When Courtney Reyers first started working at the American Society for Microbiology nearly five years ago, she was faced with a 20,000-page website. It was untagged, unstructured and the search was, in her words, “a complete nightmare.” 

Something had to be done. 

As the senior manager for digital strategy at the American Society for Microbiology, it took Reyers and her team two content audits before that 20,000-page nightmare was a manageable, organized and usable 900. That represents a 95 percent drop in the number of pages ASM’s website had — but they still increased their web traffic. 

“If I picked up a legacy site that had some structure to it and a tagging structure and a taxonomy, that’d be a whole different story,” she said, “but the whole reason we did the content audit was to have a clean slate in order to make content findable. (That) traffic was up after cutting more than 19,000 pages is a testament to not only that the site was unkempt and was not really being looked at, but also (the search engine optimization) that we did employ on the new content we wrote was working.” 

So, how did they do it? 

Reyers created a nine-point “cheat sheet,” which she sent to AssociationSuccess.org. The single sheet of paper served as a guide for ASM’s staff as they culled through thousands of pages on their website. It offered a clear direction as multiple people worked on the same project, and it produced real results. 

“At some point you get fatigued, and you’re just like cut, cut, cut. I’m not going to look at this anymore,” Reyers said. “And I think it was a hard lesson. Tough love. If you don’t keep hold of your content, this is what’s going to happen to you. Go clean your room, right?”

The nine-point page also helps provide some idea as ASM moves forward to what should stay online. Notably, the document features ASM’s digital content strategy right at the top of the page. At just less than 90 words, it’s clear and concise.

“Constant governance and care and feeding is important so you don’t end up back in that place,” Reyers cautioned. 

Here, we’ve recreated the one-pager Reyers and her team used as a worksheet so it can be used in your own organization. Download it here.

Chelsea Brasted is the writer and editor who serves as content manager for AssociationSuccess.org. A former reporter and breaking news editor for The Times-Picayune, she lives in New Orleans with her husband and two rescue dogs.

Chelsea Brasted is the writer and editor who serves as content manager for AssociationSuccess.org. A former reporter and breaking news editor for The Times-Picayune, she lives in New Orleans with her husband and two rescue dogs.

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