Content management systems keep your website content secure, organized, and up-to-date. They also act as a hub, a foundational component to a Modern Marketing strategy as these platforms host key marketing components including websites, landing pages, and emails. By hosting your website on a CMS, you can easily add content, make changes, and add site functionality to engage audiences. The main goals of each CMS are standard, but many set themselves apart with unique features and add-ons. We’ve put together a list of CMS platforms (including some of our favorites) to help start the vetting process. Not included in this toolbox are ecommerce-focused platforms, such as Magento and Shopify, or site builders, like Wix or Squarespace. Those are each in their own category and answer very specific needs. For general, but robust CMS needs, the selections below are a great place to start your search.
#1 CMS Recommendation…
WordPress is our top recommendation for a CMS.
Reason #1—it’s user friendly. Whether you’re hosting your website or blog on WordPress, you’ll benefit from the clean and simple UI. WordPress simplifies managing and editing content buckets and organizing your plugins for additional website functionality.
Reason #2—it’s packed with features. WordPress has an abundance of features to fuel all kinds of websites, from small to large. They address common needs from search engine optimization to support for any road bumps you may encounter.
Reason #3—it’s expandable and customizable. More than 45,000 plugins are available to augment your website. While they have plenty of templates available, you can make them your own with custom code or even start from scratch.
Reason #4—WordPress has an incredibly large and active community to provide support and continually improve the user experience. There are entire websites and lists dedicated to providing resources for WordPress users and developers, so you can discover more about the CMS and how you can make it work for you.
Reason #5—We’ve proven its worth time over time. WordPress has worked for us and our clients for years and we’ll continue to recommend it to our readers.
If you need a simple CMS…
If you’re looking for a basic CMS, Perch is a great place to start. Perch provides the opportunity to build your site on the CMS, or you can upload your existing HTML and CSS files. A streamlined control panel simplifies content editing, so anyone on your team who needs to make a change can do so without any knowledge of HTML or CSS.
If you’re looking for more complex tools, try Perch Runway. While the CMS has more features, Perch Runway still simplifies content editing by keeping design and website editing locked while maintaining adjustable content buckets. If you currently have a simple website on Perch but plan to rebuild to a larger, more complicated website, upgrading to Perch Runway is the ideal route. Perch templates, admin UI, and structure remain consistent in Perch Runway, cutting down the learning curve compared to a total platform switch.
If you want total integration…
3. HubSpot COS
HubSpot isn’t used as widely as Drupal or WordPress. But the HubSpot content optimization system, a chosen alternative name to content management system, has an advantage the other three don’t—integration with other HubSpot inbound marketing tools, including CRM, sales, and marketing software. That’s why HubSpot modified the standard CMS label—because their software takes content management to another level by providing tools to optimize that content across not only your website, but throughout your entire marketing strategy. So, along with typical COS (CMS) tools designed to create websites and landing pages, you can also automatically turn website visitors into leads, optimize for search, and compare your success with competitors.
HubSpot does not offer the modules, plug-ins, or add-ons that provide the advanced customization many other CMS platforms offer. However, this also means the software is more user friendly. With drag and drop templates, built-in responsive design, and unique website views for different personas, you can create an optimized website without any knowledge of code.
Even though plug-ins are not available, HubSpot can integrate with useful website tools, such as OptinMonster. Our entire Olive & Company website is built on the HubSpot COS platform. If you already use HubSpot marketing software, we’d recommend using their COS for your content management as well.
If you have a large or complicated website…
Sitecore has the capabilities to manage large websites and sites with advanced functionality. If you host a site with a lot of pages, we’d recommend exploring this option. Because this CMS is built to handle complicated websites, it’s also more complex to use than other options on this list. This expert-level tool should be integrated and managed by a developer. Once implemented, the user interface is optimized for simple content changes from anyone on the team.
Sitecore differentiates their product by separating content from presentation. This means your content can be delivered to multiple channels from one location, so you can focus on the presentation of that content. Sitecore hosts a content repository, so every piece of content from every channel and campaign is organized and can be edited from one place. Sitecore is also a leader in multilingual content management. A unique feature of this platform is their website visit simulation, which simulates how your personas would interact with your site in real time. Based on the results, you can make adjustments to your site to garner more leads and improve user experience for your target audience.
Other Great Options
Adobe Experience Manager is perfect for the user who’s already using Adobe products, such as Analytics, Audience Manager, and Social. Each solution works together to cover the full breadth of marketing needs, and, since a website is often the hub of a marketing strategy, Experience Manager is a significant tool within Adobe’s suite of products.
Experience Manager holds website and mobile site content in one place, so you can make content changes and have them applied to all of your digital channels. From the same interface, you can also personalize experiences across your channels based on location, channel, and more.
If you have multiple websites for your company or your brand, Experience Manager can manage all of them from one single hub, even if the sites are published in different languages. While we didn’t include ecommerce-specific platforms within this post, it is important to note that Experience Manager is a great tool to manage the online shopping experience as well. From form creation and integration to automatically assigned metadata to managed services for site hosting and support, Adobe Experience Manager has plenty of features to keep this tool as a top contender in any CMS search.
