[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

HubSpot Product Team

Hi All,


Jeffrey from the product marketing team at HubSpot here. We’re planning to sunset the Keywords tool within HubSpot this year, and I wanted to start a discussion here about why and answer any of your questions.


For a full timeline and background information, I recommend reading this post.


That said, here are 3 high-level reasons we’re sunsetting the Keywords tool:

  1. Search has moved beyond just Keywords. Search engines now base results on user intent and topics, and our exact match keywords tool was not ideal for telling you what to write about, or how you were doing.
  2. Rank is not a proxy for success. Many of the marketers that I speak with still want to “rank better” or “rank #1” for their content. While those aspirations are commendable, the fact is there is no consistency in search and back in 2011 Adam Lesnik, a Google search evangelist at the time, said that “rank checking is largely overrated and a gross waste of time.” It’s clear based on the personalization of search by localization, individual, device, and more than rank is becoming an irrelevant metric and is not a measure of success. Instead, we believe you should focus on attracting actual visitors, leads, and customers.
  3. Content Strategy is a new SEO tool that can help set you up for success. The topic cluster model works. We’ve seen a remarkable increase in traffic at HubSpot, and customers like IDS Agency, Townsend Security, and others have also experienced remarkable success. This tool not only helps you plan what to write, but also helps structure content in a way that is optimized for search engines and humans alike, and gives you insight into how many visitors, leads, and customers you are generating.

With that said, let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I’ll try to hop into this thread throughout the next few days to answer questions.

80 Replies 80
Participant | Partner


First of all thanks for all you do there at HubSpot. I too have to echo with most of the folks on this post and reflect my frustrations with this change. I have been using your platform for almost 5 years now, both in a large agency setting and a small, my own.


For the larger agencies, I would imagine this means little to them. They have 5-10 extra tools that they pay for on top of HubSpot. Tools for billing, tools for spidering web site data, tools for task and project management, tools for data agregation and reporting, tools for web analytics, tools for advertising, etc, etc. They pack those fees into their client billable and margins.


However, for the smaller agencies, these tools that you offer that may feel insignificant, aren't. Another tool for a small agency to purchase and drop another $100-$300/mo. We can't go to our clients that, that are also all HubSpot clients, and tell them we are raising our prices for this change, at least not after they all re-signed in January.


On the practicality side of this, I agree with what most have said. Keyword ranking and keyword data, does not matter like it did in the past and I applaud the content strategy tool, it's coming along. However it is almost 30 days of an initial onboarding for us. We need a baseline and starting point and the keyword tool is just that. At the root of all success is qualified traffic, when I build a solid content and keyword strategy, and see a 90% increase in traffic in year one and a double in sales for that same client, don't tell me that keywords aren't as important.


The bigger question is when does your product team wakeup one morning and decide social is dead, use Hootsuite? When do they decide email is no longer a effective and chat is better, move to Mailchimp for email?


I think this change is bigger, personally. You've had a message on the keyword tool for months about data inaccuracy, I believe this is related to money, sorry. On a side note, if you want to drop our portal fees to reflect a third party cost, that is really the only way to make this feel any better.





HubSpot Product Team

Thanks for the comment and feedback, @jmiddlebrook. I'll try to answer some of your points below:

Cost of tools:

I, and the team, at HubSpot certainly understand there is a cost to dedicated SEO tools that may not be feasible for everyone. As mentioned in my response above (direct link here), I think the Content Strategy tool can help you plan content to create, execute on that content, and measure the success of that content via Traffic Analytics. That said, if you are looking to validate keywords via rank tracking or deep keyword research there are a number of inexpensive tools on the market, like AccuRanker and ranktracker.


Importance of Keywords:

I want to be clear at HubSpot we are not saying that keywords are no longer relevant, in fact, a topic is generally made up of hundreds or even thousands of individual long-tail keywords. Indeed, part of the difficulty with this transition has been keeping keywords as a function to a higher standard, while deprecating the Keywords tool.


