One of the very first posts I ever wrote about WordPress was on the topic of Multisite and how to go about setting up a Multisite network with WordPress. Now it’s time to take another look at this powerful feature of WordPress, and get to know some of the plugins that can help make managing your Multisite network a lot more efficient and effective.
While there are many regular WordPress plugins that work on Multisite installations, there are also a large number of plugins that have been created specifically for enhancing a network of this type. In this list we will take a look at a selection of plugins from both camps to help you make the most of this powerful feature of WordPress.
The Best WordPress Multisite Plugins
Here are 10 of the best WordPress Multisite plugins no network manager should be without. There is a good mix of free and premium plugins that can be used to add simple but effective features to your networks, as well as more feature packed plugins that can make a real difference to how your sites function.
Multisite Plugin Manager
Simple but effective, this free plugin will save you time and effort in addition to ensuring no plugin is left forgotten whenever you setup a new site on your WordPress network.
Through the settings you can set which of the plugins installed each site has access to, set a list of plugins which are auto-activated for each new blog that is created, and mass activate/deactivate a plugin on all sites in your network. This last feature is particularly useful if you discover that a plugin is no longer functioning as advertised.
If you use this plugin alongside the Pro Sites plugin covered further down this list, you can also charge users for access to any of the plugins you manage using Multisite Plugin Manager. This plugin is an essential time saver and workload minimiser that you should install as a matter of course on any WP Multisite network.
Network Shared Media
Another simple plugin that will be of use to anyone who needs to share media files, such as images and videos, throughout all the sites in their Multisite network.
For those hosting separate private sites on the same network, this might not be a plugin that is needed, but for those doing any collaborative work across their network, it will allow more effective sharing of content.
Multisite Toolbar Additions
With over 14,000 downloads and a five star rating, this free Multisite plugin is definitely worth investigating. So what can this popular plugin do exactly?
Once installed, the Multisite Toolbar Additions plugin adds a custom menu to the toolbar which provides quick access to Multisite-specific features such as network plugins, themes, and the theme editors, as well as settings and update options.
You also get access to these toolbar additions under the individual site sub-menus. This again allows you to quickly visit the plugin, menu, widget, and theme pages for those sites in the network.
The menus can also be customised in the same way you would customise a regular frontend WordPress menu. This allows you to insert some quick links to important pages that admin users would find useful, such as usage instructions.
This is a handy lightweight plugin that is ideal for optimizing the dashboard menus for admin and super admin users. The Multisite Toolbar Additions plugin can also be used on regular single site installs too, so if you think it’s got some useful features you can take advantage of then it can be used on your regular WordPress sites too.
WP Security Audit Log
This is a really useful free plugin that has great Multisite support. The plugin has been developed by WP WhiteSecurity who offer a number of WordPress security-related services to prevent your site from getting hacked or clean up the mess after you’ve fallen victim to a malicious attack.
WP Security Audit Log keeps a log of every admin-side activity on your site, from changes to content, through to any modification of the themes and plugins installed on your site, plus changes to the core WordPress settings.
Each individual activity that is logged can be turned on or off to ensure that you are only logging the activities you are interested in. The activity reports are very easy to read unlike some other plugins of this type. The plugin also includes a dashboard widget which shows the latest activity on your site as soon as you login to the admin area.
Super admin users on a Multisite network can view all the activities from all the sites in the network on one page, or filter them by each individual site making it an ideal plugin for seeing what your users are up to on any of your sites, and also getting a notification if anything untoward has taken place.
This is not a free plugin, but if you are running a commercial service using WordPress Multisite then the cost of Domain Mapping should be easily justifiable.
The plugin allows you to let those running a site in your network use their own domain name for their site. It even includes the ability to let users search for available domains and then register them once found. These and existing domains can then be mapped to a site in the network, which is then used to access that site. Multiple domains can all be mapped to the same site if it’s something your user’s request.
Domain Mapping gives you the option of offering this professional service to those who have a site in your Multisite network.
Speaking of offering a professional service, the Pro Sites plugin, another great option from WPMU Dev, gives you all the tools you need to offer a service similar to WordPress.com.
