Hubspot Cannot Attribute Google Ads for SaaS Companies Out of The Box. Here's Why and How
Running a SaaS company on HubSpot is becoming more and more convenient but one important aspect of HubSpot still needs a bit of tweaking: attribution.
Running a SaaS company on HubSpot is becoming more and more convenient. For the last 12 years, we have never considered using HubSpot as our CRM and Service Desk because managing tickets from customers was far more important than marketing emails. So we used Intercom, religiously.
We were all even willing to sacrifice the high price and the sub-par CRM just to respond to our customers as quickly as possible to achieve higher MRR.
But the game is changing. HubSpot service desk is getting new features by the month. At the time of writing, HubSpot has matched Intercom’s core set of features and already has a better CRM.
This means it will be super easy for SaaS companies to use HubSpot for tracking customers right?
Well, one important aspect of HubSpot still needs a bit of tweaking. And it is a show-stopper for all SaaS companies: attribution.
SaaS companies live and die on attribution. Understanding which marketing channels are working and which ones are not is vital to the health of your SaaS. But when you use HubSpot and Facebook ads or Google Ads, this is the attribution you will see….
While HubSpot does an excellent job understanding how many contacts and leads are being created by your Google ads - it does a horrific job at understanding which of those leads converts to customers.
There are two potential answers to the above screenshot. Either the Campaign is the worst campaign ever released with 0 customers created - or HubSpot is not attributing customers to the campaign. We assumed the latter and discovered a fatal flaw in HubSpot's code…
What is a Subdomain and Why Is it important?
SaaS companies have two components to them. The website is typically located at www.SaaS.com and the app is located at app.SaaS.com. Even HubSpot has this conical structure.
This organization of domains is common to support site structure. For the most part, the website is responsible for marketing and should be structured to support Google SEO to help increase visibility.
However, many parts of a product do not require to be part of SEO.
Support, Blogs, Ecommerce Stores, apps, and events are all recommended by HubSpot to place on a Subdomain.
Subdomain or Subdirectory? What They Are & How They Affect SEO (hubspot.com)
A Customer Journey
When a customer visits a website they typically come from one of the following default channel groupings. Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Paid Search, Organic Social, Display, or Email.
In fact, HubSpot is superior when tracking original source attribution to a website. Using their tracking code script on your homepage is a 5-minute, non-developer action, that can perform this level of attribution out of the box.
But if a user likes the marketing offer on the website, they are ready to sign up right? So they click the registration link and sign up for your product.
Not so fast. Your user just signed up on your subdomain. app.SaaS.com!!!
So HubSpot created a customer for you, a new customer, using their library Hubpot/API-client with the following properties.
Well, that is not very helpful. We are creating a new customer, because well they are a new customer, but they have no history. This means that the attribution for this user looks like this…
Oh boy, for every customer our original source is “API” - lovely.
How to Attribute Customers on a SaaS app to the Original Source
We have made it this far together, it would behoove me to end the blog without a solution. The good news is that we worked with HubSpot engineering to find a solution.
When the user travels from www.SaaS.com to app.SaaS.com we create a cookie to track their journey.
This allows the app to become aware of the user that is being passed from the website. Now the API can “catch” that cookie and grab the attributions from the website right?
Not so fast….
HubSpot Client API does not have a parameter to track leads. If you use the “Create a Contact Endpoint” (which would make sense) the endpoint does not support lead tracking, and so we will not be able to add the HubSpot Usertoken Parameter.
The HubSpot engineer recommends using the Forms API, which does support the lead tracking parameters.
Skipping The Double Form Problem HubSpot Creates
Without the ability to pass the parameter of lead tracking in the “Create a Contact” endpoint, we are forced to use the form API. But most SaaS companies cannot replace their registration form with a HubSpot form. This would be rather impossible to manage. The point of sign-up registration is to properly register that user securely into the SaaS product.
So the user will have to fill out two forms on the SaaS product?
Yep - the user will have to register, and then fill out the HubSpot form which will allow the API to attribute the origination source to the registering user. This surely does not improve the user flow - but there is a piece of information that we realized.
We already know EVERYTHING we need to know about that user to fill out the form!
So we fill it out for them from the API and submit it back to HubSpot Form API. We called it a “Ghost Form” on the call with the HubSpot Engineering team - but this solution was secretly happening behind the scenes and properly attributing a user's website origination source to the app customer.
Now we know how to attribute a user that sees the website first and becomes a customer. We even take it one step further and attribute “payment” all the way back to the origination source.
Attribution Tracking With HubSpot For The Win
HubSpot is improving every day and its hubs are working together like never before. SaaS companies are starting to see the value in having a one-stop shop for all their software needs. At NineTwoThree we have created 14 startups and recommend all of our clients to use HubSpot. Why? Here is a list of tools that HubSpot replaced for our startups.
- CRM like Zoho or Pipedrive
- Hootsuite or Planable
Now that we are custom integrating webhooks to move customers around in workflows HubSpot has become the tool for future thinking SaaS companies.
The only caveat is requiring a seasoned agency to connect the plugs which is why in 2022, NineTwoThree is officially a HubSpot Partner. If you have any questions about this integration or other similar problems SaaS companies face please contact us at email@example.com