That said, we believe that marketers and agencies should now look to measure the success of content based on metrics like sessions, leads, and customers generated rather than individual keyword data like rank.


Hope this helps.



I agree with your comments. SEO a keyword needs a lot of tools to analyze and track the development and ranking of the website. I regularly use some paid tools for embeya.com (my website) including: Ahref, serprobot.com, majestic....


what type of tools you use to analyze a keyword actually i also need it for my website expats in saudi arabia . please inform me about the tools.

Community Manager

Hi @wixman


Thank you for reaching out to the Community! HubSpot's SEO tools are an integral part of our content publishing tools. You can learn more about this functionality in this Knowledge base article


I hope this helps!




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This is bittersweet for me. Asking me to log into another source for reporting/reference takes time away from maximizing HS's fullest potential for our business.




The more time I'm logged into another systems, I won't be logged into HS.  


Suggestion:  If there is enough interest, perhaps a roundtable at Inboud this year?


@Kt- I agree with your post. If you look online and look at the HS post that compares Hubspot to Marketo, Hubspot mentions that the benefit of using HS is, "One log-in, one support line, and one bill for your entire marketing platform".  They go on to say, "Time savings with only one set of software tools to learn and master."  I guess HS doesn't consider that stance at this point. I too am very disappointed.



First, let me commend you on a job well done managing this topic. I read the entire thread as well as the blog article release and Whiteboard Friday episode and... all the other resources you have provided along the way. I am more educated on this topic than I ever thought I would be. So I have to thank HubSpot for the change just because of the now new growth.

After spending a good amount of time on this here are my thoughts.

1. I am super glad we are interviewing you on the Hubcast as I think it will help tackle this topic. I hope it gives you a voice to a larger section of HubSpot users that may not read this but will watch or listen.

2. There are some super creative writers in this thread so I commend you for making me laugh and getting me frustrated as well.

3. I think 75% of this is the "Who moved my cheese" "I don't like change" "Now I have to learn a new tool". Frustration towards fear of the future and how are we going to do it now.

I think most of this frustration comes from not knowing what the updated tools will look like to cover the needed usability. But to be honest, we never seen the full future until we get there. Imagine if God let you see three weeks from now you won the lottery or you wrecked your car. How would you deal with that knowledge? Probably not well in either scenario.

My suggestion is that we all take a deep breath and realize it will all work out in the end. If HubSpot realizes they made a mistake, in the long run, they will fix it. Remember when they sunset page performance? it was back in play within a week or so of its death.

4. I have the awesome opportunity to run a Facebook Group called Mastering HubSpot where we have been having a discussion about this topic as well. Here are a couple thoughts from some of the members.

"After years of refusing to buy an additional product to compensate for a deficiency in the product I was already paying good money for (see also Reporting Tools #makeitfree ), I finally decided that refusing to buy the right tool for the job was only hurting us and not Hubspot. We'll be signing on with SEMrush shortly."

"I think it's a positive. I started using ahrefs a few years ago and before trying ahrefs - as a "newbie" - I didn't realize how much I was missing out on relying on Hubspot for Keywords. The investment in a keyword tool is peanuts compared to the value of a useful tool - and Hubspot's keyword tool has always been inferior to the other products on the market."

On the flip side they have also said:

"Sounds like Hubspot is saying that search has evolved beyond keywords. However, small businesses use Hubspot for its integrated platform. I’d rather see a less than stellar keyword tool than for it to completely go away."

"Yeah, the keyword tool is actually what sold me on HubSpot 2 years ago. I’m bummed its going bye bye"

So what is my take away?

Learn about it! Test it! Then make any needed moves after I have been in it vs looking at it in fear. By the way, this is how I live my entire life!

Now let's all go out into the world and do some happy HubSpotting.

