Professional Review – HubSpot

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Hubspot seems to be a very well marketed company. Within different groups of online marketeers (often fractious and fragmented though it may sometimes appear to be) – Hubspot’s own marketing is pretty often respected. Their online guides are shared and often emulated, their infographics are the darlings of social media and their research is quite often the best there is. Their CEO is touted (albeit mostly by Hubspot) as the world’s smartest guy and they’re very loud in the “we’ve cracked it, its all over arena” of “marketing automation”
Disclaimer: I’m trying to give a clear review of the product but I do admit that when I read that software will automate your online marketing, I tend to worry. This is how link spam came about and it all but destroyed the reputation of most of what people think of SEO. I’m glad we never got caught up in, no matter how much everyone else seem to get addicted to it and I also admit to being very disappointed by the companies that I thought to be white hat who clearly aren’t.
So what about the product?
Up to now, only one company I know of have used it. Hubspot’s reputation just got the better of me – and with it’s “socail+seo” emphasis, I had to give it a test drive. At $200 per month per site, its a pretty steep cost. Ok – sites like seoMoz aren’t far off but for link-obsessives and lazy SEO’s its clearly worth it….
What does it do?
Hubspot has become almost unicorn like in its marketing bumf, but I didn’t really know. Was it Analytics? Was it a project management tool?
After a little bit of a dive and speaking to a very friendly, professional and product-competent support person, I’ve learnt that Hubspot is a central dashboard, automation tool (for sharing on social media), Analytics centre and lead tracker. Its part CMS, part blog, part analytics.
Turns out it’s both and neither. What it probably wants to do is to de-complicate internet marketing and follow the rule that writing content about what you do and what people are looking up. This pretty sound advice and its the war cry of content and online marketeers everywhere now (top tip: if everyone’s doing it, its not going to work, trust me on this).
What’s it great at?
The software is very very good at telling you what your content is for: and seemingly it’s for getting leads. Every page and traffic source is stored in silo’s and the CTR and conversion rates are separated from the get-go, whereas almost all other analytics apps (Google’s increasingly aged Analytics is a prime example) start with collective traffic. This is good.
It’s also good at tracking people  (note: no EU Cookie law nod but that law, is, frankly stupid) and doing some A/B testing.
Great, right?

Well no, not really. Because while it’s “simplified” its reports, its actually oversimplified it to the point of actually holding you back. Firstly, as any medium to seasoned professional should (I say should because too many don’t) tell you is that depending on industry’s, products, price, relationship sales times. content doesn’t convert straight away. 90% of content may just be playing a support role of existing customers (which maintains loyalty which maintains purchasing). If we were to start cutting content because it didn’t generate a lead, after a while, we’d be in a sorry state.
The real problem with Hubspot is that for all it’s simplification of online marketing, it just doesn’t do enough. The CMS is far too basic, unwieldy and useless. You can’t ignore or discard entire elements of an internet marketing strategy and just say “ta-da! simplified”
Getting the basics right wrong
Here are some rather basic gripes that have been built into other CMS/Automation platforms for years:
1. Instant Google AdWords support. Hubspot seems to pretend that AdWords doesn’t exist. It doesn’t track or recognise cpc clicks and needs a special URL marker (which is ridiculous, cumbersome and easy to break). It also doesn’t report conversions back easily – you have to hack a page and insert HTML and then there’s no way of testing it. No wonder its users don’t like AdWords – they have no idea if it works or not. If you trust the default settings, you’d think all your leads were coming in gratis
2. It tells you what to write about and then scores it. This is like Klout for telling you how well you speak to people. Software in 2013 is good but its not that good.
3. There’s no automatic integration for Analytics. Hubspot, in the vein of being the best marketing platform out there, probably don’t believe its necessary but then Hubspot doesn’t give you funnels, visitor paths, detailed demographics, etc. You should just be able to provide a tracking code in a single field and it should call the latest tracking urchin on each page. If it really was marketing automation software, it would be able to. But it doesn’t.
4. The reports are very, very, very weak.
5. The social sharing is just a blast / broadcast. There’s no set-up,  there’s no style – its just advertise. It might work now but I wouldn’t be espousing this. It’s not conversation and its certainly not engagement.
Buying your own bullshit
Everyone talks up their own products and their game. Everyone wants to be proud of their CEO. But there’s a danger of blindly going along with something. Here’s an example. A guy that I used to work with years and years ago used to work for the Dublin Google AdWords’ team. Everyone thinks that everyone who works at Google is a rocket scientist. And everyone in their product development teams probably are. (which is where Dharmesh, the founder of Hubspot, came from, incidentally).
Turns out this chap thought he was a rock-star too and thought Google weren’t paying him enough so he left. Being an ex-Googler was a door opener but it turned out that ticking the box in Google didn’t cut it commercially  You see, in Google, being great at AdWords is about product knowledge competency. Being great in AdWords in commercial life is about spending less with Google and getting more sales. If Google AdWords teams were really good, then you wouldn’t have AdWords management agencies. Trust me on this. We all get our accounts reviewed by Google, and I suspect, like us, most are never read….Sorry Google.
Anyway, back to Hubspot: Hubspotters probably believe their software is the Unicorn incarnate but its clearly and visibly not. Its more than disappointing – its crushing. It has reports that tell you you’re doing 100% in SEO and it has little markers to tell you how well you’re doing.
And the problem with reports like that is A) they’re total bullshit – without any redeeming features. Keyword density measurements are 1990’s …..and B) is that if you believe them then you’re going to think you’re doing a great job.
No wonder search marketing’s overall goal % in Hubspot’s reports look so good – because the SEO is terrible. If you’re not ranking in Google – then you’re not going to get leads. It’s that simple. But if Hubspot tells you you’re doing ok but you’re not really – you’re just going to assume that you have no marketplace in Google..
Hubspot is the latest gimmick that rewards lazy people who don’t want to get their hands dirty and understand how the web works.
And for that reason….I’m out…!
Amateur User Rating: 4/10
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Expert User Rating: 0/10
Good news for web designers and marketeers: fear not, Hubspot users will think you’re a genius when you show them what you can really do!

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