7 Ways to Make WordPress Multisite Work for You
If you’re new to Multisite you may feel as though you’ve been tricked. You were told that it makes managing multiple WordPress sites so much more convenient, so you’ve jumped in with both feet. But now you’re finding new limitations and complexities.
Don’t panic. Here’s what you need to do to get to the other side where you can say “I got this” and finally have multisite working for you.
1. Give yourself a crash course in WordPress Multisite
When you first start your new life as a super admin you’ll find that there are many new things to learn about how multisite changes your dashboard, file structure and theme/plugin settings.
For example, when a plugin is network activated, it will disappear from the dashboard list of plugins on all of your networked sites. As a newbie this might cause you to think that it’s not active anywhere. However, the plugin is indeed active on all all sites across the network. It’s not easy to see when you’re surfing one of the sub-sites but is evident if you visit the network admin.
You need a crash course in WordPress Multisite. Lucky for you, there are many excellent, organized resources available to get you up to speed:
How to Create a Network: This reference will walk you through the basics of setting up a multisite network or help you to make sure that yours is set up correctly.
WordPress Multisite Network Administration:
This is a WordPress codex resource that provides a basic introduction to user access, permalinks, file upload path, and how plugins and themes work, .htaccess examples and more.
WordPress Multisite Manual:
In this comprehensive manual, beginners at WordPress multisite will learn about the super admin role and how it relates to other user roles, how to optimizing your WordPress network options, how to create WordPress sites using your sign up page, network administration and more.
Unfortunately, you can’t just download this into your brain. You’ll have to study a bit but you’ll be able to get all the basics in under an hour.
2. Get spam under control
It’s imperative to have spam control in place before you launch your multisite network. Otherwise, spam will rule your life, overtake your inbox and cause your site to slow to a snail’s pace. Multisite spam is particularly vicious.
A WPMU DEV membership is required in order to get an API key for access to the powerful splog-checking service. This service will save you years of your life when it comes to spam management and it’s a must-have for any multisite super admin’s toolbox.
3. Make network administration more convenient
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the WordPress dashboard while administrating your multisite network. If you start to feel like everything is three to four clicks away, you need to make the dashboard more convenient for yourself. Here are a few little gems that can help:
This plugin adds an “Add New” sub menu item to the plugins menu on all sites inside of a network for super admin users. That means that regular user won’t see it but adding plugins will be quicker for your when you’re working around the network.
Get your menus where you want them. This plugin makes important menu items more accessible for super admins. It adds the network ‘Plugins’ and ‘Install Plugin’ links to ‘My Sites’ > ‘Network Admin’ in the site admin bar.
This plugin makes it possible for you to share media across blogs in a WordPress multisite network. Many super admins have wished for this when creating content on different sites on the network. Sometimes you want to use an image you’ve already uploaded on another site. WordPress doesn’t make that easy but this plugin gives you that option.
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4. Create a solid development environment
You need a place where you can build and break things without worrying about destroying your production site. You also will quite frequently find yourself needing to test plugins for multisite compatibility. If you are hosting an active publishing community and you make a feature available that hasn’t been tested, you may be in for a flood of bug reports and support requests. Save time by perfecting new features on your development environment first.
Some time ago I posted 10 Ways Set Up a Testing Environment for WordPress and many of those options have multisite capabilities. My personal favorite is DesktopServer, a product from ServerPress that makes it super easy to create a development environment. It even supports multisite sub-domain and domain mapping.
The BitNami WordPress Stack is another option. It’s an open source, self-contained package that has everything you need in order to create a development environment. It also supports WordPress multisite. Check out their thorough documentation for using Bitnami with multisite.
5. Set up regular automatic backups of your multisite network
There’s no way getting around this one. One day you’re going to need a solid backup of your multisite network and it had better be there waiting for you or else you’re screwed.
Not all backup solutions are compatible with multisite, but fortunately for you, we’ve nailed down a few solid options:
5 Backup Solutions for WordPress Multisite Networks – This article provides an overview of the multisite support for some of the most popular backup solutions available, including: BackupBuddy, VaultPress, Snapshot, BackWPup and Backup Scheduler.
6. Save time while managing multiple WordPress sites
Many people opt to use multisite because of how much time you can save in managing multiple WordPress sites from one core installation. Domain Mapping is perhaps one of the most efficient uses of multisite. It gives you the ability to map actual domains to sub-sites on your network.
Domain mapping works like magic to save you time in the long run. It allows you to maintain security updates for plugins, themes and the core software all in one place, instead of having to update multiple separate sites.
There are also many tips and tricks that you can employ to make managing your network faster and more efficient:
- Use Akismet on WordPress Multisite with 1 License Key
- Ban Spam and Moderate Commenters Sitewide
- Instantly Copy Blogs with all their Widgets, Template Settings and More
There’s no reason to be worried about having all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, when working with multisite. As long as you have regular backups in order, it’s all good. Sites are also not set in stone once they are a part of your network. If you find that you’re not saving time having one core to update, break them apart. You can always import or export sites into and out of the network as requirements change.
7. Automate your multisite network to make money
If you really want to make multisite work for you, one of the best ways is to set it up to create a new stream of income.
Creating plugins that help multisite networks make money is one of our specialties at WPMU DEV. We provide plugins for network admins that you simply cannot find anywhere else. Pro Sites, in particular, gives you everything you need to create your own WordPress.com style blog network where you can sell premium themes, premium plugins, extra storage, advertising, domain mapping and more. We use this very plugin on the massively successful Edublogs network and have made it available for anyone who is serious about monetizing multisite.
Other popular ways of making money with multisite include:
- Create an Etsy-Style Network of Stores
- Set Up a Web Hosting and Development Business
- Start Your Own Fundraising Community Using WordPress
If you really want to make multisite work for you, all you need to do is find your passion and build a community around it. It takes a little bit of effort to do your homework and get the right tools into place, but the reward is that you’ll become a master of multisite networks, save yourself a ton of time and even make some money along the way.