Imagine a cloud based platform that takes virtually every important element of being online, generating business online, and continuously improving your presence online and puts it all in one place. Sound interesting? Well that’s goal the people at Hubspot have been working on for more than six years now.
To say that Hubspot has achieved this vision might be a touch premature, but to say they have completed generation one and are fast on their way to completing generation two would in no way be a stretch.
I have been working with Hubspot for more than three years now and they have come along way in that time. Their software has improved through enhancements and acquisitions and continues to do so.
The biggest complaint that I have with Hubspot is that if anything they have moved too quickly.
In January of 2011 Hubspot acquired software company Performable. That acquisition helped to thrust Hubspot into the forefront of the online marketing software services field, but also presented them with the problem of how to integrate Performable’s tools into the base Hubspot product without disrupting their existing customer base. To their credit, Hubspot has done about as good a job as could have been done, but that being said, there have definitely been times that you are working in the toolset and you’re not quite sure where you ended up. Messages like “This help text applies to Hubspot version 3.0 and may not apply to your particular installation” can be confusing and frustrating when you get stuck while working on executing a marketing campaign.
All of that being said, Hubspot is finally in the home stretch of bringing their complete toolset under the “three dot oh” user interface. Their content management system being one of the final elements to see a facelift, I would expect to see a new, vastly superior version by year end. And that brings us to the features of Hubspot.
Hubspot prides itself on offering an all-in-one solution to online marketers which means it can take a company from site creation to user analytics and everything in between. The list of highlighted feature recently seen on their website includes:
- Social Media
- Search Engine Optimization
- Web Pages
- Landing Pages
- Lead Management
- Email Marketing
- Marketing Automation
I’m going to briefly break down each of these features and give a little personal insight into each one. We’ll look at where each tool is and where it is going. In this post, I’m going to focus on the content creation tools. In the follow on post, we’ll look at more of the lead and prospect collection and management tools.
Hubspot continues to use what in my mind amounts to its first generation blogging tool. The platform is o.k., but it certainly isn’t on par in functionality or flexibility with the free tools that exist in the marketplace (think WordPress or a new one we’ve looked at Orchard). It is a little surprising that the next generation of the platform has taken so long given that blogging is such and important part of a content marketing strategy.
It’s an advance text editor, period. One nice feature is its built-in ability to examine the contents of your blog post and make suggestions to improve its search engine optimization. This analysis tool sits right alongside your post as you enter it and updates real-time with suggested improvements. It will tell you things like if you are using targeted keywords, if your titles are too long, or if your content is too short.
I am looking forward to a refresh of the blogging platform which should be coming soon (probably to be announced at the Inbound 2013 conference in August 2013). It will not only make Hubspot a more complete product it will remove excuses for companies to not migrate existing blogs to their platform.
Once your content is created, you’re going to need to promote it. Social Media promotion is a key to your inbound/content marketing strategy. Hubspot has most all the bases covered for a basic social media management tool. It allows you to link your primary social media accounts together so that you have a social media dashboard for both reading and posting to your accounts, it allows you to schedule social media messages in advance and helps you target the specific networks you want to reach. From a social media listening perspective, it allows you to monitor mentions of you, your brand or your industry.
Recently Hubspot introduced the concept of Social Inbox. Social Inbox helps you to track the important actions that your customers or prospects are making on social networks. For more, read What is Hubspot’s Social Inbox?
Search Engine Optimization
Getting people to your site is the first building block of inbound marketing and Hubspot is designed to help. Creation of relevant, interesting content is the cornerstone of SEO, so there is no substitute to creating interesting and compelling content. What Hubspot helps to ensure, is that the content you are creating is more likely to attract the right kind of visitors to your website.
Hubspot offers a keyword research tools to help you prioritize which keywords you should target (hint: target keywords that get lots of inquiries but has low competition), and helps to make sure you are staying true to your keyword strategy within the content creation tools.
The SEO components within Hubspot also include link tracking and competitor tracking so you can follow who is linking to your content and who is linking to your competitors and for what keywords.
I have yet to find a keyword tracking tool that I really like and Hubspot’s doesn’t change my feeling. I have worked with SEOMoz and looked briefly at SEMRush. If you know of a really great one you like working with, PLEASE let me know in the comments.
Web Pages/Content Management
The Hubspot CMS is the tool that you can use to build the foundational pages of your website. It allows people who are not skilled developers to create nice looking web pages and to piece together a solid and effective web presence. It is primarily for people who have not yet created a web site or who have a small, static site that is easily migrated.
Larger sites with dynamic content are not easily migrated and it just doesn’t make sense to migrate them (though you will have to step up your Hubspot Costs and plan). The CMS is a nice-to-have not a have-to-have feature in terms of integration because Hubspot has figured out how to provide you with much of the same integration and reporting for your existing site that you could get on a site built on the Hubspot platform (a few twists and turns aside).
The tool today is a little clunky and hard to work with, again it ain’t WordPress, but as with the blogging platform, we expect that this will a big upgrade before the end of the year, probably to be announced and Hubspot’s Inbound marketing conference. When the new version is released, we expect that it will be built on a platform that is based on responsive design so that all Hubspot based sites will translate well to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Next up we are going to talk about how Hubspot promises to take the traffic your getting as a result of all this great content, and turn them into prospects!