How To Create A WordPress Multisite on Bluehost

multisite

I recently migrated my websites over from single WordPress installs into one big WordPress Mulitsite install.

It was a bit of a pain in the arse because I found there was no clear resource that I could find that told me everything I needed to do step-by-step. A lot of it was really techy (that was even over my head) and in a lot of places really unhelpful (saying what not to do, but not saying why or what to actually do).

So my process was to do a step, then have to search around the web to work out how to do the next step. Do that step, and then again try to find out what the hell I needed to do in the next step. So it was a bit frustrating, but over all, once you know how, it is really really easy.

In this post I want to bring it all together so that anyone else looking to create a WordPress Multisite will know how I did it. It is somewhat specific to Bluehost, but I am sure that if you are on a similar shared hosting service the process and challenges I faced will be similar.

 

What On Earth is WordPress Multisite?

If you haven’t found this article in search, you may be wondering what specifically is WordPress Mulitsite and what is the difference between that and a normal single WordPress install.

A great example of the type of sites WordPress Mulitsite is ideal for is a University website. It is one overall website, but it has many different sections, and many self contained “mini sites” within it – the different faculties and divisions of a University. These mini sites often have their own menus and looks.

That is often the reason that people want to use a WordPress Mulitsite – they have different sections of their website that require different looks (different themes), menus, plugins, but the websites are also somewhat connected.

They don’t have to be as coherent as my example above, mine aren’t. But basically, what a WordPress Multisite is, is multiple WordPress installs, managed under one main WordPress install, which I am going to call the “hub” website.

  • WordPress Multisite are multiple WordPress Installs managed under one main install

 

Why Would You Build a Multisite?

You know the what (multiple wordpress installs that are connected). Now the why.

The main reason that I personally converted my sites to a multisite is the fact that you can easily update all your websites to the latest version of wordpress and update plugins on all your website at once.

So, instead of having to log into each website to update wordpress and my plugins, I can now update all my sites at once.

It isn’t just updating. Now when uploading a new plugin, I can choose if I want this to be automatically installed onto all my websites, or only on the ones I select.

I can upload themes only once, and then use the same theme on multiple websites.

There are many more reasons why, but this is the main reason why I personally decided to create a wordpress mulitsite. To save lots of time.

It is sooooo great to have to only log into once dashboard and have quick and easy access to all my sites. So if you have mulitple wordpress websites, I highly recommend creating a WordPress Multisite.

  • Update all your website’s plugins, themes, and WordPress itself in one spot
  • Install everything once
  • Easily switch between WordPress dashboards
  • Save time managing your websites

 

How To Install WordPress Multisite

OK, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. As I said before, this is all easy once you know.

 

Step One – Set Up Your Network Website

The first step is to follow these instructions on the WordPress website. This is the easy part to follow. I’m going to write it out here in my own words, but that page is a good reference.

First you want to open up your wp-config file and add this is above the line that says /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

/* Multisite */
define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Then refresh your website.

 

Step Two – Install Your Network

Now you should have Network Setup in your Tools menu. Go there to install your network.

You have to first choose if you are going to define your network via subdomains or subdirectories. This is the difference –

subdomain.yoursite.com
yoursite.com/subdirectory

You must choose one or the other. Do you want your separate websites to be installed in subdomains or subdirectories?

You may be thinking “None. I want them on separate domains!” We’ll get to that later. Basically, while you will have your websites pointing to separate domains, the locations of them will need to be either a subdomain or subdirectory. So choose one.

For the purpose of this article, I will be talking about subdomains because that is how I set up mine.

After going through this page, click on the “Install” button.

 

Step Three – Enabling Your Network

On the next screen, you will have a set of instructions to follow. Basically you have to update your wp-config file and your .htaccess file, by adding some lines that this page gives you. Once you have done this, log in again to your website.

