Episode 41: Why We Recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress

Hello everyone. My name is Chris Strom, and I am the founder of ClearPivot. And we will be talking about content management systems for websites, and specifically why we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress. We found that this is kind of a controversial thing to say, and I think it's because WordPress has been so dominant for so long. Most websites on the internet still use WordPress, so why would we take a kind of contrarian stance and recommend not doing what most people are doing? Well, we have some specific reasons why, and so we'll get into this. And as you are watching this, if you're in marketing, you work a lot with websites, probably. And most likely, you're using WordPress as part of it. So, I think this episode will be very relevant to you.

Backstory

A little bit of back story. When I first started ClearPivot, it was back in 2009. And I started out building WordPress websites; it grew out of freelance WordPress work I was doing. And honestly, in 2009, WordPress was really great. One of the other big website builders then was one called Joomla. WordPress was certainly a big improvement over Joomla, and it was way better of an option than just hand-writing every HTML page on your site.

So it was a great system in 2009. But, a lot of time has passed since then. I'm recording this now in 2023. 14 years later. And, in 2023, in a lot of ways, I feel that WordPress really hasn't kept up with the times, and that there are better systems out there nowadays for a lot of businesses. We'll go into six reasons why nowadays we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress sites for almost all of the business clients we work with.

Modern Functionality

The first reason why is modern functionality that HubSpot sites have nowadays that WordPress out of the box just does not have. One really common piece of modern functionality that WordPress still doesn't come with, out of the box, is forms. You can't put a form on your website without installing a third party plug-in in WordPress. That should be out of the box now 'cause forms are the key to getting your sales qualified leads, and getting your subscribers, and getting your newsletter sign-ups, and getting your event registrations for your company. All of that requires forms. And so, you really need forms as really table stakes in a content management system. HubSpot has forms built in, they go directly into the CRM, and they work really well.

Another modern piece of functionality is drag and drop editing and so that's kinda table stakes nowadays too. And, you can enable out of the box drag and drop editing in WordPress, but depending on the theme you're on, or the WordPress installation you're on, or the way your theme is set to connect with the different plug-ins and so on, you're not necessarily going to have the drag and drop editing capabilities. You might, but you might not.

Another really necessary table stakes thing to have nowadays is URL redirects. So whenever you change the URL of a page, you need to have a redirect set up from the old URL to the new URL. And it's really just common sense to do that. But again, out of the box WordPress cannot handle a URL redirect. So if you change the URL of a page, you'll either break the link to that page, or you'll have to manually install a third party plug-in, and then manually create the URL redirect any time you change the URL of a page.

And then finally, another modern functionality that is table stakes, to the point that, Google Chrome and Google search will actually warn their users if you don't have it, is SSL certificates, and that's a fancy word for encrypted connection. It's whenever you go to a website in your browser, and you see the little lock icon in your browser. That means it's running on an encrypted connection, and so people can feel secure that their information will be safe and that nobody's spying on them when they're on the site. Chrome and other browsers nowadays will even warn their users when they're visiting a site that does not have that encryption, or that SSL certificate.

And so that's really important to have. And again, that's another thing that WordPress out of the box, doesn't include. So what that means, for all these things: for forms, for different types of drag and drop editing, for URL redirects, SSL certifications, because it doesn't have that out of the box, you need to assemble basically a Franken-System of the core WordPress and a whole bunch of different plug-ins, and a third party theme, and then maybe some sort of hosting and management solution, like WP Engine, or something like that. And you have to plug all of these different tools together just to get a modern website experience.

So that's a lot of technical baggage to carry around when building a site nowadays. And when we build sites in HubSpot CMS, we can just do all of those right out the box. We don't have to set any of that up, it's all running on one integrated system, and we can just get right into the design and the content. We don't have to manually wade through connecting eight different systems together like we do in WordPress to make it work. So that's reason number one: modern functionality.

Tech Support

Reason number two is tech support. And honestly, this is probably the most important reason to choose a platform like HubSpot CMS over WordPress for most businesses. A big reason why people choose WordPress is because it's "free."

"Oh, WordPress is free, I can just download it and install it on my server." And that's not quite the right way of looking at it. Technically it's free, in terms of dollar cost, but what it actually is, is it's open source. It's open source software, it's like Linux, basically, if you've ever heard of that.

