Getting the most out of a CMS Website

Date posted: 1/14/2013 11:55:10 AM

I've built thousands of websites since 1997. In a matter of speaking, I was there at the moment a content management system (CMS) became a reality for many people in the Southwest Michigan after an experiment in the production room of a little web development firm known as The Internet Man.

It was at that moment that not only did we see dollar signs, we saw what inevitably would become one of the most amazing and horrible things to ever happen to the internet: content management for the masses. The struggle to take the infinite and crunch it down into 300 words or less.. Then there's this concept of why people read: to know how to do something (mechanical or otherwise), to be educated (such as about how many countries there are, etc) and to be entertained. 

I think we can agree that most people don't have a clue about writing a compelling document that would explain their chosen field of expertise. Lord knows, I don't. I've struggled for years at the blank canvas of a CMS website control panel wondering "what can I say now?" It's never pretty when you come up with good content. It's a harsh reality check when you have to admit that all those people with English and Communications majors actually do something other than teach. They tell a story - a darn GOOD story at that! So good, mind you, that they can command a very hefty fee for us non-creative types who can barely form a complete sentence and couldn't spell without the aid of spell check!

In the end, that's as it should be.

So where is this all going and what does this have to do with CMS websites?

 With a good CMS, you have infinite possibility at your fingertips. Much like a blank canvas, your CMS website becomes your gateway to communicating your ideas (products and services, too) to the world. The catch is how to do it effectively so that you say just the right thing to just the right people who are looking to do business with someone just like you. Most of us don't have the brand recognition that larger companies have so we have to rely on a very targeted, influential message that will captivate and motivate potential customers. This article will attempt to break it down to basics to help you make an educated decision about how to approach this very complex topic as well as help you understand the basics of how to get the most out of a website built with a CMS system.

With that, let's get started!

What kind of CMS websites are there?

Contenet management systems have literally burst onto the web development market from complete obscurity in the last 5-6 years. Familiar names like WordPress and Joomla are just two examples of content management systems that have dominated the small commercial and personal web space. However, there are scores of other options - some paid, some not - that give you robust options, ease of use and very decent security. The top nine (paid and free) CMS systems are:

 Each of these have their merits so I can't comment on which is better or worse than the others. Read up on each to determine which fit your budget and competency level.

Okay, I picked my CMS. Who's going to build my site?

Some of these CMS options can be very complex to implement. Unlike Wordpress or Joomla, some of the other systems are simply best managed by a good web developer. Because good web developers are hard to find, you may be compelled to do it yourself. Though entirely possible, it does open up a number of challenges that you may not be prepared to deal with while running your business. Those of you who are technically challenged may find that the "easy" and "quick" don't apply to you. Don't be discouraged. If web development were easy, then...well, okay JUST about everyone can do it - but just about everyone can dribble a basketball, too. That doesn't make them a professional basketball player.

Be careful not to take on more than you can handle. Web launches are complex and require a lot of time and effort that you may not be ready to commit if you've never done it before.

My site is complete. Now can I add content?

You could, yes. There's a lot of opportunity when you log into your site for the first time. Your mind races with excitment because you have the tools you need to communicate with the world! Now, what was it that you were going to say?

This is where those fancy English and Communications people come into play. Content is a crazy hard thing to come up with if you aren't informed. You may be an expert 100 times over in your chosen field but if you want to reach people, and I mean really reach people, you'll want to choose your words wisely. If choosing is a difficult thing for you to do then I recommend getting a professional. It's worth every penny and you'll be able to get great content with little to no effort. Just give the topic, a few points of interest and let that person type away. If they are saavy with web optimization, all the better.

I've got content. Now what?

Be prepared to change it every week.

Yes, you read correctly. A well built, search engine friendly, optimized site changes content regularly. After all, you are the expert! You'll definitely have something to say - just make sure you do it regularly.

An alarming statistic I recently read was that over 80% of all websites that engage customers on the internet fail within three years if they don't have relevant, optimized content. This wasn't a flash in the pan analysis, either. This was a study of sites over a multi-year period. The outcome showed an upward trend in website failures from 70-82% over a four year period. This is very significant!

If you are positive that your content will be engaging, relevant and optimized for search then by all means write away. If you aren't positive then I would suggest contacting an agency that can help you. It may cost money up front but you'll earn your money back if it's done right.