Using WPMU DEV’s Plugins to Manage Your WordPress Site

Creating a new website is exciting. Installing WordPress, choosing your theme, activating plugins and creating your first posts is guaranteed to give you a burst of energy.

Update 7/24/18: Reports just got a major upgrade and are now both translation and subsite ready. Check it out!

It’s an undeniable fact that a high proportion of sites and blogs don’t last very long after this first burst of energy. But you don’t want yours to be one of those.

You need to find ways to keep on top of your site, to manage it and ensure that it never goes stale, is never hacked and never crashes.

In this post, I’ll take you through some of the tasks you need to carry out regularly in order to manage your WordPress site and ensure it works well for as long as you want (or need) it to. And I’ll show you some WPMU DEV plugins that can help you with those tasks.

An Overview of Site Management

Let’s start by taking a quick look at what site management involves. I think of site management as everything that you do to maintain your site, help it find an audience and ensure it performs as well as it possibly can. In fact, everything except content creation. This will include managing speed and performance, SEO, keeping your site secure, backing it up and restoring it when necessary, and measuring your site’s reach and success.

None of these sound very sexy, it’s true. You probably want to spend more time creating and publishing content, whether that be blog posts, product pages, videos or anything else you want to share with the world. But unless you effectively manage your site, it won’t grow and it’ll create a bunch of headaches for you if it should stop performing in the future.

So let’s take a look at some of the WPMU DEV plugins that will help you with site management.

Performance

Ensuring that your site is fast and reliable will help you gain and retain visitors and boost your search engine rankings too.

If your site is slow and people have to wait for it to load when they first visit, or they have to sit and wait while switching between pages, then they may leave before they’ve even started browsing. And if that doesn’t happen, they may be less likely to come back again in the future.

And it’s not just about human visitors. Performance will have an impact on your SEO. Google and other search engines will give a higher ranking to those sites that load quickly. So make sure yours is as fast as you can make it.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird plugin page on WPMU DEV website

Our Hummingbird plugin will help you identify any performance issues with your site. It scans your site and checks that there’s nothing going on which will slow things down. And then it tells you exactly what you need to do to fix any issues. You scan your site as often as you need to – it’s a good idea to do so when you install new themes or plugins. And each time, Hummingbird will guide you through the actions you need to take to improve your site performance.

Smush Pro

One of the things that can really slow a site down is large image files. Often the files you upload to your site will be larger than they need to be.

WordPress already does a great job of optimizing images, with images of different sizes saved automatically and full support for responsive images on mobile.

Our Smush Pro plugin takes things further. It’ll reduce the file size of all of your images so they’re no bigger than they need to be. When you install the plugin you can scan your entire site and compress all your images, and then it’ll smush new images as you upload them. And all without compromising quality.

Updates

Keeping your site up to date will enhance your security and performance. Most new releases are created in order to address any security issues, fix bugs and improve performance. Not keeping your site up to date will make it vulnerable.

Automate

Automate on the WPMU DEV Hub

Our Automate service will help you ensure that your site is always kept updated, without you having to lift a finger. You can select which plugins and themes are automatically updated – so if there’s a plugin that sometimes introduces bugs when it’s updated, or you want to automate plugin updates but not theme updates, then you can exclude anything you need to.

You set it up from the WMPU DEV Hub – more on this later.

SEO

Everyone who creates a WordPress site wants to see it move up the Google rankings so that as many people as possible will find and visit it. This is where SEO comes in.

Smartcrawl Pro page on WPMU DEV website

Our SmartCrawl Pro plugin will let you optimize your site for search engines and configure how different parts of your site are crawled. It’ll create a sitemap, exclude content from being crawled if you need it to be, automatically link keywords to a specific page in your site and more. It builds on WordPress’s existing SEO benefits to help you get even more visitors by boosting your rankings.

Backups

If there’s one thing that I’d advise every single WordPress site owner to do as soon as they start creating their site and adding content, it’s to set up automatic backups.

Snapshot Pro backups win the WordPress dashboard

Our Snapshot Pro plugin lets you create multiple automated backup schedules. So if you want to backup your database every day but only backup certain files once a week, you can. It also lets you create manual backups if you need to – which is a good thing to do before running a WordPress update.

For me, the most important aspect of any backup plugin is how easy it makes the restore process. When your site has crashed, gone down or been hacked you’ll be panicking and you may not be thinking straight – so you want a backup process that’s as quick and easy as possible. For me that’s Snapshot Pro’s biggest benefit – it has one-click restore to save you making a mistake.

Security

You’ll be less likely to need to use those backups to restore your site if you keep it secure. A plugin to guard against hackers and other security breaches is essential to ensure that your site won’t be compromised.

