6 reasons to use WordPress multi-site (MU)

Written by Tom Greenwood - March 3, 2014

One of the best kept secrets of WordPress is that it can be used to create a whole network of independent website from inside a single CMS.  It’s called WordPress Multi-site or WordPress MU and everyone has access to this feature for free in the standard WordPress core, but few people realise that it is there or why they should care.

The multi-site feature is used by many huge website networks including WordPress.com, EduBlogs and Marks & Spencer’s global network of brochure websites.

All you need to do is follow the multi-site installation instructions when setting up your website and the you can create as many websites as you like at either subsite.yourdomain.com or www.yourdomain.com/subsite depending on your preference.  You can even use a trick called domain mapping to give each site its own unique domain name, but that is a bit more tricky.

So why would you want your own website network?

1. You’re an international organisation

If your organisation spans more than one country then you could give each country’s team their own website that they can manage independently and tailor to the needs of their local clients.  And yet, as head office, you would have master control over all sites in the network and can log in to any of them directly from your central CMS.

Of course, you could just have one site and make it multi-language, but then each team wouldn’t have their own separate CMS and would have limited freedom to customise the site to their needs.  What’s more, some countries have more than one language, so you can actually give each country their own sub-site AND make each sub-site multi-language.

This type of structure is also useful for regional businesses where each region has its own management team targeting local clients.

2. You’re a charity or non-profit

Many charities and non-profits run projects to assist their core mission.  It is often useful for each of these projects to have its own website to communicate the goals and achievements, attract supporters, attract funding and assist communication amongst stakeholders in the project. Despite this, charities can rarely justify the budget for creating separate website for every project that they run.  WordPress multi-site however allows them to create project sites for free at the click of a button.

3. You want to use multiple themes

There might be a part of your website that needs to have a distinctly different look and feel from the main website.  In this case, it can often be easier to simple create a sub-site and install a different them on it than it is to create the separate ‘zone’ within the existing theme constraints, especially if you don’t have easy access to a developer.

4. You have multiple brands

If you have products, services and brands that need to be promoted online in addition to your parent company/brand, then using WordPress multi-site allows you to easily create distinct sites that can be tailored to the needs of each market, but keep everything controlled inside a single WordPress CMS.  To keep costs low, you can even use the same corporate theme on each site and simple change the content and logo on each one.

5. You want an alternative to email

You can use WordPress as a communication tool by creating team blogs, forums, discussion boards and knowledge bases.  We have our own Wholegrain knowledge base that is accessible only to our team members as well as project discussion boards such as our General P2.  It can provide a useful alternative to email as all team members can read and contribute to the discussions, conversations don’t ‘drop off’ the bottom of the inbox and are less time critical, the public can see what you are up to and so can search engines.  Content is king and if you make your internal communications public it will contribute to your SEO.

6. You’re a franchise business

WordPress MU is perfect for franchise businesses because you can give each franchisee their own website with its own CMS for little or no cost.  And as the owner of the network, you retain overall master control over all franchisees websites should you need to step in and maintain brand standards.

Are there downsides to using WPMU?

The only real downsides are:

  • Initial installation is a little more complex
  • Some hosting companies charge a small supplement for hosting multi-site installations

That is a pretty small list of downsides.  If you have even a slight feeling that you might one day like to create one or more sub-sites, why not take the plunge and set yourself free of the constraints of having just 1 website!

You will be amazed what possibilities it opens for you and your organisation.

Do you use WordPress multi-site?

If so, leave a comment to tell others how you have used it in your organisation and what you found the pro’s and con’s to be.