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10 types of CMS KPIs development teams should watch out for

Target areas for improvement in the digital experience and evaluate whether a headless CMS could meaningfully change your most critical KPIs.
Jing Li

Written by Jing Li

Jun 25, 2024
10 types of CMS KPIs development teams should watch out for

Key performance indicators (KPIs) combine metrics with business context to measure and communicate a team’s progress toward a defined goal. Which KPIs to track will depend on the business's priorities, but for companies that rely on digital content and services, it’s clear that their Content Management System (CMS) will directly impact key KPIs.

The following list of KPIs can help development teams target areas for improvement in the digital experience, determine if an existing CMS is blocking progress, and evaluate if a headless CMS could provide meaningful change to their most critical KPIs.

#Direct KPIs

These KPIs are direct measures of a development team’s progress, focusing on the structure and production of the digital experience.

Security

Security requirements are an early evaluation criteria for any software decision. Working with vendors that are already compliant with data security standards like SOC2, ISO 27001, and GDPR will help your security auditing processes run smoothly.

Working with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms can also make it easier to keep your system secure. With SaaS, vendors are responsible for infrastructure maintenance and also for keeping the platform up-to-date with major changes in cloud platforms, programming languages, web browsers, and other key technologies. SaaS solutions can also provide instant security updates via the cloud, eliminating the security gap that can happen with on-premise software if teams fall behind on manual version updates.

With a headless CMS, the backend content repository is decoupled from frontend presentation. The frontend can only retrieve data from the backend via an API, lowering the overall surface area susceptible to an attack. This setup is one of the major security advantages of a headless CMS versus a monolithic system like WordPress.

To prevent unauthorized access to the system, a CMS should offer support for security measures like single-sign-on (SSO), two-factor authentication (2FA), and OAuth. Hygraph gives companies further access control with the ability to create custom roles (e.g., admin, editor, contributor) and assign granular permissions to those roles to control who can see certain data, modify settings, manage users, publish content, etc. Statistics Finland, a government agency with strict data regulation, uses highly specialized roles to allow 250 users to work in the CMS in a way that’s compliant with data security policies.

A CMS can also help strengthen security practices with features that make it easier to recover if anything goes wrong, like audit logs, automated backups, and content versioning.

Security KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Defect distribution. Instead of bundling updates to site content and connected services into one big release, a CMS that makes it easy to frequently test and deploy changes lets teams efficiently find and fix defects before they cause major vulnerabilities. This helps the defect distribution “shift left” in the development process, meaning that a larger percentage of issues are caught in early testing stages, and fewer escape into production.

  • Loss expectancy. Annual Loss Expectancy (ALE) can be used to calculate the financial impact of security risks. ALE is the Single Loss Expectancy (SLE) of an event multiplied by the expected Annualized Rate of Occurrence (ARO) of that event. A CMS can greatly impact ALE by providing security features that lower the ARO and decrease the SLE by enabling teams to resolve vulnerabilities faster.

Performance

Many businesses find it challenging to deliver rich, dynamic content quickly, especially if it requires coordinating data from multiple sources. According to a recent survey on the state of CMS, while 93% of digital leaders want to use more data sources to drive personalization and services, 40% find it challenging to deliver new data and content types with their current CMS.

A headless CMS stores content in a structured and presentation-neutral way to deliver it via API to virtually any channel or application. Giving content a structure makes it easier to pull in different types of external data to enrich and personalize content, and the API-based delivery gives developers a lot of flexibility to work with the latest frontend frameworks to design high-performing applications.

GraphQL, a query language that provides data structure and hierarchy, is especially powerful regarding headless content delivery. Instead of coordinating multiple REST APIs that each fetch a full data set, a GraphQL API can fetch just the information needed (sometimes even from multiple sources) with a single API call.

Using a GraphQL-native CMS, Telenor handles millions of monthly API calls with a maximum latency of 100ms, and Gamescom was able to put on a three-day virtual event that saw over 60 million API calls from more than 3.5 million simultaneous sessions.

Performance KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Core web vitals. Commonly measured by the Google Lighthouse score, core web vitals track how well websites render data. While a headless CMS itself will only directly impact how fast data is sent (time to first byte), going headless is often part of a development team’s strategy to increase site performance. Switching from a monolithic to a headless CMS helped Komax Group raise its Performance score from 74 to 99.