Thanks in advance,
George B Thomas

PS. Selling service in this thread... not very "inbound" bro but, we still love ya.

Contributor | Diamond Partner
Contributor | Diamond Partner

"I think 75% of this is the "Who moved my cheese" "I don't like change" "Now I have to learn a new tool". Frustration towards fear of the future and how are we going to do it now."


I think differently. 


Hubspot is trying to look like Apple telling us they are going where the puck will be. What is really happening is… they are telling us the puck doesn't matter anymore. #KeywordsMatter.


Think about it. They are saying a single topic cluster could contain hundreds of keywords on its own. Correct? Well, then logic tells me by reverse engineering that… if I rank high on an important keyword, that should mean we are strong on many more. It is also revealing. 


The whole argument of "this or that" between clusters and keywords is made up. They both matter. They both hold water to our inbound practices. They should both be there.


Top Contributor | Platinum Partner

This is a disappointing change. I understand the rationale behind it, but I don't think this is the right move for customers and partners. I'm sure nothing will change the deprecation of this but I do hope that you receive enough constructive feedback that it something that provides keyword data for the modern internet marketer is available in Hubspot in the future.


Good reasons for keywords


1. Trend. We've all known for a long time, including end users / clients, that personalization, changes at Google, etc. make telling a business that they rank #1 or whatever and estimation, but that estimation is useful as a cluster of keywords that comprise a topic  and also as a trend. Eg. these 10 keywords about your one service used to have an average ranking of X and now they have an average ranking of Y which is much better! Our optimizations are working and we see that in the increased search volume from organic on this or that page.


2. Measurement. Again, we know that keywords aren't the end all be all to reporting like they were back in the day, but they are a useful metric when given context as above.


Let's go sell some inbound


1. "Hub." As partners, a big part of the value proposition of Hubspot is that it is a hub for their marketing. As another commenter lamented, they will need to log into another tool. What's the logical objection from a prospect when I tell them that Hubspot is great for them, in part, because they won't need all of those tools that they are using, except they need to purchase SEMRush or Moz, Hootsuite, and Similarweb (to replace the long-deprecated competitor tool)? Well, the prospect might think that that doesn't really sound like much of a hub at all. 


2. When they already have the aforementioned tools plus Constant Contact, Unbounce, DataBox or some other reporting tool, etc. it sure makes the financial conversation easier when they are already 3/4ths the way to the cost of Hubspot Pro. At least for some prospects, this changes the value proposition calculation.



Ben Donahowers HubSpot community signature
Guide | Diamond Partner



Here is a great interview that I did with Jeff and Angela from the HubSpot team!

I think everyone will better understand what is going on once they take the time to watch this.






Did this post help solve your problem? If so, please mark it as a solution.

George B. Thomas

Inbound Evangelist

LearningOps | Impulse Creative

Trainer, Speaker, Catalyst



I watched the whole video with George and the Hubspot team.  My first observation is the way that Hubspot has announced the retiring of the Keyword tool. In my oh so humble opinion, I would have put a great deal of information out on announcing the new tool (cluster) that are coming to Hubspot- and all its attributes. Then in time I would drop the bomb about the keyword tool.


But having said that, let's look at George's comment at 17:38 when he says he is not going to discuss the argument that  "I pay for Hubspot- I shouldn't have to pay for another tool." He then gives the analogy that it's like saying you shouldn't have to pay your electricity or your rent.  I don't think that is true. If I rent an apartment that includes electricity and then I am told the landlord is removing the electricity and telling me to open my windows and use candles- I don't think that would hold up.  When you buy an "all-inclusive tool" that includes various tools, unless it is in the fine print that at any time Hubspot can and will remove part of that tool, I don't think ethically it is the right thing to do. Perhaps come May Hubspot should grandfather in those of us who have had the tool, and omit it from new buyers? Is that language in the contract?


Instinctively we have been using the cluster approach but staying cognizant of the role the keywords play, and we have had great success. Undoubtedly the cluster approach works- no argument here.

