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The Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Multisite

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

WordPress Multisite lets you do tons of cool things—provided you know how it works. It’s a powerful tool that lets you manage multiple websites efficiently (hence the name) from a single dashboard. 

Unfortunately, not many people are aware of it since it isn’t as popular as regular WordPress. It’s why it’s worth getting the details straightened out to help you understand whether it’s the right choice for your website.

In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly why WordPress Multisite can be an essential tool, along with helpful tips and strategies to maximize results.

Let’s get started!

Why WordPress Multisite Is So Important

Multisite is an advanced algorithm introduced to the WordPress platform in 2010.

This system lets you create multiple accounts for blogging or related sites. You can have more than 1000 blogs or content accessories like social networks, multiple subdomain write-ups, and so on from a single WordPress installation. 

Not only that, but you can also combine various websites of large-scale businesses.

In short, this one versatile feature can make things incredibly convenient for you.

But why is it worth your time? Why should you consider enabling it for your WordPress? Here are a few reasons:

Allows Multiple Access Levels

The regular WordPress version allows users a single administrator role with full management access. However, when you use multisite, you can take management to the next level.

The tool allows every site to have its own administrator, with the main site having ‘super administrator’ power with access to all the content on the sub-sites. The administrators of the subsites don’t have access to other sites in the network or the hosting URL.

Additionally, a network administrator can manage the content on a network-wide basis. The super administrator—or anyone who has been granted such access by the super administrator—can gain network-wide access, too.

It may sound like overkill, especially for those managing small sites. But the same feature can be useful for sites like Edublog or the University of Maine Online that handles a massive network of sites.

Higher Affordability

When you have a single hosting account for hundreds (or even thousands!) of sites, convenience isn’t the only benefit you get. Multisite is also easy on your pocket, especially for businesses that experience international traffic.

For instance, you can design your main website with several country sites by purchasing a single master theme and then sharing it with the numerous subsites.

Shared Themes and Plugins

WordPress Multisite comes with a share feature that lets you change the theme for the original site, along with the subsites at once. It allows the hosting account to share themes and plugins with all the other subsites, helping you save lots of time.

The plugins can be easily installed by site administrators or the network administrator to be shared by all. Some of the more prominent examples of shared plugins include Multi-Domains, Autoblog, MU Domain Mapping, and WordPress Blog Replicator.

Offers a Shared Code and User Base

Under WordPress Multisite, the code and configuration for the sites are shareable. As such, developers don’t have to worry about coding different sites individually in case of updates or other similar alterations that have to be made network-wide. The user base is similarly shared as well.

Users can utilize the same username and password for one account on one site for the other sites connected in the network. This eliminates the need to create different accounts for every site. It also means if one user is logged onto one site, they’ll be logged on to all other sites in the network as well.

Quick Tips to Improve WordPress Multisite Today

Working on Multisite at the beginning can feel intimidating. You had been promised tons of excellent features, but instead of convenience, you’re finding new challenges every day.

Don’t panic. Here are a few tips to help you get to the point where you can say, “I’ve got this.”

Get Your Spam Sorted

You must have spam control in place before launching your WordPress Multisite network. 

If you neglect this, you’ll find spam slowly ruling your life and overtaking your inbox. This doesn’t spell well for your website, either, as you’ll find it running very slow.

Multisite spam, in particular, is even harder to handle. So, take the necessary precautions for better results. All you have to do is install Akismet Anti-Spam for combating multisite spam and call it a day.

Set up an Excellent Development Environment

You’ll find yourself needing a place where you can test themes, plugins, and other features for multi-side compatibility—a place where you can build and break things without having to worry about your website.

If you’re hosting an active publishing community and make a feature available that hasn’t been tested, be prepared for a flood of support requests and bug reports. Precisely why you shouldn’t try anything new without giving it a trial run.

Instead, you can save a lot of time and effort by creating a development environment to perfect the new features. 

You can use DesktopServer, a product from ServerPress, to create a development environment. This tool also supports multisite subdomain and domain mapping, making things even more convenient for you.

Prioritize Convenient Administration

The moment you start feeling like everything is taking more than three to four clicks in the WordPress dashboard, you should shift your focus to figuring out ways to make the dashboard more convenient based on your needs.

For instance, you can use the Multisite Toolbar Additions plugin to add handy admin links to your toolbar. It also offers a custom navigation menu (which can only be seen by super admin) and network-wide plugins and themes, widgets, and content management functionalities.

The Multisite Enhancements plugin can be a godsend for those who require more information or menu items. As the name suggests, this plugin enhances the network area for super admin with useful functions, such as enabling an ‘Add New’ link under the plugins menu for admins and adding several handy items to the multisite ‘Network Admin’ admin bar.

Ensure Regular Automatic Backups of Your Multisite Network

Let’s get one thing straight: You’ll need a backup of your multisite network at some point. And if you don’t have it waiting for you, you’re in big trouble.