Core web vitals before vs. after Hygraph

  • Scalability index. For peace of mind during sales, events, and other peaks in traffic, a CMS needs to offer consistent performance as the workload increases. One way to measure this is with a ratio that compares a metric like response time, throughput, or resource utilization at a defined smaller and larger load, such as 500 vs. 5000 concurrent visitors. These ratios can help set benchmarks and make it easier to communicate improvements in scalability with business stakeholders.

User experience

How efficiently users can navigate, discover, and interact with content greatly impacts the user experience (UX).

A CMS that makes it easy to define a content schema, i.e., the structure of your content, helps to build sites and applications that are clear and usable. It also ensures that content types and data remain consistent throughout the experience (a challenge felt by 92% of digital leaders). A clear, consistent UX can increase conversions by helping users successfully complete their “jobs to be done” and lead them to more engaging content that keeps them interacting with the site.

Boosting site interaction is especially important as third-party cookies expire, and brands have to rely on the data collected from their own site to uncover customer needs. Driving more engagement to compensate for the loss of third-party data was a key reason why Samsung Germany rebuilt its members' platform, allowing the team to bring features and content to market quicker and boosting user engagement by 15%.

User experience KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Task success. Measuring task success is generally done in a controlled usability test with an observer noting how many testers completed a defined task, like signing up for a webinar, and what errors testers made along the way. While less exact, wider user behavior metrics can help gauge if a task becomes easier or more frustrating once changes are deployed, such as a sudden shift in conversion rates, time on page, or exit rates on certain pages relating to the task in question.

Accessibility

Content structure is the core of site accessibility. A headless CMS structures content so that it can be adapted to any frontend “head”, including assistive technologies, without losing any information.

Working with monolithic CMSs, such as WordPress or Sitecore, often means using accelerators that come with predefined HTML which very rarely meets current web accessibility standards. Using a headless CMS means developers have to write their own HTML to structure content, giving teams more control over accessibility.

Structuring content allows you to break the experience into reusable components like forms, buttons, blog posts, category pages, etc. Ensuring a component has accessible code and the correct metadata fields, like alt text for images, only needs to happen once. New applications can be created using existing components, ensuring content remains accessible as the experience scales.

Accessibility KPI impacted by CMS:

Content reuse

64% of digital leaders find it difficult to reuse content that lives in their CMS.

One way to get more mileage out of content is by defining a set of reusable content models, like a Product model or Blog post model, that can adapt to various frontend presentations. Hygraph simplifies content modeling with Components, which are groups of data fields that can be used across multiple models. Such as a Hero Banner, Customer Quote, or SEO Metadata component. Components allow editors to mix and match elements to create unique content while keeping data structured so that it’s easy to query.

The most notable outcome was by breaking down the design into a component led content model structure. We now have essentially a box of lego blocks where we can create rich content pages quickly and easily and enable our content team to lean into their creativity.
Steve GoodwinLead Engineer at Top Villas

Hygraph also makes it easy to add data from remote sources into a content model through Content Federation, helping teams eliminate content silos and maximize the use of their existing data. Which is often value left on the shelf, as 86% of organizations with siloed content report using less than half of it effectively.

Content reuse KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Time to market. Content models make it possible to reuse assets and structure to quickly spin up new pages, services, and applications. For example, Dr. Oetker uses content models to efficiently manage over 40 regional markets with one central CMS.

  • Developer resource allocation. A CMS with an editing interface that lets content teams reuse models and components to create new pages without the help of a developer will free up the engineering team to work on more value-adding services.

Developer productivity

For many teams working with a monolithic CMS, the system has become so complex over time that simply maintaining it takes up the majority of developers’ time. At best, improvements are bundled into infrequent releases that require time-intensive testing. At worst, great ideas are never implemented because change feels too risky. This is especially true as businesses bring more data sources into the experience, with 88% of digital leaders reporting that building and maintaining custom middleware is an innovation bottleneck.

An API-first CMS exposes all content structure, data, and functionality via APIs which developers can use to build new features and services without impacting any other parts of the code. This allows them to test and deploy changes to different parts of the experience independently and in parallel.

Hygraph’s Content Federation helps increase productivity even further by making it possible to query data from multiple sources with a single GraphQL API. Allowing developers to build rich frontend applications without the need for complex middleware code.

