developers and users. Almost every problem you have is solved for you on the first page of Google, if necessary you can post your question on one of the numerous forums or on the developer community Stackoverflow.

Even though the HubSpot community is growing, it is not nearly as big as the Wordpress community. But in the case of HubSpot, you are dealing almost exclusively with professional users and developers. On the Slack channels of HubSpot there are more than 5,000 active users, on the community forum a multitude. That doesn't sound much when you compare it to the hundreds of thousands that are active on StackOverflow on the Wordpress topic, but it is enough to get an answer right away. And most importantly; it is always a qualitative answer. In addition, there are almost 5,000 HubSpot partners you can reach out to, albeit paid.

HubSpot also actively invests in the HubSpot Academy, where you can find high-quality study material, regular events and knowledge sessions are organized, and it has very extensive documentation.

In short; HubSpot can't compete with the Wordpress community, and you may wonder if that will ever be the case. However, with the professional support of HubSpot itself, and fellow HubSpot users on different channels, that should not be a problem.

6. Costs

The HubSpot CMS Hub costs € 230 per month, Wordpress is free. Both statements are not correct. The monthly costs for the CMS are indeed € 230 per month, Wordpress is also free to purchase, but the cost-of-ownership is not included with both.

First; with a CMS you don't have a website yet. With a template you are online fast and cost effective, but then you have a website like many others (some Wordpress templates have been installed more than a million times). If you want a website tailored to your needs, with serious B2B functionalities, you will have to hire a developer, a designer, and if you really want to get everything out of it, a customer experience specialist, a ux designer or a copywriter.

Hosting then; this is included with HubSpot, with a Wordpress website you are responsible for this. A simple hosting package does not have to be expensive (from a few tens per year), but you need someone who can arrange the hosting for you and can install and update Wordpress.

Maintenance is the biggest overlooked expense. An SLA for a Wordpress installation can cost a few tens to a few hundred euros per month, depending on the included activities. When committing to a SLA, pay close attention to the conditions; will external plugins be updated for example? And if there is a new version of Wordpress and plugins are not compatible, will an alternative be provided?

Make sure that you always make room in your budget for further development. When you actively work with your website, there will always come a time when you need a new template, a template needs to be modified, or an integration with another tool needs to be installed or modified. This is specialist work that you would rather outsource.

A Wordpress website can cost less than a few tens per year, but think carefully whether you will have the website that will help your business grow.

7. Possibilities for developers

Marketers and developers are not always best friends. Developers often tell you something is not possible or very expensive, which leads to frustration among marketers, after all, the question seems so simple. It is often difficult for developers to explain why a request is so difficult or expensive. The main reason for this is that a website is a technical product, many times more complex than, for example, a dinner table, with a high level of abstraction, sometimes hundreds of thousands of lines of code and hundreds of different components. All that to get a simple blog online.

Over the years, numerous tools have been built that allow developers to work quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, they make it possible to work according to well-known standards which means that if another developer has to work on the website, he immediately knows where to look to add a new feature or fix a bug.

HubSpot does not have a good track record. For years, developing a website could only be done on HubSpot itself, many common - and according to many developers essential tools - could not be used with HubSpot. Wordpress, on the other hand, is an open platform and can be developed exactly as you are used to. And it is written in PHP, one of the largest and best supported programming languages. HubSpot also confessed; it was built for marketers, not developers.

However, much has changed in the past year. With the arrival of local development tools, developers can now use their own development stack and developing a HubSpot website no longer differs much from developing a Wordpress website. The main difference is now the possibility to develop in the backend yourself.

Wordpress can become anything; you can turn it into an eCommerce platform, build a customer portal, a knowledge base. When you can imagine it, you can build it, with or without an existing plugin. This was already possible with HubSpot, but it feels tinkered and you would be limited in the possibilities.

However, this is still not an argument against HubSpot; as a developer you will have to think more service-oriented, instead of feature-oriented. Think of a CMS as a service, just like a webshop. In the case of Wordpress, a webshop can be a feature of your website, but WooCommerce - let alone a self-built platform - cannot always compete with specialist platforms such as Magento or Shopify. However, you can set up a webshop in Magento, manage your website in HubSpot and let the two work together perfectly through an integration. With the use of serverless functions and numerous APIs, it is also very easy for developers to add their own services to the website.

So which is better, HubSpot or Wordpress?

The disappointing conclusion is; neither one, just as the Ford F150 is not better than the Polo, or vice versa. It all depends on the user, the use-case and the context. But you don't even have to choose. The excellent integration between HubSpot and Wordpress allows both to be used side by side; HubSpot as a marketing platform and Wordpress as your CMS.

If you still want to choose, ask yourself the following questions; who will use the CMS? And how often? Daily, weekly, monthly? What other tools do I have in my marketing tech stack, how well do they work with Wordpress or HubSpot, and what are the costs of linking them? What budget do I have? And what will be the revenue?

And do not just choose based on your own insights, allow yourself to be advised by both a HubSpot and a Wordpress specialist who can help you with an analysis based on your own situation.

Picture of Jurjen Sytsma
Jurjen Sytsma

Technical HubSpot Engineer