Best Content Management Software of 2021
The dominance of WordPress in the content management software niche creates a misleading sense that content management tools are dedicated purely to creating and updating websites with web content for content marketing purposes. However, a deeper dive into the diverse landscape of content management tools reveals a much more expansive presence of content management tools throughout modern workflows for web products and assets.
In this article we’re going to break down why content management software platforms are necessary, the five categories of tools that cover functionality including and beyond website management, and examples from each category to give readers an idea of the many alternatives on the market depending on your organization’s content marketing needs. We’ll support these overviews with feedback from users in the field where applicable, helping to guide your decision-making process in choosing the proper solution for your business.
Why Do You Need Content Management Software?
For small businesses and startups with limited budgets and resources, there is still a need to be able to build, launch, and maintain a website capable of growing and maintaining sales. With content marketing one of the most powerful SEO marketing tools at your disposal on a limited budget, content management software can play a crucial role. If you need a platform that allows changes to be made to your website quickly and efficiently with little to no coding knowledge and allows collaboration between contributors, then content management software is the right solution for your team. This is especially true if your team also has limited skill or training in search engine optimization, as CMS platforms often include automated tools and templates that help improve your site’s performance in online search results. Finally, a CMS makes it easy to quickly and efficiently update and manage your site over time.
Throughout the remainder of this discussion, we’ll break down the following topics:
- What Are the Different Types of Content Management Software?
- When Should You Purchase Content Management Software?
- Tips for Choosing the Best Content Management Software
- 10 Recommended Content Management Software Providers
- What’s the Community Using for CMS?
What Are the Different Types of Content Management Software?
While content management software platforms all help with the creation, organization, and maintenance of content across your digital distribution channels, CMS solutions should never be considered as a single solution for all of your business website needs. Instead, consider what site functions you’re trying to implement, how much control you need to have over your content, and the scope of the information you’re trying to manage, as all of these factors feed into the type of content management system you should employ for your digital assets.
Web Content Management Systems
Of the five types of content management systems, Web Content Management Systems are the most recognizable subcategory. These platforms often allow content creation and management of digital assets on a website by a team without formal education in programming languages or web design. Unlike the other more versatile categories on this list, these tools are strictly designed to manage web content only. They provide an easily accessible method for branding and white labeling content, automating the content publishing procedure, and allowing users to quickly and cleanly expand site functionality based on visitor traffic and usage.
Digital Asset Management Systems
A cloud-based collaborative repository for the storage and organization of shared digital assets between team members, clients, and project leaders. Assets can range in formats and mediums. This format ensures a secure, centralized collaborative storage method for everyone on the team, ensures distributed and remote teams are able to maintain brand standards by making the same files available to everyone responsible for maintaining and distributing content. Digital asset management systems can also connect with 3rd party content platforms in order to execute automation-driven content distribution strategies.
Component Content Management Systems
While a standard content management system allows the management of digital assets, component content management systems (CCMS) allow teams to parse content down to the keyword, phrase, paragraph, or even image and can store or recall categorized content as needed. This ability to recall snippets of content your team intends to be reusable across multiple campaigns makes the content generation process go that much faster and reduces costs. It also allows you to track your content at a granular level by team member so that it’s easier to track a team member’s contributions to the overall project. Centralized content on a CCMS can be distributed across multiple channels in various configurations and formats, ensuring that your team is able to create extremely targeted messaging.
Document Management Systems
The eco-friendly paperless document management system approach to content management allows an organization to digitize, track, and maintain all important documents and information without having to clutter office space with physical copies or expensive and difficult to maintain printing and scanning equipment. Because everything is cloud-based and secured according to user access levels, the right information remains confidential and only accessible by qualified or cleared personnel. These systems are also often cloud-accessible, allowing employees to increase the efficiency of workflows through mobile devices.
Enterprise Content Management Systems
For large-scale organizations operating under regulatory requirements for document maintenance, enterprise content management systems handle document maintenance from creation to collection and organization throughout the required life of the documentation. They can be configured with the proper security and access controls, and in order to save on storage costs, ensure the proper deletion and pruning of documents as per regulatory requirements. Paired with the right data-driven interfaces, ECM systems can also provide the proper data and information on-demand to decision-makers to help ensure project completion and strategic business planning. As with other document systems with a cloud-based element, most ECM systems allow workers from across the organization to upload or access documents, regardless of physical location.
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When Should You Purchase Content Management Software?