Pro Sites allows you to offer to a commercial service if you wish, where you can charge users to setup a hosted site on your network. You can sell upgrades which give access to additional services and features, such as premium themes and plugins, extra storage for their content, or the ability to remove advertising.
With the Pro Sites plugin installed you can really offer a professional WordPress site creation and hosting service customized to meet your needs and that of your users.
This is another premium option from the WPMU team but again, if you are running a professional or large network of sites, its time saving abilities make it easy to justify the cost.
Once installed the Content Copier plugin allows you to copy many of the elements of one site in the network to another. This includes posts, pages, their associated images, users, and plugins. The duplication is all done through an easy to follow wizard, which makes using Content Copier a piece of cake.
If you need to duplicate almost any type of content for the sites in your network, then the Content Copier plugin is real time saver.
Optin Popup Form Plugins for Multisite Networks
Optin popup forms are a proven way to increase email subscribers. Many site owners and readers don’t like them but they do work. This means that if you want a tried and tested way to get more subscribers onto your email mailing list, they can be a great way to increase your signup conversion rate.
While there are many options for regular WordPress sites, here are some popular optin popover form plugins that work on a Multisite installation:
- Optinmonster: has just been updated to include a selection of new themes for your lightbox optin forms. The Optinmonster plugin now also includes over 25 new effects that can be applied to your forms to grab your reader’s attention. If you haven’t checked out this plugin for a while then the new features should be of interest to you and your Multisite network users.
- WordPress Popup: thisfreeplugin is from the WPMU Dev team so you know that it will be 100% compatible with a Multisite installation. With this plugin you can chose to display a signup form, a link to another page on your site, or an advert – it’s highly configurable and up to you how you choose to use it. There is also a premium version which is available on its own or as part of the WPMU plugin mega-bundle.
As you can see there are a few different options for displaying email newsletter popup optin forms on a WordPress Multisite installation which will help all your users grow their mailing list with great success.
If you still remain unconvinced of the power of these lightbox popup optin forms, then a post from last year by Kristi Hines did a great job of rounding up a selection of popup optin cases studies which should help convince you one way or the other.
While what is widely regarded as the best multilingual plugin for WordPress, WPML, does include support for Multisite networks, it’s not a free plugin. So for those on a tight budget or hoping to build a network for free, the Multilingual Press plugin could be a great alternative.
With this plugin you can connect an unlimited amount of sites with each other, each in their own language, giving you the ability to translate your content into multiple languages and present them to your visitors as individual sites.
The plugin is easy to setup and allows you to see the translated version of each post in a new panel which is added to the standard WordPress post editor. Don’t forget these multilingual plugins don’t actually translate the content for you – they just give you an easy way to manage the different language versions.
Organizational Message Notifier
This is another handy little plugin that adds a simple feature to your Multisite network that can provide real value to those managing a network of sites using WordPress.
Once installed, the free Organizational Message Notifier plugin allows network admin users to send messages to the admin users on the individual sites of the network through WordPress. Each site admin user sees a notification for the message that has been sent to them which remains unread until they read it or mark it as read.
This plugin can be a great way to send out important message to the admin users of the sites you are managing, along with notifications to catch their attention, should something occur that they need to know about. The plugin has a positive rating on the WordPress plugin directory from the 3,000+ users who have downloaded it so far.
That was 10 useful features or tools you can add to a WordPress Multisite network to make it easier to manage and easier to use for those running the individual sites on your networks.
A good number of the plugins are free, while a significant number are available from WPMU Dev, the WordPress Multisite experts. The premium plugins from WPMU are affordably priced on their own, but if you join their premium plugin and theme club, you get access to 100s of tools for single and Multisite WordPress installations for a great price.
As many regular and popular WordPress plugins also work on Multisite installations, such as some of the most widely used eCommerce plugins for WordPress, it’s well worth checking if your favourite plugins can be used when setting up a network of sites using this feature of WordPress.
Tell us about your favourite Multisite WordPress plugins in the comments below and what you use your network for.