Best Headless CMS 2024— An Introduction
Before we dive in I have a confession to make. This is not your typical “best of” article. Instead, it is a lighthearted attempt to highlight what is really going on with “best of” blogs like this. That said, I will address the topic in part further down the page. You have been warned.
The Paradox of Choice
In recent years we’ve become accustomed to ‘listicles’ — a means to cut through the noise. After all, we are suffering from what Barry Schwartz described as The Paradox of Choice. It is hard to believe that book is 20 years old. Schwartz is now 76 years old. I’m not sure even he envisaged how things would play out a mere 20 years later. In the book, he argued that everyday decisions have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented. When it comes to software or SaaS, it has become even harder.
Overwhelmed with choice. We are all looking for shortcuts, and Google has become the battleground.
The Battle for Eyeballs
In the battle for eyeballs — competition is intense. Tools like Ahrefs.com and Semrush (to name but two) help arm the modern marketer with insights to inform content marketing efforts. High-intent keywords represent the most highly prized ones for marketers. In most instances, they need to be bought with Google as the only seller in town — setting the price for a mere click. The market means that the price for the clicks is a function of search intent plus competition. Those with deep pockets dominate, and the rest take the battle to organic rankings. Can I win the organic click becomes the order of the day? Hence the listicle blog.
Best Headless CMS 2024— They Must be Buying
Adding “Best” before the target keyword of “Headless CMS” is the giveaway. This simple addition signals “commercial intent”. The person searching must be in “buying mode”. They are looking for an impartial assessment of the market. Someone to do the heavy lifting for them? Really? A Google search entails “Best Headless CMS 2024” with the year appended to ensure the most recent list appears at the top.
This brings us nicely to the intention of the author. And here comes the bad news. In most instances, the author represents one of those featured in the article. This blog is no different. Undertaking a thorough assessment of the leading Headless CMS solutions would take days if done properly. I am the CEO of a Headless CMS and thus am motivated to write a list that we (Contento) appear in. That is the game. Either the author represents one of those featured (as is the case here) and is thus not impartial, or the author is taking a major shortcut. Doing a thorough in-depth job assessing 10 separate Headless CMS solutions takes time.
Best Headless CMS 2024
It is now August 2023 as I write this. Yet the blog title is for 2024. By getting in early I am hoping to increase the odds of “winning that search battle”.
But have I done enough? Only time will tell.
[Spoiler Alert — Yes it worked — as of Jan 2024 this blog is at the top of the organic listing in the UK for Best Headless CMS 2024]
I am reminded of Christmas adverts appearing on TV in the autumn — they seem to appear earlier every year. But as you’ll have gathered by now, this blog is as much an experiment as anything else. Perhaps I should kill two birds with one stone and get 2025’s edition in early as well?
The Marketing Tactic
Like any marketing strategy, once it becomes successful, others wade in. They’ll adapt three main strategies.
1- Write their own listicle, just like this. A typical approach is to list your own solution first, say nice things about that, before adding the others saying less nice things about them (but not being too critical of them). As I’m not one to break with convention I’ll follow that approach below.
2- They will identify the top ranked “best of” blogs already appearing in Google that reference your category.
If your solution is not featuring, they will outreach to the author offering a generous referral fee if their solution can be added/ included in the list.
3- They will try and outrank the top-ranked “best of” blog. This is harder to do than it looks. You’ll need to write on a site with a high domain authority, and ensure your content is longer, more thorough, and better constructed than those in the top positions. Not easy. After all, they want to retain the highly prized top spot.
Where once a 500-word blog got you on to page 1 — you are now required to nudge the 2000-word mark. But that is often not enough. Tools like Ahrefs.com, Semrush, and others can be used to identify what elements you need to include to stand a chance of featuring.
So back to this blog.
So far the content doesn’t match the title.
I could thus be accused of ‘link bait’ — the process of creating content to attract eyeballs with a catchy title. That’s not my style though. So let’s address the “elephant in the room”.
Now we know — for all but the odd exception these listicles are not as straight-forward as you think. Motivations and incentives mean “best of” software articles are rarely independent. So how can I narrow my choice if I can’t trust listicles?
Narrowing Your Choice
Instead let’s explore the intent behind the search. It is often someone sourcing a new solution, where the choice seems overwhelming.
Why not outsource the decision to someone else? Let them do the heavy lifting. This seems logical but now we know that these listicles are rarely written by honest brokers, we need other ways to narrow the choice.
The following represent some common routes to do so.
1- Use review sites like G2, Capterra, and Software Advice to get a feel for the solution from the reviews. Bear in mind that ‘developer relations’ is now a full-time role in many of these organizations and thus the provenance of many reviews is doubtful at best. Focus instead on the negative reviews as they’ll help you understand some issues users have had with the solution.
2- Seek recommendations from others who occupy similar roles to yours. Ideally, someone who has had to decide in a close context.
3- Identify solutions that are offering a more focused solution than a mass market one. Newer entrants often position themselves closely to a significant niche. If this overlaps with your vertical then they are worth a look (in the SaaS world this is known as ‘vertical SaaS’). For example, Chartmogul recently launched a CRM specifically for B2B SaaS companies.
4- When it comes to tech offerings incl Headless CMS, you can search reddit or Quora to assess what people are writing about some of the leading solutions in the category you are looking at.
Best Headless CMS 2024 — The List
Now that I’ve outlined how these blogs work I feel obliged to include a list.
By way of a full disclosure like everyone else compiling these lists I’ve not fully tested all of these so most of what appears below is based on impressions gleaned from being a voracious reader of all things Headless, rather than a thorough review of each application.
No surprises here.
Contento is a modern Headless Content Management System 100% focused on marketing websites.
As a later entrant to the party, it benefits from last mover advantage learning from the mistakes of those who have gone before. Contento offers the perfect balance of simple content management paired with powerful content modeling — loved by both the content team and devs alike. Unlike others who aggressively ramp pricing, Contento offer a straightforward pricing structure that is not designed to price gouge. They also bake in key features like SEO and a visual editor across all product tiers enabling all users to access the whole product. Reusable content blocks also help to speed up page build times enabling the marketing team to optimize workflows independent of developers.
Arguably the market leader, Contentful is known for a solution that is a great fit for the enterprise end of the market. With a steep learning curve and eye-watering pricing, it is best suited for those with large teams and a hefty marketing budget.
The Sanity composable content cloud empowers teams at industry-leading companies.
Storyblok is a content management system (CMS) that empowers all teams to create and scale modern content experiences across any digital channel.
Prismic is the headless website builder that lets developers and marketers ship and iterate faster, and build sites that just keep getting better.
Contentstack is the leading composable digital experience platform (DXP) provider used by enterprises to deliver digital experiences.
7. Headless WordPress
Headless WordPress is an attempt to overcome issues with WordPress, by taking advantage of the benefits of Headless, and the familiarity of WordPress as a content manager. From what I’ve read, trying to marry a monolithic CMS with a modern Headless CMS simply doesn’t work.
Caisy is a headless CMS that streamlines content management and ensures seamless delivery across various devices & channels.
9. Butter CMS
ButterCMS is an API-first headless CMS for rapidly building CMS-powered apps and websites in any programming language.
Listicles are a popular way to short-circuit a detailed evaluation of potential vendors in a category you are looking to source a solution. As this article has described, in the majority of cases they do not represent a true and fair assessment of the market. At most, they should be used as a basis to draw up an initial vendor shortlist, while recognizing that the lists are generally dominated by those with the deepest pockets.
PS. I’m back at it already for 2025 (-;