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What is a CMS?

Efficiently managing and delivering content is key. Explore how a content management system (CMS) is essential, whether you're a website owner, a blogger, or an ecommerce enterprise.


What is a CMS?

A content management system is an essential tool for brands that are creating, managing, and optimizing their customers’ digital experience. A CMS, also referred to as a web content management system (WCM), is a software application that enables users within the organization to collaborate in the creation, editing, and production of digital content, such as web pages, blog posts, etc.

Content management systems have evolved over time to offer functionality from helping brands launch digital content to offering a more robust system that is core to managing an overall digital experience across many different channels, such as email, mobile apps, social media, websites, and more.

Available as a cloud-based solution or on-premises system, any basic solution for web content management will help you upload or write content, format it, add headlines and images, and do a number of backstage tasks like manage SEO.

But in a multi-device, user-centric world with the increasing number of mobile apps, IoT devices, and social media experiences, content management systems with features that enable brands to deliver content faster and focus on customer experience will stand out.


Different types of CMS software

The term CMS includes various types of software. The most popular content management systems include:

  • Digital asset management systems (DAM): The primary purpose of a DAM system is to centralize and manage digital assets in a structured manner, making it easier for users to search, access, and utilize these assets.
  • Web content management systems (WCM): WCMs are designed to simplify the process of content creation and maintenance, allowing multiple users to collaborate on creating and editing web content.
  • Component content management systems (CCMS): In a CCMS, content is broken down into discrete components, such as paragraphs, headings, images, tables, and other elements, helping users to manage and organize structured content components.
  • Enterprise content management systems (ECM): ECM systems provide a centralized platform for managing content across the entire organization, allowing users to create, collaborate, and share documents and other content efficiently and securely.
  • Document management systems (DMS): A DMS is a software solution or platform designed to manage, store, organize, and track digital documents and files within an organization.


The benefits of a CMS

Content management systems currently have a market size of $62.4B USD. Why are companies increasingly taking the CMS route? Here are nine benefits to answer this question:

  1. Easy content creation and editing

    The first functionality that is commonly sought after in a CMS is its ease of use. A CMS provides a user-friendly interface that allows non-technical users to easily create, edit, and publish content without requiring extensive HTML, CSS, or Javascript programming languages knowledge.

    Everything is done through a drag-and-drop editor, allowing for a more streamlined and efficient content creation process and empowering users to focus on the quality and relevance of their content.

  2. Content organization and management

    A CMS offers tools for organizing and categorizing content, making it easier to manage large volumes of information, such as providing content for your online store. They typically provide features such as tagging, categorization, and search functionalities, enabling users to quickly find and retrieve specific content.

  3. Collaboration and workflow

    A CMS facilitates collaboration among multiple users by allowing different roles and permissions. Team members can work together on content creation, editing, and publishing while maintaining control over who can access and modify the content. A CMS often includes workflow management features, enabling smooth content review, approval, and publishing processes.

  4. Design and layout control

    Many content management systems provide themes or templates that allow users to change the design and layout of their websites without needing advanced web development skills. Users can customize the appearance of their websites by selecting different themes, colors, fonts, and layouts, ensuring a professional and visually appealing presentation.

  5. Site maintenance and updates

    A CMS simplifies the process of updating and maintaining websites. They often offer automated updates for security patches and new features, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities. Additionally, a CMS usually has plugins and add-ons that enable easy integration of additional functionality, such as contact forms, social media sharing, and e-commerce capabilities.

  6. SEO-friendly features

    A CMS often includes built-in tools and plugins for search engine optimization. They provide features like customizable URLs, meta tags, XML sitemaps, and keyword optimization, which can enhance the visibility and ranking of websites in search engine results.

  7. Scalability and extensibility

    Content management systems are designed to accommodate websites of various sizes and complexities. They offer scalability, allowing businesses to start with a small website and expand it over time as their needs grow. Additionally, a CMS usually has a wide range of plugins, modules, and extensions available, enabling users to add new features and functionality as required.

  8. User management and access control

    CMS platforms offer user management features that allow administrators to control access to the website's backend. User roles and permissions can be assigned, ensuring that only authorized individuals can make changes to the content or access sensitive information.

