WordPress Multisites

Advantages of WordPress Multisites: Are They Really Faster, Cheaper and More Sustainable?

You've probably already heard about WordPress Multisites. There's plenty of information out there and reviews of this feature circulating on the internet – which also means it's not always easy to make a fair and qualitative assessment. What can the WordPress Multisite feature actually do?

This article dispels rumors and prejudices, sheds light on the opportunities for environmental and economic sustainability, shows a practical example and explains what kind of businesses WordPress Multisites are suitable for.

What is a WordPress Multisite and what are its features?

At first glance, WordPress Multisites have a great advantage: they allow you to manage multiple WordPress websites in just one installation. However, it is still worth considering carefully if, when and how you want to use a WordPress Multisite network.

Multisite at Raidboxes

Do you want to know how to set up a multisite network at Raidboxes? And how the configuration and settings work? Check out our article WordPress Multisites at Raidboxes.

Although the Multisite feature has been around since 2010, it still raises questions for many users and is often misunderstood. As a short reminder, here are the most important features of WordPress Multisite for businesses, agencies and freelancers:

  • There is only one WordPress installation for a (theoretically unlimited) number of websites.
  • One or more users can administer the network.
  • The network can share content (e.g. images, videos).
  • Sites in the network can be delimited using different domains, subdomains or domain directories.

WordPress Multisites: Opportunities for businesses

Using a WordPress Multisite network comes with advantages and disadvantages. For that reason you should carefully consider whether this solution is right for you and your business. Used purposefully and skillfully, the multisite structure can be a successful tool to build extensive and wide-reaching websites based on WordPress.

Sometimes conditions or circumstances that seem like disadvantages at first glance actually result in opportunities. Here are a few examples:

  • Opportunity 1: Although the effort required to back up the sites in a Multisite network is higher, don't forget that backups of the entire network require the same effort and technology as a single site.
  • Opportunity 2: Multisites require higher server performance as the total traffic in the network is higher. However, this performance need doesn't grow exponentially in certain use cases and thus doesn't place any additional demands on the server capacities.
  • Opportunity 3: If one website isn't secured adequately there's a higher security risk for the network. Conversely, however, it is also true that a high level of protection for the individual sites makes the network more secure overall.
  • Opportunity 4: The owners of site do not have their own access to files or codes on the server. If the need for this access does not exist, this also creates an opportunity.
  • Opportunity 5: The effort for the migration to and from a network is higher. If this is taken into account when selecting a hosting partner, the decision sets an important course for a long-term online marketing strategy.
  • Chance 6: Not all extensions (plugins) are compatible with a multisite network. However, if the necessary extensions have been tested, this will not be an obstacle either.

As you can see, working with WordPress multisites allows you to find new opportunities for you and your business. So, can you also assume that they bring environmental and economic sustainability? To answer that, let's take a look at the exact definition of the two terms.

Difference between ecological and economic sustainability

Environmental sustainability:

If one looks up the term ecological sustainability in the dictionary, it is explained that it describes the far-sighted and considerate use of natural resources. The characteristics of ecological sustainability relate primarily to the survival and health of ecosystems.

To our planet, climate change is probably one of the most relevant issues of all. The Internet and the immense energy requirements needed for data transmission are competing with a positive ecological footprint, see for example the article How "green" is WordPress.

In figures: With currently around 10 percent of global energy consumption, the Internet is still ahead of air traffic. It is expected that this consumption will continue to increase over the next 10 years. All website operators can therefore be asked to make their contribution.

Economic Sustainability:

Economic sustainability describes the maximization of economic return while maintaining the required input resources. It posits the requirement that we choose our economic practices in such a way that they enable a sustainable and viable basis for acquisition and prosperity.

The topic of economics is especially exciting for individual entrepreneurs and often determines their success, since limited working time and capital must be used in a targeted manner. If you want to dive deeper into this topic and are interested in the 5 prerequisites for the profitable operation of a company website, then see my article Website Kosten - So wird Ihre Webseite zum Profit Center (German language).