Top Contributor | Platinum Partner

Another observation, a hypothetic 'topic' was 'inbound marketing services.' That sounds, call me crazy, like a keyword... Call it whatever you like. Oh well. 

Ben Donahowers HubSpot community signature

So, scrap the whole tool because of rank? This was literally my favorite feature in Hubspot and one that helped direct many of our content decisions much easier than the strategy tool. Hate this decision. 


Perhaps poll users if we find it valuable before scrapping it?


Can you believe they are making a unilateral decision without asking their customers? If you read about the largest online retailers and read their corporate philosophy regarding their customer's desires you will see that they would NEVER disappoint like this. Many agencies are upset as they will have to spend more money for another tool.




It was nice to have an alternative option referenced, just at minimum $100 a month...

HubSpot Product Team

Hi All,


Thanks for the comments. It's been a few days, so I wanted to circle-back and address a number of the new comments.


The importance of keywords

It seems to have gotten lost in the conversation here, but as I mentioned before, keywords are still important.


As I mentioned on the Hubcast with @GeorgeBThomas, there can be thousands of keywords that make up a topic -- and that is the distinction. While I think it's important to understand the difference, these terms should (and do) co-exist and will continue to do so. The important takeaway here is both are important, but as marketers instead of writing content for every individual variation of a keyword, we can create content around a topic and Google (given their technology that serves results is now much better) will help us display in searches across that topic overall.


Rank tracking

In numerous places in this conversation people have referred to the importance of rank tracking. I would highlight recommend reading this post from our SEO guru at HubSpot, Matthew Barby, on why Google rank doesn't matter anymore. As he states "If keyword rankings are your North Star, you may be traveling in completely the wrong direction."


Meta description length

We are actively working on updating the in-app character count within the SEO optimization panel, and settings tab of content tools, to reflect the new 300-character limit. I'm happy to update this thread when this rolls-out and we will also be communicating it on our Product Updates blog.


Alternative tools

I certainly understand the SEMrush may not fit into everyone's budget. Depending on the functionality you are looking for, there are other tools on the market, like AccuRanker, that are available for a far lower-cost. Before spending money on any additional tool though, I would recommend looking at your Google Search Console. Often times this is a treasure trove of data about your existing content and can help you make decisions for content that needs to be created around topics. 


To close, I also want to mention that we spoke with a lot of HubSpot customers from different industries, and different sizes before making this decision. This decision, while not easy, is rooted in that feedback and the market trends we have seen over the past 6+ years of SEO. I do understand that Keywords is a tool you all have used, and sometimes very frequently, so I want to ensure you we are putting time and resources into continually enhancing Content Strategy and make sure our SEO tools help you with a strategy that helps you be successful with your inbound marketing in 2018, and far into the future as well.




Hi Jeffrey and Hubspot team,


sunsetting the Keyword tool takes away significant value (in service scope as well as cash) from the overall tool, which is heavily disappointing.


As a new customer, I am generally thrilled by Hubspot's possibilities, and have been willing to accept numerous limitations I have encountered when diving deeper into the software.


One of the reasons we as an early-stage startup decided for Hubspot was that we were going to be able to substitute many other tools (inlcuding a SEO tool) with Hubspot, so we could have it all in one tool for efficiency reasons and yes, also save the costs that we could then allocate to the significant costs of Hubspot.



This is really what makes me very upset about this. If rank checking is obsolete or not (for us, it is not), if search has changed in a way that you need to approach it differently (which we are doing additionally to rank checking)... you can argue for weeks about this, but the result stays for us: the price performance ratio of Hubspot has just sunk significantly. 


This is also largely disappointing as you could think that Hubspot as a fast-growing company would increase its scope of services, not reduce it. Recommending brazenly to just use a tool like SEMrush in the future actually leaves me almost speechless. I'd expect you partner up with an existing tool provider to be able to continue Keyword services if you are in no position to continue work on your own Keyword tool. 


