Hubspot Hosting? No.
It’s hard to be in business. It’s even harder to manage business change.
Near Boston, MA, there’s a company doing some very cool stuff. Hubspot is far and away the best one-stop-to-do-it-all Internet hosting and marketing resource I’ve seen, and I’ve looked at plenty.
And I’m going to suggest you stay away from them.
Last September and October, I flirted with moving Answer Guy Central to Hubspot. I spent some money, and also spent a bunch of time with their people (great people, by the way). I dug inside the way Hubspot works, and then I ran the other way.
At the time, I promised a review of my experience with Hubspot. When I realized that I’d be beating them up for some pretty complicated reasons I became less than enthusiastic about it and that review slipped, and slipped, and slipped. Then a couple of weeks ago, Ramon Ray of Small Biz Technology asked me what I thought of Hubspot, and I’ve decided I need to clue you in.
As I said, Hubspot is a great tool. Seriously. If you need an all-in-one manage-your-web-site-and-do/manage-your-SEO solution, know nothing about any of those things, AND ARE STARTING FROM SCRATCH, the $250/month price tag is a true bargain.
There are two components to my issues with Hubspot. That “almost” is where I’ll start.
Hubspot is a proprietary Content Management System (CMS). If you ever decide to leave Hubspot the amount of work that will be involved in doing so without murdering the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work you’ve done for however many months or years you’ve used Hubspot will be IMMENSE. So much so that in real terms you’ll be faced with either giving away all your SEO juice (probably the worst thing any internetified business can do), or . . . NOT EVER LEAVING THEM.
While there’s a piece of me that admires a business that can create an environment under which their customers all but have to keep doing business with them, I wouldn’t want to be one of those captive clients, and expect neither you nor anyone you know would, either.
Oh, you can leave Hubspot any time, and they’ll give you the database containing all your information, but the work required to keep your web site functioning would be so large that I don’t believe any small business could actually pull it off. And that assumes the database is “standard”, which the Hubspot folks would not confirm . . . which almost certainly means it isn’t.
Issue #2: The rules at Hubspot are that the $250 plan requires you to let them host both your website and Hubspot’s database and SEO stuff. That’s fine; in fact, it saves you from having to host it elsewhere, so hooray! However: if you already have a web site getting it translated/transferred to Hubspot is . . . too hard.
Don’t get me wrong; the Hubspot people will do the translation for you, and that’s included in the Hubspot setup fee. And they do a great job. But then there are gotchas that have to do with how the translation REALLY works. For example, if you have Hubspot translate a WordPress-based site, you’re going to lose some functionality due to inevitably non-translatable plug-ins. Refer back to what I said above; unless you’re starting from scratch, this will become too hard, particularly in an environment like Hubspot that’s so clearly meant for non-technical types.
Get me? The Hubspot tools are great and really do help your SEO efforts, but you’re in forever with no practical way of backing out, and you don’t want in to begin with unless you’re starting from scratch.
Makes me sad, but that’s the story. Hubspot is an amazing tool, and has the potential to make it both easy and inexpensive for you to effect genuine business change.
And I’m imploring you; don’t use it.
Thanks so much for the comments and feedback. I just want to clarify a couple things that may not be obvious to other readers:
1) Moving from ANY content management system to another one is not easy. That means from WordPress to Drupal, or WordPress to HubSpot, or HubSpot to Drupal, etc. There is nothing about HubSpot that makes this move harder, it is equally hard to move your website no matter what software you use.
2) You do not have to have your website hosted at HubSpot to use the rest of our marketing software tools (landing pages, SEO, social media, email marketing, lead nurturing, marketing analytics). We have product options available that integrate into your exisiting website so you don’t need to move your website if you don’t want to. (And today we are even testing some options at $250/month that do not require you to use our CMS.)
I will say that while you have decided that moving your website to HubSpot is not the right move for you, that does not mean it is not right for everyone. We have found that most small businesses need to use our CMS because they currently have no control over their website. I can see that for you this is probably not the case since you are a technically skilled person. However, most small and medium sized businesses do not have these capabilities to edit their website, and they are unable to get any results from using HubSpot unless they can edit and improve their website, so to make sure they are most likely to get the best results, we do encourage a lot of our smaller businesses to use our CMS.
I hope at some point you give HubSpot another look. We have added a lot of new functionality (email marketing!) and now also have even more options to use our product without using our CMS if you don’t want to.
Thanks again for the feedback!
Mike, your comments are fair, and I genuinely appreciate that. Thank you!
Once upon a time, I did TV for CBS News on their overnight news program Up To The Minute, and reviewed a piece of software based against the first Toy Story movie which was MAGNIFICENT, except . . . it kept crashing the computers it ran on. I gave it 10/10 points on two of three ratings scales, and 1/10 on the third (technical).