There’s really no getting around this point. 

But not all backup solutions are compatible with multisite. So the first thing to look for before installing a backup plugin is compatibility. Luckily, your options include high-performing plugins like Jetpack and UpdraftPlus.

Make the Efficient Use of Plugins to Save Time on Multisite

The main reason people opt to use Multisite is to save time when managing multiple WordPress sites. 

You can make things work for you further by using plugins designed to make managing your network faster and more efficient. Here’s a list of some of the best options:

  • You can use User Role Editor to change user roles and capabilities.
  • You can use Beehive to see the data for your entire network as well as individual sites.
  • You can use User Switching to quickly swap between user accounts in WordPress Multisite at the click of a button.

They say not to put all your eggs in one basket, but this isn’t an issue when working with WordPress Multisite. As long as you have regular backups in place, everything is good. 

If you find you aren’t saving enough time, you can always consider breaking your core website by importing or exporting sites into and out of the network.

Long-Term Strategies for WordPress Multisite

WordPress Multisite can be remarkably useful. However, this isn’t something you can set up and organize with a few plugins and then forget about it.

What should you do to ensure your multisite network is developed properly and works efficiently? Read on to find out.

Go Into Details About Multisite Requirements

The whole point of WordPress Multisite is to make installing WordPress and managing different sites separately a thing of the past. 

Despite the advantages of this system, it isn’t suitable for everyone. It’s why you have to understand whether you’re the right fit for Multisite and get a crash course before starting.

Disclaimer: Familiarizing yourself with WordPress Multisite is a whole process, so it’ll take up your time. Don’t try to rush it—instead, go with the flow.

There are several ways in which Multisite will change your dashboard, file structure, and theme/plugin settings. 

For instance, whenever a plugin is network-activated, it’ll disappear from the dashboard’s list of plugins on all your networking sites. If you’re new to the process, you may think the plugin isn’t active anywhere when it indeed is on all sites across the network.

The first step is to make sure you know what you have in front of you and not take blind shots.

Don’t Skip the Preparation Stage

When we talk about preparation, we mean being ready for every circumstance in WordPress Multisite.

The first thing you need is a quality hosting provider. We recommend Hostinger and Bluehost. You can also check out our list of our top WordPress hosting providers here for in-depth reviews and to see which is the best option for your needs.

You can work with shared hosting if you run a smaller multisite network. Still, some experts recommend a managed hosting provider, too, since many businesses use it to manage their content on multisite systems today.

Nevertheless, your main priority should be to select a hosting provider that assures you better security, good uptime, 24/7 customer support, and customizable solutions to suit your needs.

Once that’s sorted, you have to figure out the admin and server requirements.

If you want to create a multisite network, you’ll, of course, be the admin of the WordPress installation. You’ll have access to the server’s file system to edit files and develop the directory. While having programming knowledge could help you troubleshoot or customize your multisite network, it isn’t necessary.

When you build a multisite network, make sure everyone involved knows what the expectations are and the technology they’ll work with to meet the following requirements:

  • Having proper hosting
  • Syncing with the host about your expectations on monthly or weekly visitors
  • Ensuring the hosts have impeccable SSD and support different location/bandwidth with a powerful CDN system

While you’re at it, also figure out the type of multisite network you want to develop: Domain-based or path-based. 

Domain-based is also known as “subdomain” networks and uses URLs like https://subdomainname.example.com. Path-based is known as “subfolder” installations and uses URLs https://exampledomainname.com/subsite.

The main idea here is to make the whole process transparent and well-defined, so everyone involved with the websites is on the same page.

Getting the Setup and Installation Right

WordPress Multisite is a “mode,” so to speak, which can be enabled or disabled. But it isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.

You have to get the setup and installation right. This can get complicated for beginners, but we’re here to help you out. Just follow the steps below:

  1. First, read the documentation in the WordPress Codex on creating a network. It contains step-by-step instructions for setting up WordPress Multisite.
  2. Drop a snippet of code in wp-config.php to enable the “network setup” screen.
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts shown in the Network Setup screen, along with whatever you see in the step-by-step guide in the Codex.

During this process, you’ll have to decide whether you want to use subdomains or subdirectories for every site created on your network. Be very careful about the decision as you cannot reverse it later.

And that’s it! Once you’re done following the instructions, your WordPress multisite network should be up and running and ready to add sites.

Automate Your Multisite Network to Make Money

You can use multisite to create a new stream of income by setting up a hosting business using multisite. 

There are also plenty of other options for making money with multisite, such as setting up an affiliate marketing program, creating a blogging community with premium upgrades, selling products, or creating a network of stores.

To make Multisite work for you, you have to find your passion and build a community around it. While it does take a bit of effort to do your homework and collect the right tools, the reward is great, where you can save yourself lots of time and make more money.


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