Every business needs a website — it’s a basic requirement of the modern age. Every successful business fills their website with content — it’s a basic requirement for educating and converting your customers.
Creating and posting seems pretty straightforward on its surface, and for the first few months, it is. But once you start accruing a backlog of content, tracking and managing hundreds of posts becomes unwieldy. Most companies don’t have in-house web developers to help them make changes to web pages and accommodate content in all scenarios, which is why most companies need a content management system (CMS).
Although there are a ton of different CMS options out there, two tend to go head to head more as of late: HubSpot and WordPress. Both allow you to build your website directly on their platform and manage content and web pages with their CMS tool. Here to help us compare which platform is better for your business is Victoria Thornton, Project Management Team Lead, and internally elected Dev Queen.
What Does a CMS Do?
A CMS is a platform that helps you build and manage a website without needing to know code. These platforms are designed to offer a user-friendly interface for website building, often with drag and drop editors and other simple controls, so anyone at any level can create and edit a professional website.
There’s a hefty list of benefits that come with a CMS, especially for beginners, but Victoria pulls out these few as the most impactful:
- Ease of use and customizability
- Content collaboration
- SEO recommendations
- Page analytics
- Little to no coding needed
- Built in blog and landing page functionality
- Using a theme or template promotes brand consistency. You can manipulate content without fear of accidentally changing the design.
“What’s important to understand,” Victoria adds, “is that your CMS isn’t just for inputting or editing content. Your tool will have a host of features that help you run your overall website too.”
Among these are typically variations of SEO recommendations and tools, analytics reports, multi-language variations and security features (built in SSL, WAF, CDN). A unique feature of HubSpot’s CMS is Smart Content: a feature that allows your site to display different information based on the type of user viewing your page, creating a more customized experience.
Overall, you can think of your CMS as your website control center. It’s where you add website pages and content, update existing information and make changes to your website, as well as monitor KPIs and assess performance.
The HubSpot and WordPress CMS platforms share some core features, but the two systems feel totally different to the end user. What’s key to know is that WordPress started as a blogging platform and grew into a CMS, while HubSpot’s CMS Hub is part of its greater marketing and sales platform and can work in tandem with other HubSpot tools.
Let’s dive into the four main features of these two CMS tools.
WordPress started with bloggers in mind and still puts a lot of effort into making blogging easy for its users. However, we should take a minute to acknowledge the difference between a CMS and a blogging tool.
“A blog is focused on publishing new content, while a CMS provides a range of tools and features for managing all aspects of your website,” Victoria explains. “Blogging platforms typically offer limited web design customization and functionality options, while CMSs provide a much wider range of customization options, modules, and tools.”
One thing many users like about WordPress is that it’s an open-source platform, meaning the community can create and improve code for the software. It was just this community that helped to build the thousands of plug-ins, widgets and themes that took WordPress from a humble blogger’s tool to the full-blown CMS it is today.
Open-source software is great for users of all experience levels. A newbie can go into the simplified backend and make basic code decisions without ever having to open the HTML or CSS panels. Experts, however, can go into those areas and toy around with the specific aspects of the site if they choose. This makes WordPress sites incredibly flexible.
HubSpot, on the other hand, prides itself on simplicity. Although their blog is less customizable than WordPress, it’s still easy to create, edit and publish within the software. Plus, you can take advantage of the myriad other inbound marketing tools the platform has to offer.
“In CMS Hub, you have access to a number of built in tools and features,” Victoria says. “You can easily create content, optimize your site for conversions and gain insight into performance all in one place for one price. In WordPress, although the platform itself is free, there are a number of hidden costs from server hosting to plug-in costs that quickly run up your bill if you want to enable advanced functionality or marketing workflows.”
One of our favorite things about the HubSpot CMS is that it has built-in landing pages. This makes it much easier to quickly create pages that encourage conversion and capture leads, all matching your overall website design.
“The benefit of HubSpot’s landing pages is that they have built-in mobile optimization, A/B testing, HubSpot CRM integration and powerful analytics and reporting. This makes it really easy to integrate the pages with your marketing campaigns, optimize for engagement and measure success,” Victoria explains.
