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The Best Content Management Systems and Blogging Platforms of 2019

By
Mona Bushnell
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jan 16, 2018
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> Technology
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Content Management System Comparison

We reviewed dozens of CMS platforms and then chose our best picks based on performance, utility and category. Technically speaking, a CMS platform is different from a blogging platform or web hosting service; however, there is considerable crossover in the features of each of these categories. For this reason, our selection of best picks straddles multiple categories and focuses on the features that each solution brings to the table.

For example, our choice for best overall CMS is WordPress, because it offers the most universally useful features for website design, hosting (if you upgrade to WordPress.org), and reporting and analytics. However, we also included a best pick for ecommerce (Magento), easy blog creation (Weebly), web CMS (Preation Eden Platform), and website or blog hosting (A2 Hosting). Magento offers ecommerce features that other services don't, and that might be more important to some users than the advanced analytics Preation Eden Platform offers. On the flip side, Weebly is ideal for basic web design for users who don't care that much about advanced features but want a great-looking, business-ready website, while A2 Hosting offers server-based hosting and advanced security features for custom or CMS-created websites.

Basically, each of our best picks brings some great CMS-style features to the table. Keep reading to find out which content solution is right for your unique business needs.

Best Picks

Reviews

Below are all of our reviews of content management systems and blogging platforms.

Pricing

CMS solutions, like other systems, vary broadly in cost. Most major CMS providers offer a free version of their product as well as optional premium features for monthly subscription fees, which are often billed annually. Typically, CMS companies structure their pricing in tiers, with the monthly cost increasing as functionality is added to the package, and many companies offer business-specific subscriptions, which are typically pricier than those intended for individual bloggers.

  • Basic monthly fees for individuals typically range from $4 to $15.
  • Basic monthly fees for businesses typically range from $12 to $40.

It's important to note that on top of these basic subscription packages, many CMS companies offer customization services that may require an additional payment or a higher subscription rate.

Editor's Note: Looking for website design software? We can help you choose the one that’s right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

 

 

Negotiation Tips

Before you take the plunge and choose a CMS provider, it's always best to make sure you're getting the maximum bang for your buck. Here are a few ways to make sure you're not missing out on a deal:

  • Find out if there's a monthly rate discount for paying a lump annual sum. Likewise, ask if there are any additional discounts if you purchase more than one year of service at a time.

  • Ask if the service can offer you any perks for giving it your business. Many customer service representatives can waive one-time fees and even toss in some extras to land new clients, but if you don't ask, you're unlikely to receive any newbie perks.

  • If the price of the CMS you want is higher than those of competitors that offer similar features, ask if the provider can match the price.

In addition to these basic negotiating tips, make sure you're certain about what features are included in your subscription and which ones aren't. If possible, try to think ahead about what your company might need in the future, and find out if the CMS company you're interviewing allows for easy plan upgrades (or if it charges individually for added functionality).

State of the Industry

CMS solutions help businesses of all sizes maintain an online presence through blogs and websites, internally organize and optimize content, and process orders and payments online. A well-deployed content management system can extend the reach of a business online, increase search rankings, unify communications to customers in one place and manage employee contributions to content (through administrative and security settings, as well as accountability within the CMS).

Responsive templates, like those found in many of the CMS platforms we reviewed here, make it easy for SMBs to maintain professional-looking websites without employing a large team of web and graphic designers. It's no wonder, then, that so many businesses use CMS services. WordPress alone is used by over 2.8 million websites to date, and as CMS programs become easier to implement and less expensive to use, it's likely more SMBs will adopt them.  

What Is a CMS Used For?

At the most basic level, a CMS lets you upload and manage the content for your website. No matter the size or type of your business, a CMS has become almost indispensable. It operates on the backend of your website, allowing you to manage the content and other facets of your website, including the visual layout.

Another benefit of a CMS is that it makes it easy for users with varying levels of tech savviness. If your tech literacy is low, CMS systems have a variety of premade themes and plug-ins that have already been developed (think phone apps but for your website) and allow you to add tools, like search or appointment calendars, to your website.

If you know how to code, or employ software developers, most CMS software is open source and can be customized to your liking.

Businesses of all types can benefit from using a CMS for their website. Here are some examples of how a CMS can enhance the websites for a variety of different business types:

  • Restaurants: CMS software makes it easy for restaurants to add and update their menus, create coupons and offers, and allow customers to make reservations online. There are many premade plug-ins that specifically target restaurant websites.
  • eCommerce: A CMS can benefit your online store by allowing you to quickly add and remove products, track sales, and manage other aspects of your business. Plug-ins are available to add a shopping cart to your site. A brick-and-mortar store can easily add a shopping cart using a CMS.
  • Small Businesses: No matter what type of business you operate, a website is a necessity in today's business world. A CMS allows you to manage the content yourself and update information quickly. Most CMS applications include SEO plug-ins to help you optimize your website's content. You can also find templates and themes to quickly create an attractive website without having to hire a designer.
  • Nonprofits: A CMS allows nonprofits to easily manage their websites for not a lot of money, plus you can accept donations online by adding plug-ins. Many open-source CMS applications have robust communities of developers that can help nonprofits create the best websites. Add-ons and plug-ins are also available to help nonprofits manage their social media and marketing presence.