Defender security scan in the WordPress dashboard

Our Defender plugin is very powerful. When you first install it, it’ll scan your site for any security issues and tell you what you need to do to make things more secure, in the same way Hummingbird scans for performance issues.

It’ll then scan your site regularly and email you with the results of those scans – so if anything changes and you need to enhance security, you’ll know. And it’ll alert you if there’s a security breach of any kind.

Using Defender together with Snapshot Pro will make your site robust and minimize the chances of downtime and impact a security attack has on you and your users.

Analytics

Once you’ve got your site up and running, you’ve ensured it’s performing smoothly and you’ve optimised it for SEO, you’ll want to measure how it’s doing.

Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring and reporting on what’s going on on your site. It’ll tell you how many people are visiting your site, how many pages they’re viewing, what content is most popular, track progress through the site and much more.

But using the Google analytics website can be a pain because you have to leave your own site to do it. With our Google Analytics+ plugin, you can bring your analytics right to your WordPress dashboard.

Google Analytics+ plugin page on WPMU DEV website

You can use the Analytics+ plugin to track the analytics of your WordPress site and also of an entire WordPress Multisite network, right from your dashboard. It means that you can easily switch from your analytics data, to your SEO settings in Smartcrawl, to your content. Which makes it super easy to create new content, promote popular content and edit underperforming content.

Audience Building

Building your audience is an important aspect of site management. There are many ways to do it: creating quality content, sharing it via your own networks and social media accounts, and encouraging your users to do the same.

Publishing fresh, relevant and high-quality content on a regular basis will boost your search engine rankings and get you more visitors and more sales or conversions (if that’s what your objective is).

But once you’ve published your content, you need to find an audience for it. SEO is a part of that, but so is social media. We have a couple plugins that can help your readers share your content on various social media platforms.

Floating Social

The Floating Social plugin

Our Floating Social plugin creates a social sharing bar that follows users as they scroll through your posts. It makes it easy for them to share your posts on whichever social media channels you enable: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whichever you prefer.

Having your content shared by your visitors gives your site a big boost – it acts as social proof and is a more powerful way to share content than if you do it yourself (although you should do that too!). So the easier you can make it, the better.

Hustle

Floating Social is great, but if you want to take it up a notch, Hustle not only makes adding a social share bar simple, it lets you build and share pop-ups, slide-ins and email opt-ins for growing your mailing list. If you want a lightweight tool for adding a sliding social bar, Floating Social will do. But if you think you will ever expand into other ways of reaching new users, you should install Hustle.

Social Marketing

Encouraging your visitors to share your content is important – and you can get even more of them to do it if you incentivize it.

Social Marketing plugin on WPMU DEV website

Our Social Marketing plugin lets you create enticements so people can share your content and get something in return. That could be a coupon, a discount code or a free download. Create something you believe your visitors will value, offer it to them in return for share, and they’ll help you grow your audience.

Bringing It All Together – the Hub

There are a lot of things to keep on top of when you’re managing your site. Wouldn’t it be handy if there was one place where you could monitor multiple aspects of site management such as performance, security, SEO and backups?

The good news is that there is – The Hub from WPMU Dev.

The Hub

The Hub pulls all of your site management together in one place, It does everything:

  • Updates – it keeps on top of plugin and theme updates and tells you when they need to be done.
  • Security – it lets you see any security issues and click a link to fix them on your site.
  • Performance – it’ll tell you which sites you’ve configured Hummingbird on and which have any performance issues so you can click a link to fix them on your site.
  • Uptime – it keeps tabs on your site’s uptime and gives reports.
  • SEO – it gives you a place from which you can access your SEO settings.
  • Backups – not only does it link with Snapshot on your site, you can also use it for managed backups and storage.
  • Automate – configure automatic updates for themes, plugins and WordPress core.
  • Reports – access reports relating to everything else (performance, security etc.) and send them (with customizations) to your team or your clients.

If you’re running more than one site with multiple site management plugins, the Hub makes life a whole lot easier.

Managing Your Site Is Important – We Want to Make it Easy

Running a WordPress site isn’t just about creating content. You’ll also need to manage your site on an ongoing basis, to ensure it performs well and meets your objectives. Do all this and your site will be less likely to suffer because of performance issues, security breaches or SEO problems. It’ll also help you grow your audience and sleep easy at night.

With the WPMU DEV plugins listed above, you can automate a lot of these processes, leaving you free to focus on creating content and growing your audience.

Rachel McCollin
Did I miss anything? What other WPMU DEV plugins do you install to improve site management?

