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Choosing a CMS: A Quick Guide for Publishers

August 4, 2020

Whether you’re launching a new website altogether or switching CMS providers, finding and vetting a Content Management System (CMS) should not just be about product features. You also need the right level of vendor support to make the most of your website – and your investment. If you’re considering a new CMS, your partner’s offerings should align with your goals and objectives. 

And, in today’s world, you should be looking for much more than just a CMS.

So how do you choose the right partner for you?

Where to Start in Choosing a CMS

Before you talk with prospective providers, first assess your business and the goals you want to achieve with a new solution:

  • What do you want your website to do for you?
  • What is and isn’t working for you right now?
  • Where are you looking to grow revenue? Have you considered adding new revenue streams?
  • How could you better gather and leverage audience data for growth?
  • What are key performance indicators (KPIs) for your website (i.e. visitors, registrations, sales)? 
  • What’s your vision for your business in three years?

A good partner will use their experience to suggest proven and effective strategies you may not consider otherwise.

What to Look for in a Content Management System

Your CMS partner should help you maximize the potential of your website – and generate the greatest ROI. To vet providers and find the right fit, ask the following:

1. Are they an engaged team with publishing industry knowledge?

Professional publishers and business information organizations have industrial-strength needs compared with the capabilities of an average CMS. The right CMS provider will think beyond website requirements and focus on having an impact on the entire publishing enterprise. They’ll work with you to help you achieve your goals, and industry knowledge should inform their support. 

You’ll know you’ve found the right team if they take the time to understand your objectives and recommend best practices for your industry. They should understand the nuances of a content-focused business, including workflow, reader engagement, revenue generation and social sharing. They should also detail their capacity for ongoing platform development and how that maps to your business goals, ensuring the platform will continually support your objectives long into the future.

2. What is their planning and implementation process like?

Developing and launching your website should involve clear timelines, objectives and communication. Choose a partner whose process fits your expectations. 

With a good partner, you can be involved every step of the way. The partner will make the effort to identify your pain points, make recommendations, and explain those recommendations in your industry lingo. They’ll prioritize actions that improve your bottom line, like increased editorial efficiencies and enhanced site performance. Further, they’ll put metrics in place to measure success and create accountability.

3. What level of support do they provide after implementation?

Post-launch support is another important aspect of partnering with a CMS provider. If you want to add a new feature, fix an issue, make a change or bring in new staff, provider support can make a difference in timing, cost and effectiveness. 

Your support team should provide regular updates and maintenance, as well as employee training, technical support, creative problem-solving and crisis management. This team should be directly available 24/7 and include individuals who worked on your site. A support staff that knows your software and website is key for efficiency and expedience. Further, the team should track incidents to prevent reoccurrence, and they should have a clear procedure for change requests and customizations.

4. Is the platform reliable, fast and secure?

Reliability and security are imperative to a well-run website. Your efforts and investment won’t be worth much if your site isn’t functioning or your security is compromised. Make sure these components are a priority:

  • Reliability and uptime. Your site should be fast and responsive. You don’t have much time to catch your readers’ attention and, if that time is spent loading your site, you’ve already lost them. Further, the hosting infrastructure must be secure and scalable for handling new sites and more traffic and be able to handle multiple functions simultaneously.
  • Security and compliance. Ensuring performance and data security should be part of the provider’s daily protocol. Ask if they are reviewed annually for procedures and key compliance standards for any applicable certifications and audits, such as PCI and SAS-70.
  • Speed to market. Make sure the provider can swiftly release and test the system, and that integrations and updates will be reliable. For this, you need that direct access to support and resources we mentioned before so you can capture opportunities before they’re gone or the competition gets there first.

5. Do they offer the functionality you need as a publisher – and more? 

Publishers have unique needs like increased audience engagement, sophisticated audience data capabilities and diversified revenue streams. Your vendor should accommodate features and functionality that encourage innovation and remove obstacles to growth. 

Key publisher capabilities include:

  • Responsive Design: Your provider must support evolving standards and audience preferences for responsive design. 
  • Branding: Your design team should reinforce your brand across all platforms and applications.
  • Resources and Tools: Your site should be an engaging, useful resource. Your CMS should enable you to create multiple types of content and media, including blogs, articles, white papers, events, webinars and podcasts.
  • Audience Data: Your CMS should allow you to capture, sort and use user data, such as audience behavior and preferences. User data can inform your content strategy and sales tactics, enabling you to create new revenue opportunities and monetize your data through directories, buyer’s guides, native ads and content marketing.
  • Ads and Sponsorships: Your platform should enable you to create alternate revenue channels to build your bottom line. You will want many options for sponsorship packages.
  • Editorial Efficiencies: Your CMS should facilitate collaboration in a unified dashboard that supports your editorial workflow, allowing you to create content once and deliver through multiple channels.
  • eCommerce: Your ecommerce functionality should keep customers on your site, enable safe and secure purchases, make purchasing easier, and present related products to the right customers at the right time. 
  • Social Sharing: Your platform should easily enable social sharing, which is essential to increasing traffic and creating engaging, successful online communities.
  • Integrations: Your CMS should integrate with the other critical systems you’re using, including email, advertising and circulation.

6. Are their audience data capabilities advanced and actionable?

Your new CMS should elevate audience data and make it more actionable by:

  • Increasing the amount of data collected
  • Improving data quality
  • Removing data silos

Removing silos means unifying data from across functions like registrations, downloads, newsletters and ecommerce to generate comprehensive user records in one database. With the right vendor, your data can integrate with email service providers, payment systems, marketing automation providers, fulfillment companies, ad servers and more. With improved data, and more of it, you can better serve readers and deliver a personalized experience. It can also greatly bolster your lead generation campaign efforts.

7. Are they committed to ongoing development?

Benefits of a SaaS CMS include:

  • Regular and automatic updates. 
  • Cost savings due to subscription model that eliminates cost of managing multiple functions, performing maintenance, purchasing upgrades and more.
  • Adaptability that allows for customization and ongoing development.

Though SaaS systems allow for ongoing development and automatic updates, that doesn’t mean every provider is up-to-speed with the latest features as soon as they’re developed. Further, certain providers will prioritize different updates over others depending on their focus and industries. 

Ask about the vendor’s product development roadmap. Does it follow a regular schedule? Is it responsive to your market or applicable to all industries? Also, can you monitor the update process and provide input on priorities? 

A good partner will establish regular software updates for your site. These updates will follow a disciplined process to meet the evolving needs of your customers, help you stay ahead of your competition, and contribute to your bottom line. They should add ongoing value and “future-proof” your investment against outdated software and features, so your site is continually relevant and competitive. 

8. What does their portfolio demonstrate?

Finally, every thorough vetting process involves reviewing past work and performance. It’s important to see the system and service in action to see if the provider delivers on their offer and whether their offer truly aligns with your needs. Ask for examples of their work, especially those that have comparable business models and features. 

Choosing the Right CMS provider

Take the time to find a good fit for your business strategy. Your website is a critical component of your overall strategy, and you want to work with a company that understands your industry, offers the functionality you need, and is willing to invest in your success with ongoing service and support.

See ePublishing’s solution in action. Request a Demo