Concrete5 is an open source CMS with thousands of developers consistently working to improve and expand the product. Many of the features of Concrete5 are already built into the tool, so you don’t have to worry about searching through endless plugins or extensions to optimize your website.
Standard features include a media manager, in-context editing, simple installation, and themes. Other convenient built-in features include a form builder with custom form fields, data collection and reporting, customizable blog and commenting system, user and workflow assigning, and social share buttons. If you prefer additional features, however, Concrete5 offers a selection of useful add-ons.
Concrete5 focuses on ensuring your website is secure with content approval, login history, and email verification. Support is available through certification and training, an active online community for questions, and professional hosting options.
Cushy’s tagline is “a truly simple CMS,” and that’s exactly why we’ve included this option. If you’re looking for a no frills, easy-to-use CMS, then Cushy is your go-to option. They key with Cushy is that it does not require a database to run. Your page remains static HTML and you can make all updates using the Cushy CMS interface.
This means you don’t have to install any software on your computer, go through a long setup process, or have any knowledge of programming to operate it. Cushy lets you define which content blocks can be edited or changed, which means content editors can go in and change content without making any unwanted adjustments to your website. This CMS is completely free to use.
Drupal is a free, open-source content management system. It’s one of the most popular CMS platforms with more than 100,000 users actively contributing to the community, consistently improving the software. Drupal defines its purpose as being “for ambitious digital experiences,” because of its flexibility, reliability, and creative potential.
Drupal provides top-notch security, starter kits, templates, user support, and streamlined content creation. What sets Drupal apart is its dedication to modularity. More than 34,000 module add-ons create custom functionality for the user for varied levels of maintenance and development and for categories from content to search to ecommerce to security. This also can add a level of complication and confusion if you’re unsure which modules are recommended for your needs. We’d recommend partnering with a developer or Drupal expert to understand and support your needs with this CMS. Drupal is now on their eighth series, but you can still access earlier versions if you’re more comfortable with a previous series.
More than 68 million people have downloaded the free Joomla CMS. Joomla is open source, so there’s a team of developers, consultants, and volunteers steadily working to maintain and improve the software. Joomla is known for their multilingual support, offering 66 languages.
You can upgrade to the newest version with the click of a button and get help within the app any time you encounter bugs or questions. Joomla has a simple media manager, so you can easily upload your photos and videos. Plus, the CMS streamlines the content process. With their WYSIWYG editor you can quickly edit content with no dev knowledge and easily organize and categorize your content. Joomla offers more than 7,500 extensions to add additional functionality to your website. Along with plenty of features catered to designers and developers, Joomla offers an access-control list, so you can organize who can edit and view your website.
Kirby is a file-based CMS, so you can install the software on your Mac or PC and upload your website files, without the hassle of dealing with a complicated database. Newbies beware: this tool isn’t the most simple to use and isn’t optimized for beginner use. If you have some development knowledge and are looking for an extremely customizable CMS without being locked into a database, absolutely Kirby may be the right fit for you. But, if you’re looking for a simple CMS with a large, open-source community or basic content editing, scroll your way to WordPress or Perch.
Kirby offers themes and third-party plugins to customize your site. When starting out or for ongoing support, you can find help documents, blog posts, and a forum with questions and advice from other users.
The MODX CMS provides creative freedom to its users. This means you can build a custom HTML website and power it with MODX without having to change any of your code. MODX offers nearly 700 extras you can add to your site for even further customization. Within the platform, MODX separates design and development, so both teams can work in tandem with each other.
This CMS is also optimized for multi-language websites and can be configured to change based on the visitor’s location. Do you run multiple websites, blogs, and campaigns? MODX brings all of these online portals to one place, so you can manage all of your digital marketing. For more than 10 years, MODX has focused on simplifying mobile experiences, so responsive design capabilities are built right into the CMS. Their newest version, MODX Revolution was recently released, but you can still download the previous version, MODX Evolution. If you encounter any problems working with MODX, they offer a great help page addressing common issues, along with user forums and troubleshooting documents.
Siteleaf believes in an open web and simple, effective content management. As a result, they have a few features that differentiate them from other services. Because they believe in portable content, Siteleaf simplifies the importing and exporting process. Users maintain the freedom to move content and source code to an alternative CMS or service. You can even import from popular CMS platforms, WordPress and Drupal.
Siteleaf also believes that static websites load faster and provide a better, safer user experience. As a result, you can generate static sites to popular services such as Amazon S3, GitHub Pages, and Rackspace. Siteleaf uniquely syncs to GitHub, so any changes within Siteleaf appear in a log of edits within GitHub where you can reverse any accidental changes or deletes. Siteleaf is compatible with common development tools Jekyll, Liquid, and Saas. Standard CMS features include content previews, role assigning, visual and markdown text editors, and advanced metadata.