The decision to bring in a CMS solution should mirror the decision process for bringing in any software solution at the budgeting and financial end. It’s important to ensure that you don’t already have tools in your marketing tech stack that serve the same purpose or overlap with the functionality of a CMS so that you’re not bringing in redundancy unnecessarily.
Organizations that plan to build websites with a large number of pages, or plan to build a site that they update on a regular basis should consider utilizing a CMS solution in order to keep the progress well-organized and on schedule. CMS solutions are also essential for organizations that plan to do extensive amounts of marketing in order to keep content and resources organized and ready to deploy quickly.
Tips for Choosing the Best Content Management Software Solution
Once you’ve determined that a CMS solution is necessary, there are some considerations you must take into account in ensuring you choose the proper tool for the job:
- Will the CMS platform provides scalability to your business needs?
- Ensure your CMS of choice can handle omnichannel distribution.
- Ease of use in a CMS reduces the time your staff spends managing it.
- A simple-to-use interface maximizes the time your staff spends distributing content.
- Look for an API with an extensive marketplace of integrations and API support.
- Choose a CMS software that matches your overall marketing strategy in the way that it manages and distributes content.
- Don’t expect the CMS to be a tool that operates without oversight; you must understand and leverage the CMS’s specific features to your advantage.
10 Recommended Content Management Software Providers
To help our audience understand the different types of content management software better, we’ve assembled a unique list that provides two examples of vendors from each category and provided information about each platform’s history, features, and pricing models.
Digital Asset Management Solutions
Bynder was created by clients of Chris Hall’s digital marketing and development agency in 2013. It was considered the first digital asset management platform to adopt a purely Software as a Service (SaaS) business model, opening the door for other tools to start building and providing extremely targeted data management solutions.
Bynder positions itself as a central component to your brand’s entire marketing technology stack, acting as the central repository from which your other tools can draw digital assets to leverage for executing your strategic business initiatives.
Pricing: The pricing process is initiated via a demo request, and then requires consultation through email after their team establishes the size of your organization in order to establish rates.
Trial: Free 30-day trial period is included in the experience with the brand.
Founded in the late 1990s, Canto was one of the first digital asset management systems on the market. The firm has an international presence, with offices here and in Germany.
The program is designed to simplify the storage and organization of your media library. It integrates keywords and tags within the organizational methodology, allowing sorting to be executed at a very granular level. This granularity allows Canto to create Smart Albums based on shared keywords and attributes. Canto’s cloud-based functionality is mounted on Amazon’s AWS, giving the platform a degree of security that can be completely configured by administrators for your team.
Pricing: Packages are tailored to specific organizational needs via an information request form submission and a demonstration of the platform.
Trial: The company offers a trial period of an undisclosed time period, and requires submission of an information request form.
Enterprise Content Management Systems
Box launched in 2005 with the goal of improving the digital experience and increasing the ability to access and manage the site via online collaborative tools. Box has since expanded its vision to include how people collaborate globally, reflected in the fact that the organization maintains 12 offices in 9 countries.
Understanding that information, data, and content lies at the core of most business functions, the platform is built to cover the entire lifecycle of data management, from creation and collaboration through to organization and storage, and even throughout the required retention period and disposal process. The platform is built not only for collaboration but integration with your existing workflows and integrates with more than 1500 business tools in use today.
Pricing: Three tiers, plus the ability to create custom-level plans. The pricing shown is for monthly access and can be reduced by 25% when paid on an annual schedule. Tiers shift the size of files, the number of integrations, API calls, and other factors users can access or use.
- Business is $20/user per month, minimum of 3 users
- Business Plus is $33/user per month, minimum of 3 users
- Enterprise is $47/user per month, minimum of 3 users
Trial: Includes 14-day trials on most plans.
Zoho is known for creating a number of solutions that allow users to get around some of the most common business challenges facing professionals today. Rather than spend money advertising a product they know the workforce needs, they reinvest in project development and improvements to make those tools more useful.
Zoho’s content management comes in two forms, depending on the size of your organization and if you’re working as part of a team. The Zoho WorkDrive is specifically designed to support team collaboration across a cloud-based interface and includes access to a suite of editing and presentation tools similar to other office productivity tools. The platform is part of Zoho’s massive number of productivity solutions and has the added benefit of being mobile-accessible.
Pricing: The Zoho Docs service is available for free to teams of up to 5 users with limited functionality included.
- $4/user per month billed annually for the more robust Standard plan with features and access that level with increased storage and other feature enhancements. $6.40/user per month billed annually for larger organizations with more storage needs and functionality.