11 Responses

  • The Exporter

    Hi Debbie, what about starting to write about how to setup an example site with all those plugins as a multisite installation which can be shown to members aand others who are interested. Similar to what Elegant Theme is doing when they promote their plugins and templates. They always have very practical tutorials while the stuff here is 100% a gathering of all available information which everyone can read when he is searching the plugins directory.

    Much more interesting would be to learn how to setup all that stuff successfully in a step by step tutorial. By doing that you yourself will also realize that things need improvements and won’t work like it is written on the plugins pages.

    If you followed the posts here ate WPMUDEV you probably have read today that people have problems with timeouts and server down messages which might get caused by plugins or script mechanisms. I really would suggest writing much more practical articles with real-life examples and not only repetitions of information you can search via Google. Actually, the information on the WPMUDEV plugin pages you named here is already much better!

    I know that those articles should promote WPMUDEV plugins but a good tutorial would do a much better job for that purpose, as not only members would search for it and be happy to read about the complete real-world solution.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    I still struggle with WPMUDEV. I am now leary using all these plugins on client sites because if I decide to not renew WPMUDEV I will have to go back through all my sites and replace with free plugins that do the job.

    I recently had a problem when my membership did not renew due to expired credit card. I missed the email alert. Snapshot was no longer working on sites but caused high CPU usage (I assume it kept trying to backup but couldn’t) which in turn caused my host to suspend my account. I am using Siteground with client sites as addon domains. All sites got suspended. I deactivated Snapshot on all sites, got cpu usage down and sites reactivated. Then renewed membership with new credit card.

    Recently I updated Hustle on one of my client sites and lost the popup and embed forms I had created. I had to recreate them from scratch (after hours of troubleshooting) – but (IMO) the new interface is more difficult to navigate and I had less control over the new forms. Example: sizing the field length so it did not go off the right edge of the embed form.

    For tech support, I often prefer leaving a ticket. But it seems the default is live chat. Which may be fine for quick questions, but with my Hustle questions, it took forever typing back and forth with no solution. I tried using the customer Forum, but when I searched Hustle, I got results that did not show dates and when clicked, most were a year or more old. Need a better Forum structure. I wanted to see if others had the same issue as me and if so, what was the fix. I’ve used better forums where it was easier to search for answers.

    I’ve had problems with Snapshot failing to complete on some sites, so I end up going back to BackupBuddy instead of spending hours troubleshooting.

    Bottom line – WPMUDEV has many useful plugins. When they work, they do a good job. Support is good, but support methods could improve. Since there are many free plugins that do what WPMUDEV plugins do (some maybe not quite as well), I need to decide if I want to invest annually to use the WPMUDEV plugins. And, if I discontinue my membership, how many sites will be broken due to plugins no longer working.

    • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

      @BobFromCA – As both a business owner and developer I hear what you’re saying, though we differ on the bottom lines.

      I’m occasionally critical of WPMU DEV plugins or processes but it’s all for the common good and I’m a dedicated fan for the long haul. I see in many ways that they are improving plugins, docs, and this site. It all just takes time and I’m much more comfortable with this slow-ish pace than alternatives.

      With regard to licensed plugins versus common FOSS, just think about all of the other software on your site where you face exactly the same problem, multiplied by one developer for every plugin. We can never trust that a developer of a valued license-free plugin won’t run out of motivation, time, or money and just stop maintaining code that we need. We can never rely on random developers to fix problems as fast as we require for our business use. This is the price we pay for “Free” and Open Source Software.

      As to software no longer working after a membership ends. We’re not just getting software, we’re getting services, integrated with an infrastructure provided by the vendor. If we want those services and we don’t want to build the infrastructure ourselves, it’s reasonable that we need to compensate someone else for their efforts. If we don’t want to pay for the infrastructure then it’s reasonable that they aren’t inclined to provide it.

      I know you get all of that, what I’m leading to is that the services that we provide our clients have Value, and what we Value has a cost. I used to worry about how I can pay for my toolkit (Hardware, broadband network, Visual Studio, GUI Dev tools, MS Office, etc etc), until I realized that this is just another cost of business which must be passed on to the consumer. Our clients Value what we provide, which (one would hope) is more than what our competitors provide. You don’t need to “give” away a ton of services just to get your clients’ business. Charge them ala-carte for what they use. Just suggest that each service has a tiny cost of a couple bucks per month. Itemize the services that they use on their invoices, and let Them tell you they don’t link Value to those line items. As you get more clients on this model you’ll find that the cost of WPMU DEV (and other services and tools) is now just a cost of business, the other side of which is profit which increases as you get more clients on that model. Compare this to your current perspective, that this provider presents the burden of an unrecoverable expense, which is always tough to justify.