  9. Mobile responsiveness

    With 70% of web traffic coming from mobile phones, it’s no wonder that a CMS prioritizes mobile responsiveness. Websites built with a CMS are typically designed to adapt to different screen sizes and provide a consistent user experience across devices.


How a CMS works

A CMS works by separating the content management from the presentation layer, allowing users within the organization to focus on the creation of the content without worrying about the underlying code. It’s made up of two core parts: a content management application (CMA) and a content delivery application (CDA).

The core components of a CMS include:

  • A database to store content
  • A user-friendly interface for content creation and editing
  • A template system for controlling the website's design and layout

To eliminate the need for coding, users can also create and edit all types of content using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) content editor, similar to a word processor.

A CMS also provides features such as version control, user management, and publishing workflows, ensuring collaborative content management and streamlined website maintenance.


How to use a CMS

Deciding to add a CMS to your martech stack is one thing. Effectively using it across your marketing is key. To successfully utilize a CMS, your organization must adopt a mindset that the application will lessen the work required to manage code, so your content creation teams can focus on your website’s front-end experience via the platform.

Leverage built-in tools to customize your website experience with design and layout templates, or selecting themes that suit your brand and style. Populate your website with content, create pages, posts, or articles using the CMS editor, which often will resemble a word processor. Features like text formatting, image insertion, and multimedia embedding offer your team ways to enhance digital content.

Opportunities to enhance your CMS functionality is often available with plugins and extensions offered by the solution developer community. Examples include, adding contact forms, social media integrations, or SEO optimization tools. Regular updates to your CMS and installed plugins ensure security and performance.


What’s the difference between CMS and WCM?

Short answer: Not much.

The terms “content management system” and “web content management” system (WCM or WCMS) are often used interchangeably, and there’s no clear industry definition that lets you tell one from the other.

CMS tends to imply the creation, editing, and management of content, while WCM implies all that, plus management of your websites, themselves. Whether a vendor prefers one term or the other doesn’t tell you what you need to know, so you’ve got to look under the hood to see what’s really being offered.


Key features in a CMS/WCM solution

Important capabilities in a content management solution will include:

  1. Content management: How and the level of ease at which can you create, edit, post, and manage web content (including text, images, video, and audio)?
  2. Presentation management: Customers jump from device to device, and no marketing org has the level of human talent to optimize every blog post or piece of digital content for laptop, tablet, and top smartphone formats. You want to be able to create it once and have the CMS automate the presentation to suit the experience.
  3. Integration: Is the solution holistic or composable offering connectivity via APIs to other applications, such as a CRM and ERP tools, and to crucial external platforms such as Facebook?
  4. Commerce: A crucial integration is being able to create a personalized marketing experience with your digital ecommerce systems.
  5. Personalization: Does the solution enable you to target relevant content to unique visitors, by persona, location, or even based on past interactions with your brand?
  6. Analytics: You’re serving up content, but is anyone reading it? And what does your audience do next? Demand visibility into performance, so you can optimize your efforts and define ROI.
  7. Governance: Do you have the ability to find content after you post it? Do you have the ability to strictly control who is allowed to approve content, change it, publish it, or take it down? Can you set up a process for when content has aged out of usefulness?
  8. Multilingual support: For global companies, does the solution support translations into other languages and publishing across multiple sites?
  9. Scalability/Performance/Stability: Is the solution reliable from a fundamental technology standpoint, and does it have the flexibility to grow with your organization’s needs? Consider cloud content management.
  10. Training/vendor support: CMS/WCM solutions are increasingly complex with ever-greater functionality promises. Ensure your teams will have technical support and solution experts who can help to get up and running beyond implementation.


Use a CMS for your business today

Content management systems have revolutionized the way websites and online platforms are managed. By simplifying content creation, organization, and publication, A CMS empowers individuals and businesses to focus on their core objectives while maintaining an engaging online presence.

Whether you're a small business, entrepreneur, or an experienced webmaster, leveraging the power of Sitecore Content Cloud can significantly enhance your digital journey and improve the overall user experience.

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