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HHS Website Content Lifecycle Management (CLM) and Archive Guidance


HHS.gov and its priority websites need to maintain timely and accurate content in order to reliably deliver important health and human service information to the nation. Below we discuss the life cycle management of content and related archiving guidance and process, which will govern the maintenance of HHS and priority websites.

A website archive contains HHS’s historical documents, data, and other information that has value to researchers and the public. It separates historical documentation from current information, providing quicker access to current information while allowing citizens to access legacy information about the past programs, administrations, initiatives, and activities of the department.

Scope of This Guidance

This guidance applies to HHS.gov and its priority websites. This guidance does not apply to internal collaboration websites such as the Intranet, SharePoint, etc. This guidance does not address non-public documents, whether digital or paper, related to the management of websites, which are covered under the Department’s Records Management Policy.

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Content Lifecycle Management Guidance

Content on HHS’s public websites must be reviewed and evaluated on an annual basis. Content owners should establish a regular annual review cycle for all live-site content.

Each page shows  "Content created by [office]" and "Content last reviewed on [date]" at the bottom of the page to establish content ownership and content currency.

Reports will be generated to let content owners and content managers know about outdated material that needs review. If you have questions about this, please contact your DCD Content Liaison.

Content reviewed should be evaluated against the following four considerations:

  • Content to be retained: No other action is necessary for content of value that is fully current.
  • Content to be retained and revised: Should be updated as soon as possible so as to maintain the trustworthiness of the content. It should have an updated “Last updated date” added.
  • Content to be removed: Outdated content that is no longer being maintained and is of no value to the public should be removed from the site (unpublished if contained in a WCMS). The risks of retaining inaccurate or outdated content are significant. Content can be saved off-line on media such as DVDs, thumb-drives, network drives, etc. at the content owner’s discretion.
  • Content to be archived: Outdated content that is no longer being maintained, but which needs to be available to the public for reference or to provide historic context, or which is required by law or mandate to be publicly available, must be archived in the appropriate HHS.gov archive collection and deleted from the live site. See “Archive Schedule” below.

We strongly advise that in reviewing content, if you are wavering between archive and delete, select delete.Back to top

Records Disposition Schedule

Content on HHS.gov and ASPA-managed websites, the HHS intranet, and website management records are covered under the HHS Web Content Management System (WCMS) Records Disposition Schedule.  Under this schedule, these records are temporary and may be destroyed after three years. Note: Ownership and records management responsibility for documents provided to ASPA Digital for posting to the website remains with the originating office or agency. Please contact the Records Officer for HHS, Office of the Secretary with specific questions about your records management responsibilities.  

Archiving Content

Content is archived in an Online Archive (see below).  Broadly speaking, HHS recognizes three categories of archived content. Each category may include one or more collections:

  • Websites:  When a website or mini site is retired, the entire site is crawled and archived. It retains its navigation and all associated files. If the site is being retired because it has been superseded, the new site should include a link to its archived predecessor; if the retired site relates directly to an existing site or sites, it should be linked from that site(s). In both cases, the archived site should be linked from the bottom of the above site’s homepages.  In all cases, the retired site should also be linked from the HHS archive directory (accessible from a link in the footer).
  • Reference:  Documents issued annually (ex., budgets, performance reports, etc.), per-annual batches regularly issued content (ex., DAB decisions, news releases, etc.) and other groupings of related content  (ex., Advisory Committee materials) are moved to the archive according to the Archive Schedule below.
  • One-offs:  Individual pages or content items that are no longer maintained but provide context of historic background are typically moved to the archive at the time they are superseded.Back to top

Archive Schedule

The Archive Schedule provides guidance for standard categories of archive-designated material.  It is a living document and will be modified/expanded as experience dictates.

