Structured Content and Content Modeling in a Headless CMS

Victoria Burt

Content is at the heart of digital experiences, but it can be difficult to create and manage it, particularly at the scale required today. This difficulty increases if that content is complex, such as technical documentation. 

According to a survey conducted by Content Science, 47% of respondents cited “manual, slow processes” as a major problem in the efficiency of their operations. Another 72% mentioned that they couldn’t deliver content to multiple channels. 

To overcome these challenges, many organizations are turning to headless CMSs, which separate content management and delivery functions. A headless CMS enables organizations to create structured content and implement content modeling, which provides a blueprint for organizing and managing content. Content modeling is crucial for ensuring that content is consistent, reusable, and organized in a way that makes it easy for teams to manage. 

This article will explain everything you need to know about structured content and content modeling and how they work in a headless CMS.

What Is Structured Content?

Structured content refers to content that is organized into well-defined and consistent data structures, such as headings, paragraphs, images, and other elements. This organization allows structured content to be understood by both humans and computers. 

When it comes to storage, structured content is often kept in a central repository, such as a headless CMS, and can be reused and repurposed across multiple channels and devices. This approach helps organizations to maintain consistency and improve the efficiency of their content operations.

What Is Content Modeling? (And How Does It Relate to Structured Content?)

Content modeling is the process of defining and documenting the content structure that will be used across an organization’s digital channels. It involves mapping out the relationships between content elements, defining the attributes of each element, and establishing rules for how elements can be combined. This blueprint provides a clear understanding of the organization’s content structure and guides the entire content team.

Content modeling allows businesses to manage content independently of their presentation medium. This independence is essential in the new world of multichannel and omnichannel content distribution, where content is just as likely to be in a voice app or chatbot as in a mobile app or website.

For example, a content model for a product catalog might define that a product has a name, description, image, price, and categories. The content model also specifies that a product can belong to multiple categories and that the name and description elements are required fields. This content model provides a clear understanding of how the product content should be structured and how it should be used across different channels.

In a headless CMS, the content model creates a schema that structures and validates the content. This helps ensure that the content is always consistent and meets the organization’s requirements. By implementing structured content and content modeling in a headless CMS, organizations can improve the efficiency of their content operations and provide a better user experience for their customers.

What Are the Benefits of Content Modeling?

Content modeling makes individual pieces of content more versatile. Content assets become reusable across different projects since they can be broken down into smaller parts. Here are some of the other benefits of content modeling:


Content modeling helps ensure that content is structured and formatted consistently across all channels, improving the overall quality and consistency of an organization’s digital presence. Businesses can feel secure in the knowledge that their brand won’t look different to customers because it is being displayed on a blog or a mobile app. 


Organizing content into reusable elements and templates makes it easier for organizations to reuse and repurpose content across different channels and devices, reducing the time and effort required to create new content.

For example, a marketing manager could create a content model for a product page that includes standardized elements like a product description, image, and titles. Those fields need to be filled out once, and then the content can be automatically updated, no matter the device. 

Improved Efficiency and Collaboration

Content modeling helps content creators, editors, and marketers work more efficiently and collaborate more easily by providing a clear understanding of the organization’s content structure and the relationships between content elements. They also don’t need to edit content for each channel individually but can create content once and publish it everywhere. 

Better User Experience

Consistent and structured content helps to improve the user experience by making it easier for customers to find and access the information they need.

Improved SEO 

Well-structured and consistently formatted content can improve an organization’s visibility in search engine results, making it easier for search engines to understand the content and index it accurately.


It’s easier to understand content needs and account for every possible scenario when a project team knows how each piece of material will be integrated and maintained in the CMS and its published channel. After this, it becomes easier to prioritize which content assets should be published first. 

Faster Adjustments

As your product offerings change, whether because you’ve released a new product or are ready to dive into a new market, so should your messaging. Implementing these modifications becomes more straightforward and less expensive when models are developed.

