A content management system (CMS) is a piece of software that allows for the easy storage, organization, customization and delivery of online content. CMS software is a breakthrough for web development, design and publishing, because no coding knowledge is needed to use it.
While coding knowledge can help unlock additional features, most CMS software is designed for usability, with WYSIWYG interfaces that people of all skill levels can use.
There are several CMS platforms that developers can work with, but only a few are in widespread use. Of them, WordPress is the best known and best suited for e-commerce and professional websites.
What does a content management system do?
A CMS greatly simplifies many important web management functions. For example, with a CMS, you can do the following without touching the site’s code:
- Create and publish new pages
- Add text, images, videos or other media
- Designate navigational elements and links
- Insert headers and metadata
- Change the appearance of on-page elements
- Update the site’s content or software
- Add plugins for additional functionality
Quality content management systems are capable of this and a lot more. How do content management systems pull it off? There’s two sides to every CMS – the content management application and the content delivery application. Here’s a quick look at both:
- The content management application – The CMA is what most people call the content editor. Here, you can create headers, write in text, apply text attributes, add in links, drop in images and arrange all of it into a layout.
Another notable feature is how a CMS enables collaborative site building. Multiple users can access the CMS and make changes to the site simultaneously, as there’s no need to download the site’s files, update them on the user’s end and upload them again. Everything is handled CMS-side. As long as the right user permissions are in place, multiple people can add, update or remove content without affecting others’ workflow.
If you have a web services team putting your site together, the process is much faster with a CMS in place.
What are the most popular content management systems?
There are several CMS platforms available to developers, but only a small handful have a significant market share. They include:
- WordPress – WordPress is the world’s #1 CMS, and about 40 percent of the internet is built on it. Originally designed for blog publishing, WP has been around for 20 years and has undergone constant development since its introduction. WordPress’s open source design has facilitated this development, and there are thousands and thousands of plugins, templates and other add-ons that can add to WP’s functionality.
It’s also an ideal CMS for small business owners, as WP is easy to use, can be customized with e-commerce features and is the best CMS for digital marketing purposes. If search engine visibility is important to your business, no other CMS can compete with WordPress.
Another reason why WP is ideal for SMB owners – it’s beginner-friendly nature means it’s easier to find a qualified WordPress developer. This means WP sites cost less to develop and typically take less time to launch.
- Joomla – Some businesses opt for Joomla instead of WordPress, as it offers many of the same functions as WordPress. It also has some SEO tools built into the software and has some advanced user management tools. However, Joomla is an advanced piece of software, compared to WordPress. As such, it’s more difficult (and expensive) to locate an experienced Joomla developer. It’s also more difficult for business owners to manage and update their own site, given the steeper learning curve.
- Drupal – Drupal is even more advanced than Joomla and requires web development experience to handle. The upside is that Drupal does offer some advanced features and extensive customizability for users who do have that experience.
These advanced features, though, are aimed at larger-scale organizations, such as enterprise companies and government institutions. SMBs are less likely to reap the benefits of Drupal, and the cost of a fully-developed Drupal site is significantly higher than a WordPress or Joomla website.
Other CMS options include Magento, Webflow, Ghost and others. These have niche audiences due to their complexity of use, specialized function or weaker SEO and digital marketing integration.
What about site-builder platforms like Wix and Squarespace?
Site builders like Wix and Squarespace attract many business owners with their simplicity, but they aren’t a good fit for the vast majority of business websites. While they are simple, site builders have impossible-to-overcome drawbacks that make them a poor choice for almost all business websites – and especially e-commerce sites. Why?
- Marketing is incredibly difficult to pull off – Ultimately, if your site doesn’t rank on search engines, it might as well not exist. And that’s the biggest problem with site builders – they are nearly impossible to market.
SEO is only effective if search engines can understand the way your site is put together. It’s only effective if Google can properly interpret the elements on your web pages. The problem with site builders is that they aren’t designed to make this easy for Google.
You can probably guess at the result. Sites built in Wix and others are extremely difficult to market – even with the built-in SEO tools that these site builders offer clients. In fact, there are running competitions among digital marketers to get site builder sites to rank, and even the experts have serious trouble with it. Imagine how difficult it is for business owners who have no digital marketing experience.
Remember, site builders aren’t invested in your company’s long-term success online. They’re invested in selling an upfront service. Once you’ve signed on, they have minimal interest in making your investment pay off.
