The strategy of creating high-quality content to gain brand awareness, traffic, and sales isn't new.
For years, brands have been publishing web content such as blog posts and articles to drive traffic, establish credibility, and nurture prospects into leads. Aside from text-based pieces, we've also seen a growing popularity in multimedia content like infographics, photos, and videos.
If you're looking to build a robust and effective content strategy for your website in 2020, you'll need a way to manage your blog posts, videos, images, and other creative assets. To do this, you can leverage a content management system (CMS) to both organize and optimize your content for visitors.
If you’re still getting up to speed with web content management, web editing, and web design, here's a quick explanation of what a CMS is.
Before we discuss the different platforms that brands are using to power their sites, let's take a closer look at the benefits of using a CMS.
Why You Should Use a CMS
Marketers can use a content management system to design, manage, and publish a website. CMS platforms also allow you to upload and publish specific pieces of content, such as blog posts and videos.
If you're managing a website for a business or need to create a website with minimal development resources, most CMS platforms allow you to pick a pre-designed theme and customize it around your brand. However, if you do hire a web developer, many CMS platforms also allow advanced coding options or plugins so you can add more advanced features to your site.
Choosing the right CMS can help you streamline your web processes, display great content to your visitors, and help you optimize your site for better organic traffic. However, if you have less experience with CMS platforms, you might wonder which will enable you to make the best website.
One way to figure out if a CMS is s is by looking at its current list of highly successful customers, such as major brands or competitors. If credible brands in similar industries as your own are using a certain CMS, this could mean that the platform's features are valuable and can expand with a growing company.
Furthermore, looking at CMS platforms and websites used by brands in your industry can also give you inspiration for your own content strategy.
Even if you already work with a CMS, you might feel that your current tool isn't accomplishing your goals, or you might want to keep up with CMS strategies of other successful brands.
To help you identify content management tools with solid track records, I've compiled a list of six popular CMS platforms used by big brands. For each CMS, I'll highlight a few examples of branded websites powered by them.
6 CMS Platforms Used by Big Brands
CMS Hub Enterprise allows you to build a website from a pre-designed drag-and-drop theme. After building your site, you can upload, create, optimize, and publish online assets such as blog posts, landing pages, images, and videos. Since HubSpot's CMS integrates with the free enterprise CRM, you can also align your projects with customer data and learn which assets are pulling in leads.
Brands Using HubSpot
Trello, which runs a task management platform used by businesses and individuals alike, recently switched to HubSpot's CMS for its blog.
Trello's layout is simple and straightforward, but still makes room for on-brand imagery that draws a visitor's eyes to each blog post. Using CMS Hub, they've also been able to create a mobile-optimized version of the blog which is easy for mobile visitors to navigate as well.
The Chopping Block, a notable culinary school in Chicago and HubSpot Enterprise Customer, has been using HubSpot's CMS to run its website since 2015. According to a case study, the school was drawn to HubSpot due to its CRM integration, lead generation tools, and blogging capabilities which allowed the organization to boost brand awareness with content about its classes, students, and company-related news.
On top of all the features and integrations that CMS Hub could provide, The Chopping Block's marketing team was also able to easily design a website that was responsive and mobile optimized automatically. This helps websites gain additional spikes in mobile traffic without a developer needing to even step in.
Within nine months, the website received over 260 thousand views -- more than half of which were organic. The company points to CMS Hub's SEO capabilities for the organic spike, seen in the graph below.
For years, AmeriFirst Home Mortgage has used HubSpot's CRM and COS -- a content optimization system similar to our current CMS -- to increase website traffic and leads through inbound marketing.
According to a HubSpot case study, the HubSpot software and its content management aspects helped the organization revitalize its strategy. Prior to building out a blog, landing pages, an email strategy, and an optimized website, AmeriFirst would cold call or reach out to people on lists they purchased. They saw that this strategy was wasting time and resources and wanted to define a new strategy that would provide ROI:
The AmeriFirst Blog, which leverages HubSpot's content management features is fairly straightforward and incredibly easy to navigate. It also includes features such as a slide in "Subscribe" CTA which shows up at the bottom of the page as an interested visitor scrolls down to look at the content on the homepage:
After one year of using the platform, HubSpot led AmeriFirst to receive 3.8X more traffic and 51.7X more leads. Over a two year period, they attributed a 5% sales increase to HubSpot.
WordPress, which originally launched as blogging software, has evolved into one of the most popular open-source CMS platforms. Due to the platform's nature, which emphasizes editorial features like article and blog publishing, it's regularly used in publishing and blog-friendly industries. Because its interface and website themes are quite simple to use, it might be useful for smaller businesses that are just building out their web strategy or have less experience with design.
