Headless CMS: a copywriter’s guide to using this breakthrough approach
Learn how headless CMSs can help copywriters increase their productivity.
Headless content management systems (CMSs) are transforming the way businesses operate digitally by having a central hub feeding in content to different devices, touchpoints, and channels. For businesses, there are several benefits to adopting this approach. But, what’s it like using this new technology? In this blog, we explain how copywriters can take advantage of the modern solution’s range of features and functions.
How do traditional CMSs work?
When most copywriters hear the term ‘CMS’, they probably associate the phrase with the longstanding platform WordPress. Even today, this traditional CMS is widely-used because, through its templating system and plug-in capabilities, it provides a straightforward framework for developers to build a website. Namely, this is because the back-end system is tightly coupled with the front-end presentation layer (the website), meaning the site can be built relatively quickly.
However, while the website is easy-to-build, optimising it is more challenging because if you want to improve something on the front-end, you need to change the back-end code as well. Furthermore, to create a new digital experience on a new channel using a traditional CMS, you typically have to increase your licensing fees and double your workload by building the new experience from scratch.
On the copywriting front, traditional CMSs are easy-to-use because the templates are set out – all the copywriter needs to do is create, edit and publish the content.
What is headless CMS?
A headless CMS revolutionises the traditional approach because it is back-end only, which is decoupled from the front-end presentation layer (the website). Rather than operating in tandem on a tightly coupled codebase, the back-end system communicates with the front-end – or multiple front-ends (e.g. website, mobile site, app, etc) – via an application programming interface (API).
Simply put, a headless CMS is a central database that businesses can build and manage all their channels from. Therefore, if you want to build a new experience for mobile, your teams do not have to interact with the complexities of the back-end code. Instead, they just retrieve the data and functionality through the API layer and build the front-end experience independently.
This offers businesses a more agile framework through which they can respond to market changes faster. Beyond that, designers and developers can create customised front-end experiences that better engage with audiences because they are no longer restricted to front-end templates.
Therefore, this modern approach has immeasurable benefits on the front-end, but how does this new approach translate to the copywriter’s role on the back-end? In the next part of the blog, we will explain how copywriters can leverage the capabilities of a headless CMS.
Optimising the workflow
The most obvious benefit for copywriters is that headless CMS offers a structured workflow, combined with simultaneous editing. Take a blog, for instance. In the first stage of the workflow, the blog might have a draft function. Once the blog has been written by the copywriter, that contributor can change the status of the blog to editing. Changing the status of the content item alerts the editor with an email, so they know it is their turn to contribute. Once edited, the blog can be moved through to proofreading for a final check, before being sent for approval in the client review stage.
Furthermore, if the client has comments about the copy, they can leave them as a suggestion which the copywriter can revisit and implement without losing any of the already-completed work. For the client, this removes lengthy email chains from the workflow while reducing errors and enhancing productivity on the creative side. A structured CMS workflow facilitates collaboration between copywriting teams and clients, enabling both to find the best solution for each piece of content.
Facilitating the authoring experience
Headless CMSs are back-end only, which therefore demands ‘pure content’. To aid copywriters in delivering ‘pure’ copy, these modern systems provide guidelines and rules to help create each type of content. So, whether the content is a landing page, an email, a blog or a social media post, different guidelines inform and facilitate the authoring experience for every user.
An outbound marketing email, for example, may include guidelines for multivariate testing. From there, the copywriting team know that they have to include two versions of a subject line to optimise the email’s open-rate. The onus is on copywriters to create ‘pure content’ which designers can use to create more innovative and impactful front-end designs.
Planning and delivering content campaigns
From the outset, copywriters have more oversight when using a headless CMS. Unlike traditional CMSs, the modern CMS comes built-in with editorial calendars, which means copywriting teams can plan and coordinate their content campaigns on the technology. Consequently, this tool provides all users with full visibility of a content campaign months in advance.
Especially when scoping out ambitious, multi-layered campaigns, the calendar function helps copywriting teams identify risks and prevents painful content freezes from taking place.
Beware, however, that with more ambitious campaigns, you will need to find a way of labelling your content items to help your teams’ search the technology most efficiently. Headless CMSs do come with intricate taxonomy features which allow you to categorise items neatly, but to optimise efficiency for lengthier campaigns, it is worth adding a simple code to each item.
Consistent and reusable content items
Although headless CMS empowers front-end innovation, that does not mean everything you write and design has to be bespoke. In some use cases, you just need consistency. This could, for instance, be through a standardised CTA footer.
With a headless CMS, you can create standardised content items that you can reuse across a specific channel, meaning you do not need to duplicate your workload. Be careful, though, if you alter an already published content item, that item will be altered in every place that it is used on the channel – which might not be your intention.
And, does headless CMS impact SEO?
Crucially, no. Just like with a traditional CMS, SEO is delivered on a headless system through a carefully crafted strategy that meets Google’s algorithm. This can be achieved through site structure, keyword optimisation, internal links, and most significantly, through useful and relevant information. These factors are then combined with the meta data, including the all-important meta description, to help entice searchers into clicking on the page.
As these same capabilities are provided in a headless CMS, the technology itself does not adversely affect SEO. As ever, when it comes to SEO, the power lies in the hands of your copywriting and digital marketing teams. However, it is worth remembering that implementing headless technology should improve User Experience – if the page is faster and easier-to-use, the chances are that it will enhance SEO.
Is headless CMS the future?
Given the far-reaching benefits of headless CMSs, it is unsurprising to see many forward-thinking businesses ‘going headless’. For copywriters and content editors, this paradigm shift is welcome, providing a more efficient and effective way of working.
Writing copy directly into the back-end database may seem strange at first, but once you adapt to this new way of working, there is no turning back.
Contact us now to learn how we can help you create and deliver engaging copy for multichannel applications.