[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018SOLVE
Feb 5, 2018 9:02 AM
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Solved! Go to Solution.
Mar 13, 2018 7:38 PM
Hi all - Angela from the Product team here - first of all, thank you all taking the time to submit these responses. We appreciate the thoughtfulness, consideration, and rationale behind these comments and want to provide additional context and clarity on the themes you've cited most. Jeffrey and I have spoken to many of you on the phone but I wanted to provide some additional context behind this decision from a product and business perspective to this thread.
At this point, of about 120,000 weekly active users of our marketing product, about 3.7% view the Keywords tool every week, and only a third of them actually use it. Usage has been trending downward for the past 4 years, and many of you have rightfully noted it's because the tool itself has not provided the necessary value for many marketers and business owners to stick around using it. With a goal of understanding the value our users were looking for in Keywords, 2 years ago we asked both users and non-users what they wanted in an SEO tool. What we found was surprising. It was quite difficult to find users who solely relied on the HubSpot Keywords report as their means of doing keyword research. From there, we evaluated our offering from a technical, market, and business perspective after hearing from customers, and determined any investment (engineering time, partnerships, or otherwise) into the rehabilitation of the Keywords tool would not ultimately serve customers.
But we were not ready to deprecate the Keywords report then and there. Clearly, this tool was and is beloved by many for its simplicity and frankly it’s practicality in assessing 1) what do I write about and 2) how am I doing. In searching for an improvement to the SEO toolset, we on the product team found Matt Barby and Anum Hussain’s work on the marketing team incredibly compelling and effective: we’d found the future-proof solution we were looking for.
Beyond that, we also saw the market was moving in this direction with concepts like 10x content, the skyscraper technique, and overall search algorithm changes. Slowly but surely, we realized the information in the Keywords report such as exact-match, single-location Rank and Difficulty at odds with where this space is headed and where our offering is going. After some time, we made the incredibly hard decision to sunset the tool.
While this context doesn’t take away from the fact that a portion of loyal customers find value in the tool, it gives you some perspective into the facts of the situation. When faced with choosing priorities across a multi-tool, ever-growing platform, in an ever-changing industry, we lean on this type of data to ensure that our decisions align with the tools that you use and value most. To wrap up, I wanted to address some of the specific questions you've brought up:
1) HubSpot got in a fight with their 3rd party data provider and so they’re cutting ties.
Not true. In fact SEMrush, who supplies CPC, Monthly Search, and Suggestions data to Keywords, has stepped up and is offering to help be the rank-tracking provider of choice within their software and we’re developing deeper relations with them across HubSpot’s platform as well. More on that in the coming weeks but check them out here.
2) HubSpot didn’t want to pay to keep that data in the software.
Nope. We spend a lot of money, and will continue to spend a lot of money, to get the right data into the software, so that you can can create effective content. Cost savings had nothing to do with this decision.
3) HubSpot is naive in thinking rank is dead.
Interestingly, I agree with this. I help a couple friends and family with their small businesses, one of which is run via HubSpot. I understand very deeply the rush that comes from seeing your rank improve over time, and I understand the validation you get from seeing your domain gain traction with a specific term. I also realize that can get very, very dangerous. Solely focusing on rank as a measure of success might mean foregoing the opportunity to deliver the content that converts for your business in your industry, but holistically speaking rank does have its place in gauging what content Google values. At HubSpot - because we have the ability to see what your visitors value (what content gets traffic, shares, and conversions) we can and will go one step beyond, allowing for aggregation of content performance and topical ownership, even if it doesn’t “rank” on google. Even if it’s not a HTML page... think video, social posts, etc. all across the internet. A future that rank alone could not support.
4) Keywords in the optimization panel really helped me create content, it sucks that you’re killing that!
We’re not! I love that part of the product too - it ties things together nicely from planning to execution. We’re actually doubling-down on the product there, and pointing towards topic clusters within content strategy. You’ll see this change shortly - it will not be altogether different than what is in those panels today.
Ultimately we want to create a tool and toolset that lasts well into the future beyond a changing SERP, a changing searcher, new ways to search for new types of content, and a different perspective on what matters for success. I completely understand however that we’re in the middle of a perceived gap between practicality and philosophy. I am not suggesting that we replaced the Keywords tool with Content Strategy. What I am suggesting now is that we give content creation in HubSpot, sans the Keywords tool, a try. As the market, our broad customer base, our company, and our technologies evolve, so too should this content creation strategy. I promise we will be here listening to every piece of feedback, every commendation or moment of insight, every insult, every piece of friction, and we will make every effort to support you in this journey. Thanks again for the time and consideration.