The Secret to Managing 10,000 Websites

Cat herding

Years ago we worked with an individual who was promoted into a senior role overseeing digital at a very large global company.

He was a dynamic leader with big ideas about how the web could change the organization, increase sales and improve customer experience.

However, soon after taking the reins of the existing operations he found himself saddled with legacy websites and platforms that had spiraled out of control over many years.

By his count the organization had 10,000+ different websites.

Not 10. Not 100.  Not 1,000.


Web teams get maxed out running a single site, let alone 10,000. So, what’s a newly minted global web leader to do? Establish a new governance structure? Implement a unified CMS? Run for the hills?

He had a different idea.

“I’m going to shut down all the servers and only turn the sites back on if someone notices,” he announced.

The idea was bold, brilliant, and perhaps necessary.

While this may be considered the nuclear option, digital sprawl is a huge problem. Content strategists call the process of fixing it eliminating the ROT (redundant, outdated or trivial content). It’s a problem in all organizations, but in large decentralized global companies the rot can be so widespread it can’t easily be tamed on a page-by-page or site-by-site basis.

Content audits can uncover a tangled mess of ad hoc microsites, landing pages, department sites, forms, vanity URLs, and content strewn across the Interwebs. And those are the ones you can find. Some haven’t been used for years, but worse, some are alive and well (and ranking well in Google).

There’s nothing inherently wrong for a large company to have many websites, so long as they have a purpose, are actively managed, and support a larger content and customer experience strategy.

Unfortunately that’s not usually the case.

Sometimes the best option may be to pull the plug on the servers.

This post is part of of an ongoing series on managing large web platforms. Join us on Thursday June 6 for a webinar on Wrangling Global Content Strategy 

Image Source:  Benesh & Associates

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

More articles from Jeff Cram


One response… read them below or add one.

  1. Renee says:

    Is that photo from our break room?

    We have a similar issue with our original web environment: nearly 1 million assets (code, images, documents), most of which are no longer owned by a valid user account. We’re planning to use server logs to determine which sites still get a significant amount of traffic, then we’ll be boldly, brilliantly and necessarily pulling the plug to see which content really matters.

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