WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) that is known for its ease of use and wide range of features. However, did you know that WordPress can also be used as a headless CMS using either the WordPress REST API or the WPGraphQL plugin?

WordPress was created as a traditional content management system, particularly for blogs. And wordpress.org continues today as a blogging platform for content creators. WordPress has persisted through the years and continues to be a leader in the content management space even as many applications have started to take advantage of headless CMS options.

A headless CMS is one that separates the back-end and front-end components, allowing for more flexibility and faster deployments. Whereas traditional CMS solutions, WordPress included, contain a front-end that renders content, a headless CMS allows you to manage your content independently without using the front end, which can provide a number of benefits. Managing your front end separately from WordPress removes WordPress themes and templates from the equation, allowing you to use your favorite JavaScript and CSS tools to manage your web application. In this blog post, we will discuss the major benefits of using WordPress as a headless CMS.

How WordPress can be used as a Headless CMS using the WPGraphQL Plugin

In recent years, WordPress has increasingly been used as a headless CMS, meaning that the backend of the site is managed using WordPress, but the front-end is built using separate HTML, JavaScript, and CSS frameworks such as React or Angular. This approach offers a number of benefits, including increased flexibility and performance.

One of the key components of using WordPress as a headless CMS is the WPGraphQL plugin, which provides an interface for querying WordPress data using through a GraphQL layer. This can be used as an alternative to the WordPress REST API. This plugin makes it possible to build powerful front-end applications that can access all of the data stored in WordPress. As a result, WordPress can be used to build dynamic and responsive websites that offer a vastly improved user experience. Not only can WPGraphQL access built-in WordPress data structures like posts, pages, post categories, and authors, it can also be configured to access custom properties within WordPress, opening the opportunity to use the vast WordPress plugin ecosystem alongside your headless CMS.

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of using WordPress as a headless CMS. Some of these benefits will compare headless WordPress to other headless CMS options, and some will compare headless WordPress to traditional WordPress sites.

Benefits of WordPress as a Headless CMS

There are many advantages to using WordPress as a headless CMS. For starters, WordPress is well-known for its ease of use and powerful features. With the familiar interface and an admin area that can be used without technical knowledge, it’s easy to set up and manage content quickly. Let’s see some more benefits of WordPress as a Headless CMS in detail:

WordPress Plugins

As mentioned above, the WordPress plugin ecosystem is a key reason to consider using WordPress as your headless CMS solution. WordPress has been around for a very long time, and over that time period, a WordPress plugin has been built for just about everything. Because the WordPress REST API as well as WPGraphQL can be configured to allow front-end access to custom data structured through WordPress plugins, it means that your headless CMS can take advantage of many plugins.

For example, Yoast is a common plugin within WordPress for managing SEO for different pages and blog posts. Within WPGraphQL, you can expose the SEO properties of every page or post. This gives you the ability to use all of the standard Yoast features from the WordPress plugin while exposing metadata and other SEO fields to a custom front-end application. The WordPress plugin ecosystem is hard for other content management systems to compete with as it is very robust and longstanding.

Existing Adoption

Another area that is hard to compete with WordPress in is its market penetration. A huge portion of the web is created using WordPress. A ton of web developers know WordPress, and so do a ton of content creators. Because WordPress is a favorite for many marketing teams and content teams, keeping WordPress content management features intact makes for an easier transition from a traditional CMS to a headless CMS, while providing developers and designers the benefits included in dedicated front-end applications.

Improved Performance

WordPress as a headless CMS can help boost website performance significantly compared to traditional WordPress websites or websites created by other content management systems. This is because, with a headless CMS approach, you can essentially use WordPress as an API. Yet, the website is built in React using Gatsby. This means that the website is 100% static files, but it is automatically updated via CI/CD whenever we write any new content within WordPress. Thus, the website is fast, has better control over design, and has all of the benefits of React and all of the benefits of WordPress built-in.

Greater Scalability

WordPress as a headless CMS offers its users greater scalability than traditional content management systems that integrate theming and front-end website building into the system. This is because it does not rely on the presence of a single server-side application to serve up data. Instead, WordPress can be used to create and store core content such as posts and page objects in one place, while allowing that content to be accessed and displayed across multiple applications. This is particularly true if you build a static website to ingest and render your WordPress content. Instead of the PHP server and MySQL database found within WordPress instances, your website can render static HTML. CSS and JavaScript by pulling your WordPress content down from WPGraphQL and generating static files from it.

Enhanced Security

When WordPress is used as a headless CMS, the only part of the website that interacts with the end user is the front-end interface, which can be secured by using shared SSL certificates and other sophisticated measures. This effectively limits the attack surface and reduces the risk of malicious actors infiltrating a website. Furthermore, WordPress is well known for its rigorous security protocols and regularly released security updates, making it one of the most secure content management systems available. Because WordPress is such a popular content management system and website creation tool, it is highly targeted by hackers. Thus, using a headless CMS approach and separating the rendering of your application from the hosting of your CMS leaves your website less vulnerable to WordPress attacks.

Improved SEO

Because WordPress was originally built to be used as an online publishing platform, its core code is optimized for search engines. This makes it an ideal choice for businesses looking to drive organic traffic to their websites. Additionally, WordPress acts as a great foundation for SEO plugins, which can further enhance SEO performance. By separating the content from the front-end of your website, you can make sure that your content is highly optimized for search engine indexing and ranking.

Maintaining the SEO features of WordPress is easy when transitioning from a classic content management system to a headless CMS. Just make sure to pull in any SEO meta data and fields from the WPGraphQL and render them where appropriate within your front-end application. In fact, WPGraphQL and the WordPress REST API can pull in data from custom SEO plugins such as Yoast, allowing for even more advanced SEO features to be added to WordPress and integrated with your dedicated front-end application.

Easier Integration

WordPress as a headless CMS offers easier integration with a wide array of third-party applications and technologies. This is because, in addition to the gigantic plugin system that WordPress supports, headless CMS options allow developers to build their own front end for the website, rather than relying on WordPress’s built-in themes and templates. As such, developers can easily add custom features and functions that are tailored to their specific website’s needs. Additionally, if a developer chooses to use WordPress as a headless CMS, they can take advantage of its content management capabilities while still leveraging the power of other technologies.

Cost Savings

WordPress as a headless CMS can offer attractive cost savings for businesses by reducing the need to hire expensive technical resources. By using WordPress as a headless CMS, companies can reduce their reliance on back-end developers and front-end designers to build content delivery systems. There are a ton of affordable development options for WordPress. This allows organizations to focus more of their resources on creating content that is meaningful and engaging to their customers. WordPress’s user-friendly interface also makes it easier for non-technical users to manage and publish content, saving businesses time and money.  Plus, WordPress itself is free.

Open Source

With WordPress as your headless CMS, you get the benefit of an intuitive user experience (UX) and powerful content management capabilities. WordPress provides a solid foundation for managing, editing, and publishing content quickly and easily. The platform is designed to be highly extensible, allowing developers to create custom content types, taxonomies, and relationships that allow for more complex customizations. Additionally, WordPress offers an array of plugins and themes that help to further enhance the experience for content authors and editors.  Almost everything in the WordPress ecosystem is open source.