So open source is very different than free. It means you can download the software, you can do whatever you want with it, and no one's gonna stop you, but conversely, you're on your own, and no one's gonna stop you from doing whatever you want, good or bad, and no one's gonna be there to save you, if you get yourself into trouble. So there's no tech support behind it. You have to manage it all yourself. There's no 1-800 number to call, there's no " file a ticket system" to use. Nothing like that. You have to figure it out yourself.

There's also nobody managing the infrastructure for you. So you have to run your own hosting platform, you have to go sign up with a hosting company, you have to install it. You have to make sure you're running the right PHP version number. (PHP is a programming language.) You have to make sure your MySQL database running it is configured correctly. And, if you don't know what PHP and MySQL are, that's probably a good sign right there, you shouldn't be running WordPress. So, you have to set up your own infrastructure. Oh, and then there's also caching, if you wanna do a content delivery network, or a browser caching, or other types of things to optimize the loading and performance of your site, you have to set that all up yourself.

So you have to manage all the infrastructure yourself, and you have to do all the tech support yourself if something goes wrong. And then you have to do all the software maintenance yourself as well. So you have to apply all the software upgrades yourself, including security upgrades, which are the most import. Uh, There's a lot of people who target WordPress sites for hacking, because it's such a widely used platform. And so, security patches come out very often, and it's up to you to install the security patches yourself. And I've seen a lot of sites over the years, a lot of sites, where they neglected to apply the software updates, and then their website got hacked, and their site started redirecting people to overseas gambling sites, or the site just went offline and broke altogether. I've seen lots of sites get hacked over the years.

But conversely, the double-edged sword is, so you have to apply the security updates, to be able to keep yourself safe from the hacks. But, sometimes the security updates themselves can cause issues. Sometimes there's an update in the core system, that is incompatible with something in your website theme, or it's incompatible with something in your plug-in. Or maybe there's an upgrade in one of your WordPress plug-ins, that's incompatible with your core system or the theme. Or sometimes one plug-in will cause an issue with another plug-in. We've seen issues with that happening as well.

So sometimes the upgrades themselves don't always go to plan, and they can break things. Which means you also need to be regularly running your own backups on your WordPress site, so that if an upgrade doesn't go well, you can roll back to the backup, figure out what went wrong, and then run the backup again. All of that, you have to do yourself, when you're running WordPress. The tech support, the infrastructure, the maintenance, and the software maintenance. And no one's gonna save you if you get yourself into trouble.

So that's probably the biggest reason we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress, is because you sign up for it - it's a paid system, it's not an open source system like WordPress, so you have to pay for it. But what you get for that payment is, you get tech support. You you can do email, phone, or chat support. You get infrastructure management. They run the server platforms and the content delivery network, and the caching system, and all of that. And they also run the software maintenance. They're upgrading the system for you, and they're making improvements, and they're running the security and keeping it safe from hackers, and they do all of that for you, you don't have to do it.

So you do not wanna get caught in a situation, where you're stuck in some, really intractable technical problem, and there's nobody on-call to help you fix it. If you're running a business, you need to be using a system with that sort of support behind it. You know, if you're a software developer, you can run open source software, and you know what you're getting into. But if you're not an experienced software developer, you should use a system where someone else is managing all that for you. So that's the second reason we recommend HubSpot CMS over All right.

Unified Back-End

The third reason we recommend using HubSpot CMS over WordPress is more backend code consistency. It's a little bit related to the previous topic of WordPress being open source for everything, and that means whenever you go to a new WordPress site, you don't really know what you're gonna get when you look under the hood. We've worked with a lot of clients over the years, a lot of websites over the years, and any time we work with a new client, with a new WordPress website, no matter what it looks like in the browser on the front end, we have no idea what we're gonna expect when we open it up on the backend.

Because you have to run so many third party systems and plug-ins and themes, and platforms, and all of that to run it, we have no idea what kind of situation we're gonna be walking into. There might be, I'll just name some of the most common WordPress plug-ins here. There's like Yoast, there's Elementor, there's Advanced Custom Fields, there's WPCode, WPML. Those are just some of the most common ones. But there's thousands of different plug-ins and code bits and themes that people have written for WordPress over the years, and everyone's configured it a little bit differently.

