Identify a Site's CMS by the "Head" Element

Find out which technology powers your favorite sites

Many big sites are built with a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, but they often try to mask their identity. Paying closer attention, you can usually spot the truth. Here are the easier things to check.

First, Check the Obvious Hints

Sometimes, the site builder hasn't removed the obvious signs that come built with the CMS. For instance:

  • An actual CMS credit appears in the footer or sidebar
  • The page icon in the browser tab is the CMS logo

It's not uncommon to see "Powered by WordPress" near the bottom of a site, and the Joomla logo seems especially frequent as an icon. Often, you can tell that the site owners spent a fair bit of money getting a custom site built, but no one's noticed yet that the default Joomla icon is still cheerfully sticking around.

Use an Online Tool

There are a number of online tools that analyze websites across the web and give a report as to which technologies they're using, including the CMS. You can go to these sites, enter the site you want info on, and see what the site was able to turn up. They're not perfect, but they can usually give you an idea what's going on behind the scenes on a site.

Builtwith website technology search

Here are a few to try out:

How to Find the Generator Meta Element in HTML

Sometimes, the most direct way to figure out which CMS a website is running is to check that site's HTML source code. You can view every site's HTML source as it's served to your browser, and usually, you'll find a line of HTML that was generated by the CMS. That line will tell you exactly what CMS generated the HTML you're looking at.

  1. Open up your browser. This works best with either Chrome or Firefox.

  2. Navigate to the site you want to know about. Just get there however you normally would.

  3. Right-click somewhere on the page, and select View page source from the resulting menu.

    Right-click website to view page source
  4. A new tab will open up in your browser displaying the page's source. It's going to look messy and complicated. Don't worry. You can find what you need without digging through that rat's nest.

    Website page source

    Press Ctrl+F on your keyboard to bring up your browser's text search.

  5. Now, begin typing meta name="generator" in the search field. Your browser will take you to any text within the HTML source that matches.

    Search website page source
  6. If there is a generator meta element in the site's HTML, you should now be looking at it. Turn your attention to the content value of the meta element. That will hold the name of the CMS that generated the HTML. It should say something like "WordPress 5.5.3."

    Website generator meta tag

What if the 'Meta Generator' Element Is Removed?

Although this "generator" tag is quick and helpful, it's fairly easy for site builders to remove. And, sadly, they often do, probably from venerable superstitions about security, SEO, or even branding.

Fortunately, each CMS has several identifying features that are much harder to mask. If you're still curious, let's dig deeper for CMS clues.

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Your Citation
Powell, Bill. "Identify a Site's CMS by the "Head" Element." ThoughtCo, Nov. 18, 2021, Powell, Bill. (2021, November 18). Identify a Site's CMS by the "Head" Element. Retrieved from Powell, Bill. "Identify a Site's CMS by the "Head" Element." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).