Global online content consumption doubled in 2020 amid global lockdowns and other measures during the pandemic.
Website content is now a critical part of the marketing strategies of most businesses. Even local chains and single-location brick-and-mortar businesses are competing for attention online. As more content is consumed, businesses are pushed to produce more of it. This requires more efficiency and skill, as producing high volumes of meaningful content is not a simple task. After that, there’s the issue of managing it all as well.
For those who are new to online content marketing, it’s important to start with the fundamentals and expand from there. For any business getting ready to start producing online content properly, it’s important to be familiarized with the CMS space.
A Content Management System (CMS) is, as the name suggests, a comprehensive system enabling the management of vast quantities of content on a site (or sites). More specifically, it’s a kind of software that helps anyone trying to create content:
With the exception of that last point, it doesn’t take any specialized technical knowledge to use a CMS. Most modern versions of most CMSs on the market require no coding knowledge whatsoever. Even the older versions of WordPress (the most commonly used CMS) had minimal HTML knowledge requirements to become fairly proficient.
So, anyone can use a CMS to build a website with little or no technical knowledge or skills. A good CMS can be used to quickly build a whole website from scratch. That is part of the point, after all.
You could also build your own website from scratch without a CMS, but that would require proficiency in coding and creating your own system for every aspect of your site including:
The above list is short, but the details that go into each aspect of a site are highly complex and are very time-consuming unless built by a well-practiced professional. Hiring that kind of professional to help with your site can also be prohibitively expensive for many small businesses.
The advent of the CMS addresses each of these concerns with a complete package. There is no need to build a site, with all its functions, from scratch. The CMS provides the foundation and infrastructure for most basic website needs.
Despite providing the foundation of any site, most CMS platforms aren’t restrictive or stifling. You can still have more unique functions and other aspects built into your site on top of the CMS infrastructure. In this way, a CMS is a win-win for the vast majority of businesses with an online presence. For any marketing website, a CMS is an absolute must for remaining competitive over time.
Knowing all this, it’s no surprise that about half of all websites use a CMS. While they aren’t needed for every kind of website, if your goal is to gain more online traffic, a CMS is a must. The only challenge is choosing the right CMS for your needs.
There are several factors to look for when choosing a CMS. You will likely end up using your chosen CMS continuously over a long period of time. So, taking the time to consider the following factors carefully can help you avoid a serious headache.
The CMS you choose should end up making your life easier, not harder. That may sound obvious, but people often overlook simplicity in favor of what looks better or seems more advanced. But non-essential features and all other factors should take a back seat to how easy a CMS is to use day-to-day.
It will always take you some time to become accustomed to a CMS. If you run a larger organization or are looking for scalable solutions, you must also consider how easy it is to teach others how to use your CMS.
Beyond the learning stages, you will need to perform many daily tasks ranging from the fairly complex to the completely mundane. Repetitive tasks don’t need to feel burdensome or take much time. This is where User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design come into play. Modern UX and UI standards make most software solutions easy enough that a 12-year-old could be taught to use them. When it comes to the interfaces of your CMS, it should be just that easy.
Drag-and-drop interfaces and smooth, clear drop-down menus are some of the design aspects you should expect. These factors also play an important part in the publishing and editing processes. Adding elements and editing drafts should be easy.
Reviews for ease of use (we will provide a few) should play a part in your search. Where possible, free trials and video reviews, and demonstrations can help you make sure you’re making the right decision.
Every kind of software can experience technical difficulties. There are sometimes issues with even the best CMS options. But the way they are managed will make a huge difference during day-to-day operations.
Vetting for customer service is key for a few reasons.
First, CMS will likely become an important part of day-to-day business tasks. Once you come to rely on a CMS, service interruptions quickly become stressful and damaging. While bad things inevitably happen every so often, it’s easier to handle when the support you need is easy to reach and professional in delivery.
Most CMS platforms go through pains to make their product technically sound and easy to use. But you will likely still have questions for them. At this point, you will want a reasonably quick solution. In many cases, even a detailed FAQs section will be more than enough to handle your concerns.
Good customer support normally includes:
In the best cases, you will have at least one 24/7 option for handling concerns. However, that’s not necessary so long as their customer support has at least one fast contact option during your business’s operating hours.
Comparing the availability of customer service is easy. Most CMS platforms include contact details and business hours on their websites.
Comparing the quality of CMS platforms takes some more time. You can refer to online reviews from customers on impartial platforms like TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau. Looking at a BBB also reveals part of how a business handles complaints and even refund requests.
You will end up needing to import and export data at some point. CMS platforms can differ greatly in the tools they offer to help you move your data. If you decide to change the platform you use or use a different hosting company, this factor becomes even more important.
Data mobility is a factor that isn’t very important until it is suddenly crucial. For that reason, it’s worth considering before you make a choice.
