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Content Management System 2021: Complete Guide

A Content Management System enables users to create, manage, and modify content without any specialized technical or coding knowledge. They are designed for users to manage digital content, at scale, with ease. Content Management systems also provide some level of automation and document management for the tasks required to effectively manage content. Learn how Content Management Systems work and how to choose the right CMS software.

Last updated: Apr 14, 2021

Content Management System 2021: Complete Guide

What is a Content Management System?

Content management is the process that enables businesses to manage collecting, sharing and publishing of information in any format. Digital content is stored and accessed through computers in the form of text, graphics, or multimedia clips and carry tagging schemes such as XML, HTML, etc.

By ensuring business content is organized and consolidated, it can be easily retrieved and re-used according to business demand.

A Content Management System enables users (often multiple stakeholders) to create, manage, and modify content without any specialized technical or coding knowledge. They are designed for users to manage digital content, at scale, with ease.

Content Management Systems can be used at the enterprise-level (enterprise content management) or at the website-level (web content management). Enterprise Content Management systems enable large businesses to collaborate by bringing together content collaboration, and document management functionalities while providing business users with access based on their role. A Web Content Management system helps enable both individuals and businesses to create and publish websites without intensive technical knowledge.

Commonly, Content Management systems also provide some level of automation and document management for the tasks required to effectively manage content. A headless CMS is a content management system that only provides a content repository and is decoupled from the presentation layer. Such CMS provides RESTFUL APIs that make content accessible.

What are the Key Benefits of Content Management System?

Content Management systems are designed to improve content usage, data organization, and productivity by giving business users management capabilities and reducing dependency on IT resources.

What are the Key Benefits of Content Management System?

Additionally, Content Management systems offer the following advantages:

Improved Speed

The ability to quickly publish important news and content is expected by both customers and business owners, and a Content Management system can help make creating and publishing content a quick process.

Improved Workflow

With more content being created by businesses everyday (for example, content that supports multi-channel marketing efforts), there are often many individuals who are involved in the content creation and publishing process. A workflow that is built into the Content Management system ensures that everyone not only has appropriate access but can also review and get approvals within the system.

Instant Updates

Content Management systems allow users to control, manage, and structure content in real-time. Enterprises with large business websites can easily make changes from a single dashboard and quickly publish those updates across the site.

SEO friendly

A good CMS comes with a host of content management tools that help to create SEO friendly content. Some platforms come with associated usability and accessibility methods without having to include extra plugins. Some CMS platforms include SEO tools or provide extensions that can help improve a website's SEO ranking, such as meta tag plugins, contact form or sitemap plugins.

Improved Collaboration

Content Management systems help teams share content, and manage processes more effectively, improving and positively impacting all collaborative efforts.

Anywhere Access

Content Management systems are accessible from any computer or device that is connected to the internet. For businesses with large field teams, this offers remote access without compromising on content security.

Easy Integration

With a Content Management system, information isn’t coded but extracted from databases that can be easily maintained by authorized users. As a result, the Content Management system is geared towards integration and enables information to be easily updated or repurposed as needed. Some of the CMS also allows adding social media integration - an easily-identified link to your business’ Facebook page, Twitter account, and so on

Enhanced Security

Content Management systems are constantly updated to deal with ongoing security issues such as hackers and viruses. By working with an established software provider, companies can rely on automatic updates and constant plugin maintenance to ensure content security.

Which industries use a Content Management System?

What are the Key Benefits of Content Management System?

Content management systems have become vital for today’s businesses to effectively manage their digital material. In spite of this need, however, Content Management systems have mainly been adopted by B2B service providers, Internet and e-commerce companies, media and marketing companies and technology-oriented (software and product) companies. Finance and education businesses are also seen to deploy Content Management systems for their content requirements.

Who are the users of a Content Management System?

Users of a Content Management system are mostly those directly involved in creating or publishing content, such as authors, content writers, content managers, social media managers, designers, developers, and website managers. Other users may include field teams, product leaders and marketing managers.

Why CMS is Important?

CMS plays an important role in solving several key business problems.

Lost time searching for content

According to Marketing Land, the average worker spends 20% of the day looking for lost files. The fact of the matter is that poor content management can severely hamper a team’s productivity.