When you walk into it, if you want to make a simple change to some particular thing, you might spend more time digging through the admin, trying to find which part of the interface and which part of the code base is managing that particular thing that you're trying to change. You might spend more time doing that, than you spend actually changing the thing itself.

So, like one instance we saw with a client we were working with about a year ago we were trying to change just something simple, it was a page title or something. And we change the page title, but the title wasn't taking. It wasn't updating on the live site, and we were trying to figure out why.

And then we were clicking around, we couldn't see it. We found a caching plug-in, so we figured it was probably that. So we updated the, or we re-cached the re-cached the caching plug-in. It still didn't update, it still didn't change, so we had to keep digging further.

What we found was, that website actually had three different caching systems installed on it. Three different caching systems. It's crazy. And all three of them were running. One person probably installed one, another person probably installed one later, and then a third person probably installed another caching system later.

So we had to spend our time finding and discovering these three different caching systems, and figuring out which one we need to refresh, just to be able to change the page title, or whatever it was. The whole thing took over an hour, it took, like, one or two hours. And it was just a huge waste of time. So that's a great example of you just don't know what you're gonna find on the backend. You never know what you're gonna find under the hood.

When we're working in HubSpot CMS, it's all running on the same system, it's all running on the HubSpot CMS system. The content of every site is different, of course: text and the images and everything. The themes are different, and that's great, 'cause those are the things that should be custom to each individual website. But the backend, the under the hood part, the infrastructure part, is always the same. It's all running on the same system, so we don't have to worry about, "Oh, which, which third party module is controlling the page titles? Which module is controlling the caching system? Which module is running this slideshow widget?" It's always on the same consistent backend, and so we can just get right in and work on the stuff that actually matters, which is the content and the design.

Better Spam Protection

Now the fourth reason we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress is better spam protection on the website forms. As you've probably seen yourself, if you've ever run a website with a form on it, there can be a real problem with a deluge of spam submissions on your website forms. We've seen WordPress forms really get hammered with spam submissions.

The code, the HTML code of a WordPress site, and some of the most common WordPress plug-ins, like Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms, are publicly available, the code syntax for those systems. And so, it's easy if someone wants to spam sites, they can easily crawl the web, look at the HTML structure of sites, and easily identify WordPress sites using some of these plug-ins, like Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms, that don't really have a lot of spam protection out of the box, and then spammers can just hammer those sites with spam submissions. So they get hammered with spam submissions, so then people have to install additional security measures, like put in CAPTCHA fields to try and prevent the spam submissions.

But the CAPTCHA fields can be a irritant and a lot of friction to legitimate people submitting on your website too. And we've even seen cases where the CAPTCHA form plug-ins actually interfere with the pop-up blockers and the browsers themselves, and actually completely prevent people, even legitimate people, from being able to use the forms at all. So spam protection on WordPress sites can be a huge problem. Sometimes the solutions cause more trouble, new trouble, and more trouble than is worth. We've seen that a lot.

And whenever we move sites over from WordPress over to HubSpot CMS, we see the spam submissions go down significantly. We rarely see large-scale spam submissions on sites. And you'll still get a few, but I've never seen cases where there's 10s or 100s of spam submissions per month coming through. We've been building on HubSpot sites for a long time - years and years - and I've never seen a large-scale overload of a website form from spam submissions when using HubSpot sites. It's because they have software engineers running the system full-time, they're taking care of security, and the infrastructure, and tech support on their end. And so they're putting in the anti-spam measures, so you don't have to deal with it yourself.

Python Programming Language

So the fifth reason we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress is because HubSpot CMS runs on a more modern programming language. This is one of the more controversial opinions, it seems, but I still believe it. WordPress runs on a programming language called PHP. And the HubSpot CMS templating system is based on the syntax of a language called Python. And if you know much about programming languages at all, you know that PHP was the dominant web programming language 15 years ago or so. In the 2000s, PHP was the most dominant programming language.

But nowadays PHP has dropped significantly in usage and interest. And Python, along with JavaScript now, are the two most in-demand, and most well-loved programming languages. And Python is the language syntax basis of the HubSpot CMS templating system.