CMS vs Blogging Platforms

A CMS platform is different from a blogging platform in terms of scale. Some of the services profiled in our buying guide began as blogging platforms and offer that service, but a CMS is much more robust, offering greater control over the look and feel of your site as well as allowing for different administrative levels of control. A CMS also allows you to add plug-ins that expand the look and functionality of your site. You can brand your website, send emails, manage user access and even add a shopping cart.

Another main difference between a blog platform and a CMS is that the blog will be hosted by the platform itself. This means that your website will have the domain name of the blog host, such as Blogger.

If you use a CMS to manage and develop your website, you'll need to pay for the domain and the web hosting. Many CMS platforms include web hosting services, though you'll have to pay for the hosting. You can read our articles about web hosting to learn more.

Open Source vs. Closed Source

Content management systems fall into two major categories: open source and closed source. An open source CMS has lower costs and is created and maintained by a community of developers A closed source CMS is proprietary and is more expensive to use. Here are some other benefits and drawbacks with each type of CMS.

The biggest difference is in the price. Open source CMS software doesn't require you to purchase a license in order to access and change its source code. All code is free to the public and often supported by a large community of users. This gives you solid support since so many others are using the program as well. It's easy to find ideas for incorporating various functions and features on your website. You can also find the required code from these community support groups, so even if you aren't as program savvy as others, you can find enough information to make it work.

However, because the source code is free with so many users, most CRM companies continually update the software. This means you can count on new versions, patches and updates on a fairly regular basis, which could require you to change your website and code in order to keep up.

Because the code of open source programs is license-free, there is a greater risk of a security breach. Everyone using the open source code understands how to get around various protections. However, you can invest in add-ons and other security programs that work hand-in-hand with content management systems to give you an extra layer of security. Closed source CMS software has heavily guarded source code that requires a license in order to access it, or several if you have a team of developers. Because the source is so protected, it costs a lot to get started. Several closed source content management systems require a monthly access fee, so it isn't unheard of to have to pay between $200 and $1,000 to get started.

Since you put so much effort into creating a CMS program, these systems are built to last for a while between version releases. While the occasional update or patch may occur, for the most part, once you purchase a closed source CMS, you can find solace in knowing you won't have to update the program and risk reworking your website code. This also helps keep the program more secure since there is a limited number of people who hold a license to the code.

If you discover you need help with your closed source CMS, you don't have the large community support found with open source software. Instead, these systems tend to come with high-end, personal support including telephone support, which is rare among open source content management systems.

Benefits of Open Source CMS

  • Cost: An open source CMS doesn't involve any fees to use the platform. All of the open source CMS applications in our lineup include a free option. You may have to pay for hosting or advanced features, but there are several themes that are free to start with.
  • Customization: Open source CMS applications are flexible and can fit the needs of many businesses. Because a broad community of developers works on these systems, there are a wide variety of options, so you can find certain tools or plug-ins to suit your business. For example, if you want to add a feature so your customers can schedule an appointment or make a reservation online, there are several plug-ins available that are easy to integrate with your CMS.

Drawbacks of Open Source CMS

  • Vulnerability: Open source CMS software can be vulnerable to security issues, especially if plug-ins and modules are not updated.
  • Support: Don't count on personalized support for problems you run into with your particular website.

Benefits of a Closed Source CMS

  • Security: Because this type of CMS software is proprietary, these applications undergo a more rigorous testing process, which leaves them less vulnerable to Trojans and other security flaws.
  • Customized Support: You can receive ongoing, personalized support to help you troubleshoot any problems with your site. Often this support costs extra.

Disadvantages of Closed Source CMS

  • Cost: Costs range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of a hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope and scale of the CMS.
  • Lack of Flexibility: A closed source solution isn't always one size fits all, but there are fewer options for customization, and if you need something specific for your business, you may have to pay extra for it.

A content management system allows you to quickly and easily add and edit content on your website. You can control who has access to the various functions of the software and can schedule when content goes live on your website. We've assembled a lineup of the 10 best CMS applications in the industry so you can explore your options and find the one best suited for your business.

Common Content Management System and Blogging Platform Questions & Answers

Have a content management system or blogging platform question of your own?
Ask an Expert

Where to start with developing a Cloud Content Management (CCM) System?

6 responses
6
Responses
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Hi Reed, Before you start hiring someone to write software for you, I might suggest you take a step back and look at what you're trying to accomplish. Who do you think your customer is? What problem do you think they have? How many potential customers have you talked to and have they come to you with this problem? (or have they only talked about it when you've brought it up). Would they pay extra for something that was more user friendly or can they live with the status quo? Where to...

