Beginner’s Guide: How to Set Up WordPress Multisite
February 28. 2020
Do you have multiple WordPress websites? Are you tired of constantly having to log out of one and into another to run them both? Would you prefer to deal with all your WP setups through one dashboard? Well, let us give you the good news then! It is absolutely possible to easily run multiple websites in WordPress through the WordPress multisite setup. But wait, you might be thinking, I have no idea what that is. And that’s a perfectly normal reaction. Most people who aren’t WP experts are not aware of this possibility, its advantages or disadvantages. For precisely that reason, we have decided to make this beginner’s guide to setting up WP multisite with everything you need to know about it.
What is the WordPress multisite setup?
WordPress multisite is a built-in feature of WordPress that allows you to create and manage multiple WP websites from a single installation of WordPress using a single dashboard and a single username and password. Although every installation of WordPress can be set up for multisite, you need to activate this option before using it because it’s not the default dashboard for WP. Still, learning to use your new dashboard shouldn’t be too hard. It’s the actual configuration and set up that’s a bit tricky.
If you’re using professional website maintenance services for the multiple sites you own, you should let the experts you’ve hired decide if they want to use the WP multisite option or log into separate dashboards for different websites. If you run multiple websites yourself, on the other hand, you might find WP multisite interesting. However, there are both pros and cons to using it. Configuring the multisite setup might not be worth it for you or it might save you a lot of time. Either way, you should consider your options carefully before making a decision!
The pros and cons of the WordPress multisite setup
There are a number of reasons why you might want to use WordPress multisite:
- you can easily manage multiple websites from a single dashboard, which is the main reason multisite even exists
- you can have admins for separate websites who only manage their own individual page
- installing and managing plugins and themes across multiple websites will be much easier
But there are also reasons why you might opt out of WP multisite:
- if your network goes down, all your websites do as well
- security might become an issue because all your websites are linked
- not all hosting websites or plugins work well with multisite
Should you set up WordPress multisite?
Not all owners of multiple websites want or even need WP multisite. Usually, owners of businesses or people working with non-profit organizations who want to connect a network of interconnected websites find multisite useful while average users prefer to stick to multiple installations and hire professionals for help if they need it. But it’s totally up to you what you decide!
Setting up WordPress multisite
If you do decide to use WP multisite, you’ll need to set it up first. It’s a bit of a tricky process so we broke it down into steps for you. But before you start following them, make sure that you have the best kind of hosting that will support your multiple websites. Not all hosting websites can or will host a multisite network so look into your package before you get into the process of setting it up!
Step 1: Install WordPress and backup your website
The first thing you need to do in order to set up WP multisite is to install WP itself. If you’re using a whole new installation of WordPress for your multisite network, then good news – you get to pick between using subdomains (https://firstwebsite.network.com) and subdirectories (https://network.com/firstwebsite/). Subdirectories are generally easier to work with because they don’t require adjustments to domains and hosting accounts. But they’re also not an option if your website has existed for more than 30 days and you’re only setting up multisite now. If that is the case and you already have a running website that you’re now expanding upon, remember to create a backup of it before making any changes just in case.
Step 2: Deactivate plugins
The next step is to deactivate all plugins and log out of WordPress in order to set up multisite. Don’t worry though! Your plugins aren’t going anywhere and you can reactivate them later.
Step 3: Update wp-config.php
This is the part where the fun truly begins. First, log into your web hosting account. Then navigate to the root of your website (it’s usually called “public_html”). Find and open the wp-config.php file. This next part is absolutely crucial: find the line within the file that says /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */. Directly above it, write in the following lines:
/* Multisite */
define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );
Finally, save the file with the changes.
Step 4: Install the WordPress multisite setup in WordPress itself
Once you log back into WordPress, you will have the option of “Network Setup” under “Tools”. This is where you can finally configure your new multisite network. Select a name for it and enter the email address of the super admin who will have access to it. Remember that while you can have multiple admins for different sites, only one person can be the super admin for the network. Finally, click on “Install”. Your webhost may require that you set up a wildcard subdomain to proceed. In that case, you will be notified by a message on the screen. Otherwise, you can configure wildcard subdomains by following WordPress’s own guide.
Step 5: Enable the network
On the following page, you will receive two bits of code from WP with instructions on where they need to go. First, you will need to paste the first snippet into your wp-config.php file directly below the line you previously edited into it, save the changes and exit the file. Then you will need to open your .htaccess file which may be hidden on the server. You will need to replace any RewriteEngine On statements (all lines beginning with “rewrite”) with the second snippet of code WP provided you with. Save the changes to that as well, exit the file and log back into WordPress. Voila – you’ve set up WP multisite!
Managing a WordPress multisite setup
Once you log back in, you’ll notice that your dashboard as a super-admin looks a bit different from how it did before. There will be some new options to configure and different things you can do for either the entire network or individual websites. Because it’s a bit more complicated than your regular website maintenance, this isn’t really ideal if you’re still learning how to use WordPress. But the WordPress multisite setup can be very useful: you can define different roles for different websites, setup plugins across the network or install themes for individual websites all from a single dashboard. So take a good look at your new dashboard and get familiar with it!