Having a website is a basic necessity for modern businesses, but so is having content on it. If you set up a website without adding anything about your business, your products or your mission, you might as well set up a sales table on the corner of a busy street with no sign. Lots of people will see you, but they won’t know who you are, why you’re standing there or why they should stop to talk to you.
Keeping all that content organized and up-to-date can be quite the task though. Once you get rolling, the number of pages and blogs on your site can start mounting into the hundreds and it all feels a little overwhelming to manage on your own. And, most companies don't have a full-time developer on staff to make every little change to their website. This is why every business needs a quality content management system (CMS).
Throughout this post, we will break down the features of two of the biggest platforms on the market: HubSpot and WordPress.
What Does a CMS Do?
A CMS is a type of platform that helps you build and manage websites without having to learn computer coding. These programs design their systems with a user-friendly interface so anyone with a little training can make edits to their website.
One benefit of using CMS platforms is that it makes content marketing much easier. Programs like WordPress or the HubSpot CMS allow you to craft and publish blogs right there in the platform. They can even go the extra mile to help you with SEO, integrate with Google Analytics and run A/B testing. More on that later, though.
In short, a content management system is a platform that makes your life easier. And just like I finally caved and bought wireless earbuds, the tech world has pretty much bought into havinig a CMS for every website. A CMS helps you build a website, add content, track your marketing and maintain your digital presence. Small businesses and large companies alike utilize these systems for the same reason: they work.
Main Feature Comparison
Here's a quick look at the backend of WordPress and HubSpot side-by-side. Here we see the pages section, where all your site's pages live.
Now that we've got a feel for what the backend looks like in each platform, let's talk about some of the key features users need in a website CMS and how these two compare.
Let’s start with WordPress. It’s been around for ages, but it didn’t start as a CMS. In fact, it was originally created to be a blogging platform, and it still does a great job of making blogging easy for its users. Plenty of first-time bloggers or web designers flock to WordPress because it’s free to use at a basic level and offers plenty of customization options.
WordPress is an open-source platform, which makes it 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 an incredibly flexible option.
HubSpot, on the other hand, was originally designed as an inbound marketing platform but later transitioned into content management. Now they offer a CMS Hub with everything you could possibly need, including a built-in blog. Although their blog is less customizable than WordPress, it’s still easy to create, edit and publish within the software.
The real benefit of HubSpot is that it can offer tons more than just a blogging platform. It can help optimize your content for the best results with SEO and Google to make sure your blog is highly ranked by search engines (note that you'll still need a keyword strategy to determine what you're optimizing your blogs around). Of course, with added features comes extra cost. Some people shy away from HubSpot’s pricing, but investing in their powerful CMS gives access to lots of valuable services that justify the price tag. And, when you consider how easy the HubSpot CMS is to maintain, that can often outweigh the cost.
👉 For more on cost/value, check out: How the HubSpot CMS Keeps Your Organization Lean
WordPress is great because it can be almost anything you want it to be with enough customization and plugins. But, the platform itself lacks a lot of native marketing functionality that you need to build a website that converts. One of the areas I've seen this start to really hinder clients is in the lack of a landing page tool.
You can create landing pages with a builder like LeadPages and integrate it with your WordPress page template, but because it’s working with a third party the result can be clunky and slow. You could also just build a landing page tempalte on your WordPress platform, but then it becomes much more difficult to organize and track on the backend because landing pages are mixed in with your web pages.
HubSpot offers a few free templates for landing pages or you can have one of their developers create a custom page for you. It even keeps these pages separate from your other website pages, so it’s much easier to track their success and see if your conversion points are really working.
Additionaly, and this is probably one of the best things about HubSpot, everything is under one roof. That means that your marketing tools and website can communicate seamlessly. That gives you better reporting, which means you can prove the ROI of your efforts and continue to identify areas to test and improve.
A/B testing is incredibly helpful when trying to decide on the most effective aspects of your website. Many marketers rely on this system to make final decisions about design, color schemes or object placement on their sites.
Depending on which builder your WordPress site uses, you might be able to run A/B tests for your site through their platform. You can also find plugins that provide A/B testing functionality for pages.
HubSpot users have access to HubSpot’s built-in A/B testing for all their web pages, CTAs and emails, which makes optimization much easier. Your marketing team's job becomes so much easier (selfish plug for my fellow marketers out there) when you can track which options are resonating most with your audience and easily implement those changes.
