Content Strategy & SEO

Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

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adefranco
Solution
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

 

Sincerely,

Angela

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Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

 

Best,

Jeffrey

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mmandel
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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@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? 

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Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

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mmandel
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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@Jeffrey, I mentioned in a reply earlier that I find that subtopic suggestions from the Content Strategy tool are often (80-90% of the time) irrelevant to my core topic. How do I get more relevant sub-topics from the topic cluster tool? 

Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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Hi @mmandel. I would recommend using the suggestion feedback. The more you offer suggestions through this, the more the model will improve and surface relevant content suggestions to you. Here's a screenshot just for reference:

Topic-Feedback.png

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sylwestrus
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

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. 

kbchad
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

Kt
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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?

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Lars
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

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Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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. 

Kt
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

 

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BradT
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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?

Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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 @GeorgeBT, 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.

 

 

sberry11
Contributor

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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,

Sarah

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Jeffrey
HubSpot Product Team
HubSpot Product Team

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

 

 

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christophk
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

Christoph

global22
Contributor

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

 

 

BradT
Participant

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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

GeorgeBThomas
Guide | Diamond Partner
Guide | Diamond Partner

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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Keywordstool-Sunset.jpg

All,

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.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu5ppweKPoo&t=1137s

 

Thanks,

George


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George B. Thomas

Inbound Evangelist

LearningOps | Impulse Creative

Trainer, Speaker, Catalyst

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george@impulsecreative.com
https://impulsecreative.com

global22
Contributor

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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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.

bendonahower
Top Contributor | Platinum Partner
Top Contributor | Platinum Partner

[Discussion] Sunsetting the Keywords Tool in 2018

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

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