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The Beginner’s Guide to Content Management Systems: 18 Must-Have Features

February 17, 2020 / Blog

Home \ Blog \ The Beginner’s Guide to Content Management Systems: 18 Must-Have Features

Modern, scalable website management requires a powerful platform that’s optimized for search engines out of the box and allows for complete customization and control over all design elements.

Therefore, a Content Management System (CMS) is the cornerstone of a successful website experience for most companies.

Popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Squarespace, Drupal, and Magento (there are literally hundreds of options), which continue to evolve as the role of content marketing and management evolve.

With the ever-growing range of hosting platforms, visual website builders, and content marketing channels, finding the right CMS is getting harder, not easier! Not every platform has the necessary tools to boost your content strategy. 

Here’s a checklist of 18 must-have tools. Make sure the CMS you’re interested in has as many as possible built-in.

1. High performance & scalability

Your content marketing strategy may start with only a handful of blog posts, but it’s likely to scale exponentially into something massive. 

When looking at a CMS, think big. Does it have the ability to handle 100 blog posts? 1,000? Can you easily search, group, manage, tag, and edit posts, even among hundreds or thousands? 

Scalability is a must-have necessity. And, along with it, performance is key. Indexing, searching, and editing should be fast and fluid.

2. A user-friendly interface

You’re going to spend a lot of time in your CMS, executing tasks and performing actions. 

You don’t want a system that’s cumbersome and difficult to work with! The back-end system should be easily navigable, intuitive, and well-designed to make content management easy and straightforward. If actions and options are nested, buried, and hidden, you’ll spend more time clicking through menus than you want to, and that’s time wasted.

3. Enhanced user permissions & user management

As your content marketing efforts grow, so should your team. When your one-man show becomes a team of three, four, or five, you need to keep your CMS orderly and organized. User permissions are the simplest way to do it. 

Keep admin privileges for yourself, delegate management roles to one or two others, and hand out low-level permissions on an as-needed basis. Not only does this hierarchy keep people in-line, it also keeps a digital record of who’s doing what, when.

4. A proper content editor

Just because a CMS platform can manage content doesn’t mean it’s also good for creating it! One of the top features of any CMS system is a good content creator and editor. Look for a system that offers diverse editing capabilities, including a text-based editor, hard coding option, and a visual editor (WYSIWYG, or “What You See Is What You Get”). 

Especially when it comes to blogging, the more control you have over how your content looks when it’s published, the better your content marketing presentation will be. Plus, it’s good for making changes on-the-fly!

5. A robust digital asset management system

Content goes beyond written text. Sure, a well-written blog post is good, but a well-written post with a captivating image, embedded video, and downloadable content is even better. 

Your CMS needs a robust digital asset management system that stores these all in one place. Centralized asset hosting ensures there aren’t any missing elements in your final piece of content, and that your pages load faster and more completely. 

6. Design flexibility & customization

Presentation is everything. It’s important to remember that a CMS is also front-facing, and it dictates the experience people have with your content. Make sure your choice of CMS has display customization capabilities that allow you to tailor the experience people have with it. 

From changing page layouts to organizing navigation, your CMS needs to offer design flexibility and customization options that make it useful to you and the people using it.

7. Mobile support

Everything today is mobile, including how people consume content. If your CMS can’t shift seamlessly from desktop to mobile, it’s going to restrict your abilities. A good CMS will have a back-end dashboard that’s mobile-friendly, as well as tools to help make front-facing content accessible and seamless. 

There’s no room in a mobile world for a static CMS, so take the time to find one that’s up-to-speed and compliant with the greater trends of the mobile web.

8. Third-party integrations/open APIs

Content isn’t just a one-way medium. In fact, the best content is two-way and highly dynamic! If you plan on creating interactive, robust content, you’re going to need third-party integrations and open API capabilities. That quiz you create needs to query a database for results. The interactive infographic you put up needs data support from external sources. 

The easier a CMS makes integration, the more capabilities you have for producing winning content.

9. Marketing features

The objective word in “content marketing” is “marketing.” To that end, you need a way to mobilize the content you write in a way that drives leads, creates conversions, or encourages interaction. A CMS with built-in marketing tools is the solution. 

From simple social share buttons to plugins and snippets for signups, products, or general CTAs, your CMS should ultimately aid in your efforts to market to your customers. A CMS that does this natively takes a lot of legwork out of setting up marketing mechanisms.