So, what that means is, if you're a developer, learning and getting great at Python syntax, will be significantly better for your career than developing expertise in PHP. Python nowadays is used even in the most advanced machine learning systems, and the most advanced machine learning libraries. And it's used a lot in statistical and scientific modeling, and it's one of the most loved languages out there as well. There's a lot of demand for it. A lot of systems and a lot of companies build their software in Python. So if you're a developer, Python is a great language, and a great syntax to build in. Whereas PHP is not very well-used, and even, fairly or unfairly, has a maligned reputation in the web developer world now, and it's not a great path to go down, to focus on PHP for your career. So that's if you're a developer.

And then conversely, if you're a marketer or a company owner, and you need access to great developers, you want to be interacting in the language ecosystem that most of the best developers are working in, and that's going to be Python.

And you can see this yourself. You can go to Google Trends, you can go to trends.google.com, and you can look up interest over time, in Python versus PHP. And you'll see it for yourself. You'll see interest in PHP dropped dramatically over the last 15 years, and you'll see interest in Python grow dramatically over the last 15 years as well.

Or if you wanna check somewhere else, you can go the Stack Overflow Developer Survey. They release every year. And in the 2022 survey, you'll see that Python is one of the most loved programming languages by a significant margin by developers. And PHP is kinda close to the bottom. So, look at the Stack Overflow Developer Survey yourself. And if you want another example here, you can look up the Harvard University Introduction to Computer Science class, called CS50. They made a deliberate choice to replace the PHP component of their curriculum with Python instead, back in 2016. And they made a whole video about why they did that. So that's another data point there.

I've got several people surprised by my opinion, that the programming language itself is a major reason why you should choose HubSpot CMS over WordPress, but I think there's significant data points to back up my thesis that it's much better to use a website system using Python than one using PHP. And the HubSpot CMS runs on the syntax of Python, and WordPress runs on PHP.

Significant Productivity Improvements

And then lastly, so those five reason altogether, bring us to the sixth major reason, why we recommend HubSpot CMS over WordPress. And that is: we see significant productivity improvements when using and managing a site on HubSpot CMS over WordPress. I see it in myself. The people on our team see significant productivity improvements themselves. Our clients see significant productivity improvements themselves. And the reason is, for a lot of the reasons we described above. We can do everything in a single, managed environment. It's not a hodgepodge of tools, it's not a Franken-System of plug-ins, and themes, and hosting platforms, all mashed together and hoping that they work.

It's a single integrated system. It's running on a managed backend with tech support behind it and software maintenance behind it, so we don't have to do the software upgrades, or worry about security vulnerabilities, we don't have to worry about bad plug-in upgrades. We don't have to worry about upgrading the version number of PHP or upgrading the version of the MySQL database. We don't have to do any of that technical backend maintenance stuff. We can just focus on the website content and the design.

So we can work in a single environment. We're not jumping between tools. We don't have to spend hours and hours just figuring out how everything was put together first, in order to then start being able to change it. We don't have to worry about technical issues, security issues, programming language issues, tech infrastructure issues, all of that. We can just jump straight into the content. We don't have to worry about a lot of spam protection. And because of all these things, we found on average, we can work twice as fast. We can get our jobs done literally twice as fast in HubSpot CMS compared to WordPress.

When you're in marketing, you got a lot to do. And when you can work twice as fast, that's a huge advantage, and you're going to spend significantly more time doing actual productive marketing campaigns and marketing strategy, rather than fighting over language upgrades and database management, and stuff that really shouldn't be part of your job as a marketer, or a business leader at all. Because of that, we see huge time savings, and huge productivity improvements, and just significantly more happiness and less stress with the people using HubSpot CMS sites over WordPress.

Conclusion

So, those are the six reasons that we recommend using HubSpot CMS for most businesses' websites, rather than WordPress. We started out building in WordPress 14 years ago, back in 2009. And it was good enough, it was the best option at that time, but times have changed now. A lot of websites are still using WordPress, but there really is a better alternative out there. And that's why we put everyone we work with on HubSpot CMS now instead.

So, those are our reasons. We'd love to hear your reasons too: why you chose HubSpot CMS, or why you chose WordPress, or why you chose another system, like Webflow or, even Squarespace or something like that. Let us know in the comments here, we'd love to hear what system you're using and why. But that's our point of view, and with that we will wrap up today's episode here.

Hope you enjoyed this episode. If you liked it leave us a five-star review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. I would really appreciate it. It helps more people find our podcast and tune in as well. And tune in next time for our next episode of The Marketing Hero podcast.