Please reconsider your decision to sunset the keyword tool. Thank you.



Jeffrey - First I commend you for how you're handling this whole deal. There will always be frustration with change. I can't say I wasn't bummed when I heard about the keyword tool, but am holding out in a positive way that what you provide us will be better. Although, I'm still going to have to be finding info about keywords so.....


Anyway, I'm trying to organize our site so we can make the switch. I'm a bit more at a loss at the how to make this change. How do we find more guidance so we can be sure we are determining our pillar pages and organizing our subtopics the best way so we don't have to do this multiple times? That would be interesting for me to look into more. I've watched the videos and read the posts, but I still have questions like:

  • We are a small company with a small product line. If I can only have 20 subtopics per pillar - is this landing pages, docs, blogs, product pages, etc.?

I'm more challenged with how different my pillars have to be from each other because I'm finding out they are quite similar and I will get up to 20 quickly as we post (at least) weekly. What do I do after I hit 20? Another pillar? Split it all?


These may be silly questions, but there's a lot of info on a site to totally rearrange everything. I want to do it right the first time as I see the pillar pages taking quite some time for us to create.


I appreciate any help that can be thrown my way,


HubSpot Product Team

Hi @sberry11, thank you for the comment. I'll try to answer your questions below:


How do I determine what should be a pillar page, and what should be a subtopic?

If you have created personas, or even just ask yourself what your business wants to be known for, there likely is a list of overall topics. For HubSpot, inbound [marketing/sales/success] certainly fit into that.


Once you have a list, you can use Content Strategy to determine the Monthly Search Volume (MSV) to see if creating a pillar page is worthwhile. For example, if your core topic gets 500 searches per month, then it may (or may not) be worth your time creating a pillar page depending on your industry. It's also worth considering using Google Trends here to see if search volume is growing for the topic you are inquiring about. Just because one of your core topics has 500 searches per month today, it may have 2,000 within 6 months and so getting ahead of this can be valuable. 


Subtopics are naturally related but contain different semantic terms. For a different example, if your core topic is "workout routines" then some subtopics should likely be based on gym equipment, muscle groups to workout, beginner exercise regiments, etc.


How do I ensure Topic Clusters are different enough?

This is a great question, and there are numerous ways of approaching it. First, I would think about the intent of the searcher that is looking for terms from these different clusters -- is it the same? 


If so, then you likely want to combine it into one cluster. If the intent of one search is purchase-oriented, but the other is educational then it can absolutely be two separate clusters.


For example, at HubSpot we have a Sales Qualification pillar page that acts as a top of the funnel resource. There are a number of other blog posts on BANT, and other related topics to sales qualification that link back to this pillar page. Closer to the middle of the funnel, we have a CRM product page (which is another pillar page). Then, at the bottom of the funnel, we have CRM comparison pages (one example) that link back to our product page.


If you have two top of the funnel topics that are similar and have similar intent, then it's worth trying to combine them. If that would push beyond the ~22 subtopic limit within Content Strategy, then I'm happy to chat further about how to split them up. Feel free to just DM me and we can talk more specifically about your content.


Can a subtopic be something other than a blog post?

Yes! Right now the Content Strategy tool only supports adding blog posts, but we'll be rolling out an update that will allow users to attach any type of content as subtopics.


Hope this helps! If you have any other questions just let me know or feel free to DM me and we can dig into more specifics around your content.




So another question, how will Content Strategy be tied to Campaigns. Right now, I add speceific keywords to our campaigns.  Is there going to be just a generic choose 'Content Strategy' added to campaigns?

