Headless CMS

When a visitor opens a link to a Web site, he or she lands on a page called the front-end. But it is also possible to create a website without a front-end, with headless CMS. What exactly is headless CMS and how does it benefit the SEO of a website or page: I explain it to you in detail here.

What is headless CMS?

A headless Content Management System (CMS) is a type of CMS in which the content backend (the “body”) is decoupled from the frontend presentation layer (the “head”). This means that the backend of a headless CMS serves only for content storage and management, without being concerned with how and where the content is displayed. (1)

In a traditional CMS, the backend (where the content is created and managed) and the frontend (the user interface where the content is displayed) are closely linked. This can impose restrictions on how and where content is presented. In contrast, a headless CMS delivers the content via an API, which gives developers more freedom to choose how and where to use the content. This could be on websites, mobile apps, IoT devices, and more.

The benefits of a headless CMS include:

  • Flexibility: Developers can choose the front-end technologies that best suit their project, rather than being limited by CMS capabilities.
  • Omnichannel delivery: Content can be easily published to multiple platforms (such as web, mobile, IoT devices) from a single content repository.
  • Improved performance: Because the frontend and backend are separated, Web page load times can be faster.
  • Better security: Because content storage is separate from the presentation layer, the risk of web attacks can be reduced.

A headless CMS is especially useful for companies that want to publish their content on multiple platforms and have flexibility in the development and presentation of their digital content.

Difference between CMS and headless CMS


With a traditional Content Management System (CMS), there is an integrated front-end and back-end. The front-end is the part that visitors to the website see and experience, while the back-end is used for managing and creating content, and is not visible to the visitor.

Unlike a traditional CMS, a headless CMS provides only the back-end functionality. This means that the content managed here is available to various front-ends via an API. For example, this could be a website, mobile app, or even an IoT device.

A headless CMS is especially useful for developers who want more flexibility in creating interactive websites and apps because they are not bound by the front-end limitations of a traditional CMS. For marketers, it allows content to be centrally managed and easily distributed across platforms. Users also ultimately benefit as they interact with modern and responsive systems powered by headless CMS technology.

The impact of headless CMS on SEO

The impact of a headless CMS on SEO can be both positive and negative, depending on how it is implemented and managed. Here are some considerations:(2)

Positive impact on SEO

  1. Flexibility in front-end development: With a headless CMS, developers can choose the front-end technology that best suits their SEO strategy, such as frameworks that are better optimized for speed and mobile accessibility.
  2. Speed and performance: Headless CMS can help websites load faster, which is an important ranking factor for search engines.
  3. Improved user experience: A faster and more responsive website leads to a better user experience, which can indirectly improve SEO.
  4. Omnichannel content delivery: Content can easily be published on multiple platforms, which can lead to wider reach and more backlinks.

Potential negative impact on SEO

  1. Implementation complexity: If the technical implementation is not done correctly, it can lead to site crawlability issues, negatively affecting SEO.
  2. Challenges with metadata and structured data: With some headless CMS solutions, it can be more complex to implement metadata and structured data correctly, which is essential for SEO.
  3. Possible link structure flaws: A headless CMS can make it more complex to set up an optimized internal link structure.
  4. Dependence on developers: Since content and presentation are separate, marketers may depend on developers for changes that affect SEO, such as modifying URL structures or implementing redirects.

General considerations

  • SEO strategy: A clear SEO strategy and close collaboration between developers and marketers are essential to fully utilize the benefits of a headless CMS.
  • Technical SEO expertise: Knowledge of technical SEO is important to ensure that a headless CMS is properly implemented and optimized for search engines.
  • Support for SEO tools: Make sure the chosen headless CMS solution supports integration with essential SEO tools and practices.

The impact of a headless CMS on SEO depends greatly on how it is used and integrated into an organization’s broader digital strategy. With the right approach and expertise, a headless CMS can have a positive impact on SEO, but it requires careful planning and implementation.

My advice

With headless CMS, a website’s content comes first. It is therefore important to work on this.

I recommend creating a good content strategy before using headless CMS. In addition, it is important to consider SEO in the code by providing fields for meta-title and description. Therefore, hiring an expert in this field is definitely recommended.

Resources

  1. Contentful. (2020, May 13). Headless CMS explained in 1 minute. https://www.contentful.com/headless-cms/
  2. Headless CMS and SEO Best Practices. (s.d.). Hygraph. https://hygraph.com/learn/headless-cms/headless-cms-seo#:~:text=A%20Headless%20CMS%20can%20provide,%2C%20VR%2FAR%2C%20etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a headless CMS?

Headless CMS is a content management system that focuses on backend content management without a linked front-end presentation layer, as traditional CMS systems such as WordPress have. Instead, through APIs, it provides the ability to deliver content to various front-end systems or applications. This offers more flexibility in how content is presented, as it easily integrates with different technologies and platforms.

What is the impact of Headless CMS on SEO?

The impact of a headless CMS on SEO depends on how the system is technically implemented. While it is true that a headless CMS has no traditional front-end, this does not mean that search engines will see a page without content. On the contrary, a properly implemented headless CMS can actually provide SEO benefits. These benefits include improved loading speeds and a better mobile experience. It is essential to ensure that the website is properly optimized for search engines, with correct implementation of SEO practices such as structured data, meta tags, and server-side rendering or static site generation to ensure search engine visibility.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 19 April 2024. The last update of this article was on 19 April 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.