You can only be so picky with your CMS. There are common functionalities and features that you can expect across the CMS market. But in the end, one CMS can’t solve every single content management problem across millions of different companies.
Third-party integrations, extensions, and add-ons can help fill in the remaining gaps. Software from other companies should extend the functionality of your CMS.
Features and functionality are great, but you have a bottom line to worry about. In the end, a CMS should be a net benefit to your bottom line through the increased efficiency it provides. Time is money when you have elaborate content management needs.
It’s hard to state an “industry standard” cost for CMS. Some platforms are completely free to use. Some are free to use but charge you for third-party extensions or some built-in features. Often “free” means the base cost is free, but to get real functionality out of it, you need to pay. Then, there are of course simple all-inclusive monthly subscriptions.
You can’t judge a CMS by its price tag. Price tags can be deceiving, so you need to remember to look into the cost structure of a CMS in its entirety. Doing this will help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Once you know the total costs of all CMS platforms you are considering, it’s better to judge not just by total cost, but by the value you get for each dollar paid. If an extra $10 will save you hours of work per month through better interfaces and more intuitive features, isn’t it worth it to pay the extra $10?
With all the factors above considered, here are the 10 best CMS platforms.
WordPress is by far the largest CMS in the world. It’s a ubiquitous platform that powers 455 million websites. This represents just less than half of all sites. Given that about half of all websites use any CMS, you can see just how popular WordPress is.
In this case, we are discussing WordPress.org. WordPress.com is a platform for hosting blogs. WordPress.org is a CMS that was intended for blogging, but since its launch has developed into a more diverse platform offering the full range of CMS services.
WordPress is free to use, but you must acquire your own domain and pay for the associated costs. Therefore, the exact cost of using WordPress is determined by:
Contentful is a comprehensive CMS designed for the needs of medium-to-large-sized businesses. It markets itself as the “easiest, fastest way to manage content.”
With a focus on integrations, Contentful is a common choice among omnichannel platforms. Omnichannel digital experiences are a large part of Contentful’s service. Contentful’s specialty is bringing all that content together in a centralized hub that enables seamless use across digital channels. Contentful integrates with a wide array of tools through open APIs.
It should be noted that Contentful isn’t a traditional CMS. It’s a content platform that can do everything a traditional CMS can’t, but it goes well beyond the scope of most CMS alternatives.
HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales software company. Their CMS Hub is their integrated CMS system designed for the needs of small businesses and marketing departments of various sizes.
HubSpot’s CMS solution is a part of HubSpot CRM, which offers many marketing tools. It’s an all-in-one offer for website and content management.
HubSpot pricing is based on a simple three-tier system. All plans support a full-fledged website and CMS, but each tier is for different business sizes. You will need to contact them and discuss your needs to get a quote.
Wix is a popular website builder and CMS company. It’s known for its simple drag-and-drop features which enable anyone to build a basic site. Wix is meant for beginners overall, as it makes every task easier and comes with a relatively low price tag. However, it’s also a very limited CMS platform.
Wix Pricing is built on a tier-based subscription model.
Shopify is the largest eCommerce platform on the web. It should be no surprise that their CMS platform is designed to address the needs of eCommerce businesses.
Shopify uses a simple 3-tier pricing model.
Ghost is another CMS designed with the needs of bloggers in mind. It offers basic CMS services at a low cost. Where Ghost stands out is in how it doesn’t limit where customers deliver their content. If you are a developer, it offers more flexibility. However, you don’t need any serious technical skills to use Ghost’s core CMS features.
Ghost has a tier-based subscription model. Plans start at $9 per month and are based on how many people sign up for your site. Rates top off at $2,500 if you have less than 400,000 members. If you have more, you must contact Ghost for a quote.
Joomla is an open-source CMS platform that is known for quality templates and a decent selection of extensions. What’s best is that it’s free to use.
Compared to popular alternatives like WordPress, Joomla isn’t as beginner-friendly. However, it’s an ideal CMS for users with some web development knowledge.
Magento is another open-source CMS. It’s a product of Adobe, and it has a free version that you can try out. Its main features are a high level of customization and the capacity to manage a vast library of content and customers.
Webflow is a CMS platform and website-builder much like WordPress. The company places more of an emphasis on customer support but offers features anyone familiar with the CMS market will recognize.
Drupal is a less commonly-used open-source CMS. However, it’s a good blog and article-focused platform trusted by some universities and long-form publications like The Economist. Its main selling point is its ability to handle higher quantities of data while offering high customization.
Getting good at using a CMS makes content management both easier and more scalable. Many do cost quite a bit and take some time to learn how to use. But they can become an essential component of a high-level content marketing system. The potential return on investment makes them more than worth considering.