I built my first WordPress site, a blog, about 10 years ago. Wrote most of the code myself. To this day, I still manage most of my personal Web properties with the open-source CMS, which runs nearly 25 percent of all websites. But when I get asked where a company that has purchased or is purchasing HubSpot should build its website, I always say HubSpot.
From a development perspective, and even a community perspective with the growing number of HubSpot users and partners, there are only a few notable differences between the platforms. However, there aren’t enough differences to write a blog about anymore. Yes, WordPress has more database functionality, and yes, HubSpot has the security and stability of a managed SaaS platform. But is that enough to debate WordPress or HubSpot?
When it comes to SMB websites and enterprise company microsites, I wouldn’t push a client in any other direction than HubSpot Websites or WordPress. Developed correctly, each platform makes it easy for average users to maintain, update and expand their site. I use and love them both. The difference isn’t in the CMS’s, though. It’s in the marketing strategy.
When a company purchases HubSpot, it’s making a commitment to do marketing in a fundamentally different way. That includes how you manage and build your website or sites. The software is built around the inbound marketing philosophy, something that’s baked so deeply in the core of the platform that people who don’t buy in get frustrated. When HubSpot doesn’t do something, I tell people it’s because you shouldn’t be doing it or you should be doing it better than the marketing status quo dictates.
WordPress, on the other hand, is designed as a fully customizable CMS, with plugins for everything from SEO to personalization to email subscriptions to membership portals to e-commerce. If it’s not a plugin, there’s definitely a service out there that you can layer on WordPress to do the trick, too. And with a managed hosting company like WP Engine, WordPress itself is almost an SaaS platform.
You can certainly make WordPress work with inbound marketing, combining it with another marketing automation tool and email platform. The numerous tools required to do so, however, make it extremely difficult to maintain long-term, and more importantly to pull essential inbound marketing analytics.
HubSpot, out of the box, is designed to be that all-in-one marketing software that can track different touch points in a buyer's journey and show the value of the ecosystem, not the tactic or campaign. Combined with the HubSpot CRM and Sidekick, you can even trace a sale to each point on the path from visitor to customer. This way you know what pieces and parts are working together to generate revenue.
So in the end, the question isn’t WordPress or HubSpot. Instead, you should ask, “Am I setting myself up to be the modern marketer my company needs?”
Just a few weeks ago I received a request from an enterprise company that was moving off of HubSpot to have a backup of its website. You can do that pretty easily, contrary to what you may have heard. They needed the backup for legal reasons, in case they needed to see a published version of a page in the future after HubSpot was no longer in use. Within minutes, the request was fulfilled.
This global company’s case was not a common one. They were moving to a custom-built, enterprise-level CMS that connected heavy database functionality and deep CRM/ERP integrations that couldn’t even be developed on WordPress without a core restructure. This company’s website wasn’t a marketing one at that point, it was an international, multi-brand service site that just happened to have marketing content on it. The vast majority of companies don’t need anything like it.
They needed to own their site. But the moment someone suggests hosting a WordPress on the same servers you’ve already purchased, be it Amazon Web Services or proprietary server sets, you’ve given the ownership of your Web marketing to the IT department. Sure, the company controls it, but marketing does not.
When it comes right down to it, most company websites are marketing properties designed to move people from visitor to lead to customer through multiple digital touch points. Your site data needs to feed down to your CRM and out to advertising platforms so you can present the right information to the right person at the right time.
IT certainly needs to be involved, depending on domain control or systems communication, but the day-to-day ownership of the site itself—right down to hosting and development—needs to stay in marketing’s hands.
HubSpot vs. WordPress is like debating Apple vs. Google. The system itself only matters depending on what you need to get from it. I’m an Android, Chrome browser, Chrome OS, Google Play and Chromecast user, so I’m committed to Google services. My Apple friends are mostly committed to Apple’s iTunes, iCloud, iMessaging and Facetime.
When I use the Macbook Air provided by Kuno with Google’s Chrome browser, I know that I’m not getting the best experience. Chrome is better on a Chromebook, even a low-end one. Using Hangouts with an Apple friend isn’t nearly as easy as Facetiming from my Macbook Air.
That’s what using WordPress with HubSpot is really like. So in the end, it’s not open source vs. proprietary. It’s not plugins vs. custom modules. It’s not self-hosted vs. SaaS hosting. It’s not WordPress vs. HubSpot. It’s about getting the most out of your investment. Don’t have HubSpot? WordPress is the place to go. But if you have HubSpot, well, the question of where to build and host your website is an obvious one. It’s on HubSpot. Every time.