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 –
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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… 😉
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.
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.