Achievement Unlocked: You have now installed your WordPress Multisite!!

network-admin-link

 

Step Four – Adding New WordPress Sites To Your Network

Now you want to start adding new sites to your network. First note that these will be subdomains (or subdirectories, depending on what you chose). To make this work you have to go to Bluehost (or your server) and do some magic.

In your Bluehost account, you want to go to Domains > Subdomains.

You want to create a wildcard subdomain. This will allow your new WordPress Multisite to create new subdomains within your wordpress dashboard.

subdomains

Select your website that you installed your network on (your “hub” site) and put a star (*) in the subdomain area.

In Bluehost this brings up “wildcard” as your home folder. You want to change that to what ever your home folder is for your hubsite. This is because all your new websites will be pointing towards your hub site. So change “wildcard” to your home folder name, in this case mine is “sproutspire”.

Now, back in your WordPress Dashboard under Sites > Add New, you should be able to create a new wordpress install. Put in your subdomain name, the name of your website, and the email address of the main admin person. Unless this is a different person, just keep your email address the same as your hub install.

And this will install a new wordpress installation, all connected to your main hub website!

 

Step Five – Making Subdomains Into Top Level Domains

If instead of subdomains, you want your websites pointing to different domains, this is the step for you. You will need to install a plugin such as WordPress MU Domain Mapping.

Once installed, Network Activate it.

To make your domains work on your network, you need to first have the domain names pointing to your hub site, just like the sub domains are.

This is easy if you used your primary domain name in Bluehost as your hub site. If you did this, then you just need to “Park” your domain name when you assign it.

Choose this option if your hub site is the same as your primary site in Bluehost

Choose this option if your hub site is the same as your primary site in Bluehost

If your hub site is different from your primary domain, you need to choose “Addon domain”. Then, under step four – “Choose Addon Directory and Sub-domain” – choose from the dropdown list the domain name that is your hub domain. Now the process will work.

Go to the dashboard of your newly installed subdomain. Go to Tools > Domain Mapping.

Add a new domain, and make it the primary domain for this blog.

domain mapping

Now, when you visit your domain, it will go to your wordpress mulitsite!

Achievement Unlocked: You have now installed Domains on your Multisite

 

Advanced Level Shiz

Now you can install subdomains on your non-hub domains… 😉

 

Installing Plugins

You install plugins from your Network Admin dashboard. If you Network Activate them, they are available and installed on all your domains. If you do not Network Activate them, you can then choose on each individual website if you want them activated or not.

So, for instance, you may Network Activate Yoast’s SEO plugin, because you will probably want that on all your websites. But maybe you only need a membership plugin on selected websites. Note, for plugins that require a licence, you will need an individual licence for each website.

Sometimes plugins don’t work on multisites. I found that Updraft, the plugin that I was using to backup my website wasn’t working. I instead installed BackWPup and it works like a charm.

In fact, I found some better plugins because of some plugins not working. So that is good. But you will have to be careful if you rely on a specific plugin. Maybe contact the people who own it to see if it works on WP Mulitsites before you change over if things absolutely depend on it.

 

You Are Now A WordPress Multisite Expert!

I am sure there are many facets that I haven’t touched on. Please, if you have any questions at all, leave a comment and I will answer them if they are simple, or create a new post if they are a bit more complex. Overall, WordPress Mulitsite is so easy to install, and makes everything so much easier if you are juggling a lot of wordpress websites.

No Comments

Pritam Patil

Nice article Charlie You just write perfect article for your readers..Now will be regularly visiting your site..keep it up !

Reply

Carlie Hamilton

Thank you Pritam. Do you have any experience with WordPress Multisite?

Reply

Ashutosh Kasera

Hi Carlie,

Thanks for writing our the detailed instructions about setting up a wordpress multisite. I really needed that as I am planning to migrate from a single wordpress setup to multi.

I hope that following your instructions, I will be able to setup multisite successfully to my wordpress.

Thanks a lot once again.

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Sergio Felix

Ugh my head hurts a bit lol but I ended up installing a functional network environment in the end.

