WordPress is a well-recognized name when it comes to building websites with a full-fledged content management system. Around 40% of all active websites are built using WordPress (including shopping carts that are made using WooCommerce within WordPress’s platform).
However, we have had received repeated requests from our clients and our internal marketing team for building multiple micro-sites for various reasons. One important reason is the flexibility of marketing. Marketing teams do not like the restrictions or being told about what not to do one product/ category section of the website because it can break something else or impact negatively on other categories/ product pages. Especially when it comes to experimenting with SEO, Affiliate marketing and similar activities.
Recently, I received similar requests for one of our fairly large projects UnlockNinja.com.UnlockNinja is a state of the art website, with a lot of automation in place, dealing in network unlocks. There are multiple brands that they unlock like Samsung, ZTE, iPhone, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorolla and many more. And they have hundreds of different models under these brands.
Now, while they do pretty well as an overall site, they have specific needs pertaining to specific brands for promotions, branding, conversions, ads, emails and so on. UnlockNinja decided to have microsites for their top 7 brands, to begin with, and might add more as they progress. We discussed all the requirements in detail. We made a list of all the requirements for all the sites and realized that most functionality needed is same while changes are needed most in the designing and content part. Having a WordPress site setup and installed is fairly straight simple and a quick job, however maintaining all these sites (plugins update, security patches, theme updates, servers, etc) becomes too of a monotonous yet humungous task. Also, we anticipated that most of the functionality changes or enhancements in the future for one website would be required on all others. Scary (boring) job for the developers. And for testers to verify the same change on all the sites.
We decided to experiment with WordPress Multisite feature and were immediately convinced to use it for Unlockninja’s microsites.
Some of the top reasons we were convinced are:
We can keep designs/ themes different for all the sites.
The URL structure for the category and product pages can be separate as per the marketing requirements.
While the front end sites work on their own individual domain names, there’s a single backend to manage all the sites
From the single backend, we can manage content and all other aspects of all the sites from a single admin panel
All the microsites needed to communicate with APIs at Unlockninja.com and it was very possible with the WordPress multisite architecture.
We made the main micro-site at SamsungUnlocks.com on a Linux server with cPanel installed and then added more website to this single WordPress installation. SamsungUnlocks, as the name suggests, is a microsite designed and marketed for network unlocks on Samsung mobile phones only. There’s no specific reason for making SamsungUnlocks as the primary/ main domain except that we wanted to launch this Microsite first and foremost.
We were a bit concerned about the performance on WP multisite installation but so far the results are very satisfactory. We did fine tune the server settings to use the max possible Memory and CPU but WP multisite’s performance is not much different from a regular WP installation (at least what we have noticed so far) – considering that servers are similar when comparing.
As of now, all sites are running on the same IP address and we haven’t explored the alternatives so far – but I do think it should be possible. If not, it wouldn’t matter to this site much since all domains and microsites are of the same niche and catering to a similar targetted audience.
After the successful launch of the initial few microsites, I am happy that we made the right decision by using WP Multisite instead of having a separate WP installation for all the sites. Need not to mention, we already have upgraded a lot of functionality within the main microsite and it has been very easy to push the changes and enhancements to all other microsites. This has already saved us money and more importantly – tech team’s time!