The Disney folks called the next morning and made a similar argument to yours. My response was “it is what it is”.
I appreciate the heck out of the fact that you haven’t demanded a retraction, as they did . . . 🙂
And with a number of months passed, I see that someone landed here asking the question “can you move a website away from hubspot?” at Google.
The answer, of course, is still “not really”.
We are in the process of trying to move away from Hubspot. I don’t know how to do it, but if a company out there knows how to, I am willing to listen.
Karla, one of the things we do here at Answer Guy Central is help with web-based database stuff . . . like moving businesses off one platform to another. I’d be happy to talk about how we can get you out of Hubspot. If you like, contact me about leaving Hubspot, here.
I’m going thru this with a client right now. They are currently with Hubspot and unhappy. They want to move to another host and after a call and some research, discovered it is not possible. If they had a Joomla site and just wanted to move hosts, that is much easier, but Hubspot uses a proprietary software that can only be used if you host with Hubspot. So they are essentially holding your files hostage. My client will not have to either extend his “contract” with Hubspot or hire a designer (me or someone else) to start from scratch and redo the site. This is a fail. It is not necessary to have to completely redo your site every 1-3 years and I feel bad for the client, but unfortunately, my hands are tied.
The most unfortunate part is that in the very beginning, the client was told “no problem, if you want to leave, you can. All your content is yours.” What they didn’t specify and make clear to the client is that “yes, the CONTENT belongs to the client but the actual framework does not, since it will not work on another host.” So the client signed up, unaware of what would eventually happen.
It’s unfortunate that unsuspecting folks out there are taken advantage of in this way. Better to use a more mainstream system so that you have the freedom to truly OWN your site. That way, if you change web designers or hosts, you will always maintain full rights and access to your files.
Jessica, I’m way happy that you spoke up on this.
Let me start by saying this: if you need help getting your clients’ stuff out of Hubspot and into something else (Joomla? WordPress? Drupal?), you can always contact us for that; we’ve done it with some success.
But you’re right. As I pointed out in the original piece, the Hubspot folks say exactly what you quote them as saying (“your data is yours”), but conveniently leave out that your chance of successfully migrating it to another CMS is pretty slim.
Now I can be completely pragmatic about that and say that it isn’t their responsibility to tell you how “Hubspot IN” is easy but “Hubspot OUT” is really hard; you need to investigate that for yourself, not just with Hubspot but with anyone you do choose to engage in business. But I don’t give Hubspot that pass. Why? Because the people who make up their target market are as a rule too unsophisticated in these matters to ask the right questions and Hubspot is playing on that when they give you that line about your data belonging to you. AND THEY KNOW IT.
Listen, I’ll say it again: Hubspot is a great tool at a great overall price so long as you know it’s a one-way trip. But for the most part I think businesses should stay away from Hubspot. And the fact that Google now owns a chunk of Hubspot just makes this all the more squirmy an issue.
Thanks so much for the response! 🙂 And very good to know you’re able to do this sort of “transfer”. I will most definitely put you in my “toolbox” of resources if/when this issue arises.
I do agree with you that it’s not their responsibility to be 150% forthcoming with clients, however, I also very firmly believe: What goes around, comes around. It’s pretty bad business practice for them to say “well they never asked”. New and possibly unsuspecting folks will not even know to ask those types of questions. I feel very strongly that they took advantage of my client (who wasn’t even my client at the time). You can easily tell which clients are well versed in website design, programming and the like. The information they gave my client lead him to believe it would be “no problem” to leave. Very frustrating now, especially since I was the messenger of such bad news when I had to tell the client “sure your content is yours but unfortunately you have only 2 options: stay and be unhappy or spend money to transfer and/or start over from scratch”.
I make it a general rule to be as open, upfront and honest with my clients as I can be. They seem to appreciate it and I gain much more loyalty with that approach.
I agree, Hubspot could be a great tool. But I’m wary of these new trendy services/sites that offer products that aren’t as easy to use as first described. Fortunately, we designers and developers know enough to be on the lookout for such things and can appropriately educate our existing and potential clients.
Very interesting about Google owning a chunk of Hubspot. I am not even sure how I feel about that. Most (if not all) of Google’s services are free if not open source on some level, so hopefully, they will have some positive influence.
In the meantime, I will stick with what has worked for me and all my clients and colleagues: Honesty, Fairness and Follow Through. 🙂
Great article on Hubspot we were looking at their services but are already doing well with our internet business so to find out hubspot is running their own CMS….ahhh awful we had to get out of one of those years ago so not going back there! Lainie – The Sunglass Fix 🙂
Hi, Lainie. Thanks for chiming in.
I have major issues with Hubspot, and that really is the primary reason: proprietary CMS is a very bad idea. But unless people understand the issue, they get sucked in and then … well, glad you get it!