Thanks Carlie!

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Lee

Eventually got there – thank you for the clear and very helpful article.

People like you stop me going insane when trying to do this kind of thing. Multisite working & domains mapped at last!

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ThirstyJon

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You saved me.

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Brett

Thanks for the info. I still can’t get it to work. Everytime that I update my .htaccess file it kills the site and gives me a 500 internal server error. Any ideas? I can’t figure it out. I add in exactly what WordPress tells me to do. Thx

Reply

ah

This was a huge help for me, thank you!
Quick tip: when adding the “wildcard” subdomain in bluehost, I was confused about what directory path to connect it to. It turns out when doing this on a existing wordpress install, leaving the path blank (“/public_html/”) worked for me.
And don’t add a subdomain for your sub-site (ex. “bob.mysite.com”) in bluehost’s panel if you do it in wordpress following these steps! It causes a conflict and you can’t access the new subsite.

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Mary Lockman

I can not for the life of me get my multiste to work. I have the Network features in the dashboard but none of my sites can be located once I add them. Crazy huh. Blue host says they can’t help. Followed all the steps upteen times.

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Ace

Before doing all of the above [&below] UN-ASSIGN the Add-On domain you will be using as the “hub” site – you may lose e-mail forwarding but not the “hub” site directory.
Once you’ve UN-ASSIGNed, Assign it as you wish and set it up.
@ Charlie Very articulate walk-through -Nice Post!

For the sake of brevity:

Domains>Subdomains>
” *.yourdomain.com” changed the “/public_html/wildcard” to “/public_html/yourdomaindirectory”.
You will notice that you can only “Remove” and Not “Redirect” like the other subdomains that BlueHost generates.

Domain Mapping next. Depending on the Multisite Plug-In you are using you have to configure the settings for the IP address you want sub-domains to point to. Viz: I’m using an add-on domain as a “hub” site [which in itself a sub-domain of the primary account] so I have to IP address resolve to my primary account.

Be sure that your “wp-config.php” is configured to allow domain mapping and multidomain mapping [depending on the plug-in these rules can vary] as well as .htaccess
#Begin WordPess
…etc to …
# End WordPress

Hope this helps

Reply

Harish

Even I cloudn’t make my site work,

I created a network on a addon domain.

but didn’t make sure that i have created a *.addon.com (instead i created a *.maindomain.com)

I worked following Carlie Hamilton’s for about 7 hours. Finally, I made it work..

Site works and Carlie rocks

Mary, try and try it will 99% work..

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Richard Johnson

Thank you so much. I almost upgraded my account not knowing my error until I re-read your instructions here. Note: I’m referring to setting up wildcard and having the “stupid” wildcard subdirectory created. We must be careful to change that as you instructed. Thanks again.

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Richard Johnson

Mary, read my post under yours. I had the same issue but was able to correct this problem. I hope you figured it out as well.

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sharma chelluri

Its Nice article. I have setup and configured two WordPress network sites .

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EddieV

This was very helpful and I think I”m 99.9% there. The only thing I can’t figure out is if I type in http://www.domain.com the correct site comes up. However if I type domain.com I get http://www.parentdomain.com/wp-signup.php?new=domain.com. I think I have to fool around with the WordPress MU Domain Mapping plugin

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tina

thanks so much i’m all the way fine until the last step – making the added on site into top level domain. Can we modify the multisite setting to make this work? or we can only create a new added on site name under root “public_html” and re-do all the pages again??…. Appreciate ur kind reply….

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Jeff Bradbury

Charlie,
this is a great article and absolutely what I’m looking for. I have had WP Multisite on a few domains and i’m currently looking to combine a few multi sites and single sites into a single WP site.

Your instructions were very clear, but you lost me a bit when you started talking about domain mapping. would you have any opportunity to chat a bit? I’m looking to migrate soon to bluehost. Thanks for the help.

Reply

Carlie Hamilton

What exactly are you having a problem with? I’m happy to try and help.