Type of Content Timeline for Move to Archive*
Administration specific Change of Administration
Advisory Committee material FACA Standard (3 years)
Agendas Do not archive; delete after six months
Announcements (meeting, training, grants, funding opportunities, et cetera) Do not archive; delete after six months
Appeals, legal (of HHS decisions) Standard Schedule* unless longer retention is mandated by law or regulation
Blogs Standard Schedule*, change of administration, or when retired. Whichever is earlier.
Brochures Do not archive; delete after six months
Budget, financial, and performance documents Standard Schedule*
Content, Program or Office When superseded
Grant Awards Do not archive; delete when next cycle occurs or termination of grant program
Guidance When superseded
Health Emergency Sites One year after closure
Incident Related Sites One year after closure
News releases Standard Schedule* or change of administration. Whichever is earlier.
Newsletters Standard Schedule*, change of administration, or when retired. Whichever is earlier.
Meeting Announcements Do not archive; delete after six months
Mini-sites When retired
Natural Disaster Sites One year after closure
Policies When superseded
Plans When superseded
Presentations and meeting materials Do not archive; delete after six months
Regulations When superseded
Reports to Congress Standard Schedule*
Reports, Annual, Grantee, Research, Studies Standard Schedule*
Resigning Officials (political) Upon resignation (biographies, blogs, speeches, videos)
Speeches Change of Administration Or Standard Schedule* (whichever is earlier)
Testimony Change of Administration Or Standard Schedule* (whichever is earlier)
Training When retired
Websites When retired

* The standard retention schedule for dated reference materials is to archive annually, retaining two full years on the live site. For example, 2011 news releases should be archived in January 2014, keeping at least two full years and no more than three years of content available.

This standard retention schedule can be extended after demonstration by the content owner that older content is regularly and routinely accessed by the public. Note that while the CLM calls for content to be reviewed annually, content can be re-evaluated at any time within the one-year timeframe as warranted.

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Online Archive (www.archive-it.org)

Content for HHS and its priority websites is archived at www.archive-it.org. It is organized by category which may include one or more collections of related content. Archived content is topped by a disclaimer header stating:

Archive Banner

Standard practice is for content, once archived, to remain in the archive in perpetuity. There is no process for the routine deletion of archived material at any future date.

Archived content can be accessed in three ways:

  • By visiting the Archive-It site and its collections, which are fully searchable.
  • By directly linking to either collections of content or individual content items.
  • From the HHS.gov Archive Index page (http://archive.hhs.gov/) (maintained by DCD).

Links to archived content should be short, make clear the relationship (if any) to live content, and include the word “Archive” in the link text.

Archive Request Process

Content owners should submit archiving requests (with specific URLs) to their ASPA/Digital Communications Division (DCD) Content Liaison for consideration.  The Liaison determines whether the request meets the requirements of this guidance and discusses any issues of concern regarding the request with the content owner.

Once the request is finalized, the Content Liaison forwards the request to the DCD Archive Manager and the following process is implemented:

Action Responsibility of
Content is assigned to an Archive-It collection, crawled, and archived DCD Archive Manager
Scan is checked and approved Content Owner/Site Manager
Archive links are added to website(s), if needed Content Owner/Site Manager
Index at archive.hhs.gov/ is updated. DCD Archive Manager
Archived content is unpublished/deleted Content Owner/Site Manager

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Exceptions to HHS Archive Requirements

Below is the list of Exceptions to the HHS Archive Requirements:

  1. Collections where access to historical documents must be purposefully accessible concurrently with more recent documents. (01/09/2014)

    HHS Departmental Appeals Board legal decisions from past decades must be accessible to the public as a comprehensive, cogent body of content to its customers. Separating older documents into a separate collection from more recent documents, places an unfair burden on persons needing access to legal information across a body of work, especially if technology is not currently available that would provide search results across an archived and non-archived collection.
  2. Planned deletions due to lack of public demand. (01/09/2014)

    The HealthBeat podcasts site is a time-sensitive effort to inform users about the latest research and HHS website resources. As these interesting bits of information age, they become at risk of being surpassed by additional research findings making them less popular for sharing. Additionally, changing technology “tastes” by the public makes interest and demand for older formats decline dramatically.

    Decisions to delete (vs. archive) must be based on verifiable popularity analytics and issues of possible risk for providing outdated information about health and human service issues.

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Content created by Digital Communications Division (DCD)
Content last reviewed on October 8, 2018