WordPress Multisite: How to Harness the Power

@Lisa | Development

The WordPress development team introduced a featured called “Multisite” in its early 3.0 development. In a nutshell, what this means for users is that you are now able to host multiple sites with only one installation of the WordPress platform, which opens up numerous exciting possibilities for site owners. At Convertiv, we have deployed several instances of WordPress with the Multisite feature enabled and optimally configured for our clients – hang out through the end of this post to see a few short case studies of clients we’ve helped harness the power of the WordPress Multisite feature to give you a swift idea of our capabilities.

WordPress Multisite is Perfect for….

Sites that want to branch out beyond just one web site. Some examples of sites we have deployed Multisite for include (but are not limited to):

  • Blog Networks – sites that want to host a main site as a network hub, and invite their users to start a blog within the network. This type of implementation is typically geared toward a niche market and groups with similar interests, such as photography sites, bridal networks, tech blogging networks.
  • Corporate sites/Multiple domains – many online businesses (both large and small) have multiple web properties for different divisions of their product lines and services. Using Multisite (with or without domain mapping) gives them the ability to run multiple sites under one roof.
  • Internal Networks – sites don’t always have to be viewable by the general public and in this case, we’ve implemented the Multisite feature to give companies/schools/groups the ability to host multiple internal sites for communication, networking and organization.

One Installation – Multiple sites

Until the year 2011, if you wanted to run several different web sites on the WordPress platform, you were forced to depend on multiple installations of WordPress. For users who have a network of sites, or maintain several web sites of their won, this can be cumbersome. With WordPress Multisites, you now have the ability to host one or one hundred (or a thousand) sites with just one, single installation of WordPress. Probably the biggest, and most successful, example of a large multisite network that showcases the largest Multisite nework currently in operation on the web today is the hosted service found at WordPress.com, which currently hosts over 350,000 blogs on its service, at the time of this writing.

The concept is pretty easy to understand:

1. We install WordPress on our client servers.
2. We fire the configuration that tells WordPress to include the Multisite feature.
3. We set up Multisite and optimally configure the Network for our clients use.

Our goal is to encourage autonomy and independence through education and training. When done, our clients understand the basic tenants of the Multisite feature enough to add sites to their network easily and quickly, with complete confidence. WordPress makes it easy – our education and training make it even easier.

Network of Sites

With WordPress Multisite installed – the primary domain that it gets installed on is considered the primary site, or blog. So, if we install WordPress on http://domain.com – the live site on http://domain.com operates just like a regular WordPress web site. We can create a new theme with its own features, just as we would with a regular WorddPres siste. Once Multisite is installed and set up, the process of adding new sites on ┬áthe multisite set up is relatively easy. With Multisite enabled, WordPress splits the typical Dashboad into two distinct parts:

  • Site Admin Dashboard – the control center where users manage and maintain the primary site, or blog..
  • Network Admin Dashboard – the control center where Adminstrators manage and maintain the network of sites created with the use of the Multisite feature.

Within the Network Admin menu, users have access to six different items that they use to configure, manage and maintain the new Network:

  • Admin: Create new sites and new users in your network.
  • Sites: View a list of the sites in your network, along with details about them that enables users to manage sites within their network.
  • Users: See detailed info about current users in your network, , along with the ability to manage users within their network (including which sites they are subscribed to, profile information and login/password information)
  • Themes: View all the Currently available themes to enable or disable them for use in your network.
  • Options: Change settings and configure your network.
  • Update: Upgrade all sites in your network with one click.

Upon set up, we need to make a decision on whether we’d like individual sites to utilize a subdomain or a subdirectory within the network. The difference is this:

  • Subdomain – when new sites are created, the URL of the new sites looks like this: http://newsite.domain.com (where ‘newsite‘ is the name of the site added to the network).
  • Subdirectory – when new sites are created, the URL of the new sites look like this: http://domain.com/newsite (where ‘newsite‘ is the name of the site added to the network).

There are different things to consider when deciding to use either the Subdomain or Subdirectory configuration for Multisite (such as web server configuraitons, domain mapping needs to name a few), and this is something I would strongly recommend discussing with your developer before proceeding with a WordPress Multisite installation.

Domain Mapping a WordPress Multisite

Through the implementation of a small add-on for WordPress Multisite, users can configure specific domain names for sites within the Multisite network. With domain mapping in place, instead of the default subdomain (newsite.domain.com) or subdirectory (domain.com/newsite) domains, users can register domain names and use them within the Multisite Network and have individual domains (like yourdomain.com, mydomain.com) as the URL for each site within the network.

We assist our clients with the server side set up for the use of domain mapping, which does involve some special apache and DNS configurations – and once in place, not only can you host several sites within a WordPress Multisite environment, you can host multiple domains, as well!

SEO, Analytics, Sitemaps & Social Media

WordPress Multisite works much in the same way as regular (single-user) WordPress. We assist our clients with the Search Engine Optimization, Plugin recommendations (specific to their individual use case) and configuration, Sitemaps for Google and other major search engines and social media integration with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more.

Convertiv Case Studies

Recently, we have successfully completed the implementation and deployment of several large scale sites utilizing the WordPress Multisite platform. Here are two sites that use the Multisite feature to meet their individual goals:

  • Cheapflights.com – Cheapflights is a London-based company specializing in helping their customers find great deals on flights, hotels and travel. Cheapflights has several different properties around the world, each with a completely different focus for regional travel destinations. With domain names like news.cheapflights.com (USA), news.cheapflights.co.uk (UK) and more, the folks at Cheapflights wanted to use the same design for each of their regional blogs, as well as the same features – but each with different content that is regionally specific. We implemented the WordPress platform with Multisite features for them, with a custom design and custom features (specific to their needs) and they now can easily deploy additional sites for their different regions, all within one installation of the WordPress software.
  • Bostinno.com – Bostinno is a tech-based news site located in Boston, MA (USA). We launched their site on WordPress with the Multisite features in place so they can grow their tech news reach into other regional areas such as New York City, Philadelphia and beyond! Initially, we launched their Boston initiative at bostinno.com – but as they prepare to launch their sites within other citiies in the United States, using the Multisite feature, they will be able to easily launch those sites, apply the custom design and development we already completed and start building regional web sites easily and successfully. Bostinno.com utilizes the domain mapping feature that will allow them to add their sites with their own specific domains (such as nycinno.com, phillyinno.com, etc).

Additions & Feedback

Like What You’ve Read? Click here to Subscribe!