It may seem like a good idea to put your blog on a subdomain, but is it?
Onawa: I had somebody bring up in a meeting that they were going to switch from their WordPress blog on their site to a different solution. This was HubSpot, but I’ve had it come up a couple of times with different things. And I generally had been advising people to do a blog on their site. But since this was kind of separate from me, it was a meeting within a bigger group, and somebody else brought it up that hadn’t come to me about it. But I did want to know the answer.
David: I’ve worked with several HubSpot websites before, and I’ve dealt with the outcome of this, but I have not gotten ahead of it before. And so, this is an opportunity to get ahead of it so that we can do it right. So, if someone were to come to me and say, hey, we’re thinking about killing off our website or WordPress blog or adding a blog, but we’re going to use HubSpot instead of adding the blog on WordPress, there are a couple of things I would warn them about. Number one, unless they’re replacing their entire website with a HubSpot website, they technologically have to create a subdomain for the HubSpot blog. There’s nothing wrong with the subdomain, except that Google treats subdomains as if they were a completely new domain. So, they would literally be starting over with marketing their blog because it would be as if they created a whole new website with a totally unique domain name.
Stephanie: David, I’m going to interrupt for one second. I’m assuming this isn’t just a HubSpot issue. This is anytime they go to anything outside of their website. Correct?
David: Yes. So, it would be the same problem if they had a website and they said we’re going to create a blog, but we’re going to call it blog dot, and it could still use WordPress. Right? The problem is that you’re starting from scratch. And you’re not benefiting from the existing authority and trust that Google has in your existing website because it’s a totally new website. Yeah, you’re going to link from your website to the blog or whatever you call the HubSpot subdomain. And that will help, but it’s ultimately a different domain. And so, from an SEO perspective, we’re just working uphill. It’s like we’re doing it the hard way. Now, there are many other reasons to get HubSpot besides the fact that you can put a blog on a subdomain, right? HubSpot has all these tools, and all these features, and all this stuff. And it is really well-integrated with an email list. And you can do really good stuff with tracking. And so HubSpot sells a lot of these features. I’d suggest that you could do all the things that a HubSpot blog does on WordPress, really pretty easily, at a significantly lower cost. The problem is sometimes clients think, well, I’m spending so much money. It must be that much better. I think I’ve told this story before. I work with a fairly large company. And they were spending $10,000 a month on a press release service. And I went and investigated what they’re getting for the $10,000. It wasn’t anything different than if they had spent $1,000 a month, which is still more than I would pay for a press release service. But they had so much money, it was like, well, David, you must be wrong. We surely must be getting something more. It was like they were not willing to pay so little. Right? And so, some people will approach the HubSpot blog the same way. Well, surely it must be that much better. Well, there are some nice things. The email integration is great. The integration with tracking is fine. As long as you understand, it fundamentally tracks different from Google Analytics. And so we can’t compare apples to oranges. But I would warn people about investing in HubSpot just for the solution because I don’t know if it offers all the value. You’re going to ask something about that. Lidija?
Lidija: Yeah. Before we wandered elsewhere, I wanted to ask if it was a new website. Funnily enough, I had someone inquiring today. They have a fairly new website built in an unknown builder from some hosting service that doesn’t have blogging capability. So, they were advised to install WordPress in a subdomain. So, my question to you from an SEO perspective is, is there a disadvantage to having a blog on a subdomain if there is no authority built for the main site?
David: Yes, I think there is. So, the problem is that as authority is built on the main site, it will not directly translate to the subdomain. But one of the advantages of WordPress is you can install it in a sub-directory of the main website. And people who know DNS better than me… You wouldn’t even have to have it hosted at the same place. You could create a WordPress install that lives at website.com/blog, and it would be functionally on the same website and have all the benefits as the main website grows. So, the blog authority would grow as well because it would all be functionally on the same website, at least on the same domain. So, if that were the case, that would be a better way to do it if the technology allows it. I know certain website builders or website systems might not allow that. If that were the case, or if it was just too complicated or expensive for some reason to do that, then it’s better to have a blog dot than nothing. Right? But again, we’re working uphill.