If you're a tech-savvy web editor or developer who wants to add customizations to your site, WordPress allows a number of plugins and other personalization opportunities. Here are a few examples of companies you may know that use WordPress:
Brands Using WordPress
TechCrunch, which regularly publishes tech-related news, articles, and videos, has a WordPress-run website that emphasizes its editorial nature.
Its home-page is fairly straight forward as one story with a large image is located on the center of the page and other stories are highlighted with just text-based headlines. This layout also includes a detailed navigation bar and room for ad space.
In an article that announced TechCrunch's 2018 site redesign, the publication noted why they've been loyal to the WordPress CMS.
"[WordPress] handles content authoring, delivering, and caching very well. There’s a reason it’s the CMS powering around a quarter of the internet, and let’s be real — our small team isn’t going to reinvent that wheel and do it better than WordPress’s massive community already has."
BBC uses Wordpress for its BBC America site. Its layout is simple, sleek, and photo-friendly. There's also a clearly marked navigation bar and room for ad space.
While many publications, like TechCrunch, might have a text-centric layout to highlight long-form articles, BBC America's design puts visuals from its television shows front and center.
For example, towards the top of the page, you see a header image and overlayed headline. Then, as you scroll down, you see smaller images with overlayed text that present other shows or pieces of content. This layout is perfect for a highly-visual brand as it draws visitor's eyes to a variety of highly visual pieces of content.
Aside from being visually enticing, the website is also mobile-optimized, which allows smartphone or tablet-based visitors to scroll smoothly through BBC America's content as well.
As you scroll down, you'll also notice that there's a block dedicated to video content and another area specifically for record label-related news.
With WordPress, Sony is able to highlight content in multiple media types. This type of layout could also be helpful for a brand that needs to present text-based and multimedia content to give visitors valuable information about their company.
While PlayStation doesn't specify what platform powers its main website, the gaming company says its blog is run on WordPress.
Similarly to BBC America, PlayStation emphasizes its brand's visual gaming content with layouts that emphasize photos and videos. While the pages do include text-based headlines or body text, each layout is dominated by images.
Here's an example of the homepage where you see an emphasis on header images over smaller text-based blog post headlines.
Aside from the site's aesthetically pleasing look, one of the reasons that PlayStation says they use WordPress is because of the platform's flexibility with plugins.
"We heart WordPress, it’s been a great platform for us to develop and run PlayStation.Blog. However, like most software, it never does exactly what you want it to do. That’s what makes the WordPress plugin system so sweet," notes a recent PlayStation Blog post.
PlayStation says that when they couldn't find a plugin they needed, they were able to develop their own and implement it on their WordPress-powered blog.
"We’ve used a number of plugins to tweak the functionality of this blog, but ... sometimes there isn’t a plugin for your exact needs. What do you do? Develop your own. And that’s just what we’ve done on a number of occasions."
In PlayStation's case, the brand developed and launched customizable image rotator plugins as well as a refined comment reply plugin.
PlayStation is a great example of a website that has used WordPress to streamline its blog process while also using more advanced features to customize and improve its website.
Drupal is an open-source CMS solution targeted to a wide pool of developers, marketers, and agencies. The CMS allows marketers with more basic experience to create a site from a template or developers to create a site from scratch.
While Drupal and WordPress have similar features, Drupal is more suited for those who have experience with code or web development. Although it does offer pre-designed themes, users might need to perform coding for certain customizations or website maintenance.
Here are a few examples you Drupal sites that you might have seen:
Brands Using Drupal
The ecommerce giant, eBay, uses Drupal to manage content on its corporate site, ebayinc.com. This is where the brand shares news and updates about how the company is growing.
Because this site is just specialized to share company news, the layout is pretty similar to that of many other effective editorial websites. It includes is lead with a navigation bar, followed by a main piece of content shown with a large header image, headline, and one-sentence description. As you scroll down, you see a pretty standard layout of blocks that highlight smaller news stories related to the company.
While it's not clear if the Drupal CMS is powering eBay.com, the ecommerce giant might have chosen Drupal for its corporate site because it is a helpful platform for sharing and customizing content rather than just products.
While developers might need to focus more time and energy on the ecommerce site, the company website's layout is simple but effective. This might streamline the time spent publishing company news so that the brand can put more time and resources into ebay.com.
While Twitter doesn't run its main site on Drupal, Drupal claims the social networking company uses its CMS to host its developer site.
The Twitter Developer site presents resources, blog posts, and links to communities related to developing Twitter APIs.
The site's content is simple, straightforward, and often text-based, which makes the site perfect for a CMS tool. Like eBay, Twitter can focus more time on its actual social media platform and use a CMS like Drupal to streamline the process of posting helpful content and resources for those interested in API development.
Like eBay, Pinterest powers its Business site with Drupal. The site allows you to scroll to see various business-related tips and recourses related to advertising or marketing on the social media platform.