      On Topic with this article, when I install a new site I load it up with all of the plugins mentioned here and many more. For me, the value is mostly that I know and trust this source. I think of WPMU DEV as my own personal IT staff. I don’t need to worry about this resource disappearing like developers of other plugins do. I have peace of mind. If your business is anything like mine, that has immense value, and I’m so happy to pay for peace of mind that I don’t even look at the yearly fee.

      YMMV HTH

      • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

        @Tony G – Thank you for your response… and I agree with most of your comments. I had a bad month with WPMU DEV last month due to missing my annual renewal and things breaking. That triggered a chain reaction which got me thinking.

        I do think WPMU DEV needs to do a better job selling the benefits of their product vs competitors. This article was a first step in that direction. I use WordFence free plugin for site security. I use BackupBuddy (I have lifetime license) for scheduled backups. I recently purchased a lifetime license for ShortPixel Image Compression (thru AppSumo), I use WP Rocket for cache plugin, I use Yoast (free) for SEO and I use WP Main for site management. I would like WPMU DEV to sell me on why their plugins are better.

        I am under WPMU DEV $199/yr renewal plan (I signed up when they offered that) so I will probably keep renewing. As a long-time customer, I still need to be sold on the benefits of my purchase. I get emails telling me how many of the plugins are improved and now offered for free on the repository. Even more reason to sell me on the benefits of my paid subscription (especially if I am not running multisite).

        All your points are valid, and I do understand supporting developers. WPMU DEV’s biggest selling point is their support. I would like to see a better ticket support (I couldn’t find ticket support – only live chat) and better self-help forum type support.

        Still a WPMU DEV fan (but need convincing now and then),
        Bob

        • WordPress Enthusiast

          Hello BobfromCA,

          Your concerns are noted and appreciated. We always welcome constructive feedback from members and how they feel about our services.

          As Tony G so eloquently pointed out, the primary benefit of our service is just that, our service(s). Sure, there are a ton of plugins out there that do some/much of what ours do. But, our plugins are backed by 24/7/365 support from industry experts. We also offer many value-added services such as the Hub, Automate, Branded Reports, Video Tutorials, and the Academy… And we’re just getting warmed up. We have many more improvements coming in the near future.

          We have been doing a great deal of restructuring what we offer here. Some of our older plugins that had few users or were no longer really needed with modern version of WordPress have been retired. Many plugins are going through a complete revamp to provide a clear, easy to use interface, improved features, and a consistent interface so that the sites you provide your clients have a polished, professional functionality and feature set.

          Our mindset here is:
          Give them tools that meet their basic needs in a simple, easy to understand interface, but also provide them with the power tools they need to get the most out of their WordPress site.

          A huge benefit of what we offer is insurance that all the plugins that we provide play nice together. And on the rare instances they don’t, we’ll fix it ASAP! When you install a wide range of plugins from multiple vendors off of WP.org, you do not have this guarantee. And this is one of the biggest troubleshooting issues you can face in development. Conflicts happen every day and they are not always easy to solve. Our products work well together, eliminating this time consuming process.

          So, the real benefits of WPMU DEV Membership:

          – Tightly integrated products that work well together
          – Professional, on-demand support, regardless of timezone – We even help with general questions related to products that we don’t provide! :-)
          – Massive community of members with a wide range of skills
          – One-stop shop for most needs
          – High-availability services
          – Value-added services that help train you and your customers
          – Value-added services that help you provide a more professional service to your customers
          – A very responsive team of Developers who listens to your needs and adapts their products to what our membership as a whole is asking for

          Even at a full subscription price, that breaks down to less than 1 coffee from your local bistro per day (~$1.61/day USD). Considering all you get and all it can help you offer your customers, that’s a pretty low expense that can easily be recouped as Tony G outlined. There’s lots of potential for profit, even with just a handful of clients. :-)

          I hope this clarifies a bit.

          Best regards,

          James Morris

    • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

      I’ve recently fallen in love with OpenStack for spinning off cloud servers. The next step up from that addiction is is Ansible, which is a framework for scripting the installation and configuration of any number of systems. This is ideal for a (fantasy) request to setup a hundred independent user groups, storefronts, or schools, all in their own physical server, with LAMP, WP, and all of your choice plugins. Uh Oh! Forgot a required plugin? Just run the script again and it will only update what’s necessary. Ansible is like crack for someone who craves automation. It should be illegal to make things this easy, but worse, it’s FOSS. With the WP CLI we can script everything we need. Spinning up a new site can be done with a single shell command, or if you want to get fancy from your WP Admin back-end.

      As to ready-made plugins that do this, I’ve seen articles and plugins that claim to do some part of it but I haven’t looked too close.

      For multi-site configuration I posted a forum note recently:
      https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/hub-suggestion-site-templates

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