Search Engine Optimization
To use any type of SEO tools in WordPress—you guessed it!—you’ll need a plugin. Yoast is the most popular option of the SEO options in WordPress, and potentially one of the most popular WordPress plugins for any marketing team. It allows you to customize the way your meta titles and tags show in search engines, and will run a quick check of your content based on a focus keyword you plug in to a single page.
HubSpot offers is a built-in content strategy tool that includes on-page SEO. HubSpot will check to make sure your links are working, show the volume of your selected keywords and even has an optimize tab in each blog draft where it shows you other areas to optimize your content (similar to Yoast's functionality).
[Screenshot from HubSpot]
It should be noted that successful SEO strategies still use other tools to research and build a strategy for building your traffic from search engines. For example, we use ahrefs to perform keyword research, evaluate content gaps and track our current search rankings. We also use ClearScope to optimize our articles based on the keyword strategy we've created. Both HubSpot and WordPress (through Yoast) do a good job of helping execute that strategy, but you still need the research to back it up.
This is where HubSpot shines. You can integrate WordPress with marketing automation software, but the platform doesn’t have a way to do it on its own. HubSpot offers this functionality through its Marketing Hub.
Remember, HubSpot was originally designed as a marketing platform, so at its core, it’s designed to help streamline your digital marketing strategy. And like I've probably said too many times in this article, it's all under one roof with your CMS, so it can use the data from every aspect of your business to drive automation and lead nurturing.
HubSpot can automate email nurture series with HubSpot's workflows to contacts based on their behavior on your site (once you have their email of course). Their powerful CRM (also a seperate tool but they have a free version) gives you insight into your prospects which translates to more opportunities to market and drive users toward a sale.
HubSpot also has analytics tools built into its platform. They can pull from your content to show things like basic content analytics, attribution, contact tracking, competitor tracking and even search analytics. Truthfully, HubSpot is still improving in this area. Most marketing teams will still use Google Analytics to at least supplement the data in HubSpot, but their built in reporting can be a good place to start.
WordPress doesn’t have any built-in analytics options, but it does offer an easy integration with Google Analytics through the CMS.
For both platforms, you will need other reporting tools to get the full picture on your website's performance.
Just as important as the features they offer is the usability of each CMS. After all, if you can’t figure out how it works, it won’t be much use to you.
WordPress is incredibly easy to use at its base level, and it’s free. This makes it a great option for people interested in trying their hand at a simple CMS with no risk. It’s also extremely customizable due to its open-source format, but you would have to know some computer coding (or hire a developer) to utilize that functionality. Lastly, it’s simple enough for a professional designer or the average joe to go in and build a functional site.
HubSpot’s main priority is the marketer, so all of its functions are geared toward marketing success. It was created to help enable more effective lead generation, and it has always placed usability for the average Joe high on its priority list. It has a clean, user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop options and convenient text editors so you can customize your pages within the CMS’s parameters. Plus, because it’s the all-in-one option, you can connect your Marketing and Sales Hubs to utilize analytics tools, SEO tools and many more fun things.
I know these are both sounding great, but keep in mind each has its downsides too. WordPress requires plugins to access any type of advanced feature, and the more pages you add the more confusing your backend can get. Not to mention your site speed can slow tremendously as you add more and more plugins because the coding gets confusing...even for the computer. Plus you have to continuously update each one and they can conflict with each other as you do so.
On the other hand, HubSpot is less customizable when working on your own and even its base level is a paid service, which makes it more of a risk for first-time users.
Which CMS is Right for Your Business?
There are lots of factors to consider when you're choosing a CMS platform for your new site: customizability, ease of use, integration of other services. And I'm not proud of what I'm about to tell you but...
The right platform for your business depends.
Like I said before, we've built lots of sites on both WordPress and HubSpot. They both work well and they both have drawbacks.
Honestly, we tend to recommend HubSpot’s CMS because it’s easier to use, requires less maintenance and provides really reliable support. It’s great for companies who work with an agency and ones who operate on their own. And, we're marketers, and that's what HubSpot is really really good at.
However, WordPress is often the better choice for e-commerce (though HubSpot is expanding its capability here) and for other more technical needs.
If you want to talk to us about it, feel free to reach out. We love getting nerdy about websites.