Costs of managing unstructured content

Content that exists in a freeform layout often requires time and effort to process for a specific business need, which can become expensive to manage manually.

Difficulty in Managing Sensitive Material

Lack of a proper Content Management system could cause risk in disclosure of sensitive or personal information, which could result in litigation problems or compliance violations.

Lack of Data Insights

With millions of documents stored in repositories, businesses could be sitting on insightful data but without any way to analyze them. Content Management systems make content and usage data easily available for analytics, which could result in business optimization.


Loss in time and money is common due to employees working on the wrong version of the content. With a Content Management system, businesses can track versions as well as know who last worked on the item.

Key Features of a Content Management System?

Driving the Content Management system industry’s growth is an increase in consumer demand for omnichannel experiences, digitally-driven retail industries and a plethora of digital marketing solutions. Content Management systems meet this growing demand by giving content control to businesses at a time when the content volume is booming.

Key Features of a Content Management System?

While features vary between the different Content Management systems available in the market, they have several core features which are common to all:

Content Editors

CMS provides rich text editors which let users create rich text - lists, blogs, news and more. Content creators can focus on creating content and the CMS provides an easy to use UI that can be used to create and publish content. CMS vendors provide many user-friendly features in content editors like page management, the ability to manage text content, links, videos, and images. In addition, they also provide basic SEO capabilities which makes content creators’ jobs easy and also enables them to create and manage content at scale.

Smart Indexing

Intelligent indexing, search and retrieval features for all data are the most common features for a Content Management system. This enables users to search for content by attributes such as publication dates, keywords or author names.

Content is the reason search began in the first place.


Lee Odden

Format Management

With a large number of businesses still adapting to digital interfaces, many need to turn old scanned paper documents and legacy electronic documents into HTML or PDF documents. Content Management systems need to be able to handle and convert multiple formats with ease.

Version Control

When working with a centralized content repository it is essential that every version of content created is tracked and managed. Businesses need to be able to roll-back to previous versions without loss of data and most Content Management systems offer version controls and tracking capabilities as standard features.


Publishing tools are at the core of any good Content Management system. Most CMS provide the ability to publish and unpublish content in multiple forms and enable easy management of SEO, content tagging, links, images, and video support.

Permission and Controls

Multi-user functionality is critical to CMS, at the same time they need to support the necessary access control mechanism. Content Management systems offer selective access to content, enabling businesses to manage sensitive material, and maintain robust control without slowing down employee efficiency.

Extensibility and API

Users of CMS need customization capabilities to enhance their websites - web parts, modules, event handlers, providers and other extensions. CMS usually come with an API that customers can leverage to extend the capabilities.


Depending on the business type, the Content Management system needs to be able to connect with other platforms such as CRMs, analytics, or even to be able to publish to new devices like VRs and ARs. Therefore some integration capabilities are usually offered as standard features in any Content Management system.

Content Management Systems and AI

AI is changing how we consume and use data everywhere. According to CMSWire, AI could soon help Content Management systems generate content, design sites, speed up testing, and even give feedback on content!

Some of the ways AI is already making its presence felt is as follows:

Automated Image Tagging

AI-powered image recognition has given Content Management systems the ability to automatically recognize and tag images in seconds. This is a great advantage for e-commerce websites with thousands of product images and for businesses looking for keyword metadata enhancement.

Accelerated Content Creation

Using natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG), AI is accelerating the process of content creation in areas such as translation, video and audio transcription, metadata creation, and grammar checks.

Great content is the best sales tool in the world


Marcus Sheridan

Author and Speaker

Voice-Controlled Platforms

AI-assisted voice services are increasing productivity and Content Management systems are being enabled with voice-assisted services, including voice-to-text and voice commands.

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Buyer’s Guide - Choosing the Right Content Management Systems

Most Content Management systems come equipped with some basic functionalities, such as a user-friendly interface and smart search capabilities. But choosing a Content Management System also needs consideration of business needs.

Let’s look at some of the important factors to consider, below:

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Free, Open Source or Commercial

If you are starting with a digital marketing initiative, it would be good to start with a free version instead of going with the power-packed CMS platform. Popular and free CMS like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal offer ease of use and open source flexibility. Wordpress is very popular with bloggers. Open Source CMS do not offer a lot of out of the box features and hence would need customization, but they compensate with a lot of plugins that are available. Companies that have a more mature digital marketing practice would benefit from all-in-one CMS platforms like Sitefinity, Kentico, CraftCMS.

