How to Create a Comprehensive Multi-Site Management Strategy


Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

An effective multi-site strategy can take much of the stress and hassle out of managing multiple websites.

Article 5 Minutes
How to Create a Comprehensive Multi-Site Management Strategy
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More business than ever takes place online today, and no matter what industry you're in, you need a strong web presence.

But for many larger firms, their web management strategy can quickly become highly complex. Different users will have different demands for their experience, and a single overarching website can struggle to fulfil all these competing requirements.

Therefore, you're likely to find yourself needing to manage several domains in order to solve these issues. Whether you're moving into a new market segment, looking to differentiate your various brands, or taking your business global, a single website won't be enough. And to ensure you can keep control of all these resources, you'll need a multi-site strategy.

Why you need a multi-site strategy

It can be tricky enough to manage one website, ensuring that it's kept up to date with content, that all its plugins are secure and any errors or duplications can be removed. But when you multiply this across several sites, it can quickly become overwhelming.

For example, an online retailer may have multiple websites for different territories, selling the same products from the same central inventory. But if these sites are managed separately, you'll have to create an inventory for each one, then manually ensure that these are kept up-to-date across every site to avoid issues such as inaccurate stock levels.

Other issues may include duplicated content and having to manually patch plugins. Even if done correctly, this can be a tedious and time-consuming activity, but if it's not, you can end up with inconsistencies that create poor user experiences and frustrate visitors.

A multi-site management strategy lets you handle all these activities from a single dashboard, while still being able to ensure each individual site has its own feel, with a unique database and modules.

This means no more switching between platforms and replicating manual updates and changes across the board. Instead, you’ll only need to make any alterations in your central dashboard and they’ll be applied across all domains.

4 techniques that should be part of your strategy

Putting an effective multi-site management strategy in place can be challenging, but get it right and you stand well-placed to reap the benefits, including improved efficiency, lower costs and a more consistent, appealing online presence for your users. Here are a few steps you should be aware of to make this process as easy as possible.

1. Have a plan - and stick to it

The smartest technology in the world will be of little use if you don't know what you're doing with it, so a clear, structured plan for how to build, deploy and maintain your websites is vital. This should include a list of addons for each site, which you should take care to keep this is as small as possible. Unnecessary plugins won’t only slow your sites down, but they can quickly become more trouble than they're worth when it comes to maintaining them across multiple domains.

You should also have a clear schedule for each site. Once you know exactly how often content needs to be uploaded, when plugins should be updated and how often you'll need to make backups, you can design a plan to ensure you're not doing too much all at once, which will reduce your stress levels and lower the risk of errors.

2. Develop a single user database

Most businesses will have a range of users that will need access to their various sites. This includes administrators, editors, content creators and webmasters. Each of these will have their own permissions and criteria for what they can do. It's common for these to be assigned to a particular site, each with their own user database, which can make it very inconvenient to manage users.

However, this issue can be overcome with third-party tools that enable you to combine all your users across each site into a single user database, from where you can set permissions and access rights and make changes in a central location.

3. Deploy cross-site tracking and monitoring

Another key way to make life simpler is to streamline your analytics by combining them into a single dashboard. Rather than tracking each website separately, you can use Google Analytics features that allow you to view them under a single account by adding all your sites as properties under a single Analytics account ID.

This allows you to track traffic across your domains and derive a more accurate picture of activity. For example, if you're an ecommerce retailer that redirects users from the main site to a third-party managed shopping cart, a traditional analytics package would treat this as two sessions, by two users. However, with cross-domain tracking, you can more correctly view this as a single session by a single user.

4. Adopt the right multi-site management tool

There are a range of tools available to help you take control of your multi-site strategy, from free, open-source solutions for common platforms like WordPress to paid-for, bespoke multi-tenant content management system solutions. Getting the right one matters, however.

For instance, some will be more suited to situations where all of your sites have similar design and functionality needs, making it easy to control from a single location. However, they may not work if your sites have very different setups. In this case, activities such as installing and updating plugins may still need to be done individually as they may not be compatible across all of your resources.

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