Multisite is a feature in WordPress that allows you to create a network of websites that all have the same domain and can be managed from a single WordPress dashboard. If you run a WooCommerce store, multisite installation is a way to build a network of individual stores that are independent of each other in terms of their users and content.
In this post, we explain how WordPress multisite for WooCommerce works, and the steps to set up a multisite network of WooCommerce stores. We also suggest alternatives to installing a multisite network on your own, which is recommended if you don’t have advanced knowledge of WordPress.
What is WordPress Multisite?
When you think of using WordPress, you may have a blog or business website in mind. One of the many neat features of the popular CMS is that it lets you create a collection of blogs, business sites, or stores on a single installation, aka WordPress Multisite.
All the sites on a multisite network share the same WordPress installation core files. They can also share the same themes and plugins. The individual sites on the network do not have their own directories on your server, but they have their own directories for media uploads as well as separate tables in the database.
When you choose WordPress multisite installation, the first site you set up on the platform becomes your main site. The websites you create within the network become subsites. Subsites can be as similar or different to the main site. So long as you have a reason to create a subsite, you can organize it as a subsite and manage it and other subsites on the network from one WP dashboard.
Multisite network settings are accessible through the WordPress admin panel once you add some code inside your wp-config.php file. The individual sites on a multisite network can be set up either as subdirectories (e.g. example.com/site1/, example.com/site2/) or as subdomains (e.g. site1.example.com, site2.example.com). Each has its advantages and disadvantages, particularly for SEO. For example, link authority isn’t passed through to subdomains, although it is to subdirectories.
Each subsite within a shared installation can have its own admin. The entire network will be managed by a super admin – this is the highest level of access. A super admin adds plugins and themes (regular admins can only activate/deactivate them), determines whether they want to let the end users of the network create their own sites, and adds or removes admins and subscribers. The super admin can create a multisite environment where only they’re able to create a site. This is the relevant set-up when creating a WordPress multisite for WooCommerce.
Use cases for a WordPress multisite environment
Creating a WordPress Multisite network within your current WordPress installation is useful if you:
- Are a webmaster and want to manage all your sites at once
- Are a webmaster and want to log in to one WP install and manage all sites using one login
- Want to allow end users to create their own WordPress sites on demand (as a service or subscription)
- Need to create different stores for different areas of your business, for example a main site, a support site, and an online store
- Want to update plugins and themes across all sites at once, rather than individually
- Want to set up staging (test) sites quickly and easily
- Are a blogger looking to create a network of personal or affiliate marketing blogs on a single WordPress installation
Instances where a multisite network isn’t always the best option
In a WordPress Multisite installation, all the sites on the network share the same database, and you cannot back up one website. So, this type of installation is best suited to WordPress sites that are part of the same principal domain. To cite an example, a university can use WordPress Multisite to build different websites for each department. As the sites would share their databases with the university’s main domain, they can be easier to manage on the multisite network.
On the other hand, a web service agency cannot use a multisite network to manage projects from different clients. If a client decided to move their website elsewhere, it would create problems as their website shares its database with other sites on the network. A single installation is the better option.
A multisite network does not create interconnectedness between the sites on the shared installation. If you’re looking for a tightly interconnected network of say, sub stores, WordPress multisite for WooCommerce isn’t the right solution. If you already have a multisite environment and wish to create interconnectedness between individual sites or stores, you can do it using plugins.
If you want different groups of users to have access to different information, or create collections of web pages that are distinctly different from one another, you can achieve this functionality using the appropriate plugins. You don’t necessarily need a multisite installation to get the same results.
Setting up a WordPress multisite for WooCommerce
Be sure to determine whether a WordPress multisite install is the best solution for your needs. Before you put a WordPress multisite for WooCommerce in place, you’ll need to be using WooCommerce. The steps of setting up WooCommerce on a WordPress multisite are similar to creating any multisite network on WordPress.
Not using WooCommerce already?
Having WooCommerce up and running is a prerequisite for a Multisite Network on WordPress. WooCommerce is a very popular open source eCommerce platform, and is available as a plugin for WordPress.
- With the WooCommerce plugin installed on WordPress, you can set up an online eCommerce store and fully customize it to your needs.
- You can accept a range of payment options from customers and start selling your products straight away.
- It’s easy to install WooCommerce on WordPress: go to Plugins > Add New, type ‘WooCommerce’, click ‘Install Now’ and then click ‘Activate’.
- You now have WooCommerce installed on your WordPress site!
If you have a Magento store and want to move to WooCommerce, read our Magento to WooCommerce migration guide.
Using WooCommerce for your multisite setup
You can set up a network of WordPress sites all running WooCommerce. The process is the same as if you were setting up a WordPress Multisite Network, but WooCommerce must be installed on the ‘master’ website as multisite networks don’t have control of which plugins can be installed, only which ones can be activated.
There are multiple reasons why you’d want to set up a WordPress Multisite network with WordPress. Here are nine to go over:
- You prefer to have different WooCommerce stores for different languages and/or currencies.
- You have a large number of products and prefer to maintain them across different sites, rather than different categories.
- You offer a service that allows people to set up their own WooCommerce stores and need an easy way to automate it.
- You wish to create an online marketplace of stores carrying different types or categories of products and simplify order management for staff.
- You need a WordPress multisite for WooCommerce to let users sign up on the main site to create their own online store to sell items (like Etsy).
- Do you have different people managing certain types of products? WordPress multisite for WooCommerce is an option to consider.
- Perhaps you have a variety of different brands distinct from each other. You can build a separate online store for each. For example, if you’re an art school that sells works of students in a branded store under your name, a multisite network is a possibility.
- You want your main site to be separated from your ticketing, support, and Help center.
- You want to create an internal network for your business where each team has its own site, content, users, and/or settings.
