Is The Hubspot Inbound Certification Wrong?

Edit 5/5/2015:

Hubspot launched a revised inbound certification on 05/01/2015. The revised test was much clearer and was far less vague. I noticed that many of the questions dealing with SEO specifically have been removed. I’m sure that this reflects the more natural shifting of focus away from pleasing search engines toward being more customer focused. In my opinion this was a good idea.

Congrats to the Hubspot team on a much improved tool. I’m still considering using certifications like the inbound certification for our team but I not yet made a decision.

Here’s my badge:

Hubspot Inbound Certification - Chase Anderson

I am always looking for more efficient and effective ways to get things done. I’ve heard loads of good things about Hubspot and while this doesn’t directly relate to its paid products, I thought I would share my experience with testing its Inbound Certification.

As a marketing professional who has been around the block, I made the assumption (inaccurately) that I’d be able to pass the certification without any prep work. Instead, I got a 68% and failed.

As I reached the first question in the certification, it became obvious that my personal experience wouldn’t get me through the certification with flying colors. Nevertheless, I’ve been putting off taking the test for a few days so I pressed forward.

As I got farther into the questions, I did my best to reverse engineer the way this certification was built around its approach to marketing (that I hadn’t read). I began to grow frustrated with the available multiple-choice answers.

Let me take a step back

My goal is to identify useful tools for my team, and as such, my expectations of taking the test were not necessarily the same as someone who might have studied or been required to take the certification. Instead, I’m assessing the quality of the certification as a tool for our SEO team. With this in mind, my frustrations with the certification are probably influenced by not participating in the training prior to starting. With this knowledge, I’ve  made an effort to try to justify the questions I took disagreement with by reviewing the certification study materials. Some of my initial frustrations were resolved here but others remain.

 Question #7 –

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Obviously “Do something, learn something and navigate to their own website” is not the right answer. People aren’t looking to navigate to their ‘own’ websites as a general rule.

So what’s wrong with the other 3?

“Navigate to a website’ is listed in all 3. Google’s not pushing more and more content into the SERP via knowledge graph and other injectables to force people to visit more websites. It’s trying to provide more answers directly in the search results.

So all 4 answers here are wrong.

Question #9 –

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First of all – who really knows?

Secondly – Meta descriptions do not impact Google search results (as you’ve said in the 17 myths e-book and as Google has stated since 2009).

So all 4 answers here are wrong.

Question #10 –

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Seriously?  Give context or don’t ask the question. To be fair – the learning materials, if studied, provide the clarification and answer but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with optimizing a site to delight customers. If you do that successfully, you’ll probably do just fine in search engines.

All of these answers should be considered right.

Question #14 –

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I have no idea what they’re asking for here but all of these answers could be right or wrong.

#1 – Posts that are 400 words may work terrific in your industry. Most industries, however, have different expectations and standards. In Internet marketing, for example, posts that are longer tend to perform better.

#2 – Post subheads & bold text. Whatever, if your style guide calls for these elements use them. If it doesn’t, don’t. Someone could always avoid bold text and that would be fine.

#3 – Who says white space is a bad thing? Isn’t there a thing as too much images? What about too little? Context, industry and style all play here.

#4 – All the the above assumes that you agree 100% with all of the above statements provided. I don’t.

I wish this question more was more like:

Which of these is always considered best practices for blog formatting?

1 – Include at least 5 images

2 – Always keep blog posts 400-600 words in length

3 – Use clear and concise language your audience will understand

4 – Insert your target keywords into the post as much as possible

Wouldn’t that be a more accurate and capable question for determining the understanding of the content for a certification?

Question #15 –

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Wait, who am I writing my blog post for?

You do realize there is more than one reason to write blog posts, right? What if I’m writing a post (like this one) to engage with peers in my industry instead of my direct customers? This whole question assumes you have selected customers as your target persona for every blog post. Companies that run blogs like this are missing out on some of the other wonderful opportunities blogs provide.

And for those detail-oriented readers – “Topics that you can write about” is not a fair answer here. What – you want me to write about my off-roading hobby in a completely disconnected way from the rest of my blog content? Probably not the best thing to be doing.

Your customers/buyer persona could be the same thing, you’re just attached to your use of language. It doesn’t make the ‘your customers’ answer any less accurate than the persona answer either.

Question #16 –

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Again, a question full of assumptions.

What’s the right car to buy? The one that meets your needs.

How often should I post on my blog? As often as you need to.

If you post daily, or 2-3 times per week, are you really seeing more ROI than you would weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly?!

Cmon – people spend money to keep their blogs up to date – assumptions like this lead businesses to overly invest in strategies that may not pan out for them.

Question #18 –

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If you do #1 – Will you keep the same URL or will the post change URLS?

If you do #2 – Did you 301 redirect the old post? Did you really need to delete the content that was already bringing in traffic?

If you do #3 – Um – We all love spamming our social media followers. Obviously this isn’t a great idea but perhaps it’s appropriate for some people.

If you do #4 – What? How is this not #2?

If you do #5 – What? Did you 301 the old URL? Is there a new URL in the first place? What was wrong with the old title? What’s so much better about the new one?

Question #43 –

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I like how this question has, obviously, two choices. Both of them involve telling your (obviously clueless and inept boss) to go stick it. OK, maybe that’s unfair, but seriously?

Purchasing lists doesn’t automatically involve crappy lists that bounce and depreciate the value of your email. Also, you’re making the assumption that you’re actually emailing these people. There’s a lot more you can do with a list these days than firing off a standard email sequence to it.

What if my list is of a local population of people I service but a partner company can’t and we exchange our out-of-area targets? Should I tell my boss “Let’s hold off, we could see decreased deliverability rates?”.

Maybe I’m just strange and I don’t like it.

Question #48 –

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Wow.

After this one, I made the decision to write this post. There were probably more questions I could have included here but this one takes the cake.

As a marketer, especially one at the analyst or specialist level, I need to know as much as possible. As a general rule, I wouldn’t agree with any of these answers. I would want ALL of it.

As a realistic person, I understand where this question is going but I still feel like the premise here is fundamentally flawed. So I did some extra digging. I watched the ‘Smarketing‘ class videos.

The correct answer is ‘Marketing qualified leads generated’ but this doesn’t really account for the ROAS of the campaign. Something you really should know even if you’re not always 100% in control of the sales process and can’t necessarily translate that to the advertising performance. As they say in the class, get your marketers thinking more like executives. If they don’t know their ROAS, they’re missing the ultimate goal. If this were one of our client accounts, we would want to know if one ad or one campaign was generating a higher ROAS than another even though the cost-per-qualified leads might be the same. Know what you’re optimizing to.

In conclusion, the correct answer is all of the above.

What do you think?

I love the idea of this resource that Hubspot has built, but I wonder if there are too many fundamental issues with the certification to actually integrate it into our team. If you’re using the inbound certification or you’ve taken it, I want to hear from you. If you aren’t, would you integrate this into your marketing teams after encountering these types of questions with the certification?