Scale and Performance

CMS should provide the necessary scale and performance so that it can support the company's needs as the business grows. Also if the company is a global and multi-site organization, and plans to extend adoption in phases, CMS should be able to meet those expansion requirements.

Multi-Lingual Support

Consider how many people will be accessing the Content Management system and whether multilanguage support will be needed. According to Science Content, 92% of companies face challenges in translating content into different languages. Only 29% integrate their CMS with a translation management system or language service provider.

Ease of Use

When choosing a Content Management system, businesses need to balance between ease of use and complexity of features. The administration overheads of managing the system should be reasonable. The UI and content tools should be intuitive to authors. Many CMS offer the ability to create and update content without advanced technical knowledge.

Omnichannel Support

The channel support provided by CMS should be in line with the marketing channel strategy. CMS should not only support current channel needs but also should be able to meet future needs. The channels can go beyond just desktop, mobile to AR/VR, kiosks, digital assistants, etc. It should provide continuity of experience across multiple channels and devices.

Customizable Applications

Content Management systems come with plugins that are either out of the box or an add-on and can enhance your content capabilities (such as form-based authoring for news items, events, and bios). These plugins can save hours of development time and money, but could also pose security risks (especially if you opt for third-party plugins instead of native functions). Check if your Content Management system offers functional applications that add value to your requirements and whether they can be customized to suit the needs of your business.

SaaS or On-Premise

Is the Content Management system cloud-based, or on-premise? Make a checklist of the resources the business will require and whether the Content Management system fits within the infrastructure plan.

Third-Party Integration

Content Management systems rarely are standalone systems, they cannot work in isolation and therefore must be able to communicate with third-party applications - such as marketing automation tools, or CRM, seamlessly.


Does the Content Management system come with an account executive or a support team? Open-source Content Management systems do not, but most closed-source or SaaS products will offer both technical support and automatic feature upgrades.

What are the Challenges in Adoption of Content Management System?

Homegrown Systems

Companies generally have some form of content management in the form of homegrown tools, they could be disparate, spread across the organization. While adopting a commercially available system, organizations face challenges in bringing together all this data, resistance to the use of a new system, know-how challenges. If the CMS does not support the seamless integration and data migration, companies can face adoption barriers.

Content Migration

Migrating all content into a new Content Management system is a significant investment in time and effort. Most Content Management systems enable quick and easy import of content in the most popular formats. However, migration can be impacted or delayed when formats are not supported, or content needs to be manually reviewed before being imported.


With a Content Management system, content is no longer owned by individuals but is a collaborative exercise. For some employees, this can be a challenge to comply with. Additionally, employees may also be limited to using templates without the ability to make changes, curtailing creativity. If the CMS does not provide adequate customization capabilities, it could become a barrier to adoption.


Once a Content Management system is implemented, users need to be trained and encouraged to follow protocols for all content creation, distribution, and collaboration. Depending on the company’s previous process, getting people to adapt to a new system can be an uphill task.

ROI for Content Management Systems

Content Management systems offer businesses a way to manage content in an effective and efficient way. An article from Business Wire states that the Content Management systems market was valued at around $36 billion in 2018 and is expected to generate around $123.5 billion by 2026 — indicating a very healthy growth and demand for content management systems.

Below are some of the ways the returns on investing in a Content Management system can be realized:

Lost Files

Marketing Land states that the cost to replace a single digital asset can easily exceed $1,000—which certainly lends weight to the intrinsic return value that a Content Management system brings in.

Optimized Reuse

A Content Management system enables businesses to identify and easily reuse, repurpose and re-publish best performing content. This ability to optimize and reuse content, can result in both time and cost savings.

Leads and Automation

Effective Content Management systems can help support and optimize lead generation tactics such as gated whitepapers, case studies, and reports. Additionally, tools such as analytics and marketing automation can be integrated to help plan, coordinate, manage and measure all campaigns and provide insights into the most valuable content resources.


Most Content Management systems enable businesses to incorporate their SEO requirements, which in addition to being cost-effective, can help generate valuable consumer traffic quickly and easily.

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