She adds that even if you’re using HubSpot website themes to build your website, you don’t have to choose a landing page within your chosen theme. You can branch out and choose a different design if you want your landing pages to stand out, however, be sure the design remains consistent with the rest of your website branding.
WordPress doesn’t have a native landing page tool. There are two ways around this problem. First, you could rely on plug-ins to create and build custom landing pages for your website. Some popular options include:
- Thrive Architect
- Beaver Builder
- Elementor Pro
- The Divi Builder
- Landing Page Builder by plug-inOps
Your other option is to create a separate template for landing pages within your WordPress theme using a simple header, footer and form. Although this keeps you from adding another plug-in to your site, it also means your landing pages will be mixed in with your web pages, which might make them difficult to find as they accumulate.
Working without built-in landing pages isn’t a deal breaker for most people, but, according to Victoria, there are some major drawbacks to this option that you should consider before making a final decision.
- Pages are dedicated for conversion. When you’re designing an isolated landing page, it’s hard to optimize it for conversion, which could mean losing out on leads.
- Poor organization. Pages created with WordPress plug-ins or as templates aren’t always easily categorized within your page library, creating a poor organization structure on the backend.
- Missing CRM integration. Landing page conversions and information that don’t integrate properly with your CRM could lead to messy data and missed opportunities.
A/B testing is a must-have for successful digital marketing campaigns. You need to know what’s resonating with your audience and if there are opportunities to make your existing assets better.
HubSpot has a native A/B testing tool that allows you to run tests on different elements on both web pages and landing pages. You can play with elements like color, font, copy, images and more to create different versions of an asset and see how your audience responds. What’s more, you can also track the results of these tests directly in your HubSpot portal. It puts everything you need in one place, at your fingertips.
WordPress does not have native A/B testing tools, so you would have to outsource to a plug-in or other service.
“You would either use a plug-in or a service such as Google Optimize. For this, you don’t need a plug-in, but you do need to insert a piece of code into the website header,” Victoria explains.
If you’re not confident about integrating with Google, don’t worry. There are plenty of quality plug-ins out there to choose from. A few that HubSpot recommends are:
- Nelio A/B Testing
- Google Optimize for WordPress by Monster Insights
- Marketing Toolkit by OptinMonster
- VWO (Visual Website Optimizer)
- Split Test for Elementor
- Popups, Welcome Bar, Optins and Lead Generation plug-in by Icegram
- Split Hero
- Thrive Headline Optimizer
Last but not least is search engine optimization. It’s no secret that content marketing is more competitive than it used to be — WAY more competitive. To really stand out online you need to have a marketing strategy and optimized content. Ideally, your CMS will offer or accommodate tools to help with that.
“Search engines look at both the performance of your site and any on-page HTML elements when they assign rankings,” Victoria explains. “Having an SEO friendly CMS allows you to check your SEO best practices directly in the CMS. So while your CMS does not need to have SEO capabilities, it’s important to ensure you’re adhering to best practices and checking your performance and HTML elements before your site or page is crawled.”
In HubSpot — you guessed it — the CMS comes with SEO features that help you build optimized content. It helps you create titles, headers, meta descriptions and alt descriptions to ensure all of the necessary on-page elements are there when you hit publish.
It also allows you to go one step further with Marketing Hub. This Hub offers a more comprehensive SEO tool that can scan your pages, flag problems, offer suggestions, and more. The best part of this tool is that you can create topic clusters for your content and ensure that all your blog posts are tied back to a pillar page. This improves your site architecture and helps you plan content in advance so you’re covering all the relevant areas of your business.
For WordPress website, Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plug-ins. It helps you create optimized posts, build a sitemap, add structured data, manage your linking structure and more.
“The only issue people find with Yoast,” Victoria says, “is that it has a problem with interactions between other plug-ins which often causes conflicts between them. So if you do choose to use Yoast, just make sure it’s not disrupting any of your other plug-in processes.”
To summarize: Most features you need are baked in to HubSpot’s platform, while you’ll need a plug-in for most functionalities on WordPress.
