How Does a Headless CMS Help Marketing Teams Operate More Efficiently?

Alan Gleeson
7 min readJan 3, 2024

Traditional (legacy) CMS like WordPress and Drupal are now over 20 years old. In Internet years that is a lifetime. While legacy CMSs continue to evolve and innovate, the core underlying architecture is the same — a monolithic approach to website management. In short, this means the design and content are rolled into one. After all, that was part of the initial attraction — an all-in-one solution. However, roll forward 20-plus years and this is not such a great idea anymore — particularly in certain circumstances, as I’ll describe below.

The Emergence of Modern Approaches to Content (Website) Management

In recent years several modern approaches to website building have emerged. One such modern CMS category is called Headless, a strange name no doubt, but one that is gaining significant traction amongst leading companies.

The core principle of Headless is that bundling everything together as traditional CMS does is not ideal. With a Headless approach, the front-end and the back-end are separated (or decoupled). The Headless part focuses on the content, and the design elements are separated and are agnostic as to the front-end.

This seemingly simple distinction takes you in a completely different direction though and that is the category Contento sits in, a modern Headless CMS optimized for marketing & B2B SaaS websites.

Before we dive in it is worth sharing some pointers.

1- CMS Selection Nuanced

CMS selection is always a nuanced conversation. Discussions about CMS are rarely unbiased and authors like myself are taking ‘our side of the fence’.

There is a significant WordPress community who believe that the traditional approach is still the best route forward, and would likely push back against some (if not many) of the points in this article. As the oft-used quote argues:

It Is Difficult to Get a Man to Understand Something When His Salary Depends Upon His Not Understanding It

— Source: Upton Sinclair (1934)

2- Context is Everything

CMS selection is very much a ‘horses for courses’ type of decision. Context is everything. A traditional setup will work well in certain circumstances (especially for basic sites), whereas a Headless setup is better aligned with commercial bespoke websites that are on a growth journey (and where there is in-house access to a front-end developer).

3- Tech Leaders Have Embraced Headless

Headless has become synonymous with developers and tech leaders. They have represented the early adopters who were often frustrated with legacy CMS and were looking to future-proof their CMS with a modern solution. An API-based CMS appeals as it represents an approach they are familiar with. The flip side is that most Headless CMS solutions focus almost exclusively on the needs of developers to the neglect of marketers, an issue we are acutely aware of and are trying to solve at Contento.

Common Issues with Traditional CMS

So what are some of the issues we see marketers having with traditional CMS like WordPress and how does a Headless CMS solution like Contento solve these?

Before we get started here — again some caveats are useful.

  1. I am sure that some of the WordPress issues listed below are ‘the fault’ of the developer rather than ‘the platform’ — I get that, and I will try and draw distinctions where I can.
  2. Some of the issues listed will be ones that can be solved with a traditional CMS- but I flag them because they often need additional investment to solve (be that faster hosting) or more dev time.
  3. I am assuming that the issues listed relate to ‘mature sites’. In month 1 most brand-new sites are pretty basic in terms of page numbers, sophistication, and additional technologies in use. The landscape looks pretty different for a 5-year-old site that has had several years of different marketing leaders leaving their mark on it.
  4. I use WordPress to represent ‘the traditional way’ as it is by far the most dominant CMS, while also recognizing that not all traditional CMS will share the same issues.

Common Issues Marketers Have with Traditional CMS

1- Usability issues

While many experienced developers or content managers will reference how user-friendly WordPress is I beg to differ. My experience with WordPress is that it is extremely challenging, especially when it is often junior marketing people who are responsible for management and maintenance. Marketing people, I have spoken to referenced that they are living in fear that updating a plugin might take the whole site down. Hence many updates are ignored, undermining the security of the entire site.

It is also common for many marketing teams to have WordPress developers on a monthly retainer to fix bugs and ensure it does not fall over. Not a great use of funds.

2- Performance Issues

Performance is vitally important for high-traffic sites (especially B2B, SaaS, and technology sites) where you are looking to generate leads. Speed is a key factor, as it not only impacts conversion rates but also acts as a ranking factor for SEO.

Mature WordPress sites can suffer from website bloat:

  • Too many plugins.
  • Too many 3rd party apps.
  • Images that are not optimized for size.
  • All on top of an architecture that makes it hard to get the page load time under 1 second.

The architecture of a Headless CMS is highly performant and won’t be beaten by a traditional CMS (all other factors being similar) as the Headless setup typically avails of a Static Site Generator (SSG) and a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to ensure a blazingly quick setup.

Verdict: If speed is a crucial factor, picking a Headless CMS over a traditional one will help deliver on this goal, provided on-page best practices are also followed including image optimization.

3- Security Issues

Security is always a tricky subject. After all, the primary cause of security issues is user behavior — bad choice of passwords, ineffective password management processes, etc

WordPress tends to get a bad reputation for security vulnerabilities — in part because of its sheer dominance in terms of market share, but also because structurally there are known security issues (especially due to the use of a plugin ecosystem that numbers in the tens of thousands).

Headless CMSs are considered more secure than traditional CMSs due to their decoupled architecture. With separate front and back ends, the attack surface is reduced, and the risk of security breaches is thus reduced. Similarly, as the display layer is disconnected from the back-end content repository, vulnerabilities in one area are unlikely to impact the other. Finally, Headless CMSs tend to offer robust API security measures, enabling more controlled access to content and data.

Verdict: When it comes to security a Headless CMS solution tends to be a more secure route especially when the vendors used include behemoths like Netlify, Amazon, Linear, and Linode.

4- Duplication of Effort

An issue with traditional CMS is that the content is siloed and is thus not portable. Traditional CMS was designed just for powering websites, and there was never an intention to reuse the content in different channels (or ‘heads’). As channels proliferated, B2C companies in particular struggled to ensure data consistency, and duplication of effort was common. Menu price changes represent the most common example of a scenario where content held in different silos needs to be updated simultaneously, introducing the risk of error alongside the duplication of effort. The requirement for a more adaptable strategy that overcame these maintenance challenges and was thus more efficient led to the emergence of the headless CMS concept.

When you use your CMS as the content repository and take a structured content based approach to your content, you are creating the conditions to have a single source of truth for different content assets be that menu pricing, key features, or whatever. The idea is you change it once in your Headless CMS and it changes everywhere that pulls that content via the API.

Verdict: The appeal of one content repository feeding multiple ‘heads’ in an omnichannel world has been one of the key drivers behind the rapid adoption of Headless CMS amongst leading B2C companies. Similarly, content generators and developers can function autonomously, fostering smooth cooperation and expediting the process of iteration.

There are of course other issues marketers have with traditional CMS including flexibility, scalability, and the future-proofing of your tech stack which are also additional reasons marketers are searching for more attractive alternatives.


The marketing role is a demanding one. For a growing number of industries, your website is one of the most important elements to get right. This includes everything from messaging, to design, to conversion optimization with the CMS lying at the heart of it all.

If your site is on a traditional CMS, and you are encountering issues like those listed above it is time to reconsider. Building strong foundations on a modern CMS will future-proof this core part of your tech stack while also ensuring you are not hampering your short-term goals of optimizing performance.

About the Author

Alan Gleeson is the CEO and Co-Founder of Contento, a B2B SaaS content platform (Headless CMS) that helps B2B and SaaS companies scale via a best-of-breed website.

A version of this article originally appeared here.



Alan Gleeson

CEO and Co-Founder of Contento — a modern Headless CMS. B2B and Tech Marketing Consultant. Based in London. Passion for #SaaS .