Tricia: You were talking about WordPress being done on… Did you say directory?
Tricia: Okay. I just wasn’t sure of the word you were using.
David: Yeah, a long time ago, and I know this still works, I built a website that had a whole list of all this different data about jobs. And I built it myself. And it was crazy. And I’m like, I need a blog. So, I just installed a blog on the blog directory. I just installed WordPress in that directory. The URL was always website/blog. And for everything, it was just on the same website. I just happened to have one section of the website that was run by WordPress. The rest of it was run by this crazy thing that I built.
David: Whoever is your host or providing the server that the website is on has got to support the SQL database. You can create that. Once they do that, you can upload files, and you’re good to go.
David: Unless I would imagine it was some sort of cloud-based platform where you won’t be able to install WordPress on the server. But could you do a Cloudflare kind of thing?
Dave: Well, do you mean like a redirect?
David: Yeah. Something like that.
Dave: You could…
David: Something like that where it would just go to another host.
Dave: Maybe. The problem ends up being the IP address is different, and if the IP address is different, I don’t know.
David: Right. Yeah. I guess what we’re saying is that it’s better to have a subdomain than nothing. But if we can avoid making a subdomain, that’s always going to be in everybody’s best interest. But when people move to HubSpot, it’s often not just an SEO consideration, or at least it shouldn’t be. HubSpot makes all these promises, but those promises alone are not a justification to move to a HubSpot blog. If you’re just using it for a blog, that’s a waste of money. If you’re going to use all these other advanced tracking features, advanced features like email marketing, as a CRM, and things like that, I get that. I don’t know if HubSpot is quite the magic bullet that its sales team thinks it is. But it does have some nice features, and I’m not here to say HubSpot sucks.
Dave: You mean the sales team could be stretching the truth on that?
David: Believe it or not, sometimes people do that, Dave. I hate to break it to you.
Dave: Shattered. I’m shattered.
David: I just hate it when, and I’ve seen it with other systems, like Marketo or Salesforce, the salespeople say, oh, we’ll transform your marketing. Well, Salesforce, Marketo, all these platforms do a great job getting more out of your existing marketing. But if you don’t have any marketing in the first place, it doesn’t solve your marketing woes. HubSpot is the same way. I’d almost recommend someone start with a WordPress blog and then convert it over to HubSpot if they realize they’re growing so much that they need to add all the extra features rather than have the HubSpot blog and only use 10% of the features. Well, shoot, you could just have that on a WordPress website and be done. But all those extra features… There are other ways to provide all those features. For instance, their analytics solution, HubSpot Analytics. Well. Okay. So, now you have to not only have a different set of analytics and Google Analytics, which is fine, but now you have to install your HubSpot tracking code on your main website, too. So now you’re running Google Analytics and HubSpot Analytics concurrently. Now, you’re comparing the numbers, and they don’t line up because HubSpot is first-click attribution, and Google Analytics is data attribution, so your numbers don’t match. Then, clients get confused, and they don’t know what to trust. It’s almost like pick one, but HubSpot’s first-click attribution really does a great job making HubSpot look good, whether or not it’s more effective. Does that help give you some ammunition, Onawa, to have this conversation?
Onawa: It does.
David: I’ve run into some other problems with HubSpot, where because it’s kind of cloud-based, having all the features that you might want on a website is really kind of hard to work with. It’s a lot harder to maintain a theme. I had a real struggle with a HubSpot blog because they had built the theme a few years ago, and Google is much more into faster websites. And then, we had to find a new, unique HubSpot theme developer. That was a challenge; whereas there are a lot of people who could help with WordPress, there are fewer people who can help with HubSpot. That was a challenge. It wasn’t insurmountable. And they were using the CRM feature, so it was worth it. But yeah, I just worry that people think it’s going to be their one magic bullet. And if you’ve learned anything from Curious Ants, it’s that magic bullets don’t exist. Well, good question. I’m glad you asked.
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