10. Comes with SEO-friendly features

The big draw of content marketing is the SEO upside it offers. As websites jockey for ranking in SERPs, their site’s SEO profile gives them the edge. That SEO juice comes largely from their content marketing efforts, which are fueled by the CMS. Make sure your CMS offers meta tagging, meta description editing, URL and redirect editing, category tagging, schema markup and more. 

Any built-in SEO tools automatically give you an edge over a CMS that doesn’t offer any.

11. Advanced security management

Cybersecurity is more important than ever before. Your site needs to be protected against malicious hacking attempts—your CMS in particular. Since this is where most of your content will reside, you need to make sure the CMS itself has robust security features. 

Two-factor authentication, tiered permissions, cloud security, data encryption, and more are all must-haves in today. They’ll keep your content safe and, more importantly, keep your site secured against probing data attacks and hacks.

12. A robust blogging platform

Content marketing takes many forms, but blogging is king among them. Some of the most trafficked sites in the world today are blogs! A blog isn’t just a big block of text, but rather an article-style piece of content that can include just about anything you need to get your thesis across—pictures, video, interactive questions, animated .gifs, links, etc. 

Almost every CMS has some form of blogging platform built-in, but not all are equal. Find a CMS that puts a major emphasis on blog creation, optimization, and management.

13. A robust internal search functionality

When you’re looking for that blog post you published last year, you don’t want to dig through pages and pages of files. Good CMS systems will support the ability to search for what you’re looking for. The best CMS systems will use advanced search algorithms like semantic search to ensure you find exactly what you need in seconds. 

Searchability becomes more important as your content collection grows, so plan ahead when choosing a CMS.

14. Multiple-website support

Your brand likely has more than one website. You might have a client-facing site, an eCommerce store, an affiliate site, and countless other sites. 

Managing them takes work, but it doesn’t mean they need to be completely isolated and siloed from one another. Find a CMS with multiple website support, so you can share content across all of them. They’re still separated and independently managed, but all the content you’re creating will be available across all your properties.

15. Effective testing & previewing tools

A lot of work goes into creating a blog post and other forward-facing content. You’re bound to have several iterations before finding the perfect one. You need testing and preview tools to make certain every little change shows up exactly how you want it to. 

Preview tools give you the ability to see the finished result before it’s actually live, eliminating embarrassing mistakes and quick fixes that might undermine the power of your content.

16. 24/7 support

What happens when your CMS goes down and you lose all of your content? What do you do if you keep running into an annoying problem and can’t find any solutions for it online? You call someone! A CMS is only as good as its support system, which means you need to be able to rely on someone to help you when things don’t go right. 

Look for platforms offering 24/7 live chat or call-in services and get the peace of mind that comes with round-the-clock help.

17. Easily upgradeable

Technology isn’t a static invention—it’s always changing, evolving, and getting better. Stick with a CMS that understands this and is built to grow, evolve, and upgrade with time. It should be easy to install new updates and enhance the features of your CMS as it expands. More importantly, you’ll want to put your trust in a system that’s constantly being worked on! 

As new features and capabilities become available, you want the power to add them. Look to the future and ask yourself if your CMS will keep up with the competition.

18. Multilingual support

The internet has made the world a much smaller place, and it’s likely that your audience is monolingual these days. Moreover, your staff is likely very diverse, too! Support the people creating and consuming your content by using a CMS platform with multilingual support features. This could mean anything from a multilingual help menu to the ability to auto-translate content once it’s live on the page. 

Your forethought to using a multilingual platform might just be the thing that garners you a broader following and a more complete content team.

The Best CMSs

Needless to say, the following content management systems have all of the 18 must-have features.

1) WordPress: For expandability and user-friendliness

We’re willing to bet that you’ve probably heard about WordPress. This CMS boasts the largest market share among its competitors by far and is the CMS we use here at SlideGenius for ourselves and our customers.

2) Joomla: A great runner-up to WordPress

When people debate which is the best CMS software, Joomla is one of the names that comes up most often alongside WordPress. The general consensus is that while Joomla may not be as beginner-friendly as WordPress, it can be more flexible in some aspects.

3) Squarespace: For quickly building a website with an integrated CMS

If your main goal is to get a website with integrated CMS online as fast as possible, try Squarespace. Another all-in-one package, Squarespace expedites the process of building your website with its rich library of customizable templates. You can choose your template based on the type of website you’re building, including options for eCommerce, business, a professional portfolio, a community site, or a basic blog.

A good CMS is essential for great content

All these features add up to one thing: a highly capable CMS that’ll ensure the success of your content marketing efforts. Putting these pieces together and picking a CMS that has all or most of them is the first step to putting your content in a position to flourish. In today’s age of digital consumption, that means having a leg-up on the competition.