Trial: In addition to the free pricing tier, the platform also allows for testing out the paid tiers on a trial basis for 15 days.
Web Content Management Systems
At its core, WordPress is a free, open-source CMS software designed to help users build and launch web pages. For hosted packages from web hosting providers or to host the site yourself, the core software can be downloaded from WordPress.org. However, if you’re looking for a done-for-you approach that handles much of the backend and hosting, users can go to WordPress.com, which is run by a company called Automatic. For many, Automatic’s solutions are in line with their needs as a hosted service and is an extremely popular platform used to build roughly 30% of all sites on the Internet. It also outperforms all other CMS platforms, accounting for 62% of sites built with a content management system.
Providing users with custom domains, WordPress can be an effective website building solution for any budget. Fully supported by an active community that integrates functionality into themes, plug-ins, drag-and-drop building platforms, landing page optimizers, and other extensions, WordPress also allows for a highly customizable experience to website builders and visitors alike.
Pricing: In addition to a Free model to create a basic website, hosted WordPress.com plans come in monthly subscriptions, each with increasing value and access to more functionality built in. All plans also receive a discount for being paid ahead annually.
- Personal starts at $7 per month
- Premium starts at $14 per month
- Business starts at $33 per month
eCommerce functionality for online store management starts at $59 per month
Trial: The Free model with limited hosting and functionality included acts as the Trial period.
Adobe is considered one of the premier designers of creative software on the market today. Originally known for its graphic design tools and web design tools, the company has over the years shifted to a cloud-based Software as a Service subscription-based suite of products focused on helping content creators bring to life fully-realized digital experiences.
The Adobe Experience Manager combines digital asset management functionality with the power of a content management system to help website owners publish powerful forms and interactive experiences quickly. Data-driven tools help designers create personalized experiences for visitors through the use of customer profiles and a robust offering of integrations and API compatibilities.
Pricing: While no pricing is available without an initial consultation, Adobe makes a point of stating that pricing scales with usage and capacity in order to maximize the value of the service.
Trial: No trial period is mentioned on the site.
Component Content Management Systems
Storyblok began as a project at Netural in 2015 and started making an impression on users as the prototype became more advanced and functionality was added. Live to the public in August of 2016, Storyblok.com made the visual editor available to users and hosted the Storyblok app store a year later. Storyblok’s development is fully guided by input and feedback from the user base and thus is constantly becoming a better content management tool.
Storyblok positions itself as one of the first headless content management platforms designed for both developers and editors that allow users to create reliable digital platforms quickly. Storyblok allows users to create platform-independent content, ensuring your inbound marketing funnels can convert visitors to customers with similar success across all channels.
Pricing: There is a free Community level of users, which provides limited functionality for a single user. Beyond a single user, each additional user for the Community level of access is $9 per month. Each of the Business tiers below receives a discount equivalent to one month if paid annually, and allows additional users to be added at a cost of $9 per user.
- Business Entry Plan includes 5 users and costs $99/month
- Business Teams Plan includes up to 10 users and costs $449/month
- Business Enterprise Plan includes up to 30 users
Trial: The free Community tier acts as a trial to test the platform on a small scale before committing more resources and time at the level appropriate to your company’s needs.
Founded by professionals in technical documentation, the Paligo team has sought to build a web platform that brings CCMS and content authoring solutions in line with cloud-based technology. They’ve done this with the hopes of closing the gap between the two so as to maximize the efficiency of authoring tools in modern workflows.
Paligo touts itself as a dynamic cloud-based CCMS solution with smart reuse of content across multiple channels, ensuring a unified message and approach no matter the document being created. Single sourcing combined with structured authoring tools ensures consistency in your content. The platform can publish to any number of platforms and channels, minimizing how much time you spend outside of the tool publishing content you’ve created.
Pricing: There are three levels of service offered by Paligo.
- Professional runs $179 per month for a single author plus access for reviewers.
- Business runs $269 per month for a single author and an increased number of reviewers as well as other integrations and functionality improvements.
- Enterprise-level organizations require a consultation with the sales team.
Pay attention to the fine print, as additional fees include onboarding and training, with pricing based on the package you’ve chosen.
Trial: No trials are listed on the site.
Document Management Systems
ClickUp is an international operation with nine offices across the globe. Founded in 2017, the ClickUp platform has quickly grown into a powerful multipurpose tool that greatly improves the document management process over other such systems. Their site boasts a number of comparisons versus some of the most well-known names in the document management game, and on every front, ClickUp has something new and innovative to add to the dialogue that its competitors aren’t doing.