The Problem With Content Modeling In a Traditional CMS

Traditional content management systems have long been the choice for many organizations and are used for storing and presenting content elements such as text, photos, and video on websites.

However, more flexible solutions have become necessary as digital platforms have matured. Websites, mobile sites, applications, digital displays, conversational interfaces, and more are now used by businesses. Meanwhile, traditional content management systems need to catch up. 

Lack of Flexibility

Traditional CMSs often have rigid content structures and limited content modeling capabilities, making it difficult to adapt to changing requirements. As a result, they don’t support content modeling very well — if at all. They are designed to store simple text documents or static pages with limited metadata.

Rigid Data Structures

Traditional CMSs often use relational databases, which can lead to complex and inflexible data structures that make it difficult to model content effectively.

Difficulty Integrating

Traditional CMSs tend to be stand-alone entities and often have limited and complex APIs and integration capabilities, making it difficult to connect with other systems in the technology stack.

Poor Scalability

Traditional CMSs can struggle with scalability as the content volume grows, leading to slow performance and increased maintenance costs.

Content Modeling With a Headless CMS

A headless CMS enables you to create and manage your custom entities and fields, which can be used to model your content. When using a headless CMS, there are additional benefits to content modeling that can be realized:

Easier Access

With a headless CMS, users can access all of their data through an API without worrying about importing it into another application like with traditional CMS platforms like WordPress or Drupal. Creating custom apps or integrations is easier and more cost-effective.


Headless CMSs offer a more flexible and modular approach to content modeling, allowing for creating custom content types and fields that can be easily adapted to changing requirements.

Decoupled Architecture & APIs

The separation of the front-end and back-end in a headless CMS allows for greater control and customization of the content modeling process and improved scalability and performance. 

APIs are also used to deliver content, allowing greater control over how content is structured, formatted, and delivered to different channels and devices. This also makes it easier to integrate with other systems, such as eCommerce platforms, CRMs, and marketing automation tools.

Modern Data Structures

Headless CMSs often use modern data structures, such as NoSQL databases, which allow for more flexible and scalable content modeling than traditional relational databases.

How dotCMS Does Content Modeling

With the number of channels available for content publication today, having a content model structure can save time, promote reuse, and allow your content team to operate more efficiently. However, a traditional CMS platform won’t cut it. 

dotCMS’ hybrid headless approach to content management allows us to provide the flexibility and content modeling capabilities of a headless CMS and the content authoring functionality of a traditional CMS. Our content as infrastructure approach is just what brands need to navigate the current multichannel environment. 

Content Modeling With NoCode: Our intuitive content type builder enables marketers to create content types without developer assistance. Configure and streamline the UI and layout for each content type and enjoy agile content editing. 

Tags, Categories, Relationships, and Taxonomies: Content teams can leverage tags, categories, and relationships to build complex and meaningful taxonomies. 

Content Versioning & Restore: Through versioning and restoration, all content, such as pages and personas, can be restored for as long as you need it. 

Custom Content Fields: You can improve your content model with custom code to optimize the content model for your business.

Approvals and Workflows: Building and managing sophisticated workflows is easily done through our NoCode tooling. 

Content modeling can help you create a more personalized experience for your customers. Learn about Personalization & Content Targeting with dotCMS in our on-demand webinar. 

Image Credit: Hal Gatewood
Victoria Burt
Director of Product Marketing
March 14, 2023

Recommended Reading

Beware of CMS Fads

This blog warns against adopting new technologies without sufficient consideration, using examples to illustrate how jumping on trends can lead to wasted resources.

24.04.24 LTS: Upgrade to the Universe

Now available: dotCMS 24.04.24 LTS, the first long-term supported release of 2024

Getting started with the dotCMS Universal Visual Editor with Next.js

In this blog post, I’ll demonstrate how you can get started with the Universal Visual Editor and Next.js in just fifteen minutes.