Multisites: Use cases in online marketing

So far, WordPress multisites have been largely used by larger companies. They are suitable for the multilingualism of a website, because content can be reproduced in the same structure, but in different languages. Multisites also lend themselves to the topic of internationalization, because one structure can still be used for country-specific content and languages.

The multisite feature is also popular for online stores or schools and universities whose departments, sites or divisions have their own pages in the network. But what are the requirements for smaller companies or individual entrepreneurs? These place value on:

  • a high cost efficiency and low server load
  • consistent branding across all pages in the network
  • a central user/customer administration
  • a low effort for the maintenance of several pages and 
  • the efficient implementation of SEO requirements

The following use cases are suitable for companies that do not yet have a strong brand domain and want to build its authority through their own network:

Use CaseStructure
1 - Market digital products
Strengthen authority of main site by linking to microsites for online course offerings.
1 main page
n offer pages
2 - Offer content for different target groups
Segment content for B2B prospects in a glossary, for B2C in a magazine or guidebook, for existing customers on tutorial-site .
1 main page
n content pages
3 - Offer info material for local search queries
Bundle local search terms with low search volume from different regions and thus reach a broader group of buyers for an offer.
1 main page
n local pages

Practical example: Optimized WordPress Multisite Network

At webGEFÄHRTE we are constantly looking for new online marketing opportunities for sole proprietors:inside. It is a main site with B2C and several B2B sub-sites. In one project we implemented a combination of use case #1 and #2 and set up a new structure over a period of eight weeks:

  • Main page: webGEFÄHRTE
  • Subpage 1: Customer magazine (B2C)
  • Subpage 2: SEO Sharing System (Product)
  • Subpage 3: Online Marketing Chat (Support)
  • Bottom 4: Entrepreneur Podcast (B2B)

Our objective was to have the subpages reference content on the main page (Brand) and distribute the functionality of the main page to the subpages.

We wanted to improve placement in search results and increase profitability by saving costs and time in operations. Our findings from the two-month run so far:

  • 34% faster loading time: extensions (plugins) were only activated for relevant subpages (disclaimer: this is also the case for single pages without a network). Operation of the multisite is basically on high-performance infrastructure.
  • 36% lower fixed costs: fixed costs for hosting for a network of 5 sites compared to corresponding single sites.
  • 45% lower maintenance effort: Savings from central management of the network are partially offset by additional measures to increase system security (e.g. PW change). 
  • Faster Google rankings: microsites with selected content of a niche(long tail keywords) develop relevance for search engines faster than a single site that includes the same content of all microsites (hypothesis: to be quantified in the project after 6 months).
  • 50% higher user friendliness: By logging into one system for all subpages, centralization of documents, images and videos in a central media library, a central deposit of CI elements such as font, color and shapes, as well as centralized setting options in the Raidboxes Dashboard.

Here is the comparison in the graphical overview:

WordPress Single Site vs Multisite
Comparison between Single Site and Multisite

Our assumptions for the use case were that the subpages have different content, but appear in a uniform corporate identity and thus contribute to a brand. They are managed as a group, or moved as such if necessary - for example, if a change to a different service provider is desired. SEO is to be implemented as an integral part of a long-term online marketing strategy.

My conclusion about WordPress Multisites

The multisite feature is suitable for entrepreneurs who have specific use cases and want to do SEO seriously and profitably. With a WordPress Multisite, the benefits of SEO-optimized landing pages can be taken advantage of. There is a chance to improve rankings in search results faster through networked microsites, without the effort of operation increasing linearly and hosting costs exponentially.

After consideration and detailed analysis of important aspects, it can be concluded that WordPress Multisite supports and demands the economic and ecological thinking of entrepreneurs. Therefore, WordPress Multisites are for me a promising solution and a profitable feature of WordPress.

Your questions about WordPress Multisites

What questions do you have for Jan about his multisite projects? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new posts about WordPress and WooCommerce ? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

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