A quick look at how different industries use WordPress multisite
Media houses can use multisite networks for their news channels, online newspapers, and regional audiences. They may also create it for their internal departments such as editorial, marketing, art, production, archive and so on. BBC America uses a WordPress multisite network on which each of their programs has its own website.
Schools and universities can have separate portals for faculty and students. There can be some connectedness between the faculty and student portals, such as for academic discussions, teacher or school activity reviews, or for teaching assistants and students to interact. However, for more interconnectedness, a multisite network is not suitable.
A multisite installation for hotels can be envisioned for managing guests and employees on the same network but on separate sites. Guest records can remain on one subsite while employee records and information such as training, shifts, roster, handbooks, and other information can be available to staff on a dedicated subsite.
How to set up a WooCommerce Multisite network
The steps for setting up a WooCommerce Multisite network are the same as setting up a WordPress Multisite network, but you must have WooCommerce installed on your site before you start the process!
- Install WooCommerce: If you don’t have WooCommerce installed already, do it by going to Plugins > Add New, type ‘WooCommerce’, click ‘Install Now’ and then click ‘Activate’.
- Backup: First, backup your WordPress installation so that no important files go missing during installation and deactivate any existing plugins.
- Change the wp-config.php file: The multisite option needs to be defined in the wp-config.php file, which will allow you to set up a multisite network. Above the line that says: /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */. Add the following code:
<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>/* Multisite */</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->
<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->
- Install the multisite network: Go to Tools > Network Setup in the WordPress admin dashboard, choose whether you want to use subdirectories or subdomains for your multisite network, and give your multisite network a name and email address. Once you have configured the settings, click ‘Install’.
- Enable the network: A list of instructions specific to your server and installation will appear. Follow these instructions to enable your multisite network!
- Re-enable WooCommerce: You can now manage your network via the ‘My Sites’ drop-down menu at the top left, next to the WordPress logo. This drop-down will allow you to change global settings for your network (as long as you’re the super admin of the network), as well as individual settings for each site. Make sure to re-enable WooCommerce globally, so that each one of your WordPress Multisites is running WooCommerce!
Hiring a developer to set up your WooCommerce Multisite network
How do you go about setting up a multisite? You’ll first need to find a web hosting provider that can handle multiple domains in one web hosting plan. A VPS hosting service or a dedicated server is preferable to shared hosting to be able to manage the traffic arriving to all sites on the domain.
Setting up WordPress Multisite for WooCommerce also calls for technical knowledge and experience. You’ll require fundamental knowledge of WordPress installation. You should know how to back it up and will need to deactivate all of the plugins. Then you need to make sure you have SFTP access and be able to edit files using SFTP. Activating pretty permalinks is also among the tasks you can expect to perform. If you’re confident in handling these tasks, you can attempt installation without any external help.
It’s also important to mention network administration here. The additional complexity of a multisite requires knowledge of advanced administration of the network. The behavior of multisite network administration can be confusing, even if you have some experience using WordPress.
There are a variety of companies and freelancers that would be able to set up a network of WordPress sites running WooCommerce stores for you, but:
- Not all companies and freelancers are WordPress (and WooCommerce) specialized
- Pricing might fluctuate depending on how many stores there are in the network
- Not everybody offers ongoing support after the network is set up
- If you use a freelance platform, you may have to spend hours going through hundreds of profiles
- When you find a freelancer you like, you’ll have to spend some more time checking their references to ensure that they’re qualified for the job, compare bids, negotiate rates, and so on.
A hiring partner like Codeable is the easiest and simplest way to work on a WooCommerce multisite network project:
- All Codeable experts are specialized in WordPress and have experience with similar projects, so you can be sure that qualified talent will work on your project.
- Freelancers are vetted to ensure they have the right qualifications and experience to work on WordPress projects, saving you time to check references and portfolios.
- The process of hiring someone on Codeable is quick and simple. Fill out a brief with the information about your existing site and migration plans, and Codeable will introduce you to 1 – 5 experts who are suitable for the job. Once you accept the estimate of one of the proposed experts, you can start working on your project.
For a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with setting up and running a WooCommerce store, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on WooCommerce costs.
Create a WordPress multisite for WooCommerce
WordPress multisite is a feature built into WordPress that allows users to set up multiple WordPress websites, or subsites, from the same WordPress install on a single network. Hospitals, media companies, schools, universities, and eCommerce businesses use this installation to manage their network of sites or blogs more easily.
The use cases of a WordPress multisite network for WooCommerce stores include:
- A great way to set up shops with multiple currencies, languages, or that ship to multiple countries
- Allows you to segment your store into different sites for different categories or classes of products
- A safe way for testing new features on your store
- You can run a WooCommerce store set-up service similar to WordPress
It’s also a matter of convenience. Creating and managing multiple WooCommerce sites can be time-consuming. You’ll need to log in and out of all your sites, perform customizations for each individual site, and manage them on separate dashboards. WordPress Multisite for WooCommerce makes these tasks less time-intensive. As a WooCommerce store owner, you can keep your various stores on a single network and manage them on a single panel.
Setting up a WordPress multisite install with WooCommerce is prone to error, and things can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing, especially with editing wp-config.php files and configuring the correct settings for your server. Ideally, you’d want a WordPress expert to set up a multisite network and have a dedicated resource (if not you) to maintain oversight and keep the network running securely as super admin.
Codeable is the quickest, safest, and most cost-efficient way to find an expert who will set up your WordPress multisite, plan your network and carry out installation flawlessly. If you need to customize your multisite network after installation, then the freelancer’s knowledge of WordPress development, HTML, PHP, CSS, and server administration will come in handy.
With Codeable, estimates are free and there’s no obligation to hire if you aren’t ready. Submit your project and have your WooCommerce multisite up soon.