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writer choosing products for a hubspot blog post

Hi, folks! My name’s Curt, and I’m the User Acquisition manager for HubSpot’s Blog Network. Part of my job is helping to connect you to the products and tools that scratch the itch that brought you to our blog.

We get a lot of questions about how (and why) we pick the products that get highlighted in our blogs– so today, I’m going to give you a little peek behind the curtain.

First, we’ll take a look at how we choose certain products. Then, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

How do we pick the products?

It may sound corny, but our mission truly is– first and foremost– to be a source of education.

We know that nobody comes to the HubSpot blog looking for commercials about HubSpot. You’re here for actionable insight that you can put to use in your daily life or long-term career.

With that in mind, our goal is to provide authentic, accessible content from a real human who has experience in that topic.

So it may be a surprise, but the very first step is…

Step 1: The Writer’s Preference

That’s right, our first step is to get out of the way and trust the experts.

One of our biggest strengths is that our writers come from a broad range of unique backgrounds. Before joining the marketing team, our bloggers were programmers, SEOs, sales reps, content marketers, support techs, etc.

Heck, our Director of Content Marketing started out monitoring the @HubSpotSupport Twitter account.

The point is: when we write about the 6 Best Free Website Builders, you know that it comes from someone who has been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt. They’ve been exactly where you are and chewed through those tools.

And if there’s a product they haven’t used themselves? I guarantee there’s a HubSpotter who has. Our second biggest strength is that we’ve got a vast network of learn-it-alls that are just a Zoom call away.

Step 2: Take a Test Drive

Next, we encourage our writers to try out product demos and free trials. Take a test drive. Really kick the tires. Take it into high gear and other car metaphors.

After all, tools change, and we want to provide the most up-to-date recommendations possible.

In fact, we’ve recently slashed our publishing schedule in half specifically to give writers more time to get hands-on with their topics. They’ll spend days working through trials, so you don’t have to.

Step 3: Walk a Mile in Your Shoes

When whittling down the list of products to include, we encourage our writers to think about all the different types of readers and what kind of value they’re looking for.

Because a Sales Director with an enterprise team is going to have different needs than a solopreneur who handles their own emails, right?

That’s why you’ll often see our listicles organized by categories like “Best for Small Businesses” or “Best for Freelance Designers.”

We want to make sure that everyone who reads our blogs walks away with something they can use.

Step 4: Be Able to Back It Up

Finally, we enrich our selections with data from trusted sources like Gartner, G2, Product Hunt, and more.

It’s one thing to get an experienced opinion. It’s another level to get an experienced opinion backed by evidence.

Do we give priority to HubSpot products?

If I could squeeze a HubSpot product into the front and center of every blog, my KPIs would look amazing… for about a week.

And then I’d have to explain to the Director of Media why nobody reads our blogs anymore.

Part of my job as UA manager is to balance our marketing goals with our editorial integrity. And we do that by:

  1. Only mentioning HubSpot tools where we believe they add genuine value to the reader.
  2. Making sure our blogs still offer value to a reader who will never use HubSpot.

We’re proud to highlight HubSpot as the #1 choice… when we believe it is the #1 choice. But we’re also not afraid of putting HubSpot third if there’s a better fit.

hubspot blog product curation example

(Want to know why we’re third? We’ll tell you honestly in the 11 Best API Documentation Tools.)

Do we give priority to HubSpot partners?

There are two ways to interpret this question.

a) Will we add a partner's product to a blog just because they’re our partners?

No, absolutely not.

If the tool doesn’t fit our criteria, then it doesn’t matter if they’re our BFF4L.

Caroline Forsey, the Principal Marketing Manager in charge of partner content, puts it this way:

“I will tell a partner no if the partner doesn’t make sense for the article. For example, if I have a post with Google, LinkedIn, and Meta, I don’t want to include an SMB– it wouldn’t make sense to our audience to have them pop up in a conversation with enterprise leaders.”

Here’s a real-life example of one of my rejection letters. The names have been redacted to protect the innocent.


email rejection letter for product listing request

b) If a partner asks to be included in a blog (and their product is a good fit), will we prioritize that ask over cold outreach?

Sure!

When you’re a HubSpot blogger, you get roughly eleventy-billion outreach emails per day. (That’s a scientific number.) Most of them want to be included in a blog, and many of them are genuinely great products!

Since we can’t say ‘yes’ to all of them, we do give priority to our partners. But again, only if they’re a good fit and offer genuine value to our readers.

Do we accept guest posts or sponsored posts from partners?

We never accept paid content of any kind, but we do occasionally accept guest posts. That said, it’s pretty rare.

“99% of the time, I say no to partner guest pitches,” says Caroline Forsey. “I will only say yes to a partner guest pitch if it’s a unique, hands-on perspective.”

And when we do say ‘yes,’ we hold the writer to the same high standards that we hold our own.

  • The topic cannot be about their product.
  • The article has to offer real educational value.
  • The content must offer value even if a reader doesn’t– and will never– use their product.

So what kind of content is in the remaining 1%?

“If they say, ‘We’d like to cover a case study of an experiment we ran internally, which yielded a 50% increase in views,’ I might say yes to that,” Caroline adds.

Do we accept paid product placements or link exchanges?

Nope. Never. End of story.

(So please stop asking, Kevin.)

One Final Thought

So there you have it. No matter how much it chaps my cheeks as the product guy, our Northstar is editorial integrity and not product placement.

And if that weren’t true, would you even be here reading this?

I hope that answers your questions! If you have any more, my inbox (cdelprincipe [at] hubspot.com) is always open. Unless you’re asking about a link exchange. (Lookin’ at you, Kevin.)