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You can do all this with Joomla. Based on this short list of requirements, I'd recommend exploring HikaMarket, which is a great multi-vendor solution for B2B. For signup via social network, there are several Joomla extensions that provide that capability. There are also several good membership components. Note that while Joomla is open source and free, quality extensions to do what you need are likely to be commercial. Even if you do all the web design & development work on your own, you...

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A good CMS is the first place to start and we have found Wordpress and Squarespace to be the best (we love Squarespace). A good place to find writers is Writer Access and Inbound Writer is also an amazing tool to zero in on the best content topics/titles. Regarding placing ads for amplification purposes, we tried AdEspresso but the results lacked so we have gone back to using Power Editor on Facebook (which is free) and they continue to make positive updates so I would suggest sticking with...

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I would start with what not to do. Don't write a blog revolving around "I." Don't whine, moan, complain about your lousy day. You want to make people interested. The way to do that is to shift the focus to "them." It doesn't really matter what topic you choose as long as you can provide for them something they can remember your blog with. Give them humor; give them information; give them new ideas; how-to's deep thoughts - something that will be memorable for them. A place to start...

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Well, there is no quick and dirty answer. First of all, most everyone will say content. Some will say design, but I say it's content, audience, message, and design. To the casual visitor, the design might catch their eye, but to get a return visit, the content had better be engaging, resonate with your target audience (notice I said target). I know of many bloggers that have little to no design for their blogs and have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. So, if you are new to...

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List of the The Best Content Management Systems and Blogging Platforms of 2019

FAQ - Terminology

Throughout our reviews, we use a lot of internet and programming terms that might sound familiar but you don t quite know the meaning. Below are samples of some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to terminology. 

What is access control?
This refers to a hierarchical system of privileges and permissions that secures content and identifies who can read, create, modify, and delete content on a web site.

What are web analytics?
This is the study of the impact of a website on its visitors. E-commerce companies often use web analytics software to measure statistics such as how many visitors, how many unique visitors, how they arrived at the site (i.e., if they followed a link to get to the site or came there directly), what keywords they searched using the site s search engine, how long they stayed on a given page or on the entire site, what links they clicked on and when they left the site. Web analytic software can also be used to monitor whether or not a site s pages are working properly. With this information, site administrators can determine which areas of the site are popular and which areas of the site do not get traffic and can then use this data to create a better/more profitable user experience.

What is asset management?
Asset management is the organization and publication of digital assets such as content and media and including but not limited to images, sounds, animations, movies, music and text.

What is the back end?
A database or program that is accessed by users indirectly through an external application. In a CMS, the admin panel is the back end.

What is CSS?
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet   this is the preferred way to add styles (which include fonts, sizes, colors and spacing) to web documents and designs. It s preferred because of the capability to simply tweak a class or identification attribute on the style sheet that will automatically apply to the entire page. Compared with the manual way of editing thousands of individual font tags, CSS is an elegant and efficient design tool.

What is a database server?
In either a client-server model or a master-slave configuration, this is a computer program that stores and performs the database services to other programs or computers.

What is deployment?
In systems this term describes the transforming of a computer system from a packaged form to an operation state. In software, deployment is used to describe all activities that make a software system available for use.

What is document management?
Document management systems (DMS) are similar to content management systems and serve different though complementary roles within an organization. DMS focus is primarily on the storage and retrieval of self-contained electronic resources in their original (native) format.

What is the front end?
As opposed to the back end, the front end is an interface that collects input from a user in various forms and processes it to conform to a specification useable by the back end.

What is load balancing?
This is the practice of dispersing work between two or more computers, network links, CPUs, hard drives, or other resources.

What is a log?
In a database or CMS this is a record of sequential data. In content management system software this could be user logs, content logs, etc.

What does OS stand for?
OS stands for Operating System   this is the interface between the hardware and its user. For example, if your computer is a PC your OS is likely Windows-based. If your computer is a Mac, it s OSX, etc.

What is Page Rank?
Page rank is the Google system of ranking web pages determines the value of any individual web page.

What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication   it is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works such as news headlines, blogs, etc. These feeds benefit content publishers by enabling them to syndicate their content automatically.

What is a sandbox?
In content management system software, this is a secure area where developers can test a software tool or other code modification with full administration privileges, but safely walled off from affecting the stability of the site or CMS.

What is a static page (as opposed to dynamic)?
Static means that the web page always contains the same information in response to all download requests from all users. A dynamic page is regularly updated.

What is validation?
In content management system software, validation refers to security measures that ensure data inserted into an application meets pre-determined formats, complies with length requirements and any other defined input criteria you assign to it.

What is meant by workflow in a CMS?
Workflow is the system for routing documents or pages between users responsible for working on them   the management of who is making changes to or creating a content element or template.