ClickUp Docs, in conjunction with the platform’s other collaborative tools, allows users to create amazing customized content with the numerous templates that are available. Because of the integrations and flexibility built into the platform, you can embed anything into the documents you create, truly creating the user experience you need for your audience. The ability to create documents that can enhance your workflow and allow others to collaborate within those documents is extremely unique to this platform.
Pricing: There are four plan levels beyond the Free personal user account. Annual payment arrangements decrease the monthly costs listed below.
- Unlimited, designed for small teams, for $9/month per user.
- Business, designed for mid-sized teams, for $19/month per user.
- Business Plus, for multiple teams, for $29/month per user.
- Enterprise, for many large teams, with pricing established during a consultation.
Trial: The Free Forever access tier acts as the trial for the platform.
Another extremely well-known entry on this list is the HubSpot Content Management system. Initially envisioned in 2004 by a pair of MIT graduate students, HubSpot started as a platform in 2005 focused on helping marketing teams grow their business through the power of inbound marketing, which has been found to be a preferable marketing experience to consumers.
HubSpot stands out because it offers a series of interlocking disciplines organized into Hubs, with the Content Management hub working in conjunction with the CRM and other hubs to distribute and manage content across multiple channels. Its editor is easy to use, allowing creators to make pages with little need for outside assistance, and with the integration of the content management hub, quickly pull in documents and content to flesh out that website.
Pricing: HubSpot offers separate pricing for each of its hubs and then also offers pricing for bundles. Pricing specifically focused on the CMS Hub is broken into 3 levels:
- Starter plans start at $25 per month
- Professional plans start at $400 per month
- Enterprise plans start at $1,200 per month
Trial: A 14-day trial is available to users.
What’s the Community Using for CMS?
Choices for content management systems abound, and across the business landscape you’re bound to encounter a solution we haven’t mentioned here or that isn’t often included on lists of best CMS solutions that might meet your needs. We’ve pulled in some feedback from our community of experts and service providers, and they had some feedback on their preferred CMS software platforms.
“Podio handles everything from Intranet to client history. We also use it for sending estimates, time tracking, production scheduling, and reputation management. We were early adopters for Podio shortly after I came out of beta. This was long before Citrix purchased the company. We are able to automate a lot of repetitive tasks like follow-up emails, archiving projects, calculating client metrics, and to-do lists.”
—John Hofmann, Operations Manager, Fusion Marketing
“We use Basecamp to keep track of all of our tasks, documents, and client work. We’ve tried several different programs including AirTable, Monday, and Asana. All of them work very well, but Basecamp has the best document interface. Everything we need is available in one easy-to-find place.”
—Nick Mattar, Founder & CEO, Digital Detroit
“From the organizational and workflow management standpoint, while we think Jira ranks very highly, we feel Basecamp and especially its earlier versions are excellent solutions. We use Basecamp to manage individual developer’s workload and balance it across teams, communicate with clients, track task status, and time and forecast deliverables.”
—Max Tokman, Technical Director, Off-Site Services, Inc.
“Contentstack allows every member of my team to have access to the content they need and see exactly where in the publishing cycle that piece of content is. Running a web development company can get hectic while trying to manage different projects at the same time. Contentstack empowers developers to collaborate around content like never before.”
—Miguel Cairo, CEO, Unique Web Designer
“We use Canva for graphic design, Airtable for organizing and scheduling content, Asana for project management. Canva is cloud-based so it works better for our team for managing revisions and collaborating in real time. Airtable keeps our content organized and streamlines the approval workflow with our clients and Asana helps us manage internal tasks such as onboarding and content strategy for LinkedIn content marketing clients we manage. They are the most efficient and cost-effective solutions for us.”
—Chris Mitchell, Founder, Intelus Agency
We A Place for All Your Content and All Your Content in One Place
With the rising importance of content marketing across all channels and industries, content management systems are increasingly becoming considered a necessary component in successful marketing technology stacks. However, choosing the right organizational approach for your needs can be tricky. While we’ve laid out some alternatives here, this list is by no means exhaustive, and you can expect to quickly be overwhelmed by options searching out a platform that works for you. Luckily, the UpCity B2B marketplace is full of service providers eager to help you nail down your marketing needs. If you’re not quite ready to partner up and you still want to do some research, check out our marketing software reviews and comparisons to find out more about the leading CMS systems on the market today.