Hygraph’s out of box support for GraphQL allows our frontend developers to concentrate on building features without involving backend developers for API adjustments. They can swiftly build and test queries inside Hygraph’s intuitive UI which allows us to flexibly shape the content models and test the outcome almost immediately in the frontend.
Andre LangeHead of Development at Chile Germany GmbH at Samsung

Developer productivity KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Deployment frequency. Being able to iteratively improve the content experience with smaller, more frequent updates is a good indicator that a team is able to quickly adapt to changes in the market.

  • Productivity savings. One way to measure the costs saved by increased productivity is to multiply the number of people working on a specific task (3 developers), the average salary of those people ($100,000), the percent of their time spent on that task before (25% of time using old CMS), the percent reduction in the time spent on that task now (80% faster with new CMS), and by 50% to estimate that half of the time saved will be captured as costs saved, to find the Annual Productivity Savings ($30,000).

#Indirect KPIs

These KPIs show the downstream impact that CMS development can have across other business teams.

Content production

A CMS that lets editors mix-and-match existing components to create new content without developer assistance helps ramp up content production. For example, with reusable components the team at HolidayCheck is able to publish an article to their online magazine in 20 minutes which allows them to deliver over a hundred monthly articles to readers.

Making it easier for more people to collaborate on content with custom user roles, workflows, and data validations can also help scale content production. For instance, Statistics Finland uses very granular permissions to let 250 users simultaneously work in the CMS while complying with strict data governance policies.

Content production KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Content Velocity. Reusable components, simplified workflows, and an intuitive editing UI are all ways that a CMS enables teams to increase the amount of content produced over a given period of time, i.e. the content velocity.

Content performance

When content teams are able to independently create and update data-rich, dynamic content they can make sure the visitor experience stays fresh and can experiment with new ways to keep users engaged. By switching to a CMS that makes life easier for content editors, Autoweb saw a 95% increase in page views and BioCentury saw a 120% increase in content engagement among their subscribers.

Content performance KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Traffic sources. More frequent updates, better content structure, and allowing editors to get more creative with the experience can all help content perform better organically. Raising the percentage of traffic that comes from search, backlinks, and social media shares means that content is helping the business get found at less cost.

  • Depth of user interaction. Once visitors enter the site, good content keeps them interested. Web metrics like session duration, page views per session, scroll depth, and clickthrough rates can help monitor engagement and discover what types of content visitors are most interested in.

Marketing and sales

Helpful content gives customers the information they need to confidently make a purchase or move further along in the sales cycle. Making sure online content is easy to navigate and that data is always up to date can have a big financial impact on sales and marketing activities.

In the Future of Content survey, the majority of digital leaders agree that improving the ability to expose data and content would significantly reduce operational costs (74%) and the difficulty to do so restricts the revenue opportunity of their organization (77%).

Marketing and sales KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Customer acquisition cost. Content like product details, FAQs, and personalized recommendations can all help increase customer self-service, shorten conversion time, and reach more customers with the same amount of sales personnel. All factors that reduce the average cost of acquiring a customer.

  • Increase revenue opportunity. Structured content makes it possible for businesses to add new digital services that can generate more leads or directly increase eCommerce revenue. When Stobag went from relying on printed brochures to letting customers digitally configure their weather protection products, the company’s online revenue went from 15% to 70% of the total business share.

User satisfaction

Everything from site performance, to how engaging content is, to the accessibility and usability of your site can impact a user’s experience and how likely they are to become and remain a customer.

User satisfaction KPIs impacted by CMS:

  • Customer satisfaction. Measuring how happy customers are with a specific service or interaction can be done using a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey that has users rank their satisfaction on a five point scale. The CSAT score is the sum of positive responses, divided by the total responses collected, multiplied by 100.

  • User retention. Satisfied users keep coming back. Some ways to track how digital impacts customer loyalty is the user stickiness of online visitors, signups for loyalty programs or newsletters, and repeat eCommerce orders.

#How can headless CMS impact your most critical KPIs?

The Hygraph team has extensive experience helping companies define KPIs and design headless solutions to achieve them. If you’d like to have a chat about your own KPIs, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Blog Author

Jing Li

Jing Li

Jing is the Content Marketing Manager at Hygraph. Besides telling compelling stories, Jing enjoys dining out and catching occasional waves on the ocean.

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