Unlike the other websites on this list, this page is designed for scrolling to find the information needed rather than using a navigation bar, It's also very simple with minimal text and emphasis on photos, colorful backgrounds, and calls to action. This layout makes the page feel more immersive and fun rather than just simple and informative.
Aside from wanting to create a design that allowed marketers in different industries to find the resources they needed, Pinterest chose Drupal because it offered the best globalization opportunities. According to a Drupal case study, Pinterest was able to integrate Smartling on the Drupal site, which allows the site's text to be translated by visitors from other countries.
The Drupal CMS reportedly powers Tesla's website and mobile app, which both have sleek, photo-friendly, and mobile-optimized layouts. The website also integrates with Shopify which allows visitors to make purchases.
The website also offers visitors a large amount of content and resources, such as videos, text-based blurbs, and interactive infographics about its cars.
Here's an example of an infographic you might see on the Tesla Model 3's page:
When brands are looking to market content internationally, some have decided to use Joomla, an open-source CMS that enables them to design and launch websites globally. While most of the CMS platforms on this list are used on the web, Joomla is a free downloadable software.
Here are two examples of companies that have used it for their international websites.
Brands Using Joomla
General Electric Russia
While GE's United States businesses run on another CMS, Joomla says its CMS powers GE's Russian website. From what Jumla reports, the site is also a fairly simple design that highlights mostly primarily text-based resources and content with some room for header and article-based imagery. The website is also mobile-optimized, which allows visitors to view it easily on different devices.
While it's unclear which CMS Nintendo uses for American areas, Joomla notes that the gaming company has used its CMS to manage content on its Nordic websites. When comparing the Nordic example given by Joomla, as well as the site you see in the U.S. both are similar and on-brand with Nintendo. However, the Nordic version seems slightly more visual.
Here's the U.S. version:
And, here's the Nordic version:
Squarespace is a newer open-source CMS and website builder that allows you to create a drag-and-drop website or work off of a pre-designed theme. While WordPress and Drupal offer intricate themes with lots of customization opportunities, Squarespace offers more simplistic and visual layouts which might be well suited for blogging, photography, or ecommerce sites.
While Squarespace primarily highlights small businesses and individuals who use Squarespace on its own website, here's one example of a large brand that's reportedly used the CMS.
Brands Using Squarespace
While Lyft can't run its entire ride-share service on a CMS, it still reportedly uses Squarespace's tool for its blog. The blog is a fairly simple custom design and often presents text-based content, which means it can be easily hosted on a content management system.
Here's a quick look at the blog, which has a centered and mobile-optimized design. As you can see, it presents off its most recent post with a large, related image, followed by smaller headlines.
Magento, owned by Adobe, is an open-source CMS platform specialized in ecommerce. While you can use it to build an online store, you can also use the tool to manage and publish content such as blog posts, images, and videos.
Brands Using Magento
Since 1979, Yakima has been a leading bike rack and outdoor sporting-good company. When the brand wanted to revamp its site and boost online purchases, it migrated its website to Magento's CMS. This enabled the company to create a mobile-optimized site and deliver visual- and text-based content related to its products.
Aside from highlighting Yakima products, the site also offers a "Learn" section where visitors can find content related to both outdoor accessories and travel.
Additionally, Yakima customized the site with help from Magento to offer a make and model search tool which helps visitors find the right Yakima products for their cars.
According to a Magento case study, Yakima reported that using the CMS resulted in a 37% increase in mobile conversion rates, a 12% increase in returning visitors, and an 8% decrease in bounces.
Boodles is a more than 200-year-old luxury jewelry company that has multiple showrooms around Europe. nown for its intricate packaging, customer service, and luxury jewelry, Boodles chose Magento as its features enable the brand to appeal to younger, highly-connected generations -- including millennials and Gen Z.
According to a Magento case study, Magento 2's open-source CMS allows the company to run a highly visual, mobile-optimized website that appeals to multiple age groups.
Aside from presenting high-quality product shots, Boodles' website has other ecommerce integrations that allow visitors to view specific pieces, schedule an in-store showing, or contact Boodles staff about a product they're interested in. To intrigue younger audiences, Boodles also used Magento to test an Instagram Stream block on their site pages.
Since upgrading its website to incorporate the mobile-optimized purchasing and customer nurturing features noted above, Boodles' Magento-based site has resulted in a 175 increase in revenue.
Picking the Right CMS
Before choosing a CMS, you'll want to do some solid research to ensure you pick the platform that best fulfills your company's needs.
For example, if you're a marketer for a company that produces a lot of multimedia projects, you'll want to choose a CMS that provides a good video player or highly visual themes. On the other hand, if you're in B2B sales, you might want a CMS that can help you develop a strong blog or has plugins related to ecommerce.
Need help choosing the right CMS or not sure what's right for your company needs? Here's a quick comparison of the top CMS platforms in 2020.
Originally published Feb 10, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated April 10 2020