2019 Comparison Guide

Ranking the Top Content Management Systems in the Industry


A Shift in Analysis & Approach

Prior coverage of the CMS industry focused on basic software functionality and the ease of which a non-technical user can take advantage of the tools. Standard features are still paramount to web success, like search engine optimization capabilities and personalization. However, we’ve recently found that a paradigm shift in the CMS industry has taken hold. Since businesses often rely on multiple software platforms to be successful, the key to success using a CMS now lies in flexibility and capability to integrate with partner platforms.

In the report, “Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms,” Forrester Research describes the difference between niche software and true web experience management platforms:

Enterprises leverage numerous software tools in support of cross channel digital customer experiences. Market fragmentation and integration challenges have opened the door to integrated platforms.

Software vendors have bought and/or built a range of foundational capabilities for on-site digital experiences and have pushed integration with other tools, enabling enterprises to establish flexible, heterogeneous platforms that address their requirements.

Roadmap to Success

in Web Experience Management

A focus on the solution, and how a CMS works within that full vision, has finally taken precedent when measuring what software will result in the best RODI (Return on Digital Investment). In this way, analysis is moving away from functionality checklists and is more focused on the pairing of technology and the associated services to deliver a company’s digital experience vision.


“The implementation team is key to project success and definitely part of the solution. Overlooking that piece is folly.”
Brice Dunwoodie, CMS Wire

Many companies spend a lot of time and resources on finding the best technology for their business needs but then give little more than a passing thought to how this technology will be successfully configured.icon-roadmap.png

Finding the right partner, in conjunction with the right technology, can often be the key differentiator in a successful implementation.
Tiffany Elliot, Analyst Digital Clarity Group


System for Platform Evaluation

Using curated research conducted by analysts from Gartner, Forrester Research, Digital Clarity Group, CMSCritic.com, CMSReport.com, CMS Wire, Fierce Content Management, CMSHarbor.com, and more, this guide will look beyond the selection process and examine a vendor’s total ability to deliver on the promise of the engagement, by rating platforms on the following criteria:



To Help Create Meaningful Experiences

The most important software selection your company will make is the Content Management System that powers your website. We’re not just looking at the features ingrained in web publishing that a CMS provides, but the integrated capabilities that create meaningful customer experiences.



A CMS should make life easier on the marketer, allowing them to easily publish SEO friendly content. To help show a marketer where to optimize the page for relevant keyword phrases, the CMS should provide clearly labeled fields for page title, description, tags and meta keywords. This will maximize the visibility of your website when people search for key terms on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines.


Over time, information on your website becomes buried inside databases, folders, emails or other media. The value of the information is largely diminished if the content can not be found. The problem is that many CMS providers charge as much as a THIRD of the initial purchase price for their CMS just for an additional search mechanism. We believe this is an integral part of the CMS and should be included at no additional charge to the customer.


“Personalization and targeting engines are the frameworks from which the practice of delivering tailored, digital interactions is made possible. Personalization is the first principle of relevance and a cornerstone of a sound customer engagement strategy.” (Digital Clarity Group)


eCommerce capabilities are becoming increasingly important. Basic shopping carts are no longer a sustainable model and analysts are taking notice. Look for user-friendly order and product management tools and intuitive customer analytics. Deep integrations with payment and partner platforms are also a must-have.


Maximize Effectiveness Through Simplicity

The whole point of a CMS is to empower your marketing team to make changes to your website without having to outsource to external vendors. This alleviates friction between IT issues and business context while helping to create a customer journey reflective of your objectives.


A CMS is only an effective tool to expedite the efforts of your team IF it can be utilized properly. Marketers have enough on their plate keeping the digital marketing strategy up-to-date and relevant. A CMS should reduce their workload not create another confusing platform to master during their daily routine. This brings a few questions to mind – Is the CMS dashboard clear and easy to navigate? How intuitive is the editing toolkit? Can you publish content easily? Consider whether your intended CMS is an open source solution or developed on proprietary software to determine your flexibility in customizing your site:


This model to web development implies universal – or free – access to a product’s design or blueprint for redistribution, including subsequent improvements to the source code by anyone.


Proprietary Software is licensed under the exclusive legal right of the copyright holder, distributed to licensees under certain conditions, and restricted from other uses – such as modification, sharing, studying, redistribution, or reverse engineering. Usually the source code of proprietary software is not made available.

“Open source platforms absolutely have their place in the CMS market and may be a terrific solution for cash-strapped businesses or ones with minimal content management needs. However, enterprise-level paid systems bring a lot to the table – security, compliance and document management features, for instance – that free platforms often don’t. No system is infallible but why not at least give your company a fighting chance when it comes to keeping your content safe?”

Lisa Hoover McGreevy, Fierce Content Management


Solutions to Ensure Your Success

Whether or not a CMS offers implementation services has a significant influence on determining value. Also included in this component of the matrix is the help, support, training, and digital strategy services each vendor provides.


You should make sure that your future CMS platform provider is ready to roll up their sleeves to help you get the most out of their platform.


Does your CMS provider have an integrations team to ensure that your site is connected to technologies that you utilize to conduct business? Most businesses need to connect their site to payment processing platforms, customer relationship management platforms like Salesforce, and more. It helps to know there is a number to call and a support technician standing by to help.


Does your CMS provider offer services to bring your web design aspirations to life or provide tips to ensure the best user experience? If you don’t have the internal resources available, it helps to know that there is a team that knows how to navigate your CMS and develop your site for you.


Does your CMS provider take care of all infrastructure, software, security, compliance, maintenance performance and capacity management? Before you develop a site on your CMS or enter a long-term agreement, it’s worth checking to see if they monitor your site for updates, backups and changes. It’s also worth looking in the disaster recovery options available if your site gets hacked.

Your CMS provider should be able to partner with customers to provide successful solutions that deliver real results.


Breaking it Down by Stakeholders

Discussing the value of your CMS can get real complicated, real fast. In general, it’s difficult to quantify or measure the value of a CMS in metrics, not to mention aligning those metrics to the actual business value of your platform. The value of a CMS also depends on the stakeholder you’re speaking with in an organization.


There may not be a specific metric to measure the value of a CMS, but we can understand the value a CMS brings to an organization by discussing the costs and value propositions.


Costs typically include a software license, maintenance costs, implementation labor, ongoing labor, consulting and training.


Financial value can include reduction or reallocation of intranet management staff, reduced website development time and lower cost of training due to platform support teams and online support channels.


Other financially measurable benefits of implementing a CMS for your business include improved sales conversions or upsell revenue based on intranet conversations or integration with social media, revenue from new business, revenue from sales activities managed through the CMS, improved ideation, reduced time to hire, improved marketing processes and cross-departmental collaboration, improved lead generation and nurturing workflows, and the list could go on and on.

A CMS brings value to many different members of any organization and requires buy-in from a varied team of stakeholders.Understanding the overall goals of your organization and how they can be achieved through the use of a CMS can bring to light the true financial and qualitative value of your upgrade.


Researching Your Future CMS

Onboarding to a new CMS requires a long-term commitment that will benefit you greatly in the long run but you want to make sure it’s a good fit. Research reviews and case studies before signing an agreement for your new CMS.

When your selection committee makes a final decision and you have an extremely helpful new CMS to assist your everyday business efforts, you’ll be so glad you spent the time now ensuring that your business is equipped with the right software.


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