Whether you're creating a corporate website or an ecommerce store, a content management system (CMS) will enable you to control your site’s content, design, and functionality without knowing any code.
There are hundreds of CMS platforms in the market, each offering unique functionality to fulfill different business purposes. To select the best CMS system for your business, you need to ensure its features align with your needs and goals.
Let's say you want to optimize your content for search engines. Then you may want to use a platform with built-in SEO tools. With HubSpot's CMS, for example, you’ll get on-page SEO advice in the same place you’re creating blog posts, landing pages, and other content.
This is just one example of a feature that you might consider when selecting a platform for your business. Below we’ll take a look at 10 key features in a CMS that can help you create and run a site.
Key CMS Features
Powerful Publishing Tools
Built-in SEO Tools
Social Media Integration
At the core of every CMS is the admin dashboard. Every CMS should enable you to manage all the tasks involved in content production right in your dashboard. Those tasks include scheduling content, monitoring threats, tracking user activity, installing modules and plugins, and reviewing performance analytics, among other responsibilities.
Take HubSpot's CMS, for example. Not only can you create multimedia blog posts and landing pages in your dashboard — you can also manage, optimize, and track their performance. And since it’s integrated with HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and service tools, you can also capture leads, run A/B tests, manage ads, track contact-level insights, and analyze website traffic reports in the same place.
When evaluating different CMS platforms, take a look at the selection of templates each offer. Templates can help simplify your publishing process and provide a consistent look and feel across your site.
Rather than create a post or page from scratch every time you want to publish new content, you can use templates. For example, imagine you run an e-commerce site. You might want a product page template like that includes:
drop-down navigation support
a sticky sidebar area
customizable content sections
a grid layout
Depending on your CMS, you can either download or purchase such a template or build one. If you built your store using Shopify, then you could purchase Kingdom from Shopify’s official marketplace.
That way, when you release a new product, you can use this template instead of building a page from scratch every time.
You’ll also want to make sure these templates are responsive so that every post and page published on your site is optimized for all devices.
Powerful Publishing Tools
You need a powerful content editor to ensure you can easily create and publish different types of content — from blog posts with custom layouts to landing pages with embedded resources.
Ideally, you should be able to add images, videos, CTAs, forms, and more and rearrange these elements within the publishing interface. You’ll also want to be able to preview the post or page before publishing.
Many CMS platforms have a WYSIWYG editor, short for “what you see is what you get,” which allows you to modify a page without using HTML code and to see changes as you make them. Take a look at Webflow’s WYSIWYG editor below.
You’ll also want to ensure that the CMS makes it just as easy to schedule, publish, and update content.
No matter the size of your enterprise, it’s likely that more than one person will be publishing content on your site. You might have authors responsible solely for creating drafts, editors for reviewing those drafts, and administrators for scheduling and publishing them.
That’s why publishing controls are important. Assigning different roles and levels of access within your CMS allows you to establish a workflow for creating, approving, and releasing different creative assets.
In WordPress, you can assign users one of six roles: Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. Each role has a different set of capabilities. Contributors, for example, can only create posts, not publish them. While authors can publish and manage their own posts, editors can publish and manage others’ posts.
A CMS with built-in SEO tools will help you optimize your content for search and improve your chances of ranking.
First, you should check that the platform itself is SEO-friendly. Does it use proper HTML markup? SEO-friendly permalinks? Responsive design elements? Then see if it offers any advanced SEO features.
HubSpot's CMS, for example, offers SEO recommendations as you create content. Below you can see recommendations to include the keyword phrase in the title, add a meta description, and use two subtopics. These suggestions are all designed to help visitors and search engines better understand what the page is about, which, in turn, improves your ability to rank.
Organic traffic is only one source of traffic you can leverage on your site. To drive referral traffic to your site, a CMS should have integrated social capabilities.
Does the platform allow you to schedule and publish posts on social media? Can you add social media sharing buttons to your posts and pages? Are social media analytics included in your dashboard? These are just a few examples of important social features that you should look for in your CMS.
Insights like where your target personas are based, what device they’re using, how they’re interacting with content on different devices, and which pieces of content are most popular are crucial to refining your content strategy.
Ideally, your CMS will have built-in analytics for measuring these performance indicators right in your dashboard. If it doesn’t, then it should have an integration with Google Analytics or another popular analytics tool.
No matter how many out-of-the-box features a CMS has, it can’t have every feature that every site owner wants. That’s why you’ll want to look for a CMS with a robust offering of add-ons and integrations.
While WordPress has one of the largest selections of extensions, with over 50,000 free plugins available in it's directory, WordPress alternatives also offer impressive selections. Drupal, for example, has over 44,000 highly configurable modules available in its directory.
This enables site owners with some experience in website development to maintain granular control over the functionality of their sites. Using modules, you can add responsive dropdown menus to your Drupal site or customize meta tags depending on the browser language. HubSpot's CMS offers these integrations via application programming interfaces (APIs) with third-party apps, giving you access to every tool you need.
Maximizing the security on your site doesn’t just protect your data – it protects your customers and your brand reputation.
When evaluating different content management systems, consider what built-in features the platform offers and how much work it’s going to be for your team to achieve your security standards.
Here are a few questions you might ask when evaluating the security of a platform:
Does it come with a content delivery network (CDN) to help prevent DDoS attacks?
Is SSL included or do you have to purchase an SSL certificate separately?
Does it have a Web Application Firewall to prevent hackers from accessing your site?
Does it have a security team? If it does, is this team made up of community members or employees?
How often are static code analysis and vulnerability scans run?
How difficult is it to update the software when a security patch has been released?
Most open-source platforms do not have customer service departments that you can call with a question. Instead, they provide extensive documentation and then rely on an engaged community of users to create and run wikis, forums, user groups, and events to fill in the gaps.
Joomla, for example, has 700,000 community members who regularly engage with each other in the Joomla support forum to discuss the software.
Open-source communities can be a reliable source of information that enables you to resolve issues by yourself. However, you may not always have the time to look through these resources or wait for an answer in a support forum. Say, for example, your site went down and you can’t figure out why. Then you’d want help as soon as possible. In that case, a proprietary CMS that offers live support would be ideal.
When you’re evaluating platforms based on support, consider the different types of support they offer for non-critical and critical situations.
Finding a CMS that Fulfills Your Business Needs
While every CMS is unique, there are some core features that you should look for when selecting a platform for your business. A platform that combines a user-friendly dashboard with built-in SEO tools and advanced security configurations, among other key features, will enable you to build and grow a site that attracts, engages, and delights your visitors.
Originally published Feb 13, 2020 5:41:54 PM, updated April 03 2020