How a Headless CMS Can Elevate Your Marketing & SEO Performance
Only a few short years ago, the terms SEO, UX and conversion optimization were all highly specialized practices that only cutting-edge companies were adopting. However, as of 2023, these are considered table stakes, with many companies having dedicated internal teams to handle these critical components of any digital marketing plan. While ranking algorithms and on-site optimization used to be the secret black-box tools of gurus, widely-held best practices and publicly available measurement tools (e.g., Google’s PageSpeed) now exist.
But this begs the question: if all companies now have access to the same tools and the same level of “expertise,” then how can any expect to compete? How can you outrank your competitor if they can do SEO just as well as you?
Well, it turns out that there are still cutting-edge technologies and methods available that can provide significant SEO, usability and conversion advantages. Namely, Headless CMS.
What (the Heck) is Headless CMS?
No doubt you’re comfortable with the idea of a CMS. From Open Source tools such as WordPress and Drupal to enterprise platforms such as SiteCore and AEM, CMSs power most websites on the planet nowadays.
But as useful as a CMS can be, they are also rife with flaws:
- Usually running on a single environment, the CMS ‘engine’ is responsible for allowing users to make and edit content. It is then also responsible for taking that content, combining it with templates, navigation, forms etc and generating web pages that make up your website. This takes time, and no matter how much code optimization you do, it’s challenging to achieve high PageSpeed scores.
- CMS templates are generally ‘locked,’ meaning that while you have flexibility within what’s been designed, you need to engage your development team if you want something custom. This hinders a site’s effectiveness as a marketing tool.
- Being a singular application (a.k.a. ‘monolithic’), sites that run on a CMS are prone to slowdowns during peak traffic times. They also offer hackers a central security target.
The concept of a headless CMS solves these problems. The idea is simple: CMS stands for Content Management System, and therefore all one should be expected to do is manage content and nothing more. Literally, nothing more.
So, in contrast to the flaws mentioned above:
- A headless CMS is no longer handling the presentation layer (templates) of your website. Instead, modern frameworks such as Next.js can be used to ‘pull’ the content out of the CMS and statically compile the entire site. With this approach, it is possible to achieve PageSpeed scores of 100/100!
- Now that the CMS just holds content, the front end can be designed in unlimited ways (by the campaign, business division, website vs. app, etc. etc.) for absolute flexibility. Imagine never again hearing, “the CMS can’t do that.”
- Since the site can be precompiled, it no longer needs to sit on a limited and compromisable server. Instead, it can be pushed to a global CDN, providing virtually unlimited scalability and zero ‘hackability.’
Clearly, there are some strong benefits that a headless CMS offers over traditional CMSs.
How Headless CMS Can Impact Marketing
Google has openly explained that page speed and now ‘page experience’ are direct ranking factors. So you can imagine the impact that a perfect PageSpeed score can have on your rankings and the advantage this can give you over slower competitors’ sites!
Additionally, using a framework such as Next.js to statically pre-compile the site means that your content is stored as basic HTML, making it easy for search engine ‘spiders’ to index all of your content effectively. No more need for SEO Audits!
Usability & Conversion Optimization
Consumers are generally impatient and expect websites to respond quickly. In fact, there are studies that directly correlate increased conversion rates to improved loading times (even a tenth of a second makes a difference!).
As explained above, with headless CMS, your site can now be statically deployed. And frameworks like Next.js use React under the hood, so pages simply transition between screens. There’s also no need to wait for complex computations like inventory checking, as those functions are delegated to cloud computing. Simply put, the notion of “loading time” ceases to exist, as page loading and navigation are instantaneous! It’s not hard to understand how an ‘instant’ website makes for a positive user experience and conversion.
Additionally, depending on the framework you select for the front end, your site can load instantly for visitors globally. If you use Next.js or Gatsby and deploy your site via a CDN such as Netlify or Vercel, copies of your static website will be replicated to data centers around the world. So wherever your visitors reside geographically, when they request your website, they will receive it from the closest data center. This means that there’s no need to wait for the data to travel “across the pond,” which shaves off many seconds to load times!
Few things can damage a brand quite as badly as a public hack. Whether that’s a phishing attack causing your site to be held as ransom or, even worse, a data leak with sensitive customer data, it’s hard to regain the lost trust as a result.
You may have noticed the subtle mention above of a CDN. What this actually means is that your site is no longer hosted on a centralized server that can be compromised. Instead, your code is safe in a secured repository, your content is stored in a headless CMS, customer data is secured in the cloud, and the only thing that people (and also hackers) will even see is just a static front-end!
Therefore, the safest way to avoid the fallout of customer trust due to hacking is to avoid it altogether.
Truthfully, this article just scratches the surface. Which headless CMS would work best for your requirements? How do you handle complex needs such as internationalization and multi-tenancy? How do you prevent SEO downturns in migration? Ideally, companies should work with a web development agency with strong expertise in headless CMS implementation and composable architecture.
Based on this brief article, it’s clear that headless CMSs offer many advantages over traditional platforms. The benefits greatly outweigh the cost and learning curve to migrating to headless.