If we’re being honest, though, comparing these two platforms isn’t exactly apples to apples. You can’t fully isolate the CMS from the purpose of the overall tool, which is where most of their differences come in.
HubSpot is a powerhouse inbound sales and marketing platform. Each of its Hubs is designed to help you further your marketing efforts and build your business. For this reason, they’ve integrated many more marketing-focused features into their CMS.
Perhaps the most helpful of these is marketing automation and workflows. These two features make complex or repetitive processes easy by taking the work off of you and letting HubSpot do the heavy lifting.
“I think some of the most valuable automation tools are workflows for forms and email marketing and sequences,” Victoria says. “These two capabilities can save teams tons of time and really streamline your marketing efforts.”
Additionally, HubSpot offers native analytics options so you can see your web or content performance right in your portal. “This allows you to measure a multitude of metrics directly in your HubSpot account, meaning you don’t have to integrate with another service and you can trust your data.”
Overall, the biggest win for HubSpot is that everything is there when you need it and it has options to scale up into other Hubs — like Marketing Hub — if and when you need more features.
WordPress as a platform is more focused on helping people create and publish content. So if you want to achieve specific marketing goals and objectives, you’ll have to rely on plug-ins for those extra functionalities.
When it comes to marketing automations, plug-ins like WPForms, HubSpot, Constant Contact or Active Campaign are all good options. “These handle many different tasks such as lead generation, newsletters, CRM integrations, notifications, workflows, and more.”
Similarly, you’ll need to connect to another service or use a plug-in to see your website analytics. The most common integration is Google Analytics, which can tell you everything from page views to user behavior on your website.
“GA is one of the best ways to track performance,” Victoria notes. “The setup is easy and most people can do it on their own. Plus, there’s a large library from Google and other sources that can walk you through the process to ensure you connect your website correctly.”
Although you can get the same level of insights with integrations as you can natively through HubSpot, there are some unique problems that can arise. Sometimes integrations can be clunky or your website can get disconnected and you might not notice right away. This can result in data not being tracked or missing important information until you get your site reconnected.
“WordPress is arguably the best free CMS option,” Victoria says. “However, you’ll have to be prepared for the additional investment of adding plug-ins, finding hosting software, etc.
“With HubSpot, you get all of the necessary capabilities — and then some — in a one-stop shop. Although HubSpot isn’t free, the price tag can quickly become comparable with WordPress after you purchase all of your integrations, plug-ins and add-ons.”
Aside from the cost and ease of use of each of these platforms, your decision will also come down to your situation and needs.
If you’re a beginner and feeling a little intimidated or overwhelmed by all these features and considerations, Victoria recommends starting with HubSpot. You can get a Free or Starter account so you can test the waters without a significant (or any) investment. This allows you to play around with the web builder, test the functionalities and decide if you’d like working in the platform long-term.
If your business has significant growth goals or are trying to scale your operations, then Victoria again recommends going with HubSpot. She adds the caveat that this can depend on your specific goals, but overall HubSpot is easier to scale because they offer a variety of services for all sized businesses that you can immediately integrate into your existing portal.
For those looking for the most customization in a CMS, Victoria points to WordPress. “HubSpot has a certain level of customization, but it doesn’t do everything. With WordPress, you have tons of plug-in options to choose from, which increase customizability and makes it more likely that your site can meet your needs.”
Which CMS is right for your business?
We’ve hit a lot of major points in this article, but the truth is that the scope of each of these CMSs is too big to fully encompass in one blog post. To help make it easier for you to assess which might be best for your business, Victoria recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- What do you want your CMS to do? What features are needed vs nice-to-haves?
- Is the CMS you’re considering easy to use? How easy is it to edit content or make changes/updates?
- How reliant on plug-ins is the CMS?
- Does the CMS integrate with other tools?
- Will the CMS scale with the growth of my business?
- Is the CMS SEO friendly?
- Is the price within my budget?
Choosing a CMS is a big decision and you need to make sure the platform you choose can support your business both now and in the future.
If you want to learn more about the HubSpot CMS and the impact it can have on your overall operations, check out our blog about how it can keep your organization lean.