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 CMS Hub, 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 13 key features in a CMS that can help you create and run a site.
Key CMS Features
Powerful Publishing Tools
Multi-language Content Creation
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 CMS Hub, 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 schedule automated follow-up emails to contacts who’ve filled out your form and analyze website traffic reports in the same place that you run A/B tests, manage ads, and upload URL redirects in bulk.
You’ll also want to make sure your theme is 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, update, and otherwise manage content.
Take the page expiration feature in CMS Hub, for example. Ideal for limited-time deals and event registration pages, you can use this feature to set a custom date and time when a page will expire and decide where the page will redirect to after its expiration. Ideally, every CMS would provide you this level of control over your content.
Multi-language Content Creation
To reach customers in different countries speaking different languages, you need a CMS with multi-language content features. This will make it quick and easy for you to create different language variations of your pages.
With the CMS Hub, you'll be able to not only create multi-language variants of a specific page — you'll be able to test them. These variants will automatically be associated together in groups so you can continue to manage your multi-language content as you scale. You can then add a language switcher module to your page template to allow visitors to switch between translated versions of pages within the same multi-language group.
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.
CMS Hub, 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.
With CMS Hub, you can also create topic clusters that automatically link supporting content back to core “pillar” pages. This content strategy ensures search engines can easily crawl your site and recognize your expertise on any given topic.
Social Media Integration
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.
When looking at a platform's selection of apps and integrations, check out what templates they offer as well.
Because you can use a template rather than create a post or page from scratch every time you want to publish new content, these are key to simplifying your publishing process.
It's important to note that a template is not the same as a theme, though the terms are often conflated. A template is a single page layout that’s available within a theme or is compatible with a theme and can be downloaded separately. Some platforms offer pre-built landing page, website page, and email templates to help maximize your marketing efforts.
Now let's say you don't find a template that meets all your needs. In that case, you'd like a CMS that offers predesigned templates and allows you to create custom templates and styles.
Once your site is live, it's unlikely it will look the same for long. Whether you're launching a new product or completely overhauling your site's design, there are many situations in which you'll need to make major changes to your site.
Rather than make these changes to your live site, ideally you'd like to test out these changes and make sure they improve the visitor experience before rolling them out. That's why you need a CMS that allows you to stage and preview content. While some platforms require you to sign up with a specific hosting provider or download a module, others like the CMS Hub come with a built-in staging environment.
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.