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Carlie Hamilton

Under the domain mapping you add the domain you want it to be. So I usually add http://www.mynewdomain.com and without the www (mynewdomain.com) and then select one of these to be the primary. Does that help?

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Carlie Hamilton

did you add both with and without the www to the domain mapping tool? You can then select one as the primary. For example, if you make with the www the primary, when you type without it redirects to the wwww. Hope that helps!

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Alisha

Hi there!

Thanks for this really helpful video. For some reason I’m still not finding the information I’m needing.

I have multisite already set up and my site is hosted through bluehost.

When I create a new site (subdomain) via the wordpress dashboard, rather than loading when I click on it, I get this message: The server at donkey.alishaherrick.com can’t be found, because the DNS lookup failed. DNS is the network service that translates a website’s name to its Internet address. This error is most often caused by having no connection to the Internet or a misconfigured network. It can also be caused by an unresponsive DNS server or a firewall preventing Google Chrome from accessing the network.

This has already occurred before. The solution via Bluehost was to do an additional install for wordpress onto the new subdomain site via bluehost. So now I have two new subdomains with their own separate installs in Bluehost – weddings.alishaherrick.com & testsite.alishaherrick.com

When I select either from the WordPress multisite dashboard, it directs me to the dashboard for the selectedsite, but because it’s on a separate WP install, the plugins and themes that I have set up on the network are not transferred to these subdomain sites. Additionally, these subdomains require a separate password when I access their wp-admin dashboard

I’m wanting to be able to access all of the sites from a single multisite network.

Thank you!

Reply

Josh

I just created a multisite following these directions a month ago with no problems whatsoever. Now I did it again, and “Network Settings’ doesn’t show up after I edit the wp-config.php. Any ideas?

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Josh

Disregard…I found it worked better when I edited the right wp-config file… #facepalm

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Gary

Great article Carlie! Easy to follow. I had no problem setting up Multisite on a local host but for the life of me I could not get past “refresh the browser” after the first alteration of the wp-config file. Set pretty permalinks and per Ace’s suggestion unassigned the add-on domain and reassigned all to no avail. Bluehost tech support could not help but confirmed it should work. The only thing I can think of is that I used the Mojo WordPress 4.01 install and they may have tweaked something that I cannot figure out.

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Mohmec

Guys, Please advice.

I created a subdomain news.example.com with “news” in place of wildcard. Now, when I go back to wordpress to add site I see first option : Site Address http://www.example.com and below this an option to type. What should I type here. I tried news,news.example.com etc but nothing works. I dont see sub-domain option at all.

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Mohmec

I changed the network setting to true (SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL to true) and also .htaccess and now I can see the sub domain option in add new site. But still when i add news.example.com it does not work

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Maya

OMG! I was looking for this (simple, apparently) solution of creating a wildcard with Bluehost for a while, since my subdomain WPMU websites didn’t work – your article just did the trick for me, thank you so much!

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Rebekah Nemethy

This was a great tutorial, I thank you for writing it. I was, however, ripping my hair out when I got to the last step. Just in case someone is having the same problem, I figured I’d mention it here.

When I was trying to map my domain with the WordPress MU Domain Mapping plugin, every time I clicked “add” with the primary domain box checked I got a 500 Internal Server Error. Although this is usually a result of a messed up .htaccess file, this was not the case here.

Make sure your other domain names are PARKED in Bluehost, I thought I needed my new domain name to be an addon domain in Bluehost because I didn’t want it to redirect to my main site, but I was wrong. In the wordpress multisite you actually want your new domain pointing to your main site otherwise it won’t work. I now have two sites in my network showing up as different domain names, and everything is finally working.

This is something I learned from the instructions in the MU Domain Mapping plugin. Carlie you might want to edit that section you have written about using an addon domain… it really threw me off! But thanks anyway, because all the other information, and the video were very helpful, and I don’t know what I would have done without it!!

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