If your site is created with a site builder, you’ll have to drive traffic to your site through word of mouth professional networking. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to leverage organic search engine traffic to grow your business.
- Your site is contained in the site builder’s ecosystem – Websites created in site builders are contained in that site builder’s ecosystem. You can’t take your site and host it where you want to. You can’t thoroughly customize it and, if the site builder disappears, so does your site. It’s like the difference between renting a house and buying one.
- Scalability is a serious issue – Let’s say that your Wix or Shopify site is doing well. You’ve still got scaling issues to deal with as your business grows. These site builders don’t offer the range of plugins, applications and other software that can add functionality to your site as it’s needed.
With these major flaws affecting all minimal site builders out there – Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify – web services firms highly recommend sticking with a full-featured CMS like WordPress.
Eight reasons to integrate WordPress into your SMB website
We’ve already addressed a couple advantages of a CMS. They’re easy to use and can be used in a collaborative fashion. However, those only scratch the surface of what a CMS offers.
The list goes much longer, especially for WP and small businesses. To illustrate this, here are seven WordPress-specific reasons why the CMS is ideal for small businesses:
- Built for digital marketing – WordPress is Google’s favorite CMS. Search engines understand WP better than any other CMS, to the point where site owners can fine-tune almost every SEO element through the WP back end. Google favors WordPress sites over others, which means better rankings and more traffic for your site.
- Easier and more effective site security – WordPress comes with important security elements built in – or at least makes it easy to add them on. This includes the HTTPS protocol that indicates data encryption. There are also many security-focused plugins that can protect business sites from hacks and cover up common vulnerabilities.
- Amazing plugin and app library – There are thousands upon thousands of plugins and applications that can be added to WordPress sites. These add-ons can improve the performance of your site, add e-commerce functions, integrate analytics, automate time-consuming web maintenance tasks, alert you to potential vulnerabilities, point out indexing issues, give you centralized control over digital marketing functions – you name it, there’s a WP plugin that does it.
Other content management systems also have their own plugins and software libraries, but they aren’t as deep or as easy to use as WordPress’s.
- Regularly updated for the modern web –And part of the reason why WP has such a deep software library is because of the community support. WordPress is open source and developers are constantly improving it, tweaking it and streamlining it for the changing web. With WP, there’s no fear that your site will suddenly become obsolete at a foundational level and leave it nonfunctional.
- Unlimited scalability – WordPress has been used to build and maintain websites for some of the most powerful enterprises in the world, including Fortune 500 companies. Sony, Yelp, Etsy, Flickr, WIRED are just a few of the top brands that rely on WP for their online presence. If it works for them, that means any SMB can scale with WordPress. Thousands of product pages? No sweat with WP.
- You can choose your web host – With WordPress, you aren’t restricted to a particular web host. You can host your site yourself or go with a trusted third party. This is a big advantage for SEO, reliability and customization purposes. A quality web host offers greater uptime and loading speeds, both of which affect rankings and user experience. With your own web host, you’ll also have more control over what you can do with your site, including moving it to another host.
- Strong technical performance – WordPress is updated constantly, and many of those updates are targeted at improving the CMS’s technical performance. Its recent 6.1 update, for example, sped up caching, reduced database queries, improved media handling, boosted PHP performance regarding block files and added many more security and performance-enhancing features.
- Responsive design and mobile friendly – Responsive websites are those whose layout changes depending in the user’s device. Responsive websites automatically reconfigure layouts, shrink or expand images and add/remove elements as the screen size changes. Responsiveness is an important feature to bake into your site for mobile users.
WordPress comes with thousands of design templates that site owners can get started with. Many of these themes are built with responsive or mobile design features, making it simple to implement best design practices.
With WordPress, business owners can get excellent customization, functionality and usability from their site
Content management systems have made the web accessible to a wide variety of businesses and professionals. The proof is in the data – there are more than 10 million e-commerce websites out there now, and more are added every day.
Among CMS options, WordPress not only stands out – it dominates the CMS market. More than 40 percent of the web is powered by WP, and for good reason. WordPress is easier to use than other CMS platforms, seamlessly fits into digital marketing strategies and offers a level of customizability that business owners prize.
If you’re looking to launch a business website, you’ll need a CMS to bring it to life. There’s no getting around that, unless you plan on coding it from scratch. And if you’re operating an SMB that’s just getting its online presence going, then WordPress offers the best mix of affordability, functionality, usability and versatility.
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