HubSpot Product Team

Hi @Kt. We are determining that now, and figuring out a broader plan to make the Campaigns tool more useful. I don't have specific information I can offer about how it will look, or integrate with Content Strategy, but we are actively working on both. One way we view this is Content Strategy is (mostly) evergreen content that builds your authority, influence, and traffic over time. While campaigns are intended to help provide a step-function increase and be short-to-mid term plays that deliver significant returns. Given that, there is definitely place for both and we hope to have more information about how these will work together going forward.


Hi @kbchad. I can assure you that we are paying attention to this thread, and I am personally checking it and responding as I can. I have tried to bundle my responses and answer multiple questions in most replies, but if there is a specific question you have that I missed -- please let me know. 


Hi! Wanted to check in regarding my earlier question re Campaigns since we are getting closer to the sunsetting date. Is there an update? And if not a full plan, then what has been implemented for the short-to-mid term before the sunset date.


Looking forward to hearing from you soon! Thanks in advance.


HubSpot Product Team

Hey @Kt,


I wanted to answer your question about the relationship between Content Strategy and Campaigns. 


We see Content Strategy as the long term strategy that you pursue - how your content can build organic traffic over time to become a strong inbound channel. Campaigns are a short term strategy that complements your content strategy. Once you create a new blog post for a Topic, for instance a great next step is to promote it via a Social Media, Ad, or Email Campaign. 


As such, we're working to allow the two to be associated in the tool. This will likely involve attaching a related Topic to a Campaign, but not associating all of the subtopic content to it. 


Does that make sense? Are we missing something you'd like to see here?


Would love to hear your thoughts: lars (at) hubspot.com if you'd like to get in touch.


I love these postings.  It is an opportunity for us all to vent while Hubspot does nothing.   I have not see Jeffery reply to many posts.  Disappointing at best.


Here at Playbook we would be really, really upset to see this tool go.  We use it a lot. Totally understand SEO has changed, but tracking keywords is still very very useful.


Is there someone we can write to?

HubSpot Product Team

Hi @ElyssaNager. I just sent you a private message on the forums here with my email address. Happy to chat more about this and how Content Strategy can help.





@Jeffrey, you mentioned above that keywords are still important to topic cluster development. If that's the case, why is HubSpot completely sunsetting the tool? The beauty of HubSpot is that it's an all-in-one marketing tool. Why make your customers go to yet another costly tool (SEMRush or others) for keyword research? If it's already here and many customers and agencies are upset about complete sunsetting, don't you think it's worth considering to keep the tool? 


That's a hiper-bad news. I'm working with the niches and your cluster tools are useless for me.  I think that keywords tool maintenance was too expensive for

You are using the third-party resources and probably you had always problems with the proxies and your partner. 

Of course, I can use other apps to check my ranks, but it looks like cutting costs for me. 

HubSpot Product Team

Hi @mmandel. Yes, keywords are still important. They are important because even once you have a topic, Keywords can help uncover the specific terms/phrases that should be contained within your topic cluster. But, this is largely what the Content Strategy tool is already doing with core topic and subtopic suggestions. 


That said, to talk about the Keywords tool for a moment, it had a number of fault but here are just two examples -- 

  • Exact Match Only - We all know that search has moved beyond exact match, but the HubSpot Keywords tool would only return exact match Keywords making it less relevant.
  • TLD Change - Google made a change a few months ago that if you are looking for rank, or keyword data, you cannot request this data for a country-specific search using a domain that doesn't match it. For example, if you want rank and keyword data for German results the URL you request that data from has to have ".de" in the URL as well. The Keywords tool within HubSpot was only setup to gain TLD data from .com, which meant that it primarily returned results for English-based search and could not get data for localized search based on this Google change.

Because of the reasons above, and all of the information posted in this thread, it's why we are recommending vendors like SEMrush, or Ahrefs for keyword research. We are also committed to improving Content Strategy moving forward.


Hi @sylwestrus. Content Strategy (and the topic cluster methodology) can still work in niche markets or location-based businesses depending on search volume. Happy to chat about how specifically this applies and will send you a DM with my email address so we can talk further.